2011 MLB Mock Draft...Because It's Never Too Early
Scouts will tell you, minutes after the MLB draft is over, the task begins of putting together lists for who will be the top talent for next year's draft.
Luckily, the scouts have me.
Not really. Luckily, while scouting certain players for the 2010 draft, scouts have been quietly taking notes on 2011 prospects. Why else do you think the Orioles Joe Jordan has been taking in Rice Owls games?
It sure as heck wasn't to see what kind of atmosphere number two pick Jameson Taillon MIGHT have been immersing himself in if he attended instead of signing with the Pirates.
So here you have it, a ridiculously early look at the 2011 MLB draft...which is oh, so heavy on college pitching.
1) Baltimore Orioles- Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice University
With a 16-41 record, five games worse that the Cleveland Indians, the Orioles are looking like the proverbial shoe-in to attain the number one pick for 2011.
About time too. After 12, (going on 13) consecutive losing seasons, you'd think the Orioles would at least have one number one pick to their credit.
No doubt, there will be plenty of debate over who to take with the first pick, but as of right now, no one has earned the honor more than Anthony Rendon, a third-baseman from Rice University.
Rendon has done nothing but rake since setting foot on campus. In 2009, he was named the National Freshman of the Year after setting a Rice freshman record with 20 home runs. He also led the team in RBI and batting average.
He won just about every other first-year player award and was named to the Conference USA first-team.
He shined brightest in NCAA tournament play, hitting .632 with a home run, two doubles, seven RBI, and five runs scored.
This past season Rendon surpasses every mark from 2009, setting career highs in home runs (26), RBI (85), runs scored (83), hits (89) and average (.394). He played in all 63 games and had a ridiculous walk to strikeout ratio of 65:22.
Then toss in the fact that he only made five errors in 180 chances for a fielding percentage of .973.
He grades out as a Evan Longoria type player, with slightly worse defense.
2) Cleveland Indians- Matt Purke, RHP, TCU
The Indians are just about the only team that have given the O's a run for their money in terms of just plain sucking.
But at least they'll be rewarded with a plethora of arms worthy of top five picks.
As you can tell, Purke is a skinny dude, but he packs a serious punch with his pitches, as evidenced by the fact that he was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft.
He didn't sign with the Rangers due to high monetary demands, and the Rangers loss is the Indians gain.
At 6'4'' and only 180 pounds, Purke has plenty of room to grow, but his offerings are already top notch. He features a low 90s fastball. He features a good slider and a decent curve, but both pitches were plenty good during his first year at TCU.
Purke anchored a very good TCU rotation, going undefeated at 13-0, and contributing to the rotation's 35-2 record. His ERA was the highest on the staff, but at 3.40 that's not too terrible. He led the team in strikeouts with an insane 122 in only 95.1 innings.
Purke had plenty of mojo going into the 2009 draft, rivaling Tyler Matzek as the top lefty available, and even though it seemed impossibly, it looks like he's garnered even more helium going into the 2011 draft.
Getting Purke back-to-back with Pomeranz in this year's draft will give the Indians one of the best lefty duos in the minors.
3) Houston Astros- Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
The Astros need as many high picks as they can get. Their farm system is one of the worst in baseball, and while they did supplement it with Delino Deshields Jr, they still have a good long way to go.
Luckily, Gerrit Cole is still around.
Like Purke, Cole is another unsigned draftee, from the 2008 draft. The Yankees didn't want to put up the cash that the 6'4'' 220 pound Cole was asking for, and so he took his game to college, where he has put up solid numbers at UCLA.
Last year for the Bruins, Cole went 4-8 in 14 starts. He did have a 3.49 ERA and struck out 104 batters in only 85 innings, utilizing his mid 90s fastball and a fantastic curveball. His changeup made significant progress and became a usable pitch.
This year, for a much better UCLA squad, Cole paced the staff as one of the three ten-game winners, notching a 10-2 record. His ERA dropped to 3.11, and he held batters to a .194 batting average. He struck out 131 batters, good for second on the team, but walked a team-high 47 batters.
Cole has one of the easiest deliveries in the draft, which makes him even more appealing.
4) Arizona Diamondbacks- Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
Jungmann is a big guy, at 6'6'' and 200 pounds, and just the kind of guy Arizona needs to bring to the desert.
Jungmann is your typical big, hard-throwing right-hander from Texas, who passed up on signing with the Angels as a 24th rounder in 2008.
Much like Anthony Rendon, Jungmann took his game to college and exploded as a freshman, winning 11 games and leading the Longhorns to the College World Series Championship game. The tall righty also notched a 2.00 ERA and struck out 101 in 94.2 innings.
After garnering tons of attention, Jungmann's name popped up on the 2011 draft board, and Jungmann carried that momentum into the 2010 season. Texas is once again headed back to the Super Regionals of the CWS and Jungmann is once again leading the way.
Jungmann pitched 7.2 innings of two-hit ball and struck out seven Rice batters en route to winning their regional. And he did it all in only 84 pitches.
In a feast for the eyes, Jungmann will hopefully get the chance to go toe-to-toe with TCU's Matt Purke in the Super Regional this weekend.
Regardless of the result, Jungmann is still one of the top right-handers available in 2011. His mid 90s fastball explodes out of his hand and his slider-changeup combo is one of the best any college arm has to offer right now.
He should be a easy top five pick, and the D-Backs should have the money to sign him considering all the coin they'll save on seventh pick Barrett Loux this year.
5) Pittsburgh Pirates- Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
Sonny Gray had absolutely no problem making the transition from full-time reliever to full-time starter this season.
After posting an 11.0 strikeouts per nine ratio as a freshman, Gray put on a fabulous encore that included nine wins, a 3.51 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 102.2 innings for a Vandy team that is still alive in the CWS.
Gray struggled in his first CWS start, but will get another chance to prove himself, and considering his easy mid 90s heat, he should get lucky at some point.
Control is the big thing lacking in Gray's game, as his team-leading 45 walks attest, but in addition to his easy heat, he also packs an explosive slider that is unhittable when it's on.
He'll be a tad more seasoned than Jameson Taillon was, and the two, along with 2010 second-round pick Stetson Allie should provide the Bucs with a solid trio of pitchers.
And since Gray isn't as big (literally and figuratively) he shouldn't command Taillon type money.
It's a win-win for the Pirates.
6) Seattle Mariners- C.J. Cron, C, Utah
If you're looking for next year's version of Yasmani Grandal, or two year's ago's version of Tony Sanchez, look no further than Utah's C.J. Cron.
As a sophomore this year, Cron has torn the cover off the ball in true Roy Hobbs fashion. He placed his name in every offensive category and his .431 batting average was good enough for 14th best in the nation.
He also smacked 20 home runs, drove in 81 runs, scored 55 himself, and rapped 16 doubles. And this was just his encore.
In 2009, as a Baseball America All-Freshman, Cron hit .337 with 11 home runs and 58 RBI. Furthermore, he made subtle headlines as the only player in the '09 season to notch three hits off of eventual number one pick Stephen Strasburg.
At 6'4'' and 230 pounds, you have to wonder how long Cron could stay at catcher, but he did toss out 43% of runners trying to steal on him this past season, much improved from the 18% he cut down in 2009.
If he has another year in which he hits over .400 and hits 20 or more home runs, look for there to be a run on Cron.
And the Mariners need a bona-fide power threat in their organization who can isn't an all-or-nothing free swinger.
7) Milwaukee Brewers- Danny Hultzen, RHP, Virginia
Hultzen has put together marvelous back-to-back seasons and has little left to prove at the college level.
Heading into the 2011 draft season, he should be considered one of the so-called "safest arms," and a perfect fit for an organization (Milwaukee) that needs some immediate help.
In two seasons, the 6'2'' right-hander has breezed through NCAA hitters, notching a 20-2 career record. Both seasons he pitched to a sub 2.85 ERA and he's struck out at least 107 batters both seasons, while never issuing more than 28 walks.
Hultzen doesn't offer as much velocity as any of the top five arms, but his control and command are his bread and butter, as evidenced by his walks per nine rate under 3.0.
His fastball will break into the low 90s, and he gets just enough speed out of it to make his secondary pitches, an above-average curveball and a solid changeup, throw hitters off balance.
Hultzen will anchor the 2011 Cavs squad which should be uber-talented, but keep an eye on how he performs under the bright lights of the CWS this weekend.
8) Kansas City Royals- Ricky Oropesa, 3B, USC
Oropesa was rated as the 108th best prospect in the 2008 draft, and when he didn't sign with the Red Sox, as their 24th round pick, you instantly knew he would be one of the best power hitting prospects in the 2011 draft.
Oropesa put that power on display in 2009 for the Trojans, hitting 13 home runs, while keeping up a decent batting average (.314). He earned Pac-10 Freshman honors and even garnered attention from Baseball America as their freshman honorable-mention.
This year, Oropesa continued to rake for a less than impressive USC squad. His .353 batting average led the team, as did his 20 home runs (no one else cracked double digits), 67 RBI (more than double the next closest Trojan), 22 doubles and 33 walks.
The 6'3'' 225 pounder even led the squad in stolen bases with seven, and while speed won't necessarily find it's way into his pro game, it just goes to show you that Oropesa is the kind of player who does whatever it takes to will his team to W's.
Oropesa projects to hit 20-25 home runs per year in the pros, and will probably hit enough to keep his average in the .275-.280 range. His defense will be the one thing holding him back, but he could always slide over to first.
The Royals are set at third with Mike Moustakas, one of the finest young power hitters in the minors, but with an infield of Moustakas, Colon, and Oropesa, the Royals could be set for years to come.
9) Chicago White Sox- Jack Armstrong, RHP, Vanderbilt
If the name looks familiar, that's because Armstrong is the son of seven-year vet Jack Armstrong Sr.
Armstrong Jr. turned down a $1 million signing bonus out of high school to go to Vanderbilt, and while he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, he could be primed for a stellar 2011 season.
He's already started to gather some momentum, as he knocked in the game-winning run as a pinch hitter a few nights ago to keep Vandy alive in the CWS.
He'll also get the opportunity to go pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer and boost his stock even more.
At 6'6'' and 225 pounds, Armstrong has the perfect pitcher's body, and he's athletic, leading his HS basketball team to the state title in 2008. He features a mid 90s fastball and while his secondary pitches aren't much to sneeze at, he should get some quality development time between now and the 2011 draft.
Plus, Jack Armstrong just sounds like someone who should be pitching for the White Sox right?
10) Chicago Cubs- Zack MacPhee, 2B/SS, Arizona State
MacPhee may measure up short in terms of all the traditional criteria for a top ten pick, but this kid can flat out play.
The 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year, MacPhee light a serious light under the Sun Devils you-know-what this year, and turned in a fantastic season.
The 5'8'' 180 pound middle infielder batted .381, knocked eight home runs, drove in 59, and scored 62 runs. He set a new Arizona State record with an insane 14 triples and swiped 18 bases.
A true baseball rat, MacPhee can do just about anything and at his best could profile as a diet Ian Kinsler, who can swipe some bases and offers decent pop, while offering solid defense at second.
Visions of a MacPhee to Castro to Lee (at least for the time being), double-play combo should make Cubs fans and staff giddy with joy.