The future is now.
Well, in a few months at least, when the best amateur talent in the world goes pro at the MLB draft.
We have some thoughts on how it will all go down.
There is plenty of time for prospects to improve their stock or for teams to switch gears and go in entirely different directions, but this is how we see the state of the MLB draft all the way in April.
The big names of tomorrow are hidden in a first round that is filled with talent.
Let's pick through and find the real standouts of tomorrow, today.
1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
The Houston Astros need a great deal more talent than just one pick to save their farm system.
I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them go with Byron Buxton, but for their money, I would like a solid pitcher out of college that is closer to ready than most.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo describes just how bright his future is.
Appel has the complete package of size, stuff and ability to throw strikes. His fastball is a plus pitch now, which sits comfortably in the mid-90s and the scary thing is there might be room for a little bit more as he matures and fills out.
2. Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (Georgia)
If you are looking for a future slugger that will fill out and start banging out home runs, look no further than five-tool star Byron Buxton.
According to TTFBaseball, he hit .594 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI as a junior last season, and has remarkable speed and shows promise in the outfield.
He is as close to the full package as you will come in the 2012 draft.
3. Seattle Mariners: Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
The Mariners get the most intriguing prospect in the draft, in my opinion.
Marrero comes with a great glove and the ability to lock down the middle of the infield with his efforts.
He can also hit for average with a line-drive swing that will only get better.
If he can actually add power to his repertoire, we may be looking at the gem of the draft in a couple of years time.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (California)
The Orioles could go a number of ways, but having a healthy stable of arms is never a bad thing.
Giolito already has a healthy arsenal of pitches and is a near guarantee to infuse the Orioles rotation with brilliance one day.
5. Kansas City Royals: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (California)
I love the upside of a southpaw who can throw heat with some measure of bite at the end.
He also has a curve and changeup that he is proving capable of throwing for strikes.
6. Chicago Cubs: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
The Chicago Cubs are running lean on arms and Gausman is one of the more solid left at the top.
He could be a real find, but needs to add a couple of things before I consider him a future MLB starter.
He needs a bit more meat on his frame, and needs to throw his breaking ball and changeup with more consistency.
Don't get me wrong because there is a ton of promise here.
7. San Diego Padres: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
This would be the simple case of getting the best player at the right time.
Zunino has all the makings of a solid backstop moving forward, and no franchise can pass on that.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Correa is an interesting prospect largely because there is no telling how he will turn out. He has all the tools to stay at shortstop, which makes any power that he may gain pure icing.
9. Miami Marlins: Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (Florida)
McCullers has a rocket of an arm and has above-average movement.
I say he still needs to improve the slider to make his stuff unhittable. Pumping gas is fine, but adding a devastating slider is deadly.
10. Colorado Rockies: Joey Gallo, 3B/1B, Bishop Gorman HS (Nevada)
I like this pick for the simple fact that the Rockies have enough talent to really give Gallo the patience he needs to mature to a major league level.
The power is where he really shines and why I have to keep him in the top 10.
11. Oakland Athletics: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
He has four pitches that scouts are hopeful can reach to the level of MLB-average.
That is more than enough when you consider he can touch 97-mph on the gun.
12. New York Mets: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (Florida)
The Mets will certainly take Almora here, a player that could very well sneak into the top 10 before all is said and done.
He can hit with power and spray the ball to all parts of the field if necessary.
He has the tenacity and work ethic to really shine and that makes him a guarantee to do the one thing needed to complete his game, and that's add some bulk.
13. Chicago White Sox: Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
The jury is still out as to whether Piscotty will make it through the farm and remain at the hot corner.
He is a middling fielder and may be better suited elsewhere, especially considering the flashes of pure power he has shown.
If he can lock down third base, he becomes even more valuable as a corner infielder that can flat out hit.
14. Cincinnati Reds: Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
If you could possibly be brilliant and under the radar, Michael Wacha would be it.
According to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, he draws comparison to Jon Garland because of his size.
With that comes an above-aveage fastball and off-speed pitches that are just solid.
The thought is he can get even better, but most are just sold on a right-hander that will continue to get better.
It's any wonder why he is not getting any more run.
15. Cleveland Indians: David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (Alabama)
The Indians would get an outfielder that can do pretty much everything, save hit the ball out of the park with regularity.
He will hit the ball into the gaps and prove to be a speed demon on the bases.
16. Washington Nationals: Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern.
It's tough to find a bona fide ace at this point, but you can certainly get a gifted pitcher with solid stuff, and that's Beck.
He can hit the cruise control and still hit the low 90s. When you add a hard slider to the mix, he can be tough to hit.
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia HS (Florida)
He is a work in progress, plain and simple.
However, he isn't much of a gamble when you consider that he has a fastball that can hit the 90s on most days and a 12-6 curve.
If he can put some velocity on the curve and work on an awkward delivery, he could be a steal of the middle round.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Gavin Cecchini, IF, Barbe HS (Louisiana)
The Dodgers have depleted their stock of prime-time sluggers and infielders. They need a new wave of solid bats of the future, and that continues with Cecchini.
He has the instincts and range to make him a mainstay in the Dodgers' organization up the middle.
19. St. Louis Cardinals* (compensation for Albert Pujols signing with LAA): Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida
Johnson is as versatile as they come, all over the field.
He can pitch a solid nine with a complement of four pitches, but he also comes loaded with a bat in case he doesn't quite fit as a solution on the bump.
20. San Francisco Giants: Matthew Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (Ohio)
Durability will be an issue for most teams that had Smoral far higher on their boards prior to a stress fracture in his right foot last April.
There is no denying how gifted this southpaw is and why I have him as a solid first-rounder in 2012.
He has a smooth delivery and an assortment of pitches with late movement that makes him deadly.
21. Atlanta Braves: Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (Louisiana)
He certainly wins the award for name most resembling a superhero, but he also comes in with a complement of talents that have scouts buzzing.
If he can work a more compact swing, he is really going to fly up boards as a player that can actually remain as a back stop.
22. Toronto Blue Jays* (compensation for unsigned 2011 pick Tyler Beede): Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (California)
He is a work in progress who shows promise with his long frame and smooth delivery.
He may be on the slow side, 88-90 mph, but his size has scouts convinced more work will produce more.
23. St. Louis Cardinals: Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
It would be unfair to consider Roache a one-tool player because he is not.
Many will highlight that he has power, but is missing vital speed.
In fact, he has plenty to cover a corner outfield position and has the stick you want in the first round.
24. Boston Red Sox: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
He continues to draw comparisons to Tom Gordon for his lively arm and ability to dominate batters.
He has the stuff to breeze through the farm and land in a bullpen sooner rather than later.
25. Tampa Bay Rays: Travis Jankowski, OF, SUNY Stony Brook
The Rays know how to run an organization, and are more than fine all around.
Jankowski is not going to light up the organization with homers, but he is going to play hard and run fast, very fast.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (Texas)
I love Hawkins for his versatility.
He comes in with a big bat that just needs to be tempered with some measure of consistency.
If you need an arm on the bump, Hawkins can touch 90.
27. Milwaukee Brewers* (compensation for Prince Fielder signing with DET): Keon Barnum, 1B, King HS (Florida)
Milwaukee is looking for the superstar of the future. This is not to say that Barnum is it, because there is a ton of work that needs to be down with this raw talent.
However, he can hit with huge power and has a glove that won't kill you. There is no better prospect to groom for the middle of the lineup.
28. Milwaukee Brewers: Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat HS (California)
He will man the corner at the next level for quite some time. His bat and glove will guarantee that.
29. Texas Rangers: Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (Georgia)
He has above-average stuff all around, including a tight curve that will only get better.
What's more is, he has the tenacity that have some scouts thinking he is a closer in waiting.
30. New York Yankees: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
Heaney, above all else, is consistent in his delivery, which has me hopeful that his above-90s fastball and hard-biting curveball will remain a constant.
31. Boston Red Sox* (compensation for Jonathan Papelbon signing with PHI): Clate Schmidt, RHP, Allatoona HS (Georgia)
It's time to consider that good things can indeed come in small packages.
Despite his stature, Schmidt hits 95-plus regularly and has the breaking stuff that can be above-average with time.
For in-depth coverage on all prospects, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo breaks it all down.
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