MLB Draft 2012: Team-by-Team Needs and Ideal Targets
Many of the prospects in the upcoming 2012 First-Year Player Draft (June 4-6) will be selected to fill specific needs for their MLB teams.
With that said, I present this list of ideal targets for all 30 clubs.
Drafting according to need isn't the most popular method (top talents frequently get chosen first regardless of fit), but it's an avenue worth exploring.
Determining which deficiencies to aid through the draft requires foresight and speculation, as picks will be tested in the minors before joining the 25-man roster. Trades are used to address immediate needs, whereas GMs draft for the future.
For each team, I've chosen a position that should be filled and a player—projected to go in the early rounds—who makes the most sense.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 3B
The Arizona Diamondbacks loaded up on pitching in 2011, beginning of course with Trevor Bauer in the first round.
Following a 94-win season, the team is selecting at No. 26. As a result, they will probably miss out on Stanford third baseman Stephen Piscotty. He has the potential to be an excellent hitter—though not for power—and is being praised for his defensive versatility.
Corey Seager (Northwest Cabbarus High School; Concord, N.C.) would be a good fit, too. Coming out of high school, he's more of a risk, but at least Seager has big-league pedigree; his brother, Kyle, plays for the Seattle Mariners.
Atlanta Braves: Outfielder
There's a lot of pressure on the Atlanta Braves to snag a difference-maker with their first-round pick (No. 21). After that, they won't draft again until 85th overall.
The emphasis is clearly on offense—specifically outfielders and middle infielders—considering the Braves' pitching depth at all levels of the organization.
Atlanta chose mostly collegiate players in 2011 and can be expected to go younger this time around.
D.J. Davis (Stone High School; Wiggins, Miss.) is arguably the fastest player in this draft. Though a little raw, he has a very high ceiling.
Michael Bourn could bolt via free agency, and Davis has the tools to be his successor in center.
Baltimore Orioles: Starting Pitching
Southpaw Brian Matusz is just one of many drafted pitchers to disappoint for the Baltimore Orioles over the past 15-plus years.
The front office may have finally selected a star in Dylan Bundy, but he could use some help.
Kevin Gausman (LSU) is a battle-tested college arm. With steady control and a high strikeout rate, he would be great for Baltimore.
Boston Red Sox: Starting Pitching
It would be counterproductive for the Boston Red Sox to engage in internal discussions about college arms. Most reputable ones will be off the board before their pick at No. 31.
But Nick Travieso (Archbishop McCarthy High School; Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and his outstanding velocity would be a nice consolation.
The Sox may target similarly young players in the following rounds without worrying much about bolstering their powerful MLB lineup.
Chicago Cubs: Starting Pitching
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum was impressed with both shortstop Carlos Correa (PR Baseball Academy) and Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake High School; Encino, Calif.) after personally working out with them.
It is Fried, however, who fills the team's need for starting pitching.
Several spots in the Cubs rotation will be vacated, as there are signs that the team might trade away expensive pieces like Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza (h/t BleacherNation.com). Fried is a left-hander and a consensus top-two prep pitcher.
Starlin Castro, meanwhile, isn't going anywhere, says president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Chicago White Sox: Athleticism
Toolsy outfielder Courtney Hawkins (Carroll High School; Corpus Christi, Texas) could take over for Alex Rios a few years down the road.
The Chicago White Sox offense is flourishing at the moment, but they've been too dependent on extra-base hits. Like Alejandro De Aza, Hawkins has the speed to create runs for the Sox and take them away from the opposition as a defender.
Cincinnati Reds: Starting Pitching
With all the offensive talent on the Cincinnati Reds, it's just a matter of time before they bust out of their season-long scoring funk.
However, more attention needs to be paid to the starting rotation.
There's no doubt that the Reds would lock up Michael Wacha (Texas A&M) if he was to fall to them at No. 14. He throws strikes and projects to be a very durable player because of his size.
Cleveland Indians: Starting Pitching
It's getting repetitive, I know, but the Cleveland Indians seek starting pitching, too.
Their first pick would be about replenishing the farm system, which lost a couple studs—Drew Pomeranz and Alex White—when the Tribe traded for Ubaldo Jimenez. Two others are dealing with major injuries.
At 6'8", left-hander Matt Smoral (Solon High School; Solon, Ohio) has great upside.
Colorado Rockies: Right Fielder
The Colorado Rockies have struggled in recent amateur drafts. Otherwise they wouldn't be so dependent on aging players.
As Todd Helton nears retirement, the Rockies could shift Michael Cuddyer to first base.
David Dahl (Oak Mountain High School; Birmingham, Ala.) has many strengths, including a high baseball IQ. His speed would be a valuable asset in Coors Field.
Detroit Tigers: 2nd Baseman
The Detroit Tigers won't be drafting until the middle of the second round (91st), and it isn't going to be a large class for them, either (nine total picks).
Tiny second baseman Tony Renda (California) could fill a role that no other Tiger has been able to since Carlos Guillen went on the decline. Renda won't hit home runs, but this team isn't exactly starved for power.
Houston Astros: Starting Pitching
The Houston Astros are a rebuilding team with several problem areas. With the No. 1 overall selection, they need somebody with talent and polish.
Right-handed pitcher Mark Appel (Stanford) makes the most sense.
According to a scout, Appel "...has three Major League plus pitches." His 6'5" frame is ideal for a starter as well.
Appel's experience against college hitters is important, as is his ability to dominate them. Also note that he grew up near Houston.
Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitching
Much like the Baltimore Orioles, the Kansas City Royals want a college pitcher and are in position to come away with a highly touted one.
The fastball (up to 97 mph), slider and curve are all quality pitches thrown by Kyle Zimmer (San Francisco).
For all his achievements, the junior doesn't turn 21 until Sept. 13.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Catcher
Jerry Dipoto is barely seven months into his career as a general manager. In such a short time, he has set the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim up for a bright future.
Thanks to contract extensions and free-agent signings, the franchise has long-term answers at most positions—except catcher.
Florida's Mike Zunino isn't an option—not when your first pick is 114th overall.
But the possibility of drafting Kevin Plawecki (Purdue) is much more realistic. He is fundamentally sound in the field and is a rare backstop who puts an emphasis on contact hitting.
Best-case scenario, Plawecki is Yadier Molina.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting Pitching
Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly—both deep into their 30s—aren't long-term pieces in the Los Angeles Dodgers' puzzle.
The need for starting pitching isn't urgent, which is why Ned Colletti will likely go the high school route.
A number of teenage hurlers have been linked to the Dodgers, but none more often than Ty Hensley (Edmond Santa Fe High School; Edmond, Okla.), according to MLB.com draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Hensley will fare well in the pros after working out a few kinks in his delivery.
Miami Marlins: Outfielder
The Miami Marlins went after Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason, but came away empty-handed.
Their outfield depth is an issue right now,—they had no choice but to recall Chris Coghlan—and there are few (if any) promising prospects in the minors.
With a better drafting position than the Chicago White Sox, we might see the Marlins take Courtney Hawkins at No. 9.
Milwaukee Brewers: Shortstop
Dealing young shortstop Alcides Escobar was a big risk for the Milwaukee Brewers. The move was successful because they received ace Zack Greinke, though now the consequences have forced them to entrust regular at-bats to Cody Ransom.
The Brewers will be searching for several shortstops in the 2012 draft. Deven Marrero (Arizona State), a line-drive gap hitter, should be their primary target.
Minnesota Twins: Power Hitter
Byron Buxton (Appling County High School; Baxley, Ga.) is talented enough to be the first overall selection of the Houston Astros.
Luckily, the Minnesota Twins have him to themselves if Houston goes with anybody else—and that's a likely scenario.
It will take several years for Buxton to develop, but his world-class tools are worth the wait for a team that's a long way from contending.
New York Mets: Shortstop
Though Ruben Tejada has been valuable in parts of three MLB seasons, the New York Mets prefer a shortstop with more offensive upside.
According to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, Gavin Cecchini (Barbe High School; Lake Charles, La.) has been linked to the team in every major trade publication.
Drafting Cecchini would be gutsy, considering the questions about his defense.
However, based on their 2011 first-round pick (Brandon Nimmo from Wyoming), the Mets don't seem intimidated by uncertainty.
New York Yankees: Starting Pitching
The Killer B's—Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances—no longer look like cornerstones of future starting rotations. Ivan Nova is very inconsistent at the big-league level as well.
Of course, the New York Yankees are familiar with disappointing starting pitchers. The difficulties they've had in acquiring them through the draft are well-documented.
Nonetheless, they should keep trying.
From Hagerty High School in Chuluota, Fla., Zach Eflin has a great pitcher's body and knows how to use it to throw strikes. His changeup is already a lethal weapon.
Oakland Athletics: Offensive Position Player
If any MLB team doesn't need to draft more pitching, it's the Oakland Athletics. Exporting Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez has left them with a surplus of potential aces.
Their strategy is clear—take premium college position players to fix an anemic offense.
That starts with Clemson's Richie Shaffer. Though there are holes in his swing, this oppressed franchise cannot pass on such a powerful run-producer.
Philadelphia Phillies: Offensive Position Player
The Philadelphia Phillies are shockingly in the same boat as the Oakland Athletics. Significant injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have kept them off the field all season.
But more importantly, frustrating setbacks have fueled skepticism about whether or not they'll ever be All-Stars again.
While other offensive players have stepped up in their absence, the most accomplished one, Shane Victorino, is an impending free agent.
Victor Roache (Georgia Southern) has the strength to carry their lineup.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Catcher
Outfielder Andrew McCutchen could be stuck with the Pittsburgh Pirates through the 2018 season. I'm sure he would appreciate it if another semi-decent hitter joined him in the lineup.
Florida's Mike Zunino is that guy.
In addition to his defensive prowess, Zunino projects as a powerful, middle-of-the-order presence.
San Diego Padres: Middle Infielder
Finally, the San Diego Padres made multi-year commitments to some of their everyday players.
However, each of these paydays went to smooth fielders with limited offensive potential (i.e., Nick Hundley, Cameron Maybin, etc.).
The organization apparently has no intention of scoring runs in the foreseeable future.
Shortstop Carlos Correa would change the culture if he meets lofty expectations, and Deven Marrero can be the "Plan B" for their first-round pick.
San Francisco Giants: 1st Baseman
The San Francisco Giants insist that 24-year-old Brandon Belt is their first baseman, yet he's still searching for regular playing time.
His production isn't acceptable, even in AT&T Park, so don't be surprised if the team begins to groom somebody new.
Adam Brett Walker (Jacksonville) is pretty much restricted to first base by poor range and a weak throwing arm. There's no limitation on his power, though.
The Giants could either select him early at No. 20 or cross their fingers that he's still there when they have the 84th overall pick.
Seattle Mariners: Shortstop
Three-quarters of the Seattle Mariners infield seems set for the future, with Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak.
There's only one hole left to fill: shortstop.
Puerto Rican Carlos Correa has drawn comparisons to Cal Ripken Jr., both because of his height and his tools. For those attributes, the Mariners would be willing to draft him at No. 3, forcing the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres to fall back on their alternatives.
The Mariners may re-sign slick-fielding Brendan Ryan to give Correa a few seasons with minor-league affiliates.
Going after a shortstop assumes that the franchise trusts Jesus Montero to start significant games behind the plate.
St. Louis Cardinals: Shortstop
The St. Louis Cardinals have two first-round picks in 2012, and one should be used on an eventual replacement for veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal.
Addison Russell (Pace High School; Pace, Fla.) has endless offensive upside. His weight was a concern, and at one point, experts projected that he would become a third baseman at the professional level.
Lately, though, there is more optimism that he can stay at shortstop.
Tampa Bay Rays: Catcher
Reinforced at most other positions, the Tampa Bay Rays desperately need to add catching depth.
Backstop Peter O'Brien (Miami) fell to the third round in the 2011 draft. After a strong senior season, the Rays will have to take him earlier.
O'Brien is a great offensive player, gifted with above-average-to-plus power and the bat control to hit to all fields. He even has solid agility for his size.
Texas Rangers: Center Fielder
The Texas Rangers usually pursue hard-throwing high school pitchers, but in 2012, their priorities have changed—at least their top priority has.
Retaining Josh Hamilton is only wise if he can be protected in left field, which requires the Rangers to find somebody who can be in center by 2013—a collegiate player.
With elite athleticism, Barrett Barnes (Texas Tech) will have no problem covering ground, plus his previously raw offensive skills are improving.
Toronto Blue Jays: Late-Inning Relief
The Toronto Blue Jays would be legitimate contenders in the American League East with a better bullpen. Francisco Cordero has struggled, and who knows what they'll get from Sergio Santos upon his return shoulder surgery.
Lucas Sims (Brookwood High School; Lawrenceville, Ga.) has the mound presence of a future closer.
His fastball isn't overwhelming, but it reportedly has good life. Sims complements it with a curveball and developing changeup, though he could stick with just one off-speed pitch as a reliever.
Washington Nationals: Starting Pitching
Bill Ladson of MLB.com notes that this is the first time in six years that the Washington Nationals won't be selecting in the Top 10.
Waiting at the 16th overall pick may prevent them from getting Andrew Heaney (Oklahoma State).
Washington's big-league starting rotation is excellent, but their depth was compromised by the Gio Gonzalez trade this past winter. Prospects A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock were all dealt to the Oakland Athletics.
Heaney wouldn't require much seasoning. The only question is whether or not he'll be available for them to draft.