2012 MLB Mock Draft: Mark Appel Set to Go No. 1
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With the college baseball season kicking off last weekend, what better time to make my first MLB mock draft than right now?
With the volatility with baseball prospects, I would not be surprised if 90 percent of these projections turn out to be wrong and that a small portion of these players will fall completely out of the first-round conversation by the time draft day comes around.
Nonetheless, it is a good way to get a "names to watch" as the college and high school seasons get underway.
1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel is the consensus No. 1 at the moment due to his stuff and not his results, much like last year's No. 1, Gerrit Cole.
He sits in the mid-90′s and touches the upper-90′s with his fastball that he compliments with a legitimate slider and working changeup.
To open the college baseball season, Appel held the 10th-ranked Vanderbilt team to one run over seven innings while picking up five strikeouts and walking just two.
2. Minnesota Twins: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Zunino absolutely tore the cover off the ball last year, belting 19 home runs.
He has plus power and is a great defensive catcher. Zunino provides the Twins with a big-time catcher to allow Mauer to move off the catcher's position.
He opened the year collecting seven hits in 15 at-bats, including two home runs, four RBI, one steal, three walks and four strikeouts.
3. Seattle Mariners: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
There is an outside chance Giolotio makes a push to be the first prep right-hander drafted first overall.
He is a towering presence on the mound at 6’6″, 230 lbs. with an already plus-fastball that is an easy mid-90′s, a devastating curveball and a changeup that is a little more advanced than most high school pitchers with his skill set.
The Mariners won’t be afraid of his UCLA commitment.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Byron Buxton, OF, Appling Country HS (GA)
Tools, tools, tools. That is all you will hear when someone is talking about Buxton.
He has a top-notch arm and top-notch speed that should make him a plus defender in center field. He has already shown some power and projections for more, which has scouts drooling over his potential.
5. Kansas City Royals: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
I watched Gausman take on Air Force last night and was torn on what to think about him.
The obvious is that his fastball is electric. It jumps on the hitter and is difficult to make contact against because of the run. He snapped off a few nice hard curveballs, but the changeup looked pretty weak when the report was that is a good pitch for him. Could have been an off day, so take that for what it is.
He earned the win going six innings and giving up one run on four hits and two walks, and struck out seven. Watching the game, it did not feel like he dominated as much as his stat line suggests, but then again, it was a great result early in the season.
6. Chicago Cubs: David Dahl, CF – Oak Mountain HS (AL)
You usually never know what the Cubs are going to do come draft time. Hopefully, with Theo Epstein now in charge, it will help make their picks a little more predictable because they are always the team to completely screw up a mock draft.
Dahl is a centerfielder with five-tool potential. He has a level swing that is just a thing of beauty and should be able to remain in center field.
He has a little more polish, and I don’t feel he has the same type of bust potential as a Buxton.
Dahl could be the type of high school bat that Theo targets to make a splash with his first pick as the Cubbies general manager.
He has drawn comparisons to Colby Rasmus, but I actually think a better comparison for him is a better version of the Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson.
7. San Diego Padres: Deven Marrero, SS – Arizona State
The Padres are ecstatic that Marrero falls into their lap and jump all over him.
It not only fills a need, but he is the best player available, and his defense nearly makes him a lock to contribute at some point. If he takes another step forward with his bat, then the Padres have a star on their hands.
In the opening weekend, Marrero collected three hits in 11 at-bats with two walks and one strikeout while driving in two runs and scoring three runs. He also committed two errors in the field.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Gavin Cecchini, SS – Barbe HS (CA)
The Pirates have made a strong commitment to bolstering their farm system the last few years and are not afraid to spend.
One position their farm could certainly use a jolt in is shortstop, and Cecchini comes with worlds of potential.
There is a good chance Cecchini will be able to stick at short, and he has the bat to make him special if he does.
9. Miami Marlins: Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
The Marlins draft philosophy consists of two things: they (1)like upside and (2)like Florida kids.
McCullers presents both of those things.
He was once thought of as the cream of the crop in terms of high school arms in this draft, but increasing concerns about his ability to stick as a starter having him slipping. His mid-90′s fastball and plus slider give him enough upside for the Marlins to jump at.
10. Colorado Rockies: Chris Beck, RHP – Georgie Southern
The Rockies could never have enough pitching, and Beck is a tremendous college pitcher.
Beck gets his fastball into the low-to-mid 90′s and has a potentially plus hard-breaking slider. He has a sturdy frame that should enable him to eat a ton of innings at the next level.
Beck went six innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk while striking out eight against UT Martin.
11. Oakland Athletics: Brian Johnson, LHP/1B, Florida
This is an interesting pick for Oakland.
Johnson is close to big-league ready as a starter with at worst three average pitches, clean mechanics and a workhorse body. When I watch him pitch, I can not help but think Paul Maholm.
On the flip side, he has huge upside as a hitter because of his outstanding power.
Johnson went 3-for-8 with three RBI as a hitter and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five.
12. New York Mets: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
Good luck to any high school team who has to play Harvard Westlake this year. They have the top prep arm in Giolito and the best left-handed prep arm in Fried.
Fried has a 89-92 mph fastball, but it is the curveball that is his real bread and butter. He modeled it off Sandy Koufax and has been throwing it since he was 12 years old. On top of his “best in the country curveball," he has an OK changeup that projects to be an above-average pitch.
At 6’4", 170 lbs., there is still some projection left on his frame, although he does not really need much more on his fastball. It is going to be tough to sign away from UCLA, but the Mets showed a glimpse of being willing to spend in the draft last year, and Fried could turn out to be a steal.
13. Chicago White Sox: Trey Williams, 3B, Valencia HS (CA)
The White Sox’s farm system desperately needs some upside. Hell, they need prospects, period, but a prospect with real star potential would do them wonders.
Williams has some great bloodlines, as well as some of the best power of any prep bat in the class. His swing has a lot of moving pieces, but his bat speed is explosive, so when he connects, it goes a mile. Williams also projects as an above-average defender at third base.
14. Cincinnati Reds: Walker Weickel, RHP Olympia HS (FL)
Weickel has your prototypical pitcher’s body at 6’6″, 200 lbs. and uses his height to his advantage in order to generate a downhill plane on his low-90′s fastball. He throws a 12-to-6 curveball that is steadily improving and uses a low 80′s changeup.
He is quickly moving up draft boards and could pitch his way out of this spot.
15. Cleveland Indians: Victor Roache, RF – Georgia Southern
Roache burst onto the seen last year when he blew away every college player in the power department, becoming the first college player to hit 30 home runs in eight years. He managed this despite using the BBCOR bats that brought down power numbers.
The only thing holding him back from going higher than this are his defensive liabilities and struggles with breaking balls. Could turn out to be a special bat.
Roache got off to another terrific start to the season with four hits in 10 at-bats—two of those hits, home runs. He also drove in three runs, scored four, walked three times and only struck out once.
6. Washington Nationals: Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (LA)
We all know the Nationals will spend, and I have no doubt in my mind this catcher is going to cost them a pretty penny.
We are talking about a sweet swinging catcher with power, speed, plate discipline, receiving skills and a good pop time. He has everything you want in a catcher and more.
I am almost shocked we are not talking about him in the top 10 or top five picks.
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
The Blue Jays don’t really have many holes in their farm system, so why not go with a player that has some of the highest upside in the class?
A big-bodied shortstop who has smooth motions in the field and a cannon arm. If he is forced to third base, he can be a Gold Glover, but he should be given a shot to stick at shortstop.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jake Barrett, RHP – Arizona State
I do not see the Dodgers making a pick like they did last year solely for financial reasons. But that does not mean they still won’t go the college route.
Barrett has the build of a workhorse and stuff to back it up with a mid-90′s fastball, quality breaking ball and splitter that is above-average. He has a higher upside than most college pitchers.
Barrett threw just one inning over the weekend, allowing one hit and striking out one.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Joey Gallo, 1B/3B, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
The Cardinals get this pick as a result of losing Albert Pujols and pick up a guy who could ultimately replace him on the diamond.
Gallo has a pronounced uppercut in his swing that already leads to a lot of strikeouts, but he also already has the 10th-longest home run in Petco Park history. His time as a third baseman will probably be short-lived as a professional.
20. San Francisco Giants: Matthew Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
If there is one team I have faith in getting the most out of this 6’8″, 225 lbs. beast, it is the Giants.
Smoral sits in the low-90′s and has a slider with late break that has dominated high school hitters. As with most tall pitchers, he needs to clean things up with his delivery, but all the tools are there.
21. Atlanta Braves: Albert Almora, CF, Master Academy (FL)
Almora is not your typical high school hitter, and he won’t slip further down than this.
He is at least average to above-average in all five tools and is as polished as any high school player that will enter the draft. He will have no problem sticking in center field because of his speed, arm and instincts.
Could turn into a Jason Heyward redux if he slips this far.
22. Toronto Blue Jays: Michael Wacha, RHP – Texas A&M
Wacha gives the Blue Jays another top pitching prospect and one who could move through the minors quickly.
He has a tall, slender build at 6’6″, 195 lbs., which allows him to pitch on a downhill plane. He has outstanding command and sits in the low-90′s with his fastball, but his real weapon is a plus changeup that is difficult to pickup. At the moment, all he is lacking is a breaking ball.
On opening night, he pitched 5.2 innings of one-hit, shutout ball. He picked up the win and had eight strikeouts to three walks.
23. St. Louis Cardinals: Duane Underwood, RHP, Pope HS (GA)
Underwood is a good athlete that allows him to easily repeat his smooth mechanics. He has a strong, well-built frame that he uses to generate low-to-mid 90′s fastball. He also has a hard, devastating curveball that projects as a plus pitch and already uses a changeup occasionally.
24. Boston Red Sox: Kenny Diekroeger, SS, Stanford
The Red Sox's never-ending search for a shortstop could end with the Stanford product (I'm sorry, but I do not believe in Jose Iglesias).
He lacks the fluid motions to stick at shortstop, but his top-notch athleticism gives him a chance to stick. He struggled offensively last year, but got off to a good start in 2012.
He picked up six hits over the weekend, got hit by a pitch, walked twice, drove in a run, scored three runs and struck out once.
25. Tampa Bay Rays: Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
Russell is another terrific athlete who may not be able to stick at short, but will be given every chance to remain. He has very good power for a shortstop, which sometimes leads to his swing getting a little long.
One word scouts have used to describe him is “easy."
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Stephen Piscotty, 3B/OF – Stanford
Piscotty is possibly the best pure hitter in the entire draft and is able to drive the ball to all fields with ease. Power is not his best tool, but early in 2012, he is showing a little more potential. If he is not able to stick at third base, it is because of his lack of range and not his cannon arm. With that said, he is off to a booming start in 2012.
Piscotty had six hits over the weekend, half of which went the distance. He also doubled, drove in 11 runs, scored eight runs, got hit by a pitch and walked.
27. Milwaukee Brewers: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Stroman only falls this far because of his slight stature (5’9″, 195 lbs.) and the fact he will most likely be a reliever due to the effort in his delivery.
He still might have the most electric stuff in the draft.
Stroman's mid-to-upper 90′s fastball and hard-biting slider made him literally unhittable in eight innings with Team USA.
Stroman struggled in his first start of the year, giving up three runs over five innings. He only allowed four hits, but showed no command walking six and hitting another batter. He only struck out three men in the game.
28. Milwaukee Brewers: Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat Memorial HS (CA)
This kid can flat out rake.
He has adequate range at third base and a cannon arm that allows him to make the plays, but it is his bat that will carry him as far as he can go. He already has present power and projects for more in the future. He has an easy swing with quick hands.
The only negative against him is his strong commitment to USC, where he could also play football.
29. Texas Rangers: Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)
If it were not for Max Fried, Sims’ 12-to-6 curveball would be the cream of the crop amongst prep arms. The breaking ball has sharp break with depth and is complimented with a low-90′s fastball. He has a good changeup, which could allow him to have three plus pitches as he advances.
30. New York Yankees: Travis Jankowski, CF, Stony Brook
Someone not picking the Yankees to take a prep player. Shocking, right?
There are enough prep arms left on the board to take a look at, but the Yankees lack depth when it comes to top outfield prospects. Jankowski is someone playing right in the backyard and could have easily gone earlier than this.
He is a true plus athlete with tremendous speed that he knows how to use. He does not have great power, but speed is his calling card, and it will allow him to stick in center field with no problem.
The Stony Brook season has yet to get underway.
31. Boston Red Sox: Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
Virant is the third of the “big three” UCLA pitching recruits.
He has a low-90′s four-seam fastball and high-80′s cutter, but projects for more thanks to his lean 6’3″, 175 lbs. frame. He also throws a curveball, slider and changeup, all of which he can command.
Some are already taking a liking to him more than Fried, but he is my pick for the one that teams feel is the least likely to sign.