For the past several years, the MLB Draft has become must-see TV. MLB Network now carries coverage of the MLB Draft live for two full days, and many of the industry’s leading MLB Draft experts are on hand to give their opinions and feedback on each MLB team’s selections.
When the MLB Draft was first introduced in 1965, it gave each team an opportunity to select players from high school and college, and their standing in the draft order is determined by each team’s record in the previous season. Many teams have used the MLB Draft wisely, stockpiling picks to build up their farm systems and develop homegrown talent, while other teams choose, at times, to use draft picks as trade bait to upgrade their current rosters.
In more recent times, because of the explosion of the internet and instant information that can be widely accessed through a variety of portals and social media sites, information about prospective draft picks is much more available than ever before, and the business of conducting mock drafts has been popularized as a result.
So, just who are the players that everyone should be watching for the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft? Here are 25 names to consider adding to your mock draft board.
Right-handed pitcher Michael Morin has opened scout’s eyes with his play in two years with the North Carolina Tar Heels and with the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League.
Morin, who was a 40th draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2009, collected 10 saves for the Tar Heels in his sophomore season, and features a mid-to-high 90s fastball. While his 4.71 ERA wasn’t spectacular, Morin had a great strikeout-to-walk ratio of 65:18 in 63 innings of work.
Morin was featured as a starter on six occasions for UNC as well, and works as a starter in the Cape Cod League.
Another player who was drafted in 2009 but committed to college instead, right-handed pitcher Jake Barrett has the type of body (6'03", 225 pounds) that scouts absolutely love. Barrett was 7-4 in his sophomore season at ASU with a 4.14 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 76 innings of work.
Barrett features a fastball that touches 96 MPH, and two secondary pitches (curveball, splitter) that are both considered above average. Unfortunately, ASU was banned from postseason play for the 2011 for various violations, so Barrett didn’t get the additional exposure, but his makeup and his poise on the mound have already become well-known to scouts.
University of Buffalo junior catcher Tom Murphy will definitely be creeping his way up on mock MLB Draft boards leading up to the June draft.
As a sophomore, Murphy was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, with a .384 batting average, .446 on-base percentage, a .626 slugging percentage and 10 HR for the year.
Murphy went on to be selected to the USA Collegiate National Team, only the second time in history a player from the University of Buffalo has been named to the traveling college All-Star team. A catcher who can hit will be a big splash come MLB Draft day.
Going into his senior season in 2012, young right-hander Carson Fulmer has already accumulated quite a few accolades in his amateur baseball career, being named as an Honorable Mention All-American pitcher by Louisville Slugger following his junior year in 2011.
Fulmer features a lively fastball that touches 95 MPH, and a mid-70s curveball that greatly impressed big league scouts at the East Coast Pro Showcase held in August. Fulmer easily projects as a late-first/early second round pick, however, with his early commitment to Vanderbilt, his likelihood to sign may be an issue.
Shortly after the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game, conducted at Wrigley Field in Chicago back in August, Oklahoma high school pitcher Ty Hensley verbally committed to playing college ball at the University of Mississippi. However, that won’t stop scouts and teams from trying to convince him otherwise.
Hensley already features a mid-90s fastball with movement, and at 6'4" and 220 pounds, scouts love Hensley’s arm strength and his deliberate delivery. Another player that scouts and MLB GMs will have to do some convincing with in order for Hensley to forego his college commitment.
Third baseman Stephen Piscotty will playing his third season for Stanford University in 2012, and all scout’s eyes will be on Piscotty as he attempts to take his game to the next level.
Hitting is not an issue for Piscotty, as his above .300 average in two seasons at Stanford and his recent batting title in the 2011 Cape Cod League would indicate. However, Piscotty’s defense and ability to hit for power are what may be holding him back from being an elite player.
At 6'3" and 195 pounds, Piscotty has the power to drive the ball, but it hasn’t quite developed as of yet. His junior season at Stanford will go a long way towards determining exactly how high up the draft board Piscotty can go.
Major League Baseball has seen several players in its history who were drafted out of Westminster Christian High School in Miami, FL, including Doug Mientiewicz, Alex Rodriguez and J.P. Arencibia. Current third baseman David Thompson could very well join that list.
Thompson, at 6'1" and 195 pounds, has already developed a very quick bat with excellent power, and has already committed to playing for the local Miami Hurricanes upon graduation. Signing him could be an issue, but Thompson’s skills clearly have him earmarked for the first round of the MLB Draft.
Outfielder Anthony Alford, entering his senior season at Petal HS in Mississippi, is clearly the real deal, however, he happens to be the real deal in two sports—baseball and football.
Several big-time college football programs, including LSU, are taking a hard look at Alford. While he is a great quarterback already, Alford is also a potential five-tool player in baseball, so at this point in time, it’s too early to tell how he will commit. But Alford possesses terrific power, can run like a deer and has very soft hands, making him an MLB scout’s dream.
In his sophomore season, right-handed pitcher Branden Kline was invaluable to the Virginia Cavaliers, helping them gain entry into the College World Series. With a 4-1 record, 17 saves and a 2.16 ERA during the regular season, Kline was instrumental in his team’s success. This coming season, Kline is being converted into a starter and will be featured as Virginia’s Friday night pitcher.
Kline currently possesses a low 90s fastball that will touch 94 MPH, an excellent slider and above average curveball and changeup. With a nice four-pitch repertoire, Kline should find himself as a possible first-round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft.
If you thought that UCLA would be hurt with the loss of Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in last year’s MLB Draft, guess again.
Junior right-handed pitcher Scott Griggs figures to be an important part of the UCLA rotation in the 2012 season. Appearing in nine games as a sophomore, Griggs was 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA, striking out 21 in 17.2 innings. Griggs also played in the 2011 Cape Cod League with the Brewster Whitecaps, going 1-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 32.2 innings.
Walks are a major concern for Griggs however, as in both college and summer ball, he totaled as many free passes as strikeouts. He will have to better harness his command if he expects to move up in the draft.
As of right now, high-school senior Jason Goldstein, out of Highland Park HS in Illinois, projects as one of the best available prep catchers in the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft. Goldstein is solid behind the plate defensively, with very soft hands and a strong, accurate throwing arm.
Goldstein, who has started at catcher all three years at the varsity level, has committed to the University of Illinois, so signing him could be an issue. However, with his skill-set, Goldstein will be highly sought after come draft day.
South Carolina Gamecocks right-handed pitcher Colby Holmes, originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 47th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, has improved his overall draft position dramatically in the last two years, and could very well land in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
Holmes was 7-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 18 games with South Carolina in 2011. 13 of those games were starts. Holmes struck out 77 batters in 85.1 innings, issuing just 21 walks. Holmes features a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a slider with excellent movement and a decent curveball and changeup that he’ll have to work on to have a healthy repertoire of pitches as a starter in the majors.
Projected by some scouts as third-highest rated outfielder in the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft, David Dahl has skills that have baseball executives salivating.
In his junior year, Dahl hit .449 with two HR and 29 RBI, and after a week of play in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., in June, Dahl was hitting a robust .714 before he contracted mononucleosis and was sidelined for a significant portion of the summer.
However, at 6'2" and 185 pounds, scouts believe that Dahl will continue to progress. Many already believe that Dahl is the best defensive outfielder in the draft, with great range and a strong throwing arm. He has verbally committed to Auburn, so his likelihood to sign could be an issue.
Oftentimes, baseball runs in the blood, and such is the case with budding shortstop Jesmuel Valentin.
Valentin, the son of former MLB star Jose Valentin, impressed scouts with his quickness and agility as a shortstop at the Under Armour All-American game this past summer. He is projected to continue his development at shortstop and his hitting skills. Valentin is a switch-hitter, which will definitely help his draft value.
Valentin has committed to play at LSU, so signing him is not a lock, however, if Dad has anything to say about it, Valentin could find himself creeping up the draft boards and on his way to MLB stardom.
South Carolina Gamecocks pitcher Michael Roth put together a junior season in 2011 that many collegiate pitchers can only dream about—a 14-3 record, 1.06 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 145 innings. His 14th win of the season gave the Gamecocks their second straight College World Series title, pitching 7.2 innings of stellar baseball to defeat the Florida Gators in the final game.
Roth garnered Consensus All-America honors from several organizations, and was drafted in the 31st round last year by the Cleveland Indians.
A left-hander who could clearly be described as crafty, Roth won’t blow anyone away with his high-80s fastball, but features a changeup that is deadly to right-handed batters and has a better-than-average curveball. Roth mixes speeds extremely well, and his game is predicated on a great command of the strike zone.
There is a lot to love about the skills of senior outfielder Rhett Wiseman, out of Buckingham, Browne and Nichols High School in Massachusetts. Wiseman’s junior year was spectacular, hitting .447 with 11 HR and 29 stolen bases.
Wiseman’s overall game has been compared to current Tampa Bay Rays star Johnny Damon, and while Wiseman has been committed to play at Vanderbilt University since his sophomore year, he could change his mind if he is selected in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, as many scouts currently project.
In his sophomore season with the Florida Gators, right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall was on the national stage in mid-June, pitching in the College World Series finals against defending champion South Carolina. In Game 1 of the finals, Randall was outstanding, throwing 7.2 innings of scoreless ball, he was however, not involved in the decision. Under pressure, Randall delivered big time, and scouts took notice.
Randall ended his sophomore season with a record of 11-3 record and ranked fifth in the SEC with a 2.17 earned run average, compiling 73 strikeouts against just 13 walks in a team-high 124.1 innings pitched, while holding opponents to a .227 batting average.
The only concern scouts have about Randall is his lack of a power fastball. However, Randall changes speeds well and has excellent secondary stuff, so he should be considered a first- or second-round pick in the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft.
Going into his senior season at Pace High School in Miami, Florida, shortstop Addison Russell is already one of the top-rated prep infielders in the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft.
With a batting average of .516, 10 HR and 38 RBI in his junior year, Russell is described by scouts as already having all of the tools required of a shortstop, and with his continued growth and development, Russell very well could be a first-round draft pick in June. With his commitment to Auburn University however, Russell will have a major decision to make.
Stanford University junior right-handed pitcher Mark Appel just could be one of the best arms coming out of college for the 2012 MLB Draft. Appel is coming off an excellent summer in which he pitched for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League, posting a 1.35 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just three walks in 20.0 innings.
In his sophomore season at Stanford, Appel was 6-7 with a 3.02 ERA, striking out 86 batters against just 29 walks. Appel features a mid-90s fastball, an outstanding slider and a good developing changeup. Scouts love the fact that Appel gave up only two home runs at Stanford in his sophomore season, and his command of the strike zone is excellent.
The Orangewood Christian High School baseball team in Maitland, FL put up ridiculous numbers in the 2011, setting a state high school record for home runs in a season. Leading the way for the Rams was junior catcher Tomas Nido.
Nido, who also plays third base, hit .577 with 17 HR and 64 RBI in 35 games for Orangewood Christian, and his slugging percentage of 1.163 was off the charts. In addition, Nido featured pop times as fast as 1.85, an outstanding average for a junior in high school.
Nido has committed to Florida State, however, if he has another season like 2011, Nido could find himself being drafted high in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
Shortstop Deven Marrero could very well be considered the best position player in the 2012 MLB Draft. Selected in the 17th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, Marrero is much heralded for his defensive skills, earning PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011.
With great range, soft hands and a strong, accurate throwing arm, Marrero impressed in the Cape Cod League as well. Marrero is a line drive hitter who sprays the ball well to all fields, and while he could develop some power, scouts see him as more likely to be a prototypical No. 2 guy in the lineup.
On a pitching staff that featured much heralded 2011 MLB first-round draft pick Taylor Jungmann, left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner was an unsung hero for the Texas Longhorns in 2011, posting a 2.67 ERA in 27 appearances, nine of them starts.
Milner features a low 90s fastball, excellent curveball and developing changeup. Milner figures to be a key piece of the Longhorns pitching staff once again in 2012, and is currently projected to be late first-round draft pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Senior Byron Buxton is a two-sport star at Appling County High School in Georgia, excelling in both football and baseball, and has already committed to the University of Georgia. However, if his swing continues to develop in his senior season, Buxton will have a major decision to make.
Buxton is already considered one of the top high school players in Georgia. Buxton impressed many at the 2011 Under Armour All-American Baseball game with his raw power, sheer athleticism and quick feet. Running close to four seconds from home to first, Buxton’s speed makes him a legitimate five-tool player in the future, and a top 15 selection in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft is not out of the realm of possibility.
With defensive skills that have some comparing him to Mark Belanger, University of Florida junior shortstop Nolan Fontana is clearly a star on the rise.
Fontana was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team in both his freshman and sophomore years and has impressed scouts with his range, mobility, accurate throwing arm and solid baseball acumen. Fontana led the SEC in walks in his sophomore season as well, showing tremendous plate discipline at such a young age.
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman was already a highly-touted pitcher coming out of high school, selected in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Opting instead to commit to LSU, Gausman is now considered a top-five selection by many experts in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Gausman features a mid-to-high 90s fastball with movement, a plus-curve and a developing changeup. Scouts firmly believe that if Gausman continues to develop his secondary pitches, he has the stuff to be a No. 1 or 2 starter in the majors.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.