A weak talent class and a new collective bargaining agreement have made the 2012 draft the most unpredictable in recent memory. Further confusing things are huge wild cards early on, especially the Mariners at three and the Royals at five. Still, it seems like there is suddenly a clear first eight picks, it's just the order of the names that end up being confusing.
1. Houston Astros (Slot budget: $7.2M): Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)
This still seems to be a coin flip between Buxton and Appel. If the coin lands on its side, it's Carlos Correa, but while he's in the mix here, he seems like a long shot at this point. The smart money might be on Appel, but there were some early Sunday rumors that checks on signability with him were not going well. This is a gut, but it might be a bad one. .
2. Minnesota Twins ($6.2M): Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
If Appel at #1, then Buxton here. If Buxton, then Appel. All of a sudden—and maybe just because it's the hip thing to do—there are whispers of Correa here as well.
3. Seattle Mariners ($5.2M): Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Nobody knows what Seattle is doing. They're always considered the most secretive team when it comes to the draft, with one executive joking, “I'm not sure anyone in the room knows what they're going. I just think Jack Z. runs into the room five minutes before the draft to tell them all who they're taking.” Nobody had them on Danny Hultzen last year, and after passing on last year's workout stud in Francisco Lindor, they won't do it again. If Correa doesn't go here, he could fall as far as No. 7 to San Diego, and frankly, for a player that talented to drop that far just doesn't make sense. If it's not Correa, it's no secret that they're big players on Mike Zunino.
4. Baltimore Orioles ($4.2M): Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
The Orioles would love the get Buxton here, but that's not happening. Gausman is rumored to be their favorite among all the college arms, so they'll be happy to get him. There's a late rumor of them considering Fried here, but few buy it.
5. Kansas City Royals ($3.5M): Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Logic says the Royals will select from whichever of the big three college arms are left, but teams are having problems getting away from the fact that when GM Dayton Moore saw Zimmer, he saw him bad, and that could be a tough sell. Like Seattle, the Royals are an early wild card who could go with Fried, Zunino or even a tier two college arm to save their spending cap for later picks.
6. Chicago Cubs ($3.25M): Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
There's really no other names attached to the Cubs at this point. The presence of Correa could create a difficult decision, and there might be some interest in Fried, but they clearly prefer the high school position players.
7. San Diego Padres ($3M): Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
This is hardly the Padres' first choice, but they still could be pleased, as few scenarios had Zimmer dropping this far three weeks ago. Like the Cubs, they're big fans of Almora and Correa, and Fried would also be considered if still available.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates ($2.9M): Mike Zunino, C, Florida
The rumors of the Pirates reaching for Deven Marrero will not go completely away, but fewer and fewer teams seem to believe them. All of a sudden, Zunino could fall surprisingly far, and it's hard seeing him dropping past the Pirates, as there is a clear top eight players for teams, and he's the last one on the board. Still, there are some teams in the next four picks kicking the tires on Zunino, and hoping wildly for him to get to them.
9. Miami Marlins ($2.8M): Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (TX)
The Marlins are looking at high school bats, and have a preference for Hawkins due to his power. Dahl could be in play here, and there's some thought they could go the safe route with a college arm, specifically Andrew Heaney.
10. Colorado Rockies ($2.7M): David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
The Rockies seem to prefer Hawkins among the high school outfielders, but Dahl impressed in his workout at Coors and the Rockies would be happy here. There are a couple of weird Gavin Cecchini rumors here, and some wonder if the front office is feeling some job pressure, which could lead to a safer pick with a college arm like Heany, Chris Stratton, or Michael Wacha.
11. Oakland Athletics ($2.625M), Joey Gallo, 3B, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
The A's would love to have something fall to them, specifically Zimmer, Zunino or Fried. If that doesn't happen, their back up plans seem to be all over the board. They'll be tempted by their choice of the next group of college arms, but Gallo has as much raw power as anyone in the draft, and scouts that believe he can end up adequate at third base have pushed him up some boards.
12. New York Mets ($2.55M): Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Forty-eight hours ago, I would have done a mock without Giolito, but he suddenly has a number of rumored landing spots, beginning with New York, who seem to be definitely at least kicking the tires on the draft's biggest wild card. He's a tough sign here, an even tougher one later, but the Mets are rumored to be making another splash. If they get cold feet today, they could go in a number of directions, all of them high school-based, and in particular Corey Seager, Cecchini and another possible difficult sign in Lance McCullers.
13. Chicago White Sox ($2.475M): Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
A late rumor has the White Sox, always one of the most conservative of drafters, looking at Stroman with the belief that he could help the big league bullpen as early as September. If they turn away from the 5-foot-9 righty, the club is still connected solely to college pitchers, with the usual suspects of Wacha, Heaney and Stratton all mentioned.
14. Cincinnati Reds ($2.375M): Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
The run on college arms is expected to last from pick 13-15. Heaney might not have the highest ceiling, but he's the most polished of them and has a chance to beat any starting pitcher in the draft to the big leagues. Stratton is also being considered.
15. Cleveland Indians ($2.25M): Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
The Indians are also looking at college arms, but not exclusively. They seem to only have interest in Stratton and Heaney, and if both are gone, they could order off the menu with a college position player and Stanford's Stephen Piscotty could be a surprising dark horse candidate here.
16. Washington Nationals ($2.125M): Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Rumors of Marrero going here have become louder than the ones of him going to Pittsburgh at eight. He's a Scott Boras client; the Nationals clearly have no issues with those, and they have a system with few up-the-middle prospects.
17. Toronto Blue Jays ($2M): Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
Most believe that the Blue Jays will continue to be both creative and aggressive in the draft. Giolito makes sense here, but that might require some maneuvering that is difficult to figure out. McCullers has one of the best pure arms in the draft, and is not considered the easiest of signings.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers ($1.95M): Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
I just have to get Wacha off the board here, as he's expected by many to go in the early teens. The Dodgers have been primarily attached to high school arms like Ty Hensley and Lucas Sims, but a quick return might appeal to new ownership looking to make a mark.
19. St. Louis Cardinals ($1.9M): Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
The Cardinals are another team with two first-round picks, but they don't seem to be connected to Giolito. Russell won't be the easiest of signs, but the Cardinals can give a little bit extra to add a big athletic shortstop to their system.
20. San Francisco Giants ($1.85M): Ty Hensley, RHP, Santa Fe HS (OK)
The Giants are looking at high school arms, and Hensley's size, current velocity and projection could move him to the top of the pack. Florida high school righty Walker Weickel might lead the list of other considerations.
21. Atlanta Braves ($1.825M): Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert HS (CA)
The Braves are firmly in "best player available" mode, and hoping for an unexpected slide. Rahier has been sliding up boards over the last two weeks, and had an outstanding workout for Atlanta.
22. Toronto Blue Jays ($1.8M): Clint Coulter, C, Union HS (WA)
There are a number of dynamics in play with this pick. The second of Toronto's two in this round, the Blue Jays could go with a conservative quick sign here both to save money, and because there is no compensation for not signing the player selected here. It won't be a crazy reach, and Coulter is one of many players mentioned here as moving a few slots above where their talent might suggest.
23. St. Louis Cardinals ($1.775M): Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
Another player who needs to find a home, Shaffer is a good find here as St. Louis can cut a deal with him to stop the slide. Plenty of affordable high school players in the mix here as well, especially position players with tools like D.J. Davis and Lewis Brinson.
24. Boston Red Sox ($1.75M): Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
This is an ideal fit for Boston, as Cecchini's brother Garin is in the system, and the club has a long history with Gavin. This is another spot for Rahier, and they have interest in Piscotty as well as a number of high school arms.
25. Tampa Bay Rays ($1.725M): D.J. Davis, Stone HS (MS)
Since the Rays started drafting towards the end of the first round as opposed to the beginning, they've focused on tools, and Davis is the fastest player in the draft. Brinson could also be in play here, as well as some high school arms.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks ($1.7M): Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Springs HS (FL)
If there's a position player who looks like he can slot into the end of the first round, he's been rumored to go to Arizona. Late rumors have them focusing on Brinson, who arguably has the highest ceiling of any high school position player in the draft, but there is fatty tuna in the finest sushi restaurants that isn't as raw. Brinson is in the mix for a number of teams at the end of this round, and he doesn't get past Oakland at 34.
27. Milwaukee Brewers ($1.675M): Corey Seager, SS, Northwest Carabarrus HS (NC)
Seager is one of the toughest players to find a home for. He has some significant bonus demands, but few teams in the upper half of the first round seem to be attached. The Brewers can try to get a little creative here, spending more with this pick and less with the one directly following it.
28. Milwaukee Brewers ($1.65M): Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
After missing most of the college season with a wrist injury, Roache could be a nice find here after leading Division I in home runs in 2011. He has plenty of raw power, and isn't loaded with leverage.
29. Texas Rangers ($1.625M): Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
The Rangers seem to be focused solely on upside. D.J. Davis reportedly had an outstanding workout with them, but there's a late rumor of the club looking to find a way to sign Smoral, who missed nearly the entire year due to a broken bone in his foot. Nobody has gotten a good look at him this year, which has scared many teams off, but six-foot-seven lefties who can touch 95 mph don't exactly grow on trees.
30. New York Yankees ($1.6M): Stephen Piscotty, OF, Stanford
The Yankees are attached to any number of high school righties, especially Weickel and Sims. Later rumors have them looking at position players, especially college ones, and especially Piscotty.
31. Boston Red Sox ($1.575M): Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty HS (FL)
The Red Sox should have their choice of a number of high school arms, with all of the usual suspects in play. Eflin is actually a nice catch this low with size, projection and plenty of right-now velocity.