Though only three days remain before the draft,
much still is subject to change. The Astros still haven't decided whom
they'll take with the No. 1 overall pick, so the teams behind them can't
be sure what they'll do either.
With new rules in play offering harsh
draft-pick penalties for teams that exceed their assigned bonus pools,
clubs will be trying to pinpoint the signability of players this
weekend. There's little margin for error, and the sense among
teams is that the pick values in the first round are higher than many
of the players might command on a truly open market.
Unless a club decides it has to have a
particular player, it may shop its pick among several prospects so it
can save some money and apply it elsewhere in the draft. That strategy
could be especially prevalent after the top 10 picks,
and will make for a busy weekend for both teams and agents trying to
find the best fit.
Once again, the draft's biggest wild card isn't
part of our first-round projection. California high school righthander
Lucas Giolito was a potential No. 1 overall pick until spraining an
elbow ligament in March. Though he has started
long-tossing again off flat ground, he has yet to get on a mound. Clubs
still don't have a sense as to whether his asking price will come down
from where it would have been had he stayed healthy.
1. ASTROS. Houston has yet to make a
decision, but other teams continue to sense they're picking between
Stanford righthander Mark Appel and Georgia high school outfielder Byron
Buxton. Buxton has a higher ceiling, but Appel
gets the edge from the Astros as a frontline starter who will arrive in
the majors quicker.
Projected Pick: MARK APPEL.
2. TWINS. No change here either, as
pitching-starved Minnesota is expected to take Buxton if Houston
doesn't. If the Astros go for Buxton, the Twins probably would select
Appel over Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman.
Projected Pick: BYRON BUXTON.
3. MARINERS. Puerto Rican shortstop
Carlos Correa had a series of strong workouts that have given him
late helium, and there's a lot of chatter that he's suddenly Seattle's
preference at No. 3 (and a candidate for Houston
and Minnesota). Our pick here remains Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who
hasn't finished strongly. Buxton would trump both Zunino and Correa as
the Mariners look for a bat.
Projected Pick: MIKE ZUNINO.
4. ORIOLES. Baltimore is linked to the
top high school (Correa) and college (Arizona State's Deven Marrero)
shortstops available, but figures to take a pitcher unless Buxton
miraculously falls to No. 4. Gausman has moved ahead
of San Francisco righthander Kyle Zimmer in most teams' pecking order.
Projected Pick: KEVIN GAUSMAN.
5. ROYALS. Kansas City would prefer
pitching but likely will take the top player on its board. The
candidates include the four players projected to go ahead of them, along
with Correa, Zunino, Zimmer and California high school
lefthander Max Fried.
Projected Pick: KYLE ZIMMER.
6. CUBS. As much as Chicago would love a
shot at one of the top three college pitchers, that probably won't
happen. Instead, the Cubs will be choosing from Correa, Fried and
Florida high school outfielder Albert Almora. Almora
has become the front-runner here.
Projected Pick: ALBERT ALMORA.
7. PADRES. Even with his strong finish,
Correa appears like he'll be available for San Diego, which would love a
bat and would grab a potential Troy Tulowitzki in a second. If he
doesn't make it here, the Padres grab Fried over
Projected Pick: CARLOS CORREA.
8. PIRATES. Though there has been
chatter for months that Pittsburgh covets a shortstop and would take
Marrero, that wouldn't make sense this high in the draft. There's a
clear top eight for most clubs, and the Pirates figure
to take whichever one of those players remains. If not, they're more
apt to take Mississippi State righthander Chris Stratton than Marrero.
Projected Pick: MAX FRIED.
9. MARLINS. If the top eight players go
in the first eight picks, Florida won't have a shot at local product
Almora. The Marlins have strong connections to Oklahoma and legitimately
like Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Heaney.
After Fried and Heaney, the dropoff with southpaws is steep. They're
also perusing the next tier of high school position players, which
begins with outfielder Courtney Hawkins (Texas).
Projected Pick: ANDREW HEANEY.
10. ROCKIES. Colorado
hasn't had much luck taking pitchers in the first round lately and is
targeting bats. Hawkins, Alabama high school outfielder David Dahl and
Louisiana prep shortstop Gavin Cecchini would be
the top options. Oklahoma high school righthander Ty Hensley is a
Projected Pick: COURTNEY HAWKINS.
11. ATHLETICS. Oakland could go in any number of directions, with college bats (Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer) and arms (Stratton, Texas A&M righthander Michael Wacha, Duke righty Marcus Stroman) and high school position players (Hawkins, Dahl, shortstop Addison Russell from Florida, third baseman Joey Gallo from Nevada) and pitchers (righty Lance McCullers Jr. from Florida) all in the mix. With a bigger bonus pool thanks to supplemental first-round picks, the Athletics can pursue a possible tough sign such as McCullers or Russell.
Projected Pick: LANCE McCULLERS JR.
12. METS. New York appears to be deciding between the high school position players and college pitchers. In this scenario, it would come down to Dahl or Cecchini vs. Wacha.
Projected Pick: DAVID DAHL.
13. WHITE SOX. Hawkins might tempt Chicago but this pick figures to be a college pitcher from the Heaney/Wacha/Stratton/Stroman group. Rumors persist that the White Sox have interest in Ohio high school lefthander Matt Smoral, but would owner Jerry Reinsdorf really pay dearly for a prepster who made one start this spring before breaking a bone in his foot?
Projected Pick: MICHAEL WACHA.
14. REDS. Cincinnati will see how its board plays out, with the best-case scenario being an opportunity at Stratton or Wacha. If they're both gone, the Reds would consider Stroman, Marrerro, Stanford outfielder/third baseman Stephen Piscotty or a high school pitcher such as Hensley or righthander Nick Travieso (Florida).
Projected Pick: CHRIS STRATTON.
15. INDIANS. Though Cleveland took high school shortstop Francisco Lindor eighth overall in 2011, it has a strong preference for college products. That's what the Indians will be looking at, hoping for a college starting pitcher from the Heaney/Wacha/Stratton group but having to settle for a bat in Shaffer or Piscotty.
Projected Pick: RICHIE SHAFFER.
16. NATIONALS. Washington seems set on a college guy as well. The Nationals' choices appear to be Heaney, Wacha, Marrero and Shaffer, and they also do have some interest in Dahl.
Projected Pick: DEVEN MARRERO.
17. BLUE JAYS. With the highest pair of first-round selections at 17 and 22, Toronto is well-positioned to make a run at a high school player perceived to have a high-priced tag. If any club is going to gamble on Giolito, it could be the Blue Jays, who also could pursue McCullers or North Carolina prep third baseman Corey Seager. They covet high-ceiling athletes and may want to snap up speedy outfielder D.J. Davis (Mississippi), who might not last five more picks. D.J's father Wayne played in the Jays system from 1985-88.
Projected Pick: D.J. DAVIS.
18. DODGERS. After using its last nine top draft choices on a pitcher, Los Angeles appears headed down that route again. It's difficult to project picks this deep in the first round with much certainty, but a lot of industry insiders are convinced the Dodgers will take Hensley.
Projected Pick: TY HENSLEY.
19. CARDINALS (from Angels for Albert Pujols). Much like Toronto, St. Louis has two late first-round picks and the ability to ante up for a high-priced player. The Cardinals are the other club mentioned most often with Giolito, though where he goes still remains a total guess. Russell or Seager would come with less risk.
Projected Pick: ADDISON RUSSELL.
20. GIANTS. San Francisco masterfully develops young pitching, which could lead it to Hensley, Travieso, Georgia high school righthander Lucas Sims or Florida prep righties Zach Eflin or Walker Weickel. The Giants also could go for a more experience arm in Missouri State righty Pierce Johnson or Florida lefty Brian Johnson.
Projected Pick: NICK TRAVIESO.
21. BRAVES. While Atlanta wouldn't pass up the right pitcher who fell in its lap, it mainly is associated with position players. Dahl would be the top choice but probably won't get here. The Braves could choose between Piscotty and outfielders Tyler Naquin (Texas A&M), Victor Roache (Georgia Southern) and Mitch Haniger (Cal Poly) on the college side and infielder Tanner Rahier (California) and third baseman Mitch Nay (Arizona) among the prepsters. Don't be surprised if Atlanta's first-rounder is one of the first to sign.
Projected Pick: TANNER RAHIER.
22. BLUE JAYS (for failure to sign 2011 first-round Tyler Beede). Toronto hasn't hid its interest in Cecchini and may be able to pass on him at 17 and still snag him here.
Projected Pick: GAVIN CECCHINI.
23. CARDINALS. Stroman has the most electric stuff in the draft and no business lasting this long, but there doesn't seem to be a team that wants to be the one to take a 5-foot-9 righthander in the first round. He'd be a steal here, but the sense is that St. Louis will grab one of the better college bats in a lackluster crop.
Projected Pick: STEPHEN PISCOTTY.
24. RED SOX. Boston could use some bullpen help and Stroman could contribute at the major league level by the end of the season, so his slide stops here. The Red Sox also like Davis and Cecchini if they're still on the board.
Projected Pick: MARCUS STROMAN.
25. RAYS. Tampa Bay is all about upside, so walking away from Gallo's power and arm strength could be tough. The Rays also could sift through the high school arms or redraft Pierce Johnson, whom they selected out of high school. They also work the Northwest as hard as anyone, and this is the high-water mark for Oregon prep third baseman/righthander Carson Kelly.
Projected Pick: JOEY GALLO.
26. DIAMONDBACKS. Arizona wants bats after stocking up on arms in the 2011 draft. Gallo, Trahan, Piscotty, Naquin and Roache are possibilities, as is Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter.
Projected Pick: STRYKER TRAHAN.
27. BREWERS (from Tigers for Prince Fielder). No one seems to know where it originated, but there's ton of speculation that Milwaukee will take Coulter with one of its consecutive first-rounders.
Projected Pick: CLINT COULTER.
28. BREWERS. After using a pair of first-rounders on pitchers a year ago, Milwaukee could go in the opposite direction this time around. College baseball's best pure hitter (Naquin) and perhaps its most dangerous slugger (Roache) would be nice values this late in the round.
Projected Pick: TYLER NAQUIN.
29. RANGERS. Texas has built baseball's best farm system by investing in high-risk/high-reward players. Smoral fits that mold, as does Mississippi high school outfielder Anthony Alford, who has told teams not to try signing him away from his football/baseball commitment to Southern Miss. The Rangers would love a shot at Hensley.
Projected Pick: MATT SMORAL.
30. YANKEES. The best bet is that New York plucks a high school righthander from a group that includes Sims, Eflin, Weickel, Shane Watson (California), Ty Buttrey (North Carolina), J.O. Berrios (Puerto Rico) and Mitchell Gueller (Washington).
Projected Pick: ZACH EFLIN.
31. RED SOX (from Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon). Boston also is looking at several prep righties, with Weickel, Watson and Buttrey the leading candidates. The Red Sox also could use their financial flexibility and go after a higher-priced player such as Seager.
Projected Pick: WALKER WEICKEL.