Mock drafts are a special sort of useless. Everyone enjoys mock drafts, even though they are never correct. But why let something like that stop us from spending some quality time together talking about the draft? Using a combination of my in-the-game connections, team preferences, and some educated guessing I've decided to try and pin down one of the most fluid drafts in recent memory.
1) Washington Nationals - Stephen Strasburg, RHP San Diego State
Hey, that was easy! Strasburg has been the presumptive number one pick the entire draft process. He's a generational talent who gives a much beleaguered fan base real cause for celebration. I don't think he's going to stay healthy for 2,000 innings, but I wouldn't say that about many pitchers. I've been lucky enough to see him in person a couple times this year and when I looked into his eyes it was like the first time I heard The Beatles.
2) Seattle Mariners - Dustin Ackley, CF University of North Carolina
The drop-off between the first and second pick is generally precipitous, and in this year the case is no different. Even at this late point in the evaluation process, there are half a dozen prospects still in serious contention for the No. 2 overall pick. New Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik made his name as a player evaluation guru, overseeing the Brewers surge in home-grown talent. The Brewers favored hitters during Mr. Z's tenure...enter Dustin Ackley the 2009 draft's best hitter. While his power may never be much better than average, Ackley is a 70 hitter and 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale with tremendous patience at the plate. He's one of the safest players in a draft brimming with uncertainty. I'd be mildly shocked if Seattle passed on Ackley, although I hear they plan on turning him into a LOOGY reliever.
3) San Diego Padres - Donavan Tate, CF Cartersville HS (GA)
The rebuilding process in San Diego is just getting underway and a key part of the process is addressing an organizational void in high-ceiling talent. The most athletic high schooler in the country, Tate will be expensive to buy away from his commitment to play baseball and football at UNC. While some people within the Padres organization still prefer college players such as Grant Green, Kyle Gibson or even Aaron Crow, I think Tate wins out. His biggest flaw is that he's still raw, and as a result, his pitch recognition skills are a little underdeveloped. The Padres teach patience as well as it can be taught.
4) Pittsburgh Pirates - Wil Myers, C Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
Myers ranked No. 18 in my most recent draft board so going fourth overall would seem like a stretch. However, trying to peg what the Pirates are going to do is always a dicey proposition. More importantly, the Pirates' brass seems to be focusing significant financial resources into the Latin American market this summer. Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano seems likely to command as much money as a top five pick. Myers is very athletic and versatile with a solid approach at the plate and good power potential. He should be able to stay at catcher and profiles as above-average offensively and defensively at the position. If the Pirates can come to a "handshake" below-market deal, Myers could be the pick.
5) Baltimore Orioles - Tanner Scheppers, RHP St. Paul Saints
The Orioles have established one of the best groups of young players in the game. The rebuilding effort is not complete however, and I think the Orioles address pitching pretty heavily in this draft. All the high school pitchers are still on the board at this point, nabbing Matzek, Turner, Miller or Wheeler here certainly makes some sense. Baltimore has had good success getting high profile college players in the last couple of drafts, which may give Scheppers a slight leg up. If their medical staff gives Scheppers the green light, he would provide the type of high-upside, polished fireballer who could make an impact very soon. A Matusz/Scheppers one-two punch would give plenty of support to Baltimore's Jones/Markakis/Wieters offensive core.
6) San Fransisco Giants - Tyler Matzek, LHP Capistrano Valley High School (CA)
You can arrange the top five or six high school pitchers in just about any order you want this year. I view Matzek as the best. His combination of terrific mechanics, advanced control, and multiple breaking balls give him the highest floor of any prep hurler in this draft. The Giants have had great success in recent years developing pitchers, and despite their anemic offensive, you can never have enough pitching. Ideally the Giants would prefer to bolster their offense, but there doesn't look to be good offensive value at this point in the draft. Should Donavan Tate still be on the board, he's a real possibility. Rich Poythress is an outside possibility but would be a bit of a stretch at number six.
7) Atlanta Braves - Zack Wheeler RHP, East Paulding High School (GA)
A strong-armed, local high school product with good upside going to the Braves, you say? This is a classic Atlanta pick, and rumor is pretty heavy they love the Dallas, Georgia native. High school pitching looks to be the best value on the board at this spot in the draft, and the Braves develop it well. Wheeler has a big fastball, 92-95 mph with fantastic late life and hard downward movement. His breaking ball is a big slurvey pitch that projects as an out pitch. He generates a tremendous amount of leg drive and shows great core strength, making me think even more velocity is possible with slight adjustments to his arm action -- he's a little slow picking the ball up, wasting some of the energy he creates. The sky's the limit for Wheeler, and I can't see him falling past the Braves.
8) Cincinnati Reds - Kyle Gibson RHP, University of Missouri
The Reds are pretty hard to figure out, in terms of draft strategy. They show a slight preference for college players, but aren't afraid to select high schoolers. They'll take players at solid value, but will stray away from convention as well (Yonder Alonso over Justin Smoak). Gibson is a big guy with solid stuff and without obvious effort in his delivery. He has also been very productive this year, and his advanced command should allow him to move pretty quickly though the minor leagues. I'm not a huge fan but I understand that I'm in the minority.
9) Detroit Tigers - Aaron Crow RHP, Forth Worth Cats
The ninth overall selection should feel familiar to Crow, who was unsigned as the ninth pick in last year's draft. There has been a lot of talk that Detroit is leaning towards a high school hitter with this pick like Mike Trout or Wil Myers, but the Tigers always prefer strong arms in the draft. Crow is pretty awful mechanically, but the Tigers wouldn't really mind if he settled in as a late-inning reliever in short order.
10) Washington Nationals - Mike Minor, LHP Vanderbilt
The Nationals will likely look to cut some sort of deal with the 10 pick. Some may overblow the need to go below-slot with this pick. The Nationals offered Mark Teixeira more money than the Yankees did last winter and saved cash in the draft last year by not signing Crow. GM Mike Rizzo recently told BA's Jim Callis, "We do see this draft as one where the guy we take with the No. 10 pick might be No. 25 on someone else’s board," Rizzo said. "But if we take, say, Chad Jenkins or [California outfielder] Brett Jackson or whoever, it’s because we think he’s the 10th-best guy in the draft." If you think Chad Jenkins or Brett Jackson is the 10th-best prospect, you should have your head examined. Mike Minor could be affordable and represents much better value than someone like Jackson or Jenkins.
11) Colorado Rockies - James Paxton, LHP University of Kentucky
The Rockies have gone surprisingly college-heavy in recent years, not taking a high school player last year until the 14th round. Even post-humidor, Coors Field is a tough place to pitch and the Rockies need pitchers who can get outs on their own. Paxton keeps the ball out of play, by striking everyone out. He could go much higher, but shouldn't last past Colorado with this pick.
12) Kansas City Royals - Jacob Turner, RHP Westminster Christian Academy (MO)
As Turner's velocity has increased this spring, so has his asking price. A few teams in the top ten might be scared off by the potential financial commitment to Turner, but the Royals showed last year they aren't afraid to tackle tough negotiations. Catcher is certainly a point of organizational need, but Turner provides much better value. His fastball has run up to 96-98 mph this spring while he has maintained the late sink that made his fastball a potential plus pitch when he threw it 92-94 mph. Some people -- maybe those being told to by Scott Boras -- have compared Turner to Rick Porcello. Porcello was a once-in-a-decade talent and Turner, arguably, isn't the best high school pitcher in this draft. Their fastballs are similar, but Turner's breaking stuff lags well behind where Porcello's was going into the draft. Still, Turner and Zack Grienke would give lots of hitters fits.
13) Oakland Athletics - Rich Poythress, 1B University of Georgia
The A's have shifted their philosophy a bit from just grabbing slow guys who can walk, arbitraging the lack of importance placed on defense in recent years. Still I don't think Billy Beane can help himself with a player like Poythress. Patient and powerful, Poythress is as likely to hit in the middle of someone's order as any hitter in the draft. Even though he's a big guy, with the strength of a Kodiak Bear, Poythress is actually a good athlete for his size a very good defender at first base.
14) Texas Rangers - Shelby Miller, RHP Brownwood HS (TX)
The Rangers have rebuilt a farm system in short order by taking some gambles on high-risk guys, and having those gambles pay off. GM Jon Daniels leans towards big prep power arms and Shelby Miller fits that bill, with the added benefit of being a local product. Very athletic, with elite arm strength, and a potentially plus curveball, Miller would fit right in with about half a dozen other Rangers' farmhands with similar front-of-the-rotation upside. Klien High School's Matt Purke, another native Texan, also figures to be in the mix but has been vocal about demanding large sums of money for his services. If all the top high school pitchers run off the board, Arizona State's Mike Leake would be a good fit as someone who could pay a quick dividend.
15) Cleveland Indians - Mike Leake, RHP Arizona State University
The Indians have focused on advanced hitters in the past couple of drafts, but Leake is the kind of high-floor pitcher that should be intriguing to GM Mark Shapiro. Leake has been arguably the best pitcher in college this season not named Strasburg and profiles as at least a good No. 3 or 4 starter. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but it's good enough. Athletic with clean mechanics, good control and multiple off-speed pitches that he'll throw at any point in the count, Leake will be a solid big league pitcher in pretty short order.
16) Arizona Diamondbacks - Mike Trout, CF Millville High School (NJ)
Trout is one of the fastest risers in this draft, and could go inside the top 10. Possessing a good power/speed combination, Trout has the potential to hit 25-30 homers while playing a plus center field. He's a little raw, players in the Northeast don't get the experience some others do, but everyone I've talked to raves about his coachability, competitiveness, and character. Arizona has back-to-back picks, if he's still on the board I don't think Trout gets by them.
17) Arizona Diamondbacks - Chad James, LHP Yukon HS (OK)
The last time Arizona took a four-pitch prep lefty from Oklahoma, his name was Brett Anderson. James has drawn several comps to Anderson, but a part of that is just geography. With a fastball he runs up to 95 mph, a plus (or better) curveball, solid change and slider, good mechanics and control, James has just about everything you want out of a young pitcher.
18) Florida Marlins - Matt Purke, LHP Klien HS (TX)
The only thing that would prevent this pick from happening is money. Purke has been rumored to want top 10 cash and Florida, generally, doesn't go over slot. However, I can just about guarantee you that this pick will be a high school player, most likely a pitcher. Purke has the big frame, strong arm, and upside the Marlins love.
19) St. Louis Cardinals - Grant Green, SS USC
As likely as the Marlins are to pick prep, the Cardinals are about as likely to select a college player with this pick. Green entered the year as a potential top three pick, after he was compared to Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki. Only problem is that those two players are nothing alike, making for a nonsensical comparison that carried too much weight. A sluggish junior year has depressed his draft stock. He still could go much higher, to a team that still believes in what they saw out of Green in the Cape Cod League last summer, but as of now he's more likely to go in the middle of the first round. Green's low walk rate could be a deterrent to Sig Mejdal and the Cardinals' brain trust, but there are so few players with a realistic chance of playing shortstop in this draft that Green could be appealing.
20) Toronto Blue Jays - Max Stassi, C Yuba City HS (CA)
Toronto has a reputation for being very 'Moneyball' inspired, and hence college heavy in the draft. In reality, the Blue Jays are not opposed to taking high profile high schoolers, enter Max Stassi. Since Luke Bailey's injury, Stassi has resumed his spot as the top high school catcher in a draft very deep at that position. An athletic backstop, with a strong arm, smooth line-drive stroke, and good approach at the plate, Stassi has all the makings of a good big leaguer. Since the Jays' current backstop is Rod Barajas and their catcher of the future, JP Arencibia, is yet to post a OBP over .308 since A-ball, catcher is a spot of organizational need. At this point in the draft, need should match up well with value and Stassi could be trading in dollars for Canadian loonies.
21) Houston Astros - Alex White, RHP UNC
Part of me wants to make this pick an overrated catcher. Trying to determine logically how the Astros will approach the draft can make one's head spin. In a draft this fluid, someone is bound to fall and I think Alex White is a prime candidate. Thought of as a top 10 pick by some, White has a fastball he can run into the mid-90's with sink and a solid slider/splitter off speed combo. Despite his powerful arm, the results haven't been outstanding this spring and White's questionable motion should scare more than a few teams away.
22) Minnesota Twins - Tyler Skaggs, LHP Santa Monica HS (CA)
The Twins are as likely as any team to pick a prodigious high school talent and Skaggs, a polished lefty with good command and a plus curveball, fits their mold well. A speedy outfielder is certainly a possibility, Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks are both speedsters and the Twins last two first round picks, but Skaggs would represent much better value with the 22nd pick. Jiovanni Mier, a high school shortstop, is a real possibility with this pick. Mier is the shortstop most likely to be a plus defender in this draft and has a pretty solid bat.
23) Chicago White Sox - Sam Dyson, RHP University of South Carolina
Kenny Williams has a reputation for being unpredictable, but the White Sox have a strong preference towards college players in the draft. Dyson is a power hurler with loads of potential, and the White Sox have been successful with players of similar talent and arm slot. The White Sox' organization would be a terrific place for Dyson, maximizing his chances of success. Rex Brothers of Lipscomb and Texas A&M's Alex Wilson are also strong possibilities.
24) Los Angeles Angels - Jiovanni Mier, SS Bonita HS (CA)
A smooth defender with plus range and a strong arm, Mier has the tools to be a good defensive shortstop as well as the bat speed and swing plane to hit for a solid average. The Angels greatly favor high school talent in the draft and aren't afraid of taking someone who falls due to signability.
25) Los Angeles Angels - Matt Hobgood, RHP Norco HS (CA)
The Angels could very well go with two Californians in the first round. Hobgood has been a little overshadowed in the draft process by Matzek, Turner and company but looks to be a workhorse with two plus pitches. He throws a hard downhill fastball, sitting 91-94 mph with some life, and a plus power curveball that sits in the upper-70's and touches 80 mph with late, tight two-plane break. The Angles haven't gotten much out of their past few drafts, but with five picks in the first 50 selections that can change in a hurry.
26) Milwaukee Brewers - Luke Bailey, C Troup County HS (GA)
Just about every team will be monitoring Bailey's early stage recovery from Tommy John surgery, and assuming all goes well he could still figure into the late first round. When fully healthy, Bailey is a smooth defender with a strong, accurate throwing arm who figures to be a plus all-around defender. Offensively, Bailey has big time raw power, as he generates incredible bat speed with strong wrists and maintains great plate coverage. Before the injury, Bailey was a possible top 10 pick and given the high rate of recovery for Tommy John patients, the Brewers could get a steal with this selection. I have a hard time seeing Bailey get by the Red Sox or Yankees, both of whom have deep pockets and a need for a backstop of the future.
27) Seattle Mariners - Matt Davidson, 3B Yucaipa HS (CA)
Davidson may be the best high school pure hitter in the country. Maintaining great balance and good bat speed, Davidson has the natural strength and swing to hit for power, as well as a high average. Davidson has moved slightly down draft boards as teams tend to shy away from all-bat prospects with questionable gloves. Davidson is a rather poor runner and is questionable to stay at third base long-term. Even if he shifts to first, his bat should carry him. I assume Jack Z. will try and build the Mariners in a similar fashion as he helped the Brewers grow, Davidson is the type of big power, high probability bat that the Brewers managed successfully.
28) Boston Red Sox - Tony Sanchez, C Boston College
Sanchez is a solid, if somewhat unspectacular, prospect who profiles as average or above-average in just about every category. The Red Sox will be a prime target for Luke Bailey, should he drop, and any signability pick will always be on their radar. Boston might prefer to go offense with this pick but some college arms are possibilities, Rex Brothers of Lipscomb, Alex Wilson of Texas A&M, and Eric Arnett of Indiana all figure to go in the late-first to early second round. With Jason Varitek on his last legs and the Red Sox offense having several question marks in the future, a polished product who can move quick and is a solid value makes sense. Of course, none of this offensive despiration would weigh heavily if David Ortiz were still hitting.
29) New York Yankees - Rex Brothers, LHP Lipscomb
With recent draft picks like Joba Chamberlin, Andrew Brackman and Gerrit Cole, I feel safe in predicting that the Yankees will go for a pitcher with an electric arm early in the draft. Brothers has a mid-90's fastball and a slider that is already a plus pitch, making him an excellent target for the Yankees. A poorly developed third pitch and below-average command mean there is a reasonable chance Brothers ends up as a reliever, but maybe then we could end all of this Joba to the pen nonsense.
30) Tampa Bay Rays - Eric Arnett, RHP University of Indiana
The Rays get their lowest pick ever, making it much harder to project what they will do. In general, they prefer the toolsy high school athlete, but there doesn't seem to be good value in this range. Arnett has a big fastball that sits 93-94 mph and regularly ventures into the upper 90's, as well as a good slow curve and a slider with definite plus potential. With smooth mechanics and great natural athleticism, Arnett also looks like a potential workhorse. LSU's Jared Mitchell and Florida high schooler LeVon Washington figure to be the best two athletes available, but Arnett has impressed scouts to the point where he should now be a first round pick.
31) Chicago Cubs - Drew Storen RHP, Stanford
The Cubs have been on one of the most college-heavy teams in recent drafts, and figure to continue the trend this June. Storen is the top reliever on most boards (including mine), featuring a fastball that touches 96 mph with good life as well as a big slurvey breaking ball that projects as plus. What really separates Storen from most college relievers is his advanced command -- he has only walked 4.9% of batters faced this year. Storen should provide a quick, and fairly safe, return on investment.
32) Colorado Rockies - Alex Wilson, RHP Texas A&M
Again, Colorado loves college products and prefers pitchers who can rack up outs without putting the ball in the play. Wilson has elite arm strength and a swing-and-miss slider. His draft stock has sunk slightly in the past few weeks as he moved from the Aggie rotation to bullpen in an effort to keep his workload in check. Wilson's arm already bears the scar of Tommy John surgery, so he's another guy who will keep GMs and team doctors in constant conversation. If his health checks out, his upside is tremendous.