2012 MLB Mock Draft: Early Predictions For Next Year's Top 10 Picks

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst IJune 10, 2011

2012 MLB Mock Draft: Early Predictions For Next Year's Top 10 Picks

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    Deven Marrero could be looking at a top-ten selection based on his sterling defensive play.
    Deven Marrero could be looking at a top-ten selection based on his sterling defensive play.

    The 2011 MLB draft has only been in the books for less than a day, but don't fret, draftniks.

    Only 363 more days until the 2012 draft!

    Let's get right down to business. The 2012 class isn't as deep and it lacks a true superstar like we saw in 2009 and 2010.

    There aren't any Stephen Strasburgs or Bryce Harpers. I'm not even sure there's a Gerrit Cole.

    But somebody has to go No. 1 right?

    And there is going to have to be enough talent to fill out the Top 10.

    So without further ado, let's take a look at how the Top 10 picks in next year's draft would shake down right now (Hello Minnesota!). We'll also look at some of the guys who could be in the running for the No. 1 overall spot and, more importantly, how they would fit with each team.

    Let the 2012 mocking begin!

    ***Standings are current as of 6-9-2011*** 

1. Minnesota Twins: Lance McCullers, RHP, Tampa Jesuit (FL)

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    At only 16 years old, Lance McCullers was already throwing 97 mph fastballs, which means that as a high school sophomore, he is already pretty much assured of a place in the Top 10 of the 2012 MLB draft. There is a strong chance that he will go No. 1 overall, breaking the mold and becoming the first high school pitcher ever tabbed with the No. 1 pick.

    McCullers could have fit in very well with the 2011 draft class, seeing as how he's a diminutive pitcher around the same size as Trevor Bauer.

    In addition to his mid-to-high-90s heat, McCullers also features a hammer curveball that should be a plus pitch as a pro. He's also been throwing a changeup, and the pitch has considerable promise. 

    One thing that might put a damper on McCullers' prospects on the mound is his ability at the plate and in the field, where he moonlights as Jesuit's power-hitting shortstop.

    In the field, he has shown more than enough arm to handle the position and is more fluid than you would expect a pitcher to be. His footwork is impressive as well.

    At the plate, he has a sweet left-handed swing that oozes with raw power. He has tapped into it in games, but could really take off if he would give up a career on the mound.

    And of course, McCullers has the lineage working in his favor. His dad was a seven-year MLB veteran who pitched for the Padres, Yankees, Tigers and Rangers.

2. Houston Astros: Kenny Diekroeger, SS, Stanford (CA)

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    Back in 2008, at the annual Area Code Games showcase, Mike Trout put up some ridiculous numbers in the miniature combine. The only player to post better numbers than him was high-schooler Kenny Diekroeger, who ended up as a second-round pick for the Rays that next year.

    Diekroeger, however, had a very strong commitment to Stanford and ended up on campus later that year. Two years later, he's starting to emerge as a strong candidate to go in the Top 10 of the 2012 draft.

    His skills are undeniable. According to Baseball America:

    "As a baseball player, Diekroger is acceptable as a SS, but his actions are not exceptional. With his remarkable overall athletic ability, Diekroger may be a better fit as an OF. Kenny showed flashes of interesting hitting ability, but he needs to improve at the plate and develop consistency in his approach and results. Diekroger figures to be an exceptionally attractive college recruit, given his stunning physical ability combined with terrific grades and a nearly off the charts SAT score. There is little doubt given his athleticism."

    That was a scouting report given out of high school.

    Since then, Diekroeger has refined his actions at shortstop. Now, many feel like he could continue at the position as a pro, despite his big size (6'2", 200 lbs). He has continued to shine in all facets of the game: at the plate, on defense and on the basepaths.

    He struggled to hit for power with the new bats, hitting only two home runs this season (after hitting five last year). His average also dipped to a career-low of .292, just one season after becoming the first Stanford freshman to lead the team in hitting (.342) since 1997. That season he also became the first freshman to lead the team in RBIs—ever.

    After his stellar freshman campaign, he headed off to the New England Collegiate League, where he won league batting honors and finished second to teammate Mark Appel as the top prospect in the league. He was noted for his athletic ability by scouts and coaches alike.

    If he can continue to improve on defense, and have a bounce-back year at the plate, there's no doubt that Diekroeger will go in the Top Ten.

3. Chicago Cubs: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (CA)

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    Right now Appel looks to be the top college pitcher heading into the 2012 season.

    He's coming off of a stellar season in which he's won six games (so far), posted a 3.02 ERA and struck out 83 batters in a team-leading 104.1 innings. He helped guide Stanford into super-regional play with a seven-hit complete game in the NCAA opener against Kansas State. He struck out eight in the game and walked none. 

    Last year as a freshman, the 6'5", 190 pound right-hander had a tough year pitching out of Stanford's bullpen. He was hit hard (44 H, 25 R in 38 IP) and finished the year with a 5.92 ERA and almost as many walks (19) as strikeouts (24).

    He didn't let a disappointing first-year campaign keep him down though. He traveled, along with Diekroeger, to the New England Collegiate League and dominated, posting a 6-1 record and a 1.87 ERA, earning top prospect honors.

    Appel has all the tools to end up as a top five pick. He has the easy velocity that can produce 97 mph bullets, although he sits more comfortably in the 92-95 mph range. He has a very impressive slider and also throws a changeup and a cutter—a pitch becoming more and more popular amongst younger pitchers these days.

    One thing scouts are always looking for is excellent arm speed, and Appel has that too.

4. Kansas City Royals: Jake Barrett, RHP, Arizona State (AZ)

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    Another guy who was a relatively high draft pick back in 2009, Jake Barrett should have no problem achieving higher than his third-round status from three years ago (when Toronto scooped him up, but failed to get a deal in place due to the right-hander's strong commitment to ASU).

    Barrett will undoubtedly be one of the top arms to watch for in the 2012 season, but unfortunately the season will likely be a wash for the Sun Devils, who face the possibility of being suspended from postseason play for some off-the-field transgressions committed by the previous coaching staff. 

    That might make it hard for Barrett to channel all of his ability, but if he can string together some nice starts, he could be right in line for a top five selection.

    Toronto was so high on him back in 2009 because he had a big-league body (6'3", 225 lbs), a good fastball (90-94 mph) and two pitches (curveball and splitter) with above-average potential.

    He showed great poise stepping into a very talented bullpen during his freshman year, pitching to a 3.41 ERA in 28 outings and striking out 43 batters in 29.1 innings.

    This year, Barrett made the jump to the rotation and found instant success. His first start of the season saw him toss six-innings of shutout ball, giving up only three hits while striking out six. He finished the season with a 7-4 record, a 4.14 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 76 innings. He tossed one complete-game shutout against Cal late in the season.

    The Royals have made a habit of taking some pretty high-ceiling high schoolers over the past few seasons, but they have made an effort to take some pretty seasoned college players too—ones they know will be able to contribute as early as 2013, when the crux of their farm system will be big-league ready.

    Barrett is going to be one of the most big-league ready of any of the college pitchers in the 2012 class, making him a perfect fit.

5) Oakland Athletics: Nick Williams, Ball HS (TX)

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    Williams exploded onto the 2012 draft scene as a high school junior last summer at the Perfect Game World Wood Baseball Association National Championship Tournament.

    He went 12-for-26 with six home runs and 12 RBIs over eight games, including one 4-for-4 performance in which each of his hits came in the form of a homer. He also racked up seven RBIs in that contest.

    It wasn't too long after that that colleges starting knocking on his door. Scouts have already started to compare him to Ken Griffey Jr., with some likening his powerful swing to Darryl Strawberry's.

    After his sophomore year, all the talk about Williams was that while he had a lot of raw power, he was helpless against good breaking-balls. He worked very hard on that throughout the season and responded with his performance at the WWBA championship: All four of his home runs came on breaking balls.

    At 6'3" and 195 pounds, Williams has a very athletic-looking frame and has been described by Perfect Game as an "excellent athlete."

    He also shined at the Area Code Games and was a regular among the HR derby circuit last summer. He should be a competitor at more than a few showcases this summer, giving him greater exposure to the rest of the country.

6) Washington Nationals: Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State (AZ)

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    Having two teammates (Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer) drafted in the Top Three this past draft is a pretty rare feat. The 2012 draft might feature two such duos selected in the Top Five, with Marrero ranking as the top defensive shortstop in this class.

    Marrero famously played on the same high school squad that won a national championship a few years ago behind the bat of Eric Hosmer.

    Now, he's a draft prospect in his own right.

    And he's actually been one before. Marrero was drafted by the Reds in the 17th-round back in 2009, but his commitment to ASU was too strong for him to leave.

    Two-an-a-half seasons later, he's on the verge of being talked about as one of the top college prospects for the 2012 draft.

    Marrero had an amazing freshman campaign last year, finishing on a tear, hitting .397 with 12 doubles, three triples, six homers and 42 RBIs. He also scored 31 runs and stole 11 bases. And for a freshman, he sure didn't strike out a lot (only 24 K's in 156 at-bats).

    This season he regressed a bit, most likely because of the new college bats, but he still had a solid year.

    He hit .319 in 51 games, rapped 14 doubles and three triples and drove in 20 runs, while scoring 30 of his own. The power all but disappeared (only two HRs in 207 ABs) and he didn't steal as many bases (10-for-15) as expected.

    Still, Marrero continued to provide solid defense at the most challenging position and projects to be a slightly above-average hitter as a pro. He likely won't hit for too much power, but he should be a doubles machine and a threat to hit five to 10 triples each year.

    Think of Marrero as a more polished version of this year's first-round pick, Francisco Lindor.

7. San Diego Padres: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU (LA)

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    The scouting report on Gausman has changed a bit since his sixth-round drafting last year.

    It still features the mid-90s fastball, solid command and great mound presence, but what he's added since spurning the Dodgers offer for college ball is development of his breaking ball and the refinement of his changeup.

    His command of both pitches allowed him to blossom into LSU's most impressive pitcher in 2011. 

    The right-hander made a team-high 14 starts, winning five. He posted a respectable 3.51 ERA and held a 86:23 K:BB ratio in a team-leading 89.2 innings.

    Batters only hit .215 off of him and he served up only five home runs all season. His finest performance came in an early season outing against Tennessee. He tossed a complete-game shutout, scattering four hits and striking out seven. He walked none.

    Gausman should be a top ten pick in 2012, thanks not only to his velocity and developing secondary pitches, but also to his very prototypical pitcher's body. At 6'4" and 185 pounds, he still has plenty of room to add some more weight (increasing his durability and stamina).

    Another season of pitching in college baseball's toughest conference should give him all the seasoning he needs to make the jump to pro ball.

8. Los Angeles Dodgers: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

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    If anyone is going to give Lance McCullers a run for his money as the top high school pitcher in the 2012 class, it's likely going to be Giolito.

    With a perfect pitcher's frame (6'6"), Giolito has exploded onto the draft scene, bringing along a wealth of mid-90s fastballs with him. He's also got a few impressive videos circulating out there, which have helped to increase the awareness about him nationally.

    ESPN wrote a glowing review of him last fall, stating: 

    "The 6'6" right-hander was one of the standout players at the Area Code Games that featured the top 220 high school players in the country, showcasing their talent in front of college coaches and several hundred MLB scouts. 

    Giolito was clocked throwing 96 mph, the hardest of any pitcher, during the Area Code Games that were held in August at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif.

    He topped 90 mph the day before his 15th birthday while throwing at the Valley Invitational Baseball League the summer before sophomore year. It was then that he also grew four inches." 

    His high school pitching coach, Ethan Katz, is similarly glowing in his review, stating:

    "He has a big-league arm right now, so it's just fine-tuning things, getting more consistent and the sky's the limit. He's physically a beast, he's been blessed with everything he has." 

    Giolito has a commitment to UCLA and, for the most part, commitments there are pretty solid, so he's going to be one of the classes toughest signs.

9. Chicago White Sox: Victor Roache, 1B/OF, Georgia Southern (GA)

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    Roache is the top power hitter in college baseball and finished as the NCAA home run king for the 2011 season, ending the regular season with 30 long-balls in just 60 games!

    He also finished tied for the national RBI lead with 83. 

    In a season where the sport's major power hitters were supposed to be affected negatively by the new BBCOR bats, Roache flourished, out-homering almost 200 teams—by himself.

    Roache was a sought-after guy back in 2009, when the Tigers took a chance on him in the 25th-round, but he wisely turned down their offer to attend college and refine his relatively raw skills.

    The decision has served him well, as Roach has not only improved his hitting ability (including his prowess against breaking balls), but also learned to play two positions—first base and the outfield—where he spent the majority of this year for GS.

    The White Sox happen to have a couple of holes in their roster, especially with Paul Konerko getting up there in age. They could use a franchise-type guy at first-base to plug that hole, and Roache offers as much power as anyone in this class, so I can think of no better replacement.

10. Los Angeles Angels: Trey Williams, 3B, Valencia HS (CA)

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    Williams had some pretty big shoes to fill this past season. He took over shortstop duties from 2011 draftee Christian Lopes, who transferred to Edison High.

    Williams never missed a beat, however, and had a stellar season.

    It was his sophomore season, however, that gave birth to the "legend of Trey Williams," as the Los Angeles Daily News called it.

    It all began on April 30th, in a game against Valencia's arch-rival. Williams had blistered them for five home runs in the previous two games, so with the bases loaded and a four-run lead, rival West Ranch decided to intentionally walk Williams, giving up one run instead of facing the risk of giving up four.

    The result of the "legend" is that Williams is now widely considered the top high school hitter available in the 2012 draft class.

    So much of the love for him stems from his physicality. At 6'2" and 205 pounds, he has the body of a guy who could be playing pro ball right now.

    His coach, Jared Snyder, had this to say about Williams:

    "He's just a free, caring, humble, hard-working kid, so focused with the all intangibles, and he's so good with kids, and that's what makes him so spectacular—the way he handles kids and approaches them. My 5-year-old daughter has a newspaper picture of him taped up, and my 7-year-old son idolizes him. I try to teach my son how to hit, and he says he wants Trey to show him instead. I'm dead serious."

    Rival coach Casey Burrill offered this:

    "He hit six home runs against us in three games, what would you do? You must be nuts if you think we're going to let it happen again. Trey Williams will not see a pitch from West Ranch this season. He has a chance to be the best major leaguer ever to come out of the Santa Clarita Valley. He has all five tools. He's missing nothing."

    Williams has a commitment to Pepperdine, but not too many guys eschew the MLB draft for Pepperdine—especially when a multi-million dollar signing bonus is calling.