The 2011 MLB draft is finally upon us, and all die-hard baseball fans want to know is who will be this year’s Bryce Harper—as well as how their individual teams will do with their top picks.
More than any of the other major professional sports, the MLB draft is both unpredictable and full of risk.
Will the No. 1 pick become the next David Price or Bryan Bullington? Is it worth taking a chance on a top high school talent who may choose to forgo signing a contract in favor of NCAA experience?
All fans worry about “signability” of top talent—as the Yankees found out the hard way in losing out on expected No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole—and this piece will grade each pick accordingly (in real time).
The grades and reaction for every pick of the first round will be based on how the player fits into the organization, his upside, risk, signability, body type and other factors.
From the first pick to the 33rd, we will track and grade how your favorite team (or rival) did with their selection—highlighting why you should or should not be ecstatic about your latest prospect addition(s).
For the first time since 2002, the Pirates have the first pick in the draft, and after using their pick that season on Bryan Bullington, they'll certainly hope that taking Cole first overall works out better.
Cole has already been a first-round pick once, back in 2008 when the New York Yankees used the 28th pick of the draft on him, but he instead took his talents to UCLA.
After a dominant sophomore season in which he went 11-4, 3.37 ERA, 153 Ks in 123 innings, he has been a bit of a let down this season with a 6-8 record, although his ERA and strikeout numbers are still impressive.
With a mid-90s fastball, slider, and change-up all big league caliber, Cole looks to be a future ace. Just don't expect to see him in uniform anytime this season, as he is a Scott Boras client and he will no doubt take his signing to the wire.
Pick Grade: A
With the second pick in the 2011 draft, the Seattle Mariners selected Danny Hultzen, a big left-handed pitcher out of the University of Virginia.
Hultzen came into the draft after three years spent at UVA, during which time he established himself as the best player on the best team in the country. According to Scout.com's Frankie Piliere, he has a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90's, a good slider and a changeup that is a work in progress.
He is a command-style pitcher, having struck out about five times as many batters as he has walked at UVA, which is a must for success at the major league level for a left-handed pitcher.
Hultzen moves up from the Arizona Diamondbacks 10th round pick in 2008 to the second overall spot, and the D'Backs were rumored to have been hoping Hultzen would be available with the third pick.
From an organizational perspective, with the Felix Hernandez entering his prime and with the emergence this season of Michael Pineda, hitting and defense would appear to have been the prevalent needs of the franchise. Nevertheless, two years ago the M's added Dustin Ackley in this spot, and with the lefty hitting second baseman on a steady march to the majors, the M's look to be going for the dominant rotation.
While his teammate and first overall pick Gerrit Cole gets the 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.
He has drawn comparisons to Tim Lincecum for his small stature and quirky delivery, and the Diamondbacks could be looking at a staple of their rotation as soon as late-2012.
Pick Grade: A
The Baltimore Orioles have dedicated themselves to pitching the last few years, and the organization's dedication has born some fruit in Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton, who has emerged as a potential AL Rookie of the Year candidate in 2011.
The Orioles look to continue to build their embarrassment of riches on the mound, turning their attention to the high school ranks with the selection of Dylan Bundy.
As a high school senior, Bundy touched 100 mph and established himself as one of the top high school arms in the country. Bundy's numbers in high school were downright sick: in 71 innings pitched, he struck out 158 batters, walked only five, and gave up only two earned runs all season. And oh by the way, he also hit .467 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 105 at-bats.
He was projected by many to be one of the top five or six picks in the draft, and though he may threaten to go to college rather than sign a deal that is not perfect, but this guy is ready for professional baseball today.
Overall, the Orioles have themselves a stud in Bundy, but one has to ask if this is feeding an area of need for a pitching strong, but hitting weak, franchise.
The Royals stayed in their own backyard, drafting high school legend Starling, who may very well be the best athlete in this entire draft.
With a 4.36 40-yard dash time and a mid-90s fastball on the mound, Starling is a rare talent, and someone who could certainly be a superstar at the pro level.
However, he is currently committed to play not only baseball, but football at the University of Nebraska, as he is one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation as well.
It will take a hefty bonus to lure him away from the college ranks, but with a lack of outfield talent in what is the richest minor league system in all of baseball, the Starling selection makes a lot of sense, provided they are confident in signing him.
Pick Grade: B (only because of the signing risk)
The Nationals find themselves in the curious position of drafting sixth this season after taking Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the number one overall picks the last two years, but they end up taking a guy who just a few months ago was considered a top-three pick before his stock dropped a bit due to declining offense and injuries.
Rendon is a flashy infielder with a great bat and, perhaps most importantly, a great eye for the strike zone. He is a rare player-at any level-to have hit more home runs than strikeouts, as he did as a sophomore at Rice, and he walks about three times as often as he strikes out.
However, for whatever reason Rendon took a step back in 2011, as his power production dropped all the way from 26 home runs and 85 RBI as a sophomore to just 6 and 37 as a junior.
At the end of the day, though, Rendon is a steal at number six for the Nationals.
Rendon is certainly an odd pick for a team whose current franchise player, Ryan Zimmerman, plays the same position. If Rendon can play shortstop or second base, it will not only hasten his arrival to the majors, it may stock the Nationals with a tremendous infield.
Pick Grade: A-
With their second pick in the first seven selections, the Diamondbacks looked again to bolster their starting rotation, selecting one of the top high school arms in Bradley.
While Bauer was a fairly safe pick who could be in the majors quick, Bradley is a bit more of a project, but has as high a ceiling as anyone in the draft.
He is a 6'4” right-hander with a 93-96 mph fastball that can get to 98, and a big-league ready curveball. His biggest issue right now is his over reliance on those two pitches, as his changeup needs work, but still he has the tools.
However, like Starling, Bradley is among the nation's top football recruits, committed to play quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, and the Diamondbacks must feel confident they can keep him off campus in selecting him this high.
Pick Grade: B
With the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Cleveland Indians selected shortstop Francisco Lindor, a high schooler who projects to be a major league shortstop in about five years (he turns 18 in November).
The Cleveland Indians have had just as many pitching hits as misses in recent years, and for the most part recent Indians pitching successes – Cliff Lee, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, Justin Masterson – have been products of other systems acquired via trade, and so have finally made a good first round pick to support their pitching, and maybe even their offense.
According to ESPN's Keith Law, care of Bleacher Report's Ryan Rudnansky, Francisco Lindor is less of an elite shortstop prospect and more of a good shortstop in a weak class. A switch-hitter, Lindor apparently has decent power and decent speed, and projects to be, at the very least, a serviceable shortstop about whom people apparently have a hard time getting excited.
Lindor is 5'11” and 170 pounds, which leaves lots of room for improvement, and has committed to Florida State, who may find themselves with an All American shortstop on their hands if Lindor can't get the right deal.
Pick Grade: B+
After surprising last season in reaching for pitcher Hayden Simpson, the Cubs took a different route in this season's draft by taking what many viewed as the best available position player at eighth overall.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico before coming to the United States for high school, Baez grew up in the same town as the man drafted one pick before him, Francisco Lindor.
His offensive tools are what most impress scouts as he has already drawn comparisons to Hanley Ramirez at this point in his career.
He could be moved to third base with the Cubs, a position he played in high school during his junior year, since Starlin Castro looks to be entrenched at shortstop for the Cubs for the next several years. Regardless, the Cubs will find a way to get his bat into their lineup when he's ready.
Pick Grade: B+
With the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the San Diego Padres took third baseman Cory Spangenburg of Indian River State in Florida. By now, the Padres have figured out a truism with respect to their home ballpark, Petco Park: the pitching will be there, but the hitting must be elite to be successful.
In Spangenberg, the Padres may have found that elite hitter. Spangenberg hit .477 with a .553 on-base percentage at Junior College Indian River State in Florida this spring, and was named the Junior College Player of the Year.
Spangenberg is a rare lefty-batting third baseman, which would be an asset to any team, and has been rated by Baseball America as the best runner in the draft and the third best pure hitter.
Spangenberg was worked out by the Padres at second base, which means they may see him sooner rather than later as a compliment in the field and the lineup to Chase Headley.
Pick Grade: A-
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 this entire draft.
With the Astros looking to rebuild, Springer represents someone who was fantastic as a collegiate, and has a ton of upside moving forward.
His power is still developing, and he could need a few years in the minors, but he has the natural athletic ability to be a great hitter and a top flight defender as long as the Astros are patient with him.
He may have been a bit of a reach here, and with so many college pitchers, the Astros may have been better off taking Taylor Jungmann or Sonny Gray, but still they got a solid player in Springer
Pick Grade: B-
With the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, the Milwaukee Brewers continue their recent emphasis on pitching with the selection of University of Texas right hander Taylor Jungmann. At 6'6”, Jungmann is a big man with a little fastball. His best pitch lives in the 93-95 mph, though it has touched 98 mph.
He has a decent curveball and breaking ball, both of which have variously been described as plus pitches by Scouts, Inc., and Keith Law of ESPN. He is a command pitcher who has struck out over a batter per inning in 300-plus college innings, but he still has some developing to do. While he is not raw enough to be considered “projectable,” there is nevertheless room for improvement in his game
The Milwaukee Brewers are in a class of teams that is perpetually playing for this year, as the future is never certain, much less guaranteed. The Brewers rely on a constant influx of talent from the farm system to replace the players they lose to free agency.
To that end, Jungmann is a good selection because he will be able to contribute sooner rather than later.
Nimmo is an interesting case, as the high school he attends in Wyoming does not have a baseball team, but he has done more than enough on the summer circuit to make a name for himself, winning MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American game at Wrigley Field this past summer.
While scouting him has been tough, his smooth left-handed swing has left scouts comparing him to Paul O’Neill, and he should develop a decent amount of pop down the line, while continuing to be a terrific line-drive hitter as well.
He is the highest drafted player in the history of the state of Wyoming, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to playing for a big market team like the Mets down the road.
Pick Grade: B+
The Florida Marlins selected high school pitcher Jose Fernandez with the 14th pick in the 2011 draft. This is a classic Marlins move, as they love to seize upon the high school pitching talent, whether it be Chad James in 2009, Chris Volstad and Ryan Tucker in 2005 or Josh Beckett in 1999.
Fernandez has a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98, a slider that could be an out pitch and a changeup in development. Fernandez fits perfectly into the Marlins system, as they know how to develop young pitching.
The Marlins are currently a young and exciting team, and given the Marlins' history, which has generally repeated itself pretty well, we all know what that means: it is time to start developing the stars of tomorrow in preparation for the inevitable departures of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez via free agency or anticipatory trade. Fernandez fits that plan well.
After taking Taylor Jungmann at 12th overall, the Brewers continued to re-stock their minor league pitching depth in selecting Jed Bradley, another of college baseball's top arms.
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 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.
Bradley has a devastating fastball-slider combination, but will need to develop a third pitch if he wants to be a starter. He is a project for a college pitcher, and Sonny Gray may have been the better option for a team, but Bradley certainly has potential.
Pick Grade: B-
With the 16th pick in the 2011 draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers made the first surprise move of the night, taking Stanford lefty Chris Reed.
Reed, who did not pitch much prior to the 2011 season, was pressed into Stanford's closer role and performed well. He is a rare lefty power-pitcher, hitting as high as 96 mph on the radar gun. Reed also has an outstanding slider, and projects as a major league set-up man or closer.
This is an interesting move for the Dodgers, as they may have just selected a college closer with a low ceiling in the pros.
Pick Grade: B-
Cron, a former catcher, has put up ridiculous numbers throughout his career at the University of Utah, and although it has been against lower-level competition it is hard to ignore the .434 BA, 15 HR, 59 RBI line that he has put together this season.
The first base crop is fairly thin this season, but in any draft Cron’s power potential would make him a first-round commodity, and while he does not exactly have a set position at this point, and could be a DH long-term, he can flat out rake.
The Angels are looking for offense in the short term, and while Mark Trumbo has played well at first base this year, and Kendry Morales should be back next season, you can never have too many power hitters in your organization.
There was little doubt the Angels would go with a hitter here, and while a first baseman was a bit of a surprise, Cron may well have been the best available college bat and should be able to help them fairly soon.
Pick Grade: B
With the 18th pick in the 2011 draft, the Oakland A's nabbed righty Sonny Gray from Vanderbilt.
Sonny Gray is not a big pitcher, measuring by some accounts under six feet tall. Nevertheless, he brings heat in the 93-96 mph range, and Baseball America claims that Gray has the best curveball in college baseball.
This year, Gray serves as the pitcher that teams passed on because of his size despite the fact that everything else about him points to him being a stud. As typically happens with guys his size who can nevertheless touch 97-98 on the radar gun, the word “closer” has been dropped more than once.
The Oakland Athletics are, of course, the only team in this thing that has a whole book written on its draft philosophy, so we always watch to see with great anticipation whom the A's will select.
The A's organizational philosophy is almost cartoonishly consistent, as Oakland has put together a terrific pitching staff backed by one of the great underrated defenses of our time, coupled with the most anemic offense in baseball.
The A's are apparently happy with that formula, and continue to build upon it here.
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 line of 11-4, 1.62 ERA, 111 Ks in 116.2 innings, there is little question he benefited from playing against top competition this summer.
Barnes has a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s and can hit 98, a very good changeup and a serviceable curveball, With three quality pitches, and the proven ability to perform against top competition, Barnes is a bit of a steal at 19th overall for the Red Sox.
Whether he will be a starter or reliever remains to be seen, but he is a talent.
Pick Grade: A
The Colorado Rockies nabbed Tyler Anderson, with the 20th pick in the 2011 draft, 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.
The Colorado Rockies, of course, are the antithesis of the San Diego Padres: this is a team that is going to hit, but only elite players can pitch successfully for the Rockies. Even Ubaldo Jimenez, a terrific young pitcher capable of dominating Major League Baseball, struggles to keep it together from season to season.
This is a need pick that maximizes value at the 20th pick.
Pick Grade: B+
Beede, committed to play at Vanderbilt, actually transferred high schools to face better competition after dominating during his junior season, so he is a gamer.
He has a smooth, repeatable delivery, and throws his fastball 90-92 and it tops out at 94, coupled with a plus changeup and curveball, and may even have a slider that could develop into a serviceable pitch.
However, he put out a letter to teams saying he would not sign and intended to attend Vanderbilt, but perhaps the Blue Jays have managed to change his mind. If they do, they got themselves one of the more polished high school arms in the draft.
Pick Grade: B-
With the 22nd pick in the 2011 draft, the Cardinals snatched up second baseman Kolten Wong of Hawaii.
In a draft short on middle infield talent, Wong separated himself from the pack with a .378 average this season and more than twice as many walks as strikeouts, as he has great plate discipline.
A former catcher, Wong has turned himself into a good second baseman, and offensively he could be a 15 home run, 20 steal guy down the road with a good average and on-base percentage to boot.
Anytime Dave Duncan is your pitching coach, you are not going to spend a lot of time developing organizational pitching. Duncan has spent his career making All Stars out of retreads, ranging from LaMarr Hoyt to Kyle Lohse.
Meanwhile, Wong should help the Cardinals ensure that Skip Schumacher never happens again.
Pick Grade: B
After Anthony Rendon fell to the Nationals at sixth overall, they then took what may have been the best available college arm still on the board with the 23rd overall pick, as both players may be in Washington sooner rather than later.
Meyer went 5-3 with a 7.06 ERA last season, but 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, and he profiles more as a reliever with just two pitches, but he has the body and the stuff to perhaps be a dominant closer down the line if he does not remain a starter.
He could have gone as high as top-10, and he is a steal this late. Regardless of what role he ends up in, he should help the Red Sox in the not too distant future.
Pick Grade: A
With the 24th pick in the 2011 draft, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to build upon their recent pitching dominance by nabbing Taylor Guerrieri.
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.
It must feel really strange for the Tampa Bay Rays to be taking their first pick of the draft so late, and via a compensation pick no less.
The Rays have built their team into a contender on the strength of a decade of high draft picks, including hits and misses, and now they must be a bit more discerning because the fruit does not hang so low from here.
Pick Grade: B
The Padres reached for JUCO second baseman Cory Spangenberg with the tenth overall pick, but followed it up by taking one of the top high school hurlers of the class in Ross.
The younger brother of Tyson Ross, who is currently pitching for the Oakland A’s, he certainly has the blood lines, and he will look to make a name for himself now.
With good control, and a three-quarters arm slot, Ross gets good movement on his fastball that sits 90-92 and touches 95. He also throws a good slider and has a developing changeup.
He has committed to UCLA, so there are some sign-ability concerns, but he is a good pick here with a high ceiling.
Pick Grade: B+
Swihart certainly could be described as a need pick for the Red Sox, as they desperately need a catcher of the future in Boston.
He is the top catching prospect in this season's draft, and is coming off a phenomenal junior season in which he hit .580 BA, 12 HR, 40 RBI in just 88 at bats.
An excellent switch-hitting backstop who has plenty of room to grow as a high school prospect, Swihart could prove to be a reliable starter for quite some time down the road.
He has a strong commitment to the University of Texas and is likely to command a very, very large price tag, but the Red Sox are not known to be penny-pinchers by any means--judging by their recent contract offers to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
Pick Grade: B+
Stephenson, another of the top prep arms in the nation, is committed to the University of Washington, but there is a good chance he will sign after a big senior year.
His mechanics have raised some questions, but with a fastball that sits at 94, and a curveball and changeup that look to project well, he has the stuff to make up for that.
He is a hard-worker and a smart kid, and he should advance quickly as he continues to improve as a pitcher, and he could be another in a line of great Reds first round picks of late.
Pick Grade: B+
A team that normally selects high school talent in the first round, the Braves changed their tune in picking FSU's lefty Sean Gilmartin.
A pitcher who likes to go after hitters and attack the zone, he fits perfectly into a philosophy that has dated back to the early 90's Braves--throw strikes and don't hurt yourself.
GIlmartin had a stellar year in the ACC with a pitching line of 12-1, 1.83 ERA, and .208 BAA. His ceiling may not be as high as some of the other college arms in the draft, but he should have no problems adjusting to the minor leagues and developing into a solid rotation contributor--though not an ace.
Pick Grade: B
Panik, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, is at the top of a thin college shortstop class, and there is little question he was the best offensive shortstop in college this past season.
With a .398 BA, 10 HR, 57 RBI line, to go with a .509 on-base percentage and .642 slugging percentage, he was not just the top offensive shortstop, but one of the top hitters in all of college baseball.
Panik is a solid fielder, although a lack of arm strength could move him to second base in the majors. Regardless, the Giants addressed a major need here, as they have little middle infield depth in the organization and veterans at the positions in the majors.
It was a reach, but it also filled a major need, so it is hard to argue with the selection.
Pick Grade: B
The top college shortstop in the 2011 draft, Michael hit .290 with 13 HR this season in North Carolina.
The Twins certainly have a need for a player at the position, and he is known as a very smart and fundamental baseball guy—something we all know the Twins typically look for on their roster.
Michael may move to second base as he moves along in the minor leagues, but either way he will create an impact with his bat moving forward.
Minnesota certainly needs an offensive boost, and Michael should be able to provide that without question at the next level.
Pick Grade: B+
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.
He was even better this season, with a line of .383 BA, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 29 SB as he led a good LSU team in virtually every offensive category.
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 and a true center fielder.
He is a gamer who brings energy and intensity to the field and he is a good selection for a Rays team that have a boatload of selections here in the first two rounds.
Pick Grade: B+
Hager was ranked outside of Baseball America's Top 100 draft prospects for 2011, but he did crack Baseball America's High School Top 100.
Scouts have said that the Nevada high school shortstop is "a great kid and the makeup is off the charts. Really good kid, comes from a great family."
Hager helped his school reach the American Legion World Series this past summer and hit .547 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 28 SB as a senior.
Most scouting reports on Hager claim that he "has above-average arm strength and speed, and he projects to be a solid gap hitter at the next level."
This sounds like exactly what the Rays need down the road, as they are always looking for solid defensive players with speed--not to mention a bat that can provide some damage as an added bonus.
While he may not be judged as a high-upside kid, Hager could turn into a dependable middle infielder at the major league level--even if he isn't ultimately a star.
They reached here, which reflects in their overall grade, but he should be very "signable" and has tools Tampa loves.
Pick Grade: C+
With the final pick in the first round, the Rangers took a high school arm in Matthews, after he posted a record of 4-2 with a 1.68 ERA during his senior season.
Generally when a player is described as an "athlete" you are talking about an outfielder or a middle infielder. However, Matthews falls into that category as well, as despite his 5-11 frame he can dunk a basketball.
With a plus fastball-slider combination, he should progress well through the system, but there are sign-ability questions as he is strongly committed to the University of Virginia.
That raises the question, if you are going to take a risk on a pitcher who may not sign, why not go with Daniel Norris, largely regarded as the best lefty prep arm in the nation.
Pick Grade: C+