Mock Draft 2.0: May 25
Ten days before the draft, the prospect picture is beginning to clear—not so much exact destinations for players, but how they're lining up on draft boards.
Georgia high school center fielder Byron Buxton, three college righthanders (Stanford's Mark Appel, Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman and San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer) and Florida catcher Mike Zunino continue to comprise the top tier of talent, with Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa pushing his way into that mix. California high school lefthander Max Fried turned in a strong start this week to reaffirm his standing atop the prep pitching crop, followed by Florida righthander Lance McCullers Jr.
Behind Buxton and Correa, the high school position player order is getting more established: outfielders Albert Almora (Florida), Courtney Hawkins (Texas) and David Dahl (Alabama), with shortstop Gavin Cecchini (Louisiana) factoring into that mix. Righthanders Michael Wacha (Texas A&M) and Chris Stratton (Mississippi State) and lefty Andrew Heaney (Oklahoma State) form the second wave of college starters, while 5-foot-9 righthander Marcus Stroman (Duke) has the most electric arm in the draft but seems to be getting pigeonholed as a reliever.
After up-the-middle players Zunino and Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero go in the top 10 picks, the best college position players available are Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer (who has the best overall college bat in this draft) and Stanford outfielder/third baseman Stephen Piscotty.
Righthander Lucas Giolito, Fried's teammate at Harvard-Westlake HS in Studio City, Calif., remains the draft's biggest wild card after spraining an elbow ligament in March. He hasn't taken the mound since, though he threw on flat ground this week. Teams still don't feel like they have a great read on the health or signability of a player who once figured to be a lock to go in the first three picks. As we did in our initial first-round projection two weeks ago, we're not including Giolito because of the uncertainty surrounding him.
May 10: Mock draft v1.0
Houston is doing its due diligence on all of the top talents, but it's believed this decision will come down to Buxton and Appel, with the latter the favorite because he'll deliver a more immediate return. Though Appel doesn't always dominate as much as scouts think he should, he has been very good down the stretch.
Projected Pick: MARK APPEL.
As much as Minnesota needs pitching, it isn't expected to pass up the opportunity to take Buxton, who has the best all-around package of tools in the draft. If the Astros take Buxton, the Twins might take Zimmer over Appel or go with Zunino and move Joe Mauer to another position.
Projected Pick: BYRON BUXTON.
Seattle has a much greater need for hitting than pitching and is expected to go for a bat, though that also was the case last year when it took lefthander Danny Hultzen at No. 2. If Appel and Buxton are off the board, the Mariners' decision comes down to Zunino and Correa. Seattle also is high on Heaney, but taking him at No. 3 would be a stretch.
Projected Pick: MIKE ZUNINO.
Baltimore seems to be leaning more towards arms than bats, especially if Buxton is gone, so that would leave it looking at Gausman and Zimmer. Gausman had a strong start at the Southeastern Conference tournament this week, while Zimmer will try to put hamstring woes and fluctuating velocity behind him in his final outing of the season tonight. Don't rule out Correa or Almora here.
Projected Pick: KEVIN GAUSMAN.
It's no secret that Kansas City desperately needs some advanced pitching. The Royals will take whoever remains from among Appel, Gausman and Zimmer. If all three were gone, they might consider McCullers or Fried. Zunino is another possibility.
Projected Pick: KYLE ZIMMER.
Chicago is in play on all six names in the top tier. The most likely best-case scenarios for the Cubs are Gausman and Zimmer, and they like Almora and Fried as well.
Projected Pick: CARLOS CORREA.
As much as San Diego would like a bat here, if Correa isn't available, Fried may be too attractive to pass up. The Padres are the first team that might pop Shaffer and might take him over Almora.
Projected Pick: MAX FRIED.
One of the strongest rumors in the top 10 picks is that Pittsburgh will end its seemingly endless search for a shortstop by taking Marrero, a gifted defender whose bat has shown more signs of life recently. Almora isn't going to last too much longer, and the Pirates are the high-water mark for Stratton and Dahl.
Projected Pick: DEVEN MARRERO.
Getting Hialeah Gardens product Almora would be a dream for Florida. If the Pirates take him, the Marlins could wind up with Fried. They're also on Hawkins and have deep ties to Oklahoma, so don't forget about Heaney or prep righthander Ty Hensley.
Projected Pick: ALBERT ALMORA.
After misfiring on several first-round pitchers in recent drafts, look for Colorado to grab a position player. They're looking at Almora and Hawkins, though they've also been mentioned with Fried, Wacha and Hensley.
Projected Pick: COURTNEY HAWKINS.
Oakland seems to be the earliest realistic destination for several players: McCullers, Stroman, Shaffer, Stratton, Dahl and slugging Nevada high school third baseman Joey Gallo. The Athletics wouldn't mind a shot at Fried or Hawkins.
Projected Pick: LANCE McCULLERS JR.
There's no clear focus on what direction New York will go in, with the team tied to high school bats (Cecchini, Hawkins) and arms (Fried) as well as college position players (Shaffer, Marrero) and pitchers (Wacha). The Mets' fondness for Cecchini has been known for a while, so that's the pick for now.
Projected Pick: GAVIN CECCHINI.
13. WHITE SOX.
Get ready for a run on the second tier of college pitchers, with Chicago leading the way. The White Sox appear to prefer Wacha and Stroman over Heaney and Stratton. They're also mentioned with Ohio high school lefthander Matt Smoral, but it's hard to see owner Jerry Reinsdorf going out of the box, especially for someone who missed most of the season with a broken bone in his foot.
Projected Pick: MICHAEL WACHA.
Unless someone unexpectedly drops, Cincinnati will snag a college arm as well. Wacha and Stratton are the most likely choices. If the Reds opt for a bat, it likely would be Shaffer or Piscotty.
Projected Pick: CHRIS STRATTON.
Cleveland is monitoring the same college position players and pitchers as Cincinnati. The Tribe is more likely to take a pitcher, and in this scenario it would be Heaney over Shaffer.
Projected Pick: ANDREW HEANEY.
While Washington hasn't been shy about its love for Georgia high school righthander Lucas Sims, it won't pass up a quality college pitcher. Getting Stroman here would qualify as outright robbery, and if the Nationals put him in the bullpen, he could help their playoff drive later this summer.
Projected Pick: MARCUS STROMAN.
17. BLUE JAYS.
Toronto is willing to put the development time in on high-ceiling high schoolers and will have any number to select from here: Dahl, outfielder D.J. Davis (Mississippi), Gallo, outfielder/catcher Stryker Trahan (Louisiana) and infielder Tanner Rahier (California) as well as righthanders Sims, Nick Travieso (Florida) and Zach Eflin (Florida). McCullers would be an obvious choice if he's still on the board. And with the highest pair of first-round picks of any team (17 and 22), the Blue Jays have the best chance to gamble on and pay Giolito if he plummets from the top of the draft.
Projected Pick: DAVID DAHL.
Los Angeles could make it 10 straight drafts in which it has spent its top pick on a pitcher. Besides all of the prep arms mentioned with the Blue Jays, the Dodgers also could take Hensley or righthanders Walker Weickel (Florida) and J.O. Berrios (Puerto Rico).
Projected Pick: TY HENSLEY.
19. CARDINALS (from Angels for Albert Pujols).
Shaffer doesn't figure to last this long on June 4, and if he does, St. Louis probably won't try to sneak him through to its second first-rounder at No. 23. Other position-player candidates include Piscotty, Gallo and North Carolina high school third baseman Cory Seager.
Projected Pick: RICHIE SHAFFER.
San Francisco has built its success around drafting and developing first-round arms and could go down that road again with Travieso, Sims, Eflin or Weickel. Missouri State righthander Pierce Johnson and Florida lefty Brian Johnson headline the next tier of college arms. If the Giants want to beef up their offense, they could go for Piscotty or Gallo.
Projected Pick: NICK TRAVIESO.
Though Atlanta is known for taking homestate players (such as Sims) and scouting director Tony DeMacio loves lefthanders (Florida's Brian Johnson), word is that it will snare a position player here. Dahl won't get past the Braves, who might take Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin over Piscotty otherwise. Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache is a homestate bat who wouldn't have lasted this long if he hadn't broken his wrist early in the year. Atlanta also likes to get players signed quickly, so don't be surprised if it grabs Cal Poly outfielder Mitch Haniger or Arizona high school third baseman Mitch Nay.
Projected Pick: TYLER NAQUIN.
22. BLUE JAYS
(for failure to sign 2011 first-round Tyler Beede). Davis fits Toronto's mold, though it may not want to take back-to-back high school outfielders. Gallo could do a lot of damage at Rogers Centre, and his massive raw power shouldn't last much longer than this.
Projected Pick: JOEY GALLO.
If St. Louis gets a college bat at 19, it would try to balance that with an arm here. Sims figures to be the best high school pitcher available, and the Cardinals could take an in-state college product (Pierce Johnson) as well.
Projected Pick: LUCAS SIMS.
24. RED SOX.
Boston is know to have interest in Rahier, and he doesn't figure to get to its second first-rounder at No. 31. Davis could tempt the Red Sox as well.
Projected Pick: TANNER RAHIER.
If Davis somehow remains on the board at this point, his stunning athleticism makes him a perfect fit for Tampa Bay. The Rays took Pierce Johnson out of high school and might not let him get away again. If Oregon prep third baseman/righthander Carson Kelly surfaces in the first round, it could be here.
Projected Pick: D.J. DAVIS.
After hoarding pitching in last year's draft, Arizona is looking for bats. Gallo, Trahan, Piscotty and Roache all could be part of the Diamondbacks' mix.
Projected Pick: STRYKER TRAHAN.
27. BREWERS (from Tigers for Prince Fielder).
Piscotty and Roache would be good values here for Milwaukee, and the college bats drop off precipitously behind them.
Projected Pick: STEPHEN PISCOTTY.
With back-to-back picks, Milwaukee could look to pair a hitter and pitcher. The best arms remaining if the draft plays out like this would be California high school righthander Shane Watson, Eflin and Pierce Johnson.
Projected Pick: SHANE WATSON.
Texas isn't afraid to gamble on huge ceilings, and with two supplemental first-round picks, it has the wherewithal to come up with enough money to pay Smoral, who would have gone in the top 10-15 choices if he hadn't broken a bone in his foot. The Rangers also might be the team to make a run at Mississippi high school outfielder Anthony Alford, who has told teams he won't give up playing football and baseball at Southern Miss.
Projected Pick: MATT SMORAL.
Derek Jeter has to slow down some time—doesn't he?—and when he does, Florida high school shortstop Addison Russell could be a nice replacement. If any team takes fast-rising Washington prep righthander Mitchell Gueller in the first round, it could be New York.
Projected Pick: ADDISON RUSSELL.
31. RED SOX (from Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon).
With this extra first-rounder and a sandwich pick, Boston has more flexibility than most clubs and could pounce on a player who falls because of signability, such as Seager. The Red Sox also are in position to grab someone like Eflin, who looked like a mid-first-rounder before missing April with triceps tendinitis.
Projected Pick: ZACH EFLIN.