It's been two months since the MLB Draft. It's also been that long since we took our first glance at the draft board for the 2012 draft.
If you're not familiar with some, or any, of the top prospects who are going to be available consider this your first primer.
The draft classes aren't going to be as deep as last year, but there's still going to be some elite talent, like Lance McCullers Jr. The lithe right-hander comes from good stock (his father pitched in the Majors for seven seasons) and features some of the best velocity (94-98 mph) in the draft. McCullers is joined at the top of the high-school ranks by Nick Williams, a hitter who has reminded some of Ken Griffey Jr. at an early age.
The college crop is led by some pretty special right-handers. Stanford's Mark Appel showed late last season why he's going to be a hot commodity on draft day next June, firing fastballs in the NCAA Super-Regionals at 93-97 mph. He's joined by Jake Barrett, one of Arizona State's many aces, and Michael Wacha, who was a revelation down the stretch last season for Texas A&M after John Stilson went down with an injury. He too features great velocity and should be a first-round pick.
There are too many other names to delve into, so for the time being let's just focus on the top-15, and see if we can place them with the teams who, if the season ended today, would be picking with those picks.
Right now Appel looks to be the top college pitcher heading into the 2012 season.
He’s coming off of a stellar season in which he won six games, posted a 3.02 ERA and struck out 83 batters in a team-leading 104.1 innings. He helped guide Stanford into super-regional play with a seven-hit complete game in the NCAA opener against Kansas State. He struck out eight in the game and walked none.
Appel has all the tools to be a top five pick. He has the easy velocity that can produce 97 mph bullets, although he sits more comfortably in the 92-95 mph range. He has a very impressive slider and also throws a changeup and a cutter—a pitch becoming more and more popular among younger pitchers these days.
One thing scouts are always looking for is excellent arm speed, and Appel has that too.
Appel will enter the 2012 campaign as Stanford's ace, and with a pretty strong team behind him, including top prospect Deven Marrero at shortstop, we'll likely get a chance to see him pitch late into the season.
The Astros entered the season with one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, but they've done good job bolstering their organization with multiple trades. Still, they lack a pitcher of Appel's caliber, a guy to lead the rotation and eat up innings.
As you can tell from the video, he could add some bulk to his frame.
If anyone is going to give Lance McCullers a run for his money as the top high school pitcher in the 2012 class, it’s likely going to be Giolito.
With a perfect pitcher’s frame (6-foot-6, 230 lbs), Giolito has exploded onto the draft scene, bringing along a wealth of mid-90s fastballs with him. He’s also got a few impressive videos circulating out there, which have helped to increase the awareness about him nationally.
His high school pitching coach, Ethan Katz, is glowing in his review, stating:
“He has a big-league arm right now, so it’s just fine-tuning things, getting more consistent and the sky’s the limit. He’s physically a beast, he’s been blessed with everything he has.”
His best secondary pitch is a mid 80's slider that he's slowly gaining more control over as he continues to grow into his huge body.
Giolito has a commitment to UCLA and, for the most part, commitments there are pretty solid (see Gerrit Cole), so he’s going to be one of the class' toughest signs.
My bet is that he ends up going before McCullers, and if Giolito doesn't go No. 1 overall, I'm sure the Orioles would be happy to scoop him up at No. 2, where they're currently sitting.
The O's have gone the college route in years past, selecting Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Garrett Olson, and while each has gotten to the big-leagues quickly, the results have been mixed.
They made a big splash this past draft with Dylan Bundy, and while he hasn't signed yet, he seems like one of the better selections.
It might have seemed like a bit of a surprise that Texas made it into the final field of eight at the College World Series this past spring, but when you take into account the fact that they had arguably the top 2012 draft prospect in Michael Wacha, it doesn’t seem that odd after all.
What’s even harder to comprehend is how Major League teams could have missed on Wacha when he was coming out of high-school. He went undrafted, despite having an ideal frame (6-6, 180 lbs) and great athleticism (three year letter-winner in basketball). It’s not likely that teams will miss on him in 2012, when he’s projected to be a first-round pick, and potentially a top-ten selection.
After a breakout freshman campaign that saw him go 9-2 with a 2.90 ERA and a 97:22 K:BB ratio, Wacha got even better this season. He posted one fewer victory, but lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 2.29. He tossed two complete-games among his 17 starts and posted a K:BB ratio of 123:30 in 129.2 innings.
Wacha sits comfortably in the low 90s, touching 94-95 mph occasionally, and complementing his fastball with a mid 80s slider and a low 80s changeup. He also throws a curveball, but he mostly scrapped the pitch this season to focus on his slider.
The Cubs had the opportunity to go after a top-notch pitcher two years ago, but instead tried to outsmart everyone by selecting Hayden Simpson, who wasn't even in Baseball America's top 200. That move hasn't worked out so well for them, so expect them to go the more traditional route, especially if they're dealing with a top-five pick.
McCullers will without a doubt be in consideration for the top pick.
He's been on team's 2012 draft radar for quite a long time, thanks to the extra attention provided to a big-league veteran's son. His father, Lance Sr., pitched in the Majors for seven years. Lance Jr. has considerably more potential.
At only 16 years old, Lance McCullers was already throwing 97 mph fastballs, which means that as a high school sophomore, he had already pretty much assured himself a place in the Top 10 of the 2012 MLB draft. There is a strong chance that he could go No. 1 overall, breaking the mold and becoming the first high school pitcher ever tabbed with the No. 1 pick.
McCullers could have fit in very well with the 2011 draft class, seeing as how he’s a diminutive pitcher around the same size as Trevor Bauer.
In addition to his mid-to-high-90s heat, McCullers also features a hammer curveball that should be a plus pitch as a pro. He’s also been throwing a changeup, and the pitch has considerable promise. There have been whispers of him touching 100 mph, although you wouldn't expect that with regularity.
During his first two high-school seasons, McCullers pitched solely in relief, acting as the team's closer, although he's been phasing his way into starting since 2010. He is expected to start for the upcoming 2012 season.
Because he's such a high-profile name, McCullers will probably demand some serious coin to sway him from his commitment to Florida. So naturally the Royals, who are going to spend big on Bubba Starling in a few days, make the most sense.
Having two teammates (Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer) drafted in the top three picks, like in this past draft, is a pretty rare feat. The 2012 draft might feature another one of these duos, with both SS Deven Marrero and RHP Jake Barrett projected as top-ten talents.
Marrero had an amazing freshman campaign last year, finishing on a tear, hitting .397 with 12 doubles, three triples, six homers and 42 RBIs. He also scored 31 runs and stole 11 bases. And for a freshman, he sure didn’t strike out a lot (only 24 K’s in 156 at-bats).
This season he regressed a bit, most likely because of the new college bats, but he still had a solid all-around year.
Marrero continued to provide above-average defense at the most challenging position and projects to be a slightly above-average hitter as a pro. He likely won’t hit for too much power, but he should be a doubles machine and a threat to hit five to 10 triples each year.
Think of Marrero as a more polished version of this year’s first-round pick, Francisco Lindor.
The Mariners threw everyone for a curve this past draft. Everyone was expecting them to tab the best available hitter, but instead they chose to go with lefty Danny Hultzen. Many experts had them in on Lindor, so picking up a more polished, big-league ready version one year later makes a good bit of sense.
The scouting report on Gausman has changed a bit since his sixth-round drafting last year.
It still features the mid-90s fastball, solid command and great mound presence, but what he’s added since spurning the Dodgers offer for college ball is development of his breaking ball and the refinement of his changeup.
His command of both pitches allowed him to blossom into LSU’s most impressive pitcher in 2011.
The right-hander made a team-high 14 starts, winning five. He posted a respectable 3.51 ERA and held a 86:23 K:BB ratio in a team-leading 89.2 innings.
Gausman should be a top ten pick in 2012, thanks not only to his velocity and developing secondary pitches, but also to his very prototypical pitcher’s body. At 6’4″ and 185 pounds, he still has plenty of room to add some more weight (increasing his durability and stamina).
The Padres have slowly built a nice collection of minor league pitchers, including Casey Kelly, Simon Castro and Matt Lollis and they added to their stash by drafting prep-star Michael Kelly and college ace Mark Pope.
Adding Gausman would give them another premium starter.
Back in 2008, at the annual Area Code Games showcase, Mike Trout put up some ridiculous numbers in the miniature combine. The only player to post better numbers than him was high-schooler Kenny Diekroeger, who ended up as a second-round pick for the Rays that next year.
Diekroeger, however, had a very strong commitment to Stanford and ended up on campus later that year. Two years later, he’s starting to emerge as a strong candidate to go in the top ten of the 2012 draft.
He struggled to hit for power with the new bats, hitting only two home runs this season (after hitting five last year). His average also dipped to a career-low of .292, just one season after becoming the first Stanford freshman to lead the team in hitting (.342) since 1997. That season he also became the first freshman to lead the team in RBIs—ever.
After his stellar freshman campaign, he headed off to the New England Collegiate League, where he won league batting honors and finished second to teammate Mark Appel as the top prospect in the league. He was noted for his athletic ability by scouts and coaches alike.
If he can continue to improve on defense, and have a bounce-back year at the plate, there’s no doubt that Diekroeger will go in the top half of the first round.
If he can stick at shortstop long-term, he could be a target of the Athletics, who have a talented shortstop in Grant Green, although he's likely going to end up sliding over to third base or to second.
The Gators were loaded with talent this past season, and next year will be no different. Yes, they’ll lose Preston Tucker and Alex Panteliodis, but their star-studded roster will be led by their top draft prospect for 2012, lefty Brian Johnson.
Johnson had a great season, posting a 3.62 ERA and a 72:15 K:BB ratio in 15 starts before an errant Mike Zunino throw plunked him in the head and sidelined him with a concussion. He returned in time for the CWS, but didn't make much of an impact, seeing only two-innings of time on the mound.
Johnson had a fantastic freshman campaign as well, making 14 starts and picking up six victories. He also made an impact at the plate, hitting .405 in 84 at-bats, bashing four home runs and driving in 21 runs.
Like most of the players on the UF roster, Johnson was already drafted once, back in the 27th-round of the 2009 draft by the Dodgers. He spurned that offer to come to UF, where he has continued to grow into his 6-foot-3, 225 pound frame and develop his stuff.
Johnson has been excellent at keeping his low 90s fastball down, but in the zone during his time with the Gators. He has shown a great curveball that got better as the 2011 season wore on.
Fully healthy to start the 2012 season, he could be in line for a huge jump up draft boards and could be a prime target for teams that value control pitchers...like the Minnesota Twins, who surprised everyone by not going after a control pitcher with their first pick.
Even with a strong finish to the season, they're looking at a top-ten selection. Johnson would be a solid pick.
Roache was the top power hitter in college baseball and finished as the NCAA home run king for the 2011 season, ending the regular season with 30 long-balls in just 60 games!
He also finished tied for the national RBI lead with 83.
In a season where the sport’s major power hitters were supposed to be affected negatively by the new BBCOR bats, Roache flourished, out-homering almost 200 teams—by himself.
And in order to prove that his season wasn't a total fluke, Roache headed to the prestigious Cape Cod League, where he hit .316 and finished second in the circuit with six home runs and 28 RBI. He was easily the most feared hitter in the league, taking top honors with 30 walks in just 42 contests.
For his efforts, Roache earned a spot in the Cape All-Star Game, and a spot near the top of the 2012 draft board.
Primarily a first baseman during his first season at Georgia Southern, Roache has made the move to the outfield.
The Dodgers have a glut of power-hitting outfielders in the system (Kyle Russell, Jerry Sands, etc) so it wouldn't be shocking to see them take a chance on Roache. He likely won't cost too much and they could afford to save some coin.
Williams had some pretty big shoes to fill this past season. He took over shortstop duties from 2011 draftee Christian Lopes, who transferred to Edison High and ended up going in the seventh-round to Toronto.
Williams never missed a beat, however, and had a stellar season.
So much of the love for him stems from his physicality. At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, he has the body of a guy who could be playing pro ball right now.
His coach, Jared Snyder, had this to say about Williams:
“He’s just a free, caring, humble, hard-working kid, so focused with the all intangibles, and he’s so good with kids, and that’s what makes him so spectacular—the way he handles kids and approaches them. My 5-year-old daughter has a newspaper picture of him taped up, and my 7-year-old son idolizes him. I try to teach my son how to hit, and he says he wants Trey to show him instead. I’m dead serious.”
Williams has a commitment to Pepperdine, but not too many guys eschew the MLB draft for Pepperdine—especially when a multi-million dollar signing bonus is calling.
The Rockies really love going after bats in the draft, and the fact that Williams plays third base and they have a couple of guys in the minors there, including Nolan Arenado, won't affect their stance if they're picking in the top-ten.
If you recognize the name, it's because Jake's older brother Jarred (what is it with baseball families and naming their kids with the same first letter?), who spent a couple of seasons in the Phillies farm system before getting traded to Houston in exchange for Hunter Pence.
Jarred definitely has the size advantage among the Cosart boys, outgrowing Jake by two inches and 35 pounds. That doesn't mean that the latter couldn't eclipse the talent level of the former though.
Jake is an incredible athlete, even better than his brother, who has a simple delivery on the mound. He's built up his velocity from the mid 80s late in 2010 up to the mid 90s this summer. Perfect Game clocked him at 98 mph in June. Obviously, the arm strength is there.
He has also flashed a great curveball, which will obviously need some more seasoning to become a good pitch in pro ball.
Cosart is excellent at fielding his position, which makes sense because he's played all over the place, seeing time in the outfield when he's not pitching. He's a decent hitter too, but his pro future is definitely on the mound.
The White Sox have made some downright dumb drafting decisions (tongue twister) the past few years, and have yet to see much fruition from their efforts. Cosart is a high-risk, high-reward guy, but if he turns out he could be special.
Another guy who was a relatively high draft pick back in 2009, Jake Barrett should have no problem achieving higher than his third-round status from three years ago (when Toronto scooped him up, but failed to get a deal in place due to the right-hander’s strong commitment to ASU).
Toronto was so high on him back in 2009 because he had a big-league body (6’3″, 225 lbs), a good fastball (90-94 mph) and two pitches (curveball and splitter) with above-average potential.
This year, Barrett made the jump to the rotation and found instant success. His first start of the season saw him toss six-innings of shutout ball, giving up only three hits while striking out six. He finished the season with a 7-4 record, a 4.14 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 76 innings. He tossed one complete-game shutout against Cal late in the season.
Barrett is going to be one of the most big-league ready of any of the college pitchers in next year's class, making him a perfect fit for the Nationals, who will be getting Stephen Strasburg back to full health in 2012.
Like Cosart, Gavin Cecchini also has a brother playing in the minors. Garin was drafted in the fourth-round by the Red Sox two years ago, and is widely regarded as having one of the best bats in the system.
His little brother isn't far off, featuring excellent hitting ability, while showing great range in the infield. He has the arm strength for third base, decent enough range for shortstop, and plenty of bat for second. He'll likely settle at third or short for his senior season and should have no problem emerging as one of the top hitters from the high-school crop. He's almost a lock to go higher than his brother did.
Like his brother, he too secured a scholarship from a SEC school, choosing Mississippi. It's not likely that he ever sets foot on campus in Baton Rouge though, and right now envisioning him in the top-ten isn't a stretch by any means.
The Red have some talented young infielders in their system (Billy Hamilton, Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart), but they've never shied away from drafting based on talent, even if it creates a glut in their system. See the Yonder Alonso-Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco-Yasmani Grandal dilemmas.
Cecchini is a good enough athlete that he could handle shortstop, providing more pop than either Paul Janish or Cozart, or slide over to second. He could even handle the outfield if needed.
Williams exploded onto the 2012 draft scene as a high school junior last summer at the Perfect Game World Wood Baseball Association National Championship Tournament.
It wasn’t too long after that that colleges starting knocking on his door. Scouts have already started to compare him to Ken Griffey Jr., with some likening his powerful swing to Darryl Strawberry’s.
After his sophomore year, all the talk about Williams was that while he had a lot of raw power, he was helpless against good breaking-balls. He worked very hard on that throughout the season and responded with his performance at the WWBA championship: All four of his home runs came on breaking balls.
At 6’3″ and 195 pounds, Williams has a very athletic-looking frame and has been described by Perfect Game as an “excellent athlete.”
He also shined at the Area Code Games and was a regular among the HR derby circuit last summer. He should be a competitor at more than a few showcases this summer, giving him greater exposure to the rest of the country.
The Pirates took a chance on another guy who is very similar to Williams in this year's draft when they took a second-round flier on Josh Bell, also a prep-hitter from Texas. They're not likely to sign Bell, but the fact that the team is spending some serious time and energy in Texas could warm them to Williams.
By taking Zunino, the Marlins could finally make amends for screwing things up by trying to make Kyle Skipworth a legitimate prospect.
Zunino was named the SEC Hitter of the Year after a season that saw him pace the Gators with a .371 average and 19 home runs. He finished second on the squad with 67 RBI, and showed decent plate discipline.
Behind the plate he was even better, making only three errors, good for a fielding percentage of .995. He was so good in fact that he forced freshman sensation Austin Maddox off of the position.
His attitude is also what you expect to see from a catcher. He epitomizes the word "grinder," and works hard at improving both his catching and hitting abilities.
Zunino was a former 30th-round pick back in 2009, but figures to go much higher this time around, with catching starved Florida a perfect fit.