Mock Draft, Version 1.0
An early, educated guess at how the first round could shake out
After three months of scouting and with three weeks remaining before the draft, not much has changed in terms of how the first round is expected to unfold. The industry will be shocked if the Nationals pick anyone other than San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, and after that, it's anybody's guess.
"Everyone knows who No. 1 is," one scouting director said, "but nobody has a clue to who No. 2 is."
The consensus agrees that North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley is the best hitter and Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate is the top athlete in this draft. But they're just two of many players who could stake a claim to being the next-best prospect after Strasburg, a group that also includes college righthanders Kyle Gibson (Missouri) and Alex White (North Carolina), high school pitchers Tyler Matzek (California) and Jacob Turner (Missouri) and even a pair of independent league righties, Aaron Crow (Fort Worth Cats) and Tanner Scheppers (St. Paul Saints).
Below is our best guess as to how the first round will play out on June 9.
All the arguments for possibly not taking Strasburg—the spotty track record of pitchers chosen No. 1 overall, his reported $50 million price tag—can't detract from the fact that he's far and away the best talent in this draft. Choosing anyone else would be a blunder, and Strasburg doesn't have the leverage to get close to $50 million. He'll break the draft record for a guaranteed deal ($10.5 million for the Cubs' Mark Prior in 2001), but if Washington offers him $15 million or $20 million, that's too much cash to risk turning down.
Projected Pick: STEPHEN STRASBURG.
New general manager Jack Zduriencik plays the draft as close to the vest as anyone, so good luck ferreting this pick out in advance. After spending its three last first-round picks on relief pitchers, Seattle could plug the No. 3 hole in its lineup with Ackley, a quality athlete capable of moving to center field.
Projected Pick: DUSTIN ACKLEY.
There's a lot of talk that San Diego is heavily after Tate, but he doesn't seem to fit the team's draft philosophy. Scouting heads Grady Fuson and Chief Gayton prefer proven collegians to unpolished high schoolers, and Tate also comes with advisor Scott Boras and a reported $6 million price tag. Southern California shortstop Grant Green hasn't lived up to expectations after a banner summer in the Cape Cod League, but the Padres are the one team at the top of the draft that's still high on him. They also drafted him in the 14th round out of high school three years ago. Other possibilities include Gibson and Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor, though Minor would be a significant reach after an up-and-down spring.
Projected Pick: GRANT GREEN.
Like a lot of clubs picking near the top, Pittsburgh would love for Ackley to be available. Center field is an area of organizational strength, so the Pirates might not want to go after a $6 million Boras client again after going down that road with Pedro Alvarez a year ago. Pittsburgh may well get its pick of the pitchers after Strasburg, and Gibson, White and Georgia high schooler Zack Wheeler could be in the mix. Gibson has the best chance to be a frontline starter and should reach the majors the fastest.
Projected Pick: KYLE GIBSON.
Baltimore could use a shortstop, though it's not clear it would pursue Green here if he were available. Ackley could tempt the Orioles if he somehow fell here, but they're probably going to wind up with a pitcher. They'll be eyeing the same arms the Pirates will, and they could grab the draft's best lefty for the second straight year if they followed taking Brian Matusz in 2008 by nabbing Matzek.
Projected Pick: ALEX WHITE.
San Francisco won't worry about price tags. The Giants will take the player they want and figure out how to sign him. They need outfielders and could be willing to pay the freight for Tate's considerable upside. If they opt for a pitcher, it could be Wheeler.
Projected Pick: DONAVAN TATE.
It's no secret that Atlanta covets home-state products, and five of its nine top picks this decade have been Georgia high schoolers. The Braves would love to add Wheeler to that list, though they're sweating because the Pirates, Orioles and Giants all could take him. They generally stick close to slot, so Tate might not be an option. White or Matzek could be Plan B.
Projected Pick: ZACK WHEELER.
Cincinnati has spent its last four first-rounders on position players, and there doesn't figure to be one available who's worthy of continuing that streak. The Reds considered taking Crow with the No. 7 pick last year, ultimately deciding to take Yonder Alonso. Crow has looked good at Fort Worth and could help quickly at the major league level.
Projected Pick: AARON CROW.
Turner's stock was rising in mid-May, and apparently his price tag was as well, as he reportedly wants to match Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello's record for guaranteed money given to a high school player ($7 million). Detroit paid Porcello two years ago and has no regrets. The Tigers also appear to be the first team that would consider three high schoolers: Kansas righthander Garrett Gould, Oklahoma lefty Chad James and Puerto Rico outfielder Reymond Fuentes.
Projected Pick: JACOB TURNER.
Washington gets this pick for its failure to sign Crow last year and won't receive another consolation prize should it strike out again. The Nationals also will pay heavily for Strasburg, so they're looking to cut a below-slot deal with this choice. Kennesaw State righthander Chad Jenkins, New Jersey high school center fielder Mike Trout and North Carolina prep catcher Wil Myers are three candidates.
Projected Pick: CHAD JENKINS.
Colorado likes collegians and has taken pitchers in the first round of each of the last three drafts, and Sacramento State outfielder Tim Wheeler might be the only position player who could make them stray from that course. Arizona State righthander Mike Leake's polish, track record and bulldog mentality would make him more appealing than lefties Rex Brothers (Lipscomb), Andy Oliver (Oklahoma State) and James Paxton (Kentucky).
Projected Pick: MIKE LEAKE.
Scheppers is a true wild card in this draft, just like he was a year ago after injuring his shoulder. He's healthy and throwing in the mid-90s again, making him a candidate to go anywhere behind Strasburg to a team that fully trusts his shoulder. But some clubs do have concerns. Kansas City made Luke Hochevar the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 after he spent time in the American Association, and though that move hasn't worked out as hoped, the Royals could go there again.
Projected Pick: TANNER SCHEPPERS.
Oakland is rebuilding its big league rotation around high school products Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. The A's have scouted Matzek heavily, and he'd give them a third potential prep ace. He'd also be a nice value pick if he slipped this far, which he might because of all the college arms available. If Matzek is gone, Oakland might pop the exceedingly polished Minor.
Projected Pick: TYLER MATZEK.
Texas always needs pitching and could be staring at two excellent high school arms from its own backyard, lefty Matt Purke and righty Shelby Miller. It's a coin flip to pick between them, but teams are getting skittish about Purke's signability, so that could push the Rangers to Miller.
Projected Pick: SHELBY MILLER.
The pitching depth is starting to thin out at this point and Cleveland hasn't spent a first-round pick on a high schooler since taking Dan Denham in 2001, so the Indians likely will be looking at college position players. Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress may be the second-best college bat in the draft, but the Tribe has a logjam at his position already. Cleveland could choose from outfielders Wheeler, A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame) and Marc Krauss (Ohio) and catchers Tony Sanchez (Boston College) and Josh Phegley (Indiana).
Projected Pick: TIM WHEELER.
Arizona's best picks in the last three drafts were high school pitchers Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson, and Purke's upside will make him a good value pick here unless his price tag is exorbitant.
Projected Pick: MATT PURKE.
Look for Arizona to take at least one hitter with these two picks. Poythress and Florida high schooler Bobby Borchering have some similarities at the plate, and Borchering's chance to play third base outweighs Poythress' advantages in track record and experience. The Diamondbacks also could go for one of the outfielders or catchers the Indians considered.
Projected Pick: BOBBY BORCHERING.
Florida's front office has strong ties to Oklahoma and has drafted natives Josh Johnson and Brett Sinkbeil in the past. The Marlins regret passing on Brett Anderson, the last premium prep lefty from the Sooner State, and may not be able to let the fast-rising James get away. They're also on Gould and Indiana righthander Eric Arnett.
Projected Pick: CHAD JAMES.
St. Louis prefers college players with superlative statistical performance (Brett Wallace) but can be swayed by the right toolsy high schoolers (Colby Rasmus, Peter Kozma). The Cardinals could be attracted to high school center fielders Everett Williams and Trout, but they're also short on southpaws and Lipscomb's Rex Brothers ranks second in NCAA Division I in strikeouts (120) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (12.8).
Projected Pick: REX BROTHERS.
20. BLUE JAYS.
Toronto has a soft spot for stats and college lefthanders, and Kentucky's James Paxton ranks second in NCAA Division I with 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. As a bonus, he's Canadian. Other names on the Blue Jays' radar could include Pollock and Kennesaw State righthander Kyle Heckathorn.
Projected Pick: JAMES PAXTON.
Houston needs athletes, and there are few better than Williams, a homestate product. He's nearly as gifted as Tate and he's a better hitter at this point. If Miller or Purke somehow fell this far, they'd be difficult to ignore.
Projected Pick: EVERETT WILLIAMS.
Minnesota offered significant money to center fielder Jared Mitchell as a 10th-round pick out of high school, but they couldn't divert him from playing football at Louisiana State. Mitchell is ready to focus on baseball, but isn't a great fit for the Twins after they took center fielders with their top picks in the last two draft. But Minnesota could redraft Oklahoma State lefthander Andy Oliver, their 17th-round pick in 2006, and eventually team him in its rotation with fellow Cowboy Scott Baker.
Projected Pick: ANDY OLIVER.
23. WHITE SOX.
Chicago likes big, strong, hard-throwing pitchers and needs them, and Arnett and Heckathorn fit the bill. The White Sox also could have a selection of toolsy outfielders to choose from, such as California's Brett Jackson, Mitchell and Pollock on the college side and Williams and Trout among the high schoolers.
Projected Pick: ERIC ARNETT.
After not having a first-round pick in three of the last four drafts, Los Angeles has two this year and three sandwich picks. The Angels have a great opportunity to restock a thinning farm system, and they'll show patience with high-ceiling players. Williams, Trout and Mitchell all have the athleticism they covet, as does California high school shortstop Jiovanni Mier.
Projected Pick: MIKE TROUT.
Los Angeles also is willing to wait for projectable young arms, and 6-foot-5 lefthander Tyler Skaggs pitches his high school ball less than an hour from Angel Stadium. The Angels also could look at Gould and Louisiana prep righthanders Brody Colvin and Zach Von Rosenberg, though Von Rosenberg should be there for one of their sandwich picks.
Projected Pick: TYLER SKAGGS.
Milwaukee needs pitching at the major league level, and its farm system is more loaded with position prospects. The Brewers have five picks in the first two rounds to address their shortage and could go with a power arm such as Heckathorn, South Carolina's Sam Dyson or Gould.
Projected Pick: KYLE HECKATHORN.
With four of the first 51 picks, Seattle can afford to take some chances. Mitchell has a huge ceiling but after all his time spent with football, he'll need time to hone his skills. The Mariners will give it to him.
Projected Pick: JARED MITCHELL.
28. RED SOX.
It's unclear if a big-time talent will plummet because of signability, but Boston will at least kick their tires if someone like Tate, Turner, Scheppers or Purke gets here. The Red Sox would be tempted by Poythress, but with Kevin Youkilis and prospect Lars Anderson, they don't need another first baseman. They could really use a catcher, with California high schooler Max Stassi and local college product Sanchez the two best available. Pollock also could be a consideration.
Projected Pick: MAX STASSI.
Count New York in as well if a big name falls because of his asking price. They Yankees probably would love a shot at Green, who could be Derek Jeter's heir apparent. If those scenarios don't happen, New York could target an athletic outfielder like California's Brett Jackson or a catcher such as Stassi or Sanchez.
Projected Pick: BRETT JACKSON.
The Rays don't have many pressing needs besides catcher, and backstops will start to provide some of the best value in the draft at this point. Besides Stassi and Sanchez, other catching possibilities include Myers and Arizona high schooler Tommy Joseph.
Projected Pick: TONY SANCHEZ.
Chicago's affinity for Notre Dame players could lead it to Pollock, who also could help fill a void in center field. Arnett, another college product from Indiana, might interest the Cubs if he were still on the board.
Projected Pick: A.J. POLLOCK.
Colorado also picks again at No. 34 and could go with a pair of high school arms, Gould and Colvin.
Projected Pick: GARRETT GOULD.