2012 MLB Draft: Best-Case Scenarios for All 30 Teams' First Pick
With the MLB draft now less than one week away, a wide variety of mock drafts have been conducted online already, and the results vary significantly, depending on which mock draft expert or guru is doing the selecting.
Each team has a different philosophy regarding its draft strategy—some draft based on need, while others may select the best athlete available. Whatever the case, young MLB wannabes will be not-so-quite patiently awaiting the results.
Here at Bleacher Report, you will also see a number of mock drafts just prior to next Monday's MLB draft—however, with this piece, we will try to break down the first round of the draft based on the best-case scenario for each team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Addison Russell, SS, Pace High School (FL)
The Arizona Diamondbacks will have to wait their turn next Monday as 25 selections will be made before their name is called. However, considering the draft selections made over the past several years, they'll be more than ready.
While some mock drafts have the D-Backs selecting Missouri State pitcher Pierce Johnson, I'm more inclined to think that they'll go after middle infield help. With Stephen Drew's injury concerns and the inconsistent play of second baseman Aaron Hill, the D-Backs could use some help up the middle.
Not much is available at the college level, so Addison Russell, a senior at Pace High School in Miami, FL would be an excellent choice here, if available.
At 6'1" and 210 pounds, Russell has raw power, exceptionally quick hands that move through the strike zone quickly and a terrific arm.
Atlanta Braves: Tyler Naquin, Outfielder, Texas A&M
The Atlanta Braves currently have a farm system ranked 16th in MLB by ESPN's Keith Law, and while they have been stellar over the years in drafting and developing pitchers, their stock of position players is currently a bit thin.
Over the last two years, the Braves have focused more on college guys who could move quickly through the ranks. If they follow this pattern in the 2012 MLB draft, outfielder Tyler Naquin of Texas A&M could be a great pick.
Naquin's sophomore year was special—in 2011, he led the entire country in hits (104) and captured the Big 12 batting title with a .381 average. Thus far in 2012, Naquin is picking up where he left off, hitting .384 with a .463 OBP and sharing the club lead in steals (21), helping to lead the Aggies to a 42-16 record and a sixth place national ranking.
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, SP, LSU
With the 17th-ranked farm system in baseball according to ESPN, the Baltimore Orioles and Dan Duquette have some work to do in replenishing a system that for years wallowed at the bottom. With recent draft picks Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado, their stock has risen, but other than their top-tier prospects, the cupboard is pretty bare.
Pitching has long been the Orioles' undoing, and pitching will no doubt be a priority with the MLB draft starting on Monday. With Stanford's Mark Appel likely gone within the first three picks, the O's would do well to go after LSU standout Kevin Gausman.
Gausman is 10-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 107.2 innings after leading the Tigers to a victory over Mississippi in the SEC tournament last week.
Gausman possesses a mid-90s fastball and showed vast improvement with plate command this season, with a 125/24 K/BB ratio thus far. With the college experience, Gausman could move up the ranks quickly in the Orioles' organization.
Boston Red Sox: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State
There may be no pitcher on the draft board who improved more drastically in one season than Mississippi State junior Chris Stratton.
In his sophomore season in 2011, Stratton was 5-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts for the Bulldogs. However, in his junior year Stratton has been terrific—a 10-1 regular-season record, 2.16 ERA with 115 strikeouts with just 19 walks in 95.2 innings. For his efforts, Stratton was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year.
If he's available, the Boston Red Sox would do well in picking Stratton up with the 24th pick in the MLB draft. While he may not have the appeal and cache of pitchers like Mark Appel and Kevin Gausman, Stratton has tremendous upside and should continue seeing good results with his new-found confidence.
Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, Outfielder, Mater Academy (FL)
The Chicago Cubs picked up a few prospects over the winter with deals pulled off by new vice president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, but they're still in the bottom half of farm system rankings—ESPN had them 20th to start the 2012 season.
Epstein and Hoyer outlined a plan that included hoarding draft picks and signing amateur players, and while the new collective bargaining agreement now limits bonus money for draft picks, it's still an integral part of the Cubs' plan for success.
Outfield help is clearly an area of need, and the Cubs can start that rebuilding process with the drafting of prep standout Albert Almora of Mater Academy High School in Hialeah Gardens, FL.
After Byron Buxton, Almora may be the most talented prep outfielder in the draft. GMs and scouts from several teams have traveled to Miami to watch Almora play, and considering he hit .606 with six HR and 36 RBI in his senior season, they undoubtedly came away impressed.
Chicago White Sox: Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit High School (FL)
The Chicago White Sox are largely considered to have the worst farm system in the majors—ESPN agrees, ranking them 30th. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf and company have never believed in spending big dollars via the draft, and the Sox have produced very few homegrown products in the past several years.
With the 13th pick in this year's draft, GM Kenny Williams would do well to go after right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers out of Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL.
McCullers already has a fastball that regularly touches 97 MPH and didn't even allow an earned run until the second week of May in his senior season. McCullers' stock has dropped somewhat because of his max effort motion and herky-jerky delivery, but scouts nonetheless believe in McCullers' ability to produce at the major league level.
Cincinnati Reds: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
With the 19th-ranked farm system in the majors according to ESPN, the Cincinnati Reds are not stocked with many pitchers who are anywhere close to ready. Daniel Corcino has a chance to be very good, but even he's a ways away, currently toiling away in Double-A ball.
With the 14th pick in next Monday's MLB draft, the Reds would do well to try to draft Oklahoma State southpaw Andrew Heaney. Considered the top left-handed college pitcher in the draft, Heaney was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, going 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA in the regular season.
Heaney doesn't feature an overpowering fastball, but he's able to miss bats with an array of pitches that have terrific movement.
Cleveland Indians: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Through promotions and trades over the past few years, the Cleveland Indians' farm system has been severely depleted, currently ranked second-to-last in the majors by ESPN.
With the 15th pick in next Monday's MLB draft, the Tribe probably won't land a blue-chip prep prospect like last year when they landed Francisco Lindor, so they may very well go back to a college prospect, whom they have been most attracted to with recent first-round picks.
Duke pitcher Marcus Stroman could be their man. At 5'9", Stroman doesn't fit the classic mold; however, his athleticism and bulldog mentality on the mound more than make up for his lack of size. Stroman possesses a mid-90s fastball, devastating slider and great command of the strike zone.
Colorado Rockies: Courtney Hawkins, Outfielder, Carroll HS (TX)
With the 10th pick in next Monday's MLB draft, the Colorado Rockies may be in a position to draft the best athlete available, and that athlete could be prep outfielder Courtney Hawkins.
Hawkins already possess raw power, hitting .424 with 10 HR and 37 RBI in his senior season. While he has committed to the University of Texas, the lure of moving quickly through the Rockies' system could be a draw.
Detroit Tigers: Travis Jankowski, Outfielder, Stony Brook
The Detroit Tigers have to wait until late in the second round to finally make their pick, so they'll be looking to build on a farm system that's ranked just 24th by ESPN.
It's unlikely that this player will be available, but best-case scenario would be outfielder Travis Jankowski.
Jankowski had an outstanding junior season at Stony Brook that garnered national attention. As of mid-May, Jankowski was in the national top 25 in several offensive categories, including batting average (.393), runs scored (55), stolen bases (32) and leading the nation in triples (9).
Jankowski's quick ascension on many draft boards makes it unlikely that he'll be available at pick No. 91 for the Tigers, but Jankowski is the type of athlete the Tigers could use to help rebuild their farm system.
Houston Astros: Byron Buxton, Outfielder, Appling County HS (GA)
Despite the prospects picked up in trades involving Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, the Houston Astros still have the fourth-worst farm system in the majors according to ESPN. They have nowhere to go but up.
Many draft boards have the Astros using their first overall pick in Monday's MLB Draft to draft Stanford pitcher Mark Appell, but outfielder Byron Buxton is probably the best athlete on the board and has that five-tool potential that every team strives to find.
At 6'1" and 175 pounds, Buxton has room to fill out and has the ability to be an elite center fielder for years to come.
Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, USF
Once again the Kansas City Royals possess one of the top picks in the MLB Draft at No. 5, and considering their good luck with recent first-round draft picks (Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Brett Butler), they once again have the chance to pick a blue-chipper.
Kyle Zimmer of USF would be a great choice here. The right-hander had only thrown 21.1 innings when he reached the University of San Francisco campus, known more for his talents as a third baseman in high school. But Zimmer quickly impressed on the mound, and his performance this season has launched himself into top-tier status.
Zimmer possess four major league-ready pitches, including a mid-90s fastball, and has the ability to throw every one of them consistently for strikes. For a team strapped for pitching, the Royals would do themselves proud adding Zimmer to the mix.
Los Angeles Angels: Anyone with a Decent Pulse
The Los Angeles Angels are screwed in the MLB draft this year, losing their first- and second-round picks with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. They will first be heard from sometime on Tuesday, June 5 when the third round takes place.
With the 15th-ranked farm system in the majors according to ESPN, the Angels have some talent that are just a tweak or two from having an impact in the majors, so GM Jerry DiPoto will do well to select a combination of prep and college players who can help bolster their lower-level clubs when the current prospects are ready to make the jump.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a great stable of pitchers stockpiled in their system, but not a whole lot of quality position players. Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer would fit the bill quite nicely.
Shaffer may not be available when the Dodgers make the 18th pick in the first round of the draft. His stock has risen quite a bit, considering the relative dearth of quality sluggers available.
Shaffer entered the ACC tournament hitting .344 with 10 home runs and 45 RBI and was just named as a first-team All-ACC selection for the second consecutive year. Shaffer has soft hands and plays his position well, and he could move quickly up the ranks in the Dodgers' organization.
Miami Marlins: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
Harvard Westlake High School pitcher Max Fried is generally considered the top prep left-hander available in this year's MLB draft, and the Miami Marlins should pounce if he's still on the board.
Fried went through some struggles in his senior year but rebounded in his most recent effort, striking out 10 batters and displaying a solid 90-95 MPH fastball. Fried also possesses above-average secondary pitches, and scouts have raved about his pitching mechanics which could prevent a catastrophic injury down the road.
Milwaukee Brewers: Matthew Smoral LHP, Solon HS (GA)
With the 23rd-ranked farm system in the majors according to ESPN, the Milwaukee Brewers certainly have room to improve, and they'll have two picks in the first round of Monday's MLB Draft to do just that.
Solon High School senior pitcher Matthew Smoral could be a great pick if still available when the Brewers are ready with the 27th pick. Smoral, at 6'8" and 220 pounds, certainly has a frame that would support durability, and his three plus pitches, which includes a 95 MPH fastball with late movement, are a bonus as well.
Minnesota Twins: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University
The Minnesota Twins are in a position they've been recently unaccustomed to—the chance to pick a top-tier athlete with the second overall pick in the MLB draft.
The Twins currently have a stockpile of low-ceiling college pitchers in the system, but that certainly isn't an apt description for Stanford University pitcher Mark Appel.
Appel was 9-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 14 games, striking out 116 batters in 110 innings, walking just 24. His fastball sits comfortably at 95 MPH and will touch 98-99 on occasion. Appel also has an outstanding slider and changeup, and he would quickly become one of the Twins' top prospects.
New York Mets: Mike Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
At 6'6" and 215 pounds, Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Mike Wacha is a formidable presence on the mound, and his performance this year only increased his fierce mound presence.
The Aggies' ace was undefeated entering Big 12 Tournament play with an 8-0 record and 2.09 before finally suffering a defeat at the hands of the Missouri Tigers.
Wacha doesn't have a blazing fastball but possesses a devastating changeup already, and he's been lauded for his command and ability to work out of jams with guile and determination. He is more of a safe pick, but a solid pitcher nonetheless for the Mets if available when they select in the first round.
New York Yankees: Jeff Gelalich, Outfielder, UCLA
UCLA outfielder Jeff Gelalich probably has a lot on his mind now that his Bruins have been selected as the No.2 seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament, but come next Monday, his eyes will certainly be focused on the MLB draft, and the New York Yankees would do well to offer Gelalich a home.
Gelalich was a major spark for the Bruins' offense, hitting .376 with nine HR. At 6'1" and 205 pounds, Gelalich is gifted with athleticism and tools and clearly elevated his status as a legitimate first-round pick with his maturity and leadership this season with UCLA.
Oakland Athletics: Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
Richie Shaffer becomes the first player presented twice in this presentation, and for good reason.
The Oakland A's catapulted themselves into a ninth-place ranking among MLB farm systems according to ESPN, with the trades of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey seriously upgrading their depleted system.
However, while the A's are rich in position, they are poor in position players, and particularly in power-hitting prospects. Adding Shaffer would help in a major way.
Philadelphia Phillies: Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat (CA)
The Philadelphia Phillies lost their first-round pick when they signed Type A free-agent Jonathan Papelbon, but they picked up a compensatory pick when closer Ryan Madson signed with the Cincinnati Reds.
With the 40th overall pick, the Phillies could do themselves proud by drafting prep third baseman Rio Ruiz. Ruiz's season was finished when he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his right shoulder, but it hasn't dampened opinions of his potential.
Ruiz has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Southern California, but with the chance to possibly play for the Phillies, he could change his mind.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Arizona State junior shortstop Deven Marrero is one of those rare finds—a fantastic defender with the ability to hit with power.
Marrero struggled somewhat with the bat this year, posting a .276/.335/.396 slash line, a significant drop from the .397/.442/.628 he posted in his freshman year.
However, Marrero's glove is considered special, and he has the ability to be a solid contact hitter with speed. If he's available with the No. 8 pick held by the Pirates, they would do well, especially considering that Carlos Correa, considered the top shortstop in the draft, will be off the board by then.
San Diego Padres: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
At just 17 years of age, shortstop Carlos Correa will be one of the youngest players available in next Monday's MLB draft, but his age won't stop him from coming off the board quickly.
If he's available by the time the San Diego Padres are on the board with the No. 7 pick, they shouldn't even hesitate to wrap him up. Correa has been said to be gifted with terrific hand-eye coordination, and at 6'4" and 190 pounds, he will likely fill out and add to the power he already possesses.
San Francisco Giants: Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
The San Francisco Giants have always been hesitant in giving out top bonuses for first-round selections, preferring instead to work on finding and developing talent in the later rounds. With the 20th overall pick in the draft, the Giants could make an exception with Stanford University third baseman Stephen Piscotty.
Piscotty has developed into one of those very rare two-way players—leading Stanford with a .319 batting average, .405 OBP and 54 RBI. Lately, he has also contributed on the mound as well, moving to 5-2 on the season in defeating California last Sunday.
Piscotty projects as a solid third baseman who can hit for high average and some pop, and scouts have raved about his keen baseball intelligence and tremendous work ethic.
Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Bats, bats, bats. The Seattle Mariners need bats.
Did I say that the Seattle Mariners need bats?
Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino easily fits the bill. Zunino's stats this season—.323 AVG/.394 OBP/.664 SLG, 16 HR, 55 RBI—show that he is easily the best college position player available, and he adds solid defense behind the plate as well.
Did I say that the Seattle Mariners need bats?
St. Louis Cardinals: Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
The St. Louis Cardinals possess two picks in the first round of the MLB Draft (Nos. 19, 23), and even though they lost draft expert Jeff Luhnow to the Houston Astros, they will be prepared to build on the fourth-best farm system in the majors according to ESPN.
Prep left-hander Hunter Virant could be a great pick here for the Cardinals. Virant was 8-2 with a 0.94 ERA and 34 hits allowed in 66.2 innings heading into postseason tournament play.
Virant has committed to UCLA, so signability could be an issue. Maybe a chance to pitch for a storied MLB franchise with 11 World Series wins could change his mind?
Tampa Bay Rays: Joey Gallo, 1B/3B, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
The Tampa Bay Rays have quickly turned themselves into a winning organization over the last four years, and Bishop Gorman High School senior third baseman Joey Gallo would fit right in with his winning ways.
Gallo just wrapped up his high school career with his fourth straight state title, leading Bishop Gorman with a .509 batting average, 21 HR and 80 RBI. To add to his impressive resume, Gallo also provided late-inning relief with a blazing 100 MPH fastball.
Gallo has committed to LSU, so Tampa Bay will have to pony up close to max money in order to entice Gallo to play for another winning organization.
Texas Rangers: Ty Hensley, RHP, Santa Fe HS (OK)
Santa Fe High School senior Ty Hensley couldn't do much wrong this year—he finished the season undefeated at 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA, striking out a school-record 111 batters in only 55.1 innings, and adding a .447 batting average with 10 HR and 42 RBI.
The Rangers are likely familiar with Hensley, playing close to their backyard. With the 29th pick in the draft, Hensley may not be available, but if he's there, Texas should pounce.
Toronto Blue Jays: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
The Toronto Blue Jays have two picks in the first round (Nos. 17, 22), and with the league's third-best farm system according to ESPN, they could go a long way in ascending to the top of those rankings with another solid draft.
It's highly unlikely that he'll fall that low, but if the Jays are lucky enough for that to happen, high school flame-throwing right-hander Lucas Giolito would be a great pick.
Giolito, teammate of fellow top draft candidate Max Fried, was sidelined for much of his senior season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, which could scare away teams. However, Giolito's frame (6'6", 220 pounds) and array of plus pitches makes it likely that he'll be snatched up quickly.
Washington Nationals: Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty HS (FL)
Hagerty High School senior pitcher Zach Eflin was considered an elite prep pitcher before suffering from triceps tendinitis that shut him down for the entire month of April.
However, it hasn't stopped many experts from listing him as a first-round selection anyway. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, Eflin possesses a solid low-90s fastball that can hit 94-95, an array of secondary pitches that are already above average and a maturity beyond his years. The tendinitis issue seemed to be just a blip, so the Washington Nationals would do well to select Eflin with the 16th overall pick.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.