The Astros’ public position with the No. 1 overall pick is that they’re looking at five players and may not make their decision until shortly before they officially go on the clock at 7:09 p.m. Eastern tonight.
Other clubs still believe the Astros are ultimately choosing between Stanford righthander Mark Appel and Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton. Talk of other possibilities, such as Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa and Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman, may just be a ploy to try to convince Appel or Buxton to accept a bonus lower than the $7.2 million pick value outlined in the new draft rules. The rules were part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement approved in the offseason, and tonight provides their first real test.
Many teams believe the pick values in the first round, which gradually decrease to $1,575,000 for the No. 31 selection, are too generous. Teams may try to cut deals to save money with their top picks in order to use that extra cash elsewhere. It’s unlikely that any club will spend so aggressively that it will incur draft-pick penalties for exceeding their assigned bonus pools in the first 10 rounds. An overage of just 5 percent would result in the loss of a first-round choice, escalating to the departure of two first-rounders for an excess of 15 percent.
To help you understand the budget each team is working with, we have included it with each team’s first pick. The amount is what they can spend in the first 10 rounds; no pick beyond that counts against the overall budget unless it exceeds $100,000. Two teams do not have first-round picks: the Tigers, who have a total budget of $2,099,300, and the Angels, who have a total budget of $1,645,700. If you’d like to see the value of every selection in the first 10 rounds, click here.
While California high school righthander Lucas Giolito remains the draft’s biggest wild card, there are more rumblings now that he’ll be selected in the first round. He was a potential No. 1 overall selection until he sprained an elbow ligament in March, and it’s unclear whether or how much he’ll reduce his asking price.
1. ASTROS (Total budget: $11,177,700). No change here from what we’ve written in our first three first-round projections. New owner Jim Crane wants a frontline starting pitcher, and it will be Appel, who grew up in Houston and is a fan of the Astros. Buxton appears to be the preference of the team’s baseball decision-makers and would be Plan B if a deal with Appel falls apart.
Projected Pick: MARK APPEL.
2. TWINS (Total budget: $12,368,200). Minnesota has plenty of athletic outfielders and desperately needs pitching, but it’s believed Buxton occupies the top spot on the club’s draft board. If he goes No. 1, the Twins would opt for Appel over Correa and Gausman.
Projected Pick: BYRON BUXTON.
3. MARINERS (Total budget: $8,223,400). Florida catcher Mike Zunino would be a nice fit for Seattle, as he has the leadership skills to run their up-and-coming pitching staff and the power to hit in the middle of a lineup. He’d also allow Jesus Montero give up the pipe dream of becoming a big league catcher and focus on hitting. The Mariners would love Buxton here, but that’s not happening. If they look elsewhere, they’re more likely to cut a deal with Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Heaney than to take Correa, whose strong individual workouts for clubs in the last week have created buzz throughout the industry.
Projected Pick: MIKE ZUNINO.
4. ORIOLES (Total budget: $6,826,900). Correa will be tempting, but Baltimore wants a pitcher. Gausman looks like the choice ahead of lefthander Max Fried (Giolito’s teammate at Harvard-Westlake HS in Studio City, Calif.) and San Francisco righthander Kyle Zimmer.
Projected Pick: KEVIN GAUSMAN.
5. ROYALS (Total budget: $6,101,500). Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore was on hand for Fried’s impressive last start and Zimmer’s lackluster final outing. In spite of that and health concerns that cropped up down the stretch with Zimmer, he looks like the choice. Correa is a possibility, too.
Projected Pick: KYLE ZIMMER.
6. CUBS (Total budget: $7,933,900). Some teams think Chicago would take Florida high school outfielder Albert Almora if it had the No. 1 overall pick. While that might be a bit of a stretch, the Cubs aren’t going to pass him up at No. 6. If they did, it might be for Fried.
Projected Pick: ALBERT ALMORA.
7. PADRES (Total budget: $9,903,100). San Diego has been hoping for Correa for a while. The Padres could consider whichever pitcher Kansas City leaves on the board. Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer is a possibility if they want a discount pick.
Projected Pick: CARLOS CORREA.
8. PIRATES (Total budget: $6,563,500). The early rumors that Pittsburgh coveted a shortstop and would take Arizona State’s Deven Marrero have died out. Fried might be the only player left from a clearly defined top eight, thought the Pirates seem to prefer a bat. Unless Almora or Zunino gets here, they could opt for high school outfielders Courtney Hawkins (Texas) or David Dahl (Alabama) if they had to have a bat. The Bucs are also the earliest destination for Mississippi State righthander Chris Stratton.
Projected Pick: DAVID DAHL.
9. MARLINS (Total budget: $4,935,100). Miami would gladly take Fried or Almora if they fell. If not, the Marlins will choose between Heaney and Hawkins. They might be the first team to strongly consider Lucas Giolito.
Projected Pick: MAX FRIED.
10. ROCKIES (Total budget: $6,628,300). Colorado has targeted bats all spring, and its pecking order looks like Hawkins, Dahl and Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini. The top pitching option could be Oklahoma high school righthander Ty Hensley.
Projected Pick: COURTNEY HAWKINS.
11. ATHLETICS (Total budget: $8,469,500). There’s a lot of chatter that Oakland will take Las Vegas high school third baseman Joey Gallo, who has the most raw power in this draft. But Heaney appears to be the Athletics’ guy if he gets to them. They could go in any direction, with college position players (Shaffer) and pitchers (Stratton, Texas A&M righthander Michael Wacha) and high school bats (Hawkins, Dahl, shortstop Addison Russell from Florida) and arms (righty Lance McCullers Jr. from Florida) all under consideration. Russell and McCullers may have to go this high if they’re to sign for straight pick value ($2,625,000 at No. 11).
Projected Pick: ANDREW HEANEY.
12. METS (Total budget: $7,151,400). New York has locked in on high school bats such as Dawkins, Dahl, Cecchini and possibly third baseman Corey Seager, who will be a tough sign away from South Carolina if he doesn’t go this early. Wacha would be the Mets’ college pitching choice.
Projected Pick: GAVIN CECCHINI.
13. WHITE SOX (Total budget: $5,915,100). Chicago would pounce on Hawkins but likely will have to choose between college arms. If Zimmer dropped, he wouldn’t get past the White Sox. Many scouting directors say Duke righthander Marcus Stroman has the best arm in this draft and will race to the major leagues, but his 5-foot-9 frame has them looking at other options. Chicago could be the highest landing place for Stroman, though the Sox would prefer Heaney or Wacha.
Projected Pick: MICHAEL WACHA.
14. REDS (Total budget: $6,653,800). Unless Heaney or Hawkins falls to No. 14, Cincinnati will redraft Marrero, its 17th-round selection out of a Florida high school in 2009. If the Reds do pass on Stratton or Wacha, they won’t last too much longer.
Projected Pick: DEVEN MARRERO.
15. INDIANS (Total budget: $4,582,900). Cleveland wants a college arm, preferably Heaney or Stratton. If they’re not available, the Indians could shop a deal among Shaffer, Wacha, Stroman and Stanford outfielder/third baseman Stephen Piscotty.
Projected Pick: CHRIS STRATTON.
16. NATIONALS (Total budget: $4,436,200). Like the other teams in the 13-16 range, Washington’s dream is Heaney, but that won’t come true. The Nationals will be left picking between Dahl, Marrero, Wacha and Shaffer.
Projected Pick: RICHIE SHAFFER.
17. BLUE JAYS (Total budget: $8,830,800). After resisting the urge to simply guess and put Giolito somewhere in our first three projections, we’ll put him here. Toronto has five of the first 60 selections, so if the Giolito negotiations don’t work out, it can just collect the No. 18 pick in 2013 as compensation and still get plenty of talent this year. The Blue Jays’ financial muscle in this draft also could lead them to McCullers or Seager. They’re hot for high-ceiling athletes such as Mississippi high school outfielder D.J. Davis, who might not make it to their next choice at No. 22.
Projected Pick: LUCAS GIOLITO.
18. DODGERS (Total budget: $5,202,800). It’s no secret that Los Angeles likes high school arms in general and Hensley in particular. Cecchini and Shaffer are in the mix if the Dodgers take a position players with their top choice for the first time in 10 years.
Projected Pick: TY HENSLEY.
19. CARDINALS, from Angels for Albert Pujols (Total budget: $9,131,100). St. Louis may want a college bat, and there aren’t many worth of the first round in this draft. If Shaffer already has been taken, the Cardinals may have to move here rather than at No. 23 to grab Piscotty.
Projected Pick: STEPHEN PISCOTTY.
20. GIANTS (Total budget: $4,076,400). The best guess with San Francisco is a high school arm, such as Hensley or Nick Travieso, Zach Eflin or Walker Weickel, the last three of whom are righthanders from Florida. If Shaffer or Piscotty is still available, the Giants could look to upgrade their offense.
Projected Pick: NICK TRAVIESO.
21. BRAVES (Total budget: $4,030,800). Most of the names tied to Atlanta are position players, such as Davis, Piscotty, Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin and California high school infielder Tanner Rahier. The Braves covet Dahl but have no chance at him, though they could have interest in fellow Alabama prep outfielder Sam Gillikin. They also could be the high-water mark for Florida lefthander Brian Johnson.
Projected Pick: D.J. DAVIS.
22. BLUE JAYS, for failure to sign 2011 first-round Tyler Beede (Total budget: $8,830,800). Toronto has interest in Cecchini and Davis if available. If not, Gallo’s tantalizing power could play very nicely at Rogers Centre.
Projected Pick: JOEY GALLO.
23. CARDINALS (Total budget: $9,131,100). Like Toronto, St. Louis has two first-round picks and three supplemental first-rounders, so it can move a lot of money around and grab a big-ticket player such as Giolito, Russell, McCullers or Seager. The Cardinals also could steal Stroman here and go big in the sandwich round.
Projected Pick: ADDISON RUSSELL.
24. RED SOX (Total budget: $6,884,800). Boston would love a shot at Davis and Cecchini, though Toronto probably prevents that from happening. Stroman would have no business lasting this long, but if it happens the bullpen-needy Red Sox would have no business passing him up. Louisiana high school outfielder/catcher Stryker Trahan could factor in here.
Projected Pick: MARCUS STROMAN.
25. RAYS (Total budget: $3,871,000). Tampa Bay likes high school upside and works hard both in its backyard in Florida and the Northwest. That could lead the Rays to Eflin, outfielder Lewis Brinson (Florida), catcher Clint Coulter (Washington) and third baseman/righthander Carson Kelly (Oregon). This also could be the high end on the draft’s most talented college senior, Florida State outfielder James Ramsey.
Projected Pick: ZACH EFLIN.
26. DIAMONDBACKS (Total budget: $3,818,300). Arizona is associated mostly with outfielders, starting with Piscotty, Trahan and Naquin. Others include Gillikin, Georgia Southern’s Victor Roache and Stony Brook’s Travis Jankowski. If he’s available, Travieso could fit for the Diamondbacks.
Projected Pick: LEWIS BRINSON.
27. BREWERS, from Tigers for Prince Fielder (Total budget: $6,764,700). Though Coulter has been linked to the Blue Jays, Rays and Diamondbacks, Milwaukee appears to be his destination.
Projected Pick: CLINT COULTER.
28. BREWERS (Total budget: $6,764,700). Milwaukee could go back-to-back with hitters after using two first-rounders on pitchers in 2012. The top college candidates at this point would be Naquin and Roache, and the best high schoolers available might be Seager, Brinson and Rahier. If the Brewers want an arm, they could pursue a high school righthander such as Lucas Sims (Georgia) or J.O. Berrios (Puerto Rico).
Projected Pick: TYLER NAQUIN.
29. RANGERS (Total budget: $6,568,200). Bet on a high-upside play here. It could be one of the higher-priced prepsters such as McCullers, Russell or Seager. Texas has been mentioned as much as anyone on Ohio high school lefthander Matt Smoral, a likely mid-first-rounder before he broke a bone in his foot and missed most of the year. Maybe the Rangers could make a run at Giolito. They also like Hensley and Davis, who probably can’t get this far. Berrios and Brinson are possibilities, too.
Projected Pick: MATT SMORAL.
30. YANKEES (Total budget: $4,192,200). A lot of high school righthanders are tied to New York, including McCullers (who might be tough to pay here), Eflin, Sims, Weickel, Berrios, Shane Watson (California), Ty Buttrey (North Carolina) and Duane Underwood (Georgia).
Projected Pick: WALKER WEICKEL.
31. RED SOX, from Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon (Total budget: $6,884,800). Boston is looking at a lot of the same arms as New York and may prefer Weickel, Watson and Buttrey. The Red Sox could parlay their extra budget with compensation picks at Nos. 31 and 37 to pursue a higher-priced player such as Seager. They also have interest in Rahier.
Projected Pick: TANNER RAHIER.