2011 MLB Draft Preview: Position Player Rankings





CATCHERS
Position scarcity tends to inflate catchers more than any other position, and that will happen again in 2011. Scouts weren't expressing much confidence in the class, particularly at the college level, where Oregon State's Andrew Susac had emerged as the top prospect before a hamate injury sidelined him for several weeks. The high school class has more depth but more uncertainty concerning Blake Swihart's ability to stay behind the plate and Austin Hedges' ability to hit.
FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Blake Swihart
1. Blake Swihart

Cleveland HS, Rio Rancho, N.M.

Swihart spent most of last summer with Team USA, and he led the team by batting .448/.492/.845 with six doubles and five home runs. The natural righthander picked up switch-hitting during his sophomore year of high school and started catching seriously just last summer. This spring he has split time between third base and behind the plate. Swihart is a good athlete who is an above-average hitter with average power potential. He hadn't put up gaudy numbers against inferior competition this spring, but he is clearly focused on the future: Swihart works on both of his swings by switching back and forth between hitting lefthanded and righthanded, regardless of the pitcher he's facing. Swihart's athleticism shows up behind the plate. He receives well and shows good footwork. He has a strong arm and has shortened his arm stroke this spring. He obviously would have more value at catcher, but his athleticism and potent bat may tempt a team to move him to another position. Swihart is 6 feet and 175 pounds and baby-faced, so some scouts think he'll get taller and stronger as he matures. He is committed to Texas, and would be eligible for the draft again as a sophomore if he goes to college.

2. Austin Hedges

JSerra HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Scouts in Southern California rave that Hedges is the best defensive backstop to come out of the area in at least a decade. He has spent six years honing his defense with highly regarded JSerra coach Brett Kay, a former catcher at Cal State Fullerton and in the Mets system. Grades on his receiving range from 60 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while his arm rates as a 70 or even an 80, producing pop times as low as 1.78 seconds. Wiry, athletic and agile, Hedges is an exceptional blocker, adept at keeping balls in front of him. He's a below-average runner but not a baseclogger. Hedges is a high-energy player with an aggressive approach at the plate, and some scouts think he has a chance to be an average hitter with average power, though others think that is too ambitious. A righthanded hitter, most of his power is to the pull side, but he has worked hard on using the opposite field. He's a good competitor with an outstanding work ethic, and he projects as an everyday catcher with all-star potential, though he'll be tough to sign away from his commitment to UCLA.

3. Andrew Susac

Oregon State

Susac gets mixed reviews from scouts in the Northwest this spring, but scouting directors saw him at his best last summer and catching is at even more of a premium than usual this year, so he could still be a first-rounder. He broke the hamate bone in his left wrist midway through the season but was back in game action a month later as a DH. During the layoff, Susac still threw regularly and did drills to improve his footwork behind the plate. He has above-average arm strength and can shut down a running game. He needs to improve his receiving skills, as his hands can get a little stiff, but he's a good athlete who blocks well. Susac has a good approach at the plate, which Beavers coaches attribute to him seeing quality stuff from their pitchers day in and day out. He has more power than a pure feel for hitting. He uses a high leg kick as part of his load, which can disrupt his timing and rhythm at times, but when he's in sync he shows above-average pop. His success on the Cape carried over to this season and helped his confidence behind the plate.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

None

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

4. Brett Austin

Providence HS, Charlotte

Scouts in the Carolinas consider Austin the most improved player in the area this spring after seeing him on the showcase circuit last summer. He gained favor in May as crosscheckers and scouting directors came in to watch his team wrap up a conference title against rival Kell High, a nationally ranked team at the time. Austin tied the game in the seventh inning with a missile home run, leaving scouts impressed with his sweet lefthanded swing. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he has improved his top-hand strength from the left side and is more fluid than in the past. A switch-hitter, Austin is a natural righty and has more strength from that side, but his swing can get long at times. In addition to his swing, Austin has improved his body, though questions remain about his defense. He's not athletic, and his arm strength is average at best, but some scouts believe he could be an average defender. Couple that with his ability to hit to all fields and Austin could find himself off the board in the second round. He is part of an impressive North Carolina State recruiting class.

5. Cam Gallagher

Manheim Township HS, Lancaster, Pa.

At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Gallagher doesn't look like a high school player who can stick behind the plate, but until this spring his defense was considered superior to his bat. He has had a good season and showed improvement at the plate while endearing himself to scouts by playing with energy and taking batting practice with wood bats after games. Because he's big, Gallagher's swing can get long at times, but his strength helps him get by. He has strong hands and arms that allow him to hit to all fields. Scouts would like to see more feel at the plate from him, but he has the potential to bring an average hit tool and plus power to a premium defensive position. Gallagher's older brother Austin is a Dodgers farmhand, and they come from a baseball family. Though he is committed to East Carolina, the younger Gallagher seems interested in starting his pro career and could go in the first three rounds.

6. Nicky Delmonico

Farragut HS, Knoxville

Delmonico comes from a baseball family. His father Rod was Tennessee's head coach for 18 seasons until 2007, and his brother Tony hit .374 for Florida State's 2008 College World Series team before embarking on a pro career with the Dodgers. Tony moved to catcher as a pro, and Nicky also has a chance to catch. Scouts aren't completely sold on his defensive ability, but he has the body and arm strength for the position. Delmonico is maxed out physically at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and is 19 years old. He had a tough spring, hitting six home runs but disappointing scouts with his lack of impact offensively. His value is in his bat, and his swing has become more stiff in the last year, perhaps as a result of a nagging back injury he had from lifting weights. Some scouts consider his swing mechanical, while others believe he just lost bat speed due to draft pressure and trying too hard. Those who believe in Delmonico believe his above-average instincts, plus arm and adequate receiving skills will keep him behind the plate, making him an above-average offensive player for the position if his bat bounces back. He's signed to Georgia.

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

7. Peter O'Brien, Bethune-Cookman

8. James McCann, Arkansas

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

9. Riley Moore, San Marcos HS, Santa Barbara, Calif.

10. John Hicks, Virginia

11. Pratt Maynard, North Carolina State

12. Jake Lowery, James Madison

13. Aramis Garcia, Pines Charter HS, Pembroke Pines, Fla.

FIRST BASEMEN

Utah's C.J. Cron has big league bloodlines and had as strong a season as any college hitter. A knee injury moved him out from behind the plate and gives this group its only true first-round threat. Big-bodied Florida prep Dan Vogelbach has as much power as anyone in the high school class.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

C.J. Cron
1. C.J. Cron

Utah

Power numbers are way down in college baseball this year because of less-potent bats, but don't tell that to Cron, who was batting .448/.520/.855 with 14 home runs in 165 at-bats for Utah. His father Chris played in the big leagues and has managed in the minor leagues since 1995, so C.J. has grown up around the game. He has come through the amateur ranks as a catcher, but he's just serviceable behind the plate and has not played there this season because of an injury to his throwing shoulder and his days as a catcher may be over. He doesn't move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner, but that's all right because he's the best all-around hitter in the country and should have no problem producing the numbers teams expect from a first baseman. Cron has the unique combination of pure hitting ability and power. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has legitimate 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale that translates into at least above-average usable power. He has great hand-eye coordination and the strength in his hands to drive good pitches for singles and doubles. He uses a good approach at the plate and makes adjustments well, so he should move quickly through a team's system.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

2. Ricky Oropesa

Southern California

A heralded two-way recruit, Oropesa scrapped pitching his freshman year and quickly became one of the Pac-10's premier power hitters, slugging 33 home runs over his first two seasons and leading the Cape Cod League with seven long balls in 2010. He also led the Cape with 52 strikeouts, after fanning 51 times in 235 at-bats for the Trojans. He has decreased his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate this spring, but his power numbers have also dropped with the less-potent metal bats—he had just six homers through 160 at-bats. Still, Oropesa is a strong, physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and he has well above-average raw power from the left side. He'll need to become a better hitter because he still struggles against lefthanded pitching and is prone to chasing breaking balls. His swing gets long at times, but he has enough bat speed to punish even premium fastballs. Some scouts think he has a chance to become an average hitter in time. Oropesa has a plus-plus arm but needs a lot of work on his glove positioning and fundamentals at third base. He profiles better as an average defensive first baseman, where his arm is largely wasted. He's a well below-average runner.

3. Aaron Westlake

Vanderbilt

At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Westlake is physically ready for pro ball and was strong enough to have a strong season despite the powered-down bats in college baseball this season. He was forced to redshirt in 2008 due to a blood clotting issue, and he was drafted in the 22nd round as a sophomore last year. The Blue Jays followed him in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .292 with five homers. He had career-best numbers this spring for Vanderbilt as the team's offensive anchor, murdering mistakes, and his eight home runs in league games led the Southeastern Conference. He's patient and strong, generates solid bat speed and is an adequate defender. A gamer, he played catcher (albeit poorly) for an injury-ravaged Vandy team in 2009. He's 22, so he'll probably be pushed through the minors quickly.

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

None

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

4. Dan Vogelbach, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla.

5. Cody Stubbs, Walters State (Tenn.) JC

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

6. Nick Ramirez, Cal State Fullerton

SECOND BASEMEN

It's an unusually deep year at second base, with two veterans of USA Baseball's college national team in the mix in the first three rounds. Kolten Wong was a utilityman on Team USA in 2009 before nearly winning a Cape Cod League batting title last year. Louisville's Ryan Wright played all over the diamond while hitting cleanup for Team USA last summer and projects as an offensive second sacker.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Kolten Wong
1. Kolten Wong

Hawaii

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Wong will likely be the smallest first rounder this year. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in tools, with his hitting ability standing out the most. With a compact lefthanded swing and good bat sped, Wong profiles as an above-average hitter who will spray line drives from foul pole to foul pole. He hadn't been pitched to much this year but hasn't gotten anxious or expanded the zone. He has a professional approach at the plate and a good understanding of the strike zone. He has surprising pop for his size and should hit 10-15 home runs a year as a pro. He's also willing to do the little things—he can bunt for a base hit and hit-and-run with the best of them. Wong has average speed and good instincts and is fearless on the basepaths. He's just as versatile defensively as he is with the bat. He profiles best at second base but could become a Chone Figgins type who moves around the field. He played center field as a freshman and has also started games at catcher and shortstop.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

None

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

None

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

2. Ryan Wright, Louisville

3. Dante Flores, St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower, Calif.

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

4. Phillip Evans, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif.

5. Christian Lopes, Edison HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.

6. Mookie Betts, Overton HS, Nashville

THIRD BASEMEN

The top player is no surprise in Anthony Rendon, though a shoulder injury has precluded him from playing third almost the entire season. When healthy, he's a premium defender as well as hitter. Florida juco product Cory Spangenberg doesn't have a classic third-base profile but is one of the draft's faster runners and best pure hitters.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Anthony Rendon
1. Anthony Rendon

Rice

Rendon entered the season as the draft's top-rated prospect and still sits atop our rankings, but his season hasn't gone as planned. After hitting a combined .391/.497/.750 with 46 homers as BA's Freshman of the Year in 2009 and College Player of the Year in 2010, Rendon was batting .327/.530/.512 with four homers through 49 games this spring. He strained his throwing shoulder in the second week of the season and has played little in the field. Rendon hadn't given teams any medical information as of mid-May, leaving them in the dark about the severity of the injury. Though it has affected his swing and bat speed, he's still the best all-around hitter in the draft. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has tremendous strength in his hands and wrists, uncanny hand-eye coordination and exceptional strike-zone discipline. Teams have pitched around him all season, and he was the runaway NCAA Division I leader with 66 walks. His bat speed and ability to barrel balls give Rendon more usable power than any player in the draft, with scouts projecting the righthanded hitter to bat .300 with 25-30 homers a year in the major leagues. When healthy, Rendon is a gifted third baseman with above-average range and arm strength. He has drawn comparisons to Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman, though he bears a closer physical resemblance to David Wright. Rendon tore ligaments in his right ankle in the 2009 NCAA regionals and broke the same ankle on a slide with Team USA last summer, but he has been running and moving as well as ever this spring. He has average speed and runs the bases well. Both ankle injuries came on fluke plays, so scouts don't consider him injury-prone. As frustrating as his season has been, Rendon remains a strong candidate to go No. 1 overall. If Pittsburgh goes in another direction, it's unlikely the Mariners would pass on him at No. 2.

2. Cory Spangenberg

Indian River (Fla.) JC

Spangenberg emerged as one of the draft's best pure hitters and will be the first college player drafted out of Florida. He's a Pennsylvania prep product who raked for one year at Virginia Military Institute in 2010, transferring after winning Big South Conference freshman of the year honors. He's a late bloomer physically, with a body type that defies easy categorization. While he isn't lean and athletic, he's also not stocky at 6-foot, 185 pounds. He produces well above-average speed, earning 70 grades on the 20-80 scale and posting 80 times on drag bunts (3.5 seconds from the left side). He also owns a pure lefthanded swing and is an above-average hitter. Spangenberg has hand-eye coordination, patience and the ability to manipulate the barrel, squaring balls up and lacing line drives to all fields. His swing lacks loft, but he has the feel for hitting to add power down the line, which would improve his profile. He has average arm strength, and scouts are mixed on his future position. He may lack the fluidity and footwork to stay in the infield. He played third base this spring at Indian River, but even those who like him at the hot corner admit he probably lacks the power to profile there. He played second base at VMI and shortstop in the Valley League last summer, where he was the MVP after hitting .399. His speed should allow him to play center field. Heavily scouted down the stretch, Spangenberg wasn't expected to make it out of the first round.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

3. Matt Dean

The Colony (Texas) HS

Dean wasn't at his best on the showcase circuit last summer, but he redeemed himself with a strong spring and established himself as the best prep third-base prospect in the draft. Few high school players can match his batting-practice fireworks. With his bat speed, the loft in his righthanded swing and the room to add strength to his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, he projects to have plus power while hitting for a solid average. Dean has average speed but figures to lose a step as he fills out. He gets the job done at shortstop and has an above-average arm, but he'll move to the hot corner after he either turns pro or attends Texas. As with most coaches' sons—he plays for his father Martin at The Colony HS—Dean earns praise for his work ethic and competitiveness. His strong commitment to the Longhorns may make him difficult to sign.

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

4. B.A. Vollmuth

Southern Miss

Vollmuth hit all of three home runs as a high school senior, so Southern Mississippi coaches were surprised when he stepped in as a freshman for injured team leader Brian Dozier and hit eight home runs in just 97 at-bats. He helped lead the Golden Eagles to their first College World Series bid, then bashed 20 homers as a sophomore. Vollmuth has battled the new bats and a hip injury in 2011, and moved off shortstop to the less-demanding third base. At 6-foot-4 and a listed 200 pounds, he may wind up outgrowing third and moving to a corner outfield spot—or first base if his below-average speed further deteriorates. With an accurate, above-average arm, that would waste of one of his better tools. Vollmuth still has looseness in his swing, and he has tremendous leverage. He's always going to swing and miss, but instincts and savvy have helped him improve his hitting ability over his college career. He has toned down an exaggerated leg kick, and while he remains streaky, he has gained consistency.

5. Jason Esposito

Vanderbilt

The Royals drafted Esposito in the seventh round out of high school in 2008, but he turned down a reported $1.5 million offer to attend Vanderbilt. He may not get that much this time around, but he'll be close. He got hot offensively this spring at the right time, hitting .376 in SEC play. Esposito is a college version of Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez in that his glove is ahead of his bat. He played shortstop this spring but is an above-average defender at third with good hands and plus arm strength. Offensively, he has backed up a bit. An average runner with good instincts, he has been less proficient on the bases this year (11 SB, 10 CS) after going 51-for-60 his first two seasons, and stolen bases won't be part of his game as a pro. He has struggled against velocity at times and lost his rhythm, which tends to happen with players with a big leg kick. Some scouts wonder if he's a natural hitter and believe he'll wind up as a utility player, with his glove as his calling card.

6. Travis Harrison

Tustin (Calif.) HS

Harrison established himself as one of the top power hitters in Southern California early, homering off future Rockies first-rounder Tyler Matzek with a wood bat as a freshman in scout ball. He easily rates as the region's best high school bat this year. Harrison has a physical 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and above-average righthanded power potential. Some scouts think he could be an above-average hitter, too, if he does a better job protecting the outer half and adjusting to breaking balls. He can make loud contact, but he centers balls on the barrel inconsistently, and other scouts see him as just an average hitter. It's unclear where he'll play on the diamond. His arm has improved to the point that some scouts now consider it average, but his actions at third base are stiff and his range and footwork are fringy. He'll get a chance to stay at the hot corner, however, before falling back to first. He's a below-average runner with solid instincts on the basepaths. Harrison plays hard and loves to compete, and scouts expect a club to buy him out of his commitment to Southern California.

7. Tyler Goeddel

St. Francis HS, Mountain View, Calif.

Goeddel's father, David, is a pioneer in the biotechnology industry and helped develop synthetic insulin and human growth hormone. His brother, Erik, is a pitcher in the Mets organization, drafted out of UCLA last year. Tyler has a gangly and projectable 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. He's also a well above-average runner, athletic enough to play third base, though his speed may be best utilized in center field. Goeddel has above-average arm strength and shows intriguing tools at the plate. He takes aggressive swings with bat speed, and his bat head stays in the hitting zone for a long time. Scouts have to project on Goeddel's power, but it's not hard to envision him hitting for at least average power as he adds muscle to his frame. Goeddel missed more than a month this season with mononucleosis, but he still has the track record and skill set to be a premium pick.

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

8. Taylor Sparks, St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower, Calif.

9. Cody Asche, Nebraska

10. Steven Proscia, Virginia

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

11. Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma

12. Matt Skole, Georgia Tech

13. Harold Martinez, Miami

14. Kyle Kubitza, Texas State

SHORTSTOPS

The shortstop class has surprising depth at the college level, though many of those players could wind up on the other side of the bag sooner than later. The top two prospects are Puerto Rico natives who moved to the U.S. and established themselves as two of the top position players in the entire draft class. Levi Michael skipped his senior high school season to enroll at North Carolina early and will go through the draft for the first time.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Francisco Lindor
1. Francisco Lindor

Montverde (Fla.) Academy

Lindor moved to the United States from Puerto Rico as a 12-year-old, and four years later he captained USA Baseball's 16U club to a gold-medal victory against Cuba in the World Youth Championship in Taiwan. A baseball rat, Lindor has tremendous work ethic to go with above-average tools, and he plays the game with ease and passion. He's a switch-hitter with a line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate, and he has excellent hands that work both at the plate and in the field. He has the tools to play shortstop at the highest level, with smooth actions, fluidity, instincts and good fundamentals. He's a plus runner but not a burner. Lindor's power is the biggest question about him. He has flashed more than just gap power at times, which was pushing him up draft boards. His season ended in April, and he wasn't expected to play in Florida's high school all-star game, instead working out on his own. Scouting directors said Lindor was a legitimate candidate for the No. 1 overall pick, but more likely he'll slot in just behind that.

2. Javier Baez

Arlington Country Day, Jacksonville, Fla.

Baez matched up with fellow Puerto Rican native and Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor in February in the season's most heavily scouted high school game, with as many as 100 scouts on hand. Baez and Lindor have more contrasts than similarities, though. Where Lindor is smooth and lauded for his makeup, Baez is explosive and scouts generally pan his makeup. He lives with his high school coach (who is also his legal guardian), though his mother remains in the picture. His bat is too good to ignore, though, and offensively he has few peers in this year's draft. He has the fastest bat in the draft, and while he has a dead-pull approach at times, he has the bat speed to let balls get deep in the zone. Baez has plus raw power as well, which may serve him well if he has to move to third base. He has the defensive tools to stay at short until he outgrows it, as at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he doesn't have much range to spare. He has plenty of arm for either position. His tools fit the catcher profile, but his makeup does not. He plays with energy, but it's not always positive, and he turns off some scouts with emotional outbursts and an off-field demeanor some describe as aloof. He's committed to Jacksonville.

3. Levi Michael

North Carolina

Michael was a solid high school prospect in Lexington, N.C., but he graduated early in order to join the Tar Heels for the 2009 season. He has played a new position each season, moving from second base as a freshman to third base as a sophomore, before settling in at shortstop this year. He's been a reliable defender at all three spots, and scouts are warming up to the idea that he could stay at shortstop at the pro level. He missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and was still getting back to 100 percent, but he still showed ability in all facets of the game and was hitting .323/.472/.494 with 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts in 164 at-bats. He is a patient hitter with a good eye for the strike zone from both sides of the plate, with a 39-27 walk-strikeout ratio. He hits to all fields and could hit at the top of the batting order, though he shows pop and is naturally stronger from the right side. He's an above-average runner, though he hadn't quite returned to that level since the injury. Scouts don't view the ankle as a long-term concern. Defensively, he has good actions and enough arm strength for shortstop. The only concern is his range, but he'll get every chance to prove himself before potentially sliding to second base.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

4. Trevor Story

Irving (Texas) HS

Story is one of the few quality, surefire shortstops in the 2011 draft, with a better chance to stick at the position than Javier Baez and Levi Michael. Scouts who believe in Story's bat see him as close to a five-tool shortstop, so he could sneak into the end of the first round. He has smooth actions along with plus range and arm strength. He has shown a 90-92 mph fastball while occasionally closing games for Irving. Story has good pop for a middle infielder, though the 6-foot, 175-pounder generates his power by collapsing on his backside and using an uppercut. His quick hands generate plenty of bat speed and allow him to barrel balls, though he may need to tone down his swing against professional pitchers. He has above-average speed and runs the bases well. Though he has committed to Louisiana State, he's expected to turn pro if he gets selected before the start of the second round.

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

5. Brandon Martin

Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.

Perhaps the most improved prep player in Southern California, Martin has rocketed to the top of the region's thin group of high school infielders by showing off five legitimate tools this spring. He worked hard to add muscle in the offseason, and it paid dividends at the plate. Scouts used to question his bat, but now they praise his line-drive swing and bat speed. Some scouts think he'll develop at least average power, while others regard his power as fringy. He's a good high-ball hitter with an aggressive approach, and he could mature into a solid-average hitter. An average runner, Martin is a fast-twitch athlete who can make highlight-reel plays at shortstop, though he has plenty of work to do there. He has good range and a strong arm with good carry, but he's also an upright defender who tends to field balls deep and needs to smooth out his actions. He has a quiet personality but is a good teammate and a hard worker.

6. Joe Panik

St. John's

The phrase scouts use most often when describing Panik says a lot about the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from Yonkers, N.Y.: "He's just a good baseball player who can hit." His bat is his only plus tool, but he plays the game the right way and makes the most of his ability. Panik thrived in the Cape Cod League last summer and was the circuit's No. 24 prospect after hitting .297 with eight doubles and two home runs for Yarmouth-Dennis. He manipulates the barrel well and has a short, compact lefthanded swing that generates gap power and consistent hard contact. Scouts rave about Panik's disciplined, polished approach and strike-zone awareness. He had labrum surgery after his freshman year, and he has difficulty with throws deep in the hole, but his hands work well. He profiles best as a bat-first second baseman, though he could play short in a pinch because of his instincts. A thin crop of college middle infielders puts Panik in prime position to get popped in the first few rounds.

7. Nick Ahmed

UConn

With the spotlight on UConn teammates George Springer and Matt Barnes this spring, Ahmed made the most of his opportunities. The more scouts saw of him, the more they liked him, especially his old-school approach to the game. Ahmed got bigger and stronger before this season, adding muscle to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. He's a good athlete, a plus runner and has a plus arm. There's nothing fluid about his actions at shortstop, but he has average range and makes every play. There are questions about how his bat will play at the next level, and he struggled with Bourne in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he has improved his bat control and the way his hands work to the ball. Ahmed also showed a 91-94 mph fastball in the Big East Conference tournament as a reliever last year. He suffered a collapsed lung in a collision at first base in late April, but the injury isn't a long-term concern. If anything, scouts were impressed with his fiery energy in that midweek game against Quinnipiac.

8. Jace Peterson

McNeese State

Peterson is one of the top two-sport athletes in the draft. A 6-foot-1, 200 pounder, he's a cornerback for McNeese State's football team and had an interception during the 2009 season. He has been more of a factor as the Cowboys' shortstop, leading the Southland Conference in runs in 2010 as an all-conference choice and ranking among the nation's leaders again in 2011. Peterson's profile and athleticism should push him into the first three rounds, as he's a physical, speedy lefthanded hitter with present strength, well above-average speed and a polished approach for a two-sport athlete. He has rough edges to polish in his fielding actions and swing, yet he has more walks than strikeouts as a collegian and has a flat, short, low-maintenence swing. He has the arm strength for shortstop and room to improve there if he can learn to get more extension out front, which would give his throws more carry. Scouts are more comfortable slotting him at second base, and some see him as a utility type. He makes plenty of contact, sacrificing power and limiting his impact potential a bit offensively.

9. Brad Miller

Clemson

Teams pursued Miller out of an Orlando high school, but his signability pushed him to the 39th round. He started at shortstop for most of his first two years for Clemson, and spent the last two summers with USA Baseball's college national team. After failing to register an extra-base hit in the summer of 2009, he hit .441 last summer with four doubles and a home run. Miller kept hitting this spring, especially after returning from a broken finger. He led the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting (.420) and on-base percentage despite an odd approach that evokes Craig Counsell. He holds his hands high to start his stance, and while he doesn't always get his hands into an ideal hitting position, he has excellent hand-eye coordination and keeps his bat in the strike zone a long time. He's been inconsistent defensively, including 31 errors as a sophomore, and has and inconsistent throwing mechanics. He has been steadier this spring but probably fits better at second base. He's a solid-average runner, if not a tick above-average, and has good baserunning instincts. He's a baseball rat with good makeup.

10. Connor Barron

Sumrall (Miss.) HS

Barron helped lead Sumrall to a 67-game winning streak that ended last year and moved from third base to shortstop this spring. He has matured physically as a senior, going from 6 feet, 170 pounds to 6-foot-3, 195 pounds now. He has remained an above-average runner, and he has the arm strength for shortstop. Throw in his fluid lefthanded swing, and Barron has gone from a solid local follow to a genuine pop-up guy who is making Southern Mississippi sweat. He would replace B.A. Vollmuth as the Golden Eagles' shortstop next season, if he makes it to school. Evaluators compare him to Rays big leaguer Reid Brignac, who was a second-round pick in 2004, and Barron now could go close to that range. He has shown surprising raw power, and scouts believe in his knack for hitting as well as above-average athleticism.

11. Tyler Greene

West Boca Raton (Fla.) HS

Teammate of highly regarded righthander Mike Kelly, Greene is one of the draft's bigger enigmas. The younger brother of Mets farmhand Chase Greene, Tyler pushed his brother off shortstop when they played together in 2009, when he was just a sophomore. He's impressive physically and shows well in workouts and showcases with his raw tools. Greene has improved his speed to well above-average over the last year by getting stronger and more explosive. He has a fast-twitch body and athletic ability, and looks the part at shortstop. He's not natural at short, doesn't always get good hops and doesn't have the most accurate arm, short-circuiting his plus arm strength. Offensively, he was erratic on the showcase circuit and again this spring, where he was hitting around .350 in early May. Greene also could move up boards with a strong workout.

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

12. Brandon Loy, Texas

13. Jake Hager, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas

14. Tyler Grimes, Wichita State

15. Taylor Featherston, Texas Christian

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

16. Mitchell Walding, St. Mary's HS, Stockton, Calif.

17. Austin Nola, Louisiana State

18. Justin Boudreaux, Southeastern Louisiana

19. Kevin Kramer, Turlock (Calif.) HS

CENTER FIELDERS

It's a strong crop with depth, variety and upside. Bubba Starling entered the year as a top high school talent in the country and remains in a crowded conversation in a deep prep class. His athleticism fits well in the middle of the outfield, as it does for George Springer, a tantalizing yet raw college player. It's possible 10 center fielders could be picked in the first two rounds.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Bubba Starling
1. Bubba Starling

Gardner-Edgerton HS, Gardner, Kan.

Starling is the best athlete in the 2011 draft. As a pitcher, he'd be a potential first-round pick as a 6-foot-5, 195-pound righthander with a fastball that touches 95 mph. He's also a gifted quarterback who earned a scholarship from Nebraska after leading Gardner-Edgerton to the Kansas 5-A state semifinals as a senior. Starling ran for 2,377 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, while passing for 790 yards and eight more scores. Despite his ability on the mound and on the gridiron, his future is as a five-tool center fielder who resembles Drew Stubbs. Starling missed nearly a month with a quad injury this spring, but that didn't dent scouts' enthusiasm, and he homered twice in his first game back. His strength, bat speed and the leverage in his righthanded swing give him above-average power. His swing got long at times on the showcase circuit, but Starling did a nice job of shortening it and making consistent hard contact later in the summer. His speed is as impressive as his power, making him a basestealing threat and giving him plenty of range in center field. He has the power and arm strength to profile as a star in right field as well. Starling has faced little in the way of challenging high school competition and will need to smooth out rough edges in his game in pro ball, but that hasn't prevented him from making the short list of candidates to go No. 1 overall to the Pirates.

2. George Springer

Connecticut

Springer was largely overlooked in high school, taking a back seat to higher-profile New England draftees like Anthony Hewitt, Ryan Westmoreland and Chris Dwyer. The Twins took a 48th-round flier on him in 2008 but he went to Connecticut, and three years later he may have the best all-around tools of any college player in the last decade. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Springer has a skill set rarely seen among college players. He generates plus raw power with explosive bat speed. He has a plus arm and is a plus runner, and he's a smooth defender in center field. He struggled early in 2011, when his hands were tight to his body and his stance was narrow, and he collapsed on his back side. But he made adjustments and returned to form when Big East play started, showing scouts why he was the Cape Cod League's No. 2 prospect last summer. His early-season struggles scared some scouts who question Springer's swing mechanics, as he can be exposed with velocity on the inner half. He's raw for a college first-round pick, but Springer may have the highest ceiling in the draft.

3. Mikie Mahtook

Louisiana State

Mahtook burst onto the scene as a freshman, earning a starting spot midway through the 2009 season and helping to spark Louisiana State to the College World Series championship. He was good enough in center field to push premium athletes Leon Landry and Jared Mitchell to the outfield corners, yet at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, some scouts are still skeptical whether he can play the middle garden in the big leagues. He played right field as a sophomore and moved back to center as a junior. He has an average arm, but if he gets any bigger and loses his slightly above-average speed, he may have to go to left. Mahtook's swing isn't technically proficient, but he's strong, repeats his stroke and has a feel for the barrel. He made consistent hard contact all season, and his OPS (1.131) was higher than it was last season. Scouts expect clubs that value performance to keep Mahtook from sliding beyond the supplemental round.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

4. Jackie Bradley

South Carolina

Bradley was South Carolina's best player his first two seasons, bashing 24 home runs, walking more than he struck out and overcoming an early hamate injury to lead the Gamecocks to the 2010 national championship. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series and then played for USA Baseball's college national team. Scouting directors saw him hit .318 and saw a premium defender in center field, with average speed but tremendous instincts, good routes and a plus arm. However, Bradley was struggling with the new BBCOR bats and slumping this season before he went down with a left wrist injury. He had surgery at the start of May to repair ligament and tendon damage and wasn't expected to return this season. Supporters point to his track record because his lone plus tools are his defense and his arm. He lost his feel for hitting this spring as he sold out for power, employing an uppercut that helped drop his average to .259. Bradley looked to be sliding, perhaps out of the first round.

5. Brandon Nimmo

East HS, Cheyenne, Wyo.

Simply getting drafted out of Wyoming is an accomplishment in itself—the state does not have high school baseball and has produced just two draft picks the past decade. Nimmo should become the state's highest pick ever. With a lean, 6-foot-3 frame with projection remaining, he's a good athlete and one of the best sprinters in the state. He tore his right ACL playing football during his junior year in 2009 and spent most of last summer playing with a brace on his knee. He's an above-average runner when he's healthy, which helps him on the basepaths and in center field, and there's more to his game than just speed. Nimmo has a pretty, efficient lefthanded swing. He's short to the ball and has outstanding barrel awareness, consistently squaring balls up and shooting line drives to all fields. He has a good eye at the plate and should be an above-average hitter. As he gets stronger, he could add loft to his swing to turn doubles into home runs. Nimmo worked out for teams in Arizona this spring and had some tendinitis in his knee. His American Legion team started playing in mid-April and their schedule goes right up to the signing deadline, and he has an Arkansas commitment to fall back on. The team that drafts him will likely follow him throughout the summer and make a call at the deadline.

6. Brian Goodwin

Miami-Dade JC

Goodwin has been under the microscope this year and has responded well. He was a 16th-round pick out of Rocky Mount (N.C.) High in 2009 but didn't sign and went to North Carolina, where he posted a solid .291/.409/.511 freshman season. Goodwin then went to the Cape Cod League and ranked as the No. 6 prospect after hitting .281/.364/.360. Then he was suspended for a violation of university policy at North Carolina, so he transferred to Miami-Dade JC. He got off to a slow start thanks in part to a tweaked hamstring, but Goodwin came on to earn comparisons to ex-big leaguer Jacque Jones. Goodwin has average to plus tools across the board, starting with his hitting ability. He's patient, draws walks and has present strength, and some project him to have future plus power. A plus runner who's not quite a burner, Goodwin has the tools for center field, but he played a corner spot at North Carolina and doesn't consistently display natural instincts in center.

7. Kes Carter

Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky is one of the better mid-major programs in college baseball, having won 77 games and produced 11 draft picks in the previous two seasons. The Hilltoppers should have another half-dozen players selected in 2011, led by Carter, who could become the highest-drafted player in school history. An athletic 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, Carter flashes all five tools. His smooth lefthanded stroke and disciplined approach allow him to hit for average, and he has at least average power potential. He still needs to fine-tune his timing at the plate and turn on balls more frequently. He has slightly above-average speed that plays up on the bases and in center field, as well as a solid arm for the position. The biggest issues with Carter are his struggles against lefthanded pitching and his health. He injured his hip in the Coastal Plain League last summer, sat out during fall practice and missed time this spring with a calf strain. Nevertheless, he shouldn't last past the second round.

8. Williams Jerez

Grand Street HS, Brooklyn

Jerez moved from the Dominican Republic with his father two years ago. He originally drew interest as a lefthander, but he has more potential as a center fielder and has generated a lot of buzz this spring after playing in Florida for Hank's Yanks, a team sponsored by Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner. Jerez's 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame is what one scout described as "about as good a body as you could imagine." He has a wiry strong build and should add bulk as he matures. He has average raw power, with loft and leverage in his swing, which has a tendency to get long. Some scouts worry how he will fare against premium velocity, but his bat speed has improved even since March. Jerez has a plus arm and plus speed, but it doesn't play down the line because he's slow out of the batter's box. There's no consensus on Jerez: Some scouts question his background and age and don't like his bat, while others project on his raw tools and athleticism.

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

9. Charlie Tilson

New Trier HS, Winnetka, Ill.

Though Tilson was the best player on New Trier's 2009 Illinois 4-A championship team as a sophomore, he didn't burst onto the prospect scene until the Area Code Games the following summer. Tilson led all players with seven stolen bases in three games, hit the wood-bat event's lone home run and finished fourth in the SPARQ athletic testing. He hasn't quite shown the same tools this spring, however, and fits more in the second or third round. The Area Code homer was an aberration, as the 6-foot, 175-pounder has average bat speed and a line-drive swing. Power isn't his game, as he's a lefty hitter who fits at the top of the lineup. His game is to make contact and get on base. His speed rates a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he'll be more dangerous once he improves his jumps. He runs down balls in center field and shows a slightly above-average arm. His instincts and makeup help enhance his tools. Area scouts who have more history with Tilson don't rate him as highly as scouting directors and crosscheckers who saw him at the Area Code Games. An Illinois recruit, he draws comparisons to former Illini speedster Kyle Hudson, a standout athlete who was a fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 2008. Hudson is quicker, but Tilson is a better hitter and has more polish at the same stage of their careers. He's a top student and could be a tough sign.

10. Zach Cone

Georgia

Cone looks like a big leaguer but hasn't played like one this season. After hitting .363 as a sophomore, he was batting .273/.330/.366 as a junior, and scouts were saying more than just the new bats were at play. He appears to lack trust in his hitting ability, swinging early in counts and getting out on his front foot too often. Scouts question his pitch recognition, and he has drawn just 33 walks in three seasons. Cone's other tools range from good to outstanding. He's a plus runner with above-average range in center field. He has understandably played with less abandon after an early-season collision in the outfield that left teammate Jonathan Taylor in the hospital and partially paralyzed with a neck injury. He gets good enough jumps and reads in center field to profile as an above-average defender there. His arm has gone backward, playing fringe-average this spring after it was plus in the fall. Cone has solid raw power and strength, and ranks as one of the college ranks' best athletes, with physical ability comparable to fellow college outfielders such as Mikie Mahtook and George Springer. Even area scouts who see all his flaws expect Cone, who was a third-round pick out of high school in 2008, to improve on that by a round or so in 2011.

11. Johnny Eierman

Warsaw (Mo.) HS

A product of a central Missouri town with a population of 2,100, Eierman boosted his draft stock by showing impressive raw tools on a bigger stage last summer. He made the rounds of the showcase circuit, posting the second-best 60-yard dash time (6.41 seconds) at the Area Code Games and launching balls in batting practice. Eierman has well above-average bat speed to match hit foot speed, though he'll have to make adjustments against better pitching. He has a long righthanded stroke with an inconsistent load, and he's too aggressive at the plate. If he can iron out his swing, he could be an average hitter with plus power. A shortstop for his high school team coached by his father John, Eierman won't stay in the infield in pro ball. He lacks the hands and actions for second base, and his average arm may not be enough for third. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has the tools to become a solid center fielder. A Louisiana State recruit, he'll need time to develop but has a high ceiling.

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

12. Keenyn Walker, Central Arizona JC

13. Shawon Dunston Jr., Valley Christian HS, San Jose

14. Senquez Golson, Pascagoula (Miss.) HS

15. Jo-El Bennett, Houston Academy, Midland City, Ala.

16. Bobby Crocker, Cal Poly

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

17. Roman Quinn, Port St. Joe (Fla.) HS

18. Zeke DeVoss, Miami

19. Drew Martinez, Memphis

20. Ronnie Richardson, Central Florida

CORNER OUTFIELDERS

In contrast to the center fielders, the corner outfielders provide less depth and more questions aside from Texas prep Josh Bell. However, in a draft relatively short on power bats, corner outfielders with pop such as Georgia high schooler Larry Greene and Florida prep Dante Bichette Jr. could go higher than expected.

FIRST-ROUND TALENTS

Josh Bell
1. Josh Bell

Dallas Jesuit HS

Bell has the most usable power among high school players in the 2011 draft, and he provides it from both sides of the plate. He has been switch-hitting since he was 5 years old, and he's equally effective from both sides of the plate. Armed with quick hands, strength and an advanced approach, the 6-foot-3, 206-pounder projects as a plus hitter for both average and power. A cracked left kneecap prevented him from proving himself on the showcase circuit last summer, but he recovered to star at the World Wood Bat Championship in October. Bell's other tools aren't as dynamic as his bat, and he'll have to move from center field once he turns pro, but he profiles nicely as a corner outfielder. He's an average runner who may have enough arm strength to play right field. Bell is a good student whose mother is a college professor and who will be advised by the Boras Corp., so it may cost a team dearly to pry him away from a Texas scholarship. His offensive upside still will draw plenty of suitors in the middle of the first round.

SANDWICH ROUND TALENTS

2. Alex Dickerson

Indiana

Dickerson established his hitting credentials by winning the Big Ten Conference triple crown (.419-24-75) as a sophomore, then batting .500 in a nine-game stint in the Cape Cod League before moving on to Team USA. He hasn't put up the same numbers this spring, as he has battled back problems and teams have pitched around him. He's still one of the better bats available in the draft. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound lefthander has pure hitting ability, average to plus power to all parts of the ballpark and an advanced approach. Pitchers rarely have challenged Dickerson on the inner half, and scouts have lauded his willingness to use the opposite field. He's a below-average runner with substandard range and a fringy arm in left field, and he's going to have to work harder on defense to avoid a move to first base or DH. His back issues don't help in that regard, and he had surgery to repair a bulging disc while he was in high school.

3. Dwight Smith Jr.

McIntosh HS, Peachtree City, Ga.

Smith is the son of the big league outfielder of the same name. Junior has tools and a game that resemble his father significantly. His best tool is his bat, as he owns a pure stroke that ranks among the best in the draft class. He features a prominent leg kick at the plate, yet always seems to be on time and gets his bat into the hitting zone for a long time. Smith has a bit less speed than his dad and may wind up a below-average runner when it's all said and done, pushing him from center field to a corner. He has enough arm strength to make right field a possibility, but a move to a corner will put more pressure on his bat. He has solid power and projects to have average raw power. He's committed to Georgia Tech.

4. Granden Goetzman

Palmetto (Fla.) HS

Three factors have helped Goetzman jump up draft boards this spring: the thin Florida high school class, a lack of high school power bats and his own prodigious talent. Minor shoulder issues kept him off the main showcase circuit, though he was a known commodity among Florida area scouts, so he has really introduced himself to national-level scouts this spring. Primarily a shortstop and pitcher in high school, Goetzman will move to an outfield corner as a pro, and he's gotten comparisons to such players as Jayson Werth and Jay Buhner. Bat speed and leverage help him produce prodigious power, and like Werth, Goetzman is a tall, angular athlete who might even have a shot at playing some center field. He's far from a stiff righthanded hitter, with a loose swing and above-average speed, especially under way. His hit tool is also advanced, as he has good natural timing. Scouts laud his makeup, and if a team thinks he can stay in the infield or play center, he could push his way into the first round.

SECOND ROUND TALENTS

5. Derek Fisher

Cedar Crest HS, Lebanon, Pa.

Heading into the spring, Fisher looked like he could sneak into the first round thanks to his bat and body. Terrible weather in Pennsylvania has made it tough for scouts to get a good look at him, however, and Fisher has been inconsistent when he has played. He has swung and missed a lot, been too aggressive on balls out of the zone and not aggressive enough on strikes. He has an extra load at the plate this spring and now it seems to be a mental block. When he is on, Fisher shows an above-average bat with above-average power. He has a strong frame at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and has shown good speed in the past. He plays center field now but eventually will get too big and will have to move to left field, and he should provide solid defense there. He is committed to Virginia and isn't considered an easy sign, but he could still go in the first two rounds if scouts see him perform well before the draft.

6. Kyle Gaedele

Valparaiso

The shortest player in major league history, 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel, got one at-bat as a publicity stunt concocted by Hall of Fame owner Bill Veeck. Gaedel was roughly half the size of his great-nephew Kyle, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who's a lock to surpass former major leaguer Lloyd McClendon (eighth round, 1980) as the highest-drafted player ever from Valparaiso. Gaedel has a major league body, though his tools stand out more than his skills. He has plus raw power but he generates it more with pure strength than with bat speed. His righthanded swing gets long at times and he shows inconsistent recognition of breaking balls. Gaedel helped his cause by performing well with wood bats in the Northwoods League last summer. He's more than just a bat, as he has plus speed and a chance to play center field. It's more likely he'll fit on a corner, and his fringy arm fits better in left field. Gaedel generates mixed opinions. His biggest backers think he's a supplemental first-round talent, while others see him as a fourth-rounder.

7. Larry Greene

Berrien County HS, Nashville, Ga.

Greene isn't quite one-dimensional, but it's close. He's a physical beast at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, and one evaluator compared his power to that of Russell Branyan, another south Georgia lefthanded hitter. Green was dominating and putting on huge power displays against modest pitching, pushing himself into first-round consideration. However, scouts who saw him last summer recall he struggled mightily with velocity at the East Coast Pro Showcase. Greene is somewhat stiff but is an average runner, which should give him a chance to play left field, but some scouts think he'll wind up as more of a first base/DH type. Greene's value is mostly in his bat and well above-average raw power. He's likely to put on a display in individual workouts for teams prior to the draft.

8. Tyler Gibson

Stratford Academy, Macon, Ga.

The son of Mercer head coach Craig Gibson, Tyler has a smooth lefthanded swing with a classic high finish and plus raw power potential. He combines good bat speed, improved strength and good balance with plenty of leverage. With broad shoulders, he should fill out his 190-pound frame and has added 15 pounds since last summer, when he was sidelined by an automobile accident that kept him off the showcase circuit. He returned in October and hit two home runs at the World Wood Bat event and hasn't looked back. Gibson signed with Georgia Tech, which would play him at short, but pro scouts don't consider him  a fit there, and projecting him at third base can be a challenge if he keeps getting bigger. He runs well enough (6.7-seconds in the 60) to move to an outfield corner and could hit well enough to man either spot. His arm might be better suited to left field, but it won't matter if he hits with plus power.

THIRD-/FOURTH-ROUND TALENTS

9. Dante Bichette Jr., Orangewood Christian HS, Orlando

10. Carl Thomore, East Brunswick (N.J.) HS

11. Gabriel Rosa, Colegio Hector Urdaneta, Rio Grande, P.R.

12. Billy Flamion, Central Catholic HS, Modesto, Calif.

13. Jacob Anderson, Chino (Calif.) HS

14. Bryson Miles, Stephen F. Austin State

15. Jason Coats, Texas Christian

16. Aaron Brown, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS

FIFTH-/SIXTH-ROUND TALENTS

17. Michael Reed, Leander (Texas) HS

18. Preston Tucker, Florida

19. Nick Martini, Kansas State

20. Ryan Garvey, Palm Desert (Calif.) HS

21. Mason Robbins, George County HS, Leakesville, Miss.

22. Brandon Meredith, San Diego State