People love sluggers.
People love clutch hitting, monster home runs, screaming line drives and runs batted in. We all sit on the edge of our seats when Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton or Miguel Cabrera step into the box, hoping to see them smack a fastball into the upper deck.
So obviously, people will naturally be curious which sluggers in this draft might be on the fast track to the big leagues. If you are one of those people, you've come to the right place.
1. Houston Astros (56-106): Byron Buxton, OF (Appling County High School, Ga.)
Buxton is a project and won't storm through the minor leagues, but his upside is immense and he would be my pick if I were the general manager.
2. Minnesota Twins (63-99): Mark Appel, RHP (Stanford)
Appel heads into this draft as the best available college pitcher and possibly the best pitcher period. He's a bit more inconsistent and could miss more bats given his electric stuff, but he's got ace potential.
3. Seattle Mariners (67-95): Lucas Giolito, RHP (Harvard-Westlake School, Calif.)
He's hit 100 on the gun, and if his elbow checks out he could be a truly special prospect.
4. Baltimore Orioles (69-93): Kevin Gausman, RHP (LSU)
Gausman went 10-1 in 107 2/3 innings pitched (15 starts) with a 2.84 ERA, 125 strikeouts and only 24 walks for LSU this year. If the Tigers are to compete for a College World Series this year, he'll be a big reason why.
5. Kansas City Royals (71-91): Mike Zunino, C (Florida)
He was the SEC Player of the Year in 2011, and while he wasn't able to match his production from a year ago, he still hit .323 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI for a very strong Florida squad this year.
Zunino has all of the tools you want from a catcher—strong arm, manages a staff well, hits for power—and given his experience at the college level, he shouldn't need to spend too much time in the minors.
He may not be a Buster Posey, but he should be very good.
6. Chicago Cubs (71-91): Albert Almora, OF (Marion Christian Academy, Fla.)
All you need to know about Almora comes from this stat via MLB.com: "As a senior, he hit .606 with six homers and 35 RBIs for an 18-5 team."
He had 35 RBI in 23 games—why did anyone pitch to him in the first place? I would have walked him with the bases loaded.
7. San Diego Padres (71-91): Kyle Zimmer, RHP (San Francisco)
His fastball has been clocked as high as 98 mph, a big reason he had 104 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings this year. He may be the riskiest of the three college pitchers likely to go in the top 10 of this draft, but he's worth a look.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-90): Carlos Correa, SS (Puerto Rico)
The Pirates could also go with Deven Marrero here, but Correa has more upside and should be the pick if they are set on improving the infield.
9. Miami Marlins (72-90): Courtney Hawkins, RF (Carroll High School, Texas)
He'll need some seasoning in the minors, but he sure hit in high school (via the Corpus Christi Caller Times):
Carroll's Courtney Hawkins was named the Gatorade baseball player of the year for Texas on Wednesday.
The pitcher-center fielder leads the Tigers with a .412 average, 11 home runs, 53 runs and 17 stolen bases. He's also driven in 38 runs.
10. Colorado Rockies (73-89): Max Fried, LHP (Harvard-Westlake School, Calif.)
Recognize that school name? That's right, he's a teammate of Lucas Giolito. Talk about a nasty righty-lefty combo.
11. Oakland Athletics (74-88): Deven Marrero, SS (Arizona State)
He was higher on most boards before a disappointing season this year. Still, he's one of the few true shortstops with a first-round grade, always a tough position to fill.
12. New York Mets (77-85): Michael Wacha, RHP (Texas A&M)
He was 8-1 with a 2.21 ERA this season for Texas A&M. Not too shabby.
13. Chicago White Sox (79-83): Richie Shaffer, 3B (Clemson)
It's gotten to the point that opponents are scared to pitch to Shaffer. Seriously. Travis Sawchik of the The Post and Courier explains why:
Shaffer has continued to be the No. 1 force in the Tigers’ lineup, surrounded by a cast not always inspiring fear. Clemson has scored two or fewer runs in five of its last six games.
Shaffer leads Clemson in nearly every significant offensive category: average (.339), home runs (10), slugging (.563) and walks (58). No other Clemson players has walked more than 25 times this season.
Shaffer said he’s fortunate to see one pitch to hit per at bat.
I wouldn't give him anything to hit either.
14. Cincinnati Reds (79-83): Andrew Heaney, LHP (Oklahoma State)
He was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year after compiling an 8-1 record with five complete games, three shutouts, a 1.63 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 110.1 innings.
Did you see that part about the 1.63 ERA? Yeah, I had to double-take myself.
15. Cleveland Indians (80-82): Marcus Stroman, RHP (Duke)
Stroman might surprise some people as the first player from this draft class to hit the big leagues. He already has a MLB-worthy arsenal of pitches.
16. Washington Nationals (80-81): Chris Stratton, RHP (Mississippi State)
He was 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA this year. I could write more, but those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (81-81): Joey Gallo, 3B/RHP (Bishop Gorman High School, Nev.)
He might be a power-hitting third basemen. He could also be a power-hitting corner outfielder. Or maybe he'll be a power-hitting starting pitcher. What I'm trying to say is that he's a power hitter and has one heck of a strong arm.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers (82-79): Lance McCullers, Jr., RHP (Jesuit High School, Fla.)
I've mentioned this story from Adam Berry of MLB.com when writing about McCullers in the past, but it's so compelling I'll include it again:
As a star pitcher and shortstop in high school, McCullers would often embarrass opposing hitters. There was the time he finished a game with a 100 mph fastball, the time he started a game with a 96 mph heater and then finished at 98 mph, and the time he was still throwing 95 mph in the sixth inning of a 136-pitch outing after throwing 110 pitches through five frames.
That's the stuff of legend, folks.
19. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): Gavin Cecchini, SS (Barbe High School, La.)*
Gavin Cecchini batted .413 with a .527 on-base percentage, seven home runs, 32 RBI and 31 stolen bases this year. Talk about a complete offensive weapon...
20. San Francisco Giants (86-76): Stephen Piscotty, 3B (Stanford)
While Piscotty has been used as a pitcher for Stanford this season, his future in baseball is as a position player.
And that's because Piscotty can flat out rake, as Teddy Mitrosillis of ESPN (Insider) points out:
As a freshman, he hit .326 with more extra-base hits (21) than strikeouts (18). Sophomore year brought a .364 average, a .423 OBP and first team All-Pac 12 honors. Now his junior year, his draft year, has been more of the same—.319 average, .405 OBP, 5 homers, 27 walks, 21 strikeouts. Since his career began at Stanford, 167 starting lineup cards have been exchanged at home plate. Every one included his name.
That's a guy that I want on my team. He doesn't miss games, he doesn't strike out and he hits for a high average. Expect to see him in the big leagues before long.
21. Atlanta Braves (89-73): Matt Smoral, LHP (Solon High School, Ohio)
He's a 6'8" lefty and...what's that? You don't need to hear anymore because you want to draft him after hearing he's a 6'8" lefty?
Well okay then.
22. Toronto Blue Jays (81-81): Zach Eflin, RHP (Hagerty High School, Fla.)**
While triceps tendinitis shut him down in April, Eflin is too talented to pass up.
23. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): David Dahl, OF (Oak Mountain High School, Ala.)
The Cardinals may not find another Albert Pujols in this draft, but in Piscotty and Dahl they'll be adding solid hitters who should improve the lineup in five years.
24. Boston Red Sox (90-72): Addison Russell, SS (Pace High School, Fla.)
While I never trust a man with two first names (okay, so that's a lie), Russell has solid pop and has big-league potential at either shortstop or third base.
25. Tampa Bay Rays (91-71): Lucas Sims, RHP (Brookwood High School, Ga.)
He's 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA for Brookwood High this year.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68): Stryker Trahan, C (Acadiana High School, La.)
ESPN's Jason A. Churchill thinks he's one of the best catching prospects coming out of high school in recent years. I think he has the name of a Jedi or action star. What I'm trying to say is he's an exciting prospect for any number of reasons.
27. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66): Pierce Johnson, RHP (Missouri State)***
He was only 3-6 this year, but still had a 2.58 ERA, surpassed 100 strikeouts and has the second coolest name in this draft. Not a bad resume.
28. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66): Victor Roache, OF (Georgia Southern)
He missed most of the season with a broken wrist but has a lot of pop at the plate. Plus, his name makes him the natural villain to appear in Stryker Trahan's future action film.
29. Texas Rangers (96-66): D.J. Davis, OF (Stone County High School, Miss.)
He's the fastest player in the draft, and has shot up draft boards after hitting .373 with seven home runs and 27 RBI this year. But it's the speed that makes him so appealing.
30. New York Yankees (97-65): Corey Seager, 3B (Northwest Cabarrus High School, N.C.
He's the younger brother of Seattle Mariners third basemen Kyle Seager, so he's got the pedigree. That gives him natural motivation, as obviously he'll want to be better than his brother.
31. Boston Red Sox (90-72): Carson Kelly, 3B (Westview High School, Ore.)****
Per The Oregonian, he was named Gatorade Oregon boys baseball player for a second consecutive season after batting .398 with five home runs and 26 RBIs and compiling a 6-3 record and 1.09 ERA as a pitcher this season.
*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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