MLB Draft 2012: Top 25 College Baseball Prospects
It seems as though it was just yesterday that the college season began. Now, roughly 35 to 40 games deep, most pitchers have made around 10 starts and hitters have amassed nearly 125 at-bats.
For many collegiate players, however, the season won't end with a conference tournament or trip to Omaha. With the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 4-6 edging closer every day, we are beginning to get an idea of which players may ultimately be top selections.
So, as I prepare to release multiple mock drafts within the upcoming weeks, I thought that it would be helpful to highlight some of the notable collegiate prospects who figure to be early selections in the 2012 draft
25. Brady Rodgers, RHP, Arizona State
College: Arizona State
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 72 IP, 1.13 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 55/7 K/BB, .205 BAA
Overview: While his stuff isn’t overly impressive, Rodgers is a polished pitcher who commands all his pitches throughout the strike zone. He has plus pitchability and oozes confidence on the mound. His fastball typically sits in the 87-89 mph range, and he can dial it up a tick or two as needed. Of his three secondary offerings, his curveball is by far the best, though is slider and change up are also quality pitches. His arm action and mechanics are smooth and repeatable, and he’s a fierce competitor on the mound who understands how to get hitters out.
24. Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
College: Georgia Southern
Pre-injury 2012 Stats: 17 AB, .412/.600/.765, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1/7 K/BB
Overview: After belting 33 home runs in a year where offensive production was down throughout college baseball, Roache suffered a broken wrist in the first week of the season. However, he’s expected to make a full recovery. He has the most thump in his bat of any hitter in the draft thanks to quick wrists and an explosive weight transfer. Despite missing the majority of the season, a team will ultimately draft Roache based solely upon his plus raw power.
23. Branden Kline, RHP, Virginia
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 59.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 63/22 K/BB, .221 BAA
Overview: The Virginia closer up until this season, the 6’3” right-hander has made an impressive transition to the mound. His fastball works in the low-to-mid-90s with late life, and is complemented by a curveball and slider—both are at least average pitches. He’s not used to the endurance associated with being a starter, but that’s nothing that can’t be improved with a big league throwing and conditioning program.
22. Josh Elander, C/OF, Texas Christian
College: Texas Christian
2012 Stats: 114 AB, .316/.428/.482, 5 2B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 20/20 K/BB, 7-for-11 SB
Overview: Elander is a hard-nosed ballplayer who has demonstrated a knack for getting on base despite not being an elite hitter. He has the raw power that projects at the next level despite not showing it over the course of his college career. He’s still relatively new to catching—he’s also seen considerable time in TCU’s outfield—so his average receiving and throwing skills still have room to grow. He has the arm and athleticism to be either a catcher or outfielder, though obviously his bat and on-base skills offer much more value behind the dish.
21. Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Arkansas
2011 Stats: 19.7 IP, 2.75 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 24/9 K/BB, .219 BAA
Overview: Sanburn asserted himself as a potential first-rounder with an excellent performance in the Northwoods League this past summer, where he garnered No. 1 prospect honors. His plus fastball is easily his best pitch, as it sits 92-96 mph and has been clocked as high as 98. He’s aggressive with it, working both sides of the plate and generates a mixture of swing-and-misses and weak contact. His breaking ball is of the sharp-downer variety, and he throws it with the same arm speed. He also throws a changeup, though it lags behind his nasty slider. Sanburn has a muscular upper body, but has clean, repeatable mechanics that have allowed him to consistently improve his command over his college career.
20. Patrick Wisdom, 3B, St. Mary's (CA)
College: St. Mary’s (CA)
2012 Stats: 116 AB, .241/.367/.422, 7 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 28/21 K/BB
Overview: Yes, as you may have inferred from his stats, Wisdom has struggled this season at the plate. However, he’s turned it on as of late, and has rounded into form. The third baseman has projectable plus power as well as above-average plate discipline which was on full display last summer in the Alaskan Baseball League. He’s a solid defender at third base with a good glove, although his plus arm is noticeably his best tool. The combination of his above-average defense and plus power make him a highly intriguing prospect.
19. Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State
College: Missouri State
2012 Stats: 7 GS, 49.1 IP, 2.01 ERA, 1.83 FIP, 71/19 K/BB, .244 BAA
Overview: Johnson hasn’t received the publicity as the other right-handers cut from the same mold, but he’ll be a big-time sleeper headed into the draft. His arsenal consists of an easy 91-95 mph fastball, an absolutely filthy slider that could already be considered a double-plus offering, and an above-average change. He has simple mechanics and fluid arm action that profile extremely well at the next level. His stats may never ‘wow’ anyone, but his ceiling is exceptionally high. Watch for Johnson to make a jump on the draft board as June approaches.
18. Adam Brett Walker, 1B, Jacksonville
2012 Stats: 137 AB, .307/.396/.504, 9 2B, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 30/20 K/BB, 8 SB
Overview: Walker is one of the top power hitters in this year’s draft, and possesses the raw strength to jump the yard to all fields. His swing has a hitch in it, and at times can get too long and cause him to strike out. However, as one looks for in an elite college bat, Walker has the plate discipline that makes his power especially projectable. Given his size and lack of athleticism, however, he’s a first-base-only prospect.
17. Nolan Fontana, SS, Florida
2012 Stats: 131 AB, .328/.443/.550, 6 2B, 3B, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 10/26 K/BB, 8-for-8 SB
Overview: Although one of his tools doesn’t stand out more than another, Fontana is an all-around solid ballplayer. He possesses excellent plate discipline and an ability to make contact that could make him a No. 2 hitter in the Major Leagues. His speed is a bit of a drawback, as he’s only an average runner.
He’s a sound defender at shortstop who takes care of the baseball. However, his lack of arm strength and range might call for a switch to second base in the future, where his bat and ability to get on base will be a premium.
16. Alex Wood, LHP, Georgia
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 58.7 IP, 2.61 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 62/10 K/BB, 0.31 HR/9, .250 BAA
Overview: After missing the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, Wood has been consistently 94-96 mph this season. However, his mechanics and arm action on the backside are all over the place, though they admittedly add some deception to his pitches. Having said that, he has shown impressive command this season, as well as a knack for keeping the ball in the park.
Visit John Kilma's Baseball Prospect Report for exclusive video of Wood.
15. Pat Light, RHP, Monmouth
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 63.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 57/9 K/BB. .230 BAA
Overview: His sturdy, 6’6” draws attention all by itself, and Light saw his stock shoot up the charts when he touched 96 mph earlier this spring. However, the right-hander struggles to carry his velocity deep into games. He features an above-average slider and changeup, though both are often ineffective due to a varying and inconsistent arm slot. He’s shown improved command this season, which aids his projection as a starter rather than a reliever.
14. Travis Jankowski, OF, Stony Brook
College: Stony Brook
2012 Stats: 129 AB, .333/.403/.496, 10 2B, 4 3B, HR, 19 RBI, 13/11 K/BB, 20-for-24 SB
Overview: After winning the Cape Cod League MVP last summer, Jankowski entered the season as a sure-fire first-rounder. A left-handed hitter, Jankowski has the speed and bat to be a top-of-the-order hitter in the big leagues. He currently lacks power, but, given his quick wrists, adding loft to his swing could make it a possibility. His plus speed lends to his above-average defense, and his arm should be enough to stick in center field.
13. Stephen Piscotty, 3B/1B, Stanford
2012 Stats: 132 AB, .311/.380/.508, 10 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 10/13 K/BB
Overview: Piscotty has sported a .300+ batting average in every season thus far thanks to a controlled swing and above-average bat speed. However, for a third baseman, he lacks the power potential of a Richie Shaffer. He may be able to add some more pop by implementing some loft in his swing, but for the time being, his lack of power is a major concern. Furthermore, his defense at the hot corner can be suspect and it’s yet to be determined whether his athleticism will play at the next level. Luckily for Piscotty, the draft class is weak on collegiate bats, so he could go higher than expected.
12. Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida
2012 Stats: 10 GS, 48.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 39/11 K/BB, .265 BAAA
Overview: Despite being a standout two-way player for Florida, Johnson is much more projectable on the mound. The broad-shouldered left-hander boasts a fastball that sits at 90-94 mph, as well as command of four pitches, including a plus slider. He knows how to attack hitters and has shown an ability to work both sides of the plate with all his pitches. He’s another safe pick given his polish, and could move quickly if drafted into the right system.
11. Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern
College: Georgia Southern
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 62.2 IP, 3.37 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 76/18 K/BB, .269 BAA
Overview: Coming off a strong season in the Cape Cod League, there’s no reason to look too far into his mediocre results this season. Beck’s stuff is still excellent. He features three at least above-average pitches in a fastball that sits 92-96 mph, 81-84 mph slider, and 80-83 mph changeup. It’s tough to say whether his arsenal and makeup will evolve into that of a frontline starter, but he at least has the potential to be a top-notch No. 3 or No. 4.
10. Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
College: Texas A&M
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 63.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 66/11 K/BB, .224 BAA
Overview: Wacha is basically a two-pitch pitcher with a 50-grade fastball and plus changeup. While he’s been effective with a limited arsenal, he’ll need to significantly develop his breaking ball to be successful at the next level. He has a power pitcher’s frame and still has a little room left to grown, and is one of the safer pitching prospects in the draft.
9. Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
College: Texas A&M
2012 Stats: 139 AB, .403/.485/.547, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 23/20 K/BB, 11-for-15 SB
Overview: Naquin has a smooth, fluid swing from the left side, although he does experience problems with his timing periodically. He won’t hit for much power, but his ability to make consistent contact and above-average speed will make him an extra-base threat at the next level. He has the plus arm needed to be a right fielder at the professional level, although his power will need to develop in order to stay there.
8. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 66 IP, 2.05 ERA, 1.91 FIP, 93/18 K/BB, .219 BAA
Overview: At 5’9”, Stroman could probably pump low-90s from his knees. His size will ultimately hurt his draft stock, but his blinding arm speed and upper-90s fastball are legitimate. However, he struggles to consistently on a downward plane and could be in for a rude awakening upon entering pro ball. Given his plus-plus fastball, there’s a strong chance that the right-hander will be transitioned to the bullpen, where he profiles as a high-leverage reliever or closer down the road.
7. Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
College: Arizona State
2012 Stats: 131 AB, .290/.347/.427, 3 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 12/11 K/BB, 8-for-9 SB
Overview: Marrero is in the midst of an all-around down year, as he’s struggled at the plate all season and grown increasingly frustrated. However, he's still the best shortstop on the 2012 draft board. At shortstop, he has soft hands, as well as average range and a plus arm. Scouts remain divided about whether his hit tool profiles as a big-league shortstop--regardless, he’ll need to improve his contact rate. Marrero will never hit for much power, but should be able to collect 15-25 doubles annually.
6. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
College: Oklahoma State
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 67.1 IP, 2.14 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 85/14 K/BB, .200 BAA
Overview: Heaney’s draft stock has been surging all spring, as he’s emerged as arguably the top left-handed collegiate arm in the draft. He has excellent command of his 88-93 mph fastball with late, arm-side run. He has also shown above-average command of his 79-83 mph curveball and 83-87 mph changeup, which gives him overall pitchability. His mechanics are smooth and repeatable, and his quick arm adds deception to all his pitches.
5. Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson
2012 Stats: 132 AB, .386/.520/.667, 14 2B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 27/39 K/BB
Overview: A strong season both at the plate and at third has Shaffer’s draft stock on the rise. His hit tool profiles to be above average and he’s already shown plus power. His defense at third base has vastly improved, and his bat is much more valuable there than at first base. He has a feel for the strike zone and knows how to take a walk, but isn't afraid to cut it loose. If he continues to produce as he has this season, he could conceivably be a top 10 overall selection come June.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State
College: Louisiana State
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 62 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 77/19 K/BB, .216 BAA
Overview: Gausman—who possesses a lightning-quick arm—has consistently popped upper-90s all spring. Surprisingly, his best secondary pitch is a changeup that grades as an above-average offering. His slider lacks bite and depth, but considering his double-plus fastball, it should be a legitimate, swing-and-miss pitch once it's developed.
3. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
2012 Stats: 8 GS, 66 IP, 2.86 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 68/18 K/BB, .205 BAA
Overview: The top collegiate arm headed into the 2012 season, the tall right-hander has the prototypical power build and 94-98 fastball to match. But while his stats may suggest dominance, Appel has been too hittable all season. He struggles to get on top of his fastball at times, which results in straighter and lighter variations that linger up in the zone.
While his slider can flash plus potential on occasion, it’s an inconsistent pitch. Appel’s struggles with the pitch have led to him throwing an increased amount of changeups this season—a pitch that currently works due to it’s speed differential and not due to movement. He’s a safe pick in any of the top five spots, but still lacks the polish and pitchability one looks for in an elite college pitcher.
2. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
College: San Francisco
2012 Stats: 9 GS, 61.1 IP, 2.79 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 65/13 K/BB, .228 BAA
Overview: A former position player who’s only been pitching for a few years, Zimmer may trail Mark Appel in development, but definitely not in terms of stuff. His fastball has been as high as 98 mph this spring, though he typically works in the 93-96 range. His curveball has late, sharp break and is already regarded as an above-average pitch. As he gains more of a feel for it (and pitching in general), it should become a plus offering. His changeup lags behind his breaking ball, but considering how quickly he’s put everything together on the mound, there’s no reason to doubt the pitch will be anything less than above-average.
1. Mike Zunino, C, Florida
2012 Stats: 130 AB, .338/.399/.677, 14 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI, 25/14 K/BB
Overview: An athletic catcher who has both the receiving and throwing skills to remain at the position. Zunino is a pure hitter who drives the ball to all fields and generates good extension after contact. It can get a bit long at times, but it’s something that will be an easy fix with a big-league hitting coach. His hit tool is probably the safest and most draftable tool in the entire class, and could allow him to play any corner infield position if need be in the Major Leagues.