It’s the morning of the draft, and we don’t know for certain anything more than we knew heading into the weekend. JC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper will go No. 1 overall to the Nationals. The next two best prospects—Texas high school righthander Jameson Taillon and Florida prep shortstop Manny Machado—will be the next two picks, in either order, to the Pirates and Orioles.
After the big three, there’s little agreement on how to stack up the remaining talent. And with seven of the top eight college prospects looking for above-slot deals and/or major league contracts, and several of the best high school pitchers fading toward the end of the spring, uncertainty reigns. Starting with the Royals at No. 4, the first-round picks remain in flux, and many teams won’t finalize their plans until the early afternoon.
Look for a final first-round projection this afternoon on Baseball America’s Draft Blog before I join MLB Network’s team of Greg Amsinger, Peter Gammons, John Hart and Harold Reynolds, along with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, for television coverage of tonight’s proceedings at MLBN’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J. We’ll start with a one-hour predraft show at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the first and sandwich rounds running from 7:00-10:30.
1. NATIONALS. This is the one first-round pick that no one is wondering about.
PROJECTED PICK: Bryce Harper.
2. PIRATES. Pittsburgh will decide between Taillon and Machado and it will be a close call. The Pirates are leaning toward Taillon after eschewing a high-priced prep pitcher with the No. 4 selection last year.
PROJECTED PICK: Jameson Taillon.
3. ORIOLES. Baltimore can just wait and grab whichever one of the top three players is still on the board.
PROJECTED PICK: Manny Machado.
4. ROYALS. A report over the weekend claimed Kansas City had a deal done with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, but nothing is in place. Several industry sources believe the Royals prefer Florida Gulf Coast lefthander Chris Sale to Grandal, and if both players prove too expensive for their tastes, they could go for Texas-Arlington outfielder Michael Choice or Citadel righthander Asher Wojciechowski.
PROJECTED PICK: Chris Sale.
5. INDIANS. Cleveland likes Sale more than Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz. If the Florida Gulf Coast ace is gone, the Tribe could turn to Choice, the best college prospect who’s willing to sign for close to MLB’s slot recommendations.
PROJECTED PICK: Michael Choice.
6. DIAMONDBACKS. Arizona is focusing on college pitching. Word is that the Diamondbacks’ top target is North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey, but they may not be willing to pay the Boras Corp. price tag. Pomeranz won’t come cheaply either, and if he doesn’t go here he could slide toward the middle of the round. If Arizona sticks to slot, Texas A&M Barret Loux could jump all the way up here, ahead of Georgia Tech righthander Deck McGuire.
PROJECTED PICK: Drew Pomeranz.
7. METS. New York is looking at three players: Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, Harvey and Indiana high school catcher Justin O’Conner. Cox and Harvey won’t come cheaply, which could drive the Mets to O’Conner, but they do believe in Cox’s bat and power.
PROJECTED PICK: Zack Cox.
8. ASTROS. Houston appears to have narrowed its choices to a pair of high school outfielders. Josh Sale has been tied to this pick all spring, but the Astros have fallen in love with Delino DeShields’ athleticism and aren’t sure he’ll make it to their next pick at No. 19.
PROJECTED PICK: Josh Sale.
9. PADRES. Choice and Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek (who would move to center field) had impressive workouts in San Diego last week. But the Padres may like Florida high school righthander Karsten Whitson more than either. They also could go over slot to grab Florida prep third baseman Nick Castellanos or Clemson quarterback/outfielder Kyle Parker.
PROJECTED PICK: Karsten Whitson.
10. ATHLETICS. Oakland is believed to be selecting between Choice, O’Conner and Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon, in that order. McGuire, who not too long ago figured to go sixth overall but is sliding, also could be in the mix.
PROJECTED PICK: Justin O’Conner.
11. BLUE JAYS. This pick may come down to which outfielder the Astros leave on the board, Sale or DeShields—who ran a sub-6.3 second 60-year dash in a Toronto workout. The second option could be the best college pitcher available, which would be McGuire.
PROJECTED PICK: Delino DeShields.
12. REDS. Cincinnati wants the best player who will sign for close to slot money, which is believed to be around $1.75 million at No. 12. Colon, Grandal, McGuire and Cal State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown would fit here on talent but maybe not on money. In that case, the Reds would look at Ohio State righthander Alex Wimmers, Vitek and Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz.
PROJECTED PICK: Alex Wimmers.
13. WHITE SOX. Chicago almost certainly will take a college pitcher. If the White Sox will venture over slot—which they don’t often do—they could get nice value in McGuire. If not, they can choose from Loux, Wimmers, Wojciechowski and Texas righthander Brandon Workman.
PROJECTED PICK: Barret Loux.
14. BREWERS. Milwaukee needs pitching and has been tied to a pair of prep arms who aren’t consensus first-round talents: Pennsylvania lefthander Jesse Biddle and Florida righthander Luke Jackson. It will be hard to pass up talented college pitchers who fall, such as Harvey and McGuire. The Brewers are the first real candidates to pop enigmatic Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo, and persistent rumors that they’ll ignore pitching and take Castellanos won’t go away.
PROJECTED PICK: Matt Harvey.
15. RANGERS. Though the Rangers have declared bankruptcy and the franchise is in the process of being sold, their draft budget will give them the flexibility to go over slot in spots. This pick is unprotected by compensation, so they may play this one safe and spend elsewhere. Texas loves the athleticism of fast-rising Georgia high school outfielder Jake Skole, and he should be easy to sign after not dreaming of going this high two weeks ago. If the Rangers want an athlete with a more proven bat, Vitek could fit the bill.
PROJECTED PICK: Jake Skole.
16. CUBS. O’Conner and Whitson have repeatedly been mentioned with Chicago, though now neither figures to last this long. McGuire didn’t expect to fall this far either, and the Cubs also could consider Vitek and Wimmers.
PROJECTED PICK: Deck McGuire.
17. RAYS. Tampa Bay doesn’t lack for much in the way of talent, but it does need a catcher. The Rays may not want to haggle with Grandal, but he would fill a need and he will go somewhere in the first round. They’d have interest in DeShields, Josh Sale and Skole, with Alabama’s Reggie Golden possibly the next high school outfielder on their list.
PROJECTED PICK: Yasmani Grandal.
18. ANGELS. Los Angeles has three first-round picks, but that won’t be enough to sign every California high school pitcher the Angels are on, a group that includes Dylan Covey, Scott Frazier, Aaron Sanchez, Peter Tago and Taijuan Walker. Covey once figured to be gone by this point, and now he could still be available for Los Angeles at No. 29 or 30. Tago has been headed in the other direction, so the Angels may have to take him here. They also may be the first club that would take Ohio high school righthander Stetson Allie.
PROJECTED PICK: Peter Tago.
19. ASTROS. Houston’s dream would be to wait and get DeShields here, but he won’t get past both the Jays and Rays. Golden and Jackson are the most often-mentioned contingencies.
PROJECTED PICK: Reggie Golden.
20. RED SOX. The easy assumption is that Boston will get the most talented player who falls here because of signability, which could be Castellanos, Grandal or Ranaudo. But the Red Sox rarely exceed slot in the first round, and may save their big spending for picks No. 36 and 39 in the sandwich round. Slot possibilities include Brentz, Skole, Vitek and Workman.
PROJECTED PICK: Kolbrin Vitek.
21. TWINS. Minnesota has a good shot at top target Wimmers if he gets by the Reds. The Twins’ short list also may include Brentz, Golden and Workman.
PROJECTED PICK: Brandon Workman.
22. RANGERS. Texas could spend for Castellanos or Grandal here. If the Rangers decide to stick at slot, they could take Brentz, Wojciechowski or Workman.
PROJECTED PICK: Bryce Brentz.
23. MARLINS. Florida appears to be targeting pitching. The Marlins could go the college route with Loux or Wojciechowski, or opt for a high schooler such as Jackson, Sanchez, Tago or Illinois righthander Mike Foltynewicz.
PROJECTED PICK: Asher Wojciechowski.
24. GIANTS. San Francisco can get a desperately needed bat by choosing from among several shortstops who project to move to third base: Castellanos, fellow Florida high schooler Yordy Cabrera and two collegians, Georgia Tech’s Derek Dietrich and West Virginia’s Jedd Gyorko. That said, the Giants may be the first team that would pop Texas Tech righthander Chad Bettis.
PROJECTED PICK: Yordy Cabrera.
25. CARDINALS. The available pool of talent should be a nice surprise for St. Louis. Some mix of Allie, Brown, Colon, Grandal and Workman should still be available.
PROJECTED PICK: Christian Colon.
26. ROCKIES. Colorado has an affinity for drafting quarterbacks and has interest in Parker. Other possibilities include Georgia high school righthander Cam Bedrosian (son of former Cy Young Award winner Steve), Arkansas righthander/outfielder Brett Eibner and homestate prep righty Kevin Gausman.
PROJECTED PICK: Kyle Parker.
27. PHILLIES. Philadelphia is enamored with local high school product Biddle and California high school first baseman Christian Yelich, and it may be the only team that would make a run at California prep outfielder Austin Wilson, considered this draft’s toughest sign. If Allie’s power arm is still on the board, he may be impossible to resist.
PROJECTED PICK: Stetson Allie.
28. DODGERS. Ownership didn’t like to spend on the draft even before Frank and Jamie McCourt became embroiled in a bitter divorce. Los Angeles will adhere to MLB’s bonus guidelines and choose between several high schoolers: Florida righthander A.J. Cole, Foltynewicz, Texas righty Tyrell Jenkins and Washington outfielder Drew Vettleson.
PROJECTED PICK: Drew Vettleson.
29. ANGELS. Los Angeles has been hot on Covey’s trail all spring and can get him lower than it once expected.
PROJECTED PICK: Dylan Covey.
30. ANGELS. Unafraid of high school arms, Los Angeles could take three in the first round. It’s hard to imagine the Angels passing on Allie three times if he’s still available, and they’ve been monitoring Bedrosian leading up to draft day. They also could consider college arms such as Arizona State righthander Seth Blair and San Diego lefthander Sammy Solis.
PROJECTED PICK: Cam Bedrosian.
31. RAYS. As with No. 15, this bonus pick for failing to sign a first-rounder last year won’t draw compensation if the Rays don’t sign this year’s pick. So Tampa Bay figures to take a player it knows it can sign, such as Bettis, Dietrich, Gyorko, Jenkins or Minnesota catcher/outfielder Mike Kvasnicka, who’s no longer generating early first-round buzz. The Rays also could cut a discount deal with Canadian high school catcher Kellin Deglan or California prep outfielder Michael Lorenzen.
PROJECTED PICK: Derek Dietrich.
32. YANKEES. Most people don’t think the Yankees will empty their wallet for someone who falls because of signability with this pick, though they could be lying in the weeds. Their main focus appears to be a high school bat (Vettleson or Yelich), with other possibilities including Gyorko, Jenkins, Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre and Virginia Tech outfielder Austin Wates.
PROJECTED PICK: Christian Yelich.