Now that the 2012 draft is in the books, let's look at the players most likely to perform. I began to think about actual total performance projections—which is plenty dangerous—but then I began to think about individual categories, which led quickly to your standard fantasy categories, which ultimately created a fun challenge. So here are my projected 2012 draft fantasy stats.
Batting Average: Tyler Naquin, OF, Indians (15th overall pick)
Naquin was seen as more of a late first-round pick by many, as he has a classic tweener profile where he lacks both the speed for center field and the power normally associated with a corner spot. What nobody questions is his plus-plus hit tool, and he's easily the college bat in this draft most likely to hit .300 consistently. Risk Level: Moderate.
Home Runs: Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox (13th overall pick)
There are players in this draft with more raw power than Hawkins, but Hawkins is still the most likely to tap into it. He has a classic right field profile with the arm, the power and decent athleticism, and the second he signs, he's the No. 1 prospect in the White Sox system by a wide margin. As a high school pick, he'll take a while, but he should be worth it. Risk Level: High.
RBI: Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (1st overall pick)
The top pick in the draft might not accumulate the highest RBI totals, but they could be the most valuable RBI due to his position. A big, athletic shortstop with the potential for average power if not a bit more, Correa could be a 80+ RBI machine from a position where run production is hard to find. Risk Level: Moderate.
Stolen Bases: D.J. Davis, OF, Blue Jays (17th overall pick)
Davis was the fastest player in the draft, but what separates him from all of the speed demons in any draft is his baseball abilities. Beyond the wheels, he's a very good center fielder, and he offers plenty of bat speed as well, making him less of a slap hitter and more of a line drive-type. Speed alone does not get a player in the first round, though, as they have to have baseball ability as well; Davis has just that with the potential to steal 50+ annually if the bat develops as expected: Risk Level: Moderately High.
Runs: Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (2nd overall pick)
No player in this draft can match Buxton's all-around tools, but it makes him a very difficult player to project, as his development could go in so many directions. Every tool you are look for is there, but will Buxton become a 30/30 type or a 15/50 type? Both are obvious star-level players—especially in center field—and whatever of many possible ceilings he reaches, it's a guy who is going to cross the plate a lot. Risk Level: High.
Wins: Kevin Gausman, LHP, Orioles (4th overall pick)
Make no mistake, when the Orioles passed on the falling Appel, they did it because Gausman was genuinely ahead of Appel on their board. His fastball and changeup are already plus pitches, but the difference between him ending up good or ending up great will depend on his ability to find a consistent breaking ball. Of the big three college arms, Gausman is the most likely to get some help from his teammates when it comes to getting wins. Risk Level: Moderate.
ERA: Max Fried: LHP, Padres (7th overall pick)
Fried was the first high school pitcher to be selected on Monday, and much of it was about projection. Long-armed, skinny and with a smooth delivery, Fried has good stuff now and the potential for great stuff down the road. No home field keeps runs of the board more than San Diego's. It makes bad pitchers look good, and who knows what it does to good pitchers? Risk Level: High.
Strikeouts: Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (8th overall pick)
Of the big three college pitchers, Appel has the most complete arsenal. His best pitch is a low-to-mid-90s fastball than can touch 98, but his hybrid breaking ball generates plenty of swings and misses, and his changeup is at least average. His low strikeout rate was a concern entering the spring, but with 127 strikeouts in 119 innings this spring, he's just beginning to harness his stuff. Risk Level: Low.
Saves: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays (22nd overall pick)
While Stroman had an outstanding season as a starter at Duke, he's only five-foot-nine and just doesn't have the frame to handle a consistent 200+ inning workload in the big leagues. Scouts remember his stint as a closer for Team USA last summer when he was untouchable, and that's going to be his future role as a professional thanks to mid-90s heat and a devastating slider. He could be in the big leagues by September, and picking up save opportunities not long after that. Risk Level: Low.
WHIP: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (9th overall pick)
While Heaney doesn't have the ceiling of the college arms picked ahead of him, he has the higher floor. The most polished of the college pitchers in this year's draft, Heaney has three average-to-plus pitches in his fastball, breaking ball and changeup, and he's an extreme strike thrower who walked just 22 in 118 1/3 innings this spring. He should be the quickest of the college starters to reach the big leagues, and he has the stuff and pitchability to keep hitters off the base paths. Risk Level: Low.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
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