There are 31 first round picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Our mission, as we’ve chosen to accept it, is to guess which 31 names will fill up those 31 free first round slots. By my count, almost half the first round spots are filled already. There are fifteen (15) names below that I’m extremely confident will hear their names called in the first round of this year’s draft. Consider these names as close as one can get to automatic first rounders…but also remember they are coming from a guy with approximately zero consistently reliable inside sources six weeks ahead of the draft’s first day.
Mike Zunino, Stryker Trahan
First Basemen (0)
Middle Infielders (2)
Carlos Correa, Deven Marrero
Third Basemen (1)
Byron Buxton, Albert Almora, David Dahl
Righthanded Pitchers (6)
Kyle Zimmer, Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, Michael Wacha, Marcus Stroman
Lefthanded Pitchers (1)
Now this is when things get weird, so we’re not even going to bother trying to pinpoint the 16 exact players who will be taken in the first. Instead, we’ll look at a few of the seemingly infinite possibilities of player combinations we might see. The back of the first round sees an odd hodgepodge of quick moving college players (2011 version: Sean Gilmartin and Joe Panik), out of nowhere prep players (Kevin Matthews), and players who have fallen due to iffy springs, signability, injury concerns, or questionable big league roles (no great fits here last year…Blake Swihart and Tyler Beede, maybe?). The 2012 Draft could see a few players who fit these archetypes. Let’s throw a few names against the wall and see what sticks.
Quick Moving College Players (3)
Andrew Heaney, Brian Johnson (I’m not particularly fond of either pitcher, but that’s not the point here – we’ll get to that in due time), Travis Jankowski (not his biggest fan but could easily see a team falling in love with him – just a hunch)
Out of Nowhere Prep Players (4)
Well, if they are truly out of nowhere then we can’t really predict them now, right? For fun we’ll stick with a few prep pitchers (and all personal favorites) and say righties Kieran Lovegrove, Grayson Long, Trey Killian, and lefthander Kyle Twomey (this year’s Tyler Skaggs/Henry Owens?)
Matt Smoral (injury), Joey Gallo (performance, though I don’t agree), Walker Weickel (stuff has been down, inconsistent), Lance McCullers (questionable role, though, again, I don’t agree)
Instead of doing the Fallers category, I originally wrote this for the group of Smoral, Gallo, Weickel, and McCullers: “Because there is such little consensus this year, I’m just going with the old gut and listing players that I think have legitimate first round talent.” I’m not yet ready to call any of them locks, but in my world they all should be.
But that’s not all. We know the inherent volatility of any given draft day prohibits us from realistically placing players into neat little categories. They are a fun and easy construct for a lazy writer such as myself, but not all that useful when trying to make an honest to goodness prediction. Here are popular names that seem like logical bets to fill those remaining spots in the first round, even though I don’t necessarily agree that they are all necessarily first round talents (2)
Gavin Cecchini, Stephen Piscotty (you could also put the aforementioned Heaney and Johnson here)
There are also some prospects that I think are just about properly rated (borderline first round at this point) by many of the pundits (3)
Zach Eflin, Courtney Hawkins, Tyler Naquin
Those five names listed above (the first three I have the utmost confidence in, the first four I’d bet on with above-average confidence, and I’d only bet all five making it with 25-1 odds in my favor) all seem like industry favorites to sneak into the first at this point. Unfortunately, such a thing as an industry favorite doesn’t really exist. The tenth ranked player on my board is in the sixties on yours. Every draft in every sport is like to this to some degree, but no sport is as crazy to predict as baseball. Can’t predict ball, some might say. Instead of giving up entirely, let’s keep going – we’re nothing if not persistent. There are a few players that defy all of the categories above. The Others, as they shall be known, could all wind up in the first round for any number of legitimate reasons (6)
Addison Russell (he’s fine as a future third baseman for me, but if a team likes him at shortstop then he’s a first rounder for sure), Lewis Brinson (the glut of prep outfielders might push him down, but a tools-first team might not want to risk losing him later), Chris Stratton (the gap between Stratton and Wacha is more perception than reality, in my opinion), Wyatt Mathiesen (anecdotal observation without doing the five minutes of research to back it up: it feels like a prep catcher is always drafted late in the first or in the supplemental earlier than expected each year), Victor Roache (my favorite team, the offensively inept Phillies, pick at 40th, 54th, 77th, and 95th…if he falls out of the first, I hope they are all over him), Nolan Fontana (positional need + organization who prioritizes steady defense and on-base skills = first round possibility…he reminds me of Russ Adams as a college player/prospect)
This brings our grand total up to 15 locks and 22 maybes. My calculator confirms that we now have 37 names for 31 spots. Not bad, all things considered. Knock out all 3 of our Quick Moving College Guys and three of the four Out of Nowhere Prep Players (I flipped a four-sided coin and it said to lose Long), and then we’re right at 31. We’ll check on this in six weeks to see how many of our 31 actually cracked the first round.