Stars shine brighter in baseball.
While it’s a team sport, compared to football, basketball, hockey and soccer, baseball is extremely individualistic. Single players are given the opportunity to put the team on their backs more than in any other game. Here’s a 2012 first-round MLB Mock Draft highlighting the prospects with the ability to do just that in the big leagues.
1. Houston Astros: Byron Buxton (OF, HS)
Buxton has no glaring weakness in his game, but there are some glaring strengths.
According to Keith Law of ESPN, scouts are labeling Buxton as one of the fastest baseball players that they’ve ever seen. He’s also reportedly capable of throwing 98 mph on the mound. That freakish combination of range and arm strength provides him with the potential to be a legendary centerfielder.
Fans will be calling him Byron “Black Hole” Buxton in no time.
2. Minnesota Twins: Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford)
At 6’4”, 195 pounds with a 99 mph fast ball, Appel definitely has the physical ability to become an ace in the majors. His overall skill set is off the chain as well. Appel’s only question mark is production that hasn’t equaled his talent level, but many analysts blame his troubles on the Cardinal coaching staff.
Appel is one of the few players in the draft that are talented enough to leapfrog Buxton and hear their name called first overall.
3. Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino (C, Florida)
Zunino is the most pro-ready position player in the class. He isn’t one-dimensional at the play. His ability to hit for power and contact is rare for a catcher.
On defense, Zunino is even more spectacular. His combination of an excellent arm, hands and athleticism give him the ceiling of a dominant defender. After he gains the experience, he’ll be special.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman (RHP, LSU)
If there’s one pitcher in the draft that will be selected over Appel, Gausman is the most likely, if not the only candidate.
Like Appel, his fast ball reaches speeds up to 99 mph. He compliments that scorching speed with a make-you-whiff changup. And after replacing his curveball with a killer slider, he’s now almost guaranteed a spot in the top five.
5. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer (RHP, USF)
Zimmer’s fastball isn’t far off Appel and Gausman’s at 97 mph, and his durability is top-notch.
6. Chicago Cubs: Carlos Correa (SS, HS)
Correa is the most talented infielder in the class by far and has all of the tools to become a superstar.
7. San Diego Padres: Albert Almora (OF, HS)
Almora doesn’t have Buxton’s physical gifts, but he’s more polished at this point in his career thanks to an impressive work ethic.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Devin Marrero (SS, Arizona St.)
Marrero isn’t going to bat .300, but his defensive prowess will turn many a double-play.
9. Miami Marlins: Max Fried (LHP, HS)
Fried is the best southpaw pitcher in the draft and possesses a nice changeup to complement his fastball.
10. Colorado Rockies: Lucas Giolito (RHP, HS)
Giolito will be the steal of the draft if he fully recovers from an elbow injury that ended his spring season.
11. Oakland Athletics: Richie Shaffer (3B, Clemson)
Shaffer is a defensive force and also hits with force, as he’s always a home-run threat.
12. New York Mets: Stephen Piscotty (3B, Stanford)
Piscotty doesn’t boast Shaffer’s defensive ability or power, but he’s a better contact hitter than him.
13. Chicago White Sox: Michael Wacha (RHP, Texas A&M)
Wacha won’t blow you away like pitchers that’ll go off the board in the top 10, but he’s arguably the safest pick off the mound in the draft.
14. Cincinnati Reds: Gavin Cecchini (SS, HS)
Cecchini is more potential than product at this point, but he’ll definitely be an exceptional base-stealer if he pans out.
15. Cleveland Indians: Courtney Hawkins (OF, HS)
While there’s a bit of a drop off from Almora to Hawkins, the Texas commit is still a well-rounded prospect.
16. Washington Nationals: Andrew Heaney (LHP, Oklahoma St.)
Heaney is the top left-handed college pitcher in the draft, and his breaking balls are extremely effective.
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Zach Eflin (RHP, HS)
Eflin throws a solid fastball and is capable of countering with a changeup that’s impressive for a high school pitcher.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Smoral (LHP, HS)
It isn’t a shocker that the 6’8”, 220-pound giant has an incredibly high ceiling.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Addison Russell (SS, HS)
Russell will make a name for himself offensively, but he did manage to lose 20, which will help his defense significantly.
20. San Francisco Giants: Marcus Stroman (RHP, Duke)
If Stroman was as tall as Smoral, he’d arguably be a top-10 prospect, so the talent is there.
21. Atlanta Braves: Joey Gallo (3B, HS)
The 6’5”, 220-pound Gallo is a threat to go yard every time he steps to the plate.
22. Toronto Blue Jays: Hunter Virant (LHP, HS)
Virant’s arm strength is a weakness, but if he picks up the speed, he’ll be a major steal.
23. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Stratton (RHP, Mississippi St.)
Not many pitchers in the draft boast a four-pitch arsenal as effective as Stratton’s.
24. Boston Red Sox: Nolan Fontana (SS, Florida)
Fontana isn’t the most physically gifted player in the world, but he does all the little things right and is a winner.
25. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Lucas Sims (RHP, HS)
Sims is raw, but he has the physical ability and pitcher’s mentality to succeed in the MLB.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Walker Weickel (RHP, HS)
Weickel has the skill set to be a top-10 pick, but the velocity on his fastball is lacking.
27. Milwaukee Brewers: Brian Johnson (LHP, Florida)
Johnson is arguably the top hitting pitcher in the class so he’ll be on National League teams’ radars early.
28. Milwaukee Brewers: Stryker Trahan (C, HS)
Trahan has all the physical ability to blow up in the pros, but he must first shake inconsistencies at and behind the plate.
29. Texas Rangers: Carson Kelly (RHP, HS)
Kelly is versatile enough to be able to pitch or play third base at the next level.
30. New York Yankees: Patrick Wisdom (3B, Saint Mary’s)
With elite power and defensive ability, Wisdom’s potential is through the roof, but his consistency in the batter’s box must improve.
31. Boston Red Sox: David Dahl (CF, HS)
Dahl is an impressive athlete and contact hitter, but his power won’t wow you.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.