1. WASHINGTON NATIONALS STEPHEN STRASBURG, RHP
Scouting Report: In the history of the draft, no prospect has received as much predraft hype and publicity as Strasburg—and the attention is warranted. His combination of stuff, pitching savvy and command make him a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Between spreads in national magazines, television features and glowing articles in major newspapers, Strasburg has had a stunning junior season for the Aztecs. A relatively low-profile recruit, he has improved by leaps and bounds both physically and mentally as a college player. He closed as a freshman and BA ranked him as the New England Collegiate League's No. 1 prospect in 2007, and he emerged as a dominant starter in 2008, highlighted by a 23-strikeout effort against Utah. He pitched both for USA Baseball's college national team and then on the Olympic team last summer, the lone amateur ever to win a spot on a pro Team USA roster. He lost to Cuba in the Olympic semifinal, and that's the last time he has lost a game. His 2009 statistics defy belief for a player competing at the major college level. After a no-hitter against Air Force, he was 11-0, 1.24, with 164 strikeouts against 17 walks in 87 innings. He had allowed just 48 hits this season, for a .161 opponent average. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Strasburg grabs your attention first with his sensational raw velocity. In his first start of the season, his first six pitches registered 98-99 mph, and he touched 100 and 101 later in the season. Of course, raw velocity is no guarantee of major league success, but Strasburg has much more than that. His hard, slurvy curveball is an 81-82 mph hitter's nightmare. Not since Tim Lincecum has one hurler had both the best fastball and the best curve in the same draft. Represented by Scott Boras Corp., Strasburg will no doubt engage in protracted negotiations, and predraft rumors indicated his demands could go as high as $50 million or that he could try a side trip to Japan to make himself a free agent. Barring something unforeseen, though, he will likely sign right at the Aug. 15 deadline and should command a guarantee in the $12 million-$15 million range. There's no doubt that Strasburg is the best college pitching prospect since Mark Prior came out of Southern California in 2001. Prior's career illustrates that no amateur pitcher is guaranteed long-term professional success, but Strasburg is the closest to a sure thing that scouts have ever seen. Major league organizations may not see a prospect like Strasburg for another 20 or 30 years, so the Nationals will not let him pass with the No. 1 pick.
2. SEATTLE MARINERS DUSTIN ACKLEY, 1B
Scouting Report: Ackley played at a 1-A high school against modest competition, and while area scouts knew about him they couldn't pull the trigger three years ago. Their loss was North Carolina's gain, as Ackley is in the midst of his third consecutive .400 season. The 2007 BA Freshman of the Year, Ackley has the best pure swing and pure bat in the '09 draft class, and maybe the best this decade. He's also a 70 runner (on the 20-80 scale) underway and should be a top-of-the-order, base-stealing threat in pro ball. Ackley has a disciplined approach and makes hitting look easy thanks to his advanced athleticism. He's balanced at the plate and has amazing hand-eye coordination, getting the barrel of the bat to the hitting zone quickly and leaving it there as long as possible. After hitting 17 home runs in his first two seasons, he was tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 16, and scouts grade his raw power as average, if not a tick above. His lone below-average tool is his arm, which he injured as a prep senior while pitching. He has played primarily first base at North Carolina and had Tommy John surgery at the end of the summer of 2008. He made two starts in the outfield in mid-May, and most scouts project him as a future center fielder and potential plus defender. He's a solid-average defender at first base if he winds up there. Scouts struggle to come up with comparisons because he's such a unique player. If he becomes a batting champion and premium leadoff man as a pro, he'll become a player others are compared to.
3. SAN DIEGO PADRES DONOVAN TATE, RHP
Scouting Report: Widely regarded as the top prep position player in the class entering the spring, Tate has done little to dissuade scouts of that notion. He earned that status with premium athletic ability, graceful actions, good bloodlines and emerging baseball skills. Tate showed his athleticism during a rigorous summer, playing for USA Baseball's 18U team, and in the Aflac and Under Armour games. The long summer prompted him to consider quitting football, but his father Lars played football at Georgia and in the NFL, and Tate has committed to play both football and baseball at North Carolina. So Tate changed his mind after one week and returned to the gridiron. His two-sport stardom has left his skills in need of some polish, particularly his hitting ability. He can get pull-happy and doesn't have a natural feel for hitting, but that doesn't significantly limit his ceiling. He has earned comparisons to fellow Georgia prep Jeff Francoeur for his athleticism, and has more feel for hitting than the Braves outfielder, with similar power potential. Tate has true bat speed and strength, and makes adjustments against better pitching. His other tools are outrageous: he's a plus-plus runner with Gold Glove potential in center field and a strong throwing arm that grades out above-average as well. Tate plays with supreme confidence that goes hand-in-hand with his well-above-average athletic ability. A Scott Boras Corp. client, Tate was considered a tough sign, and some teams wonder about his willingness to sign. Still, he remained near the top of every club's position-player board.
4. PITTSBURGH PIRATES TONY SANCHEZ, C
Scouting Report: Sanchez, who grew up playing with Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson in South Florida, dreamed of playing for the Hurricanes when he was younger, but he was overweight and overlooked by many recruiters out of high school. He's slimmed down by 35 pounds in three years at Boston College and made himself into one of the nation's premier college catchers. Sanchez is a slightly above-average major league defender with soft hands, quick feet and a solid-average to plus arm. He excels at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. Offensively, Sanchez has solid-average power, but his bat is not a sure thing. He punishes fastballs but struggles mightily against breaking balls, though he's an intelligent enough hitter to lay off breaking stuff that he cannot hit. He has a mature approach at the plate and excellent makeup on the field and off.
5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES MATT HOBGOOD, RHP
Scouting Report: Hobgood first gained attention in Southern California when he outdueled Gerrit Cole (who went on to be a first-round pick) in a high school playoff game in 2008. That made him the local player of the year as a junior, beating out first-round picks such as Cole, Kyle Skipworth and Aaron Hicks. A 6-foot-4 245-pounder, Hobgood resembles a young Goose Gossage. He has tremendous power at the plate, but he realizes his future is on the mound. His raw stuff is electric, with a fastball ranging from 90-94 mph and peaking at 95. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and in a March start he was firing four-seamers at 92-94 mph in the fifth inning. His curveball shows sharp, late break, and he also has shown a changeup and slider. All three show promise, but his command is spotty and he'll need to develop and sharpen each one. Hobgood's mechanics are cleaner than most high school pitching prospects, though he still needs refinement. If his terrific stuff combined with a more projectable build, he would probably be drafted even higher, but as it stands he should go no later than the second or third round.
6. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ZACH WHEELER, RHP
Scouting Report: Wheeler emerged last summer as the top pitcher in Georgia's East Cobb prep program and didn't let up this spring. He has a chance to be the well-regarded program's best starting pitcher ever, and he could allow Georgia to provide the top high school pitcher in the draft in consecutive seasons, following Ethan Martin (15th overall, Dodgers). Wheeler figures to go higher in the draft than fellow Georgia prep pitcher Ethan Martin did last year (15th overall) based on a picture-perfect projection body. Lean with long levers, Wheeler generates excellent arm speed and can produce mid-90s heat with his fastball, sitting in the low 90s. He has the athleticism and solid mechanics to produce average big league command. Wheeler pitches off his fastball and puts hitters away with a power breaking ball, most accurately called a slurve. It has late bite and depth, giving him a second plus pitch. Wheeler doesn't throw much of a changeup at this point. He's considered signable, having committed early to Kennesaw State with a fallback option of Chipola (Fla.) JC. His older brother Adam was a 13th-round pick in 2001 who spent four seasons in the Yankees system.
7. ATLANTA BRAVES MIKE MINOR, LHP
Scouting Report: Baseball America's reigning Summer Player of the Year, Minor vaulted into first-round consideration with a dominant performance for USA Baseball's college national team, including two victories against Cuba. Minor could be the third lefthander drafted in the first round out of Vanderbilt in the last six years, and he's more Jeremy Sowers than David Price. Like Sowers, Minor has more pitchability than stuff, with a fastball in the 86-89 mph range and a plus changeup that grades as his best pitch. His other strongest attribute could be his pickoff move, a weapon he broke out repeatedly against Cuba last summer. Minor's future may depend on his breaking stuff. He formerly threw a slider as his primary breaking ball, and at times it was an above-average pitch with depth. He showed he could throw the pitch for strikes or bury it. Minor added a solid curveball this fall and threw four pitches for strikes this spring, but some scouts think the curve has sapped some of the life off the rest of his offerings. Vanderbilt's catching problems—at one point they used a fourth-string catcher due to injuries—also limited Minor's repertoire, making him hesitant to throw his breaking balls as chase pitches. Minor will be all over draft boards in June, and could go anywhere from the first half of the first round to the back half of the second.
8. CINCINNATI REDS MIKE LEAKE, RHP
Scouting Report: Few pitchers were as consistently good this season as Arizona State righthander Mike Leake. That shouldn't come as a surprise—he's been carving up the Pac-10 for three years. A seventh-round draft pick by the Athletics out of Fallbrook (Calif.) High in 2006, Leake instead headed for Tempe and has pitched his way into first-round consideration. Listed at 6 feet, 180 pounds, what he lacks in pure physicality, he makes up for in athleticism and results. In addition to baseball, Leake played soccer, football and basketball in high school and could be a position player at Arizona State if he wasn't so valuable on the mound. Leake pounds the strike zone with a fastball that sits 88-92 mph. He can dial it up to 94, but prefers to work at lower speeds to get more movement. Throwing from a lower three-quarters arm slot, he gets a lot of armside run and sink on his fastball that results in a lot of groundballs. He also throws a changeup, slider and cutter that grade out as above-average offerings. Leake is a smart pitcher with a bulldog mentality on the mound.
9. DETROIT TIGERS JACOB TURNER, RHP
Scouting Report: Already considered a mid-first-round talent entering the season, Turner was generating serious momentum a month before the draft. He had edged ahead of Shelby Miller (Texas) and Zack Wheeler (Georgia) as the top high school righthander in the draft, and was gaining ground on Kyle Gibson as the best pitching prospect in Missouri. Whether his draft position will reflect that status remains to be seen, as he's advised by the Scott Boras Corp. and reportedly will seek to match the record guarantee given to a high school pitcher: $7 million for Josh Beckett (Marlins, 1999) and Rick Porcello (Tigers, 2007). While Turner isn't quite at the same level Beckett and Porcello were when they came out of high school, he's quite talented. The 6-foot-5, 205 pounder has such an easy three-quarters delivery that it makes his 92-94 mph fastball (which tops out at 98) seem even faster. He has good aptitude for spinning a big-breaking curveball, and he has the makings of a good changeup. All three pitches were working when he struck out five straight hitters at the Aflac All-American Game last summer. The biggest quibble with Turner is that he sometimes doesn't command his curveball, but his delivery is repeatable and he does a good job of staying on top of the pitch, so he should gain more consistency with experience. He has benefited from the tutelage of former big leaguers Andy Benes, Mike Matheny and Todd Worrell, who have sons who have played at Westminster Christian. Said Worrell, the team's pitching coach: "He's got the whole package . . . As a pitcher, he's 6-5 with a perfect pitcher's body and a live arm." Turner has committed to North Carolina, just like last year's premium prep pitcher from Missouri, Tim Melville did before signing with the Royals for $1.25 million.
10. WASHINGTON NATIONALS DREW STOREN, RHP
Scouting Report: Storen was considered one of the more polished high school pitchers available in the 2007 draft, which makes sense since he was 19. He instantly settled in as the closer and helped the Cardinal reach the 2008 College World Series. The eligible sophomore has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing '09 Stanford club. Storen has been one of the team's few consistent performers, thanks to his ability to throw quality strikes. He pumps his fastball in the 92-94 mph range and regularly touches 95-96. His fastball has decent life, and his biggest difficulty has been locating it. When he misses, he misses up, leaving him a bit homer prone. While he throws a decent changeup, it's rare, and his power slider is his best secondary pitch, giving him a second plus offering. Storen challenges hitters and isn't afraid to pitch inside. He has a good chance to be the first college closer drafted, potentially in the supplemental or second round. While many eligible sophomores at academic institutions such as Stanford can be tough signs, Storen, whose father Mark Patrick is a radio talk show host who worked on XM Radio's Home Plate baseball channel, will be 22 in August and has little left to prove in college.
11. COLORADO ROCKIES TYLER MATZEK, LHP
Scouting Report: Matzek was virtually unknown until a preseason scrimmage last year, when he squared off against righthander Gerritt Cole, who became a 2008 first-rounder and is now at UCLA. Matzek was fantastic, striking out five of six hitters in two innings as 40 scouts were crammed into the bleachers, whispering, "Who is this guy?" He's anonymous no more. He starred in the 2008 Aflac game and at showcases both nationally and in Southern California, and while he's committed to Oregon he could be the first high school player drafted. With a rare blend of quality stuff, pitching smarts and ease of delivery, he may be the best prep lefty from Southern California since Cole Hamels in 2002. Similar in build and style to Angels southpaw Joe Saunders, Matzek features a 90-93 mph fastball, which peaks at 94, as well as a sharp-breaking curveball. He has flashed a changeup and slider in the past, but had not used them much this spring. Several crosscheckers hoped to see a more advanced feel for pitching and sharper secondary stuff, and Matzek had a few indifferent outings this year, struggling with his command and experiencing a dip in velocity, perhaps due to a blister on his pitching hand, which has since healed. Matzek's arm action is wonderfully smooth, and the ball leaves with his hand with ease, though he has a tendency to open up too soon. With a nearly stiff front leg landing, his fastball will often sail up and out of the strike zone, but any flaws are considered correctable.
12. KANSAS CITY ROYALS AARON CROW, RHP
Scouting Report: Crow, then at Missouri, was the top righthander in last year's draft, and the Nationals were thrilled to get him with the ninth overall pick. But they never found any common ground in negotiations with his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, and the signing deadline passed with Crow seeking $4 million and turning down $3.5 million. Now he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer, who parlayed a stay in Fort Worth into a $4.3 million big league contract with the Diamondbacks. Crow had the best fastball package in the 2008 draft, with velocity (92-96 mph), hard sink, command and the ability to maintain it into the late innings. He showed the same heater in his first two exhibition starts with the Cats, and flashed the plus slider that overmatched college hitters. He's still regaining the sharp command he had in 2008, when he threw 43 consecutive scoreless innings at Missouri. Crow used his downtime to get stronger and to work on his changeup. There's some effort to his delivery, and some teams wonder if his mechanics and size (generously listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds) will make him more of a closer than a frontline starter. In either case, he should go in the first 10 picks again and shouldn't require much time in the minors.
13. OAKLAND ATHLETICS GRANT GREEN, SS
Scouting Report: Local area scouts have long been familiar with Green, who was drafted by the Padres in the 14th round in 2006 out of high school in Anaheim. Now 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Green should move to the top of the first round this year, building on his terrific showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he was overwhelmingly chosen as the top prospect. He struggled early this season, perhaps due to a touch of draftitis as well as two nagging injuries: a rolled ankle and hand blisters. His average hovered near the Mendoza line early, but he rallied to .365/.436/.556 as the regular season wound down. After pounding nine homers in 2008, he had three this season. Potential five-tool middle infielders are rare at the college level, prompting comparisons to former Long Beach State stars Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. Green does not project to have the same thunder in his bat—compared with Longoria, in particular—but he is similar to Tulowitzki in his defensive skills and playmaking ability. He has excellent range, outstanding hands and the smooth and fluid actions of a possible Gold Glove defender. Green has a fine arm, though not quite the cannon Tulowitzki possesses. He's faster than either Longoria or Tulowitzki, frequently clocking in the 6.6-second range over 60 yards. While he doesn't profile as an offensive powerhouse, he should become a long-term middle-infield fixture, a solid .280-plus big league hitter who may produce 15-20 home runs annually. Such potential is extremely rare in a college player.
14. TEXAS RANGERS MATT PURKE, LHP
Scouting Report: Purke rivals Tyler Matzek as the best lefthanded pitching prospect in this draft. He already throws a 92-95 mph fastball and could throw harder as he adds strength to his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. He backs up his heater with a hard slider that ranks among the best in the prep draft class. He doesn't have much experience throwing a changeup because he hasn't needed one. Last summer, Purke needed just nine pitches to work a perfect inning at the Aflac All-American Game and started the gold-medal game for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Canada (albeit taking a 7-0 loss against Korea). Matzek has moved ahead of Purke for most clubs because he works with less effort. Purke throws from a low three-quarters angle that adds life and deception, but he has slinging action in his delivery. It's not violent, but it's not smooth either. Purke's stuff, track record and strong makeup combine to make him an upper-first-round talent, though teams still were trying to gauge his signability. If he follows through on his commitment to Texas Christian, he'd be eligible again as a sophomore in 2011.
15. CLEVELAND INDIANS ALEX WHITE, RHP
Scouting Report: The Dodgers drafted White in the 14th round in 2006 and made a strong run to sign him, but he wound up at North Carolina, spending three seasons in the weekend rotation and emerging as the staff ace as a sophomore. White was electric for the Tar Heels out of the bullpen in the 2008 College World Series, sitting at 96 mph with excellent life on his fastball, and some scouts see him in that role. However, he has shown three plus pitches at times during his career, though not all at once in a somewhat inconsistent junior season. White's arm action varied a bit during the year, starting out a bit high and long in the back, and despite his excellent athleticism this caused him to struggle to command his fastball. The pitch touches the mid-90s and sits in the 91-94 mph range when White starts. His slider, a plus pitch at times, also has lacked consistency, but his split-finger fastball has supplanted it as his best secondary pitch. It has good depth and deception and neutralizes lefthanded hitters. As good as his stuff can be, White's competitiveness and athleticism may be better attributes. With more consistency he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter, though his command may preclude him from being a true big league ace.
16. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS BOBBY BORCHERING, 3B
Scouting Report: As loaded as Florida's high school ranks are in 2009—and several scouts have called it a historically deep year—Borchering established himself early as the state's best bet for a first-round selection, and he hasn't let up. He has excellent size at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and projects as a power-hitting corner infielder. While projecting high school hitters is one of the toughest jobs in scouting, evaluators regard Borchering as one of the safer prep bats in the draft. He has good hands, present strength and excellent bat speed, giving him the ability to hit both for average and for power. He went on a power binge this spring, lifting Bishop Verot from a poor start with seven home runs in a nine-game span. Borchering's bat already was going to get him drafted high, and his improved defense has moved him into first-round consideration. At times last summer he appeared destined to move to first base, and some scouts still see that as his best fit. He has improved his agility and first-step quickness this season, however, and has retained athleticism while filling out physically. He'll never be a graceful or above-average defender, but he has arm strength and soft-enough hands to play third at an average level if he keeps working at it. Borchering's Florida commitment isn't expected to dissuade him from signing in the first 50 picks.
17. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS A.J. POLLOCK, CF
Scouting Report: Pollock hasn't performed as well this spring as he did last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he was the MVP after finishing second in hitting (.377) and first in slugging (.556). While there's debate as to whether he's a true first-round talent, with a shortage of quality college hitters he should get selected in the bottom third of the round. Six-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Pollock stands out most for his athleticism and pure hitting ability from the right side. He has a simple approach, a quick bat and strong hands. Scouts do say he'll have to stop cheating out on his front side and stay back more on pitches in pro ball. Those who like Pollock say that the rest of his tools are solid, while those who don't say he doesn't have another plus tool and question his power. He projects as a 30 doubles/15 homers threat in the majors, and he's a slightly above-average runner who has plus speed once he gets going. Pollock also has good instincts and a solid arm in center field.
18. FLORIDA MARLINS CHAD JAMES, LHP
Scouting Report: James spent the offseason on a stringent conditioning program, and his hard work will pay off when he gets selected in the first round in June. After pitching in the high 80s and showing a mediocre curveball last year, he has gotten noticeably stronger. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder now routinely sits at 90-92 mph and touches 95 with his fastball. While his curveball needs more consistency, it's close to a plus pitch at times. He continues to have success with a changeup that ranks as one of the best among this draft's high schoolers. James has some minor delivery issues, but he's so athletic that he should be able to make those tweaks with ease. His brother Justin was a fifth-round pick out of Missouri by the Blue Jays in 2003. Chad has committed to Oklahoma State, but his stock continues to rise, making it unlikely he'll make it to college.
19. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS SHELBY MILLER, RHP
Scouting Report: No high school pitcher has a better fastball than Miller. At 94 mph, he tied for the highest velocity recorded at last summer's Area Code Games, and he has touched 96 this spring. He usually pitches at 92-93 mph, but his fastball has more than just velocity. It has tremendous life, it's deceptive because he has such an easy delivery and he does a good job of using his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to throw it downhill. Miller spins a solid curve that will be a plus pitch when he commands it more consistently. He has made strides with his changeup as well. He has sound mechanics and arm action, and a blue-collar work ethic. He's a good athlete who also starred in football, making the all-state 3-A second team as a tight end and punter in the fall. Miller is Texas A&M's top recruit, but he's expected to turn pro after going in the upper half of the first round.
20. TORONTO BLUE JAYS CHAD JENKINS, RHP
Scouting Report: While Kyle Heckathorn entered the year as the top prospect in the A-Sun, Jenkins and Brothers weren't far behind. A mid-80s guy in high school, Jenkins had a soft body but his arm worked well, and he has improved significantly in college. He had a strong sophomore season, first with Kennesaw State (5-5, 3.96), then in the Great Lakes League. Jenkins has firmed up his still soft body, and his velocity has caught up with his ability to throw strikes. He now has two or three plus pitches at times with good command, giving him serious helium. Jenkins has a great feel for pitching and now sits at 90-93 mph with his hard sinker and reaches back for 96 mph with a four-seamer at times. His sinker has boring action in on righthanded hitters when it's going well. His slider gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup is average. Jenkins repeats his delivery, and scouts see his big 6-foot-4, 225-pound body as a durable asset, particularly if he keeps getting in better shape. He resembles Phillies righthander Joe Blanton, with better command, and should go in the first 20 picks.
Will An Innings Limit In 2021 Actually Reduce Injury Risk For Pitchers?
There's little scientific evidence to suggest that limiting innings based off how much a pitcher threw the previous season will reduce injury risk.
21. HOUSTON ASTROS JIOVANNI MIER, SS
Scouting Report: Mier is supported by a large and enthusiastic family. At the 2008 Aflac Classic they made up a sizeable cheering section, complete with artfully constructed banners and signs. His mother Leticia is a fixture at his games, with her ever-present video camera, and has seen plenty of highlights this year. Mier is the rare prep shortstop who projects to remain at that position in pro ball. He has above-average speed and a powerful arm that grades out to well-above-average. He occasionally pitches for his high school squad, and scouts have gunned his fastball in the 91-93 mph range. He has an athletic and projectable 6-foot-2 170-pound frame. Mier has decent hands, though his actions need to be smoother, which should come with experience. He has been inconsistent with the bat, struggling last summer during showcases but looking sensational last fall at the World Wood Bat Championship and the Southern California scout ball all-star game. Overstriding threw off his timing earlier in the spring, but of late he shortened his stride, though he still has a tendency to lunge at the ball and get his weight out on his front leg. When Mier squares a pitch up, the ball flies off his bat. He has the natural quickness and hand-eye coordination to be an excellent hitter. He projects as a line-drive singles and doubles hitter, with slightly below-average power.
22. MINNESOTA TWINS KYLE GIBSON, RHP
Scouting Report: For the third time in four years, Missouri will have a pitcher taken early in the first round. Gibson doesn't have the arm strength of Max Scherzer (2006, Diamondbacks) or Aaron Crow (2008, Nationals), but he may wind up being the best pitcher of the three. He relies on two-seam fastballs more than four-seamers, usually pitching at 88-91 mph with good sink and tailing action, though he can reach back for 94 mph when needed. He has two of the better secondary pitches in the draft, a crisp 82-85 mph slider and a deceptive changeup with fade that can generate swings and misses. All of his offerings play up because he has excellent command and pitchability. He repeats his smooth delivery easily, and his 6-foot-6, 208-pound frame allows him to throw on a steep downhill plane. If there's a knock on Gibson, it's that he hasn't added much velocity during his three years with the Tigers, but that hasn't stopped him from succeeding as soon as he stepped on campus. He led Team USA's college team with five wins last summer, including a victory in the gold-medal game at the the FISU World Championships. He was a lock to go in the top 10 picks before a stress fracture sidelined him just a week before the draft.
23. CHICAGO WHITE SOX JARED MITCHELL, OF
Scouting Report: Mitchell wanted $1 million to give up football and sign out of high school, when he flashed first-round talent and dropped to the Twins in the 10th round because of signability. Three years later, he has put himself in position to go in the first round and receive that seven-figure bonus. Louisiana State football coach Les Miles gave Mitchell the spring off to focus on baseball, and the extra work has paid off. The best athlete in college baseball, Mitchell is an electric 6-foot, 192-pounder with plus-plus speed and power potential. He was hitting a career-high .325 with a week to go in the regular season, and he has dramatically improved his plate discipline. He still strikes out a lot because he concentrates so much on taking pitches that he often falls behind in the count. His swing needs work too, as he'll have to spread out for more balance and use less of an uppercut in pro ball. Mitchell flies down the line from the left side and steals bases on sheer speed, and he'll be a terror once he gets better reads and jumps. He plays right field for Louisiana State but easily has enough range to move to center. His defense also needs refinement, as he tends to drift on fly balls. His arm is his lone below-average tool, but it will play fine in center field. A reserve wide receiver on the Tigers' 2007 national championship football team, Mitchell has a passion for baseball and is ready to give up the gridiron. He'll need more development time than most college players, but he also has the potential to become the next Carl Crawford.
24. LOS ANGELES ANGELS RANDAL GRICHUK, OF
Scouting Report: Grichuk first made a name for himself as a power hitter at the 2004 Little League World Series, leading the tournament with four homers, and hasn't stopped hitting home runs since. He hit three longballs as the United States won the gold medal at the 2007 World Youth Championship in Venezuela, and he regularly went deep at prestigious events on the showcase circuit last summer. At the International Power Showcase at Tampa's Tropicana Dome in January, he led all comers with 20 total homers, including a 475-foot blast with a metal bat. Grichuk is more than just a masher, however. He doesn't have the prettiest righthanded stroke, but his strong hands and bat speed should allow him to hit for a solid average once he adjusts his pull-oriented ed approach. A 6-foot, 195-pounder, Grichuk has decent athleticism and fits best defensively as a left fielder. He's a below-average runner with a fringe arm, but his work ethic and passion for the game should make him a solid defender. He has committed to Arizona but is considered signable if he goes in the first three rounds as expected.
25. LOS ANGELES ANGELS MIKE TROUT, OF
Scouting Report: Trout has turned himself into a favorite of scouts in the Northeast, both for his talent and his makeup. An East Carolina commitment, he has rocketed up draft boards as a senior, thanks to an improved offensive approach. Last year, even in the fall, he had a tendency to bail out in the batter's box, particularly against sliders. This spring he has quieted his approach and improved against breaking balls, and he's shown the ability to hit hard line drives to all fields, though his swing still gets loopy and long at times. Halfway through the spring, Trout even began working on hitting lefthanded, and he showed some aptitude for it. Trout's frame and skill set draws comparisons to Aaron Rowand, but he's a faster runner—he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. He has good range and instincts in center field and plenty of arm for the position. Trout's bat is not a sure thing, but he has a chance to be a solid-average hitter with average or better power. Like Rowand, Trout is a grinder who always plays the game hard.
26. MILWAUKEE BREWERS ERIC ARNETT, RHP
Scouting Report: Indiana University produced just one first-round pick in the first 44 drafts, shortstop James DeNeff (No. 8 overall, Angels) in 1966. Forty-three years later, the Hoosiers should have their second—and it's not preseason All-America catcher Josh Phegley. After pitching mostly out of the bullpen and having only sporadic success in his first two seasons at Indiana, Arnett got stronger and tightened his slider. He flashed a 92 mph fastball as a freshman, and now he's sitting at 92-94 mph, touching 96 and maintaining his velocity into the late innings. His mid-80s slider gives him a second strikeout pitch. He also is doing a better job of using his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame to leverage the ball down in the strike zone. He's a workhorse who has held up well while averaging nearly eight innings per start, and he ranked second in NCAA Division I with 11 wins entering the final week of regular-season play. Arnett will need to improve his changeup to remain a starter in pro ball, and some scouts think he lands too hard on his front leg in his delivery. Others say his mechanics are fine, and enough teams like him that he should go in the second half of the first round.
27. SEATTLE MARINERS NICK FRANKLIN, SS
Scouting Report: An Auburn recruit, Franklin is the latest in a line of Lake Brantley High baseball stars that has included Jason Varitek, Felipe Lopez and brothers Rickie and Jemile Weeks. Franklin, who helped lead last year's team to a state 6-A title, has surpassed them all in terms of performance, hitting 10 homers this spring to lead Lake Brantley back to the state playoffs. A switch-hitter, Franklin has shown bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and uses the whole field. Scouts don't expect him to hit for even average power with wood, but he should have enough strength in his wiry frame to keep pitchers honest. Scouts have made comparisons to players such as Aaron Hill or Lopez offensively, though he has less power. He's an above-average runner with fast-twitch athleticism and the ability to stay at shortstop as a pro, which makes him likely to go out in the first two rounds. Franklin has infield actions, solid footwork that needs polish and more than enough arm strength for shortstop, as it grades above-average. Franklin's makeup resembles Hill's more than Lopez's, which is a strong positive.
28. BOSTON RED SOX REYMOND FUENTES, OF
Scouting Report: A relative of Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, Fuentes is an electric, game-changing player. The 6-foot, 160-pound center fielder is slender, but has wiry strength and can put a change in a ball during batting practice. Like a ticking clock, he hits line drives from foul pole to foul pole with his lefthanded swing. He's also an elite runner, clocking in at just under 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash at Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Tournament in early May. In game situations, Fuentes stays within himself, goes with a contact-oriented approach and lets his plus speed play to his advantage. These tools make Fuentes an ideal leadoff hitter. Defensively, Fuentes' range will allow him to stay in center field as a professional. Right down to his below-average arm, he's a similar player to the Yankees' Johnny Damon.
29. NEW YORK YANKEES SLADE HEATHCOTT, OF
Scouting Report: Heathcott is an enigma for scouts. He's a legitimate second-round talent as both an outfielder and a lefthanded pitcher, but he has DHed for most of the spring. He was out until mid-March recovering from November surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, then jammed his throwing shoulder diving for a fly ball in his second game back. When healthy, he's an athletic outfielder with five-tool potential. He swings a quick bat from the left side and has strength and power in his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. He earns plus grades for his hitting and his speed, and he has good range and above-average arm strength in the outfield. Heathcott was selected for the Aflac All-American Game last summer as a pitcher, and some clubs like him more as a lefty with an 88-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and a promising curveball. There's effort in his delivery because he approaches pitching like he does everything else: full speed ahead. Heathcott hasn't pitched this spring because of the shoulder injury, however. His makeup also is a concern for several clubs, so it's uncertain where he'll fit in the draft. He's committed to Louisiana State.
30. TAMPA BAY RAYS LeVON WASHINGTON, 2B
Scouting Report: Washington attends the same high school that Marlins lefthander Andrew Miller did, but he's about as different a player as he can be. Washington's arm strength might be at the other end of the scale from Miller's, as he's recovering from labrum surgery, and some scouts say his arm is below the 20 at the bottom of the 20-80 scouting scale. His arm and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Johnny Damon, another central Florida prep product. Like Damon, Washington can hit, and he was moving up draft boards thanks to his blazing speed and consistent spring. A 6.2-second runner over 60 yards at showcases, Washington has played mostly infield but doesn't have the arm for it, and most scouts see him as an outfielder thanks to his easy speed. Washington has bat speed at the plate, giving him solid pop, though not true power, and he has shown signs of developing a good pro approach. Washington, who spent three years in Guam when his father was assigned there while in the military, could move as high as the supplemental first round despite his arm.
31. CHICAGO CUBS BRETT JACKSON, OF
Scouting Report: Jackson is most frequently compared with J.D. Drew, at least physically. But while critics often question Drew's passion, the same accusation could never be directed at Jackson. Strong and muscular, Jackson is a wonderful athlete who is a perpetual motion machine on the field and plays with flair. He is an enthusiastic, upbeat and supportive teammate, and he's an aggressive baserunner who challenges outfielders and takes the extra base, often diving in headfirst while doing so. He uses his above-average speed to chase down drives in the gaps in center field, and he has the range to flag down balls hit in front of him or over his head. His arm can be inconsistent, but he has enough arm strength for both left and center. Most criticism surrounding Jackson centers on his hitting, where he's not nearly as polished as Drew. He utilizes an inward-turning, hand-pumping, leg-kicking, load-up-and-let-it-fly swing. He has excellent bat speed and shows the ability to rifle the ball around the diamond, with acceptable home run power, particularly for a leadoff man. His high strikeout totals hurt his draft chances, though, and he had 58 whiffs in 206 at-bats this season.
32. COLORADO ROCKIES TIM WHEELER, OF
Scouting Report: Among California scouts, a "Sac State guy" is typically an undersized, modestly talented but scrappy and energetic player, short on tools but long on hustle. At showcase events, it's common to hear scouts use the term as a shorthand way of identifying such players. No Sac State player has ever been drafted above the fourth round, but Wheeler will smash all of those precedents and cliches. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds with a strong and athletic frame and lefthanded bat, he's a prototypical corner outfield prospect. His wiry build has room for further projection. Scouts suspected Wheeler was poised for a breakout after a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, but he has exceeded even those expectations, batting .396/.500/.786 with 18 homers and 69 RBIs. Wheeler's bat is by far his primary tool. He projects to be a plus big league hitter, with power that is a shade above-average. An average arm and speed that's just a tick above-average probably mean he's best suited for left field in pro ball. Scouts laud his baserunning instincts. Scouts who saw Wheeler last year, or even earlier this year, would not have pegged him as a first-round candidate, but as the season has progressed his bat has made the prospect more and more likely.