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2011 MLB Mock Draft (May 27): Anthony Rendon Moves Into Top Spot

Two weeks have passed since our initial first-round projection, yet the draft still remains unsettled at the top.

Rice’s Anthony Rendon returned to the field (at second base rather than his customary third base) and homered in the Conference USA tournament on Thursday, but that still doesn’t change the fact that a shoulder injury has limited him to DH and reduced his power for most of the spring. UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole, who takes the mound again tonight at Arizona State, has an electric arm but continues to lack consistency with his secondary pitches and command.

Rendon and Cole entered 2011 as the draft’s top two prospects and still are in the Pirates’ mix for the No. 1 overall pick. But neither has seized the top spot as many expected they would, and Pittsburgh’s top front-office and scouting officials are meeting this week to deliberate over their selection. The other leading candidate is Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen, with the top high school position (outfielder Bubba Starling from Kansas) and pitching (righthander Dylan Bundy from Oklahoma) prospects also under consideration.

Until the Pirates make up their mind, the clubs behind them don’t know what they’ll do either. The top six players on BA’s Top 200 Prospect list—Rendon, Bundy, Cole, Hultzen, UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer and Starling—figure to be the first six selections, but the order in which they’re picked could unfold in a variety of different ways.

Here’s our best guess as to what will happen, 10 days before the draft:
1. PIRATES: The industry consensus is that Pittsburgh will take a college player, rather than opting for the draft’s best overall athlete in Starling or making Bundy the first high school righthander ever selected No. 1 overall. After loading up on pitching last year, grabbing Rendon would make the most sense, unless his as-yet-unreleased medical reports indicated a serious injury that would preclude him from playing third base. This pick may not be resolved until after Rendon, Cole and Hultzen perform in NCAA regional tournaments next weekend. Projected Pick: Anthony Rendon.

2. MARINERS: Word is that Seattle covets Rendon. If the Pirates eliminate that option, the Mariners may prefer taking a position player (Starling or Florida high school shortstop Francisco Lindor) to choosing one of the college pitchers. Projected Pick: Bubba Starling.

3. DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona drafted Hultzen in the 10th round out of high school and has been on him all spring. This may be the surest pick in the top six, even if Cole remains available. Projected Pick: Danny Hultzen.

4. ORIOLES: Some teams believe Bundy’s combination of stuff, polish and athleticism pushes him ahead of all of the college pitchers. Baltimore drafted his brother Bobby in the eighth round three years earlier. The X Factor is whether manager Buck Showalter gets involved in the draft like he did in Arizona and Texas, and he pushes for a pitcher with more size and a college pedigree, such as UCLA teammates Cole and Bauer. Projected Pick: Dylan Bundy.

5. ROYALS: Though fans are clamoring for Starling, who lives 30 miles outside of Kansas City, he wouldn’t be available in this scenario and the Royals seem to be targeting college pitchers in any case. Cole would be a nice surprise if he lasted until No. 5, but they won’t take Bauer, whose long-toss workouts clash with the organization’s throwing regimen. Their next choices would be another college arm, such as Connecticut’s Matt Barnes or Georgia Tech’s Jed Bradley, or perhaps Lindor. Projected Pick: Gerrit Cole.

6. NATIONALS: Washington figures to take whichever of the top six players remains, and it would be thrilled with this scenario, which would give it Bauer. The Nationals’ leading candidate outside of the top six appears to be Kentucky righthander Alex Meyer, who’s rising fast. Projected Pick: Trevor Bauer.

7. DIAMONDBACKS: While Arizona won’t go cheap with this unprotected pick (compensation for not signing 2010 first-rounder Barret Loux), it would like to have a deal in place with whomever it chooses. That said, the Diamondbacks would love a shot at someone like Bundy (who has floated a $30 million price tag), Starling (who has extra leverage as a Nebraska quarterback recruit) or Bauer. If they’re all gone, Arizona may turn to Florida high school shortstop Javier Baez, whose offensive potential leads some clubs to rate him ahead of Lindor. Barnes and Bradley are other options. Projected Pick: Javier Baez.

8. INDIANS: Cleveland is the first club associated with Oklahoma prep righthander Archie Bradley, but hasn’t taken a prepster in the first round since Dan Denham and Alan Horne in 2001. The best bet is that the Indians will take a college pitcher from among Jed Bradley, Barnes, Texas righthander Taylor Jungmann and Vanderbilty righty Sonny Gray. Projected Pick: Jed Bradley.

9. CUBS: Chicago would love a shot at Bundy or Starling but likely will have to settle for the next high-ceiling high schooler in Archie Bradley. He showed the most explosive arm on the showcase circuit last summer and finished strong this spring, hitting 101 mph on the stadium scoreboard gun during the Oklahoma 6-A state championship game. Projected Pick: Archie Bradley.

10. PADRES: San Diego’s top brass have been seen at a lot of Connecticut games recently, which fits the thought that they’re looking for a college arm (Barnes) or bat (outfielder George Springer). Barnes has been on the rise as of late, while teams are cooling a bit on Springer. The Padres also like sweet-swinging Indian River (Fla.) JC third baseman Cory Spangenberg, who probably won’t make it all the way down to them at No. 25. This choice is unprotected, compensation for failing to sign first-rounder Karsten Whitson last year. Projected Pick: Matt Barnes.

11. ASTROS: Scouting director Bobby Heck has taken up-the-middle players Jason Castro, Jio Mier and Delino DeShields Jr. with his three first-round picks with Houston, but would he take another (Lindor) with Mier and Roy Oswalt trade acquisition Jonathan Villar already in the system? Taking a college arm would provide more immediate help, and home-state star Jungmann would appease a disgruntled fan base. Archie Bradley could be tempting, too. Projected Pick: Taylor Jungmann.

12. BREWERS: After including Alcides Escobar in the Zack Greinke trade, Milwaukee needs a shortstop, and Lindor would provide fine value with the No. 12 selection. The college pitchers will be tempting, but a good one should last three more picks for the Brewers at No. 15. Projected Pick: Francisco Lindor.

13. METS: New York will be eying the college arms as well, but seems to prefer a position player, especially if Jungmann and Jed Bradley are gone. They have interest in Wyoming outfielder Brandon Nimmo but not his $2.5 million price tag, as well as in Baez, but are more likely to go the college route with Louisiana State outfielder Mikie Mahtook or North Carolina shortstop Levi Michael. South Carolina prep righthander Taylor Guerrieri is another consideration. Projected Pick: Mikie Mahtook.

14. MARLINS: Florida is linked to several college bats, including Spangenberg, Mahtook (its 39th-round pick in 2008), Springer and Michael. The Marlins also could take the right college pitcher, perhaps Jed Bradley, if he falls. Projected Pick: Cory Spangenberg.

15. BREWERS: There are eight college pitchers with aspirations of becoming top-10 picks, but they all can’t go that high. In this scenario, Milwaukee gets to choose between Gray and Meyer. This pick is unprotected (compensation for unsigned 2010 first-rounder Dylan Covey), but that shouldn’t stop the Brewers from signing a talented player. Projected Pick: Sonny Gray.

16. DODGERS: With owner Frank McCourt battling MLB for control of his franchise, the biggest lock in the first round is that Los Angeles won’t exceed MLB’s bonus recommendation with this pick. Seven of assistant GM/scouting director Logan White’s 10 first-rounders with the Dodgers have been high school arms, and he could be at it again with Guerrieri, righthander Robert Stephenson (California) or lefty Daniel Norris (Tennessee). If the prepsters balk at a slot bonus, Los Angeles could opt for a collegian such as Oregon lefthander Tyler Anderson. Projected Pick: Taylor Guerrieri.

17. ANGELS: Los Angeles’ other team is more willing to open its wallet. The Angels could pounce on Archie Bradley or Lindor if they fall, or spend for high-ceiling talents such as Meyer or Texas high school outfielder Josh Bell. Projected Pick: Alex Meyer.

18. ATHLETICS: Oakland needs offense and is looking at college bats, among them Springer, Mahtook, Michael, Spangenberg, Utah first baseman C.J. Cron and Indiana outfielder Alex Dickerson. Bell might have more upside than any of them, but the Athletics would be delighted to get Springer, a projected top-five pick at the start of the year. Projected Pick: George Springer.

19. RED SOX: It’s no secret that Boston needs catching, but the two best backstops are high schoolers with high price tags (Austin Hedges from California, Blake Swihart from New Mexico) who should be available when the Red Sox pick again at No. 26. They usually stick to slot bonuses in the first round and get aggressive deeper in the draft, but Bell’s bat could lead to a change in philosophy. Projected Pick: Josh Bell.

20. ROCKIES: Unless one of the college arms slides this far, Colorado likely will take a college position player. Michael or Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong could play alongside Troy Tulowitzki for years, and Mahtook or Springer also would be a nice fit. Projected Pick: Levi Michael.

21. BLUE JAYS: Bell probably doesn’t get past Toronto if he’s still available. If not, a high school arm (Norris, Stephenson, Jose Fernandez from Florida) could provide the most value. Projected Pick: Daniel Norris.

22. CARDINALS: St. Louis is one of the handful of a teams that could pop Georgia prep outfielder Larry Greene in the first round, but many clubs view him as a second- or third-round talent. If the Cardinals want a slugger, Cron would be a much safer bet, albeit with less athleticism and position value. Projected Pick: C.J. Cron.

23. NATIONALS: Washington would be interested if Springer, Mahtook, Michael or Cron were available, but that may be a stretch. Getting Anderson to go with Bauer would give the Nationals two college pitchers who wouldn’t need much minor league seasoning. Projected Pick: Tyler Anderson.

24. RAYS: With a record 12 picks in the first two rounds, Tampa Bay can target anything and everything. High school righthanders will be the most attractive commodity at this point, with Fernandez (a local Tampa product), Stephenson, Dillon Howard (from Arkansas) and Joe Ross (California). Projected Pick: Jose Fernandez.

25. PADRES: San Diego would jump on Spangenberg or Springer if it gets the chance. More likely college position-player alternatives include Michael, outfielders Brian Goodwin (Miami-Dade JC) and Jackie Bradley (South Carolina) and catcher Andrew Susac (Oregon State). Projected Pick: Brian Goodwin.

26. RED SOX: Boston should get an opportunity here to take Hedges or Swihart, if not both, though they also could be available for the club’s next selection at No. 36. The Red Sox also have interest in high school righthanders Ross and Tyler Beede, and the latter is a Massachusetts product. Projected Pick: Austin Hedges.

27. REDS: Cincinnati would prefer a college pitcher, hoping that Meyer or Anderson somehow linger on the board. More realistic options are lefthanders Sean Gilmartin (Florida State), Josh Osich (Oregon State) and Grayson Garvin (Vanderbilt). The Reds will take the best available talent who’s affordable, and have interest in college bats (Spangenberg, Michael, Goodwin) and high school arms (Fernandez, Stephenson, Ross). Projected Pick: Robert Stephenson.

28. BRAVES: After loading up on hitters in the 2010 draft, Atlanta could seek some balance with pitchers this time around. Scouting director Tony DeMacio has an affinity for lefthanders, so California prepster Henry Owens, Gilmartin, Osich or Garvin could be his man. Keep an eye on Texas high school shortstop Trevor Story, who had an impressive workout for the Braves. Projected Pick: Henry Owens.

29. GIANTS: San Francisco has a knack for finding talent in the Pacific Northwest and developing hard-throwing lefthanders, which could lead it to Osich. He has recovered from Tommy John surgery to touch 97 mph and author a no-hitter this spring. Projected Pick: Josh Osich.

30. TWINS: Minnesota always seems to find strike-throwers and athletic outfielders, two talent pools that could yield Anderson, Gilmartin, Jackie Bradley or Goodwin. The Twins emphasize changeups, and Gilmartin has a dandy. Projected Pick: Sean Gilmartin.

31. RAYS: If Tampa Bay uses a portfolio approach, it could balance a high school pitcher at 24 with a college bat here. Michael, Cron and Wong are possibilities. Projected Pick: Kolten Wong.

32. RAYS: No team can afford to gamble as much as Tampa Bay. Texas Christian lefthander Matt Purke could be the steal of the draft, but he sat at 88-90 mph in his Mountain West conference tournament start, and his health and signability remain huge questions. A more prudent risk might be to take Swihart, whose promising bat and athleticism could make him a star even if he doesn’t stay at catcher. Coincidentally, the Rays have hit the jackpot once before in New Mexico with Double-A lefthander Matt Moore. Projected Pick: Blake Swihart.

33. RANGERS: Texas focuses on athletes, and with new ownership it might be willing to spend on Nimmo. Swihart and Goodwin also would fit the Rangers mold. Projected Pick: Brandon Nimmo.

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