Signability concerns made for a wild night before the draft. Florida State catcher Buster Posey’s asking price suddenly jumped to $12 million and Missouri righthander Aaron Crow’s target became $10 million, and while few teams took those numbers seriously, it did affect their draft preparations. With three Scott Boras Corporation advisees—Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer and California prep righthander Gerrit Cole—already known to be seeking $6 million or more, it once again means that money will be as much a factor as talent in the first round.
1. TAMPA BAY. The Rays were torn between Posey, a rare athletic catcher who could fill its biggest need, and Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, the best combination of five-tool ability and baseball aptitude in the draft. Posey seemed to have the edge in the weeks before the draft, but Tampa Bay has settled on Beckham. How much it came down to talent, money or the Rays’ greater success with prepsters as top picks remains to be seen.
Projected Pick: TIM BECKHAM, ss, Griffin, Ga.
2. PITTSBURGH. While the Pirates waited for the Rays to pick between Beckham and Posey, Alvarez was their man all along. Even a broken hamate bone in his wrist and a late-season slump couldn’t detract from how he had destroyed college pitching when healthy the previous two years. His selection also sends a positive message to Pittsburgh fans a year after the club passed on Matt Wieters because he was too expensive.
Projected Pick: PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3b, Vanderbilt.
3. KANSAS CITY. After taking Boras clients Luke Hochevar and Mike Moustakas with the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the last two drafts, the Royals once again are willing to pay for talent. Kansas City’s top two players are Alvarez and Hosmer, the most dangerous high school bat in the draft. The Royals also explored Posey, but Hosmer appears to be their man.
Projected Pick: ERIC HOSMER, 1b, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
4. BALTIMORE. The Orioles took hitters with their first pick in each of the last three drafts, and were set to grab Beckham if the Rays didn’t make him the No. 1 overall choice. They’ll have no regrets about taking San Diego’s Brian Matusz, the draft’s top pitching prospect. A lefty with three plus pitches and pitchability, Matusz would be a prime target for the next half-dozen clubs if Baltimore passed him up. South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak, a switch-hitting slugger, is the O’s top option among position players.
Projected Pick: BRIAN MATUSZ, lhp, San Diego.
5. SAN FRANCISCO. The Giants play the draft as close to the vest as anyone, so this is the hardest pick to read in the upper half of the first round. Word is that they covet Hosmer, so would they be willing to pay big money for Posey? San Francisco needs hitters, and they could get an elite bat like Smoak or Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso.
Projected Pick: JUSTIN SMOAK, 1b, South Carolina.
6. FLORIDA. The Marlins typically don’t exceed MLB’s bonus recommendations in the first round, but the chance to get Posey could change that. Florida seems locked in on a catcher, as the decision will come down to Posey or offensive-minded California high schooler Kyle Skipworth. Posey’s emerging bat and defensive superiority trump his asking price.
Projected Pick: BUSTER POSEY, c, Florida State.
7. CINCINNATI. Unless Matusz falls, slugging Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham is the Reds’ target. They won’t rule out Posey, even after taking catcher Devin Mesoraco with their 2007 first-rounder. Sweet-swinging Canadian Brett Lawrie, who’s surging up draft boards after a fantastic finish to his spring tour with Team Canada, first emerges as a possibility here but Cincinnati prefers Beckham.
Projected Pick: GORDON BECKHAM, ss, Georgia.
8. CHICAGO (AL). The White Sox would love to get Gordon Beckham, but that seems unlikely. Though they usually adhere to bonus slotting, they might be tempted by Posey if he lasts this far. Though there have been more rumors associating them with Arizona State third baseman/first baseman Brett Wallace and Stanford catcher Jason Castro (the godson of Chicago farm director Alan Regier), the White Sox will seek some offense from Smoak or Alonso.
Projected Pick: YONDER ALONSO, 1b, Miami.
9. WASHINGTON. The Nationals are willing to spend money on the draft, so Hosmer and Posey wouldn’t scare them off if they fell this far. If that doesn’t happen, Washington would look hard at Gordon Beckham, Smoak and Alonso, all of whom figure to be off the board. That would mean the Nats would bolster their pitching staff with Crow, who has the best fastball in the draft and a nifty slider as well. Skipworth, who worked out for the Nats earlier this week, is another possibility.
Projected Pick: AARON CROW, rhp, Missouri.
10. HOUSTON. The Astros initially seemed to be on college starting pitchers, but that crop dried up when Fresno State’s Tanner Scheppers hurt his shoulder and Tulane’s Shooter Hunt went into a late-season slump. Houston has been hoping for Skipworth and now it seems like he will get past the first nine picks. The Astros are the first team that could pull the trigger on Lawrie, with Eastern Kentucky lefthander Christian Friedrich the best college starter if they go in that direction.
Projected Pick: KYLE SKIPWORTH, c, Patriot HS, Rubidoux, Calif.
11. TEXAS. Despite their ever-present need for pitching, the thought of Hosmer at the Ballpark in Arlington is mighty tempting for the Rangers. They’d also be thrilled if Crow fell this far, and if he doesn’t, they’d choose between the top high school pitchers (righthander Ethan Martin from Georgia and Cole) and Friedrich.
Projected Pick: ETHAN MARTIN, rhp, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
12. OAKLAND. Ideally, the Athletics would love for one of the big college bats (Beckham, Smoak, Alonso) to sneak down to them. That’s unlikely, and Plan B appears to be to get an athlete such as California prep outfielder/righthander Aaron Hicks, who’s loaded with tools, or Miami second baseman Jemile Weeks, Rickie’s little brother. Hicks has more upside, while Weeks has more polish.
Projected Pick: JEMILE WEEKS, 2b, Miami.
13. ST. LOUIS. Despite their emphasis on statistical analysis, the Cardinals have shown that they’re not afraid to take high schoolers in the first round, having grabbed Colby Rasmus and Pete Kozma in the last three years. They brought in Florida prep shortstop/righthander Casey Kelly for a workout, and they wouldn’t be afraid to buy him away from a scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee. But getting a pure hitter the caliber of Wallace is just too attractive. If they go for a pitcher, Friedrich, hard-throwing Arizona righthander Ryan Perry and Hunt are candidates.
Projected Pick: BRETT WALLACE, 3b/1b, Arizona State.
14. MINNESOTA. The Twins would prefer a college pitcher and like Friedrich, but they also love toolsy athletes and couldn’t let Hicks get by them. Hicks has told teams he wants to hit rather than pitch as a pro, and Minnesota won’t argue with him. If both Hicks and Friedrich have been taken, the Twins could pop Lawrie.
Projected Pick: AARON HICKS, of/rhp, Wilson HS, Long Beach.
15. LOS ANGELES (NL). Hicks also fits what the Dodgers look for, and if he’s gone, they’re zeroing in on pitchers. Martin, fireballing Texas Christian righthander Andrew Cashner, Hunt and Arizona lefthander Daniel Schlereth are all in the mix. Los Angeles is the one team seriously considering Arizona State two-way star Ike Davis as a lefthanded pitcher, but may not have seen enough of him on the mound to get that daring.
Projected Pick: ANDREW CASHNER, rhp, Texas Christian.
16. MILWAUKEE. The Brewers would love Lawrie and until last night didn’t think he had much of a chance to last 16 picks. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to react to whomever falls, possibly Wallace and more likely Friedrich. Milwaukee had been rumored to be interested in a college reliever to help shore up its big league bullpen, but that’s not a priority here.
Projected Pick: BRETT LAWRIE, 3b/c, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.
17. TORONTO. Canada’s lone major league team is an obvious destination for Lawrie, but he’s not getting by the Brewers. The Jays will then turn their attention to college bats, with Alonso and Wallace on their list of dream possibilities. They probably will have to settle for Davis, one of the few first-round-caliber first basemen who has a chance to play a more difficult position.
Projected Pick: IKE DAVIS, 1b/of, Arizona State.
18. NEW YORK (NL). Despite their financial muscle, the Mets will accede to MLB’s bonus guidelines and focus on talent that can rise through their depleted farm system in a hurry. They could go for pitching help with Friedrich, Cashner or Perry, with the idea of converting the latter two from relievers to starters. Davis and Castro (after whom there’s a huge dropoff among catcher) are position-player candidates.
Projected Pick: CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH, lhp, Eastern Kentucky.
19. CHICAGO (NL). The Cubs are making some noise about homestate prep righthander Jake Odorizzi, but that’s more of a smokescreen. Davis and Kelly appear to be back-burner guys rather than leading candidates here, so Chicago could be lying in the weeds on someone who’s sliding—perhaps Missouri prep righthander Tim Melville, who wants a bonus commensurate with the top 10-15 picks.
Projected Pick: TIM MELVILLE, rhp, Holt HS, Wentzville, Mo.
20. SEATTLE. The draft is deep in college relievers, and the top names in that group are the ones linked to the Mariners. Cashner is the consensus top choice, and with him gone Seattle would be looking at Georgia’s Joshua Fields, Schlereth and Perry.
Projected Pick: JOSHUA FIELDS, rhp, Georgia.
21. DETROIT. The Tigers will pay top dollar for top talent, going way over slot for Andrew Miller and Rick Porcello in the last two drafts, with no regrets. Detroit would love Posey, seriously consider Hosmer and Crow, and have no problems taking Cole. If the Tigers stick to slot, Martin, Fields and Hunt would be possibilities.
Projected Pick: GERRIT COLE, rhp, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS.
22. NEW YORK (NL). The Mets would have no problem going with back-to-back pitchers in the first round if Cashner or Perry were still available. If those two, Davis and Castro are all gone, New York is the second team behind Oakland on Weeks. The Mets have some interest in South Carolina shortstop Reese Havens, but more with their sandwich pick at No. 33.
Projected Pick: RYAN PERRY, rhp, Arizona.
23. SAN DIEGO. The Padres could go in a number of directions, depending on what happens in front of them. They’d like a quality righthanded college bat, but almost all of the top hitters are lefties. If it’s a pitcher, they seem to be zeroing in one of the Arizona relievers, Perry or Schlereth, over a starter such as Hunt. San Diego values pitchability, so rumors that Mississippi righthander Lance Lynn is a candidate won’t die, though he’d be a reach.
Projected Pick: DANIEL SCHLERETH, lhp, Arizona.
24. PHILADELPHIA. With Matusz and Crow seeking major league contracts and Scheppers getting hurt, Hunt was positioned as the best slot-money college starter just a couple of weeks ago. He hasn’t pitched well down the stretch and is sliding, but his stuff is too good to drop out of the first round. The Phillies have been associated with toolsy high school athletes such as fast-rising Connecticut shortstop Anthony Hewitt and California outfielder Zach Collier, but they may wait until their sandwich pick at No. 34 to take that plunge.
Projected Pick: SHOOTER HUNT, rhp, Tulane.
25. COLORADO. The Rockies would prefer Perry but have no qualms about
taking Odorizzi, and they’ve been following him more closely than any
club. They’ve also shown some interest in Castro, Hewitt and Collier,
and if Hewitt goes in the first round it looks like it will be to
Projected Pick: JAKE ODORIZZI, rhp, Highland (Ill.) HS.
26. ARIZONA. After trading three lefthanders (Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith) in the Dan Haren deal, the Diamondbacks could be on the prowl for southpaws. With Friedrich off the board, the top lefties would mostly be high schoolers—Brett DeVall (Florida), Kyle Lobstein (Arizona), Mike Montgomery (California) and Robbie Ross (Kentucky)—with Southeastern Louisiana’s Wade Miley the top college possibility. Ross won’t sign for slot money.
Projected Pick: BRETT DeVALL, lhp, Niceville, Fla.
27. MINNESOTA. The Twins pick again at No. 31, so they’ll take the best available player with each of their two first-rounders even if it means doubling up at the same position. They wouldn’t mind collaring both Hicks and Collier for their outfield of the future, though they’d snatch up Martin or Lawrie if they somehow fell. Other targets include DeVall and Weeks.
Projected Pick: ZACH COLLIER, of, Chino Hills (Calif.) HS.
28. NEW YORK (AL). The perfect scenario for the Yankees would be for Hosmer to fall to fill their void at first base, and they wouldn’t blink at the $6 million or so he’d cost them. But that’s much more a dream than reality. If New York wants to go for a high-priced, high-ceiling player, Kelly is probably going to be the best one available. Like Hicks, Kelly wants to play every day rather than pitch as a pro. If the Yankees play it straight, they could take California first baseman David Cooper or one of the high school lefties.
Projected Pick: CASEY KELLY, ss/rhp, Sarasota (Fla.) HS.
29. CLEVELAND. The Indians are waiting to see who slides through to them. The draft is deepest in first basemen and college relievers, but they’d prefer to go in a different direction. Perry and DeVall would interest Cleveland, and they may get lucky and have Castro surprisingly last this far.
Projected Pick: JASON CASTRO, c, Stanford.
30. BOSTON. Though the Red Sox almost took Havens in the first round three years ago, they apparently will pass on him again. They’d love to see Posey or Crow fall this far because of their eight-figure demands, but that’s a pipe dream. Boston likely will be choosing between Hunt, Cooper, Castro (whom they drafted out of high school) and Rice reliever Bryan Price.
Projected Pick: DAVID COOPER, 1b, California.
Contributing: Matt Blood