The 2012 Major League Baseball Draft is rapidly approaching, and teams have a lot of big decisions to make.
No one player is going to turn a system around, but the foundation for what all 30 franchises hope to build will be laid when they make their selections.
Here is a look at our latest 2012 MLB mock draft, with a look at the top stars in this year's class.
1. Houston Astros (56-106): Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel is not the best player available in this draft—he probably isn't in the top five—but there are persistent reports that the Astros are looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter who will move quickly through the system.
For a team that's nowhere near contention and has a system low on stars and high-upside players, Appel is not a terrible choice, but is far from the best choice.
2. Minnesota Twins (63-99): Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
Gausman has been the best college pitcher this season. His fastball has been steady in the mid-90s, and his changeup keeps getting better. If he can continue to develop his slider, he will be a very good No. 2 starter.
3. Seattle Mariners (67-95): Mike Zunino, C, Florida
While the MLB Draft should be about taking the best player available instead of filling needs, Zunino will be too good for the Mariners to pass up. He doesn't have a lot of projection left, but he does offer a solid combination of tools with the bat and behind the plate to be an above-average big-league catcher.
4. Baltimore Orioles (69-93): Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County High School (GA)
Buxton is the best pure talent available in this draft, so if the Orioles see him available when they make their pick, they will not waste time turning in their card. He is not a sure-thing, but the reward could be astronomical if he develops as expected.
His game lacks polish right now, simply because he hasn't gone up against good competition in a small school. But what he does have are plenty of tools and a world of projection to offer. He has tremendous bat speed and should develop above-average power as his body fills out.
Buxton's speed, range and throwing arm will allow him to play center field in pro baseball. It is going to take time before you see big-league results, but the Orioles can afford to be patient.
5. Kansas City Royals (71-91): Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Correa's stock just keeps soaring thanks to his hit and power tools. If his body wasn't going to force him to move off shortstop eventually, he would probably be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick.
6. Chicago Cubs (71-91): Albert Almora, OF, Marion Christian Academy (FL)
The new regime in Chicago is going to try and reload the system with high-upside athletes who offer projection and have star potential.
Almora is the best pure center fielder in this draft class, with range and speed to be a Gold Glove winner and a great feel for hitting. His power is his best offensive weapon, but he has a great eye at the plate and makes enough consistent hard contact to hit for average.
7. San Diego Padres (71-91): Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (CA)
Giolito is the great wild card in this draft class. If he is 100 percent healthy, he probably doesn't even make it to the seventh pick. If there are still questions about his elbow, he could end up sliding out of the first round.
Since there doesn't seem to be any reason to think that Giolitio's arm is going to be a problem, he started a throwing program two weeks ago and could end up showing teams what he can do before the draft.
No pitcher in this year's class offers Giolito's combination of present stuff—a fastball that can hit 100, a sharp curveball, clean delivery and a workhorse frame—and projection make him the only potential No. 1 starter in this year's class.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-90): Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Marrero has failed to impress this year, particularly with the bat, and he could fall far on draft day. Since he is going to stay at shortstop, where he shows good range and a strong arm, someone is going to take a chance on him. The hope will be that his struggles were just small mechanical flaws that can be tweaked with a professional hitting coaches.
9. Miami Marlins (72-90): Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The Marlins have a history of going after high school pitching, and Fried already has an advanced feel for pitching and enough projection to pitch at the top of a big-league rotation.
10. Colorado Rockies (73-89): Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
Zimmer's pitching career has just gotten started, as he started throwing full-time in his sophomore season. Stamina has been a problem for him this season, as he appears to be wearing down, but there was a time when he was sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball and a terrific curveball.
If Zimmer can develop consistent command and a changeup, he should turn into a good No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
11. Oakland Athletics (74-88): Courtney Hawkins, RF, Carroll HS (TX)
The A's have a history of drafting college players in the first round, but Hawkins' combination of power and bat speed should be too tempting for them to pass up at this spot. He is still raw as a hitter and has to work on making more contact, but when he does connect, the ball jumps off his bat.
Given the lack of power throughout baseball right now, teams will be coveting players who can drive the ball out to all fields.
12. New York Mets (77-85): Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
Cecchini is another true shortstop who, like Deven Marrero, is battling questions about how much he will hit. He does not project to hit for a lot of power, but as long as he makes consistent contact to keep his average high, he should turn into an average big-leaguer.
13. Chicago White Sox (79-83): Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
Shaffer could end up being the best college bat in this year's draft. Since he plays third base, he doesn't have as much value as Mike Zunino, but he has improved his swing dramatically and now looks like a prototypical third baseman.
14. Cincinnati Reds (79-83): Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Stroman is an interesting case in this year's draft. On the plus side, his stuff is as good as anyone's. He has a mid-90s fastball and two breaking balls that sit in the low- to mid-80s. He has tremendous feel for his pitches and will throw them any time in any count.
The problem comes with his measurables. Stroman is listed at 5'9" and his fastball stays relatively straight, making it easier to hit in the air.
The stuff would play in a big-league rotation, and he is so advanced that he could be the first player taken in this draft to play in the majors. His size could end up pushing him into the bullpen, but the Reds should at least give him a chance to start.
15. Cleveland Indians (80-82): Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
The Indians love polished college arms that don't take long to develop and come with little risk. Heaney fits that description to a T. He doesn't overpower anyone, but has a good four-pitch repertoire and good command.
16. Washington Nationals (80-81): Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
Stratton has come on strong in his junior season, showing a better feel for his low-90s fastball and using his slider to put hitters away. As long as he continues to make strides with his command, which he did this year, he should be a solid No. 3 starter.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (81-81): Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
Smoral's foot injury could drop him out of the first round, but the Blue Jays love taking high-ceiling talent in the draft. Left-handed starters who throw in the low-90s with a good slider and a 6'7", 225-pound frame don't often last long.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers (82-79): Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
McCullers' stock has been all over the place this spring. His herky-jerky delivery has led some to believe he has no chance to start. He has cleaned up some of his mechanics and now has at least a low-percentage shot to be in the rotation.
When you throw in the high-90s with a power slider, McCullers definitely deserves a chance to show what he can do in a rotation.
19. *St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
Wacha is another low-ceiling, low-risk college arm who can make an impact in the big leagues very soon. He has a solid repertoire with an advanced feel for pitching and good control of all his pitches.
20. San Francisco Giants (86-76): Joey Gallo, 3B/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Gallo is one of the most intriguing two-way players in this draft. He has tremendous power and a great arm that would play in right field. He doesn't make much contact right now, so his power doesn't really matter.
If the hitting thing doesn't work out for him, Gallo can move to the mound. He doesn't have a wide range of pitches yet, but he throws in the mid-90s with his fastball.
21. Atlanta Braves (89-73): D.J. Davis, OF, Stone HS (MS)
The Braves are likely to go after a low-ceiling college pitcher or a relatively cheap, safe high school hitter. That has been their pattern for a long time, and there is no reason to think it will change this year.
Davis has tremendous speed and good upper-body strength that could allow him to hit for average power. As long as he is making contact, he can let his speed do the rest for him.
22. **Toronto Blue Jays (81-81): Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
One of the most intriguing arms in this draft, Virant isn't going to overwhelm you with velocity right now. He is listed at 6'3", 175 pounds with a ton of projection in his frame. In a few years, he could be throwing a low-90s fastball with an easy delivery.
23. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): Nolan Fontana, SS, Florida
Fontana is a solid college player who projects to be an average big leaguer. He isn't going to hit for much power, but he makes contact and has good instincts at shortstop to make up for an average arm.
24. Boston Red Sox (90-72): Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview HS (OR)
Kelly is a solid prospect right now, with a strong arm and lateral movement to hang at third base in professional baseball. He has to add some more strength to his frame to tap into his power potential, but he has good bat speed.
25. Tampa Bay Rays (91-71): Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)
The Rays love high-upside pitching and develop it as well as anyone in baseball. Sims already has a good fastball and developing feel for a curveball. As long as he can develop his off-speed pitches and command, Sims should be a good mid-rotation starter.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68): Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State
Johnson's health is going to be a hot topic of conversation as the draft approaches. When he is on the mound, he will offer the Diamondbacks a low-90s fastball with movement.
27. ***Milwaukee Brewers (96-66): Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
Piscotty has a good swing that will allow him to make contact and the Brewers could be looking for a fast-moving college player who can upgrade the offense thanks to the departure of Prince Fielder.
28. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66): Clint Coulter, Union HS (WA)
Coulter has a strong arm behind the plate, though his defense is not going to get him to the big leagues. His bat speed, raw power and approach at the plate, on the other hand, will.
29. Texas Rangers (96-66): Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty HS (FL)
Eflin has missed time this season with an arm injury, but the stuff is so good that he will be a steal for the already-loaded Rangers. He has a world of projection in his 6'5", 200-pound frame and could end up being a No. 2 starter.
30. New York Yankees (97-65): Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
Russell will give the Yankees another high-upside hitter to plug into their system. He needs to fix his swing to make more contact and play up his power, but he is athletic and could stick at shortstop thanks to his hands and footwork.
31. ****Boston Red Sox (90-72): Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Carrabus HS (NC)
Seager has one of the prettiest swings in this year's draft. He gets the bat through the zone quickly and elevates the ball to generate power. He is not going to be a great defender, but has enough arm strength and range from side-to-side to at least be average.
*Compensation from Los Angeles Angels for Albert Pujols
**Compensation for failing to sign 2011 first-round pick Tyler Beede
***Compensation from Detroit for Prince Fielder
****Compensation from Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon
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