To provide another perspective on
this year’s draft, we gathered three of our draft experts—editor John
Manuel, executive editor Jim Callis and assistant editor Conor
Glassey—and allowed them to make their own selections. This isn’t a
prediction of how the first round will unfold, but rather what would
happen if our lead draft writers were in charge of each team’s scouting
department. Glassey won the first pick, followed by Callis and Manuel,
and they alternated picks throughout the first round while trying to
stay true to each club’s finances and needs.
1. NATIONALS (Conor). Well, this is a no-brainer. He was the wire-to-wire favorite and obviously I’m going with JC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper here. Having the No. 1 overall pick is obviously bittersweet, especially in back-to-back drafts, but the Nationals picked two good years to do it, getting Stephen Strasburg and now Harper. Despite hitting 31 homers, mostly with wood bats, while essentially a high school junior, Harper isn’t without his questions. The biggest thing I would worry about aren’t the mechanical flaws with Harper’s swing or throwing mechanics behind the plate—both of which are correctable—but how he’ll deal with the spotlight and how he’ll handle failure. He was shielded from the media this year, and at some point he’s going to have to deal with media and fan attention. Harper won’t come cheaply, but Washington general manager Mike Rizzo has a long track record of choosing the best player available and working with Scott Boras.
2. PIRATES (Jim). I’m with Conor. I don’t see how the Nationals could pass on his power and I don’t think they will. With the No. 2 pick, I’m looking at the same two players the Pirates are zeroing in on: Texas high school righthander Jameson Taillon and Florida prep shortstop Manny Machado. Neither will come cheap, and certainly not as cheap as Tony Sanchez did as the No. 4 choice a year ago, but Pittsburgh has to take the best available talent. For me, that’s Jameson Taillon. He’s easily the best pitcher in this draft, and I’m not hung up on the risks that come with a high school arm. He can be the true No. 1 starter the Pirates haven’t had in years. Picking Machado would also be a legitimate move—I like potential five-tool shortstops, too—but I’d rather have Taillon.
3. ORIOLES (John). To borrow a phrase from Dayton Moore, Orioles fans have to trust the process. It’s taking longer than it seems like it should, but Baltimore is rebuilding and has strong pieces up the middle in Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Adding Manny Machado with this pick would make too much sense. The organization has a giant hole at shortstop, though Machado isn’t a need pick—he’s the best player on the board. There’s an argument to be made for Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who could move quickly and be an effective complement to Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Co. But Baltimore’s inability to develop a shortstop, combined with Machado’s defensive tools and power potential, make him the best choice here.
4. ROYALS (Conor). The top three players are pretty defined, and it’s actually not a great year to have the No. 4 pick, in my opinion. Royals fans should hope that either Taillon or Machado drops for some reason because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference in value between the fourth pick and the 20th. That’s no disrespect to Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz, whom I’m selecting here. It’s not a great year for lefthanded pitching and I went with Pomeranz over Florida Gulf Coast lefty Chris Sale because he has a better breaking ball and a more durable frame.
5. INDIANS (Jim). It seems like the two potential top-10 picks I’m defending most to inquiring fans are Chris Sale and Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox. In fact, I’m getting to the point where I’d take Sale over Pomeranz, so I’m happy to call Chris Sale as the pick here. I’m not so sure Sale won’t be more durable despite his skinny 6-foot-6, 172-pound frame. He has held up better this spring, and Pomeranz has been worked much harder in college. Because they’re both lefthanded starters and not left-on-left relievers, I’d rather have the guy with the superior changeup, and that’s Sale. He has a low arm slot but he’s not a soft-tossing groundball specialist. Instead he throws in the low 90s with a lot of life. Sale has better control than Pomeranz, too. So far, our first five choices are tracking exactly how I expect them to unfold on Monday (though there’s plenty of time for shuffling before then).
6. DIAMONDBACKS (John). No surprises yet for me either, and the sixth pick is set up for Arizona to take Georgia Tech righthander Deck McGuire, the safest pick on the board. But I’m going to zig and take North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey instead. McGuire is much more likely to be a starter, but with the No. 6 choice, I’m hoping for more upside than a pitchability guy. I’d go with Harvey, whose fastball and slider earned 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale at times this year. He also has a curveball, good body and a long track record of being in the draft spotlight, and he has responded well this year. His ceiling is higher than McGuire’s, and if he winds up in the bullpen, he could dominate with that two-pitch mix.
7. METS (Conor). Well then I’m going to zag and go with Florida high school righthander Karsten Whitson. Whitson looked fantastic in the Florida high school all-star showcase in Sebring last week, sitting at 93-94 mph with his fastball and touching 96. He mixed in a filthy slider that he threw for strikes and solidified his place as the second-best high school pitcher in this year’s class, especially with the recent slides of A.J. Cole, Dylan Covey and Kevin Gausman. Like Harvey, Whitson is a riskier pick but has more star potential than other picks I considered like McGuire or Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal.
8. ASTROS (Jim). Whitson has become the No. 2 prep pitcher in this draft, though I wonder if the Mets’ on-the-hot-seat front office won’t rather have a guy who could help quicker. As for the Astros, I’m sold on Zack Cox, so I’m taking him here. The questions some teams have about Cox don’t bother me. He’s the best pure hitter in the draft, and he has enough strength in his 6-foot, 215-pound frame for me to believe he’ll have at least average power. He has a strong arm and works hard, and if there’s a position where you can become a decent defender by taking a ton of grounders, it’s third base. I see him as a .300 hitter with 15-20 homers per year at the hot corner, and the Astros don’t have a guy like that. Cox is a draft-eligible sophomore who’s reportedly angling for an above-slot deal, but if gambles on re-entering the draft, I don’t see how he can do any better in 2011, when there should be a deeper pool of talent.
9. PADRES (John). The Padres have a new scouting director in Jaron Madison and a new assistant GM in Jason McLeod involved heavily in the draft as well. San Diego is looking for hitters, and if I’m picking here (hey, I am!), I’m taking the best college position player on the board. For me, that’s Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon, whom the Padres drafted in the 10th round three years ago. While BA’s California scouting correspondent Dave Perkin isn’t sold on Colon’s tools, I love his bat and aptitude. When I did our California draft coverage in 2007, when Colon was in high school, area scouts ran down his tools the same way they do now. Colon just keeps hitting. He’ll be an offensive second baseman and he’ll make plays to help the Padres win games.
10. ATHLETICS (Conor). I considered McGuire and Grandal again with this pick—the highest the A’s have had since they drafted Barry Zito ninth overall in 1999—but I just can’t pass on Washington high school outfielder Josh Sale. Sale has bigger tools than those two and isn’t as risky as some high school picks because he’s so polished at the plate. With a disciplined approach and good understanding of the strike zone, Sale is the type of hitter the A’s like. He also has the best power in the high school class (from the left side of the plate, to boot).
11. BLUE JAYS (Jim). Toronto has been tied to California high school outfielder Austin Wilson in recent days, but I don’t believe enough in Wilson’s bat to choose him this early and try to buy him away from Stanford. Whitson, Colon and Josh Sale are all guys who would interest me here, though they’re gone in this scenario. If the draft plays out like this, I’d take Texas-Arlington outfielder Michael Choice. I’m not in love with that pick at No. 11, but I don’t see a better one. Choice has a chance to be a prototype right fielder, and the Blue Jays could use that for the long term more than McGuire, who would be my Plan B.
12. REDS (John). Cincinnati has been spoiled by Mike Leake, whose debut won’t be topped by this year’s pick. Still, the polished college pitcher route has worked for them before. Unless Ohio high schooler Stetson Allie has more polish than I think, that makes Deck McGuire the pick here. He’s polished, throws four pitches for strikes and should be a cheaper replacement for the likes of Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo soon. Getting a top college pitcher with the 12th pick is solid value.
13. WHITE SOX (Conor). The last time the White Sox spent a first-round pick on a high school player was in 2001 with righthander Kris Honel. I think they’ll go the college route again this year and I would go with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal. Grandal broke out this year, hitting .422/.545/.754. He’s an average receiver and shows solid power, which will play up at U.S. Cellular Field. I don’t think he’ll make it this far in the real draft, so he’s a great value at 13.
14. BREWERS (Jim). McGuire would be a nice fit for Milwaukee, as would Grandal, for that matter. But if the draft plays out as expected, the best values on the board at No. 14 will be pitchers, and the Brewers need pitching. As I see it, Milwaukee has three options. They can go for the guy with upside (Allie, though he’s raw), the most polished college pitcher (Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers) or a college guy who falls in between (Texas’ Brandon Workman or The Citadel’s Asher Wojciechowski). I’m going with Asher Wojciechowski.
15. RANGERS (John). Texas is under obvious financial constraints with the continuing machinations around the sale of the team. It cost the team first-rounder Matt Purke last year, after he agreed to a $6 million deal with the club that Major League Baseball (which extended the team a line of credit) wouldn’t approve. The Rangers need a guy who will sign and play, especially with this bonus pick, which won’t generate more compensation if they can’t sign him. I’d consider Wimmers, wish local boy Choice were still around and kick the tires on some Florida prep talent, such as Cole and third baseman Nick Castellanos. But this is a tools organization and you can’t ignore Stetson Allie still being on the board at 15. His fastball and breaking ball exceed those of all prep pitchers not named Jameson Taillon.
16. CUBS (Conor). Tough spot here. After considering Workman and Castellanos, I decided to go big and choose Austin Wilson. The Cubs have shown that they’re not afraid to spend money in the draft, and it will take some money to lure Wilson away from Stanford. I’m guessing around $3 million. The Cubs already have seen Wilson hit a home run at Wrigley Field at last summer’s Under Armour All-American Game, and I’m not as worried about his hitting as others may be. Wilson has five-tool potential.
17. RAYS (Jim). Tampa Bay is looking for athletes and upside and could pop Georgia high school outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., with the thought that the Astros may not let him get past No. 19. I’ll opt for another high-ceiling Georgia prepster, Kaleb Cowart. Cowart wants to play every day and could be a switch-hitting third baseman with power, but like most teams, I’d rather utilize him on the mound, where he has a power sinker/slider combination.
18. ANGELS (John). Cowart would have been a perfect splurge for the Angels at 18. They’ve got multiple picks (Nos. 18, 29, 30) and can be bold with their top choice. Early returns on last year’s draft class so far have been strong among position players such as Mike Trout, and they always need more arms. But I can’t pick a pitcher at 18 because no one stands out after uneven finishes by Covey and Cole. That leads me to Ball State’s Kolbrin Vitek, a versatile athlete who could find a home either in center field or second base.
19. ASTROS (Conor). It might be tempting for the Astros to redraft Arkansas two-way talent Brett Eibner with this pick, making up for not signing him out of high school in 2007. Instead, I’m going to go with Brandon Workman. He has been part of the nation’s best college pitching staff at Texas this year and could move quickly to the big leagues.
20. RED SOX (Jim). Boston could pounce on Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo, who was the No. 2 prospect coming into the year but hadn’t pitched well after developing a stress reaction in his elbow in his first start. Ranaudo looked as good as he has all year at the Southeastern Conference tournament, so maybe he’s on the upswing, but the fact that he’s had elbow issues two times in three years would give me pause. The Red Sox would be better off seeing if they could get Ranaudo with one of their sandwich picks at No. 36 or 39. If not, so be it. Cowart would be a better choice, if he’s available. He’s not here, so let’s go with Indiana high school catcher Justin O’Conner, who has a plus-plus arm, plus power and fills a position of need. He’s new to catching, but he’ll be able to cut it behind the plate. He always can fall back on his 93-95 mph fastball and hammer curveball and try to make it on the mound if things don’t work out with the bat.
21. TWINS (John). I’m sure the Twins are intrigued with all the toolsy high school outfielders in Georgia this spring, a group that includes DeShields, Aaron Shipman, Chevez Clarke and Jake Skole. They all seem tailor-made for Minnesota. But 21st overall might be a little high for any of them, and the Twins system is well-stocked with such players. Third base is more of a position of need, and Castellanos would be a good value. But the arms on the board here—Cole, Wi mmers, Virginia Tech righthander Jesse Hahn—are too good to pass up. I’ll go with Alex Wimmers here.
22. RANGERS (Conor). Ranaudo is tempting here too, but like Jim I’d wait to see if he drops a little further, a la Tanner Scheppers. The Rangers haven’t taken a high school position player in the first round since 2000, when they picked catcher Scott Heard 25th overall, but I’m going to buck that trend and go with Nick Castellanos. Teams don’t usually draft for need, but the Rangers could fill one here, as Castellanos could be ready to step in at the hot corner when Michael Young’s contract expires after the 2013 season.
23. MARLINS (Jim). Florida’s modus operandi is to look for upside while sticking to slot, and I’ll stay true to that by grabbing Brett Eibner. There’s no consensus on whether he’s better as a pitcher or a hitter, and it doesn’t matter. The Marlins either get a righthander with a power fastball/slider combo or a right fielder with light-tower power, and he has added polish in both areas this spring.
24. GIANTS (John). Few organizations can match the Giants’ ability for developing pitchers. San Francisco loves big arms and has a great track record for getting the most out of them. The organization also has a long history of drafting players from Louisiana State, including three pitchers who had elbow problems with the Tigers: Kurt Ainsworth, Jake Esteves and current closer Brian Wilson. So why not roll the dice here and take Anthony Ranaudo. They’ve never been known for drafting Boras Corp. clients, but they have gone over slot the last two drafts with Buster Posey and Zack Wheeler. I can see them doing it again.
25. CARDINALS (Conor). If the draft plays out like this, the Cardinals will have several standout high school arms to choose from to pair with last year’s first-round pick, Shelby Miller. I would go with California prep Dylan Covey, despite the hiccup in his last outing, where he was down to 90-92 mph. Cole also has been down in that range with his fastball, and Covey has shown a hammer curveball that puts him ahead for me.
26. ROCKIES (Jim). Hahn’s physical issues down the stretch narrow the choice at No. 26 to a pair of college outfielders, Middle Tennessee State’s Bryce Brentz and Michigan’s Ryan LaMarre. Brentz won’t last this long in the real draft, and I’m surprised that we haven’t even mentioned his name before now. That said, Ryan LaMarre is a better fit for expansive Coors Field. He’s a potential five-tool center fielder who still would have plenty of ground to cover even if he moves to a corner in deference to Dexter Fowler.
27. PHILLIES (John). I’m having a hard time believing Brentz is still available too. And yet I’m not going that way either, not with the Phillies’ preference for more toolsy outfielders like Domonic Brown, Anthony Gose and Jiwan James. With the organization thinned out after trades for Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, it’s looking for high-upside arms. A.J. Cole has had inconsistent stuff this spring, but at his best he’s a good-body guy with a plus fastball and potential plus breaking ball.
28. DODGERS (Conor). The Dodgers have taken a high school pitcher with their last three first-round picks (Clayton Kershaw, Chris Withrow, Ethan Martin) and plenty of choices in their backyard this year. I’m going with one of those California prep righthanders, Peter Tago. He has a lean, athletic frame, a 91-93 mph fastball with room for more velocity, a good curveball and smooth mechanics.
29. ANGELS (Jim). Brentz is going to have to wait a little bit longer because I have the Angels opting for a more athletic outfielder. Los Angeles always seems to be on every top prospect in Southern California, and Cal State Fullerton’s Gary Brown would be a nice fit as a center fielder with top-of-the-line speed. He has had a better year than Brentz, too, against a higher level of competition.
30. ANGELS (John). Once again, Brentz goes begging. The Angels have picked up Vitek and Brown, and now it’s time to diversify with a power arm. Tago would have been a great fit here, and I think the Angels are the kind of team that would be on California prep righties Scott Frazier or Taijuan Walker, who have shown mid-90s fastballs in the last month and have some draft helium. I also considered San Diego lefty Sammy Solis here but will go with Arizona State righty Seth Blair, who has a bigger arm and has had an amazing, consistent season. His fastball has touched 97-98 mph, and he has answered questions about his toughness.
31. RAYS (Conor). The Rays have to take a signable player here because this is another pick that isn’t protected, as compensation for not signing LeVon Washington last year. Although he’s Baylor’s top quarterback recruit, Texas high school righthander Tyrell Jenkins is considered signable and that’s who I’m going with here. He’s an amazing athlete with tremendous upside and would be a nice addition to the Rays’ impressive collection of young arms.
32. YANKEES (Jim). I’ll follow up with another Texas high school righthander/quarterback recruit. Zach Lee’s football commitment to Louisiana State makes him one of the draft’s toughest signs, but the Yankees can afford him. His combination of stuff, polish and makeup will make him well worth the investment.