Sean's Draft Big Board

This is not a great draft. There is no superstar player, a lack of top-end talent (or at least projectable top-end talent) and very few college bats worthy of first round selection. I generally am a fan of drafting college players over high schoolers, but this draft’s college talent basically all has flaws as big as the high school talent. I’m a little surprised in myself to see as many high school players on my list, but feel good about it.

1. OF Byron Buxton (HS) – The sky is the limit for Buxton. He’s got it all: lightning speed, a great arm, solid power and fielding and developing contact. Buxton is one of only a few players in this draft (Correa and Almora being the other 2) that I really feel have superstar potential (as in ceiling, not necessarily probability). And please don’t compare him to Donovan Tate; just because he’s a highly rated toolsy African-American high school prospect doesn’t make him the same player (or person).

2. SS Carlos Correa (HS) – Byron Buxton is a player you can dream on, but Carlos Correa is one that you can dream on as well that plays SS, an even tougher position to fill. Defensively, his worst-case scenario is that he bulks up and has to settle on being an excellent defensive third baseman (and that scenario adds power); if he doesn’t bulk up, he’ll have an excellent arm/glove/speed combo to go with developing power and an already solid batting eye. The knock on him (and most “toolsy” prospects) is whether or not his swing will be compact enough, but Correa’s swing is smoother than most and leads me to believe that he’ll develop into at least an average contact hitter in the bigs. I’m a sucker for great shortstops, and really think Correa can become one.

 

3. RHP Kyle Zimmer (San Francisco) – Has the greatest ceiling and lowest floor out of the college arms. The only one that I really feel has ace potential, but also has a fairly high bust potential if he can’t get his slider and change working. He’s only been pitching full-time for a few years and has surprisingly good control for a player that converted from the field so recently.

4. OF Albert Almora (HS) – The safest bet out of the HS “toolsy” group. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Buxton or Correa, but his swing doesn’t need any work to hit pro pitching. Almora doesn’t have any 80 tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, but is in the 55-60 range across the board. I see him as a Carl Crawford-type of player that plays a better center field albeit with less speed.

5. RHP Marcus Stroman (Duke) – You won’t see him this high on most other people’s lists. He has the best stuff in the draft, but is only 5’8” or 5’9”, so is being written off as a only a relief prospect. Tim Lincecum and Johnny Cueto are short righties too and turned out okay, right? And while there are plenty of short righties that didn’t turn into Lincecums or Cuetos, not many of them had Stroman’s electric stuff (mid to high 90s heat with a power curve). The Nats liked Stroman enough to take him in the 2009 draft (18th round) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take him again if he falls to their spot. If Stroman were 6’2” or so, he would be #1 on my list (and I imagine the lists of many others as well). 

6. RHP Kevin Gausman (Louisiana State) – I called him “easily my least favorite of the top tier” of college pitchers just this week, but he’s moved up a tad in my mind, mainly due to the lack of competition and my continuous souring over Mark Appel. Gausman throws gas, but doesn’t have great control or a breaking ball. That being said, he reminds many of Justin Verlander when he played at Old Dominion, and could be lethal if tutored by the right pitching coach for him.

7. RHP Mark Appel (Stanford) – He’s got a big arm, a projectable body, but the results aren’t there. His fastball is flat (remember, Garrett Mock had a big arm and a flat fastball, too). A good pitching coach could certainly help him get more movement on his fastball, but his pitching coach at Stanford (Rusty Filter) was also the pitching coach for some guy named Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State. He’s been bandied about as the “safe” #1 overall pick, but there is really nothing “safe” about him…he’s got a fairly high floor, and has a pretty good chance of being a mid-rotation starter. 

8. C Mike Zunino (Florida) – I’m lower on him than most. In a normal draft, I feel that Zunino is a late 1st rounder. He’s got solid tools across the board, but none are exceptional. His stats have slipped this year against SEC competition (some attribute this to being worn out, but is that really an excuse? He hit them fine late in the season in 2010 and 11). I’m going to make a totally lazy comparison and call him this draft’s Jeff Clement: decent hitting catcher who could probably stick behind the plate, but whose bat won’t translate to any other position if/when he can’t don the tools of ignorance anymore (and for those of you who didn’t know, Clement was the #3 overall pick in the 2005 draft that had Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero and Troy Tulowitzki go 4-7 and Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce go 10-12).

9. SS Deven Marrero (Arizona State) – Nats prospect Chris Marrero’s cousin went from a surefire top 5 pick this year to clinging to the first round. There have never been any questions about his defense at SS (it’s pretty awesome), but his bat has taken steps back in consecutive years since hitting .397/.442/.628 as a freshman in 2010. If he turns into an Alex Gonzalez type of player (okay bat with excellent defense), is he still worth spending a high 1st round pick on rather than a higher ceiling HS pitcher or bat? I say yes.

10. RHP Michael Wacha (Texas A&M) – Wacha doesn’t have the top of the rotation ceiling that Zimmer, Gausman and Appel have, but he should still turn into a solid starting pitcher. His fastball is a little above average average, but his bread and butter is his changeup. Wacha’s lack of a top of the rotation ceiling can be directly attributed to his lack of a top notch breaking pitch. His command isn’t great at the moment, but I can see the Jon Garland comparisons working out.

11. LHP Max Fried (HS) – The HS teammate of another first round talent, Lucas Giolito (more on him later), Fried is moving up my board more and more every day. Originally, I wrote him off as a soft-tossing lefty with a great curveball (like Jack McGeary), but his fastball looks better to me than it originally did. While he’s a high schooler, Fried has an arm that could move pretty quickly through the organization (for a high school pitcher, at least) and is considered to be a lower risk than most HS pitchers (albeit with a slightly lower ceiling as well).

12. OF David Dahl (HS) – What I like about Dahl is his bat. His power profiles to be above-average in CF and his bat speed and swing don’t have the holes that many other HS hitters have. He’s very fast, which at times helps to cover up his lack of instincts in CF, but that’s going to be a teaching point in the minors. What I don’t like about Dahl is his attitude. He’s known as a loafer, a low-energy player and a guy who seems to not really care about baseball. We’ve heard similar things said about Adam Dunn and BJ Upton in the past, and I think that these kinds of statements generally are meritless, but it still makes you wonder when you’re about to commit 7 figures to a kid. I’ve seen comparisons to the likes of Johnny Damon, Colby Rasmus and Jeremy Hermida recently for the Alabama high schooler; his attitude and effort levels will dictate where on that scale he’ll end up as a player.

13. LHP Andrew Heaney (Oklahoma State) – Reminds me a lot of Detwiler as a prospect (but in a good way). Heaney can reach pretty solid velocities for a LHP (as high as 95 MPH this season), has good command and has been known as a strikeout pitcher in his career at Oklahoma State. He’s a likely MLB contributor (and probably a pretty fast one), but with 3 pitches that grade out in the future 50-55 range, he doesn’t have the upside that Zimmer, Gausman and Appel do and there are questions about whether he’ll continue to be able to make batters swing and miss beyond the college level.

14. RHP Lucas Giolito (HS) – Giolito could have been the #1 overall pick if he was healthy for the 2012 season, but he is still weeks away from even throwing on a mound due to a UCL sprain. When healthy, Giolito throws an excellent fastball in both velocity (95+ MPH) and movement to go with good command, breaking and off-speed pitches. He’s got ace potential, but since his UCL wasn’t torn (and no surgery was done to correct the issue, just rehab), one has to at least wonder if he’ll tear it in the future. I’m not a doctor, and neither is Mike Rizzo, but I would stay away from him at #16 due to the high risk involved. Nobody will argue with picking Giolito 10th or later due to his potential, but nobody will argue if he falls out of the first round altogether due to his injury (or his perceived strong commitment to UCLA), either. 

15. 3B Richie Shaffer (Clemson) – One of the few decent college bats in a very shallow pool. He’s got some pop, plays good defense and has great plate discipline. I’m a big fan of Shaffer and think he can turn into an above average 3B in the big leagues fairly quickly.

16. 3B Corey Seager (HS) – Compared to most high school bats, Seager is pretty polished. He has a powerful swing and should be a pretty good defender. He’s not as sexy of a pick as the toolsy outfielders and middle infielders, but has a higher chance of making it to the bigs than they do (albeit with a lower ceiling).

17. RHP Chris Stratton (Mississippi State) – Stratton struggled through his first two years at Mississippi State, and is similar to a guy like Appel that has good stuff but hasn’t figured out a way to effectively use it yet. His fastball/slider combination can make heads turn at times, but he lacks a third pitch that will work at higher levels, something he’ll have to develop when drafted. He’s a likely reliever in my book without a third above-average pitch, but could develop into a pretty good one.

18. OF DJ Davis (HS) – Any team looking for a future elite leadoff hitter should take Davis. He’s incredibly fast; according to Baseball America, he’s even faster than Billy Hamilton. Wow. He has some pop as well, can spray line drives all over the field and has a swing with much less holes in it than the standard high schooler. Davis’ speed is explosive, but he’s not known to be a great defensive outfielder, with an obvious ability to get after the ball but a poor arm once he catches up to it.

19. OF Courtney Hawkins (HS) – Hawkins has a long swing that will have to be corrected if he aims on being able to hit for average at a level above high A ball. He likely won’t stick around in CF, and is a pretty big project. He’s got above average power potential and a great arm, but I’m not convinced he’ll be able to make enough contact as a pro. If he can straighten out his swing, though, look out.

20. OF Tyler Naquin (Texas A&M) – Nobody will question Naquin’s ability to hit, run or throw; he can be a .300 hitter in the big leagues, and has 60+ speed and arm tools. The knock on him is his future position, as he doesn’t have the power to be a great corner outfielder or the range to be average in center field. Guys that hit .300 don’t grow on trees, though, and for that reason Naquin has some of the best odds of being a major leaguer out of this draft.

21. SS Gavin Cecchini (HS) – While Cecchini is a little more polished than most of this year’s high school class; he lacks the swing speed and power to be an impact hitter at the big league level. I’m not talking just home run power, either; I don’t think he’ll end up developing much gap power or hitting a bunch of line drives. He’s got a slick glove, but it’s not necessarily elite like Correa or Marrero. He makes good contact and is a smart player, but I see him grounding out a ton at higher levels due to his lack of top-end speed. 

22. OF Victor Roache (Georgia Southern) – Much bigger risk/reward option than most college hitters, but his power is off the charts. Roache hit 30 homers last year (the most in the NCAA since 2003) in what was known as a major down year for power due to new bats.  He hit well with wooden bats in the Cape Cod league, which I like to see. His fielding is just okay and doesn’t have great speed either, so he’ll likely end up playing an outfield corner or 1B.

23. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (HS) – I don’t see the big deal about this guy. Okay, maybe I do – he has a great fastball and an equally impressive slider, but lacks a quality third pitch. Despite his big arm, he seems to be destined for the bullpen and has control issues. I’m lower on him than most.

24. RHP Ty Hensley (HS) – Has the typical 95+ MPH fastball of a flamethrowing high schooler, but atypical in that he pairs it with an excellent curveball. His command is shaky and his changeup could use work, but I like his potential and think he’ll be a good option for some team in the second half of the first round.

25. LHP Matt Smoral (HS) – The Nats grabbed a giant last year in Alex Meyer and could look at another in the 6’7” high school lefty in this draft. He doesn’t have the excellent velocity you might expect out of a tall guy, but has room to add some bulk and as a result a few ticks on the radar gun. None of his pitches really impress me, but with a more powerful workout plan and some tutoring from big league pitching coaches could turn him into an ace (or not). He has a history of nagging injuries, blisters and a broken foot, none of which are long-term issues.

26. 3B Stephen Piscotty (Stanford) – A bit of a tweener to me – his glove will be good enough to stick at 3B, but I don’t expect him to develop the power necessary to be an above average ML player. At 6’3” and 215 lbs, he has the tools to hit the ball far, but is more of a gap power guy than home run hitter. While Piscotty’s glove and arm are solid, they aren’t plus tools. I don’t buy into his bat as being able to stick at a corner infield or outfield position that require good hitters, but do think he’ll be able to contribute at the big league level as a bench/platoon bat.

27. 1B/RHP Joey Gallo (HS) – Superstar potential with both his arm and his power, but is raw with his command on the mound and his ability to make contact. Someone will buy into one or the other (because both are legitimate 80 tools), but it will be interesting to see if a team can mold him into a contributor or if he won’t make it out of A ball. Has some of the biggest upside in the draft, though.

28. C/OF Stryker Trahan (HS) – I think he has a chance to stick at C (although most don’t). I like his arm, power and speed behind the plate, but am not a big fan of his glove or ability to make contact. Like Gallo, if he gets taken by the right system to develop him, he could be a star, but he’s probably a guy you look back on in 5 years and see him still in high A or AA.

29. RHP Lucas Sims (HS) – His name has been tied to the Nats recently, but would be a huge overdraft if they took him in the first round. He’s got a good arsenal that includes a 95+ MPH fastball, a sweeping slider and a slow, loopy (in a good way) curveball. He doesn’t have the typical red flags for high school players that flame out (control problems, lack of secondary pitches, weird arm slot), and for that reason I think he’ll become a solid pitcher.

30. SS Addison Russell (HS) – Russell has good tools in his arm and power, but I think his swing will constantly be exploited by big league pitchers. He lost a bunch of weight in hopes that he could stick at shortstop, but I think he’ll probably end up as a 3B (but it’s not a total foregone conclusion). If a team can straighten out his swing, I can see him being an Ian Desmond type SS with some decent pop, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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