MLB Draft 2012: Ranking the Top 10 Prospects at Every Position
The 2012 MLB draft is loaded with potential impact players at every position, some of whom are on a path to make an impact in the major leagues sooner rather than later.
We've got pitchers galore—I legitimately had to leave pitchers I think have a real shot at being quality major league arms off these top 10 lists because there are simply too many of them.
The batters at the top of this year's draft run the gamut from line-drive hitters with speed to big-time sluggers who can send the ball deep into the night.
With the speculation being that the Houston Astros are set to select Stanford University's Mark Appel with the first-overall pick come Monday, it begs the question: Is Appel the best pitching prospect in this year's draft?
There's only one way to find out.
*I tried to take projected position at the next level into account here, so you may see some players who play one position in high school or college who are listed elsewhere on these lists. Additionally, signability did not play any role whatsoever in these rankings; this is simply based on on-field ability.
This year's crop of catchers isn't incredibly deep—partly because teams will likely move a few of them out from behind the plate—but it's a group that is led by a trio of players who all figure to be picked in the first round.
1. Mike Zunino, University of Florida (6'2", 220 lbs; 21 years old)
The best collegiate bat available in the 2012 class, the right-handed Zunino has excellent bat speed and a chance to develop into a middle-of-the-order bat in the pros.
Behind the plate, Zunino has improved from year to year to the point that some have compared him to recently retired Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, both in his ability to handle a pitching staff and leadership skills.
2. Stryker Trahan, Acadiana High School; Scott, La. (6'1", 215 lbs; 18 years old)
Still relatively raw behind the plate, Trahan has a strong arm and quick release, which, coupled with his agility and speed, could eventually land him a job in a corner outfield spot.
A left-handed hitter, Trahan has a quick bat that generates loft, something that should lead to continued power development. While his swing can get long at times, that's not enough of a worry for teams to not look at taking him in the middle of the first round.
3. Clint Coulter, Union High School; Camas, Wash. (6'3", 220 lbs; 18 years old)
One of the more physically impressive high schoolers in this year's draft, Coulter is a phenomenal athlete who generates power to all fields.
Still a work in progress behind the plate, Coulter has a strong, accurate throwing arm and figures to only improve as he makes his way through the minor leagues.
4. Tom Murphy, SUNY Buffalo (6'1", 225 lbs; 21 years old)
Murphy has plus-power potential, a result of having excellent bat speed when he's locked in at the plate. The problem is, he's simply not able to make consistent contact, which tends to lead to a low average.
Defensively, Murphy is solid but not spectacular, though he does have a strong throwing arm, and he is fast enough on his feet that he moves around fairly well behind the plate—two things that could lead to a move to a corner outfield spot at some point down the road.
5. Kevin Plawecki, Purdue (6'1", 215 lbs; 21 years old)
Plawecki has a short swing that allows him to consistently make contact, spraying line drives around the field. He's yet to show anything in the way of real power, and if that ever develops remains to be seen, but Plawecki is a tough out who rarely swings and misses.
His throwing arm is adequate, but by no means his best tool behind the plate. Plawecki frames pitches well and has steadily improved both his receiving and blocking skills.
6. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen High School; Corpus Christi Texas (6'2", 213 lbs; 18 years old)
While he didn't play the position for Calallen, serving primarily as a shortstop and pitcher, Mathisen is expected to catch as a pro (he's caught primarily at showcases) and could be one of the more intriguing picks in the group.
Mathisen's time on the mound and at short have helped him to develop a very strong, accurate throwing arm and quick feet, both traits that serve him well behind the plate. With substantial raw power from the right side of the plate and good bat speed on a swing that has some loft, Mathisen should develop into a catcher who hits for both average and power down the road.
7. Steve Bean, Rockwall High School; Rockwall, Texas (6'2", 190 lbs; 18 years old)
Bean might have the best throwing arm of any catching prospect in this year's draft, but his skills behind the plate are a work in progress—though he has shown the ability to make adjustments on defense when needed, something not many high school catchers are overly adept at doing.
With the bat, the left-handed hitter quickly gets his hands through the zone, and he's put a lot of work into allowing the pitch to come to him rather than getting out in front of it, which gives him projectable power and a chance to hit for average down the road.
8. Peter O'Brien, University of Miami (6'5", 225 lbs; 21 years old)
O'Brien has a cannon for an arm and plus-power potential in his right-handed swing, but his approach at the plate is inconsistent, and he often finds himself the victim of over-thinking his plate appearances.
He's yet to fully recover from a broken wrist, and those lingering issues could push O'Brien down a bit in the draft. He was a third-round selection by the Colorado Rockies last year, but decided to move from community college to Miami in an attempt to improve his stock.
9. Josh Elander, Texas Christian University (6'1", 215 lbs; 21 years old)
Far from a finished product behind the plate since he also spent considerable time in TCU's outfield, Elander has a strong throwing arm and has shown enough skill to stick at catcher as a pro.
He's not on the same level as some of those ranked ahead of him with the bat, but Elander has yet to tap into his considerable raw power and has shown an uncanny ability to get on base—two traits that make him an intriguing catching prospect.
10. Avery Romero, Pedro Menendez High School; St. Augustine, Fla. (6'0", 200 lbs; 19 years old)
Romero has split time between catching and third base in high school, but most scouts view him as a catcher going forward.
With a strong, accurate throwing arm and the athleticism to move around fairly well behind the plate, Romero's biggest asset is his right-handed swing, one that generates power to all fields. Romero has shown the ability to make adjustments at the plate while keeping his mechanics consistent, which is something many high school players struggle to accomplish.
B/R's own prospect guru, Mike Rosenbaum, said it best when he was explaining his lack of enthusiasm over projecting players as first base prospects last week: "It's a position that's designated for players with plus power and minimal defensive value, or those who have physically outgrown their original position."
I can't argue with his thinking (Albert Pujols originally was a third baseman before making the move to the other side of the diamond), and that makes it difficult to comprise a solid top 10.
But I'm up for the challenge, so here we go.
1. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman High School; Henderson, Nevada (6'5", 215 lbs; 18 years old)
Gallo might have more raw power potential than anyone in this year's class. He holds the Nevada state record for most career home runs with more than 60, and he put that power on display last summer in the Perfect Game All-America Game held at Petco Park. Gallo crushed a ball 442 feet—the 10th-longest home run in Petco Park history.
Oh, and he was using a wooden bat, for those wondering.
Gallo has spent time as both a pitcher and third baseman for Bishop Gorman. In the field, he has limited range at the hot corner, so while his throwing arm is both strong and accurate, he's likely better suited for first base.
Gallo tends to swing and miss more often than scouts would like to see, but there's simply no denying his enormous power potential. Some have compared him to Atlanta's Freddie Freeman at this point in his development.
2. Adam Brett Walker, Jacksonville (6'5", 225 lbs; 20 years old)
Walker has enough speed to play the outfield, but his arm is below-average, and his overall lack of elite athleticism makes him a prime candidate to stick at first base as a professional.
There's no questioning the power potential of Walker's right-handed swing, but he does have a tendency to swing and miss fairly often (he had a 22.5 percent strikeout rate this season, down from 26 percent a year ago), and he struggles mightily against breaking balls.
3. Matt Olson, Parkview High School; Lilburn, Ga. (6'4", 225 lbs; 18 years old)
Playing at the same school current Kansas City Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur did, Matt Olson has been both a first baseman and right-handed pitcher for Parkview. But it's as an everyday first baseman where his future lies.
Olson has shown the ability to consistently make contact with the sweet spot of the bat, and his plus power potential was on display during the National High School Invitational when he took the best left-handed pitcher in this year's draft, Max Fried, out of the park.
4. Christian Walker, University of South Carolina (6'1", 225 lbs; 21 years old)
Walker has been a consistent producer for the Gamecocks over the past three years, leading some to believe that he's already developed his offensive game as much as he possibly can.
Walker has exhibited a professional approach at the plate in the mold of a Yonder Alonso, but the power might not develop into what many expect from a first baseman in the majors.
5. Dane Phillips, Oklahoma City University (6'2", 195 lbs; 21 years old)
A part-time catcher, part-time outfielder, Phillips is a man without a clear position at the next level.
His skills behind the plate aren't close to being adequate to handle pitching on a consistent basis at the next level, and he's simply too slow and plodding to get to balls in the outfield, even if you stick him in a corner.
What Phillips does have is a smooth left-handed bat that generates sharply-hit balls to all fields. He doesn't have big-time power potential, but he's got enough in the tank to become a decent power hitter.
6. Max Muncy, Baylor University (6'1", 205 lbs; 21 years old)
Muncy re-wrote the Baylor record books early in his Bears career, setting new freshman records for home runs (11), RBI (53) and multi-RBI games (17).
Muncy has a compact left-handed swing that allows him to drive ball to all fields and a patient approach at the plate that has helped him work favorable counts.
7. Keon Barnum, King High School; Tampa, Fla. (6'4", 220 lbs; 19 years old)
Barnum struggles to recognize pitches, and he'll need to work on his mechanics at the next level, but his impressive physical size and natural strength make him a very intriguing power prospect going forward.
A left-handed hitter, Barnum has a long swing that generates considerable loft and puts solid backspin on balls with which he makes contact.
8. Jesse Winker, Olympia High School; Windermere Fla. (6'3", 195 lbs; 18 years old)
Although he played center field in high school, Winker lacks the elite athleticism needed to do so at the next level, and it's likely that he'll find himself at first.
Another left-handed bat, Winker's swing is both balanced and lofty, though his power is behind the rest of his offensive game.
9. Jeremy Baltz, St. John's University (6'3", 205 lbs; 21 years old)
Baltz isn't incredibly athletic nor fast—certainly not adept enough in either category to the point where first base is likely the future home for this corner outfielder.
Baltz's real value lies in his offense, as he has a quick bat that generates power to all fields. A patient hitter at the plate, Baltz could become a high average/high on-base percentage hitter with decent power.
10. Jayce Boyd, Florida State University (6'3", 200 pounds; 21 years old)
Solid in the field, Boyd has shown that he's more hitter than slugger, something that could make teams think twice about taking him in the first few rounds of the draft.
That being the case, it's not as if Boyd doesn't have the potential to hit for power, because he does. But his power is still developing, and there are other first-base prospects who have passed Boyd in terms of power development and potential.
Like first base, second base is a place where players who either can't handle the duties of another position or are blocked—typically at shortstop—wind up moving.
That's not to say that there aren't some talented players already established at second base, because there are.
1. Tanner Rahier, Palm Desert High School; Indian Wells, Calif. (6'2", 200 lbs; 18 years old)
Primarily a shortstop in high school, Rahier is an aggressive player who only knows one speed—all-out. One scout remarked to Baseball America (subscription needed), "He plays like a bat out of hell—he's like Pete Rose."
Rahier has big-time power potential, something he put on display at the Power Showcase International Finals when he went deep 12 times, including two shots that traveled more than 430 feet.
He has the arm to stay at short, but not the range. Some believe Rahier fits best at third base, but I'm of the opinion that his best move would be one to second.
2. Nolan Fontana, University of Florida (5'11", 190 lbs; 21 years old)
Florida's starting shortstop each of the past three seasons, Fontana's arm and range, neither of which are great, make him a second baseman as a professional.
Fontana doesn't really have much in the way of a weakness in his game. A left-handed hitter, Fontana works the count and sees a lot of pitches with each at-bat. He has no problem taking a walk, as it allows him to put his speed and baserunning acumen on display.
3. Jesmuel Valentin, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (5'10", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
The son of 16-year major league veteran Jose Valentin, Jesmuel Valentin has grown up around the game and spent much of his youth inside major league clubhouses—his pedigree is unquestioned.
Like his father, Valentin projects to be a solid middle infielder, one whose strong arm but somewhat limited range make him a perfect fit for second base.
At the plate, the switch-hitter is a line-drive machine with gap power, though he does have the ability to take the pitcher deep.
4. Tony Renda, University of California (5'8", 180 lbs; 21 years old)
You'd think that someone who swings as hard as Tony Renda does would have trouble controlling the bat, but he shows excellent control, resulting in line drives being laced all over the field.
Renda has some power in his bat, but he projects as more of a doubles hitter going forward.
Defensively, he has a strong enough arm to play second base, and while his mechanics need work, he's solid enough to turn double plays and get to the balls that he needs to.
5. Alex Bregman, Albuquerque Academy; Albuquerque, N.M. (6'0", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
A solid all-around player, Bregman could stick at shortstop moving forward, but his arm and range look like a much better fit at second.
He missed much of the 2012 season with a broken finger, but Bregman consistently made hard contact with the bat prior to his injury, flashing some pop that was still being developed and nowhere near its full potential.
6. Kenny Diekroeger, Stanford University (6'2", 200 lbs; 21 years old)
Average range will make this utility infielder (he played virtually everywhere for Stanford) a second baseman in the pros, but Diekroeger has the skills to turn double plays and the arm to make throws from deep in the hole.
A right-handed hitter with excellent bat speed, he's not shown much in the power department and is probably best served hitting in the bottom third of lineups.
7. Alex Yarbrough, University of Mississippi (5'11", 185 lbs; 21 years old)
A switch-hitter, Yarbrough has excellent instincts and a patient approach at the plate. He also has some pop in his swing that is still developing.
Defensively, he won't make the incredible play, but he's solid enough to get to balls and has smooth hands that resulted in very few errors.
8. Timmy Lopes, Edison High School; Huntington Beach, Calif. (5'11", 175 lbs; 18 years old)
While he has the arm and range to stick at shortstop, Lopes' instincts play much better at second base.
At the plate, Lopes makes consistent, hard contact and drives the ball to all fields, though he won't offer much in the power department.
9. L.J. Mazzilli, University of Connecticut (6'1", 190 lbs; 21 years old)
Another second baseman with an excellent baseball pedigree, Mazzilli—the son of former major league player, coach and manager Lee Mazzilli—is a phenomenal athlete.
Mazzilli has a balanced approach at the plate that generates hard contact to all fields, but he's not a slugger by any means. Defensively, he's a work in progress; he has a tendency to sit back and let the ball come to him, resulting in some ill-timed bounces and a number of errors.
10. Micah Johnson, University of Indiana (5'11", 190 lbs; 21 years old)
Fully recovered from an injury to his throwing arm that relegated him to DH duty most of 2011, Micah Johnson has big-time speed and athletic ability.
A left-handed batter, Johnson has good bat speed that generates some pop, though his swing gets long at times and results in far too many strikeouts.
Not the deepest position in the draft, but this class of shortstops offers all talented baseball players who figure to make an impact earlier than some of their other fielding counterparts.
Three players—Carlos Correa, Deven Marerro and Gavin Cecchini—stand out above the rest.
1. Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (6'4", 190 lbs; 17 years old)
There is absolutely nothing not to like about Correa's game, and any issues that are pointed out I'd call a stretch.
Correa's above-average across the board on defense and has big-time power potential. While he's not a burner on the bases, once he gets going, he's incredibly difficult to throw out.
2. Deven Marrero, Arizona State University (6'1", 180 lbs; 21 years old)
Marrero has outstanding baseball instincts that only lend themselves to him being an excellent defensive shortstop.
With the bat, he's a line-drive gap hitter who isn't likely to provide much in the way of bombs, but he could easily become a doubles machine.
3. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe High School; Lake Charles, La. (6'0", 175 lbs; 18 years old)
Cecchini gets his hands through the zone as fast as anyone in this year's draft, allowing him to generate considerable power to all fields, though it's still developing.
Defensively, he has a strong, accurate arm and excellent instincts and mechanics to field the position at the next level.
Comparisons to J.J. Hardy have already been made by some.
4. Addison Russell, Pace High School; Pace, Fla. (6'0", 215 lbs; 18 years old)
Russell has the arm strength to stick at SS, but as he continues to fill out his frame, a move to third base could be in the cards.
But Russell isn't being drafted because of his defense—it's the offensive potential that has scouts excited.
He has natural power and a quick swing, but his mechanics need work, and he's been inconsistent in his approach.
Russell is a project, but one with tremendous upside.
5. C.J. Hinojosa, Klein Collins High School; Spring, Texas (5'11", 185 lbs; 17 years old)
A right-handed hitter, Hinojosa has a good batting eye and a quick bat that has shown some pop, allowing him to drive pitches to all fields.
Hinojosa has a solid arm and good enough speed to play short, and it's thought that he could have pushed Cecchini to second base on the USA U-18 team last year had Hinojosa not gotten injured.
6. Dansby Swanson, Marrietta High School; Kennesaw, Ga. (6'1", 170 lbs; 18 years old)
A two-sport athlete in high school (he captained Marrietta's basketball team as well), Darby Swanson has solid defensive mechanics and enough arm strength and range to stick at shortstop at the next level.
He swings for contact and not power, though the power may come as he continues to fill out his 170-pound frame.
7. Chris Taylor, University of Virginia (6'0", 170 lbs; 21 years old)
Taylor has the arm, hands and instincts to stick at shortstop going forward.
Scouts wonder if he'll be able to hit consistently, as he doesn't let loose often and has nothing more than gap power.
8. Cory Raley, Uvalde High School; Uvalde, Texas (6'2", 185 lbs; 18 years old)
Raley has speed to burn, something he put on display as a dual-threat quarterback for Uvalde's football team, where he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in the fall.
Raley has the arm and the mechanics for a shortstop, and while his speed is most definitely an asset, Raley needs to get on base more often to capitalize on it.
9. Austin Schotts, Centennial High School; Frisco, Texas (5'11", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
He packs a lot of pop into his right-handed swing and has big-time speed, but whether or not Schotts' arm will continue to develop enough for the majors is up in the air.
Schotts has sound fielding mechanics and instincts, and he certainly has the range, but his arm—as it stands now—is average, at best.
10. Chris Diaz, North Carolina State (5'11", 182 lbs; 21 years old)
Diaz has a quick bat and excellent hands that allow him to hit to all fields, though he's lacking in the power department.
An excellent athlete, Diaz has the speed and smooth hands needed to play shortstop at the next level.
Unlike some of the other infield positions we've looked at, third base has a plethora of talent available, led by Corey Seager, younger brother of current Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
1. Corey Seager, Northwest Cabarrus High School; Kannapolis, N.C. (6'3", 205 lbs; 18 years old)
We already touched on his baseball pedigree, and much to Kyle's chagrin, Corey has a chance to be the best Seager in the major leagues.
Seager has a big body and a smooth left-handed swing that generates power to all fields. He's very comfortable on the field and has a strong arm that will allow him to easily transition from shortstop to third base.
2. Richie Shaffer, Clemson University (6'4", 195 lbs; 21 years old)
Shaffer knows how to use his big frame for leverage at the plate, giving him big-time power potential—something he even showed against some of the top pitchers in this year's draft.
Scouts are torn over which corner Shaffer is a better fit for—third base, first base or right field—but there's no doubt that he has the arm strength and accuracy to play third at the next level.
3. Stephen Piscotty, Stanford University (6'3", 195 lbs; 21 years old)
Piscotty has an easy swing and makes hard contact on a consistent basis, which results in his ability to smash line drives all over the field. While he has some power, Piscotty projects as more of a doubles hitter than a traditional slugger.
Defensively, he has a strong arm and is quick enough on his feet to react to screamers hit down the line.
4. Daniel Robertson, Upland High School; Upland, Calif. (6'0", 190 lbs; 18 years old)
Robertson has excellent bat speed from the right side of the plate and projects to have plus power as he continues to add muscle to his frame.
A shortstop in high school, Robertson's arm, hands and instincts have led scouts to believe that he could be the best defensive third baseman to emerge from this year's draft class.
5. Carson Kelly, Westview High School; Portland, Ore. (6'2", 200 lbs; 17 years old)
Kelly has hit 92 mph as a pitcher, but nearly everyone associated with the game believes that his future lies at the hot corner. He obviously has the arm, and scouts like his hands and instincts at the position.
Kelly's bat is where the real interest lies. He has a smooth, line-drive generating swing with loft and the raw power that he has yet to harness to make him a legitimate power threat as he continues to develop.
6. Avery Romero, Pedro Menendez High School; St. Augustine, Fla. (6'1", 175 lbs; 18 years old)
Romero has excellent hand-eye coordination, plus a short swing that generates gap power and allows him to litter the field with line drives, though scouts believe he will have legitimate plus power down the road.
Romero has lateral quickness in the field and a cannon for an arm, leading some scouts to wonder if his best position is at catcher—something he's never played as far as I can tell.
7. Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat High School; Covina, Calif. (6'2", 195 lbs; 18 years old)
Ruiz doesn't move well laterally, but he has the hands, instincts and arm to man third base at the next level.
Offensively, Ruiz has a quick left-handed swing that has flashed power in the past, but his mechanics need work. He often reaches for pitches, with the tendency to sometimes dive out over the plate, but those are habits that can be broken.
8. Trey Williams, Valencia High School; Saugus, Calif. (6'1", 210 lbs; 18 years old)
Trey has a great baseball pedigree—his father, Eddie, was the fourth-overall pick in 1983 and a 10-year MLB vet.
The younger Williams has big-time power potential that remains untapped due to his poor pitch recognition and inability to make consistent contact.
Defensively, he has the ability to be a solid third baseman with a decent arm.
9. Mitch Nay, Hamilton High School; Chandler, Ariz. (6'3", 195 lbs; 18 years old)
Nay, named Arizona's Player of the Year by ESPN, has been quickly rising up draft boards and very well could be selected before a number players ahead of him on this list.
Nay has the potential to develop into a slugger, though whether or not he'll be able to consistently hit for average is a question mark.
He has a strong throwing arm and moves well laterally, both qualities that any third baseman worth his weight needs to succeed.
10. Torsten Boss, Michigan State University (6'0", 200 lbs; 21 years old)
Boss has a sweet swing and a patient approach from the left side of the plate. He's patient enough to pick his spots and isn't afraid to draw walks, yet he has enough pop in his bat to make pitchers regret leaving one over the plate.
In the field, while his arm is more than adequate to man the hot corner, some scouts question whether his glove and defensive instincts wouldn't play better elsewhere—perhaps right field or second base.
The 2012 draft features a fairly deep crop of quality outfield prospects, highlighted by two big-time prospects, Byron Buxton and Albert Almora.
That's not to take anything away from the other players on this list—all 10 of them are likely to be selected within the first two to three rounds. And while some are more advanced than others, they all have a legitimate shot of coming to an outfield near you sooner rather than later.
Let's take a look at who we're talking about.
1. Byron Buxton, Appling County High School; Baxley, Ga. (6'2", 190 lbs; 18 years old)
Byron Buxton was at one point considered to be the favorite at No. 1, drawing comparisons to players like Eric Davis and B.J. Upton. While he may not be the Astros' pick, Buxton will be one of the first three players selected.
His speed allows him to stretch hits, cover a large swath of ground in center field and unnerve pitchers when he's on base. Buxton pitched as well in high school, giving him a strong, accurate throwing arm.
At the plate, Buxton's smooth right-handed swing, which generates gap power at the moment, projects to provide plus-power as he continues to mature and fill out his frame.
2. Albert Almora, Mater Academy; Hialeah, Fla. (6'2", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
A veteran of six USA Baseball national teams, Albert Almora's combination of experience in big-game situations, work ethic and natural ability makes him as close to a no-risk pick as there is in the draft.
As one scout told Baseball America (subscription required), "(Almora) has no issues. He's got above-average tools everywhere, and they all play. He has tools and he uses them."
The right-handed Almora can drive the ball to all fields, has developing power and, while he's not as fast as Buxton, he is an excellent baserunner. His hustle allows him to cover a lot of ground in center, and his arm is both strong and accurate.
3. David Dahl, Oak Mountain High School; Birmingham, Ala. (6'2", 185 lbs; 18 years old)
A left-handed batter who has drawn comparisons to Johnny Damon and Andy Van Slyke, Dahl makes consistent contact and has gap power that could develop into more. Fast and armed with a cannon for a throwing arm, Dahl's major criticism has been his apparent lack of desire.
Some believe the Alabama native was simply bored with the level of competition in high school, while others question whether he really wants to put in the work needed to reach his potential.
Either way, Dahl is too good of a player for a team to not take a chance on around the mid-first.
4. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll High School; Corpus Christi, Texas (6'2", 210 lbs; 18 years old)
Hawkins has big power potential. Teams have been scouting him for two years, ever since he absolutely annihilated a ball deep into the upper deck home run porch at Dell Diamond, home of the Rangers' Triple-A team, the Round Rock Express.
Hawkins has quick hands, and he uses his body to gain leverage in his swing, giving him big power potential. A center fielder in high school with a plus throwing arm, he'll probably slide over to right at the next level.
5. Lewis Brinson, Coral Springs High School; Tamarac, Fla. (6'4", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
Talent-wise, there may not be a closer fit to Byron Buxton in this year's class more than Brinson, who beat Buxton in last year's Under Armour Game's Home Run Derby held at Wrigley Field.
Brinson has all the tools necessary to be an impact player in the big leagues, but his problem is a lack of body control. He has plus bat speed but lacks a consistent approach mechanically, often lengthening his swing far more than needs be.
Brinson's an 18-year-old project, but one with big-time upside.
6. Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M University (6'1", 185 lbs; 21 years old)
Naquin might be the best pure hitter at any position in this year's draft, but questions about his power and position at the next level push him toward the latter half of Round 1.
While he has the best arm of any college outfielder in the country, scouts aren't sure that Naquin can handle center going forward. At the same time, nobody's convinced that Naquin will develop enough power to play a corner spot, either.
Naquin's a man without a defined position.
7. D.J. Davis, Stone County High School; Wiggins, Miss. (6'1", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
Davis might be the fastest player in the draft—think Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton fast (Hamilton is 60-for-73 on stolen base attempts in 51 games at High-A this season). That speed allows Davis to cover a lot of ground in center field, though his throwing arm is below-average.
He's not a slap hitter, as his swing is smooth and has a bit of loft in it, allowing him to put his speed to good use when he sends a ball into the gap.
8. Victor Roache, Georgia Southern University (6'2", 225 lbs; 20 years old)
As a sophomore in 2011, Roache became the first collegian since 2003 to hit at least 30 home runs in a season. He has plus power to all fields, a solid approach at the plate and a batting eye that allows him to recognize pitches early.
Roache has been on the sidelines for the bulk of 2012 as he recovers from a nasty broken wrist, one that required the insertion of six screws, two pins and a metal plate. While teams don't have a recent sample to go off of, Roache has the skills necessary to succeed at the next level.
9. Mitch Haniger, Cal Poly University (6'2", 215 lbs; 21 years old)
A player who has been rising up draft boards in recent weeks, Haniger has the ability to play center, but is likely headed for right field in the bigs with a strong throwing arm and solid but not outstanding speed.
At the plate, Haniger has shown power to all fields and a patient approach, one that helps him work at-bats into favorable counts.
10. Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech University (6'1", 210; 20 years old)
Barnes is still raw, making him a project, but his plus speed and plus power make him worthy of a pick in the first few rounds.
He's a pull hitter, and the hope is that he learns to use the entire field as he works his way through a team's minor league system. Barnes' arm is adequate, at best, and while he has the speed to play center, a move to left is probably in the cards for him.
Years from now, if there's one thing that the 2012 MLB draft will be known for, it will be the amount of quality pitching that comes out of this draft.
Both left-handers and right-handers will dominate the first few rounds. The right-handers are led by a trio of talented arms: Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer and Mark Appel.
1. Kevin Gausman, LSU (6'4", 185 lbs; 21 years old)
I'm with B/R's prospect guru, Mike Rosenbaum, on this one—Kevin Gausman is the best pitching prospect and is probably the most major league-ready arm available.
Gausman has dominated the best division in all of college baseball, the SEC, getting his fastball into the upper 90s with regularity and showing an 85-mph changeup that fades, sinks and has become his best secondary pitch.
His slider, which sits in the mid-80s, has a nice bite and late break to it, and he also toys with a curve that sits in the upper 70s early in counts.
If I were drafting for the Astros, I'd make Gausman the No. 1 overall pick of 2012.
2. Mark Appel, Stanford University (6'4", 195 lbs; 20 years old)
Appel is no slouch—his fastball routinely sits in the mid-90s, and he's dialed it up to 98 on occasion. But he sometimes struggled with the pitch this year, allowing it to flatten out and become more hittable.
His slider is hard, with late movement, and Appel has a circle change as well, one that bottoms out when he is in control. All three of his pitches project as plus offerings, and Appel could very well be deserving of the first-overall pick with which most expect the Astros to select him.
3. Kyle Zimmer, University of San Francisco (6'3", 210 lbs; 20 years old)
Zimmer has four pitches that project to be above average at the MLB level, starting with his heater that has good run and sink. While it routinely sits in the mid-90s, Zimmer has dialed it up to 97 with relative ease.
Throw in a killer curve, a slider that can be effective when Zimmer has a feel for it and a changeup that projects as a plus pitch should he put it back into this arsenal, as he has essentially stopped throwing it.
Zimmer attacks the strike zone and can throw any one of his pitches for strikes at any time.
4. Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake High School; Santa Monica, Calif. (6'6", 230 lbs; 17 years old)
We'd be talking about Giolito as the prohibitive favorite to go first overall if not for a sprained UCL that took him out for the season in March. Pitchers as advanced as he is at his size don't grow on trees.
Because of his size, Giolito is constantly throwing downhill—an advantage for sure. His fastball has late movement and sits in the low 90s, but he's touched as high as 96 in the past.
In addition to his heater, Giolito has an excellent changeup that behaves like a split-fingered pitch and a heavy, power curve that sharply breaks at the plate.
5. Marcus Stroman, Duke University (5'9", 185 lbs; 21 years old)
Stroman has blazing arm speed, and his fastball consistently sits in the upper 90s, but his 5'9" height is a concern.
He doesn't throw downhill, and thus, he could have issues as a starting pitcher going forward. He does have a power curve with late break on it, but his fastball is far and away his best pitch.
Stroman is likely headed for a bullpen, either as a setup man or closer, and the comparisons to Tom Gordon will only grow louder.
6. Michael Wacha, Texas A&M University (6'6", 195 lbs; 20 years old)
Wacha's fastball sits in the low 90s, but it's his changeup that scouts are overly impressed with, as many are calling it the best changeup in the draft.
Wacha has a slider, but it's relatively undeveloped. As he sits now, he's a two-pitch pitcher, and he needs his breaking stuff to develop to succeed in the bigs.
Some have compared him to Jon Garland, and that's what Wacha projects to in the worst-case scenario—a solid but unspectacular serviceable starting pitcher.
7. Lance McCullers, Jr., Jesuit High School; Tampa, Florida (6'1", 190 lbs; 18 years old)
Son of former major league reliever Lance McCullers (a tough one to figure out with his name, I know), the junior McCullers is a power pitcher who should enjoy a longer and more successful career than his father did.
The junior McCullers has no fear on the mound and relentlessly attacks hitters. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s, his changeup fades late and he has a curveball with a late bite that is his best offering.
Some view him as a starter, while others believe he's destined to close. Either way, McCullers has a bright future ahead of him.
8. Chris Stratton, Mississippi State University (6'3", 190 lbs; 21 years old)
Stratton has pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter for Mississippi State the past season, and it's as a starter that teams have taken notice.
Stratton has four pitches that could all be above average to plus offerings in the major leagues: a fastball with sneaky movement that sits in the low 90s, a sinking changeup and two breaking balls—a slider that has good rotation and late bite (his best pitch) and a curveball that looks more like a slurve.
9. Shane Watson, Lakewood High School; Bellflower, Calif. (6'4", 195 lbs; 18 years old)
Watson's fastball sits in the low 90s, but he's shown the ability to dial it up to the mid-90s when needed, including late in games.
His curveball, his No. 2, sits in the high 70s to low 80s, and it comes with a sharp bite as the pitch reaches the batter.
Watson also has a changeup and a slider, but both pitches are behind his heater and curve in development and effectiveness.
10. Lucas Sims, Brookwood High School; Lawrenceville, Ga. (6'3", 190 lbs; 18 years old)
Primarily a two-pitch pitcher, Sims has future closer written all over him.
His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, but is extremely lively. Sims also throws a curveball that has a tight three-quarters rotation to it and makes hitters look foolish.
Most notable is his mental makeup on the mound. Nothing seems to phase the young Sims, and he attacks the plate—two important traits one needs to become a quality pitcher at any level, but especially as a closer in the majors.
As I mentioned when we looked at the righties, the 2012 draft is loaded with talented arms from both sides of the mound.
The southpaws are led by Max Fried and Andrew Heaney.
1. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake High School; Encino, Calif. (6'4", 170 lbs; 18 years old)
Fried is armed with three plus pitches and a projectionable build, one that has front offices hoping that he's available when their team picks in the first.
Fried's fastball sits in the low to mid-90s on a consistent basis and sinks naturally. He has thrown a cut version of the pitch in the past, but it's not looked at as a plus offering.
However, both his changeup with late sinking action and his curveball, which many consider to be the best in the draft, project as plus pitches that—when combined with Fried's maturity and ability to command all three of his best pitches—make him a very intriguing prospect going forward.
2. Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma State University (6'2", 175 lbs; 20 years old)
The best college southpaw in this year's draft, Heaney has flawless pitching mechanics—an easy delivery that he repeats on a consistent basis.
Heaney has a fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s but has late run (in on lefties and away from righties) and Heaney is confident to throw the pitch anywhere around the plate.
Heaney also has a curve that sits in the high 70s and a changeup that comes in around the mid to high 80s.
3. Matthew Smoral, Solon High School; Solon, Ohio (6'8", 220 lbs; 18 years old)
Smoral missed most of the 2012 season recovering from surgery to repair a fractured foot, but that hasn't changed the opinions of scouts who are so high on him.
Smoral has an easy delivery that he uses to deliver an above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s, his changeup sinks and Smoral has no problem throwing both pitches for strikes on a consistent basis.
His slider lags behind the other two, and whether or not he can develop it into a third above-average offering will likely determine if he starts or comes out of the 'pen going forward.
4. Brian Johnson, University of Florida (6'3", 225 lbs; 21 years old)
A highly effective pitcher at one of the top collegiate programs in the country, Brian Johnson has a chance to quickly move through a team's minor league system.
He has four pitches that he can throw for strikes, most notably a fastball that sits in the low 90s with arm-side action, and his out pitch, a slider.
5. Alex Wood, University of Georgia (6'4", 215 lbs; 21 years old)
Wood missed all of the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but seemed to be back in form this season, consistently throwing his fastball in the mid-90s.
His curveball and slider are both still developing, but both pitches project to be at least above average.
Wood's mechanics need work, as his delivery is anything but consistent. While it keeps hitters off-balance, it could lead to another injury down the road.
6. Hunter Virant, Camarillo High School; Camarillo, Calif. (6'3", 175 lbs; 18 years old)
It's not so much what Virant can do on the mound now as much as what scouts project him to become that has teams excited.
Virant has four pitches that have a chance to be at least above average, if not more. His fastball sits in the high 80s, but figures to sit in the low 90s when all is said and done. His two-seamer sinks into left-handed batters, and Virant has no problem throwing both for strikes on a consistent basis.
Also in his arsenal are two developing pitches, a curveball and a cut fastball, but both lag behind his other two pitches at the moment.
As he fills out his frame and gets stronger, Virant's other pitches will catch up to the heater.
7. Kyle Twomey, El Dorado High School; Placentia, Calif. (6'3", 180 lbs; 18 years old)
Twomey burst onto the scene this spring with his performance at the National Classic, where he threw his third consecutive shutout.
And did I mention that it was a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts?
Twomey's fastball has been compared to those belonging to Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson and is his best pitch by far. Secondary pitches lag far behind the heater, but Twomey does have a curveball, a changeup and a slider in his arsenal.
With experience and added strength, Twomey has a chance to be an excellent starting pitcher.
8. Mason Melotakis, Northwestern State University (6'3", 190 lbs; 20 years old)
Northwestern State closer Melotakis has a fastball-curve combination that has proven to be highly effective.
His heater sits in the mid-90s, and he's done an excellent job of keeping it down in the strike zone. His curve keeps hitters honest, and while he may be best suited for middle relief, there's no question that Melotakis has a future in someone's bullpen.
9. Brett Mooneyham, Stanford University (6'5", 235 lbs; 22 years old)
Another player with a solid baseball pedigree. Brett's dad, Bill, was the 10th-overall pick in the 1980 draft, though he only spent one season in the major leagues.
Brett is poised to have a far more successful career than his father did. He has three pitches that figure to be average, at worst—a low 90s fastball with late movement, a sharp, deep curveball and a changeup that sits in the low 80s.
10. Onelkis Garcia, Los Angeles, Calif. (6'3", 220 lbs; 22 years old)
Garcia's story is a bizarre one, and you can check Baseball America's here to get all the details.
The gist of it is that Garcia defected from Cuba last year, but rather than be declared a free agent like Jorge Soler was recently, MLB added him to the list of eligible players to be drafted in 2011—only to change their minds two days later.
Now, Garcia is eligible to be drafted, and he's gone a full year without competitive action. He has a plus fastball that sits in the low 90s and a power curveball that has been inconsistent, but could be an excellent complement to the heater.
Garcia turns 23 later this year, so he is somewhat advanced and could move through a farm system quickly as long as he's throwing strikes and getting batters out.