As I mentioned in my previous article on the 10 Best Shortstops in the 2012 Draft Class, this year's class is incredibly slim at some positions. However, outfield is definitely not one of them. In fact, it should produce the most first-round draft picks (supplemental round included) of any position.
The group is headed by two sure-fire top-10 picks in Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Ga.) and Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Fla.), as four of the top-five prospects are prep players.
Beyond that, there is a promising assemblage of under-the-radar, toolsy outfielders such as Mitch Haniger (Cal Poly), Barrett Barnes (Texas Tech) and Travis Jankowski (Stony Brook) who have the potential to reach the major leagues within a matter of years.
Expect all of the players on this list to be selected within the first three rounds of the draft, which will air on both the MLB Network and MLB.com on Monday, June 7, at 7 p.m. ET.
So, here is a look at the 10 best outfield prospects in the 2012 draft class.
Height/Weight: 6’3”/185 lbs
College: Stony Brook
After winning the Cape Cod League MVP last summer, Jankowski entered the season as a probably first-round draft pick due to his athleticism, tools and overall projectability.
A left-handed hitter, Jankowski has the speed and bat to be a top-of-the-order hitter in the big leagues. He currently lacks power, but given his quick wrists, adding loft to his swing could make it a possibility. His plus speed lends to his above-average defense in the outfield, and his arm should be good enough to stick in center field.
College: Texas Tech
A right-handed hitter, Barnes has quick wrists that produce considerable bat speed, and in turn, plus raw power. His batting average in college is a result of his advanced plate discipline and ability to drive the ball. However, he is almost exclusively a pull hitter and will have to learn how to use the whole field—at least to an extent.
Beyond his power, Barnes’ most appealing tool is his plus speed, which has led to improved range in center field and plays up on the base paths. Given that his arm is only slightly above-average at best, he will be most valuable by remaining in center field. He’s still very raw overall, but his power-speed combination—as well as his potential to stick in center—could boost his draft stock over the upcoming weeks.
Height/Weight: 6’2”/215 lbs
College: Cal Poly
A player whose draft stock continues to gain momentum, Haniger is a toolsy outfield prospect with a big-league frame as well as legitimate baseball skills. He consistently drives the ball to all fields and has shown increasing power potential over the course of the current season.
Haniger has adapted a more patient approach at the plate, which has allowed him to manipulate more counts and, in turn, see more pitches to drive.
He’s played a solid center field this season and probably has enough speed to stick there, but his plus arm is a cleaner fit in right field.
Height/Weight: 6’2”/225 lbs
College: Georgia Southern
After belting 33 home runs in 2011, a year where offensive production was down throughout college baseball, Roache suffered a broken wrist in the first week of the season. However, he’s expected to make a full recovery.
He has the most thump in his bat of any hitter in the draft thanks to quick wrists and an explosive weight transfer. Despite missing the majority of the season, a team will ultimately draft Roache based solely upon his plus raw power.
High School: Stone County (Miss.)
College Commitment: Meridian CC
It’s hard to be considered faster than Byron Buxton, but somehow, Davis is. He’s a superb athlete who has been clocked at 3.8-3.9 to first from the left side of the plate and has surprisingly solid baseball skills as well.
Given his speed, one would expect Davis to be a player who focuses on slapping the ball to all fields and utilizing his speed. However, the left-handed hitter has a smooth swing with some loft, and, most importantly, he’s shown the ability to draw a walk.
In the outfield, Davis obviously has excellent range given his wheels, and he gets solid jumps in all directions. His arm is a bit fringy, but that’s fine considering he’ll stick in center field.
Height/Weight: 6’1”/185 lbs
College: Texas A&M
Tyler Naquin has a smooth, fluid swing from the left side and is one of the more advanced and consistent hitters in the 2012 draft class, especially relative to the lack of projectable collegiate bats. He won’t hit for much power, but his knack for making hard contact and ability to utilize his his above-average speed will make him an extra-base threat at the next level.
In the outfield, Naquin has the 70-grade, plus arm needed to be a right fielder at the professional level, although his power will need to develop in order to stay there. He takes aggressive routes to the ball and is smooth with his actions. He’s also been known to lure base-runners into testing his arm.
High School: Oak Mountain (Ala.)
College Commitment: Auburn
One of the more athletic and toolsy players in the 2012 draft class, David Dahl is a prospect who’s incredibly skilled, but still involves a considerable amount of projection.
A left-handed hitter, Dahl has a level and smooth swing and plate discipline that allows him to handle quality pitching and drive the ball across the whole field. He does project to have some power, though it’s never really reared its head, as Dahl appears more focused on roping base hits rather than jumping the yard.
He has the speed to stick in center, though it’s uncertain whether he has the instincts or on-field demeanor to handle the position at the next level. He has all the tools that project well at the next level, though his power remains suspect.
High School: Carroll HS (Texas)
College Commitment: Texas
Hawkins has been steadily climbing the draft board all season since his all-around, eye-opening performance at the 2012 NHSI tournament earlier this spring. Of all prep position players, Hawkins easily has the best bat speed and loads projectable raw power.
An excellent athlete given his size, Hawkins has surprising plus speed as well as a low-90s arm from the outfield. He’ll likely move from center field to a corner spot given his power potential, but that’s far from a knock on his abilities.
As a young power hitter, Hawkins will need to make significant adjustments at the plate as a professional, especially in terms of his pitch recognition and plate discipline.
High School: Mater Academy (Fla.)
College Commitment: Miami
Albert Almora has been on every scout's radar for years as one of the most well-rounded prospects in the 2012 draft class.
Although he’s merely an average runner with a 50-to-55-grade arm, Almora is an excellent outfielder. He gets excellent jumps in center field that lends to his plus range. Everything he does in the outfield is fundamentally sound, and he takes aggressive routes to the ball. He’s not a particularly fast runner, but his all-out hustle and footwork may allow him to stick in center.
A right-handed hitter, Almora has a quick bat and surprising power that allows him to go yard to all fields. He has a controlled swing and consistent, direct bat path that allows him to jump on the best of velocities while still keeping enough weight back to drive off-speed pitches.
High School: Appling County HS (Ga.)
College Commitment: Georgia
Having drawn comparisons to the likes of B.J. Upton and Eric Davis, Byron Buxton is without a doubt the most toolsy and projectable player in the entire 2012 draft class. Also a standout pitcher for his high school, the right-hander originally warranted some draft consideration on the mound, but it’s very clear that his future is in center field.
If Buxton’s hit tool develops as many scouts predict, he has the chance to be a legitimate five-tool player—a term that’s religiously thrown around but rarely used appropriately. The Georgia native has plus speed that is as evident in the outfield as it is on the basepaths, and there’s even room for it to improve. In the outfield, he also has arguably the best prep arm in the draft, having been clocked regularly in the low-90s with plenty of carry.
At the dish, Buxton has plus raw bat speed and an easy swing, which has led many scouts to project that the right-handed hitter will develop at least above-average power. Furthermore, he’s ability to recognize quality off-speed pitches at such a young age suggests that he’ll be able to hit for average in time, as well.