MLB Draft 2012: An Early Look at the Top 15 High School Prospects
The 2012 draft class doesn't possess nearly as much elite talent as its predecessor. The high school crop, specifically, pales in comparison to previous classes that produced such talents as RHP Jameson Taillon, SS Manny Machado, OF Bubba Starling and RHP Dylan Bundy.
What the class lacks in superstars, it more than makes up for in depth. Trying to find the top 15 players available from the high school class is always tough, especially this early, but despite that excuse, there are potentially 50 players who could be argued for (or against) as top 10 players.
The strength of the high school crop is no doubt the pitching. RHP Lucas Giolito has as high a ceiling as Taillon, and has actually been compared favorably to the former No. 2 overall pick. Two California lefties, Hunter Virant and Max Fried, both offer as much potential as any lefty to come along in the past few years.
The position player depth, while short on elite talent, still offers a few gems, including OF Byron Buxton, who has been frequently compared to the Upton brothers, both of whom were drafted inside the top three. OF David Dahl will challenge him as the top overall position player drafted.
These rankings will no doubt shift, or even change drastically over the next six months, but as of right now, these are the top 15 players to keep an eye on heading into the 2012 season.
15. Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rican Baseball Academy
The first thing you notice about Correa is how big he is. Big enough that he's likely going to have to shift from shortstop to third base before long.
At 6'4", 185 pounds (and growing), and possessing a powerful bat, he'll be a perfect fit at the hot corner. He's also the owner of one of the strongest infield arms in this draft class, one that would be able to handle all the throws from either position.
At the plate, his power is incredible. He has a quick swing and can drive balls to any part of the park.
Like another top-notch shortstop prospect, Manny Machado, Correa is still growing, and could be listed as a third baseman by the time the 2012 draft actually rolls around.
14. Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
Virant is a lanky left-hander who will no doubt challenge for the top spot among high school southpaws.
He's been consistently clocked in the low-to-mid 90s, and has touched 96 mph in the past. He complements his fastball with a stellar curveball, one that could be one of the best in the class with a bit more experience and polish.
Virant is athletic enough to play multiple positions throughout his high school career, including first base and outfield. He shows enough potential at the plate to warrant a spot in the draft, but on the mound his future as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter is going to be too much to ignore.
13. Trey Williams, 3B, Valencia HS (CA)
Williams had some pretty big shoes to fill in 2011. He took over shortstop duties from Christian Lopes, who transferred and then was selected in the seventh round and earned an $800,000 signing bonus from Toronto.
Williams never missed a beat, however, and had a stellar season, despite being a bit stocky (6'1", 215 lbs) for the position. Now that he's slid over to third base, he's one of the top players at his position in the high school class.
His bat is what makes him special, as he offers above-average power (he hit six homers in three games against rival West Ranch HS this past season). He should hit for a decent average as well.
On defense, he's a much better defender at third than he ever could have hoped to be. He's not going to win Gold Gloves, but he won't hurt his team much either.
Williams is committed to Pepperdine, so you have to imagine he'll likely sign and go pro.
12. Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)
The 2012 draft will get another strong influx of talent from the state of Georgia, one that has produced some very impressive talent over the years. Right-hander Lucas Sims is easily the top pitcher in the state, combining great velocity (91-95 mph) with a very clean delivery and a sturdy frame (6'2", 195 lbs).
Despite his excellent velocity, experts argue that Sims' best pitch is his curveball, which is one of the best in the high school crop. He also throws a changeup, and it too is incredibly polished for a high-schooler.
Sims is also an incredible athlete, and is one of his team's top hitters as well as its staff ace.
He's committed to Clemson.
11. Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
One of the top five-tool players in this draft class, Almora has shown an impressive skill set at each of the summer showcase events.
His bat is very good, and he doesn't complicate things with any unnecessary action in his swing. He has excellent bat speed, and he absolutely attacks the gaps. He should develop into a doubles machine.
In the field and on the basepaths, he shows slightly above-average speed, but his speed plays up due to a very aggressive attitude. Teams can't sleep on him.
He has a frame (6'2", 170 lbs) that is conducive to sticking in center field.
One of the top prospects in the state, Almora is committed to the University of Miami.
10. Joey Gallo, 1B/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas has one of the most storied baseball programs in the nation. In addition to winning six consecutive state championships, the school has also produced several talented prospects, including one of 2012's top two-way players, Joey Gallo.
Gallo has flashed an incredible arm on the mound, capable of producing 91-94 mph fastballs—but, believe it or not, at the plate his potential is immense. He offers some of the best power in this class. According to Perfect Game, balls have been clocked at over 100 mph coming off of his bat.
He played at third base for a while, where it would make the most sense for his cannon arm, but at 6'5" and 205 pounds, he's slowly outgrowing just about every position except for first base.
He'll be headed to LSU after the completion of his senior season.
9. Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Due to a budget decision by the state of California, Harvard-Westlake now has two top pitching prospects in RHP Lucas Giolito (see later) and LHP Max Fried.
Giolito has the talent and projection to challenge for the top overall spot in the draft, while Fried is in the running for the top lefty. He offers premium velocity (91-94 mph) and has two potential above-average offerings in a curveball and changeup.
He benefits, and will benefit down the road, from a very smooth delivery that should allow him to jump quickly right into pro ball. At 6'4" and 170 pounds, he could stand to put on some more weight, which might allow him to add a tick or two to his fastball.
Fried is committed, along with Giolito, to UCLA, where top draft prospects usually choose to attend (see Gerrit Cole).
8. Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (LA)
In addition to having one of the coolest baseball names ever, Trahan happens to be the top overall catcher in the 2012 class.
He has a solid frame (6'1", 215 lbs), one conducive to catching everyday, and he is an excellent athlete. In addition to playing all over the diamond (catcher, first base, third base), he's also seen time at tight end and quarterback for the school's football team. He has a cannon for an arm and has consistently produced some of the top pop times on throws to second on the showcase circuit.
At the plate, he's consistently described as selective, showing great patience and he's definitely not afraid to take a walk. He has decent power and is actually one of the top running catchers to come along in quite some time.
Assuming he doesn't sign, he'll be a part of a banner crop at the University of Mississippi, joining top infield prospect Gavin Cecchini.
With his combination of skills (plus defense, plus speed) it's unlikely he'll ever be a Rebel.
7. Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
If the last name sounds familiar, it's because Cecchini's older brother, Garin, was drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round back in 2010.
While Garin offers the more impressive set of tools at the plate, Gavin is the superior defender. Don't get me wrong, he's no slouch at the plate either, offering a quick bat and solid raw power.
Garin heads a strong shortstop class and a very strong crop from the Bayou state. Thanks to his defensive polish, he shouldn't last the first round.
He's a great runner as well, and his athletic, yet lanky build should allow him to stay at shortstop long-term, a fate his brother couldn't attain.
The junior Cecchini is committed to Ole Miss.
6. Lance McCullers, RHP, Jesuit HS (FL)
McCullers has been on the radar for several years now, thanks to his blazing fastball (95-97 mph) and his big-league bloodlines. His father, Lance Sr., played in the majors for seven years.
McCullers hasn't gotten as much love early on in the 2012 draft process for a couple of reasons. For starters, few teams appear to be sold on the possibility that he's actually going to remain a starter long-term. He's pitched as a reliever for most of his high school career.
Then there's the issue of size. At 6'1" and 195 pounds, he's nowhere near as prototypical as some of the other top pitching prospects.
McCullers has a commitment to the University of Florida.
5. Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
At 6'8" and 225 pounds, Smoral certainly looks the part of a big-leaguer.
His fastball currently sits in the low 90s, but experts feel like he likely has a few more miles per hour in him as he continues to try to smooth out his delivery. He also throws a slider.
Smoral likely won't get as much attention as Hunter Virant and Max Fried due to his physical location (Ohio), but his ceiling is much, much higher.
Smoral has a commitment to UNC, which just about tells you all you need to know. If he doesn't sign in 2012, he'll easily have top-10 potential come 2014.
4. David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
It's been a few years since a player of Dahl's caliber has come out of the state of Alabama.
He's a similar player to OF Byron Buxton. Dahl has a better feel at the plate and more polish to his all-around game, but his ceiling isn't as high. He has great speed and advanced defensive skills. Playing in Alabama, however, will inevitably hurt his chances of going in the top five, as the level of competition just isn't up to snuff with the bigger states.
Dahl had an excellent showing at the Tournament of Stars showcase in North Carolina, showing one of the most electric bats of any attendee, before succumbing to a bad case of mono. He should be fully recovered and poised for another great season.
He's committed to Auburn.
3. Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia HS (FL)
Weickel has ranked among the top high school arms for quite some time now.
A lot of it has to do with his sturdy frame (6'6", 205 lbs) and the rest has to do with his mid-90s fastball, arguably one of the best in the high school crop. Weickel has been the darling of many a showcase event and has great name recognition heading into his senior season.
No doubt, scouts will be lined up along the fences for every one of his starts in 2012.
Weickel also throws a solid curveball and his control of the pitch is unmatched among his peers.
He has excellent fielding skills and has amazing speed for a big guy.
Weickel is committed to the University of Miami.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)
Buxton tops Baseball America's high school top 25, and is seen as one of the top prospects in the draft regardless of class.
His tool set has experts likening him to the Upton brothers. His bat is very good, he has the chance for slightly above-average power and he's an incredible athlete. He also has excellent speed.
He currently has a commitment to UGA, although given the success of the Georgia high school crop during the last decade, including Jason Heyward and Brian McCann, he'll likely turn pro for a solid chunk of coin.
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
A few years ago, Giolito was a scrawny pitcher with little control. Since his freshman year he's gained nearly 60 pounds, and now checks in at a burly 6'6" and 240 pounds.
He features an impressive low-90s fastball, one that is capable of reaching 98 mph on occasion, and one of the top curveballs in the high school crop. He also throws a third pitch, a promising changeup with a lot of movement.
Giolito's Harvard-Westlake squad won the state title last year, and will likely do so again with Giolito in fine form and with LHP Max Fried joining the rotation.
Giolito has a commitment to UCLA, but with his name in the running for the top overall selection in the entire draft, it's likely he'll turn pro.