Thanks to all of you who have been keeping up with my piece-by-piece mock draft here at Bleacher Report, and a special thanks to those of you who clicked on these articles thinking they were NFL Mock Drafts and decided to keep reading.
I consider you converts to the MLB Draft.
If you had to label each set of picks they would look something like this:
Picks 1-10 weeded out all of the elite talent available in this draft, at least those who are "known quantities" right now. Those players happen to include Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, Gerrit Cole and George Springer.
Picks 11-20 were all about high-schoolers with huge upside, all of whom appear to be pretty safe bets.
The picks covered in this article, 21-33, are all about trying to distinguish between the talent that's left. That means lots of high-risk, high-reward guys and tons of off the board picks.
After all, no draft does "off the wall" and "high-risk, high-reward" quite like baseball's.
So, let's get into it.
Not to be confused with Baltimore's Josh Bell, nor the several other athletes (numbering in the 20s) sharing the same name, Texas high-schooler Josh Bell is one of the 2011 draft's fastest movers, as in moving up draft boards.
The 6'3", 205-pound, outfielder is arguably a five-tool talent, and is a switch-hitter with the chance for above-average power.
He has a short, powerful swing and combines it with excellent bat speed to crush pitches in the zone to all parts of the field.
In the field, he offers slightly above-average defensive ability. He has a cannon for an arm, but lacks the range to stick at centerfield as a pro, his position so far in highschool.
As he packs on the pounds to gain more power at the plate, that will limit him to one of the corners, where his rocket arm will play quite nicely.
On the basepaths he's not a base-clogger, but as he continues to fill out, he should be sapped of that slightly above-average tool.
Bell would be a great project for a team like Toronto, who has shown an affinity for high-risk, toolsy outfielders with very high ceilings.
With Vernon Wells departing, the Jays are now in a new era, and Bell could become a part of that.
Zach Cone excelled all season long in 2010, despite playing for one of the worst teams in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs.
But he didn't just excel at the plate, where he hit .363 with 10 homers and 53 RBI.
He showed great instincts on the basepaths, swiping 13 bases without getting caught.
And in the field he was top-notch, racking up a conference-best seven outfield assists.
All of these traits helped Cone boost his draft stock, and prime him for a serious run at the first-round if he can put together another all-around solid season in 2011.
Cone's best tool is his power, most of which is generated from his tremendously powerful legs, which help him turn potential fly-outs into home runs.
His power at the plate is arguably the best in the college crop of 2011.
His legs, and the speed they generate, also aid him in the outfield, where he profiles as a great defensive corner-outfielder.
Like many 2011 first-round talents, Cone isn't new to this whole draft process. He was a third round pick out of high school (Angels), so you know teams won't be sleeping on him this time around.
The Cardinals have made drafting great athletes a priority over the past few seasons, and selecting Cone would continue that trend.
However, picking him over potentially higher-ceiling, higher-risk players would give them a more projectable, more polished bat.
It's hard to believe nobody was on Tucker coming out of high-school. I mean NOBODY. No pro teams, no scouts, not even any colleges.
That is hard to believe considering he won his county's triple crown and established himself as the area's best player since Wade Boggs.
Tucker twice made trips to FSU for tryouts, but was told by the coaches that they didn't think he had enough talent, so they sent him packing.
Boy, isn't he making everyone look stupid. As a standout at UF, Tucker is poised to get the ultimate revenge, in the form of a first-round bonus.
At Florida, Tucker has developed into a patient, powerful hitter.
He has above-average power, as evidenced by his three-homer, 11-RBI game as a freshman against UCF, in which he bashed two grand-slams. He had a standout freshman campaign, highlighted by 15 homers, 85 RBI and a .364 average.
And he's also as patient as they come. He struck out only 22 times his first year at UF.
This past season, he experienced a little regression, witnessing a drop in all of his offensive numbers, despite playing two more games than he did as a freshman.
Through it all, though, Tucker maintained his plate discipline, striking out only 29 times, compared to 42 walks.
Fielding is really the only drawback on Tucker. Once a catcher, he now shares first base duties for the Gators and his skills around the bag are less than impressive.
But with that bat, and those eyes, he won't make it past the first round.
The Nats are currently in the market for a hitting-first firstbaseman now that Adam Dunn is playing in the Windy City. They've got Adam LaRoche holding down the fort, and Chris Marrero in the pipeline, but neither has the ceiling that Tucker has.
Tampa Bay has a ridiculous 12 picks in the first two rounds of the 2011 MLB Draft. That's a record.
They also have three picks from 24-32, meaning they stand to pick up more talent than just about any team in recent draft memory. They also stand to shell out more money than most teams would in an entire draft, all in two rounds.
That means they're going to have to draft very wisely, and very selectively. For a team searching for long-term answers at shortstop, Francisco Lindor is an excellent choice with their first pick.
The first thing that most people notice about Lindor, is how easy he makes playing shortstop, easily the most difficult position on the field, look.
He's easily one of the more polished defenders from the high school crop, and is excellent at throwing on the run and often shows some serious flair.
That, right there, would be enough to get Lindor a look in the early rounds. But on top of his stellar defensive play, he's also a switch-hitter who offers some serious power.
He already offers some pretty good juice already. Lindor, all 5'11" and 170 pounds of him, won the Home Run Contest at the Aflac All-American game in 2010.
The majority of his power is generated from his right-side.
On the basepaths Lindor is more than adequate. He isn't a burner, but if developed properly, he could be a 15-20 steal guy as a pro.
Lindor is an FSU commit, so he should command a pretty hefty bonus to sway him away from becoming the next great Seminole infielder.
The Rays will pony up for the Florida native, and add him to an impressive shortstop stock that includes former No. 1 overall pick (and semi-bust) Tim Beckham and the recently acquired Hak-Ju Lee.
The Padres have passed up on some premium talent over the past few years in the draft.
And with no real help on its way in the form of an elite, above-average, or even slightly above-average catching prospect, it's time to take action in 2011.
Swihart is arguably the most complete overall backstop, in what could be one of the most impressive group of catchers in at least a decade.
Behind the plate he looks very athletic. He posts good pop times and has a heck of an arm.
And while he's looking lean and mean, he should pack on some more pounds to enable him to catch on a regular basis. He has great footwork, honed during his time as an infielder.
Of all the top catching prospects available in 2011, Swihart is probably the safest bet to remain behind the plate.
That is, of course, if his bat doesn't out-pace his defensive development.
At the plate, Swihart is a switch-hitter with a very quick bat. During all of the summer showcases, he consistently made contact against even the best pitchers.
He has a little more power from the right side, but shows great bat speed from both.
Swihart is also a pretty good runner, excellent if you account for the fact that he's a catcher.
He still needs plenty of seasoning, especially behind the plate, where he needs to shorten his pop times and hone his receiving technique.
He also has a commitment to Texas in his back pocket, so he'll probably command some serious coin, but if the Padres can get him pretty late in the first-round, they'll definitely have a shot at inking him to a fairly friendly deal.
After pegging fire-baller Austin Wood with their first-pick in the draft, the Red Sox go back to the talented, expensive well and tab Jack Armstrong Jr.
The first thing you need to know about Armstrong is that he's one heck of an athlete. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got good genes. As in his father, Jack Sr., who pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons.
Armstrong is one of the players in this draft who would really benefit from having a strong junior season in 2011.
He opened some eyes during his freshman season at Vandy, even though he rarely got into any games due to the Commodores’ ridiculous depth.
During the offseason, he ventured up to the Cape Cod League, where his father managed to turn in a few good performances into a first-round draft bonus. “Junior” did the same, pitching well for Wareham, well enough to make the Cape Cod All-Star team.
His 2010 season wasn’t as successful.
He did post a winning record (7-4), and his ERA was decent for a college pitcher (4.71), but he didn’t strike out that many batters (50 K in 78.1 IP) and was bombed during his final few starts, especially in the College World Series.
He didn’t even make it out of the second-inning in the Super Regional, leading some to believe that he was dealing with some sort of injury. Both Armstrong and the school deny anything was wrong with him.
For all of his success, or lack thereof, he still offers huge upside. He’s a big guy, which means he throws hard, in the mid-90s.
He’s even been known to crank it up to 99-mph on occasion. He also features a pretty good curveball and he’s working on a changeup.
Aside from his high-heat, the best thing Armstrong has going for him is the fact that he is an amazing athlete. He was the star of his high-school basketball team, and warranted several scholarships before deciding on Vandy and baseball.
His control isn’t the best, but he projects to have at least average big-league control.
If he doesn’t cut it as a starter, many experts believe that he would be well suited for a relieving role, possibly even as a closer, where his high-heat and bulldog mentality would be a perfect fit.
Armstrong is also pretty good with the stick. He was a high-school home run derby champion, and could have earned his way on his hitting ability to several other schools.
Like many collegiate draft prospects, Armstrong isn’t new to the draft. He was a 36th-round pick in 2008, and turned down a reported $1 million offer to attend Vandy.
If he can string together some good starts in 2011, he could stand to pick up at least that much, and possibly work his way into the first-round, giving more credence to the the belief that you can earn more money by going to college instead of straight to the pros.
Baseball America just did a cover story on Tilson, a potential five-tool outfielder from Illinois.
The moral of the story is that while Tilson garnered tons of attention from scouts at the recent Super 60 showcase, a showcase of the best high-school talent in the midwest, he's more of a national talent than most realize.
I would have to agree, and see the speedy centerfielder as a first-round talent based on his body of work in high-school, as well as the projection in him.
Tilson's greatest tool is his above-average speed. He could be one of the fastest runners in the draft, not just the high-school crop.
He has at least 40-50 steal talent, and like another pick on this list (Shawon Dunston Jr.) is excellent at using his speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
His bat is solid, but not spectacular. Not yet anyways. He has incredibly quick wrists and shows a lightning quick aggressive swing that one day could produce above-average power.
He flashed what he may one day be capable of at the 2010 Area Code Games, where Tilson was the only player to hit a homer.
For now, he's more of a slap-hitter with the "get on base" mentality, which works great, because Tilson is a terror once he's on base.
In the field, Tilson benefits from his speed. It allows him to get to balls most centerfielders can't, and allows him to hide the fact that his arm strength isn't that amazing. Still, Tilson looks like a long-term centerfielder.
There's a ton of projection in Tilson, and any team willing to take a chance on that could be very handsomely rewarded down the road.
The Reds had success with a guy very similar to Tilson, Jay Bruce, and while Bruce hasn't exploded into the superstar they and Baseball America predicted, he has had a very solid start to his big-league career.
The first thing you notice about Danny Hultzen is how comfortable he looks on the mound.
But once you get past that, it's not like there's nothing to like.
Hultzen is a finesse lefty, who throws in the upper 80s to low 90s. He's one of the more polished pitchers in the 2011 draft, despite having only two years of experience under his belt.
Granted, they've been really good years. As a freshman Hultzen was named the ACC Freshman of the Year, the first time a Cavalier had ever been bestowed with the honor. He led the conference in ERA (2.17), and finished third in strikeouts (107) and wins (9).
For an encore, Hultzen was named conference player of the year for 2010, after pacing the circuit with an 11-1 record, a 2.78 ERA and 123 strikeouts (with only 24 walks) in 106.2 innings.
Hultzen does a good job keeping hitters off-balance with his excellent curveball, which has very deceptive motion. And he also mixes in a changeup and occasionally a splitter.
Hultzen should be the kind of pick that Deck McGuire was. Very safe and very early.
The Braves have drafted as good as anyone over the past few years and have made a mark taking players who were seen as divisive. Case in point, Jason Heyward.
Heyward didn't get a real good chance to show what kind of player he was as a senior in high-school. He had such a great eye at the plate that he took more walks than he had hits.
As a result, teams thought he was too patient, not aggressive enough and overly passive.
The Braves, however, saw a player with big-league plate discipline as a high-schooler. The rest is history.
Hultzen isn't that debatable, but has a story similar to Mike Minor, who the Braves used a top-ten pick on two years ago, and who has blossomed into a rotation candidate after one year in the minors.
Another thing the Braves would find desirable about Hultzen is the fact that he's a very good hitter, better than most pitching prospects have a right to be. He's also a great athlete.
Gerrit Cole certainly got all the attention last season, but it's quite possible that he wasn't even the best pitcher on his own team.
That's right, diminutive Trevor Bauer, all 6'1" and 175 pounds of him, led the Bruins in most statistical categories.
He's 21-6 as a starter at UCLA and has posted a career 3.00 ERA. He also has a very impressive, very Tim Lincecum-like 257 strikeouts in only 236 career innings.
Last season he led the nation with 165 punchouts.
Very Lincecum-like indeed.
It's fitting too, since Bauer admires the diminutive Lincecum, also a record-setter from the Pac-10. Like the long-haired San Francisco Giant, Bauer throws in the mid to high 90s, sometimes touching 97-mph.
How fitting, then, would it be for the team who took a great big risk on Lincecum, to take the pitcher who could very well be the next "Freak," which is exactly the name that Bauer's UCLA teammates have taken to calling him.
Bauer also has a plus secondary pitch, a great curveball that helped him rack up a school record number of strikeouts.
Unlike Lincecum, however, Bauer is a true student of the game, a real scientist when it comes to pitching.
He's devoted serious time and effort to honing his delivery, utilizing off-the-wall methods and training exercises to aid his development and strengthen his muscles.
Bauer is the only Bruin who abstains from the weight room during the season.
Whichever team gets Bauer, assuming it isn't the Giants, will most likely be one that feels bad they slept on Lincecum.
For the Giants, it could be like having Christmas twice in one year and a definite steal with the 29th overall pick.
Matt Purke isn't the only Horned Frog pitcher with the 2011 draft on his mind.
Kyle Winkler teamed with Purke and fellow TCU starter Steven Maxwell to compile a combined 39-5 record in 2010.
Of the trio, Winkler finished with the second-most wins (12), the most complete games (two), and the most innings (116.2). He had the worst ERA of the three, but at 3.39, there wasn't too much to complain about.
Well, there is one thing to complain about. Unlike Purke, who is a potential top three pick, Winkler is only 5-foot-11, and we all know how hard it is for the tinier guys to make it through the minor leagues.
Not that Winkler is ill-prepared to make the jump.
Back in 2007, the year before Winker was a 37th-round pick by the Brewers, Winkler was ranked as the 19th-best high school prospect. And he further enhanced his future prospects by tossing a no-hitter at the Perfect Game Wood Bat tournament.
Not too many high-schoolers can claim that.
Now three years removed from his high school days, Winkler has developed into one of the more polished college arms available in the 2011 draft crop.
He throws in the low 90s, and can touch 94 with his fastball. He has a great slider, which works as his out-pitch. He also features a changeup, which he hasn't been able to work into his rotation of pitches.
That should be a primary goal for him in 2011, to use his changeup more.
Winkler also has really good command, which happens to be the calling card for pitchers that the Twins look to bring into their fold.
They selected their past two first-round picks (Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers) based on good command, so don't expect them to change their standards in 2011.
Baseball America's fifth-ranked high-school pitcher, Fernandez, would be a fantastic addition to an already stocked Tampa Bay pitching system.
Some view Fernandez, a former pitcher for the Cuban National Youth Team, as the top overall prep pitcher, thanks to his mid 90s heat, topping out at 97-mph.
Overall, Fernandez is one of the best high-school arms, with arguably the best velocity.
He compliments his powerful heater with a very impressive curveball that looks unhittable at times. The pitch is definitely a potential above-average pitch as Fernandez progresses.
Fernandez also throws a changeup, but like his curveball, it too needs tons of refinement. Simply put, Fernandez is more of a thrower and less of a pitcher.
All three of his pitches lack the command and control he's going to need to survive as a pro.
Aside from his stuff, Fernandez is very reminiscent of Matt Hobgood and Jesse Biddle, in that he has a pro-looking body with very little physical development left.
His fastball is about as fast as it's going to get, so all he needs to do now is work on sharpening his command and developing his secondary pitches.
If he can do that, he could be the steal of this draft.
Getting a Cuban defector before he reaches his prime or even his essential stages of development is almost unheard of, and if any team could turn Fernandez into an All-Star it would be Tampa, who can easily afford to spend one of their 12 picks in the first two rounds on him.
Speed, speed, speed.
And a little bit more speed. That's what Shawon Dunston Jr. has built his game around.
And if that wasn't enough, which it is for most teams, he compliments his speed with a good head on his shoulders.
You can get a good taste of his baseball IQ by listening to him talk about forgoing homers for in-the-gap shots that he can turn into doubles and triples with his legs.
That's the kind of player that appeals to most teams, but especially a team like Tampa Bay, who values tools and high-risk, high-reward players more than any other franchise.
They've made some of those types of players cornerstones of their franchise (B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, etc.).
Growing up inside a clubhouse certainly helped Dunston develop into the stellar prospect that he is today. He repeatedly thanks his dad and credits him for most of his success and he's pretty lucky to have such a great teacher.
Playing mostly as a centerfielder, Dunston shows great speed in the field, not just on the basepaths. He is aggressive getting to the ball, and shows great footwork.
On the basepaths is where he'll make his mark though. He's a legitimate 50-60 steal guy as a pro, maybe even more.
At the plate, he isn't as advanced. Right now he's definitely a slap-hitter. He's got some power tucked away in his tiny 6'2", 162-pound frame, but it's going to take some more work in the weight-room to bring it out of hibernation.
As he continues to build strength, he could develop into a legitimate five-tool talent.
And even if he doesn't, he'll always have that speed.
Along with Anthony Ranuado, Georgia Tech's Jed Bradley was one of the biggest stars of the 2010 Cape Cod League season.
He made the Cape All-Star team, and was ranked as the circuit's fourth-best prospect by ESPN.com's Keith Law. And it was Bradley, not Ranuado, that led the league with 44 strikeouts.
Bradley, at 6'4", is a tall, lanky left-hander, who is widely regarded as a hard worker with a very high ceiling. He has excellent control, an impressive repertoire and adds a pretty good pick-off move to boot.
His fastball (89-92) doesn't blow batters away, but he features a pretty good slider that projects as an above-average pitch as a pro and a fringe above-average changeup.
His control over the pitches in his repertoire makes some draw comparisons to another talented college lefty, Jeremy Sowers. Sowers was a control-fiend in college, and while he panned as a professional, Bradley shouldn't be treated like the former.
His college stats, especially last season, don't do justice to how talented Bradley is. He went 9-5 with a 4.83 ERA. He was, however, 6-2 in a very talented, deep ACC, and he was good enough to be named to the All-ACC second-team.
Heading into the 2011 season, he was named 2nd-team All-American by Baseball America, and the 12th best college player by CollegeBaseballDaily.com.
As Tech's ace this season, he should get every opportunity to improve his stock, and could catapult himself into first round consideration.
The Rangers are fiends for pitching, and while they have some decent talent in the Majors, and even more high-risk, high-ceiling talent in the minors, they have few safe arms in the system like Bradley.
Selecting him would fill a hole in their system as well as give them another talented arm.
And there we have it ladies and gents...my top 33 picks for the 2011 MLB Draft.
Here they are in summation.
1) PIT- Anthony Rendon, 3B
2) SEA- Matt Purke, LHP
3) ARI- Sonny Gray, RHP
4) BAL- Gerrit Cole, RHP
5) KC- George Springer, OF
6) WAS- Tyler Beede, RHP
7) ARI- Matt Barnes, RHP
8) CLE- Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
9) CHC- Daniel Norris, LHP
10) SD- Archie Bradley, RHP
11) HOU- Bubba Starling, OF
12) MIL- Dylan Bundy, RHP
13) NYM- Christian Lopes, SS
14) FLA- Henry Owens, LHP
15) MIL- Dillon Howard, RHP
16) LAD- Nicky Delmonico, C
17) LAA- Dillon Maples, RHP
18) OAK- Dante Bichette Jr., 3B/OF
19) BOS- Austin Wood, RHP
20) COL- Taylor Jungmann, RHP
21) TOR- Josh Bell, OF
22) STL- Zach Cone, OF
23) WAS- Preston Tucker, 1B
24) TB- Francisco Lindor, SS
25) SD- Blake Swihart, C
26) BOS- Jack Armstrong Jr., RHP
27) CIN- Charlie Tilson, OF
28) ATL- Danny Hultzen, LHP
29) SF- Trevor Bauer, RHP
30) MIN- Kyle Winkler, RHP
31) TB- Jose Fernandez, RHP
32) TB- Shawon Dunston Jr., OF
33) TEX- Jed Bradley, LHP