Mock Draft, Version 3.0

Will Mariners pass on Ackley?




In the week since we released Mock Draft, Version 2.0 Premium, there hasn't been much more certainty that has developed in the first round. But there have been several significant developments at the top of the draft:

• Rumblings started to come out Thursday that North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley, who's advised by the Scott Boras Corp., may be spooking Mariners at No. 2 with his asking price. Boras is alluding to Mark Teixeira's record deal for a drafted hitter (a $9.5 million big league contract), and may want to adjust up for eight years of inflation.

• California high school lefthander Tyler Matzek has moved ahead of the other elite prep pitchers—and to No. 2 overall on some clubs' draft boards—with back-to-back exceptional playoff starts. He touched 97 and 98 mph in the two outings, maintained his velocity and quality breaking stuff deep into both games.

• Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson threw eight shutout innings against Monmouth on Saturday, but his fastball sat at 83-86 mph. Afterward, he said he has been bothered by forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to elbow problems and Tommy John surgery.

• North Carolina righthander Alex White has more riding on this weekend than any of the potential top-10 prospects. He entered the season as the consensus No. 2 pitching prospect in the draft after San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg, but has lasted just seven innings in two postseason starts against Virginia and Coastal Carolina. His stock is dropping, though the Tar Heels say he was pitching with blisters and a strained hamstring last week. White will get a final chance to reverse his falling stock on Saturday against East Carolina.

• Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate and St. Paul Saints (American Association) righthander Tanner Scheppers are two top-10 talents who aren't being linked to many teams. Tate is the best athlete in the draft, but he reportedly has a $6 million asking price and several clubs aren't sold on his bat. Scheppers has shown power stuff but many teams have lingering concerns about his shoulder problems from a year ago.

With four days to go before the draft, here's how we see the first round unfolding:

1. NATIONALS. Who else?

Projected Pick: STEPHEN STRASBURG.

2. MARINERS. Teams behind Seattle would love a chance at Ackley but still don't believe they'll get it. If the secretive Mariners go in another direction, their targets would include Matzek, Fort Worth Cats (American Association) righthander Aaron Crow and Texas high school righty Shelby Miller.

Projected Pick: DUSTIN ACKLEY.

3. PADRES. Assuming Ackley is gone, Tate appears to be the frontrunner over Crow, with the talk of Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor cooling. If Tate doesn't go here, it's unclear where he fits in the first round. There may be a couple of clubs laying in the weeds on Tate, but they're not the usual big-spending suspects, such as the Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees.

Projected Pick: DONAVAN TATE.

4. PIRATES. Pittsburgh insists its international and draft budgets are unrelated. If the Pirates spend heavily to sign Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano in July, it won't be because they saved money with this pick. They are exploring all options, above and below slot, and will see how the board plays out. Ackley and Crow look like the top priorities, and they'd consider a healthy Gibson and perhaps a high school pitcher not looking to break the bank, such as Georgia righthander Zack Wheeler. If Pittsburgh doesn't find a good fit, it could fall back on a money-saver such as Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez or North Carolina high school catcher Wil Myers, then spent money later in the draft.

Projected Pick: AARON CROW.

5. ORIOLES. Baltimore would like a college pitcher, but Gibson's health is a question, White is slumping and it's too early to pick Minor. The Orioles have shown interest in Crow and Matzek, but they're zeroing in on Wheeler.

Projected Pick: ZACK WHEELER.

6. GIANTS. San Francisco likes several of the elite high school pitchers—Matzek, Texas lefthander Matthew Purke and Wheeler—but it needs bats more than arms. If the price tags on Matzek and Purke scare them off, the Giants are all over college outfielders Tim Wheeler (Sacramento State) and Brett Jackson (California).

Projected Pick: TYLER MATZEK.

7. BRAVES. Atlanta doesn't try to hide the fact that it covets homestate product Zack Wheeler. As much as the Braves love Matzek, they're sticking to MLB's slot recommendation and that won't get a deal with him done. It comes down to Minor vs. White, with White's Saturday outing looming large. If Minor is gone and White bombs, Miller is Atlanta's guy.

Projected Pick: MIKE MINOR.

8. REDS. After giving a $4.55 million big league deal to 2008 first-rounder Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati is expected to stick to slot, though Matzek would be awfully tempting. So would a healthy Gibson. Other candidates include Minor and Miller.

Projected Pick: KYLE GIBSON.

9. TIGERS. Given Detroit's success with Rick Porcello, other clubs expect the Tigers to spend heavily again on a high school arm. They've been seen the most on the trail of Missouri prep righthander Jacob Turner, but Matzek may be moving past him. Purke also could be in play, as could Crow and Scheppers.

Projected Pick: JACOB TURNER.

10. NATIONALS. This pick isn't protected by compensation, so Washington will make sure to select a guy it can sign. The top two candidates are Kennesaw State righthander Chad Jenkins and Stanford righthander Drew Storen, with Texas high school outfielder Everett Williams a dark horse.

Projected Pick: CHAD JENKINS.

11. ROCKIES. Colorado didn't figure to get a shot at either Gibson or White when the season began, but now it may get to pick between them both. The Rockies are on Minor, Arizona State righthander Mike Leake and perhaps Lipscomb lefty Rex Brothers. If they don't go for a college pitcher, they could opt for Tim Wheeler or Oklahoma high school lefthander Chad James.

Projected Pick: ALEX WHITE.

12. ROYALS. If Kansas City picks Grant Green, he'll be the team's fourth straight Boras first-rounder. If not, the preseason No. 2-rated draft prospect could tumble all the way down to the Yankees at 29. The Royals also are high on catchers such as Sanchez and Myers, and might get an unexpected crack at Gibson or White. If they want to cut a deal, they could opt for Kansas high school righthander Garrett Gould.

Projected Pick: GRANT GREEN.

13. ATHLETICS. Oakland has been out in force to see Tate, so maybe there's something to that rumor we reported but couldn't quite believe last week. The Athletics appear to be focusing on up-the-middle athletes, preferably from college, which might give Wheeler the edge over three high schoolers: outfielder Mike Trout (New Jersey), shortstop Jiovanni Mier (California) and catcher Max Stassi (California).

Projected Pick: TIM WHEELER.

14. RANGERS. It continues to look like an elite homestate high school pitcher will get to Texas. Miller would be an easy decision, while the Rangers would have to decide whether they wanted to meet Purke's asking price. Count them in as another club that would strongly consider Gibson or White if they fell.

Projected Pick: SHELBY MILLER.

15. INDIANS. There are rumors Cleveland could pop Arizona State's Jason Kipnis as an infielder, but the Indians are centering on experienced pitchers. If they trust Scheppers' shoulder, he'd be a nice value pick here. Other arms they're tied to include White, Indiana righthander Eric Arnett and Brothers.

Projected Pick: TANNER SCHEPPERS.

16. DIAMONDBACKS. Arizona is expected to take one hitter and one pitcher with its consecutive first-rounders, sticking to slot because it has to sign six of the top 64 choices. They'd prefer a college arm and love homestate product Leake, with other options such as Gibson, White, Brothers and maybe Clemson freshman-eligible lefty Chris Dwyer. If they take a prep pitcher, it could be California lefthander Tyler Skaggs.

Projected Pick: MIKE LEAKE.

17. DIAMONDBACKS. With position players, Arizona is tied to mostly high schoolers, starting with Florida third baseman Bobby Borchering. Others include California third baseman Matt Davidson, Stassi, Mier and Trout. Their top college position player could be Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock.

Projected Pick: BOBBY BORCHERING.

18. MARLINS. Florida's front office has strong ties to Oklahoma, making high school lefthander Chad James a natural if he's relatively signable. If not, the Marlins could turn to college arms such as Arnett, Storen and Boston College lefthander Mike Belfiore, as well as Jackson or Davidson.

Projected Pick: ERIC ARNETT.

19. CARDINALS. St. Louis wants lefthanders and should get one of Brothers, Minor and James. There's some thought the Cardinals would be willing to spend for Purke, too, and for homestate righthander Turner. Don't rule out Leake either.

Projected Pick: REX BROTHERS.

20. BLUE JAYS. Unless someone like Minor drops, Toronto appears to be choosing from James, college relievers it would convert to starters (Storen, Florida righthander Billy Bullock) and up-the middle athletes (Williams, Jackson, Mier).

Projected Pick: CHAD JAMES.

21. ASTROS. Though Houston isn't on Williams, it's linked to two other Texas high school outfielders, slugger Randal Grichuk and two-way star Slade Heathcott. Louisiana is right next door to the Lone State State, however, and LSU center fielder/wide receiver Jered Mitchell could help the Astros quicker. They'll almost certainly take a bat.

Projected Pick: JARED MITCHELL.

22. TWINS. Like a lot of teams in this neighborhood, Minnesota likes the athletic outfielders available—but it just took two of them (Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks) with its last two first-rounders. Minor and Leake are the type of polished pitchers the Twins love, but they probably won't get here. That would leave them choosing between high school starters (James, California righthander Matt Hobgood) and college relievers (Storen, Belfiore).

Projected Pick: MATT HOBGOOD.

23. WHITE SOX. Chicago is another team looking at athletic outfielders (Williams, Trout, Puerto Rican high schooler Reymond Fuentes, Jackson). If Brothers, Arnett or James slipped, the White Sox could go with a pitcher.

Projected Pick: EVERETT WILLIAMS.

24. ANGELS. With back-to-back choices, look for Los Angeles to take an up-the-middle athlete and a pitcher. In this scenario, position-player options would include Trout, Fuentes, Mier and Florida high school outfielder LeVon Washington.

Projected Pick: MIKE TROUT.

25. ANGELS. For a pitcher, Los Angeles could go with a college reliever (Storen, Bullock), a power arm (Hobgood, Gould) or a projectable local product (Skaggs).

Projected Pick: GARRETT GOULD.

26. BREWERS. While Milwaukee's most pressing need is pitching, it does own five of the first 74 picks and could kick things off with another bat. Count the Brewers in on the athletic outfielders, as well as Mier and Davidson. If Oklahoma righthander Garrett Richards' electric yet untamed arm lands in the first round, it may fit here.

Projected Pick: A.J. POLLOCK.

27. MARINERS. Unless Seattle takes Arnett or Storen, it looks like it will land two hitters in the first round. The Mariners also are tracking Sanchez and the athletic outfielders. This may be the high-water mark for Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress, who looked like a mid-first-rounder before tailing off late in the season.

Projected Pick: TONY SANCHEZ.

28. RED SOX. Despite a penchant for high-priced players who fall, Boston isn't in the market for Tate or Green and maybe not Purke. Matzek and Turner are the top candidates for slot-busting deals if they somehow plummeted this far. The Red Sox and Yankees both appear to be hot for Mississippi high school shortstop/righthander David Renfoe, who wants a deal similar to what Boston gave 2008 first-rounder Casey Kelly: $3 million and let him begin his career as a position player. If the Sox don't take a high-priced player, they're looking at Hobgood, Stassi, Pollock and Fuentes.

Projected Pick: MAX STASSI.

29. YANKEES. New York is in play on more of the possible well-over-slot players: Matzek, Turner, Purke, White (if he falls this far) and Green, though not Tate. It's possible the Yankees could wait until later to take Renfroe if his price tag scares off other clubs. Other players of interest include Heathcott, Jackson, Pollock and Stassi.

Projected Pick: MATTHEW PURKE.

30. RAYS. Though Tampa Bay spent the No. 1 overall pick last year on Tim Beckham, it could grab another shortstop in Mier. Arizona high school catcher Tommy Joseph also is in the running, as is Davidson. Texas high school outfielder Todd Glaesmann could sneak into the first round here.

Projected Pick: JIOVANNI MIER.

31. CUBS. Chicago would pay to sign Turner if he could drop all the way down here, but he's not getting past both the Red Sox and Yankees. The Cubs will have to hope someone in a group that includes Arnett, Pollock, James, Gould and Jackson makes it to them, and at least one of them should.

Projected Pick: BRETT JACKSON.

32. ROCKIES. Colorado has a track record of taking college players, but high schoolers might rise to the top of their draft board by this point. Offensive catchers Myers and Joseph are the most likely possibilities.

Projected Pick: WIL MYERS.