While Major League Baseball has done much over the past few seasons to make its draft more fan-friendly, you'll probably never see it reach the incessant hype levels of the NFL or NBA selection parade.
The reasoning for that is quite simple. First, at 40 rounds, the draft is much too long to capture an entire nation's attention. The weekend-long NFL draft feels like running a marathon every April, leaving the MLB's iteration to feel like running a marathon, then competing in a triathlon, then eating an entire box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then running a second marathon. It's just too long.
And the second, more important reason, is that baseball teams don't draft for right now. That's not to say there are no future stars in the MLB draft; they're just not instant-impact players like Anthony Davis or Andrew Luck. The reasons for that are often varied, stemming partially from readiness and more often due to service-time complications.
Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray could probably start in the big leagues tomorrow. But having both potential aces to do so would defeat the whole rebuilding process that makes MLB's draft the most intriguing slow burn in all of sports.
And with prospect evaluation still a far from perfect process, it's more likely than not that the top player from this draft won't be taken in the top five, perhaps not even in the first round at all.
In other words, it's understandable for the investment for mainstream fans to be minimal. For MLB diehards and fantasy owners, though, the order of players taken in June is nothing short of captivating entertainment.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at our latest projections for the entire first round.
1. Houston Astros: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
The Houston Astros have the top overall pick for the second year in a row. While for most teams that would bring negative connotations, that's exactly where Houston wants to be. Jeff Luhnow is a major proponent of advanced stats, and he knows the small-market Astros are cursed without following a Tampa Bay-like prospect-heavy rebuild.
A hulking righty with a fastball that tops out in triple digits, it's arguable that Jonathan Gray has the highest upside of anyone in this class. Baseball America nudged Gray ahead of Appel in its prospect rankings for exactly that reason.
For Gray to realize that potential, he'll have to work hard on developing his changeup. The 6'4" righty already has the makings of an elite power pitcher, with a tailing fastball and a slider that has a hard 11-to-4 break. As Gray works on controlling the slider, it should work as his main out pitch in the bigs.
With the Astros stagnating, they can afford to wait. Potential is a dangerous word in the MLB draft, but so would be passing on someone who could be a face-of-the-franchise name like Gray.
2. Chicago Cubs: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
No matter which way the Astros ultimately go, the Chiccago Cubs will be just fine taking the man left on the board. Both pitchers are plus arms, guys who can eventually develop into aces somewhere along the line.
As such, they cannot afford to pass on Mark Appel here—even if the righty is represented by MLB's most reviled (and successful) agent, Scott Boras. Appel was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates last season and was unable to reach a deal, mainly because Pittsburgh was unwilling to go way beyond the slotting for this selection.
Chicago has no such trepidation, and Appel has also reached the point where his career cannot stall any further. The right-hander has a fastball that stays generally between 93-95 mph, a top-notch slider that serves as a strong out pitch and an above-average changeup.
Standing 6'5" with a straightforward delivery, Appel has the type of command and form you would expect from someone who spent four years in college.
Theo Epstein is in this for the long haul in Chicago, and Appel could become the key cog in that rebuilding effort down the line. There shouldn't be much question here. Appel deserves to be the pick.
3. Colorado Rockies: Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, San Diego
Pitching will take precedent with the first two picks, but don't take that as any indictment on Kris Bryant's skill set. The San Diego superstar is easily the best hitter in this draft, throwing up a slash line of .340/.500/.860 in his junior season.
He has prodigious raw power, hitting 31 home runs and 13 doubles, and can drive the ball across the field with ease. What's been really impressive is his development into a mature hitter. Bryant drew 62 walks against striking out only 40 times, a combination of plate discipline and consistent contact that makes scouts swoon.
There are questions about what position he'll play and whether he'll ever become a plus defender. But those concerns are relatively minor, nothing that would make Colorado think of passing on him at No. 3.
4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X HS (Texas)
There shouldn't be (and won't) be much hesitation for the Minnesota Twins if the draft's top three fall as expected. Minnesota is among the most pitching-needy teams in baseball, and while Kohl Stewart comes with the requisite risk of a high-school arm, his potential is arguably right on par with the two aforementioned collegiate pitchers.
The 6'3" righty, who is committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback, has the type of arm you'd expect for someone going to play for Kevin Sumlin. Equipped with a fastball that's consistently in the mid-90s and three other pitches, including a devastating slider, Stewart has elite developmental tools.
The rub is that he's understandably a few years away from becoming a superstar. Minnesota, or whichever team that drafts Stewart, is going to have to work hard on his command and delivery to avoid injuries, but it's always a process with high schoolers.
That being said, the Twins are in a position where they need hope in the rotation. Stewart provides that and then some.
5. Cleveland Indians: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Arguably the most polished hitter in college baseball, there aren't many noteworthy flaws for Colin Moran at the plate. His slash line of .357/.485/.579 is almost enough evidence by itself, but his maturity at the dish is something special. He's drawn almost three walks (55) to every strikeout (20), all while performing excellently with runners in scoring position.
The ceiling on Moran is a bit of a question, and teams will want him to show more power at the dish as he develops. But his ability to hit for average and smarts at the plate are two translatable skills, making him an understandably attractive target for the Indians.
Assuming Cleveland can help Moran with his footwork defensively, he should make a fine third baseman of the future for the ascending Indians.
6. Miami Marlins: Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada
There's only one guarantee at No. 6 for the Miami Marlins: They'll be looking to save money. If that means taking a lesser prospect to mitigate the risk of a lengthy negotiation process, so be it. Expect Miami to strike a deal with its pick as early as possible.
As for who that will be, Braden Shipley is as good a bet as any. The 6'3" righty is still developing as a pitcher after converting over from the field, but has already shown an interesting array of skills. His fastball usually sticks somewhere in the mid-90s—sensing a pattern yet with these pitchers?—and he has a very good changeup.
There is plenty of untapped potential in this arm, and Shipley will only get better as he grows more comfortable on the mound.
7. Boston Red Sox: Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (Ga.)
Boston isn't used to picking this high, and with a surprising start to the 2013 season, it's likely this will be the team's only chance to take a superstar-level prospect for a while. While there are certainly questions about Clint Frazier's size—he's generously listed at 6'1" and 190 pounds—his potential as a hitter is strong.
The Loganville High School star has quick hands and gets his bat through the zone, using that quickness to show some burgeoning power at the dish. There are a few flaws, notably his propensity for over-aggressiveness on off-speed pitches, but those can hopefully be worked on over time.
Boston has become Yankee-like in its continual trading of prospects, so it's necessary the team starts taking the draft seriously. With the No. 7 pick undoubtedly giving them a bevy of options, the Red Sox taking Frazier isn't a guarantee. But it's the most likely option in this scenario.
8. Kansas City Royals: Austin Meadows, OF/1B, Grayson HS (Ga.)
ESPN's Keith Law has heard the Kansas City Royals are focusing on college pitching with this pick but that they have no interest in Arkansas righty Ryne Stanek. With Shipley having come off the board and this being a little high for Sean Manaea, it seems Kansas City might be pushed in a different direction.
If that's the case, Austin Meadows should be the pick. Though his performance wasn't all the way there in high school, Meadows has one of the biggest upsides of any potential hitter. His 6'3" frame is screaming for an extra 15-20 pounds of bulk, at which point, he could become a real force at the plate—especially as a power hitter.
Also equipped with above-average speed, Meadows is the type of long-term project the Royals have converted into integral parts of their future. It'll be a process, but Meadows' high potential could make him worthwhile.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates: Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (Wash.)
The Pittsburgh Pirates landed one of the offseason's best steals in Russell Martin, but they can't risk relying on him for too long. Catchers tend to wear out rapidly once they hit their 30s, and Martin is already an inconsistent (at best) hitter.
Reese McGuire could provide the perfect long-term solution. There is a major drop-off from McGuire to the next level of catchers in this draft, perhaps inflating his value a little more than it should be. The Kentwood High School standout has an unbelievable arm, and he's getting better behind the plate, but there are major questions about his hitting ability.
It's possible that he'll develop league-average skills at the plate, but they're not there yet. But as long as Pittsburgh is patient with him and doesn't expect Joe Mauer production, he should be just fine here.
10. Toronto Blue Jays: Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle HS (Ind.)
The Toronto Blue Jays are one of baseball's major disappointments, and their free-spending offseason leaves them without a ton of picks this June. Look for them to try to recoup for that lack of quantity by trying to hit a home run with a high-upside quality prospect in Round 1.
There aren't many players with a higher upside than Trey Ball at No. 10. Ball is such a high-talented prospect that no one even knows for sure what position he'll play at the next level. His stuff is major-league worthy as a left-handed starter, and he's a strong enough prospect at the plate and as a potential outfielder to make folks swoon there as well.
11. New York Mets: Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno St.
The New York Mets have loaded up on high-school prospects over the past couple seasons and should look to shift away here. There's plenty to be said for pushing high-upside prospects. There's more to be said for seemingly punting away season after season.
Aaron Judge represents a middle ground between strong upside and semi-near-future production. An absolute monstrous human being at 6'7" and 255 pounds, Judge has all the power one would expect from a man that size. He crushes pitches up in the zone and has a compact swing.
A little discipline at the dish would be nice, seeing as he doesn't have any. But the Mets need someone not named David Wright to start bopping homers out of Citi Field eventually
12. Seattle Mariners: D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B, New Mexico
There are other bats that might have more potential, but there is none more equipped than D.J. Peterson to help out as soon as possible in this scenario. In a class that's filled with depth, not greatness, Peterson might be the human embodiment.
He's a very good contact hitter who could hit .300 someday in the big leagues, but probably tops out somewhere around 20 home runs in a best-case scenario situation. With a likely move to first base in the offing, Seattle might want more of a swing-for-the-fences name.
Or Seattle Mariners brass might've heard "20 home runs" and already asked where they could sign up.
13. San Diego Padres: J.P. Crawford, SS, Lakewood HS (Calif.)
The San Diego Padres should also be thinking about improving their offense, but they can afford to play the long-con game here. Building a winning baseball club in beautiful San Diego has been a process, and it's one that will likely continue for at least the next couple seasons.
As such, expect management to emphasize high-school bats. And in this scenario, they'd be nothing short of thrilled to see J.P. Crawford still hanging on the board at No. 13.
The best shortstop in this draft by a country mile, Crawford is raw, but has untapped potential everywhere. While some high schoolers tout themselves as shortstops and almost instantly move away from the position, that won't be the case here. He's a rangy defensive player who is only going to get better going forward.
With above-average bat speed in tow, there's some real two-way potential here for the youngster.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates: Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
After landing the high-upside catching prospect with its first pick, look for Pittsburgh to look for someone nearer to contributing at the major league level. Most notably, the Pirates should look for a college bat—preferably in the outfield.
Hmph, that worked out almost like I planned it out that way. Renfroe is probably the best overall prospect left on the board, a combination of tools that should make him interesting to most teams—perhaps even inside the top 10. He's already an elite power bat and has made massive strides as a contact hitter this season as well, putting up a .352/.445/.652 slash line.
Some understandably wonder whether that average is an outlier—which it kind of is—and whether he'll be anything other than an average fielder. Nevertheless, the potential to add a big-time power bat next to Andrew McCutchen has to be tempting here.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks: Dominic Smith, 1B/OF Sierra HS (Calif.)
The Arizona Diamondbacks should be interested in simply taking the best bat available, and that's Dominic Smith in this scenario. A left-handed first baseman, Smith is one of the best hitters in his class and shows an intriguing duality between pop and consistent contact.
It's possible that the Diamondbacks would prefer someone with more of a win-now impetus. But with the board drying up quickly as hitters are falling off like flies in this scenario, the high long-term upside of Smith will win out.
16. Philadelphia Phillies: Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas
All you constantly hear about this pick is Philly wants a player with tools. Whether that be an eventual replacement to Jimmy Rollins in Crawford or Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, who knows. But in this scenario, Ryne Stanek has dropped way too far for the Philadelphia Phillies to not pull the trigger.
A potential top-five selection heading into the season, Stanek's draft stock has stagnated while he struggled with command. He's a fastball-first pitcher whose curve and slider both need a ton of work, but he fastball—usually sticking in the mid-90s—has been good enough to make up for it collegiately.
There's a little more work to be done with Stanek than your average college arm. Yet, the potential for him to develop into a top-of-the-line rotation guy is real, making his availability at No. 16 a near-godsend to Philly.
17. Chicago White Sox: Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Oral Roberts
There might not be a more polished arm save for Appel in this draft than Alex Gonzalez. He has a real feel for the game, the type you often see in collegiate pitchers, but is strangely absent in this year's crop of arms. Though his fastball usually hovers in the low-90s, Gonzalez has a cutter-slider combo that fools hitters depending on the speed.
Growth will be a question, as Gonzalez's lack of a high-end fastball will be disconcerting for superstar chasers. If the Chicago White Sox are looking for a solid arm who can help possibly within 12 months as a back-end starter, Gonzalez is that guy.
Note: Don't be surprised to see Chicago take a long look at Jacksonville righty Chris Anderson.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Ian Clarkin, LHP, James Madison HS (Calif.)
Speaking of franchises going to hell in a handbasket—oh, wait, we weren't talking about that?—history tells us the Los Angeles Dodgers love one thing above all else: high school pitching. Los Angeles has taken seven high school pitchers in the first round of the past 11 drafts, which is just astounding.
Look for more of the same this year, with the polarizing Ian Clarkin getting the nod here. Though some folks aren't bullish about the still-developing lefty—he's ranked as just the 64th-best prospect in this draft by ESPN's Keith Law—others are quite fond of his still-growing list of tools.
Clarkin has a fastball that usually rests in the low 90s. It's not much to write home about. But his breaking ball, which usually clocks in somewhere in the mid-70s area, is the type of pitch that makes scouts need those old-school flapper fans from the 1920s. The pitch is a devastating knee-buckler and will help him project to the middle of a rotation someday.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville
The St. Louis Cardinals have a renowned ability to pluck veteran arms left for dead and making them usable starters. Their ability to develop homegrown pitchers is a little more suspect, though still quite good, and St. Louis should place an emphasis on changing that going forward.
While not destined for the top of the rotation, Anderson, whom I would like to be called "Not Birdman," (Miami Heat) here forth, would be an addition. The right-hander has a very good fastball that sticks in the mid-to-low-90s and has a strong slider that could develop into a plus-plus pitch someday.
He'll need to work on his mound composure and find a more reliable third pitch than his average changeup, but I could see "Not Birdman" being a No. 3 or No. 4 starter down the line.
20. Detroit Tigers: Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga
The win-now Detroit Tigers organization doesn't seem like they would want to take a high-school prospect here. This team has a window where it can compete for World Series titles, meaning players who could fast-track it to the bigs and contribute have to be intriguing.
Among pitchers, that's probably Gonzales at this point. Though we're breaking the mid-90s trend here among starting pitchers—Gonzales usually rests in the high-80s and low-90s—his secondary pitches are phenomenal. He has a beautiful changeup that has flustered hitters all season, his curveball could become a plus pitch someday and his command of the mound is masterful.
For those who grew up watching pitchers like Tom Glavine—guys whose mastery of the art of pitching was greater than the sum of their pitches—Gonzales is fun to watch. The ceiling here is probably a No. 3 or No. 4 starter, but that may happen sooner than we all think.
Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea could get a long look here if his injury problems check out.
21. Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Ciuffo, C, Lexington HS (S.C.)
Law and many others have noted that the Tampa Bay Rays seem laser-focused on adding a catcher at this spot, and Nick Ciuffo is the only one who would make remote sense at this spot. The Lexington prep star is a very good receiving catcher already, but his arm is only slightly above-average.
Ciuffo's saving grace is his power potential, which could make him a usable force on both ends of the field. Tampa Bay has such a rich history with prospects, though, in two years, we might be talking about this kid as if he's Johnny Bench. Being consistently great buys you that level of respect.
22. Baltimore Orioles: Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
For a pitcher who could have been a top-10 pick, Sean Manaea's slide down draft boards has been an interesting thing to watch.
Folks came away enamored with the lefty after he ascended at Cape Cod a year ago, but the luster wore off a bit down the stretch. He's back down to being consistently in the low-90s rather than the mids, a key downfall for scouts. It's amazing what a couple downticks on the radar gun will do for a prospect, especially one that's now dealing with the aforementioned injury issues.
It's possible that he now slides out of Round 1, which seemed unthinkable a couple months ago. But for now, let's stick him with pitching-needy Baltimore based on potential alone.
23. Texas Rangers: Travis Demeritte, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.)
There has been an increasing amount of hype surrounding Demeritte's name since the draft process started, and it could lead to him being a first-round pick. Mostly viewed as a likely second-rounder at the beginning of this process, there are plenty of teams falling in love with his unbelievable raw skill set.
Demeritte has a quick, powerful bat that projects well for a shortstop should he stick there as a professional. He probably projects a little better as a third baseman defensively, though he's quick enough that a team could want to make it work.
24. Oakland Athletics: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys HS (N.C.)
The Oakland A's have long been a team that emphasizes a slow burn with prospects, and their best bet may be to land a prep arm at No. 24. Harvey is probably the best fit available, though he's certainly a long way from the big leagues.
A right-hander whose fastball usually hovers between 90-95 mph, Harvey's true plus pitch is a buckling curve that could be plus-plus by the time he hits the bigs. There's more than a little room for growth, command-wise, as there is for just about every other high-school pitcher in the nation.
However, with Oakland looking at young arms, Harvey would be the best long-term option available at this spot.
25. San Francisco Giants: Matt Krook, LHP, St. Ignatius Prep (Calif.)
There are an innumerable amount of scenarios being thrown around about the San Francisco Giants, as there often is. They're one of the best teams at holding their draft picks close to the vest, so it'll be interesting to see where they lean in June.
Matt Krook has a lot of room to fill out his lanky 6'4" frame, which could help his inconsistent fastball speed. But his offspeed pitches are already developing strongly, especially a curve which is already his plus out pitch.
Plenty of other names like Jonathon Crawford of Florida remain, but I think the Giants will go with a prep arm here. In this scenario, the best one available is Krook.
26. New York Yankees: Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford
The New York Yankees are blessed with three first-round picks, two of which will likely be used on pitching prospects. Though they're scuffling at the plate with the big club now, relying on a never-ending streamline of aging arms won't work forever. New York has to find its new version of Andy Pettitte, otherwise the old one might still be on the mound when he has grandchildren.
That being said, the value with Austin Wilson here is astronomical. A likely top-15 pick before a frustrating, injury-riddled end to his campaign, Wilson has the type of frame and power that make him a risk worth taking. Wilson stands 6'5" and weighs 245 pounds, giving him the profile of a first baseman rather than a likely right fielder and had the power to back it up.
With potential 30-homer guys hardly ever around at this juncture, the Yankees would be smart to wait on pitching and go for Wilson here.
27. Cincinnati Reds: Billy McKinney, OF, Plano West HS (Texas)
Billy McKinney might be the best hitter left in the draft. A lefty with quick hands and a high contact rate, the left fielder projects as a .300 hitter with some decent pop at the high-end of his potential. There's not much speed to be had, nor is there all that much on the field, but Cincinnati has enough talent to wait on him to find himself defensively.
There just aren't that many elite two-way players in this draft, and you find translatable numbers where you can. McKinney is an instant-impact hitter who might make a dent instantly and go ascending up the Reds' farm system.
28. St. Louis Cardinals: Phillip Ervin, OF, Samford
Having found an interesting muse for the future rotation at No. 19, odds are the St. Louis Cardinals look to juxtapose that with a hitter in this spot.
The problem is that the high-upside bats are already off the board in this scenario. Perhaps, with that in mind, St. Louis could go in the opposite direction and take Phillip Ervin at this spot. Even those highest on his major-league skills project Ervin as a replacement-level starting outfielder, but the emphasis is the he could do so mighty soon.
Despite facing mediocre competition at Samford, Ervin is a polished player who could rocket up a club's minor league system. He's got above-average power and contact skills, already equipped with a compact swing that won't need much work.
If the Cardinals are looking for a player who could platoon within the next 12 months, Ervin is their guy.
29. Tampa Bay Rays: Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Joseph HS (N.J.)
Also picking for the second time in Round 1, the Tampa Bay Rays could get pitcher-happy after landing their coveted catching prospect in Ciuffo. The answer to where they ultimately go with this spot would depend on whether management wants a quick turnaround with the pick or simply wants another ball of potential to mold into a future Cy Young winner.
Rob Kaminsky is a bit of a middle-ground pick at this spot. Though being a high-school arm by rule means there's potential still left on the table, Kaminsky is a remarkably composed on the mound. He has command of both his fastball and curve, though Tampa will have work with him to develop a second out pitch. His delivery and style on the mound seems already fit for a changeup, personally speaking.
The Rays might go with a higher-upside selection—Kaminsky is a No. 3 at his high end—or they might pull the rug out from everyone and go shortstop. But with the back half of Round 1 always being a crap shoot, Kaminsky is as good a bet as any.
30. Texas Rangers: Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)
When folks talk about a boom-or-bust prospect in this year's draft, they might as well flash Phil Bickford's face on a Jumbotron. The 6'4" righty has top-10 potential resting in his right arm; he could also never develop a breaking ball and flame out within a couple years.
That being said, the potential is worth the risk for Texas at No. 3. Bickford is a flamethrower already with the potential to reach the high-90s consistency once he develops into his frame. I was being a little harsh when speaking about his breaking stuff earlier. He has them; they're just completely unusable against top-tier hitting at this point.
If Texas has the patience to work with him, though, Bickford could become a No. 1 starter in four or five years. Which is reason No. 1,202 why folks get frustrated by the MLB draft.
31. Atlanta Braves: Tim Anderson, SS, East Central CC
As one of the best teams in baseball, the Atlanta Braves are in a position to take just about any position they desire for probably at least the next couple years. Should Atlanta executives want to push for youth and hope one or two prospects comes out a superstar, that's a wholly plausible strategy. And a semi-opposite approach by emphasizing quick helpers from college ball is also interesting.
Tim Anderson is very much on the "let it burn and hope it sticks" side of things. An interesting player who projects to stay at shortstop, teams could easily become enamored with his future projection as a multi-tool player. He's already good at making contact and spraying the ball into the opposite field, though he'll need a hitting coach to help develop more power in his swing.
32. New York Yankees: Jon Denney, C, Yukon HS (Okla.)
33. New York Yankees: Andrew Thurman, RHP, UC Irvine
The Yankees find themselves in another interesting spot at No. 32, much the way they were with their first top selection. Jon Denney is an offensive-minded catcher, the kind of player who could help reduce the sting of trading Jesus Montero in the long-term. But the emphasis within the organization should be pitching.
It's a strange juxtaposition that you don't often see in the MLB draft. Odds are New York makes the Denney the pick and hopes a pitcher willing to sign falls down into the second round.
Meanwhile, the Yankees cap off the first round nabbing one of the draft's most underrated pitchers in Andrew Thurman. The UC Irvine standout has a high-end projection somewhere in the middle of the rotation, but he's a guy I have a ton of faith in making the big leagues. He's a heady pitcher with very good command of his pitches, though his stuff borders on average to slightly above that level.
That being said, we've seen plenty of pitchers make it work simply by being smarter than everyone else.
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