What To Expect In The First Round: American League

With the draft a little more than a month away, let’s take a look at each scouting director’s history with their current team, and what can be expected from each pick. This isn’t a mock draft, but it lays the foundation for one. A lot can change between now and June 6, and teams are still configuring their draft boards and gauging signability, but the players associated with teams here are based on conversations with scouts and executives, as well as some gut feel and educated guesswork on my part. I’ll look at the American League teams today, and we’ll take a look at the National League teams on May 2.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES3ds_orioles87

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 22, 37, 61, 98, 129, 159, 189, 219, 249, 279 & 309

Bonus Pool: $6,387,900

Scouting Director: Gary Rajsich (second year)

Rajsich’s First-Round History: Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, 2012)

Rajsich’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: Five picks (two college pitchers, one college position player, one high school pitcher & one high school position player)

The last time the Orioles picked as low as 22 was back in 1998 when the team selected Georgia high school outfielder Rick Elder, who never made the majors. Scouting director Gary Rajsich is in his second year with the Orioles. Prior to that, Rajsich was the Red Sox area scout in the Northwest from 1994-2002, and signed lefthander Jon Lester. He was a pro scout with the Rangers and Blue Jays from 2006-2011.

It’s impossible to know who will still be on the board when the Orioles are on the clock, but a toolsy college outfielder or a college pitcher could be a good value there.

BOSTON RED SOX3ds_redsox85

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 7, 45, 81, 113, 143, 173, 203, 233, 263 & 293

Bonus Pool: $6,830,200

Scouting Director: Amiel Sawdaye (fourth year)

Sawdaye’s First-Round History: Kolbrin Vitek (20th overall, 2010), Matt Barnes (19th overall, 2011), Blake Swihart (26th overall, 2011), Deven Marrero (24th overall, 2012) & Brian Johnson (31st overall, 2012)

Sawdaye’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 22 picks (8 college pitchers, 4 college position players, 3 high school pitchers & 7 high school position players)

With the seventh overall pick, the Red Sox hold their highest choice since 1993 when the team drafted Trot Nixon out of New Hanover High in Wilmington, N.C. It’s unlikely to happen, but the sense is the Red Sox would love for Loganville High (Grayson, Ga.) outfielder Clint Frazier to fall to their pick. He grew up down the street from longtime Red Sox scout Tim Hyers (now the team’s hitting coordinator), and it’s easy to envision Frazier hitting moonshots over the Green Monster and being a fan favorite in Boston for his fiery red hair and blue collar style of play.

If Frazier is indeed off the board, scouting director Amiel Sawdaye’s first-round choices have mostly been college players. Indiana State lefthander Sean Manaea, Nevada righthander Braden Shipley or North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran would fit nicely with the seventh pick.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX3ds_whitesox85

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 17, 55, 91, 123, 153, 183, 213, 243, 273 & 303

Bonus Pool: $5,301,600

Scouting Director: Doug Laumann (ninth year; 2001-2003, 2008-present)

Laumann’s First-Round History: Kris Honel (16th overall, 2001), Royce Ring (18th overall, 2002), Brian Anderson (15th overall, 2003), Gordon Beckham (eighth overall, 2008), Jared Mitchell (23rd overall, 2009), Chris Sale (13th overall, 2010) & Courtney Hawkins (13th overall, 2012)

Laumann’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 44 picks (19 college pitchers, 10 college position players, six high school pitchers & nine high school position players)

Outside of Kansas City, it’s remarkable how college-heavy the American League Central teams have drafted recently in the top five rounds. The White Sox rank behind Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland in that regard but still have favored college players 2-to-1 under scouting director Doug Laumann.

That said, White Sox Midwest crosschecker Mike Shirley has been giving New Castle (Ind.) High lefthander Trey Ball private lessons for the past couple years, so he could be a fit at 17 . . . if he lasts that long. If not, the White Sox would love for a college bat like D.J. Peterson to fall and could be in a good spot for Arkansas righthander Ryne Stanek. This could also be the high-water mark for Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge.

CLEVELAND INDIANS3ds_indians83

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 5, 79, 111, 141, 171, 201, 231, 261 & 291

Bonus Pool: $6,188,800

Scouting Director: Brad Grant (sixth year)

Grant’s First-Round History: Lonnie Chisenhall (29th overall, 2008), Alex White (15th overall, 2009), Drew Pomeranz (fifth overall, 2010), Francisco Lindor (eighth overall, 2011) & Tyler Naquin (15th overall, 2012)

Grant’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 25 picks (11 college pitchers, seven college position players, four high school pitchers & three high school position players)

The Indians have drafted almost exclusively college players in the first round since drafting four high school pitchers in 2001. Assistant GM John Mirabelli became scouting director in 2000 and Grant succeeded him in 2008, and the Indians drafted college players in the first round every year since 2001 until taking shortstop Francisco Lindor in 2011.

After trading away first-round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, the Indians likely will be looking to restock their farm system with a quick-moving college arm. It’s highly unlikely that the top two pitchers will slip to five, so the Indians will instead be keying in on Indiana State lefthander Sean Manaea or Nevada righthander Braden Shipley. San Diego outfielder Kris Bryant or North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran could be options if the Indians go with a bat instead.

DETROIT TIGERS3ds_tigers83

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 20, 39, 58, 94, 126, 156, 186, 216, 246, 276 & 306

Bonus Pool: $6,467,400

Scouting Director: David Chadd (ninth year)

Chadd’s First-Round History: Cameron Maybin (10th overall, 2005), Andrew Miller (sixth overall, 2006), Rick Porcello (27th overall, 2007), Ryan Perry (21st overall, 2008) & Jacob Turner (ninth overall, 2009)

Chadd’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 40 picks (16 college pitchers, 15 college position players, five high school pitchers & four high school position players)

Under vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd and scouting director Scott Pleis, the Tigers have consistently lined up one of the most college-centric draft boards in recent history. Over Chadd’s last eight drafts in Detroit, the team has picked college players more than 77 percent of the time in the top five rounds. That was also the case in Boston, where he picked college players such as David Murphy, Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia when he was scouting director there from 2002-2004.

Chadd has been less successful with his top picks in Detroit—his best picks with the Tigers, in terms of Baseball-Reference WAR, have been later picks like Matt Joyce (12th round, 2005) and Alex Avila (fifth round, 2008).

While the Tigers have picked predominantly college players in the top rounds, Chadd has drafted aggressively high school players for his team’s top pick. He picked Jon Lester with his first pick with the Red Sox (second round, 2002), and Maybin, Porcello, Turner and Castellanos also came from the high school ranks.

At 20th overall, the Tigers have their first first-round pick since 2009. The team puts a strong emphasis on Southeastern Conference players—no team has drafted more over the past three years than Detroit—so righthanders such as Stanek, Louisiana State’s Ryan Eades or Florida’s Jonathon Crawford could be a fit.

HOUSTON ASTROSHoustonAstros

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 1, 40, 74, 107, 137, 167, 197, 227, 257 & 287

Bonus Pool: $11,698,800

Scouting Director: Mike Elias (1st year)

Mike Elias was promoted to scouting director this year, but he’s been involved with the draft in some capacity for seven years now. He started out as an area scout under now-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, and worked his way up to the manager of amateur scouting before spending last year in Houston as a special assistant to Luhnow.

Last year, the Astros passed on Stanford righthander Mark Appel, choosing instead to save money by picking Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, and use the savings to sign high-profile players later in the draft like righthander Lance McCullers Jr. (who got $2.5 million as the 41st-overall pick) and third baseman Rio Ruiz (who got $1.85 million as a fourth-rounder).

Appel is again the top talent, along with Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray, and a near-ready pitcher should be appealing to the Astros. With the draft’s largest bonus pool, expect the Astros to take a portfolio approach again with other picks.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS3ds_royals29

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 8, 34, 46, 82, 114, 144, 174, 204, 234, 264 & 294

Bonus Pool: $8,290,700

Scouting Director: Lonnie Goldberg (third year)

Goldberg’s First-Round History: Bubba Starling (fifth overall, 2011) & Kyle Zimmer (fifth overall, 2012)

Goldberg’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 10 picks (two college pitchers, one college position players, three high school pitchers & four high school position players)

The Royals will play the board and see what shakes out ahead of their pick, but with the way things look now, it appears that the best player on the board will likely be a pitcher—perhaps Nevada’s Shipley, who has earned comparisons to the Royals’ 2012 first rounder, Kyle Zimmer—or Arkansas’ Stanek, who grew up in a suburb of Kansas City.

If they choose to go the high school route, lefthander Ian Clarkin from Madison High in San Diego would be in the mix. As an organization, the Royals love curveballs and Clarkin has one of the best hammers in this year’s class.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS3ds_angels87

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 59, 95, 127, 157, 187, 217, 247, 277 & 307

Bonus Pool: $2,998,200

Scouting Director: Ric Wilson (third year)

Wilson’s First-Round History: C.J. Cron (17th overall, 2011)

Wilson’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: seven picks (four college pitchers, three college position players, no high school pitchers & no high school position players)

The Angels’ farm system ranked as the worst in baseball heading into the season, and it won’t get much better in the near future. The team lost its first two draft picks in 2012 after signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and lost another top pick this year after signing Josh Hamilton. A year after having the lowest bonus pool in the game, the Angels will have the second-lowest this year.

With their first pick coming near the bottom of the second round, it’s impossible to predict what the Angels might do, but it will likely be a college player willing to take a little bit of a discount.

MINNESOTA TWINS3ds_twins81

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 4, 43, 78, 110, 140, 170, 200, 230, 260, 290

Bonus Pool: $8,264,400

Scouting Director: Deron Johnson (sixth year)

Johnson’s First-Round History: Aaron Hicks (14th overall, 2008), Kyle Gibson (22nd overall, 2009), Alex Wimmers (21st overall, 2010), Levi Michael (30th overall, 2011) & Byron Buxton (second overall, 2012)

Johnson’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 33 picks (17 college pitchers, eight college position players, two high school pitchers & six high school position players)

The industry belief is that the Twins want pitching. But we wrote that last year too, and the team picked high school outfielder Byron Buxton. If the consensus top two talents—righthanders Mark Appel from Stanford or Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma—don’t fall, the Twins could go with Indiana State’s Manaea or Nevada’s Shipley if they want a pitcher. San Diego’s Bryant could also be in the mix.

But would you blame them if they decided to pair Buxton with another tooled-up Georgia high school outfielder like Clint Frazier or Austin Meadows? After all, the Twins’ Georgia scout, Jack Powell, has an impressive track record for finding big league talent. He is the signing scout for Tom Browning, Jose Bautista, Matt Moore, Matt Capps and Jeff Keppinger.

NEW YORK YANKEES3ds_yankees85

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 26, 32, 33, 66, 103, 134, 164, 194, 224, 254, 284 & 314

Bonus Pool: $7,957,400

Scouting Director: Damon Oppenheimer (ninth year)

Oppenheimer’s First-Round History: C.J. Henry (17th overall, 2005), Ian Kennedy (21st overall, 2006), Andrew Brackman (30th overall, 2007), Gerrit Cole (28th overall, 2008), Slade Heathcott (29th overall, 2009), Cito Culver (32nd overall, 2010) & Ty Hensley (30th overall, 2012)

Oppenheimer’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 41 picks (16 college pitchers, seven college position players, four high school pitchers & 14 high school position players)

Oppenheimer’s top picks in the last five drafts have been high school players with mixed results. Cole didn’t sign, Heathcott is very talented, but has battled off-field and injury issues, Culver has a minor league OPS of .638 through his first four seasons and recently gave up switch-hitting, Dante Bichette is repeating at low Class A after a rough year there in 2012 and Hensley recently had hip surgery and will miss most of the season.

Since 2007, Yankees drafts have produced six big leaguers, but no regulars—David Phelps, Brandon Laird, Austin Romine, D.J. Mitchell, Andrew Brackman and Adam Warren. All but Romine are college products.

With three first-round picks, the Yankees have a chance to add some serious talent to a young farm system. College players such as Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo, Mississippi righthander Bobby Wahl or perhaps even Michigan outfielder Michael O’Neill—whom the Yankees drafted out of high school—could be in the mix. O’Neill’s uncle Paul played for New York and works for its YES Network. On the high school side, outfielder Billy McKinney from Plano (Texas) West High, shortstop Dustin Peterson from Gilbert (Ariz.) High and lefthander Rob Kaminsky from St. Joseph High in Montvale, N.J., merit consideration.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS3ds_athletics79

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 24, 63, 71, 100, 106, 131, 161, 191, 221, 251, 281 & 311

Bonus Pool: $6,036,800

Scouting Director: Eric Kubota (12th year)

Kubota’s First-Round History: Nick Swisher (16th overall, 2002), Joe Blanton (24th overall, 2002), John McCurdy (26th overall, 2002), Ben Fritz (30th overall, 2002), Brad Sullivan (25th overall, 2003), Brian Snyder (26th overall, 2003), Landon Powell (24th overall, 2004), Richie Robnett (26th overall, 2002), Cliff Pennington (21st overall, 2005), James Simmons (26th overall, 2007), Jemile Weeks (12th overall, 2008), Grant Green (13th overall, 2009), Michael Choice (10th overall, 2010), Sonny Gray (18th overall, 2011) & Addison Russell (11th overall, 2012)

Kubota’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 71 picks (20 college pitchers, 35 college position players, seven high school pitchers & nine high school position players)

Nearly two-thirds of Kubota’s top-five round picks have been position players. Traditionally, the Athletics have favored college players, with more than three-quarters of Kubota’s top-five picks coming from the collegiate ranks. That said, the team did draft back-to-back-to-back high school players in 2012 with its first three selections for the first time since 1978.

If California outfielders like Stanford’s Austin Wilson or Fresno State’s Aaron Judge (whom the Athletics drafted out of high school) are available, they would garner serious consideration here, as would Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Bay Area lefthander Matt Krook from St. Ignatius High in San Francisco also could be an option, or a polished, lower-ceiling pitcher such as North Carolina lefthander Kent Emanuel.

SEATTLE MARINERS3ds_mariners83

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 12, 49, 85, 117, 147, 177, 207, 237, 267 & 297

Bonus Pool: $6,132,700

Scouting Director: Tom McNamara (5th year)

McNamara’s First-Round History: Dustin Ackley (second overall, 2009), Danny Hultzen (second overall, 2011) & Mike Zunino (third overall, 2012)

McNamara’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 24 picks (five college pitchers, nine college position players, four high school pitchers & six high school position players)

After finishing with a 75-87 record in 2012, the Mariners have their second-lowest first pick in the Jack Zduriencik era. Scouting director Tom McNamara picked righthander Taijuan Walker at 43rd overall in 2010, when the team gave up their first-round pick after signing Chone Figgins, but has preferred college players with his higher first-round picks.

Obviously it will depend on what happens in front of them, but the Mariners could go with a toolsy college outfielder; this year’s group includes Fresno State’s Judge, Mississippi State’s Renfroe, Stanford’s Wilson and Samford’s Phillip Ervin.

While the Mariners traditionally have favored college players with early picks, the team could be tempted by up-the-middle high school players like shortstop J.P. Crawford from Lakewood (Calif.) High or local catcher Reese McGuire from Kentwood High in Covington, Wash.

TAMPA BAY RAYS3ds_rays5

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 21, 29, 60, 97, 128, 158, 188, 218, 248, 278 & 308

Bonus Pool: $6,694,900

Scouting Director: R.J. Harrison (eighth year)

Harrison’s First-Round History: Evan Longoria (third overall, 2006), David Price (first overall, 2007), Tim Beckham (first overall, 2008), LeVon Washington (30th overall, 2009), Josh Sale (17th overall, 2010), Taylor Guerrieri (24th overall, 2011), Mikie Mahtook (31st overall, 2011), Jake Hager (32nd overall, 2011) & Richie Shaffer (25th overall, 2012)

Harrison’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 48 picks (nine college pitchers, nine college position players, eight high school pitchers & 22 high school position players)

Every scouting director would love to have guys like Evan Longoria and David Price on his résumé. While the Rays hit big on those top picks, the results have been much worse since then. The 2008 first round has produced young studs like Buster Posey, Pedro Alvarez and Brett Lawrie, but the Rays selecting first overall took Tim Beckham, who looks more like a solid player than a first-division star.

But it’s not just star power the Rays lack. They haven’t even produced a cup of coffee. Since 2008, every team has drafted and signed a player to get to the big leagues . . . every team except the Rays.

Part of the lag, perhaps, is that scouting director R.J. Harrison has been aggressive in his choices. The Rays are one of the teams that traditionally favor high school players to college players. Trades helped prop up the team’s farm system, which came into the season ranked No. 4 in baseball. The Rays had four players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, but only one—righthander Taylor Guerrieri—was a product of Tampa Bay’s drafts.

If the team opts for a college player with its first pick, like it did last year with Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer, then Judge, Cal State Fullerton outfielder/righthander Michael Lorenzen or Gonzaga lefthander Marco Gonzales would all make sense. If the team decides to go the high school route, outfielder Ryan Boldt from Red Wing (Minn.) High or Billy McKinney from Plano (Texas) West High, or catcher Nick Ciuffo from Lexington (S.C.) High would fit nicely in the 21-29 range. Harrison could also go with one of the players with helium from his home state of Arizona, like shortstops Dustin Peterson from Gilbert (Ariz.) High or Riley Unroe from Desert Ridge High in Mesa, Ariz.

TEXAS RANGERS3ds_rangers83

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 23, 30, 62, 99, 130, 160, 190, 220, 250, 280 & 310

Bonus Pool: $6,553,800

Scouting Director: Kip Fagg (fourth year)

Fagg’s First-Round History: Jake Skole (15th overall, 2010), Kellin Deglan (22nd overall, 2010), Kevin Matthews (33rd, 2011) & Lewis Brinson (29th overall, 2012)

Fagg’s Top 5-Round Breakdown: 22 picks (three college pitchers, four college position players, six high school pitchers & nine high school position players)

Like the Rays, the Rangers also have leaned heavily toward high school picks under fourth-year scouting director Kip Fagg. That comes with volatile results. None of the first-round picks from Fagg’s first two drafts ranked among the Rangers’ top 30 prospects in the Baseball America 2013 Prospect Handbook

With similar draft styles and philosophies, the Rangers will likely be in on many of the same players listed above with the Rays. Other options could be righthander Hunter Harvey from Bandys High in Catawba, N.C., or a lefthander like Ian Clarkin from Madison High in San Diego or Garrett Williams from Calvary Baptist High in Shreveport, La.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS3ds_bluejays81

Top 10-Rd. Picks: 10, 47, 83, 115, 145, 175, 205, 235, 265 & 295

Bonus Pool: $6,398,200

Scouting Director: Brian Parker (first year)

Scouting director Brian Parker has a strong supporting cast as he embarks on his first year on the job. Andrew Tinnish—the Jays’ scouting director for the 2010-12 drafts—is still involved in scouting top players as the team’s assistant GM. Toronto also leans heavily on former Rays GM Chuck LaMar, as well as their seven crosscheckers and league-leading 26 scouts.

The strength at the top half of this year’s draft is in college pitching and high school catching, and both could be options for the Jays at 10. A college righthander like Shipley or Jacksonville’s Chris Anderson would make sense, as would a high school catcher with loud tools like Reese McGuire from Kentwood High in Covington, Wash., or Jonathan Denney from Yukon (Okla.) High. If the Blue Jays want a safer bat, New Mexico corner infielder D.J. Peterson offers one of the best all-around bats in this year’s draft.