May 13 Mock Draft: Gerrit Cole To Pirates At No. 1

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For the first time in three years, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft isn't obvious weeks in advance. In 2009, the Nationals immediately locked in on Stephen Strasburg, the best pitching prospect in draft history. Washington had the top choice again last year and targeted Bryce Harper and his jaw-dropping power well before June.

Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, Baseball America's top-rated prospect, has been limited to DH duties for much of the season because of a shoulder strain. Teams have yet to receive a medical report detailing the exact nature of the injury and whether surgery might be required, which clouds where he might land in the draft. He shouldn't fall too far, but it may be difficult for the Pirates to use the No. 1 overall selection on a player who's at less than his best.

Rendon, UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole and Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen likely will be the first three choices, in some combination. College pitchers, the strength of an especially deep draft, likely will dominate the early selections. After that run, many teams may target position players, figuring they still can get quality arms in the sandwich and second rounds. None of the top talents is considered so unsignable that he'll plummet well past the first round, like California high school outfielder Austin Wilson (now at Stanford) did in 2010.

Gerrit Cole
1. PIRATES: Four weeks before the draft, Pittsburgh was zeroing in on the consensus top three prospects in Rendon, Cole and Hultzen. The fact that the Pirates chose Pedro Alvarez second overall in 2009 shouldn't be a consideration, because Rendon would just push him over to first base. Though Cole has battled his command recently, he'd seem to have the advantage over a wounded Rendon. If Pittsburgh wanted a position player after loading up on pitching last year, and couldn't pull the trigger on Rendon, then the draft's top athlete (Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling) could be an option.

Projected Pick: Gerrit Cole.

2. MARINERS: Seattle appears dead-set on improving one of baseball's worst offenses and would love to have a chance at Rendon, provided his medical report isn't too troubling. If he's gone or his shoulder is too scary, the Mariners could opt for Starling or Florida high schooler Francisco Lindor, the best true shortstop in the draft. They've also done their due diligence on Cole, Hultzen and the top prep pitcher, Dylan Bundy.

Projected Pick: Anthony Rendon.

Danny Hultzen
3. DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona drafted Hultzen in the 10th round out of high school and has been linked to him all spring. There's no way he would be available with the Diamondbacks' second first-rounder at No. 7, so they'd have to take Hultzen here if they want him. Besides the consensus top three, they're also looked at UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer, Bundy and Starling.

Projected Pick: Danny Hultzen.

4. ORIOLES: Baltimore scouting director Joe Jordan is from Oklahoma, as is Bundy, who's exceptionally polished for a high school arm and whose older brother already is a Baltimore farmhand. But the Orioles may be spooked by prep pitchers after taking Matt Hobgood fifth overall two years ago. Don't be surprised if manager Buck Showalter has a say in this pick, and he'd want more immediate help, too. They'd love Hultzen, but if he's off the board and they don't buy into Bauer's unorthodox mechanics and regimen, Georgia Tech lefthander Jed Bradley could be their man.

Projected Pick: Jed Bradley.

5. ROYALS: Homestate product Starling would fill one of the few holes in a loaded farm system, as would Lindor. Yet Kansas City seems more interested in a college arm to balance out a group of young sluggers on the verge of reaching the majors. The Royals would jump on Cole or Hultzen if they got this far, and also consider Bradley, Vanderbilt righthander Sonny Gray and Texas righty Taylor Jungmann.

Projected Pick: Sonny Gray.

6. NATIONALS: Washington is another team that wants a college arm, though Starling might be tempting. The Nationals are looking at the same mound candidates as other clubs at the top of the daft, and they might be the first club that would take Kentucky righthander Alex Meyer. Like Matt Harvey, the seventh overall pick in 2010 by the Mets, Meyer is blossoming after two years of inconsistency. GM Mike Rizzo covets power arms and has a history of getting deals with Boras Corp. clients (see Strasburg, Harper), and Meyer fits the bill on both counts.

Projected Pick: Alex Meyer.

Dylan Bundy
7. DIAMONDBACKS: Though this compensation choice for failing to sign 2010 first-rounder Barret Loux is unprotected, Arizona will take the best player available rather than a safer sign. The Diamondbacks would be thrilled with either Bundy or Bauer, both of whom could be available.

Projected Pick: Dylan Bundy.

8. INDIANS: Cleveland might consider Rendon or Starling but has never paid the kind of money either would require and ultimately would prefer a college pitcher for the third straight year. The best-case scenario for the Indians is that Bauer, Bundy or Bradley gets to them.

Projected Pick: Trevor Bauer.

9. CUBS: Starling has the highest ceiling in the draft, but he also comes with some risk and a high price tag (he has a football scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska), so he might fall a little further than expected. Chicago isn't afraid of risk or price tag, not if it means getting a five-tool center fielder. The Cubs have been checking out the same pitchers as everyone else, may like Meyer more than most clubs and also would consider Lindor.

Projected Pick: Bubba Starling.

10. PADRES: If San Diego decides to go the safe route with this unprotected pick (its compensation for failing to sign 2010 first-rounder Karsten Whitson), it could pop Indian River (Fla.) JC third baseman Cory Spangenberg, one of the draft's top hitters and fastest runners. The Padres may be able to get Spangenberg with their regular pick at No. 25, and they'd be better off grabbing one of the top-tier college pitchers before they run out.

Projected Pick: Taylor Jungmann.

11. ASTROS: Though Houston drafted one shortstop (Jio Mier) in the first round two years ago and traded for another (Jonathan Villar as part of the Roy Oswalt deal) in 2010, Lindor could be the top player left on its board. Jungmann, a fairly local product, would be appealing, as might Connecticut righthander Matt Barnes.

Projected Pick: Francisco Lindor.

12. BREWERS: Milwaukee lost out on one of the best high school arms in the 2010 draft, Dylan Covey, when he discovered he had Type 1 diabetes and decided he'd be better off adjusting to his condition while attending college. The Brewers can make up for that by getting their pick of any of the prep pitchers except for Bundy, such as righthanders Taylor Guerrieri (South Carolina) and Archie Bradley (Oklahoma) or lefty Daniel Norris (Tennessee).

Projected Pick: Taylor Guerrieri.

13. METS: Though ownership is seeking new investors to provide some desperately needed cash, New York won't have to make a budget-minded pick. Most of the best pitchers will have been selected, and the Mets would prefer a bat anyway. College outfielders George Springer (Connecticut) and Mikie Mahtook (Louisiana State) and Florida high school shortstop Javier Baez are possibilities, but New York may dig a little deeper and make outfielder Brandon Nimmo the first-ever prep first-rounder from Wyoming.

Projected Pick: Brandon Nimmo.

14. MARLINS: Scouting director Stan Meek lives in Oklahoma and two of his last five first-rounders (Brett Sinkbeil, Chad James) have ties to the Sooner State. Bradley could be quite attractive, though his added leverage as a University of Oklahoma-bound quarterback might not. Springer or Mathtook (the Marlins' 39th-round pick in 2008) would fill a need in center field.

Projected Pick: George Springer.

15. BREWERS: Georgia prep outfielder Larry Greene has the best raw power in the draft and is attracting interest from a handful of teams in the first round. One of those is Milwaukee, which should be able to sign him easily for MLB's slot recommendation for an unprotected pick received for the loss of Covey.

Projected Pick: Larry Greene.

16. DODGERS: Los Angeles shocked the industry by signing righthander/quarterback Zach Lee in the first round a year ago, though his $5.25 million two-sport deal provided him with less upfront money than a straight slot deal would have cost the team. With owner Frank McCourt battling MLB for control of the club, the Dodgers won't be exceeding slot money this year either. They could get creative again with a deal for Bradley, take a high school arm with less leverage such as Norris or go for a college pitcher with even less bargaining power, such as Barnes or Oregon lefthander Tyler Anderson.

Projected Pick: Archie Bradley.

17. ANGELS: Los Angeles lacks a viable lefthanded starter in its big league rotation or farm system, so Norris and Anderson would make sense. So would Texas Christian's Matt Purke, if he returns to health. If the Angels wanted to add some power, Texas outfielder Josh Bell would be attractive.

Projected Pick: Daniel Norris.

18. ATHLETICS: Oakland is focused on bolstering its weak offense, so the top college position players will all be in play: Mahtook, North Carolina shortstop Levi Michael, Utah first baseman C.J. Cron, Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong, Spangenberg and South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley. If the A's are willing to wait a little longer for a return, Bell might have a better bat than any of them.

Projected Pick: Mikie Mahtook.

Matt Barnes
19. RED SOX: This draft is so deep that there will be talented players who fall much further than expected. One might be Barnes, a New England product who could be a steal for Boston. The Red Sox also might get a second chance at Alex Meyer, who turned down $2 million as their 20th-round pick out of high school. They're as aggressive as any team in the draft but usually stick to slot with their top choice. If they depart from that philosophy, Bell's bat could be worth the investment.

Projected Pick: Matt Barnes.

20. ROCKIES: Though they're set at the position for a while with Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado could take the top college shortstop (Michael) and move him to second base. Cron could be the heir apparent to Todd Helton.

Projected Pick: Levi Michael.

21. BLUE JAYS: Toronto spent $11.6 million on its first draft under GM Alex Anthopoulos last year, going over slot several times to sign high-ceiling prepsters. Doing so again would land them Bell, the most talented player remaining in this scenario, or Baez, who has similar offensive potential.

Projected Pick: Josh Bell.

22. CARDINALS: St. Louis has no answers at shortstop, so Michael or Baez would fit nicely. Even if Baez can't stay at shortstop, he has the bat to make an impact at a less demanding position. The Cardinals are another team considering Greene as well.

Projected Pick: Javier Baez.

23. NATIONALS: Washington misses Adam Dunn's bat in the middle of its lineup, and Cron could make a nice replacement with his ability to hit for average and power.

Projected Pick: C.J. Cron.

24. RAYS: With a record 12 picks in the first two rounds of the draft, Tampa Bay can take a little of everything. Several of the best players available at this point figure to be high school pitchers, such as Jose Fernandez, a local Tampa product; Arkansas righty Dillon Howard; or Californians Robert Stephenson, Henry Owens and Joe Ross.

Projected Pick: Jose Fernandez.

25. PADRES: San Diego won't pass on Spangenberg twice. If they don't get the second chance, the offense-starved Padres will look at the other bats available. They could get a bargain if Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac or South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley can put injury-marred years behind them.

Projected Pick: Cory Spangenberg.

26. RED SOX: It's no secret that Boston is desperate to bring in more catching. The Red Sox like Austin Hedges, a California high schooler who's a defensive stalwart, and have the money to meet the asking price of the toughest sign among this year's first-round prospects. They probably wouldn't take a college catcher here, though they might consider New Mexico catcher Blake Swihart, who has more offensive potential than Hedges.

Projected Pick: Austin Hedges.

27. REDS: Texas A&M righthander John Stilson and Kent State lefthander Andrew Chafin offer the flexibility of having the stuff to start or be fast-track relievers. Wong could take over at second base soon after Brandon Phillips' contact expires following the 2012 season.

Projected Pick: John Stilson.

28. BRAVES: Though Atlanta has plenty of pitching in the majors and minors, a team can never have too much. The Braves focused on position players in this year's draft, so they may look for some balance this year with a projectable high school pitcher such as Owens or Stephenson.

Projected Pick: Henry Owens.

29. GIANTS: San Francisco has a knack for developing pitchers and don't mind if they're raw. Stephenson has huge upside and has the added bonus of being a local product from just 30 miles outside of the city.

Projected Pick: Robert Stephenson.

30. TWINS: Minnesota has had success with strike-throwers and athletic outfielders, which could lead it to Anderson, Florida State lefthander Sean Gilmartin, Jackie Bradley or Miami-Dade JC outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Projected Pick: Tyler Anderson.

31. RAYS: After taking on some risk with a high school arm at No. 24, Tampa Bay could opt for Wong. His track record for hitting makes him one of the safer picks in the draft.

Projected Pick: Kolten Wong.

Matt Purke
32. RAYS: Purke began the year as a potential No. 1 overall pick, and if ever a team could afford to gamble on a player with major health and signability questions, it's Tampa Bay. If he bounces back, he's the steal of the draft at No. 32. If not, the Rays have 11 other choices in the first two rounds and take a compensation pick in 2012.

Projected Pick: Matt Purke.

33. RANGERS: Texas focused on athletes in 2010 and figures to do so again this year, with more resources now that its ownership situation has settled. Swihart has the athletic ability and bat potential to be an asset even if he can't stay behind the plate.

Projected Pick: Blake Swihart.