The 2011 MLB Draft is less than five months away.
Football season is over, and for those players committed to both sports (Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley), the primary focus is back on to baseball, where a more financially secure and immediate future awaits them.
I've done up a few mock drafts over the past few months:
Not to mention, I tried to bring attention to the top players available in the draft:
But now it's time for a more analytical look at the top players available, and where they might find themselves on draft day.
Granted, the draft is still a long ways off, and if any draft can be synonymous with "unpredictable," it's the MLB version.
So here we go, version 5.0, with added analysis, extra info, and updated stats.
And this is just the first part of my 5.0 mock draft. Stay tuned for picks 11-20, and 21-33.
Unless Rendon has a traumatic reaction to his second ankle injury in two seasons, he is going to be the player the Pirates tab as the number one overall pick.
In Rendon, the Pirates would be getting a player that Baseball America’s Jim Callis claims would have taken over 2010 number-one pick Bryce Harper had they been eligible in the same year. Harper is probably going to rank as BA’s number two or three overall prospect.
Rendon has a special bat, and hitting ability that enabled him to hit .394 last season, upping his average six points from the .388 he hit as a freshman when he won (easily) BA’s Freshman of the Year award. He hit 20 home runs that season, and upped his total to 27 last year, taking home BA’s Player of the Year honor, becoming the first player since Robin Ventura to win those honors in back-to-back seasons.
Rendon has been compared to Evan Longoria, another seasoned collegiate third-baseman, and the comparisons are quite fair. Rendon is on par with Longoria as a hitter, and might be just a shade above in terms of his fielding.
His batting eye has been compared to Dustin Pedroia, and he is widely praised as being the best college hitter since Mark Teixeira.
Rendon is so good that he’ll not only occupy third base at PNC Park in no time (ETA 2012), but he’ll also force another top-three pick (Pedro Alvarez-2008) from his natural position.
After Rendon, it’s really a three or four-way battle for the number two spot. There are plenty of other challengers who could emerge over the course of the 2011 high school and collegiate seasons, but if the Mariners were forced to pick today, their choice would probably be TCU lefty Matt Purke.
Purke breezed through his freshman year at TCU, breaking all sorts of records in the process. He posted a perfect 16-0 record, leading Division I pitchers in victories. He struck out 142 batters in only 116 innings of work and issued only 34 walks, a fantastic number for a first-year starter. Purke’s remarkable season earned him Baseball America’s honor as the top freshman of 2010.
Purke is no stranger to the draft process. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Rangers, but was forced to head off to college when MLB stepped into negotiations on behalf of the bankrupt organization and suggested lower bonus numbers then both sides had discussed before the draft.
In terms of pure stuff, few pitchers offer as much as Purke. A smooth-throwing lefty, he can crank his fastball up into the mid 90s. His secondary pitches include a slider and a curveball. He is often compared to two lefties who have had great success at the big-league level, Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw.
The Mariners currently lack a true superstar pitcher in their organization, and Purke would give them just that.
The Diamondbacks were both surprised and disappointed at the outcome of their 2010 draft. They had the sixth-overall pick and drafted Texas A&M’s Barrett Loux only to find out that Loux had structural issues with his pitching arm. The D-Backs passed on offering him a contract, and as a result, picked up a compensation pick in the 2011 draft. Their poor showing on the field in 2010 earned them the number-three overall pick, meaning that Arizona has two of the top seven picks.
Checking out the draft history of Jerry Dipoto, the D-Backs director of scouting, the team has committed to pitching during three of his four drafts. Expect that trend to continue in 2011, as the depth in pitching at the top of the draft is as good as any draft in recent memory. The D-Backs seem to prefer safe college pitchers, and given the recent history they’ve had with injury concerns, expect them to tab a pitcher who has little history in that department. A pitcher like Sonny Gray.
Gray had a spectacular summer pitching for Team USA, and further enhanced his draft stock. He isn’t the biggest guy (5'11" and 195 pounds), but he throws hard (94-96 mph) and features an above-average slider to complement his high-heat. His changeup needs some work, but so far his one-two combo has been plenty good enough to dominate the SEC.
In two seasons at Vandy, Gray has posted a 15-6 record and a 3.80 ERA. He has 185 strikeouts in 166 innings and has been downright sensational since moving into the rotation last season.
Gray is expected to lead a very talented Commodore rotation in 2011, a team with aspirations of a CWS championship run. That should give teams a long, good look at him.
Getting Cole at number four would be considered one of the biggest steals in the draft if the talent at the top wasn’t so good.
For Orioles fans, think of Cole as a more impressive, higher-ceiling Jake Arrieta, who has already cracked the Orioles rotation after being tabbed as a fifth-rounder in 2007.
Cole had a spectacular 2010 season, posting an 11-4 record and a 3.37 ERA, while striking out an amazing 153 batters in only 123 innings. He surrendered only four home runs on the year and for the second consecutive season struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings.
Cole has excellent stuff, including a fastball that can touch triple digits. It sits more comfortably in the 96-99 mph range, but he can certainly dial it up when he needs to. Cole dialed it up plenty in the Bruins' run to the CWS championship game, emerging as one of the top players to watch heading into the 2011 season. If he has as good of a year as the pundits are expecting, he could be long gone by the time the Orioles pick at number four.
Cole would add to an impressive group of young pitchers in the Baltimore system, most of whom have already reached the upper levels of the organization. He would battle Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman for ace status and would fit in nicely in a rotation consisting of those two, Arrieta and Zach Britton.
The Royals don’t have too many holes in their system, and any that they did have they shored up with the trade of Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. That trade netted them a starting shortstop (Alcides Escobar), another high profile arm (Jake Odorizzi), and possibly their center-fielder of the future (Lorenzo Cain). The former and the latter plugged huge holes for K.C.
Still, as deep as their system is, they can afford to take the best player available with their pick at number five, and that player would arguably be Connecticut slugger George Springer.
Springer has developed into a true five-tool outfielder for the Huskies, and is expected to be a key piece of what the team hopes is a run to the CWS this season. He did his part last season, helping UConn to a 48-16 record and a CWS regional bid.
Springer hit .337 with 18 home runs and broke school records with 60 walks and 84 runs scored. He led the team in OBP, and also stole 33 bases in 35 attempts. In the field, he registered only one error all season. As a freshman in 2009, Springer became the first Huskie to earn the honor of Big East Freshman of the Year after he hit .358 with 16 homers and 57 RBI, establishing numerous Big East and UConn freshman records.
Springer has played both of the past two summers on the Cape in the CCBL, where this past season he ranked as the number one prospect according to ESPN’s Keith Law.
As a pro player, Springer would most likely ditch his five-tool talent to focus on his best tool: His power. He’ll eventually shift from center-field to a corner, where he has the potential to develop into a 30+ home run guy. Think of Alex Rios as a good comp for Springer.
The past two seasons the Nationals have spent a devoted good amount of time and money to college players, specifically pitchers. Since 2009, they've spent big on Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Sammy Solis, Neil Holland, A.J. Morris, Trevor Holder, and Matthew Grace.
And as great as that has been for their system, they could benefit greatly by adding a big-time high-schooler with tons of potential and a very high ceiling. Tyler Beede would be that player.
Beede is the son of former big-league pitcher who taught him proper pitching mechanics before his ninth birthday, and how to throw a curve before his 13th.
The combination of the top-level tutoring and his own impressive skill-set has allowed Beede to have amazing success wherever he's pitched. He led his tiny Auburn, Massachusetts high school team to a state championship, pitching brilliantly (7-1, 114 strikeouts in 56.1 IP) as a sophomore. And as if that wasn't impressive enough, he decided to transfer to Lawrence Academy to pit himself against tougher competition in preparation for college ball (he's committed to Vanderbilt), or even the MLB draft.
Now at Lawrence, Beede has shone even brighter. He's grown into the role of ace of the Spartan baseball squad, while also playing first-base and he's found time for football, helping the Spartan squad get back to the state championship game on the gridiron.
Beede already has a big-league body at 6'4", 200 pounds, and could stand to add a few inches and a few pounds. He's been clocked as high as 94-mph, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him crack 95 as a senior this season, with even more room for progression as he continues to develop.
The biggest obstacle for Beede could be his strong commitment to Vandy. Still, he should have a huge senior year and that should catapult him into first-round consideration. That, combined with the money available to a first-rounder, and the fact that a draft wage-scale could be on it's way might convince him to go pro while the money is there.
As with any team that has an extra compensation pick, the D-Backs first pick, which is protected, will most likely be spent on the best player available. The second, which is unprotected, will most likely be used on a player who will sign quickly and for close to slot money.
For my money, the one player who sounds like he fits that bill will be UConn's Matt Barnes.
Barnes exploded onto the scene this past summer, pitching lights out at the Team USA tryouts in Cary, NC. He, in consecutive at-bats, struck out Baseball America Player of the Year Anthony Rendon and College World Series MVP Jackie Bradley Jr.
Barnes impressed during the college season as well, posting an 8-3 record and a 3.92 ERA. He struck out 75 batters in 82 innings, but only seemed to find his footing as the season wore on. His fine summer only cemented his status as a player to keep an eye on in 2011, and one who could jump into top-ten consideration.
He'll be pitching in 2011 for a stacked UConn squad that includes fellow potential top-ten pick George Springer. The Huskies should be a sleeper for a CWS appearance, and without a doubt have the most impressive pitcher-hitter combo in all of college baseball.
Barnes throws in the mid 90s and seemingly got stronger (and faster) as the summer wore on. For Team USA, he went 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA with 26 strikeouts in only 19 innings. In the pre-lims of the World University Baseball Championships in Tokyo, Barnes led the way in Team USA's group-clinching win over Canada, pitching seven shutout innings, striking out eight.
Barnes' other pitches, all of which looked average to above average this summer, include a slider, curveball, and changeup.
Bradley makes sense in so many ways for the Indians, who really need to move on from the Grady Sizemore-Travis Hafner era.
Next to Rendon and Springer, he is easily the most impressive collegiate bat available. But Bradley isn't just a big bat. In addition to hitting a combined .358 during his two seasons as a Gamecock, Bradley has also posted huge walk numbers, stolen a couple of bases, and played sterling outfield.
Bradley was crucial to South Carolina's College World Series championship run in 2010, and will be a key piece if they can mount an encore in 2011. He was named MVP after hitting two home runs and driving in eight RBI during the semifinals and finals.
Despite his relatively low stolen base numbers, Bradley has pretty good speed, certainly good enough to stick in center-field, where teams are going to be drooling over him already for his ability to hit for power. He saw a lot of that power sapped during the beginning of last season when he was recovering from a broken hand, but it should return in 2011.
Bradley is a beast in the field, tracking down balls no other players can or should be able to reach. There's a rumor going that he once threw in a ball from right field during a high school All-Star game that was clocked at 101-mph.
Clearly he has a pretty good arm to boot.
The Indians have gotten away from drafting premium position talent over the past few years with Brad Grant in charge, and taking Bradley Jr. would be jumping back into that pool with both feet.
Daniel Norris has had an eventful off-season.
Since throwing his last pitch of the summer, he's picked up tons of hardware. He was named the Aflac National High School Player of the Year, Pitching Prospect of the Year by Baseball America, and also took home the 2010 Jackie Robinson Award after a immensely successful junior season that saw him improve his career record to 25-1.
He struck out 140 batters in only 64.1 innings and pitched an 18-strikeout, nine-walk no-hitter.
And if that wasn't tempting enough, he throws in the mid 90s and features one of the best curveballs in the draft. Norris is so highly thought of that Baseball America ranked him as the fifth-best draft prospect available in 2011, as well as the second-best talent among high-schoolers from the 2010-11 period, behind only number two overall pick in 2010, Jameson Taillon.
The biggest knock on Norris is that he pitches in Tennessee, where the level of competition in no way measures up to that offered in California or Texas. Still, he puts up mind-boggling numbers, has a top-flight fastball and an excellent compliment in his curveball, and has the mentality of a much bigger pitcher (Norris is only 6'2" and 180 pounds).
If the biggest knock is playing in Tennessee, the biggest question mark will be if Norris wants to commit to pitching full-time. At the plate, he's a top-notch draft prospect in his own right. He profiles as a Juan Pierre-type lead-off guy who has some surprising power.
His future should be on the mound, though. It's where he can grow to his fullest potential, and where a team like the Cubs, who recently gutted their farm system to acquire Matt Garza, could use some serious upgrades.
If Daniel Norris is going to have any competition for the top spot in the 2011 draft, the guy who has the best shot at giving him a run for his money is Bradley.
He has the size (6'4", 225 pounds), the athleticism (top 2011 football recruit), and the stuff (mid 90s fastball) to compete and has his entire senior season to clear up a few of his question marks, such as developing a few impressive secondary pitches, and most importantly, deciding on which sport holds the key to his future.
You see, Bradley has a problem. Not only is he a top-five high-school pitcher heading into the 2011 draft, he's also a top-flight football recruit with a scholarship offer to Oklahoma which he accepted in early August. He is expected to compete for the backup spot to starter Landry Jones, who will return to lead a serious championship contender in 2011.
But on the diamond, Bradley is a backup to no one. This past season saw him strike out an eye-popping 155 batters in 73 innings while posting a 1.31 ERA, reaching 97-mph on radar guns on several occasions.
Only time will tell whether Bradley chooses one sport over the other, or if for the time being, he continues to play both, even at Oklahoma where the baseball team has set aside a spot for the big right-hander.
This pick for the Padres represents their compensation pick, and my guess is that in true Padre fashion, they'll take a talented high-school arm and then compensate him well enough to drop the idea of football.
Next time I'll be tackling picks 11-20, which the order for looks like this:
11. Houston Astros
12. Milwaukee Brewers
13. New York Mets
14. Florida Marlins
15. Milwaukee Brewers (compensation for failure to sign Dylan Covey)
16. Los Angeles Dodgers
17. Los Angeles Angels
18. Oakland Athletics
19. Boston Red Sox (compensation from Detroit for Victor Martinez)
20. Colorado Rockies
While you wait, whet your appetite with some quality baseball draft coverage over at ProDraftCentral.com, the go to site for coverage on the biggest event of the year for each major sport. Baseball coverage should be starting soon.