Looking back at the 2012 draft, it’s easy to use hindsight to declare certain teams as either a winner or loser. However, the reality is that it will take several years to truly evaluate each organization’s first-round selection.
Although we’re only about six months removed from the draft, I thought that I’d reflect on each pick considering what has already been learned from each player’s professional debut this past season.
So, if I were to redraft the entire first round today, here’s how it might look.
Actual Pick: Carlos Correa, SS
Should Have Picked: Correa
Explanation: It’s hard to disagree with the Astros' selection of Correa, who was/is clearly the top talent in the 2012 draft class. It may take the highly athletic and projectable shortstop a few extra years to develop, but it’ll be worth it.
Actual Pick: Byron Buxton, OF
Should Have Picked: Buxton
Explanation: At the time of the draft, the Twins severely lacked a high-ceiling prospect of Buxton’s caliber. The toolsy outfielder was incredibly raw in his professional debut last season, but as the top talent on the board at the time, he was definitely the correct pick.
Actual Pick: Mike Zunino, C
Should Have Picked: Zunino
Explanation: As an organization who has perennially struggled to correctly draft and develop catching prospects, Zunino was the ideal selection due to his advanced baseball skills, baseball acumen and proximity to the major leagues. And all the 21-year-old did in his professional debut was post a 1.137 OPS and reach Double-A Jackson.
Actual Pick: Kevin Gausman, RHP
Should Have Picked: Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Explanation: It’s no knock on the Orioles for drafting Gausman, who was, without a doubt, one of the more advanced arms in the entire draft class. However, as another advanced college right-hander, I think Zimmer has a better chance to excel in the major leagues given his four-pitch mix—two of which grade easily as plus offerings.
Actual Pick: Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Should Have Picked: Lucas Giolito, RHP
Explanation: Assuming that the Royals were more interested in drafting the best arm on the board rather than one close to the major leagues, selecting the injured Giolito seemed to be the perfect fit. Yes, his medical history raised a red flag and was likely to need Tommy John surgery within the next few years, but it’s hard to find another pitcher in the draft with as much pure upside.
Actual Pick: Albert Almora, OF
Should Have Picked: Almora
Explanation: I really like the Cubs’ selection of Almora and believe that it completely addresses their need for a legitimate center fielder in the long term. Although David Dahl probably has more upside, there’s a lot to like about Almora’s present ability, future projection and overall makeup/polish for his age.
Actual Pick: Max Fried, LHP
Should Have Picked: Addison Russell
Explanation: With a farm system already loaded with pitching prospects, there’s no denying that the Padres added a highly projectable, left-handed arm in Fried.
However, given their gaping hole at shortstop over the last five years, it would have made more sense for them to target Russell, who ultimately batted .369/.432/.594 with 26 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases in his professional debut, which included 16 games at Low-A Burlington.
Actual Pick: Mark Appel (did not sign)
Should Have Picked: Appel
Explanation: Somebody had to pick him, and the Pirates believed it was a healthy gamble. In hindsight, it definitely was. Although it’s a shame the organization was unable to come to terms with the right-hander, it did net an additional draft pick in 2013.
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Actual Pick: Andrew Heaney, LHP
Should Have Picked: Kevin Gausman
Explanation: Although their farm system drastically improved over the course of the 2012 season, it was largely the result of the organization’s fire sale of its top talent. They do boast several highly promising young arms, but they all lack experience. Therefore, selecting a player like Gausman or Heaney was the right call for the Marlins, who were clearly focused on rebuilding.
Actual Pick: David Dahl, OF
Should Have Picked: Dahl
Explanation: Dahl enjoyed one of the more impressive professional debuts among the 2012 draftees, as the toolsy outfielder batted .379/.423/.625 with 106 hits (41 extra-base hits) and 12 stolen bases in the rookie-level Pioneer League. He has all the makings of a high-level talent and was a monster addition to the Rockies’ struggling system.
Actual Pick: Addison Russell, SS
Should Have Picked: Russell. Definitely.
Explanation: Even though Russell would have been an ideal fit for the Padres a few picks earlier, the fact that A’s were able to land the promising shortstop with the 11th pick should be considered an absolute steal.
Actual Pick: Gavin Cecchini, SS
Should Have Picked: Corey Seager
Explanation: Although the Mets can’t be blamed for targeting one of the top up-the-middle talents on the board in Cecchini, they could have landed a more dynamic player—and one with a more promising long-term projection in Corey Seager.
Actual Pick: Courtney Hawkins, OF
Should Have Picked: Hawkins
Explanation: In previous seasons, the White Sox had targeted cheap toolsy outfielder or pitching, seemingly hesitant to offer significant signing bonuses to their draft picks. They deviated from such a strategy by selecting Hawkins, a raw but promising outfielder who instantly became the organization’s top prospect.
Actual Pick: Nick Travieso, RHP
Should Have Picked: Michael Wacha, RHP
Explanation: Clearly hoping to land one of the higher upside arms still on the board, the Reds overdrafted Travieso—at least in my opinion. He has a power arm and a bright future, but he’s far from a safe bet to remain a starting pitcher.
Michael Wacha, on the other hand, enjoyed a dynamic professional debut in which he reached Double-A and appears to be only about a year away from reaching the major leagues.
Actual Pick: Tyler Naquin, OF
Should Have Picked: D.J. Davis, OF
Explanation: Another example of one of the greater overdrafts, Naquin profiles as more of a fourth outfielder or tweener than a true first-round talent. I would liked to have seen the Indians target an outfielder capable of making a greater long-term impact, such as the toolsy D.J. Davis.
Actual Pick: Lucas Giolito, RHP
Should Have Picked: Giolito
Explanation: With a starting rotation already comprised of numerous high-level, front-line starting pitchers, Giolito was a perfect fit for the Nationals despite his injury history. When healthy, the right-hander possesses as much upside as any arm in the 2012 draft class.
Actual Pick: D.J. Davis, OF
Should Have Picked: Lewis Brinson, OF
Explanation: I definitely admire the Blue Jays’ willingness to go all out on an athletic and projectable outfielder; however, I would have preferred that they target Brinson over Davis. Can’t fault them for the actually pick—it’s just my personal preference.
Actual Pick: Corey Seager, SS
Should Have Picked: Seager
Explanation: After drafting a pitcher in each of the last five drafts, the Dodgers finally broke the cycle when they selected Seager with their first pick in the 2012 draft. He has the potential to be an impact bat from the left side, even if he ultimately lands at third base.
Actual Pick: Michael Wacha, RHP
Should Have Picked: Wacha
Explanation: Interested in landing a potential No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher with their first pick, the Cardinals made the right call in selecting Wacha, who registered a 0.86 ERA and 40/4 K/BB in 21 innings while reaching Double-A Springfield in his professional debut.
Actual Pick: Chris Stratton, RHP
Should Have Picked: Stratton
Explanation: Having failed to draft a legitimate impact talent in recent years, the Giants went with Stratton, a collegiate pitcher who’s a safe bet to reach the major leagues in only a few years.
Actual Pick: Lucas Sims, RHP
Should Have Picked: D.J. Davis, OF
Explanation: After selecting a college arm in the first round of the 2011 draft, the Braves added another promising arm to their already pitching-heavy system. Instead, I would have preferred that they target a top position player, such as D.J. Davis.
Actual Pick: Marcus Stroman, RHP
Should Have Picked: Stroman
Explanation: I’m hesitant to agree with this pick due to Stroman’s limited projection as a starting pitcher. However, if the Blue Jays truly believe that he possesses value in that sense, then it was the correct pick. After all, it's hard to find a better arm and pure stuff than Stroman's.
Actual Pick: James Ramsey, OF
Should Have Picked: Richie Shaffer, 3B
Explanation: The Cardinals would ultimately draft two third basemen in the next round (Stephen Piscotty and Carson Kelly), so I never have understood their willingness to overdraft Ramsey in this spot. It seemingly would have made more sense for them to select Shaffer, who profiles favorably at the hot corner.
Actual Pick: Deven Marrero, SS
Should Have Picked: Gavin Cecchini, SS
Explanation: Although there was a limited selection of shortstops remaining on the draft board at this time, I can’t help but feel that the Red Sox overdrafted Marrero. He may be a safe bet to reach the major leagues, but doesn’t require as much projection as a high school player like Cecchini.
Actual Pick: Richie Schaffer, 3B
Should Have Picked: Stryker Trahan, C
Explanation: If there’s one significant deficiency in the Rays’ system, it’s their lack of catching prospects. Therefore, selecting Trahan, who possesses a highly promising left-handed bat, would have been a more logical choice.
Actual Pick: Stryker Trahan, C
Should Have Picked: Wyatt Mathisen, C
Explanation: Assuming that Trahan would have never made it to the Diamondbacks this late in the first round, there were still several projectable catching prospects still on the board. One option, Mathisen, may have been a better choice than Trahan given his likelihood to stick behind the plate and promising right-handed bat.
Actual Pick: Clint Coulter, C
Should Have Picked: Coulter
Explanation: In a system devoid of catching prospects, the Brewers' selection of Coulter makes plenty of sense given his projectable hitting tools and overall athleticism relative to the position.
Actual Pick: Victor Roache, OF
Should Have Picked: Joey Gallo, 3B
Explanation: With the back-to-back picks in the late first round, the Brewers were clearly seeking as much power as possible with their second pick and therefore opted to selected Roache—who is loaded with raw power but was limited in 2012 after suffering a major wrist injury early in the spring. Gallo, on the other hand, offers just as much power as Roache but owns a higher ceiling.
Actual Pick: Lewis Brinson, OF
Should Have Picked: Nick Travieso, RHP
Explanation: The Rangers landed a high-ceiling talent in Brinson, but given the pitchers they selected over the next two rounds, it may have made more sense for them to target the power-armed Travieso here instead.
Actual Pick: Ty Hensley, RHP
Should Have Picked: Hensley
Explanation: With a dearth of projectable pitching prospects on the farm, the Yankees added a solid arm in Hensley, a right-hander. As arguably the top pitching prospect still on the board, you can’t fault the Bombers for their selection.
Actual Pick: Brian Johnson, LHP
Should Have Picked: Lance McCullers, RHP
Explanation: Although Johnson appeared to be a safe bet to reach the majors given his college experience and handedness, the Florida alumnus lacks the upside commonly associated with a first-rounder. Instead, it may have made more sense for the Red Sox to target a more projectable arm, such as McCullers.