First Day Of The Rest Of Your Draft Life




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Heading into the 2012 draft, there was more uncertainty over how the board would play out. With new rules in place from baseball's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, combined with a draft class that didn't have a surefire talent at the top, teams were tight-lipped about how their board shaped up at the top.

But at the end of the day, things played out pretty true to form. The top picks ranked by Baseball America were still picked at the top of the draft, even if the order was a little different.

The Astros provided a mild surprise off the bat as they picked Puerto Rican high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the first-overall selection. Correa doesn't have the pure tools of Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton and won't get to the big leagues as quickly as Stanford righthander Mark Appel, the two picks most linked to the Astros before draft day.

Correa, as expected, easily eclipsed Ramon Castro's record, set in 1994, for being the highest-drafted player ever out of Puerto Rico, which became part of the draft in 1989 while becoming the first Puerto Rican ever drafted first overall.

Astros Go Big

Houston scouting director Bobby Heck said the team had a pool of five players they were considering with the top pick and did not settle on Correa until the afternoon of the draft.

But Correa still has superstar potential. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds he's big for a shortstop, but he's extremely agile with soft hands and smooth actions. Correa is an above-average runner right now and has premium arm strength, allowing him to play deep in the infield. He has a smooth righthanded swing with excellent balance and bat speed, and the overall package reminds scouts of Troy Tulowitzki.

"He's a power-hitting shortstop and that's a pretty good separator," Heck said. "All of the players we considered had strong profiles as well, but it was tough to walk away from the shortstop with power potential.

"Collectively, we had 7s on his power (on the 2-to-8 scale). We think he has plus hands, a plus throwing arm and he's definitely got infielder feel, whether it's at shortstop or at third base."

Heck said the Astros believe Correa can stick at shortstop, but could also be a profile as a third baseman if he has to move off the position.

In addition to his tools, Correa also has many other enviable qualities scouts love. He is bilingual and has excellent work ethic.

"He was the valedictorian of his class; he made straight A's throughout high school," Heck said. "He was one of the youngest players in the draft and the fact that plays a premium position with power made it hard to walk away from."

The Astros made another splash in the supplemental round by taking righthander Lance McCullers Jr. from Jesuit High in Tampa. McCullers has big league bloodlines and has been clocked as high as 98 mph. He was expected to go in the middle of the first round.

"I think we were pleasantly surprised he was there," Heck said. "Our board took a beating. Once we got to the 20th or 25th pick, our board got nuked pretty good but we still had a quality guy there, so we were excited. To take a guy who arguably has an 80 fastball and a guy that has 70-80 power, it's a pretty good way to start your draft."

Playing The Board

There were only a few surprises on the first day of the draft. Overall, only a few players picked in the first 60 picks could be considered big reaches based on our predraft rankings. The first eight picks in the draft were all ranked in the top eight in our updated Top 50 list and there wasn't a player selected in the first round who wasn't on that list.

The changes to the CBA loomed over the run-up to the draft, but on the first day, at least, players generally were taken in order of their ability.

"I think the board played out more to the talent," Heck said. "I think players getting ridden down, that seems less evident. I think players are going where they're supposed to be going, closer to the order of their talent."

The supplemental first round saw a few more surprises. The White Sox picked Florida high school first baseman Keon Barnum (ranked 155 by BA) at 48, the Cardinals took St. Mary's third baseman Patrick Wisdom (ranked 161) at 51 and the Rangers went with Kansas high school righthander Collin Wiles (ranked 268) at 53.

Overall, the top 60 picks consisted of 25 college players and 35 high schoolers.

"For the most part what we saw today, not every team has the same board and every team's order is different," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "But the picks that went today, a lot of the best players were taken today. Not necessarily in the order that they might have been for us, but in aggregate. . . There are still talented players, but most of the top players were taken today."

Seventeen of the 31 first-round picks were taken out of high school. Three of the high school picks—Florida shortstop Addison Russell, California third baseman Daniel Robertson and Georgia first baseman Matt Olson—were taken by the Athletics. It's the first time the team has used back-to-back-to-back picks on high school players since 1978 when Oakland drafted Mike Morgan, Tim Conroy and Keith Atherton.

"I think it was just a reflection of what was available to us in this draft," Athletics scouting director Eric Kubota said. "We just took the best guys on our board, it just turned out they were high school guys. With Russell, we love his athleticism and his now baseball skills. He has a chance to be a five-tool player in the middle of the diamond.

"With Robertson, we really like the bat. He has an advanced approach and we think there's power there. We really like his skills to stay on the left side of the infield, but more than anything, we're excited about the bat. And then with Olson, we just think he was one of the top pure high school hitters. It's a line-drive trajectory stroke right now, but we think he can hit for above-average power down the road."

Several teammates were picked on the first day. On the college side, Texas A&M had two first rounders with outfielder Tyler Naquin going to the Indians at 15 and righthander Michael Wacha going to the Cardinals four picks later. Stanford had two picks with Appel going to the Pirates at eight and third baseman Stephen Piscotty going to the Cardinals at 36 and Florida had a pair as well with catcher Mike Zunino going third-overall to the Mariners and lefthander Brian Johnson closing out the first round at 31 to the Red Sox.

Appel was one of the early stories of the draft, falling to eighth overall after many speculated he would go first. If they can sign him, the Pirates can add him to an impressive stable of minor league arms that includes the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, Gerrit Cole, and the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, Jameson Taillon.

Appel declined to address the Pittsburgh media after being selected, issuing a statement instead: "I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time."

Three high schools also had two players taken in the top 60 picks. Correa attends the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy along with Dodgers supplemental first round shortstop Jesmuel Valentin. Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, Calif., produced the first pair of first-round pitching teammates since 2002 (Scott Kazmir and Clint Everts) with lefthander Max Fried going seventh-overall to the Padres and wild card righthander Lucas Giolito going 16th to the Nationals. Olympia High in Orlando also had two players picked in the supplemental first round with outfielder Jesse Winker (Reds) and righthander Walker Weickel (Padres).

The Nationals' selection of Giolito continued the organization's boldness in the draft even under the rules. The Nationals rank 23rd in terms of biggest draft pools with $4.4 million to spend. Giolito could demand a big chunk of that, as he ranked No. 2 among BA's high school draft prospects until a March elbow injury shelved him for the rest of the year. He's hit the upper 90s and 100 mph with his fastball and has a strong commitment to UCLA, so the Nationals will either go over their slot and take the penalties or go extremely conservative with their next nine picks.

If they sign Giolito, the Nationals could have drafted and signed players who ranked very high on BA's draft board at one point in four straight drafts—Stephen Strasburg (2009), Bryce Harper (2010), Anthony Rendon (2011) and Giolito. The first two times, the Nats picked first overall, but the last two years, they picked sixth and this year 16th.

Best Available For Day Two

The first day is complete with 60 players off the board. As you get ready for the second round and beyond, here's a look at the 10 best available players from the BA 500 with quick scouting reports:

34. Tanner Rahier, ss, Palm Desert (Calif.) HS
Baseball rat plays with a ton of energy. Knack for squaring it up with wood.

36. Anthony Alford, of, Petal (Miss.) HS
Southern Mississippi football recruit has excellent athleticism.

38. Ty Buttrey, rhp, Providence HS, Charlotte
Older prep righty started hot but wore out from heavy workload. Video: http://youtu.be/4J2_P79jIlo

43. Carson Kelly, 3b/rhp, Westview HS, Portland, Ore.
Draws David Wright comparisons for bat and makeup. Video: http://youtu.be/IQwlkjwFfGk

44. Mitch Brown, rhp, Century HS, Rochester, Minn.
Scouts love his size, stuff, projection and makeup. Video: http://youtu.be/M_39up18c2U

46. Nolan Fontana, ss, Florida
Reliable glove with patient offensive approach.

47. Wyatt Mathisen, c, Calallen HS, Corpus Christi, Texas
Mostly played shortstop in high school, but profiles best behind the plate.

50. Walker Buehler, rhp, Clay HS, Lexington, Ky.
90-94 mph fastball with chance for three plus pitches. Tough sign away from Vanderbilt.

53. Hunter Virant, lhp, Camarillo (Calif.) HS
Relatively new to pitching but shows feel for four pitches, including a fastball up to 93 and a potential plus changeup.

54. Alex Wood, lhp, Georgia
Funky TJ survivor has been up to 95 mph. Profiles best in bullpen.

You can see the rest of the BA 500 that hasn't been picked yet by clicking here. Subscribers have access to the scouting reports.

CONTRIBUTING: John Manuel & Nathan Rode