We break down the top draft prospects in the 2012 draft class by position.
CATCHER: It’s a good year for catchers, as the last time more than one catcher went in the top half of the first round was 2008, when Buster Posey went fifth, Kyle Skipworth went sixth and Jason Castro went 10th. The 2012 crop offers two backstops with impressive offensive potential for the position. On the college side, there’s the reigning Southeastern Conference player of the year in Florida’s Mike Zunino (5). His 19 home runs were good for seventh-most in college baseball last year and he led the Gators with a .371 average. Zunino is a solid defender and offers the intangibles scouts also look for in a catcher—he should know, his father Greg is a longtime scout, now with the Reds. For high schoolers, Stryker Trahan (12) has a unique profile. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Trahan is built like a fullback, but runs like a tailback. Deceptively fast for his size, the Mississippi commit offers solid-average speed. He has enormous hands and was born to catch. At the plate, he’s a selective hitter and offers good loft and power potential from the left side. Texas Christian slugger Josh Elander (25) has some defensive questions to answer, but could get popped in the first round because of his righthanded power potential.
FIRST BASE: The top two first basemen in the class have similarities—namely light-tower power from the left side of the plate and double-duty on the mound. While Florida’s Brian Johnson (8) is the draft’s top two-way player, most scouts currently prefer him on the mound thanks to his workhorse 6-foot-4, 227-pound frame and advanced feel for a three-pitch mix. Joey Gallo (21) blasted 25 home runs last year as a high school junior and hit the 10th-longest home run (442 feet) in Petco Park history this summer at the Perfect Game All-American Classic. He plays third base for his high school team, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder profiles best at first. He plays third base for his high school team, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder profiles best at first. While he has legitimate power, Gallo makes inconsistent contact. Unlike Johnson, Gallo is a righthanded pitcher and though he’s relatively new to pitching, his fastball has reached 95 mph.
MIDDLE INFIELD: Players who can stick at shortstop always fly off the board and there are three this year that have the talent to be taken in the top half of the first round. Arizona State’s Deven Marrero (4) was a premium prospect coming out of high school and has only improved his stock with the Sun Devils. A silky defender, Marrero has Gold Glove potential in the big leagues. With a simple, compact swing, Marrero is currently a doubles hitter, but could grow into average power. He’s a complete player with slightly above-average speed and good instincts on the bases. Gavin Cecchini (16) is leaner than his older brother Garin, a prospect in the Red Sox system. The increased mobility gives him good range at shortstop with above-average instincts, fluid fielding mechanics and a strong arm. He’s a leader on the field who always plays hard and goes about the game the right way. A righthanded hitter, Cecchini hits everything on the screws and drives the ball hard to all fields. Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa (17) may eventually outgrow the position, but he has smooth actions and above-average arm strength to get a chance to stick. One of the youngest players in this year’s draft, the Miami recruit won’t turn 18 until September. He already has a professional build and shows good power potential.
THIRD BASE: The top players at the hot corner all fit the mold—they can hit and they have strong arms. Stephen Piscotty (18) from Stanford is one of the best pure hitters in the class, hitting .349 over 106 at-bats to win the Cape Cod League batting title. He uses more of a gap-to-gap approach, but should develop some power as he continues to grow into his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. A broken left hamate in high school kept Clemson’s Richie Shaffer (26) from bolstering a tremendous 2009 North Carolina draft class, but has slugged well for the Tigers and moves from first to third base this spring, improving the righthanded hitter’s profile considerably. High schooler Trey Williams (27) has been a hot name for the 2012 draft for a while due to his special talent and his lineage. His father Eddie was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 draft and had a 20-year pro career, with 10 of those years spent in the big leagues. Williams has tremendous strength and bat speed, and his line-drive home run to right-center at the Perfect Game National Showcase stands out as one of the most impressive round-trippers on the summer circuit. Some scouts prefer another Southern California third baseman in Rio Ruiz (34), who offers less power but hits from the left side of the plate.
OUTFIELD: The best outfielders in this year’s class are in Georgia. Byron Buxton (3) is a five-tool specimen who earned comparisons to the Upton brothers this summer. Buxton stands 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds. He has a lean frame with a trim waist and shows plenty of speed to handle center field. Buxton’s arm would also be an asset in the outfield, as he’s been clocked in the low 90s off the mound. Buxton shows good balance in his short swing, excellent bat speed and a knack for centering the ball. There’s power potential too—which he showed off by finishing second in the Under Armour game home run derby—with more to come as he continues to fill out and mature physically. Victor Roache (9) will be playing an hour and a half north of Buxton at Georgia Southern. The Michigan native exploded last year with 30 bombs, the most in college baseball since 2003. Roache has impressive physicality and profiles as a middle-of-the-order left fielder. Southeast crosscheckers will also key in on sweet-swinging David Dahl (10), who has five-tool potential himself and has been compared to Colby Rasmus, and Albert Almora (14), who is one of the most polished players in the high school class after winning six gold medals with Team USA.
RIGHTHANDERS: The top two players in this year’s draft are righthanded power arms in California. With his 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame, Stanford’s Mark Appel (1) has extremely good present stuff and still has room to grow. His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range and will get as high as 99. He mixes in a true slider and is working to develop his changeup. If there’s a concern, it’s that Appel hasn’t yet dominated like his stuff would indicate he should. A righthanded high school pitcher never has been selected first overall, but Lucas Giolito (2) has as good a chance as any pitcher in recent memory. He’s more physical than Appel at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and may have better pure stuff. He’s shown similar fastball velocity and mixes in a hammer curveball in the 81-83 mph range and a changeup with good movement. The UCLA recruit is a workout machine who adheres to an impressive long-toss routine and has been practicing yoga this winter. He is also young for the class and won’t turn 18 until just after the signing deadline. The college class also offers other power righthanders like Louisiana State draft-eligible sophomore Kevin Gausman (6), Roache’s teammate at Georgia Southern, Chris Beck (7). Florida prepsters Walker Weickel (11) and Lance McCullers Jr. (20) present contrasting styles. Weickel gets great downhill plane on his low-90s fastball and oozes projection. McCullers has some of the best stuff in the class but may be limited to the bullpen like his father, who spent seven seasons in the big leagues.
LEFTHANDERS: In addition to Johnson, who was mentioned above, the best lefthanders in the class come from the high school ranks. Matt Smoral (13) is one of the biggest players in the Top 100 at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. His fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range and touches 94 and he mixes in a slider with occasional late break. Smoral throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and the North Carolina recruit shows good body control for his size. Max Fried (15) is teammates with Giolito, forming one of the best high school starting pitching tandems ever. Also a UCLA commit, Fried has prototypical projection in his lanky 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. He’s an above-average athlete who fills up the strike zone with all of his pitches, including an improving 88-92 mph fastball and one of the best curveballs in the country.