MLB Draft 2012: 5 1st-Round Picks Who Will Have Quick Paths to the Majors
Marlins first-round pick Andrew Heaney will be ready for The Show sooner than most; Photo via News9.com
The first round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft is in the books. Now begins the waiting game.
One thing we know for sure is that none of the 31 players selected in the first round on Monday will go straight to the big leagues. The high school prospects are going to need a couple years of development, and even the top college players are going to have to pay their dues in the minors for a couple years.
However, it's by no means unheard of for prospects to move towards the majors very quickly. We've seen players make their major league debuts mere months after being drafted. Others find themselves in the Show less than a year after the draft.
Of the 31 players who were chosen in the first round of the 2012 draft, here's a look at five who will enjoy quick ascents to the major leagues.
Kevin Gausman, RHP (No. 4 Pick of Baltimore Orioles)
Photo via NOLA.com
Orioles fans are already excited to see Dylan Bundy make his major league debut. Now they get to imagine a dynamic rotation duo featuring Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
This dynamic duo will arrive sooner rather than later. Bundy is progressing towards the majors at a rapid pace, and Gausman will do the same once he gets started.
Gausman has two things working in his favor. First, he has a smooth and easy delivery that doesn't need much (if any) work. He generates easy velocity, and it's made even more formidable by the way in which he uses his big frame to get right on top of hitters.
Second, Gausman is able to combine his plus fastball with a plus changeup, meaning he has at least two plus pitches to rely on. His curve and slider are works in progress, but the bright side is that his curve can be deadly when he's throwing it well.
Those breaking pitches will need some work, and that will delay Gausman's arrival in the majors a little bit. Nonetheless, I think O's fans can look forward to seeing Gausman arrive shortly after Bundy arrives. Late 2014 is a possibility, and early 2015 is a very real possibility.
Andrew Heaney, LHP (No. 9 Pick of Miami Marlins)
Photo via The Oklahoman
The Marlins landed the best left-handed arm in the draft when they took Andrew Heaney with the No. 9 overall pick, and he's going to be ready to lend a hand in the very near future.
Heaney's stuff is already ready for the big leagues. He throws a fastball that sits between 90 and 95 miles per hour, and he complements it with a curveball and changeup that are both above average.
Two things set Heaney apart from his comrades. First, his command is already refined, as he can command his fastball on both sides of the plate and then finish hitters off with his off-speed stuff. Second, he has a smooth delivery that really doesn't need much work. He's the exact opposite of a "raw" pitching prospect.
Because he doesn't need to develop command or learn a new delivery, Heaney will merely have to build up arm strength and hone his mental approach (in other words, learn how to pitch in the pros).
If all goes well, Heaney could very well make his debut late in the 2013 season. If that doesn't happen, he'll certainly be in the majors sometime in 2014.
Richie Shaffer, 3B (No. 25 Pick of the Tampa Bay Rays)
Photo via Clemson.GreenvilleOnline.com
There's only one position player I feel comfortable enough to include on this list, and that's Richie Shaffer.
I feel comfortable including Shaffer because he doesn't have a whole lot to work on relative to the other position players chosen on Day 1. He's a hitter capable of hitting for both average and power, and the thinking is that he has even more power than he showed during his career at Clemson. He knows how to use the whole field.
Schaffer's defense at third was a question mark coming into the season, but he made great strides this past season. He has the range to handle the hot corner, and he certainly has the arm. A position switch is possible, though, especially if the Rays feel like they need to groom a first baseman or a right fielder.
They could very well do that, and the reason is obvious: Evan Longoria mans the hot corner for the Rays, and that's going to be the case for some time.
Regardless, Shaffer could arrive in the majors by mid-2014, and he could be an everyday player by 2015.
He may not be an everyday player for the Rays, mind you, but Shaffer's time will come sooner than most.
Marcus Stroman, RHP (No. 22 Pick of Toronto Blue Jays)
Photo via MLBProspectPortal.com
If you paid attention to the various draft buzz leading up to the draft, the fact that Marcus Stroman is on this list should come as no surprise.
There are some who think that Stroman has the best pure stuff of any pitcher in this draft class. He can get his fastball up in the mid-90s, and he complements it with a truly nasty slider that is going to get a lot of swings and misses. To boot, he throws a solid changeup and a solid cutter.
Duke used Stroman as a starter, but there's a general consensus that he's a better fit for bullpen work. Part of the reason is because he's small for a pitching prospect (5'9"), so relieving is a good way to preserve his arm. In addition, he opened a lot of eyes when he served as the closer for Team USA.
If the Blue Jays decide to bring Stroman along as a reliever, he could make his debut later this season. And since the Jays have had bullpen issues all season, it's a good bet that they'll bring Stroman along as a reliever.
If so, late 2012 is the target date. If he's not ready by then, expect Stroman to break camp in Toronto's bullpen at the start of 2013.
If the Jays choose to develop him as a starter, 2015 is the more likely target year.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP (No. 5 Pick of Kansas City Royals)
Photo via The Baltimore Sun
This year's draft featured a kind of holy trinity of college arms: LSU's Kevin Gausman, Stanford's Mark Appel and SFU's Kyle Zimmer.
Of the three, expect Zimmer to reach the big leagues first.
This is not exactly the conventional wisdom on Zimmer, and I'm aware of that. He's relatively late to pitching, and it occasionally shows.
But only occasionally, and that's because Zimmer has electric stuff, good control and a nice, simple delivery that he repeats well.
The one issue I have with Zimmer is that his changeup is not quite there yet. In fact, only his fastball and curveball are true plus pitches at the moment. His change and slider need some work, which is no surprise given his (relative) lack of experience.
The good news is that he can throw all four of his pitches for strikes. The further good news is that he is now the top arm in the Royals' farm system. The big league club desperately needs a marquee pitcher, so there's a good chance Zimmer will be advanced quickly and then given some on-the-job training.
There's an outside chance at a late 2013 promotion, but early to mid-2014 is more likely.