1.1 Washington Nationals: CC of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper
1.2 Pittsburgh Pirates: The Woodlands HS (Texas) RHP Jameson Taillon
1.3 Baltimore Orioles: Brito Private HS (Florida) SS Manny Machado
1.4 Kansas City Royals: Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz
1.5 Cleveland Indians: Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek
1.6 Arizona Diamondbacks: Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale
1.7 New York Mets: Chipley HS (Florida) RHP Karsten Whitson
1.8 Houston Astros: UT-Arlington JR OF Michael Choice
1.9 San Diego Padres: Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire
1.10 Oakland Athletics: Harvard Westlake HS (California) Austin Wilson
1.11 Toronto Blue Jays: Oviedo HS (Florida) RHP AJ Cole
1.12 Cincinnati Reds: Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox
1.13 Chicago White Sox: Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman
1.14 Milwaukee Brewers: Bishop Blanchett HS (Washington) OF Josh Sale
1.15 Texas Rangers: East Coweta HS (Georgia) Cam Bedrosian
1.16 Chicago Cubs: Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo
1.17 Tampa Bay Rays: Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal
1.18 Los Angeles Angels: Archbishop McCarthy HS (Florida) 3B Nick Castellanos
1.19 Houston Astros: Tattnall Square Academy (Georgia) RHP DeAndre Smelter
1.20 Boston Red Sox: Cowan HS (Indiana) SS/C Justin O’Conner
1.21 Minnesota Twins: Cal State Fullerton JR SS Christian Colon
1.22 Texas Rangers: Kentucky/Grand Prairie AirHogs LHP James Paxton
1.23 Florida Marlins: Maranatha HS (California) RHP Dylan Covey
1.24 San Francisco Giants: Middle Tennessee State JR OF Bryce Brentz
1.25 St. Louis Cardinals: North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey
1.26 Colorado Rockies: Dana Hills HS (California) RHP Peter Tago
1.27 Philadelphia Phillies: Lakeland HS (Florida) 3B Yordy Cabrera
1.28 Los Angeles Dodgers: Grandview HS (Colorado) RHP Kevin Gausman
1.29 Los Angeles Angels: Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn
1.30 Los Angeles Angels: San Diego SO LHP Sammy Solis
1.31 Tampa Bay Rays: St Edward HS (Ohio) RHP Stetson Allie
1.32 New York Yankees: Cook County HS (Georgia) RHP/3B Kaleb Cowart
A few comments on the top ten…
1.1 Nationals | Bryce Harper
The outside the box comparison for Bryce Harper that I’m pretty happy with, in terms of certain amateur scouting similarities (prodigious power, underrated athleticism, familiarity with being under the spotlight from an early age), potential professional developmental paths (September debut three years after draft year, ready to play every day in subsequent season), and ultimate big league upside (40+ homers, .270ish batting average with another 100 points or so worth of OBP): Prince Fielder. Production like that out of a catcher, or, worst case scenario, an above-average defender at third, right, or first is pretty darn special. You can certainly argue that no player, short of some mythical 8’6″ prospect capable of hitting 700 foot bombs and throwing 120 MPH changeups, is worth all of the hype that Harper has gotten to this point, but I think it’s hard to argue against him as a ballplayer.
1.2 Pirates | Jameson Taillon
The Pirates surprised everybody last season by going with the signable Tony Sanchez over more expensive, more exciting options. This year, they’ll surprise everybody once again by going with the expensive, exciting Jameson Taillon over more signable options. I can’t profess to having any insider information to back up this assertion, but I do have a whole bunch of unfounded opinions, which, let’s be honest, are more fun anyway. First, and I know many disagree with this point, the Greg Smith-Neal Huntington-Frank Coonelly-Bob Nutting leadership team in Pittsburgh simply hasn’t been together long enough to make any kind of firm declaration about the draft tendencies. To say that they will go with a signable college guy just because they did it last year seems like specious logic to me. Then again, to say they’ll go with a potential big money prep player because there isn’t enough of a track record to judge them is probably an equally unfounded guess. That’s the beauty of an opinion-based exercise such as this, I suppose. Another reason why I think the Pirates will go with Taillon is for the simple fact that he’s just that far ahead of the field. Again, it’s just one man’s opinion, but I like Taillon significantly more than whoever is going to wind up going third, and believe he is a better prospect than any of the prep arms the Pirates passed on last year, Tyler Matzek included. I think the Pirates will come around to this line of thinking, perhaps after reading my love letter to Taillon from last December. The recent string of nagging injuries for many of the top college pitching options helps the cause. Lastly, and this may be the biggest stretch of the three, the Pirates need hope. Struggling teams in the National League could always take solace in the fact that no matter how bad things got, the Nationals would always be there to take the brunt of the poorly run organization criticism. A competitive start combined with some anxiously awaited reinforcements up from the minor leagues make Washington one of the most talked about stories of the early season. They’ve got hope. An organization like Pittsburgh, despite doing a good job in the beginning stages, needs the big splash that the consensus top player (non-Harper division) in the draft could bring. Right or wrong, Taillon will be perceived as sexy while Pomeranz will be seen as safe. I’ll admit that even I’m not totally convinced by all of this, but, hey, it’s a theory.
1.3 Orioles | Manny Machado
Old meme: Easiest way to hit it big in life is to teach your youngster how to throw a ball lefthanded. New meme: Easiest way to make millions is to play well enough at an up the middle defensive position to convince big league clubs you can stick at the position professionally. Independent of position, Machado’s bat doesn’t thrill. A bat that doesn’t thrill, however, can work for Machado so long as he sticks up the middle. Despite my reservations about his ultimate upside at the plate, Machado’s bat speed is undeniably excellent. I also really like his defensive actions at short (good first step) and his plus arm should play well if/when he has to slide to his right and play third base. In the end, high school prospects without a clear plus offensive tool always leave me wanting more. In the more likely possibility that Pittsburgh takes Pomeranz over Taillon, all the smoke out of Baltimore indicates they are hot for the big Texan.
1.4 Royals | Drew Pomeranz
I’ve been cool on Pomeranz from the start, even going so far as to predict a draft day slide similar to Andy Oliver’s in 2009, but there now appears to be little standing in the way between him and the top ten picks. Hard to argue with his impressive three pitch mix (good low-90s fastball, funky knuckle curve, emerging changeup), but, like Machado and his good but not great offensive skillset, I worry about the lack of a consistent, true big league out pitch. The knuckle curve is a darn good pitch that might be the elite offering he’ll need to put away professional hitters, but his late season injury has robbed him of valuable face time with scouts hoping to see continued improvement of the pitch. His stuff reminds me of Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez’s, but Pomeranz has half a foot and more than a couple pounds on his professional counterpart.
1.5 Indians | Kolbrin Vitek
There’s debate every July about the best way to allocate international signing money. Some teams take their two million bucks and spend it on one player in the hopes of landing a guy with a better than average shot at superstardom. Other teams spread that two million dollars around, spending it on ten lesser prospects at two hundred thousand a pop. If there’s no potential superstar worth paying for in the talent pool, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider going with the latter approach? There appears to be some separation with the top four (Harper-Taillon-Pomeranz-Machado, per the consensus) talents in this year’s draft, so, for a team picking fifth overall, it seems likely you’ll be looking at that next level of prospect. With the absence of an obvious slam dunk of a pick sitting there for the taking, maybe it’s worth it to target a late first round caliber prospect, pay him as such, and use the savings later in the draft.
All of that is really just a long way of saying that this pick is a definite oddball. Basically, the premise here is that Cleveland is “pulling a 2009 Pittsburgh.” Uninformed, angry sports talk radio baseball fans may think the Pirates draft last season ended with the Tony Sanchez pick, but the selection was actually part of a larger draft plan. After the first round, Pittsburgh went overslot with many of the mid-round selections. Selecting Sanchez, a relatively cheap option at the top of the draft, put them in position to jump on prospects who fell due to signability concerns later on. A sampling of their high concentration of mid- to late-round picks spent on prep players with strong college commitments and actual college players who slipped much later than expected: Brooks Pounders, Zach Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, Colton Cain, Jeff Inman, Matt Den Dekker, Jordan Cooper, Keifer Nuncio, Brett Lee…the list goes on. As for the actual pick of Vitek, honestly, he compares favorably to Tony Sanchez in a lot of ways. Here’s my quick take on Vitek from January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.”
1.6 Diamondbacks | Chris Sale
Sale falls below Pomeranz here in the mock, but he’ll get his revenge when he is higher on my soon to be published big board. Sale’s fastball has better movement, his changeup grades out higher, and his superb groundball numbers are more encouraging than Pomeranz’s high flyball rate. Any doubts about Sale’s relatively low level of competition should have been answered with his stellar outing against Clemson (8 IP 4 H 2 ER 2 BB 10 K) earlier in the season. After loading up on hitting early in last year’s draft, Arizona could look to replenish their pitching in 2010.
1.7 Mets | Karsten Whitson
My memory doesn’t go back all that far, but I have a really hard time remembering the last high school pitcher who improved more over the course of a single season than Karsten Whitson has in 2010. I considered him to be a fastball only guy coming into the year, but now look at him as a prospect with three potential above-average (at worst) big league pitches. The fastball is still the money pitch, sitting 91-93 and peaking at 95-96, but Whitson’s hard mid-80s slider now has clear plus potential. I’m going a little crazy with some of the comps on this version of the mock, but Whitson’s hard fastball, excellent slider, and developing change remind me of the good version of Max Scherzer. The only question I have with this pick comes down to signability. The Mets don’t have much of a history of opening up the purse strings on draft day, so a high school guy with a commitment to Florida may not make the most sense at first blush. However, I’ve heard through the grapevine that Whitson is pretty gung-ho about getting his professional career started, so maybe the fit is there after all.
1.8 Astros | Michael Choice
With three picks in the top 33, Houston will have to be mindful of their draft budget when sorting through the best available draft talents at each spot. In some order, I could see them going safe college slugger, athletic high school pitcher, and toolsy up the middle prep position player. If the real draft breaks like it does here, the Astros won’t really be in position to take that pitcher or toolsy high schooler and get good value for the eighth overall pick. Luckily, there’ll have their choice of almost any college hitter they want – Bryce Brentz, Zack Cox, and Michael Choice all make sense for a system badly in need of a potential plus hitter. Why Choice over the others? Truthfully, it’s a straight up guess. The guy has special power potential, interesting defensive possibilities (potential plus in right, perhaps serviceable in center), and is likely to sign for a slot bonus. Add in the intriguing local angle that the image conscious franchise could exploit and you’ve got a winner. Headline writers across Houston rejoice as the pick is made.
1.9 Padres | Deck McGuire
McGuire wins the much coveted and 100% fictional award for Pitcher Most Often Linked to Potential Destinations. The Royals, Indians, Diamondbacks, and, of course, the Padres have all been reportedly hot on his trail at one point or another this spring. I’ve heard that if he’s available for the Padres, he’s their man. That doesn’t factor in other players unexpectedly dropping, but it’s the rumor making the rounds.
1.10 Athletics | Austin Wilson
I’ve given up trying to predict what the Oakland front office will do on draft day, so I’m going to just go on ahead and assume they’ll do their due diligence on Wilson, find out what number it’ll take to bring him aboard, and keep the California kid home. The A’s have a glut of prospects ready to join a young major league core, so I could see them taking the flier on Wilson here. If he signs, they get to add an excellent but raw prospect who will need a lot of patience and minor league at bats before cracking a big league roster to a lineup that can afford to wait. If he doesn’t sign, they have the leeway few teams around baseball have from ownership to suck it up and just take the compensatory pick next year. Not exactly win-win, but certainly a worthy high upside gamble. Zack Cox or the best available college arm would also fit nicely here.