Early 2012 Draft Top 50

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While it's unclear what kind of changes to the draft could be forthcoming with a new collective bargaining agreement this winter, it's never too early to start assessing the talent.

The strength of the 2012 draft class appears to be on the high school side, a group that has premium talent at the top and good depth overall.

There are plenty of high-octane prep arms, as righthanders Lucas Giolito, Lucas Sims, Lance McCullers Jr., Ty Hensley, Taylore Cherry and Duane Underwood all topped out at 94 mph or higher this summer, as did a handful of pitchers just missing the list. This year's high school class also features a stellar collection of lefthanders.

The high school position players have a lot of exciting tools between five-tool talents like outfielders Byron Buxton and David Dahl, power hitters like Trey Williams, Jesse Winker and Joey Gallo and impressive athletes like Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Jameis Winston and Rhett Wiseman.

The college crop looks a little light this year, but there are up-the-middle talents like Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero and Florida catcher Mike Zunino and there's power—outfielder Victor Roache's 30 home runs at Georgia Southern last year were the most in Division I since 2003, and Clemson corner infielder Richie Shaffer hit 13 last year and tied Roache for second in the Cape Cod League this summer with six.

One interesting thing about the college group, as a whole, is the prominence of players from schools not typically known for producing premium draft talent.
Schools like Georgia Southern (righthander Chris Beck and outfielder Victor Roache), San Francisco (righthander Kyle Zimmer), Duke (righthander Marcus Stroman), Stony Brook (outfielder Travis Jankowski) and Samford (lefthander Lex Rutledge) could feature first rounders this year.

1. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford
Tall and lean with a fastball up to 99 mph and a true slider—Justin Verlander upside.

2. Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State
Rare college up-the-middle talent that is a quality defender and complete player.

3. Mike Zunino, c, Florida
Quality defensive backstop shows middle-of-the-order potential and excellent intangibles.

4. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Workhorse frame with power arsenal including mid-90s fastball and hammer curveball.

5. Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
Explosive athlete shows the potential to become a five-tool center fielder.

6. Chris Beck, rhp, Georgia Southern
Physical frame with a fastball that touches 96 and a power breaking ball.

7. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana State
Flame-throwing draft-eligible sophomore shows potential for three plus pitches.

8. David Dahl, of, Oak Mountain HS, Birmingham
Missed some of the summer with mono but has a beautiful lefthanded stroke and five-tool potential.

9. Gavin Cecchini, ss, Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La.
Baseball rat is a better shortstop than his brother Garin was, similar hitting ability from the right side.

10. Lucas Sims, rhp, Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.   
Sits 92-93 mph with fastball and gets as high as 95 with one of the best curveballs in the class.

11. Brian Johnson, lhp/1b, Florida
Legit two-way talent. Workhorse build and three-pitch mix on the mound, light-tower power as a hitter.

12. Victor Roache, of, Georgia Southern
Muscular outfielder has huge power from the right side but will need to show he can adjust.

13. Max Fried, lhp, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Long, loose lefthander fills up the strike zone with quality three-pitch mix.

14. Walker Weickel, rhp, Olympia HS, Orlando
Steep downhill plane on 91-93 mph fastball thanks to projectable 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame.

15. Hunter Virant, lhp, Camarillo (Calif.) HS
Has only been pitching for a year but shows potential for four plus pitches.

16. Lance McCullers Jr., rhp, Jesuit HS, Tampa
Electric stuff including a fastball that gets up to 98, but probably winds up in bullpen like his father.

17. Trey Williams, 3b, Valencia HS, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Has explosive strength and good bloodlines—his dad, Eddie, played 10 years in the big leagues.

18. Kenny Diekroeger, ss, Stanford
An X-factor after a disappointing spring and not playing this summer, but the tools are still there.

19. Kyle Zimmer, rhp, San Francisco
Changeup needs to develop, but has a sturdy frame and power arsenal.

20. Carlos Correa, ss, Puerto Rico Baseball Acad., Gurabo, P.R.
Pro body with smooth infield actions; a little raw at the plate, but shows strength and power potential.

21. Nick Williams, of, Ball HS, Galveston, Texas
Shows a lot of rawness in his game, but has athleticism and bat speed that can't be taught.

22. Marcus Stroman, rhp, Duke
Small, 5-foot-9 frame, but electric 93-96 mph fastball and nasty slider.

23. Michael Wacha, rhp, Texas A&M
Quick worker relies on 90-93 mph fastball and well above-average changeup.
24. Ty Hensley, rhp, Santa Fe HS, Edmond, Okla.
Broad frame with strong legs, 91-94 mph fastball and hard curveball and a good feel for the game.
25. Travis Jankowski, of, Stony Brook
Live-bodied center fielder has above-average speed and a good feel for hitting.
26. Lewis Brinson, of, Coral Springs (Fla.) HS
Florida recruit is built like Cameron Maybin and has similar upside.
27. Nolan Sanburn, rhp, Arkansas
Draft-eligible sophomore overpowers hitters with fastball that reaches 98 and hard, 81-85 mph slider.
28. Josh Elander, c, Texas Christian
Defense needs work, but his righthanded power potential to all fields is hard to ignore.
29. Jesse Winker, of, Olympia HS, Orlando
Polished lefthanded bat with loft power but will be limited to left field or first base.
30. Joey Gallo, 3b, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
Huge power but doesn't make consistent contact and probably ends up at first base.
31. Stryker Trahan, c, Acadiana HS, Lafayette, La.
Built like a fullback but is an above-average runner that shows loft power from the left side of the plate.
32. Taylore Cherry, rhp, Butler HS, Vandalia, Ohio
Huge, 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame, but has effortless delivery, good body control and three-pitch mix.
33. Carson Kelly, 3b/rhp, Westview HS, Portland
Good athlete shows power potential at the plate and heavy 90-92 mph fastball on the mound.
34. Corey Seager, ss, Northwest Cabarrus HS, Concord, N.C.
Kyle's younger brother is a lot more physical, but probably joins him at third base.
35. Richie Shaffer, 1b/3b, Clemson
Big-time power from the right side, but is stretched defensively at third base despite cannon arm.
36. Stephen Piscotty, 3b/of, Stanford
Cape Cod League batting champ has smooth swing and all-field approach.
37. Albert Almora, of, Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.
Cousin of Manny Machado has good outfield instincts, advanced approach at the plate and lots of polish.
38. Branden Kline, rhp, Virginia
Team USA's closer has a projectable frame to go with a low-90s fastball and developing breaking ball.
39. Jake Barrett, rhp, Arizona State
Second-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2009 was up to 98 mph last season.
40. Addison Russell, 3b, Pace (Fla.) HS
Choppy actions in the field and at the plate, but he makes the plays and shows big righthanded power.
41. Tyler Naquin, of, Texas A&M
Thin frame with line-drive approach; may have the speed for center field but not much experience there.
42. Duane Underwood, rhp, Pope HS, Marietta, Ga.
Athletic righty has low-90s fastball that touches 95, good changeup and an inconsistent curveball.
43. Brandon Thomas, of, Georgia Tech
Physical athlete has well above-average speed and some power from both sides of the plate.
44. Matt Smoral, lhp, Solon (Ohio) HS
Pitches at 89-92 mph right now with a slider and a changeup—big upside thanks to his 6-foot-8 frame.
45. Rio Ruiz, 3b, Bishop Amat HS, La Puente, Calif.
Prototypical third base profile—athletic with a strong arm and some power potential from the left side.
46. Lex Rutledge, lhp, Samford
Quick-armed lefty has mid-90s heat and power slider out of the bullpen, not as electric in starting role.
47. Jameis Winston, of/rhp, Hueytown (Ala.) HS
Long and lean switch-hitter is a superb athlete committed to Florida State as a quarterback.
48. Rhett Wiseman, of, BB&N HS, Cambridge, Mass.
Showcase specimen with excellent makeup still learning how tools translate into game action.
49. Anthony Alford, of, Petal (Miss.) HS
Standout football player is still raw but has impressive package of speed and strength.
50. Hudson Randall, rhp, Florida
Lacks overpowering fastball but has excellent feel for pitching and superb command of four pitches.