With the College World Series a month away, MLB fans can begin to speculate as to who their favorite teams will draft as players start to pull away from the pack and establish themselves as first-round talents.
This year's class is fronted by UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole, who turned down a contract with the Yankees when he was taken in the first round by them in 2008, and he looks to have made the right choice, as he is in for a big payday.
Beyond him, the draft is incredibly deep with talented college pitchers, as well as high school pitchers. Position players on the other hand, will be at a premium and teams could reach to fill needs within their organization.
So here is my first mock draft of the season, a look at who I feel will be the 33 first-round picks in the June draft.
.360 BA, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 2 SB
Dickerson was a first-team All-American last season when he hit a ridiculous line of .419 BA, 24 HR, 76 RBI, also earning him Big Ten Player of the Year honors.
He is among the top power-hitting prospects in all of college baseball, and he could move quickly through a Rangers system that is short on outfield talent. If he is still on the board at this point, I doubt the Rangers will let him fall out of the first round.
.477 BA, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 33 SB
Spangenberg was the Big South Freshman of the Year in 2010 when he hit .380 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI, with 24 SB while playing for VMI. However, he transferred to a junior college this past offseason when he decided that the military aspect of VMI was not for him.
He planned on transferring to the University of Miami next season, but as he is slated to be a late first-round pick, he will more than likely decide to forgo the rest of his college career and turn pro.
7-2, 1.60 ERA, 103 Ks, 95.2 IP
Anderson, one of the top left-handed starters in this year's draft, is coming off a strong sophomore season in which he went 7-5, 2.98 ERA and struck out 105 batters in 103 innings.
He has been even better this season, as he has dominated the Pac-10. With a fastball that sits at 91-93 and tops out at 95, a changeup that most consider to be his best pitch, and a decent slider, he has the arsenal to be a good starter at the next level.
.382 BA, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 16 SB
Goodwin started all 60 games of his freshman season with the University of North Carolina back in 2010, hitting .291 BA, 7 HR, 63 RBI. However, he was suspended from the team for academic reasons and transferred to a junior college so he could be draft eligible at the end of this season.
If he can develop a bit more power, he is a legitimate five-tool player, and he showed he can compete on the big stage when he was named MVP of the AFLAC All-American Game.
.350 BA, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 11 SB
Esposito is coming off of a terrific season in 2010 when he hit .359 BA, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 31 SB and made it clear that he was the best third baseman in college baseball not named Anthony Rendon.
It has been more of the same this year, and with Vanderbilt currently sitting as the No. 1 team in the nation, he could boost his stock even more with a strong showing at the College World Series.
.259 BA, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB
Bradley was one of the breakout stars of last season's College World Series, as he led the Gamecocks to the championship with a fantastic season, posting a line of .376 BA, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 7 SB as he put himself in position to be a top pick with a good junior season.
That, however, didn't happen as he struggled through a pair of slumps to post less-than-stellar numbers before being shut down for the season following a wrist injury. Still, with a fantastic arm in the outfield and the offensive prowess he showed last season, he is worth taking a chance on at the bottom of the first round.
2011 Stats (through 25 games)
.463 BA, 13 HR, 42 RBI
Born and raised in Puerto Rico before coming to the United States for high school, Baez grew up in the same town as another top high-school prospect in Francisco Lindor.
His offensive tools are what most impress scouts, but he is a very good athlete, and after switching to shortstop from third base prior to this season, he has committed just one error through 25 games. If he continues to improve, he should be able to stick at shortstop.
Fernandez, originally from Cuba, came to the United States prior to his sophomore season, and he was absolutely dominant as a junior last season. With a line of 10-1, 0.87 ERA, 107 Ks in 72.1 innings, he put himself on the prospect radar.
At a solidly built 6'5", 235 pounds, he has a big-league body, and he sits 92-94 mph with his fastball but can hit as high as 98 on the radar gun. Add in a plus curveball and a changeup and slider that are in the works, and he is a first-round talent.
5-1, 1.59 ERA, 89 Ks, 85 IP
While he has joined the rotation this season, Stilson served as the Aggies closer last year and is viewed by many as the top relief pitcher in the draft.
Last season, he posted a line of 9-1, 0.80 ERA, 10 saves with 114 strikeouts in just 79 innings, making 33 appearances. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can hit 98, he has the stuff to be a big-league closer, but with a quality slider and developing changeup, he may also be viewed as a starter. Either way, he is a good value pick here.
.357 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB
Susac is the top college catcher available as a draft-eligible sophomore, and after receiving just 96 at-bats last season, he has blossomed in his second year with the Beavers.
Following a solid summer in the Cape Cod League where he hit .290 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI in 100 at-bats, Susac was named a second-team Preseason All-American, and he has lived up to that billing so far this season. With solid defensive skills, a strong arm and great raw offensive ability, he could be the answer to the Rays catching problem.
Bell had a monster season last year as a junior, hitting .412 BA, 11 HR, 36 RBI. However, he was unable to compete in any of the summer tournaments after he injured his knee during his high-school team's playoff game.
While rehabbing his knee, the switch hitter put on 15 pounds of muscle, and he should continue to grow into his 6'3", 205-pound frame. He is committed to play at the University of Texas this fall, but a big bonus could convince him to go pro.
.310 BA, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 14 SB
Michael graduated high school a semester early and began his college career at North Carolina during what should have been his senior season, and he proved he belonged immediately, hitting .290 with 13 home runs and starting all 65 games as a freshman.
He has continued to improve defensively and is among the most versatile players in the draft. Not only is he a switch hitter, but he is also capable of playing second base and third base, making him the perfect Tony La Russa player.
Howard is among the top high-school arms available, and after a strong junior season in which he went 7-4 while striking out 92 hitters in just 54 innings, he made the rounds this spring and impressed in all the high school All-American games.
With a fastball that sits at 91-93 and can hit 95, as well as a biting slider and a developing changeup, Howard has the stuff to warrant a high selection, and he should rise quickly with two big-league ready pitches already at his disposal.
7-3, 2.30 ERA, 91 Ks, 86 IP
Costal Carolina was one of the surprise team's of the season last year, and it was thanks in large part to the emergence of Meo who went 13-2, 2.61 ERA, 94 Ks in 97 innings pitched.
After turning heads in the summer circuit this past offseason, he has remained near the top of the heap as far as college starters go, and with a mid-90s fastball, a major-league-ready slider, and a good changeup, he has the repertoire to move quickly through the minors.
6-5, 3.06 ERA, 101 Ks, 94 IP
After going 5-3 with a 7.06 ERA last season, Meyer has come out strong in his junior year after being one of the most highly-touted recruits to ever attend the University of Kentucky.
At 6'9", 220 pounds, Meyer is a presence on the mound, and he can light up the radar gun with a fastball that sits comfortably in the 92-94 mph range and can be dialed up to the high 90s. That paired with a biting curveball makes him an intriguing prospect. His command needs work, but he has the tools to be an ace.
4-1, 1.55 ERA, 47 Ks, 40.2 IP
Purke, originally drafted in the first round by the Rangers in 2009, was in the running to be the No. 1 pick in this season's draft after a phenomenal freshman season in which he went 16-0, 3.02 ERA, 142 Ks in 116.1 innings pitched.
However, the draft-eligible sophomore ran into injury problems this season and has been limited to just eight starts. After meeting with Dr. James Andrews, he was diagnosed with elbow bursitis, and while it certainly could have been worse, the injury issues are enough of a red flag to drop him out of the top 10. Still, he is worth taking a chance on and could be a steal here.
Norris is considered by many to be the top left-handed high-school pitcher in this year's class, and he is coming off of a junior season in which he went 8-0 and struck out a whopping 140 in just 64.1 innings.
With a fastball that sits comfortably in the 91-to-93 mph range and can hit 95, as well as a big-league ready changeup and a plus slider, Norris is very polished for his age and should move fairly quickly through the minor leagues as long as he continues to progress.
Swihart is the top catching prospect in this season's draft, and that is certainly an area worth looking at for the Dodgers moving forward. He is coming off a phenomenal junior season in which he hit .580 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI in just 88 at bats.
He is a switch hitter, who projects to have solid power once he fills out. He is an average catcher defensively and getting better, and he has the athleticism to move to third base or corner outfield if he can't continue his improvement as a backstop. He has the tools to be a special hitter, but there is always risk in drafting high-school catchers.
.370 BA, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 28 SB
Mahtook is a true five-tool talent, and he was a preseason All-American after hitting .335 BA, 14 HR, 50 RBI, with 22 SB as a sophomore last season, and then spending some time in the Cape Cod League.
A football recruit with great speed and a plus arm in the outfield, Mahtook projects to be a 20-20 guy at the big-league level. He is a gamer who brings energy and intensity to the field and will be an asset for whoever selects him.
Guerrieri has some of the best raw stuff in the entire draft, and that put him on the prospect map as a junior last season despite the fact that his numbers were somewhat average at 5-3, 3.04 ERA, 80 Ks in 50.2 innings.
He has struggled with consistent control again this season, but with a fastball that sits mid-90s and tops out at 98, as well as a big league ready slider and a plus changeup, he has the stuff to develop into perhaps the best pitcher in this entire draft.
.373 BA, 11 HR, 70 RBI, 27 SB
With the Mets set for a rebuild, and center-fielder Carlos Beltran part of the group that is expected to leave town, drafting an established college outfielder makes a lot of sense for the Mets at this point.
A preseason All-American who hit .337 BA, 18 HR, 62 RBI, 33 SB last season, Springer has shown that he can be consistently productive and with such a strong class of pitchers, he is one of the better position-player prospects in the entire draft. Look for him to be on the fast track to the big leagues in New York.
2011 Stats (as of May 10)
10-1, 0.34 ERA, 116 Ks
Bradley, who has committed to the University of Oklahoma, was one of the top prep arms in the nation entering this season after compiling a 7-5, 1.46 ERA, 109 Ks line in 67.1 innings as a junior last season.
He has been even better this year, and with a fastball that sits comfortably at 92-94 mph and a big-league ready 12-to-6 curveball, Bradley has the stuff to be a front-line starter. His biggest drawback is that he tends to forget about his changeup and rely on his other pitches, and he will need to improve his third pitch moving forward.
10-3, 1.18 ERA, 91 Ks, 99 IP
After a busy summer pitching for Team USA and then in the Cape Cod League, Barnes has come into his junior season and announced himself as one of the top arms in this year's draft. After winning eight games and posting a 3.92 ERA last season, he is a different pitcher in 2011.
With a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s, a very good changeup and a serviceable curveball, Barnes has three quality pitches, and he has shown the ability to succeed against top competition.
6-1, 3.10 ERA, 88 Ks, 81.1 IP
After spending his freshman season in the bullpen and experiencing moderate success as a sophomore starter, Bradley put himself on the map with a strong showing in the ultra-competitive Cape Cod League this past summer, when Baseball America ranked him the fourth-best prospect in the league.
He has carried that success over into his junior season, and while he is far from being the most polished pitcher in the draft, he projects well with a big frame and room to put on some muscle. With a plus fastball-slider combination and a changeup that is getting there, Bradley will be a bit of a project but one worth investing in.
11-0, 0.86 ERA, 97 Ks, 104.2 IP
Jungman has been fantastic since stepping foot on campus at the University of Texas, with a 19-6 record through his first two seasons, and he has taken it to the next level as a junior, with some of the best numbers in all of college baseball.
He certainly has the stuff to succeed at the next level, with a high-90s fastball, plus slider and an improving changeup, and while his mechanics have been questioned, he has continued to experience great success.
Lindor burst onto the prospect scene this past summer when he won the AFLAC High School All-American Home Run Derby as a junior.
A switch-hitter with the defensive skills to stick at shortstop as a pro, Lindor doesn't project to be a big home-run threat, but instead, someone who can do a little bit of everything and all of it well. He has also impressed scouts with his make-up and focus on the field, and as far as high-school picks go, he seems to be a fairly safe one with great upside.
10-2, 1.40 ERA, 167 Ks, 109.2 IP
With the seventh and third picks in this year's draft, the Diamondbacks have a chance to make a real difference moving forward with their two picks, and Bauer may be one of the safest bets in the draft.
While teammate Gerrit Cole gets more attention, Bauer is by far the more polished prospect, and should be one of if not the first players from the 2011 draft to reach the majors.
With a four-seamer that sits mid-90s, a good two-seamer, to go along with a biting curveball, and solid changeup and slider, Bauer has an impressive repertoire and can thrown all of his pitches for strikes consistently. The steal of the draft at seventh overall.
9-3, 1.91 ERA, 99 Ks, 89.1 IP
Gray, a preseason All-American, is coming off a very good sophomore season when he went 10-5, 3.48 ERA, 113 Ks, and he has been even better this season, helping lead Vandy to a 42-8 record so far this season.
Despite his small stature (5-11, 185 pounds), Gray hits mid 90s on his fastball and complements it with a great slider and improving changeup. He is one of the top college arms available, and if he can improve his changeup, he should move through the minors quickly.
Starling is ranked as the top high-school baseball player entering the 2011 season, and he is already a legend in the state of Kansas, where he is also a top football prospect, ranked 30th in the nation by MaxPreps and committed to play quarterback at Nebraska next season.
With a 4.36 40-yard dash time, a mid-90s fastball on the mound and the most coveted prep bat in this draft, it is safe to say that Starling falls under the "athlete" category. While there is still the off chance he would decide to be a two-sport star and have some fun in college, a big signing bonus should get him to commit to the diamond.
His biggest hurdle will be how he deals with any sort of struggle, as everything has come so easy to him up to this point. Still, he is too rare of a talent to pass up at this point in the draft.
2011 Stats (as of April 25)
8-0, 0.29 ERA, 111 Ks, 48 IP
Bundy, the brother of Orioles pitching prospect Bobby Bundy, has been on the prospect radar since winning Gatorade's High School Player of the Year for the state of Oklahoma as a sophomore.
This season, he has shown to be virtually unhittable, giving up just 11 hits in 48 innings of work and striking out 2.3 batters per inning pitched. He's committed to the University of Texas, but a top-five selection should make him reconsider.
9-2, 1.42 ERA, 121 Ks, 82.2 IP
Hultzen was last season's ACC Pitcher of the Year when he went 11-1, 2.78 ERA, 123 Ks and he was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
He has done nothing to diminish his value this season, as he has continued to be one of the most dominant pitchers in all of college baseball. With a mid-90s sinking fastball and a good changeup and slider to complement it, he won't be on the board for long.
.322 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 10 SB
Last season's Howser Trophy Winner for National Player of the Year, Rendon posted a fantastic stat line of .394 BA, 26 HR, 85 RBI while playing fantastic defense at third base.
However, after injuring his ankle last year in super regionals and then re-aggravating the injury this past summer while playing for Team USA, Rendon has spent most of his time at DH this season, and he must prove he is over that injury if he wants to keep his high draft stock. Still, he's the top position prospect on the board.
5-6, 3.42 ERA, 93 Ks, 92 IP
Cole was the unquestioned first pick in the draft entering this season, but he has struggled a bit. His record is not helped by an anemic UCLA offense, but still those are not the numbers you would expect from a top overall pick.
That said, with a high-90s fastball, fantastic changeup and a pair of above-average breaking pitches, Cole has too much potential to pass up, and his struggles won't be enough to bump him from the top spot.