By: Justin Millar
The 2012 MLB rule 4 amateur draft is only a couple weeks away and it's time to start looking at this year's class of top prospects. This class is weaker in comparison to last year's "super draft," but there are still many promising young stars that will be selected. Here is my ranking of the top 30 prospects for the draft, along with a quick scouting report for each of them. There is a slight chance I may be doing a mock draft with some fellow writers here at Daily Shootout, which will be posted if it takes place. I personally believe the Astros are leaning towards a college arm right now, so Mark Appel or Kevin Gausman would be my guess as to who will be the number 1 overall pick.
1. Carlos Correa SS High School (Puerto Rico)
Correa and Buxton are really close to me, but I think Correa may be a little more of a safer bet than Buxton, so that pushes him over the top. Correa is a true 17-year-old with enormous power potential and the ability to play an up the middle position. He projects to be plus in every tool except running speed, where he will likely be average. He may have to move to third base, but his bat would profile there. Reminds me a bit of Manny Machado, as the upside and concerns are roughly the same. Should be a top 5 pick, and I see almost no chance he falls past the Padres at 7.
2. Byron Buxton OF High School (Georgia)
Buxton is an absolute freak of an athlete earning comparisons to the Upton brothers and Matt Kemp. He is much along the lines of last year's Bubba Starling; an extremely toolsy outfielder that could be among the best in the game if he puts it together. His upside is pretty much a 75 or superstar type player. All of his tools are projected to grade out at 70 or better, except for power which still could grade out as plus. He has game changing speed, but he comes with plenty of risk. He hasn't faced the best competition as he plays in a more rural part of Georgia, and the gap between his present and future hit tool is huge. He also has yet to demonstrate much power, but most scouts believe it will come. Buxton is a real boom or bust prospect, but the ceiling is too much to pass up. He is almost a lock to go within the first 5 picks, and if the Astros don't go with a college arm, they will likely take him 1st overall.
3. Kevin Gausman RHP LSU
Gausman, a rare draft eligible sophomore, generally sits 93-97 with his fastball that grades out as plus. What makes Gausman the top pitching prospect is that he already has 3 potentially plus pitches, giving him a ceiling of a number 1 starter. His fastball and changeup are already plus, and his slider is above average even though he picked it up just this year. The slider projects as plus down the road. He needs to improve his command, but scouts aren't too worried about it. I doubt he gets past Kansas City with the 5th pick, and he could go as high as no. 1 overall.
4. Max Fried LHP High School (California)
Since Lucas Giolito's injury, Fried has emerged as easily the best high school arm in the draft. Fried, who is Giolito's teammate, is a tall projectable lefty. His fastball sits at 90-93, but his velocity plays up due to him hiding the ball. He has a monster curveball that grades out as a potential plus pitch as well as a plus changeup. The command is already there, and it is still improving. He has the upside of a number 2 starter, and the frame to add a couple of miles per hour to his fastball. I'm not really sure where he will get picked, but the Cubs at 6th overall seems like a logical spot as they have been linked to him. I don't see him getting past Oakland at 11 though.
5. Lucas Giolito RHP High School (California)
This may be a bit of a reach, but if it weren't for his injury, Giolito may be the best player in this draft. He has the best stuff of any pitcher in this class, and he easily has an ace ceiling. Giolito has an 80 fastball that sits 93-98 and can reach 100 at times. He also has shown solid command of the pitch. He already has a plus curveball and projects to have a plus changeup down the line. At 6-6, 230 he has the prototypical ace build, which scouts love. Somewhat comparable to Archie Bradley in last year's draft, Giolito has true number 1 starter upside. It's anyone's guess as to where he will get picked, as a lot depends on his medical reports. He could go as high as 3rd to the Mariners, or he could fall to the end of the first round. A team with extra picks such as the Blue Jays, could be a great fit as they could reallocate slot money to Giolito, and pick a more signable player with their other pick.
6. Mark Appel RHP Stanford
Appel has the best pure stuff of probably any pitcher in the draft, aside from maybe Giolito, but his results are not as dominating as they should be. Appel sits 94-97 with his fastball, with the ability to hit 99. He has a plus changeup to go along with a potentially plus curve/slider mix pitch. He has solid control, but his fastball is very flat allowing hitters to square up on it more than they should. He has number 1 starter ceiling but probably ends up as a number 2. He easily could go 1st overall to Houston and there is almost no scenario where he falls out of the top 5.
7. Mike Zunino C Florida
Zunino is the closest thing you can get to a surefire big league backstop in this draft class. He projects to have average tools across the board that will play up due to the strong chance of him sticking behind the plate. He projects as average defensively to go along with a decent bat. Scouts have compared him to Jason Varitek, although that is probably his upside. He could hit .280 with 20 homers, which is strong production from the catcher spot. I can't really see a scenario where he falls out of the top 5, and there is a strong chance he goes in the top 3.
8. Albert Almora OF High School (Florida)
Almora's stock has risen quite a bit this spring. Almora doesn't have off the charts speed, but he gets outstanding reads on balls, which will allow him to be plus in center field. All 5 of his tools project as plus aside from his running speed which still grades out as a 50-55 on the 20-80 scale. His bat is extremely polished considering his age. Despite his size, Almora has enough strength to project to hit around 25 homers each year at his peak. He could go as high as 6th to the Cubs, and I doubt he makes it outside the top 10.
9. Courtney Hawkins OF High School (Texas)
Hawkins profiles as an all-star caliber right fielder. He has advanced hit and power tools which both project as plus. He could hit .300 with 25 home runs down the road. He also has strong-arm strength and average speed which will allow him to be plus in right. He is a near lock to go in the top 20, and many have linked Hawkins to the Rockies at 10th overall.
10. Kyle Zimmer RHP San Francisco
A big question with Zimmer is what his true average fastball velocity is. Zimmer was sitting in the upper 90's early this spring, but it dropped off significantly as the season wore on. I'd probably put a 60 on it right now, but it has 70 potential. He has 2 potential above average pitches in his changeup and curveball, giving him number 2 starter upside. Although his stock has slipped, Zimmer is a likely top 15 pick with an outside chance of going in the top 5.
11. Zach Eflin RHP High School (Florida)
Eflin projects as a potential number 2 or 3 starter. He offers a plus fastball and changeup, as well as what most think will be an above average curveball. He has shown some minor command problems, but they seem easily fixable. Eflin should be picked somewhere in the 1st round, with a strong chance of going in the top 20.
12. Michael Wacha RHP Texas A&M
Wacha, who leads the second tier of college arms, offers a plus fastball and potentially devastating changeup. He lacks a strong breaking ball, giving him number 3 upside. He is among the safest bets in the draft, as his floor is very high. He may find his way into the top 10, but he will likely go in the top 20.
13. Stephen Piscotty 3B Stanford
Piscotty profiles as a safe bet to be an above average regular at third in the majors. He has a strong chance at staying at third, but may have to move to 1st or a corner outfield spot. His bat looks to be above average to go along with plus power. He's a potential 25-30 home run threat. I would look to see him get picked in the 10-20 range. I don't think he gets past the Cardinals at 23 though.
14. Marcus Stroman RHP Duke
Standing at just 5-9, Stroman has some of the best pure stuff in the draft and he is near big league ready. He offers a plus fastball, slurve, and an above average changup. His command and control is excellent as well. Could be shifted to the bullpen, and play in the big leagues this season, but I think teams should try him as a starter. Despite his height, he has number 2 or 3 starter upside, and that is much more valuable than a reliever. He is a likely top 15 pick, with a chance to sneak into the end of the top 10.
15. Andrew Heaney LHP Oklahoma State
Heaney, who is easily the best left-handed college pitcher in the draft, has 3 solid pitches in his fastball, breaking ball, and changeup. Each of which play up due to his plus command. He could be a high strikeout number 3 type starter. Will likely be taken in the middle of the first round, but could sneak into the top 10.
16. Richie Shaffer 3B Clemson
Shaffer is probably the best college bat in this draft class. His plus arm will allow him to be above average defensively at third, and his bat profiles there. His offensive upside is similar to Stephen Piscotty, in that he may hit in the .270-.290 range with 25-30 home runs. He's a relatively safe bet, and could fit in nicely with a club like Oakland or the White Sox.
17. Gavin Cecchini SS High School (Louisiana)'
Unlike his brother, Garin, a 3rd base prospect for the Red Sox, Gavin is likely to stay at short, and he could be plus there. His bat is a bit of a question mark as scouts aren't completely sure how much he will hit. I think he could end up hitting .290 with some pop. More of a solid regular than a star. He should be taken towards the middle of the 1st round.
18. David Dahl OF High School (Alabama)
Dahl, like Almora, profiles as plus defensively in center field. He has 5 above average tools, and should hit around 20 homers in his prime. He projects as a solid regular, possibly an occasional all-star. His work ethic is somewhat of a question mark. He will probably go somewhere in the mid to late 1st round.
19. Lance McCullers Jr. RHP High School (Florida)
Many scouts worry that McCullers will end up in the bullpen like his father, but there is a chance he could start. He has 2 plus pitches in his fastball and slider, each of which grade out as a 65 or 70. He needs to develop a changeup and work on his stamina if he wants to start, but there is plenty of upside if he can. He will likely go in the 1st round, possibly as high as 11th to Oakland, but there is a chance he slides into the supplementary round. He may end up going to Florida and working on improving his stock as a starter.
20. Deven Marrero SS Arizona State
Marrero, projected to be a top 5 pick entering the spring, has seen his stock fall quite a bit this season. He is a near lock to stay at shortstop, and he has gold glove potential there. His hit tool is a big question mark. Coming into the season, many thought he would hit .300 with 10-15 home runs, but his approach has fallen apart this spring. Still a likely 1st round pick, Marrero will need to make mechanical adjustments in pro ball to be more than a defensive specialist. He has been strongly linked to the Pirates at 8th overall.
21. Corey Seager 3B High School (North Carolina)
Corey, the younger brother of the Mariners Kyle Seager, appears to have much more upside than his older brother. He plays short right now, but he will likely move to third in pro ball, and his bat definitely profiles there. He has a strong bat, and demonstrates plus power. Seager has all-star potential as a power hitting, defensively strong third baseman. He will likely be taken in the back half of the 1st round, but may not sign due to a strong commitment to South Carolina.
22. Ty Hensley RHP High School (Oklahoma)
At 6-5, 220 pounds, Hensley is a force on the mound. He sits in the mid 90's with his fastball and shows a ridiculous 12-6 curve that could be dominating. He also has a solid changeup, but he hasn't used it much in high school as it hasn't been needed. He needs to improve his command, but he could be a number 2 or 3 starter in the majors. He will probably be picked in the back half of the 1st round with a chance of going in the top 15.
23. Addison Russell SS High School (Florida)
Russell entered the year with a strong chance of having to move off shortstop, but he has lost over 20 pounds this spring and now projects to stay at the position. He has a strong bat, as well as some pop, making him a valuable up the middle commodity. I would be surprised to see him make it out of the 1st round unpicked.
24. Chris Stratton RHP Mississippi State
Stratton has 3 potential above average pitches giving him a number 3 starter ceiling. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90's, and he has a strong slider that is easily his best pitch. He has decent command as well as a strong feel for pitching. He is a likely mid first round talent.
25. Stryker Trahan C High School (Louisiana)
Trahan has a chance to stick behind the plate, but he may have to move to right field, where his bat would still play. He has above average arm strength, but his receiving skills are sub par, but if they can improve, he may be a steal in this draft. He is very strong offensively, and demonstrates plus power. If he can remain a catcher, he could be among the leagues best.
26. Joey Gallo 3B High School (Nevada)
Gallo could go in the top 10 as a pitcher who reaches the upper 90's, but he prefers to hit which could drop him to the back half of the 1st round. He has a chance to stick at third due to his plus arm strength, but he may have to move to 1st or right field. Offensively, he could be a monster. He will never hit for a high average, but he has grade 80 power, easily the best in the draft. He has 35+ home run potential, but he may not make enough contact to reach it. If he can't hit, he could always switch back to pitching.
27. Lucas Sims RHP High School (Georgia)
Sims has 3 potential plus pitches in his fastball, which can reach 97, curveball, and slider. He has a strong track record, and that has helped his stock rise this spring. He could be taken near the end of the 1st round, with a strong chance of going in the supplementary round.
28. Hunter Virant LHP High School (California)
At 6-3, Virant is very projectable. He throws a low 90's fastball that could add a few miles as he fills out. He flashes a plus changeup, and a potentially average breaking ball. He also has decent control. He probably goes in the supplementary round, and he may be a tough sign. He may just be better off going to UCLA and emerging as a top prospect in the 2015 draft class.
29. Walker Weickel RHP High School (Florida)
Weickel, a top 10 player coming into the season, has fallen quite a bit amongst scouts this season. He has plenty of potential, but he is almost all projection at this point. He has 3 potential above average pitches in his fastball, curveball, and changeup, giving him the upside of a number 3 starter. He may be taken in the bottom half of the 1st round, but it looks like he will fall to the supplemental or 2nd round.
30. Brian Johnson LHP/1B Florida
Johnson has decent potential as a first baseman, but he is much more highly touted as a pitcher. His fastball is just average, so he relies more on his off speed stuff to get outs. He has fantastic control and command to go along with a plus curveball and above average changeup. His upside is probably that of a number 3 starter, but he won't need much developing in the minors.
The next 10 (not in order):
Carson Kelly 3B/RHP High School (Oregon)
Matt Smoral LHP High School (Ohio)
Tyler Naquin OF Texas A&M
Nick Travieso RHP High School (Florida)
Nolan Fontana SS Florida
DJ Davis OF High School (Mississippi)
Shane Watson RHP High School (California)
Barrett Barnes OF Texas Tech
Victor Roache OF Georgia Southern
Ty Buttrey RHP High School (North Carolina)
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