A few trends that I’ve noticed while doing some 2012 draft prep work while I finish putting the final touches on a super early 2012 MLB Draft top 100 big board…
- Prospects from non-traditional baseball prospect producing schools will rise up. Big boys from the power conferences like Florida and Stanford, to name just two, will be well represented, but there is high round talent to be found at schools like Georgia Southern, James Madison, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Samford, Maine, and Monmouth as well.
- No high school right handed pitcher has ever gone first overall in the MLB’s Rule 4 Draft, but 2012’s lack of certainty at the top and strong group of high school pitching represents the best chance of this happening in recent memory. Lance McCullers has the requisite big fastball and alarmingly advanced secondary stuff to make a run for the draft’s top spot. Of course, with over a dozen potential first round high school right handers nipping at his heels (I do love Taylore Cherry), he’s far from guaranteed the top spot at his position’s ranking, let alone the overall number one post.
- Speaking of high school pitching, it’s very doubtful that we wait until the last pick of the first round for a prep lefty to go off the board, as in 2011. Matt Smoral, Matt Crownover, Max Fried, and Hunter Virant stand out as potential first round high school southpaws.
- Strong up-the-middle talent will headline the top available college bats on draft day. 2011 was a good year in this area, but players like Mike Zunino and Deven Marrero are ahead of the previous class’ top prospects at this point in everybody’s respective development. Like last year, there is also a strong group of outfielders with the tools to stay in center professionally.
- The words “athleticism,” “athlete,” and “athletic” are all peppered across the early scouting reports of the high school players to watch.
- Another big year is expected from college prospects from the West Coast…sort of. The Pac-10 looks stacked yet again (Stanford, Arizona State, and UCLA are all especially interesting), but the Big West appears rather weak. Some guys will pop up, of course, but down years (from a prospect sense only) from powerhouses Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State hurt the overall draft outlook of the conference.
- This year’s college pitching group is, at this point, average or slightly above-average in terms of overall talent, but, man, looking at some of my preliminary rankings of the 2012 guys makes me really miss/appreciate what we had in 2011. I’m sure I’ll warm up to more ’12 prospects as the months roll by, but players currently ranked in my top five this year (Mark Appel and Kevin Gausman excepted) might not have cracked the top dozen or so last year.
- Texas and California look about as good as we’ve come to expect (for better or worse) in terms of impact high school talent, but Florida and Puerto Rico both look outstanding, both in terms of high-end talent and depth. A handful of “cold weather” states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts also show the early possibility of producing multiple early round selections.
- Finally, and most excitingly, there is little to no consensus to be found on almost any prospect position group in the 2012 draft class. Part of this is timing — hard to make any firm commitments to players eleven months ahead of draft day — but the wide open nature of the 2012 prospect group is in stark contrast to the top heavy classes of the past three years. Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon (whoops) were all far ahead of the pack even at this point in their respective draft years. Not only is figuring out the top overall prospect a guessing game, but so is figuring out the top college position player, top college pitcher, top high school position player, and top high school pitcher. A case can be made for a half dozen players, at least, in each grouping at this point.