MLB Draft 2012: Grading the Minor League Performance of All 30 Teams' Top Pick
Ever since the first MLB draft was conducted in 1965, scores of young prospects have gone to great lengths to realize their dream of playing on the grandest of stages.
As the draft has evolved and as teams have developed more rigorous development programs, all of the young men who are drafted are given opportunities to move up the ladder with their respective organizations.
Some move rather quickly through the system simply based on their level of talent, while others come to the realization that playing on the professional level is vastly different compared to their days on high school and college fields.
Whatever the case, it's always the first-rounders that get most of the publicity and a much higher percentage of bonus money as well.
Bleacher Report will take a look at the top draft picks for each team from the past year and grade their progress thus far in their very first year of professional baseball.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Stryker Trahan, C
The Arizona Diamondbacks decided to go with a catcher with their first pick in the 2012 MLB draft, selecting Stryker Trahan from Acadiana High School in Lafayette, La.
Trahan thus far has adjusted well at the plate, hitting .281 with five home runs and 25 RBI in 49 games for the D-Backs rookie league team in Arizona. Trahan has shown solid plate discipline as well, drawing 40 walks with a .422 OBP.
Defensively, Trahan is clearly a work in progress. He's committed 11 errors with 18 passed balls, and has only thrown out 24 percent of runners attempting to steal.
It's certainly not alarming at his young age (18) and the D-Backs will no doubt take their time with their young catching prodigy, especially considering they have Miguel Montero locked up for the next five seasons.
Atlanta Braves: Lucas Sims, RHP
Considering the Atlanta Braves' penchant for developing young arms, no one was surprised when they selected high school right-hander Lucas Sims with the 21st pick in the 2012 MLB draft.
Sims started in the Gulf Coast League before moving on to Danville in the Appalachian League. Thus far, Sims has been on a strict innings limit, averaging just over three innings per start. He has posted a 2-4 record with a 3.71 ERA in 34 innings, covering 11 starts.
Sims has shown flashes of brilliance thus far, but he has also struggled at times with command, walking 12 batters in 27 innings at Danville. Sims will likely be given time to work on his command with the stable of pitching prospects already in the Braves system.
Grade: B- All in all, a decent start for Sims as he learns to adjust to a much higher level of competition.
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP
It took right up until the deadline to finally ink their prized prospect, but the Baltimore Orioles feel like they got a good one in former LSU star right-hander Kevin Gausman.
After two three-inning starts at short-season Single-A Aberdeen, the O's were impressed enough to promote Gausman to Advanced Single-A Frederick. After getting rocked in his first outing there and allowing two home runs, Gausman has settled down nicely.
On Thursday, Gausman was thrown into the playoff mix for the Double-A Bowie BaySox, throwing three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five.
The key to Gausman's game is his command. Thus far in six starts totaling 18 innings, Gausman has walked just one batter while striking out 18.
Grade: A- Thus far a terrific start for Gausman, already moving up three levels in a limited span of time. He'll likely start next season at Bowie as well, and he could move up the ladder very quickly.
Boston Red Sox: Deven Marrero, SS
Former ASU standout shortstop Deven Marrero made his professional debut with the Lowell Spinners in the New York-Penn League earlier this summer after being selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft.
Marrero has hit .268 in 64 games with two homers, 24 RBI, 14 doubles and 24 stolen bases. Manager Bruce Crabbe loves Marrero's overall makeup.
I think he has done very well. The kid is a baseball player. He is very instinctive on the baseball field. From the moment he got here, you could tell he knew what he was doing around the ballpark. He has been as relaxed as they come. He has good instincts, a good arm and good feet. I think he has a lot of upside, even as a first-round pick.
Sounds a little bit like current Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, don't you think?
Grade: B- Marrero has committed nine errors in 24 games at short, so he's still adjusting to a quicker pace at the professional level.
Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF
It's easy to see why the Chicago Cubs fell in love with their first pick in the 2012 MLB draft. Albert Almora can just plain hit.
Making his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League, Almora hit .347 in 18 games, striking out just eight times in 75 at-bats. Almora's performance earned him a promotion to the Boise Hawks in the Lower-A Northwest League, where he has hit .292 in 15 games.
Grade: B+ Almora still needs to develop plate discipline, only drawing two walks in 145 overall plate appearances. Still, the ability to hit along with his defensive skills in center field have been a major plus thus far.
Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF
One of the attributes that attracted the Chicago White Sox when looking at outfield prospect Courtney Hawkins was a seemingly natural power stroke.
Hawkins, the 13th overall selection in the 2012 MLB draft, has flashed that power already in his first professional season.
Hawkins has already made the jump from short-season rookie league Bristol to Single-A Kannapolis and now to Advanced Single-A Winston-Salem. He's now trying to help the Dash win the Carolina League playoffs.
Hawkins hit home runs in back-to-back games in the first two games of the Southern Division championship series against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Overall, Hawkins has hit .284 in 59 games with eight home runs, 33 RBI and an .804 OPS.
Not too shabby for an 18-year-old.
Cincinnati Reds: Nick Travieso, RHP
Nick Travieso features a fastball-slider combination that convinced the Reds he was worthy of the 14th overall pick, but thus far at the professional level, Travieso has found the road a wee bit tougher than high school ball.
In eight starts in the Arizona Rookie League, Travieso posted a 4.71 ERA with five walks and 14 strikeouts.
It isn't clear at this point whether or not Travieso will be groomed as a potential starter or reliever, but next season will probably offer a better indication.
Cleveland Indians: Tyler Naquin, OF
Taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, former Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin has impressed thus far with his overall poise and outstanding defensive abilities. He's also shown the ability to be productive with the bat.
Naquin hit .270 in 36 games for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York-Penn League, and is now trying to help the Lake County Captains advance in the playoffs of the Single-A Midwest League.
Naquin dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 10th inning for the Captains, moving a runner from second to third in the process. That runner would eventually score, giving the Captains a 5-4 victory and moving them on to face Fort Wayne in the semifinals.
Naquin has also flashed his above-average arm, throwing out two runners at home plate from center field while with Mahoning Valley.
Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF
High school outfielder David Dahl is already making waves at the professional level for the Colorado Rockies.
Dahl, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, put together a 27-game hitting streak for Grand Junction, the Rockies entry in the Pioneer League.
With a .379 average, nine home runs, 57 RBI, 22 doubles, 10 triples and a 1.048 OPS, Dahl was named the MVP in late August.
Dahl closed out the regular season with two homers on Thursday night, putting a cap on a phenomenal first professional season.
Detroit Tigers: Jake Thompson, RHP
The Detroit Tigers did not have a pick until late in the second round of the 2012 MLB draft, selecting high school right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson with the 91st overall selection.
Even though they had to wait to get involved in the draft, Thompson thus far has made that wait pay off for the Tigers.
In seven starts in the Gulf Coast League, Thompson posted a nifty 1.91 ERA, allowing just 14 hits in 28.1 innings while striking out 31 against just 10 walks.
Grade: A Super start for the 18-year-old right-hander. While he hasn't yet cracked the Top 20 list of prospects in the Tigers organization, building on his performance this season should improve his standing.
Houston Astros: Carlos Correa, SS
The hype that surrounded this year's first overall draft pick may have gotten to him a little bit at the start of his professional career.
Carlos Correa, selected first by the Houston Astros in June, struggled in his debut in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .232 in 39 games. Correa bounced back nicely with Greeneville in the Appalachian League, hitting .371 with a 1.050 OPS in 11 games.
Defensively, Correa has shown terrific range and a strong arm, but he's not always accurate. He committed 11 errors in the GCL, but just one error in 11 games with Greeneville.
Grade: C Correa is a work in progress defensively, and he shows flashes of greatness with the bat. Correa hasn't even turned 18 yet, so the Astros will have plenty of time to develop their future shortstop.
Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP
The Kansas City Royals' top draft pick started nine games in his first professional season—no small feat considering he had "bodies" floating around in his throwing elbow.
Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall selection in the 2012 MLB draft, underwent minor elbow surgery in late August to remove those bodies—a procedure deemed minor, according to the Royals.
General manager Dayton Moore said:
Everybody in baseball knew about this prior to the draft. It wasn’t anything that caught anyone by surprise. We knew this was going to have to take place at some point in this offseason.
The bodies floating around in Zimmer's elbow wasn't enough to slow him down, however. He posted a stellar 2.04 ERA in nine starts, striking out 42 in 39.2 innings against just eight walks.
Zimmer will be completely recovered by spring training next season, and the Royals certainly hope that he can continue to display the command and dominance that led them to invest so highly in him.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/08/24/3777358/royalss-top-2012-pick-pitcher.html#storylink=cpy
Los Angeles Angels: R.J. Alvarez, RHP
The Los Angeles Angels were forced to wait until the third round of the 2012 MLB draft to make their first selection, choosing right-handed pitcher R.J. Alvarez out of Florida Atlantic University.
Thus far, Alvarez had held his own, making the jump from a midlevel college program to Single-A ball. In 23 appearances for Cedar Rapids, Alvarez posted a 3.29 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 27.1 innings.
Alvarez features a lively fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90s, but he doesn't have a great repertoire of secondary pitches, hence his current position as a reliever. Alvarez could develop into either a closer or solid set-up man in the future.
Grade: B- Alvarez's lack of a solid secondary pitch could hurt him over time, so he'll need to work during the offseason to develop one quickly in order to succeed at the upper levels.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager, SS
At 6'4" and 205 pounds, it's hard to tell whether or not the Los Angeles Dodgers' first-round draft pick Corey Seager will be a shortstop at the major league level. However, considering how well he's hit thus far at the professional level, Seager's bat will have him playing somewhere.
Since being selected with the 18th overall pick by the Dodgers in the 2012 MLB draft, Seager has shown he can adjust to advanced levels, hitting .309 with eight homers and 33 RBI in 46 games for the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League.
Seager has struggled defensively, however, committing 17 errors in 44 games at short.
Grade: B- The bat certainly plays. The defense, however, needs work. Not uncommon for an 18-year-old in his first taste of professional ball, though.
Miami Marlins: Andrew Heaney, LHP
Oklahoma State University pitcher Andrew Heaney was selected with the ninth overall pick by the Miami Marlins in the 2012 MLB draft. Thus far, Heaney hasn't been lights out, but he hasn't disappointed.
Heaney made just two starts in the rookie Gulf Coast League before earning a promotion to Single-A Greensboro in the South Atlantic League.
Heaney got off to a rough start early before settling in, and he recently offered up a seven-inning scoreless performance in Game 1 of a playoff series against Hagerstown, striking out eight batters.
Heaney overall has posted a 4.33 ERA in just six professional starts.
Grade: C+ The 2013 season will be a much better indication of Heaney's future as he learns to adjust to hitters at higher levels.
Milwaukee Brewers: Clint Coulter, C
The Milwaukee Brewers drafted late in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft, selecting Union High School (Washington) catcher Clint Coulter with the 27th overall pick.
Coulter has adjusted well thus far at the lowest professional level, hitting .302 with five homers and 33 RBI in 49 games in the Arizona Rookie League.
Defensively, however, Coulter's game is a big-time work in progress. He's committed eight errors with 21 passed balls in just 26 games behind the plate, throwing out only 16 percent of runners attempting to steal.
Grade: C+ The bat's been terrific, but the defense has to be a concern at this point for the Brewers. Those numbers are alarming at the rookie level.
Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF
The Minnesota Twins invested $6 million in their top draft pick this year and, so far, Byron Buxton is adjusting slowly to life in professional baseball.
Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, started off slowly in the Gulf Coast League, hitting just .216 in 27 games with four home runs and 14 RBI.
Buxton then made the jump to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League, and his game started to come around. He hit .286 in 21 games, also helping the Twins to capture the Appalachian League championship last week.
Grade: C+ Considering all the hype, Buxton was really just average. But 48 games is a very small sample size, especially for an 18-year-old.
New York Mets: Gavin Cecchini, SS
The New York Mets decided to go with a shortstop with their first-round pick, selecting Gavin Cecchini out of Barbe High School (Louisiana) with the 12th overall pick.
Cecchini showed off a terrific glove, committing just five errors in 35 total games in the field at Kingsport of the Appalachian League and at Brooklyn of the New York-Penn league.
Offensively, Cecchini has some adjusting to do. He hit just .240 overall with one homer and 22 RBI in 58 games.
Grade: C+ Overall, not a bad start for the 18-year-old. Good enough to have him ranked as the sixth-best overall prospect in the Mets farm system.
The 2013 season will be a better indication as to how Cecchini can adjust to stronger pitching at higher levels.
New York Yankees: Ty Hensley, RHP
I absolutely loved the New York Yankees' first-round selection in the 2012 MLB draft when it was announced, and I still love it today.
The Yankees selected right-hander Ty Hensley out of Edmond Santa Fe High School (Oklahoma) with the 30th overall pick. Hensley reportedly had shoulder issues that dropped him on many draft boards, but throughout his first few starts at the professional level, he was throwing comfortably.
Hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and flashing a major league-ready curveball, Hensley posted a 3.00 ERA in five appearances in the Gulf Coast League, striking out 14 batters in 12 innings. He issued seven walks as well, so his command isn't quite there yet, but that's certainly not uncommon for an 18-year-old.
Grade: B+ You have to love Hensley's determination. His goal is to be pitching in Yankee Stadium by the time he's 21 years old.
Oakland Athletics: Addison Russell, SS
Not too many prospects on this list have better first-year numbers than Oakland Athletics first-round draft pick Addison Russell.
Russell shined at every stop in 2012, hitting .415 in 26 games in the Arizona Rookie League, moving on to hit .340 in 13 games for Vermont of the New York-Penn League and finally arriving at Single-A Burlington where he hit .310 in 16 games.
Overall, Russell hit .369 with seven home runs, 45 RBI and a 1.027 OPS in 55 games.
Defensively, Russell committed 10 errors in 48 games at short.
Grade: A+ Terrific start for the 18-year-old.
Philadelphia Phillies: Shane Watson, RHP
The Philadelphia Phillies had to wait until the compensation round to make their first selection in the 2012 MLB draft.
With the 40th pick overall, the Phillies selected high-school right-hander Shane Watson, who flashed an aggressiveness and willingness to attack hitters.
Watson struck out 79 batters in 53 innings during his senior season, and the Phillies were also enamored with his four-pitch repertoire—a low-to-mid 90s fastball, curve, splitter and changeup.
Watson's body of work was small in his first taste of professional ball, throwing just seven innings in the Gulf Coast League. He struck out eight batters and walked just one in those seven innings with a 1.29 ERA.
Grade: B+ Watson had a small sample size, but there's certainly enough there to be enticing for the Phillies.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Barrett Barnes, OF
The Pittsburgh Pirates struck out in their attempt to sign fourth overall draft pick Mark Appel, who chose to return to Stanford University for his senior season. But they may have gotten a good one with their compensation pick.
Barrett Barnes, selected by the Pirates with the 45th overall pick, made his debut with the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League shortly after signing with the Pirates.
Barnes hit .288 with five home runs and 24 RBI in 38 games, already moving up to become the 11th-ranked prospect in the Pirates farm system.
San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP
Harvard-Westlake High School (California) left-hander Max Fried enjoyed some success in his first taste of professional ball after being selected with the seventh overall pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2012 MLB draft.
In 10 games, Fried went 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA and six walks in 17.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League, finishing his season with four scoreless appearances spanning 7.2 innings.
Fried will be pitching again this fall in the Instructional League.
Grade: B- Fried's first experience overall in professional baseball was solid, but next year will be a much better indicator of just how fast Fried can progress through the minors.
San Francisco Giants: Chris Stratton, RHP
The San Francisco Giants have to be pleased with the progress of first-round prospect Chris Stratton, despite a frightening incident that cut short his inaugural season in professional baseball.
Stratton, selected by the Giants out of Mississippi State with the 20th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, was felled by a line drive to the head during batting practice prior to a game on Aug. 21.
Stratton was hospitalized for a few days, but reportedly will have no lingering effects and should be completely ready to go for next season.
Stratton had posted a 2.76 ERA in eight appearances—five of them starts—striking out 16 in 16.1 innings while walking 10.
Grade: B Stratton showed the Giants a solid four-pitch repertoire prior to his injury. He is the third-ranked prospect in the organization.
Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino, C
For Seattle Mariners' first-round draft Mike Zunino, the question may not just be how good he can be, but also how quickly he'll ascend to the majors.
Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft from the University of Florida, stepped right into professional ball and started bashing, hitting .373 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI at Everett of the Northwest League.
Zunino earned himself a promotion directly to Double-A Jackson, and even at the higher level he produced, hitting .333 with three homers and eight RBI in 15 games.
It's easy to see why the Mariners loved Zunino's overall game as well—he threw out 43 percent of runners attempting to steal, committing just four errors in 31 games.
Grade: A+ After an extended college season that reached all the way to the CWS, Zunino could have been excused for suffering a bit of a letdown in his professional debut. Zunino would have none of that, continuing to excel at each level along the way.
St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha, RHP
After being selected with the 20th overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 MLB draft, right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha ascended quickly through the Cardinals farm system.
Starting out in the Gulf Coast League, moving to Palm Beach of the Florida State League and then finally to Double-A Springfield, Wacha shows no signs of being intimidated by hitters at any level.
Overall, Wacha has posted a 0.86 ERA in 11 appearances, two of them starts. Wacha has struck out an incredible 40 batters in just 21 innings, walking only four.
After a long season between college and professional ball, Wacha will likely rest his arm this fall. But considering his quick ascension thus far, it's entirely possible Wacha could be seen in St. Louis sometime during the 2013 season.
Tampa Bay Rays: Richie Shaffer, 3B
It seems like the extra experience gained by third baseman Richie Shaffer in college did him a lot of good.
Shaffer was drafted in the 25th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2009 MLB draft, but he elected to attend Clemson University instead. After a stellar collegiate career, Shaffer was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 25th overall pick earlier this year.
The experience seemed to have paid off—Shaffer hit .308 with four home runs and 26 RBI in just 33 games in the New York-Penn League.
Shaffer was stellar defensively as well, committing just four errors in 24 games at third.
Texas Rangers: Lewis Brinson, OF
The Texas Rangers team in the Arizona Rookie League took home the league title this season, and 2012 first-round draft pick Lewis Brinson had a lot to do with their success.
Brinson, the 29th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, hit .283 with seven home runs and 42 RBI in 54 games, including an .868 OPS and 14 stolen bases.
Brinson's speed and power combination was the major reason the Rangers were enamored with him, and he displayed an abundance of both during his first taste of professional ball.
Toronto Blue Jays: D.J. Davis, OF
The Toronto Blue Jays selected Stone County High School (Mississippi) outfielder D.J. Davis with the 17th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft. Davis always had tremendous defense, but the ability to hit shot him up the draft boards in the months leading up to the draft.
Davis' speed was evident in his first taste of professional ball, but he was inconsistent with the bat.
Starting out in the Gulf Coast League, Davis hit just .233 in 43 games, with four home runes, 24 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Davis fared better with Bluefield in the Appalachian League, hitting .340 in 12 games before earning a promotion to Vancouver in the Northwest League.
Davis struggled somewhat at the higher level, hitting just .167 in five games. A small sample size, but Davis will need to work on a more consistent approach at the plate as he adjusts to a better crop of pitching at the professional level.
Overall, Davis hit .250 with five homers and 18 RBI in 50 games in his first full season.
Washington Nationals: Lucas Giolito, RHP
When Washington Nationals' 2012 first-round pick Lucas Giolito sits down to talk to Nats' 2009 top pick Stephen Strasburg, the two will have one thing in common to discuss—Tommy John surgery.
Giolito didn't throw a pitch during his senior season at Harvard-Westlake High School (California), having injured the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in March.
That didn't stop the Nats from selecting him with the 16th overall pick. After all, they do have experience in rehabbing pitchers with elbow issues (Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann).
Giolito made his professional debut on Aug. 14 in the Gulf Coast League, throwing two innings before being pulled with elbow soreness.
Tommy John surgery was successfully performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum on Aug. 31, and he will likely miss most of the 2013 season.
Grade: D- A very curious selection by the Nationals here since they knew about the condition beforehand. They'll now likely have to wait until 2014 to see if their hunch about Giolito was correct.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.