By BRIAN KOPERSKI (firstname.lastname@example.org) (WECK 1230)
With the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft one month away, I thought I would share my thoughts on how I think the first round will shake out.
1. Pirates – Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice The first overall pick is a toss-up right now. While Rendon and UCLA’s Gerrit Cole have struggled recently, both remain the most talented players in this class. Various random injuries have limited Rendon in 2011, but none of them appear to be long-term concerns. His bat, defense, and makeup are outstanding and he is everything you could want in a ballplayer. Current 3B Pedro Alvarez is better suited for first base anyway.
2. Mariners – Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA Seattle will undoubtedly land whomever the Pirates pass on between these two. I see them happily settling for a future ace that could be ready by next fall, assuming he turns it around after his mediocre spring.
3. Diamondbacks – Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia Hultzen’s stock has risen the past few months and he has been linked to Arizona for some time now. They drafted him in 2008 in the tenth round, but failed to sign him. Most of the regime from that draft is gone, but he has the most polish of any pitcher in this draft and is a safe bet to go in the top five.
4. Orioles – Dylan Bundy, RHP, HS (Oklahoma) Bundy reportedly hit triple digits on the radar gun a few weeks ago and has seemingly taken over as the top high school pitcher available. He has a tremendous work ethic and smooth, repeatable mechanics. Bundy’s older brother is in the Orioles’ system so there may be a connection here.
5. Royals – Bubba Starling, OF, HS (Kansas) The Royals have the deepest farm system in the majors and could go any direction. I see them taking this five-tool high school talent that may have the highest ceiling of any player in this draft. The homegrown pick would also be popular among fans.
6. Nationals – Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA Bauer has put up better numbers than teammate Gerrit Cole, yet is viewed as an inferior prospect. But not by much. He has a Lincecum-esque delivery which some scouts fear, but it would be a mistake for Washington to pass on another player with an incredible work ethic.
7. Diamondbacks –Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt This pick is unprotected for Arizona, so they will be looking for a college arm here. Gray is viewed by some as a future reliever due to his 6’0” frame, but I don’t see that being the case. He is a true competitor and possesses the best curveball in this class.
8. Indians – Jed Bradley, RHP, Georgia Tech Cleveland hasn’t taken a high school player in the first round since 2001, and they don’t buck that trend here. They have hit with Alex White and Drew Pomeranz it appears, so Bradley would make a lot of sense here.
9. Cubs – Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, HS (South Carolina) I see the Cubs going high upside with this pick, and take the pitcher with the most helium this spring.
10. Padres – Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut The Padres will go with a safer pick here after failing to sign 2010 first-rounder Karsten Whitson. Barnes should be an easier sign and has one of the best fastballs of all the college arms.
11. Astros – Francisco Lindor, SS, HS (California) The top shortstop prospect in this year’s class won’t fall far. The Astros have been needing one for awhile, and could create a solid future middle infield after selecting 2B Delino DeShields Jr. in the first round last year.
12. Brewers – George Springer, OF, Connecticut Five-tool outfielder would help to restock a completely depleted minor league system.
13. Mets – Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas The Mets reap the benefits of an extremely deep college pitching class and land an elite arm who could easily be the best of the crop. Despite a somewhat quirky delivery, he has a strong track record going back to the College World Series in 2009 when he was a freshman.
14. Marlins – Archie Bradley, RHP, (Oklahoma) Florida historically goes with high school talents in the first round and they take the next best available. No relation to Jed.
15. Brewers – Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU An unprotected pick, the Brewers stay safe and select a true ‘gamer’ in Mahtook who is not elite, but does everything well.
16. Dodgers – Blake Swihart, C, HS (New Mexico) Swihart has a special bat and should stick behind the plate. The Dodgers need a catcher in the near future.
17. Angels – Daniel Norris, LHP, HS (Tennessee) The Angels more often than not take high school pitchers in the first round. Norris, the top-rated high school lefty at this time last year, falls to them, despite doing nothing to lower his stock since then.
18. Athletics – Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon Oakland continues their trend of drafting players from the collegiate ranks and take a solid lefthander in Anderson who could reach the majors quickly.
19. Red Sox – Matt Purke, LHP, TCU A consensus top three pick before injury this spring, the Red Sox can afford to gamble on an expensive high risk, high reward player here. Much like they did with LSU’s Anthony Ranaudo last year.
20. Rockies – Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, South Carolina A wrist injury while diving in the outfield ended his season a few weeks ago, so his stock has slipped some. An excellent defensive center fielder, Colorado can’t pass up last year’s College World Series MVP. No relation to Jed or Archie.
21. Blue Jays – Josh Bell, OF, HS (Texas) GM Alex Anthopoulos likes athletic players and Bell fits the bill.
22. Cardinals – Levi Michael, SS, UNC After taking highly productive collegiate bats in Brett Wallace and Zack Cox in recent years, St. Louis will settle on Michael after missing out on Jackie Bradley Jr. “Michael’s” from UNC usually perform well at the professional level.
23. Nationals – Travis Harrison, OF, HS (California) Tampa continues trend of selecting high school bats and take the one with the most power, by far.
24. Rays – Jose Fernandez, RHP, HS (Florida) Fernandez has perhaps the best fastball of any high school pitcher, and Tampa would love to select the hometown player.
25. Padres- Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State The top college catcher will not slip out of the first round and San Diego needs all the help it can get on offense.
26. Red Sox- Josh Osich, LHP, Oregon State Back-to-back Beavers, Boston goes with another college arm with an injury history. Osich, however, is fully recovered from Tommy John and threw a no-hitter against UCLA last week.
27. Reds – Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii A seasoned replacement for when Brandon Phillips becomes a free agent after next season. Miguel Cairo is getting old.
28. Braves – Derek Fisher, OF, HS (Pennsylvania) I see the Braves going with a position player here with their deep pitching depth in the minors. Atlanta likes drafting guys out of high school and he is one of the better bats in the high school class. I hear he is friends with Kobe Bryant.
29. Giants – Henry Owens, LHP, HS (California) The Giants excel at developing their young arms and would love to keep Owens in state.
30. Twins – John Stilson, RHP, Texas A&M Minnesota loves college pitching and will get a player who will be ready sooner than later. And oh, they also drafted him in 2009.
31. Rays – Javier Baez, SS, HS (Florida) I don’t think Tampa is content with former first overall pick Tim Beckham as their shortstop of the future.
32. Rays – Brandon Nimmo, OF, HS (Wyoming) Tampa Bay finds another high school bat in Nimmo.
33. Rangers – Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky Command has always been an issue, but he could be a steal for Texas this late.
By BRIAN KOPERSKI (email@example.com) (WECK 1230)