Mock Draft: May 14
Jim Callis' look at how the first round will shake out
The Nationals hold the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year. And while there is not as much certainty as there was in 2009, when Washington was locked in on Stephen Strasburg, other teams fully expect the Nationals to make JC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper the first junior college player ever taken with the first choice.
Behind Strasburg, Texas high school righthander Jameson Taillon, Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz and Florida prep shortstop Manny Machado have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. After them, there's little consensus where players will fall. College bats and any lefties are in short supply, so they'll get pushed up draft boards, as is also usually the case with catchers.
Injuries and signability further cloud the picture at the top of the draft. Pomeranz (pectoral) and Ohio State righthander Alex Wimmers (hamstring) have muscle strains that aren't major concerns, but Louisiana State righty Anthony Ranaudo hasn't been the same since coming down with a stress reaction in his elbow and Virginia Tech righty Jesse Hahn has missed time with tightness in his forearm.
Georgia high school righthander/third baseman Kaleb Cowart, California prep outfielder Austin Wilson and Texas high school righty Zach Lee are all first-round-caliber talents, but all are considered difficult signs and could tumble in the draft. Teams also have to evaluate lefthander James Paxton, whose regular season with the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs (American Association) didn't begin until May 14.
Harper made the right call to get his graduate-equivalency diploma and enter the draft by heading to junior college for what otherwise would have been is high school junior season. He has had no problems adjusting to wood bats or older competition, and he has a ceiling of a 40-homer catcher with a powerful arm. He's a good bet to break Mark Teixeira's record for the largest guarantee ever given to a position player ($9.5 million), though he probably won't top Strasburg's overall record $15.1 million big league deal.
A year ago, Pittsburgh passed on higher-ceiling talent to take Tony Sanchez at No. 4, saving money to spend it elsewhere in the draft. While the Pirates are thrilled with Sanchez, they're not ruling out any of the remaining first-tier players. They did want a college pitcher but couldn't find one to their liking at the top of last year's draft, and Pomeranz should be relatively easier to sign than Taillon or Machado, so those factors could tip the scales in his favor.
Baltimore followed Pittsburgh's lead a year ago, choosing Matt Hobgood at No. 5 and splurging on later picks. But the Orioles are licking their chops over the no-lose situation they're in, where they'll wind up with Taillon's frontline stuff or Machado's five-tool potential at shortstop
Machado would be a perfect fit for Kansas City, which is short of talent at up-the-middle positions. Their situation also could lead them to Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal or maybe even Texas-Arlington's Michael Choice, whom some clubs project as a center fielder.
Cleveland hasn't taken a high school player with its top choice since Dan Denham in 2001, and likely will go the college route for one of the scarcer commodities (bats or lefthanders). Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox and Florida Gulf Coast lefty Chris Sale appear to be the leading contenders.
Arizona had seven picks in the first two rounds a year ago and used many of those choices to replenish its supply of position players. Choice could be tempting, but Georgia Tech righty Deck McGuire or Sale would fill a greater need.
Clubs don't expect Grandal to get past the first 10 picks, and New York and Kansas City are the best fits for him. He'd also fill a position of need and could reach the majors quickly, which would be appealing to the Mets' beleaguered front office. Sale could be attractive as well.
After using first-rounders the last two years on up-the-middle talents Jason Castro and Jiovanni Mier, Houston can address its shortage of power pitching. Ohio prep righthander Stetson Allie has been pitching in the upper 90s with his fastball and the high 80s with his slider, and that kind of arm won't last too long in the draft. If the Astros want to go with a power bat, Washington high school outfielder Josh Sale could be enticing.
San Diego is believed to be enamored with Florida high school third baseman Nick Castellanos. His family reportedly floated a $6 million asking price earlier this spring, and if that's accurate, it likely would diminish interest from the Padres (and other clubs.) San Diego appears to be focusing on bats, with Cox, Choice and Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek other possible options.
Oakland would be happy to get to choose between Chris Sale and Choice. Though they're both available in this scenario, there's enough interest in them that it's far from a lock it would play out that way in the draft. But it looks like the A's should at least get a shot at one of them.
11. BLUE JAYS:
There are some similarities between Choice and the rejuvenated Vernon Wells. Toronto could use a long-term shortstop, but Cal State Fullerton's Christian Colon is advised by Boras Corp., and it's unknown if he'll have a high price tag and whether the Jays would pay it. Toronto was happy the last time it took a slugging Washington prep outfielder in the first round (Travis Snider), so Josh Sale could enter the mix.
Though Cincinnati spent $30.25 million on Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, ownership prefers to heed MLB's slot guidelines in the draft. Colon and outfielder Gary Brown (a fellow Cal State Fullerton star and Boras Corp. advisee) would fit nicely with the Reds, as long as they're willing to accept the bonus parameters. Chris Sale and Choice would be attractive if they drop this far.
13. WHITE SOX:
U.S. Cellular Field is one of the best home run parks in the majors, and Josh Sale or Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz would be especially dangerous in Chicago. The White Sox also are looking at college pitchers, and Texas righthander Brandon Workman, Wimmers and Arkansas two-way star Brett Eibner would be the best healthy arms on the board at this point.
Milwaukee has suffered for not being able to develop a successful starting pitcher since drafting Yovanni Gallardo in the second round six years ago. The Brewers will try to address that shortcoming, so Workman, Wimmers and Eibner should all be in play. If Ranaudo regains the form that made him the draft's best pitching prospect entering 2010, he'd be a steal if Milwaukee would be willing to pay Boras Corp. prices.
Texas agreed to a $6 million predraft deal with No. 14 overall pick Matt Purke last year, only to have Major League Baseball—which extended the club a linen of credit to get through last season—refuse to approve it at the signing deadline. The Rangers get this pick as compensation for losing Purke, but they won't get another one if they fail to sign this guy. If they want a guy they know they could sign, they could go for Canadian high school catcher Kellin Deglan. But even with their tenuous ownership situation, indications are that they won't be that conservative, which means Texas could take Josh Sale, Brentz or Vitek.
Florida high school righthanders Karsten Whitson and A.J. Cole were projected as potential top 10 choices at the start of the year, but their stock had dipped slightly a month before the draft. Their loss could be Chicago's gain if that holds. The Cubs' decision makers, GM Jim Hendry and scouting director Tim Wilken, are plugged in to their home state of Florida and would jump if either Cole or Whitson comes available. If the Cubs want a position player, Vitek and Indiana prep catcher Justin O'Conner offer offensive production, defensive value and Midwestern roots.
Tampa Bay drafts for upside as much as any club, though it's uncertain they'd take Colon or Brown after failing to sign Boras Corp. client LeVon Washington in the first round last year. The hard-throwing (and fast-finishing) Cole, Brentz and Clemson outfielder/quarterback Kyle Parker could be among the most attractive non-Boras options.
Los Angeles loves power arms and Southern California products, so California prep righthander Dylan Covey, a Top 10 talent on some boards before a slight fade in May, makes a lot of sense here. Like Whitson and Cole, Covey is a former projected top-10 pick who's sliding a little to the middle of the round.
Houston places as much emphasis on predraft workouts as any club, and few players can show as much in that setting as Eibner, who could be a first-round choice as either a righthanded pitcher or an outfielder. Landing Eibner would atone for failing to sign him as a fourth-rounder out of high school. Georgia prep outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., a top of the scale runner with big league bloodlines, is the type of athlete who could wind up with the Astros after dazzling in a workout.
20. RED SOX:
Boston and the Yankees get linked to every high-priced player who drops in the draft. The Red Sox would love a shot at Ranaudo if he started flashing the dominance he showed in 2009 during Louisiana State's College World Series run. Other over-slot candidates who should be available include Cowart, Parker, Wilson, Lee and possibly Castellanos, though other choices could emerge as draft day draws closer.
Most of the best players remaining at this point will be center fielders—which Minnesota doesn't really need—and college pitchers. The Twins should be able to get at least from a group that includes Workman, Wimmers or Eibner if they want a starter, or righthanders Matt Harvey (North Carolina) and Asher Wojciechowski (The Citadel) if they want an arm with potential as a reliever. Minnesota pulled a coup by taking injured Kyle Gibson at No. 22 last year, so maybe they'd roll the dice again on a dinged-up pitcher in Hahn.
This pick the Rangers' regular selection so it is protected by compensation, and Texas could be more daring with this choice, trying to sign a Texas high school righthander/quarterback such as Lee or Tyrell Jenkins. If any team can sign Lee, it might be the Rangers, who sent team president Nolan Ryan to watch him in mid-May. Texas also could double up on bats in the first round, going with Brown, O'Conner or Vitek.
Florida usually opts for high-ceiling players who will sign for slot bonuses. That could direct the Marlins to Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who has made an impressive comeback after breaking his left thumb early in the season, over Brown (Boras) and Parker (football).
It seems like San Francisco continually has been searching for more offense since Barry Bonds left. Florida high school two-way star Yordy Cabrera's righthanded power may be too tough to pass up, and they might love to get his hands on his power arm as well. The Giants also could spend to land Brown or Parker.
Harvey has turned himself around following a rough sophomore season that dented his draft stock, after he was considered one of the top high school pitchers in the county in 2007, and he could jump on the fast track to St. Louis. He could either bolster the end of the rotation or develop into the closer of the future that the Cardinals currently lack.
In the last two drafts, Colorado has used its top picks on Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, standout pitchers who unexpectedly fell in their laps because of their reported bonus demands. If Hahn is healthy, he could be another steal for the Rockies.
Philadelphia covets pure athleticism as much as any team, and Brown is the best pure athlete in this year's college crop. The Phillies also could go for power arms such as Harvey or Hahn if they're still on the board.
Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce proceedings make it unlikely that Los Angeles will spend extra money on the draft. O'Conner would be the best available slottable player in this scenario, and he'd become Russell Martin's heir apparent.
For the second year in a row the Angels have extra picks, including two in a row at the back of the first round as compensation for losing free agents Chone Figgins and John Lackey in the offseason. Arizona State righthander Seth Blair is making a late push for the first round, so he would fit for the Angels here. Like Harvey, he has appeal as a possible starter who has a fallback option as a potential closer.
Los Angeles took two hitters in the first round last year, when it had five of the first 48 picks, and could flip and grab three arms this time around. Sammy Solis took the same Arizona high school-to-University of San Diego path that fellow lefthander Brian Matusz (an unsigned Angels draftee out of high school) rode to stardom, and he has shown no ill effects from a herniated disc in his back that sidelined him for much of 2009. After missing out on several unsigned premium players in recent years, such as Matusz, the Angels have vowed not to let it happen again.
Tampa Bay gets this pick to compensate for not signing Washington, and as with Texas at No. 15, the Rays won't get a third chance if they don't close a deal this time. The Rays have had success developing pitching of late but need to keep stockpiling arms. They could gamble on Jenkins' high ceiling or opt for an easier sign and quicker return, such as with Wojciechowski.
Just like its archrival, New York is expected to land a high-price player and gets mentioned with the same players Boston does. The Yankees have the money to go after a falling Boras Corp. client, if the case arises. They also could splurge to buy Parker away from Clemson football, and they have the cash and luxury of time to pay sweet-swinging Louisiana State prep third baseman Garin Cecchini and wait for him to recover from knee surgery.