The MLB Draft is the least exciting draft of the three major American sports (sorry, hockey), mostly due to the lack of interest surrounding college and amateur baseball and their lack of immediate impact on their given team.
By Jake McCormick
I’d argue limited interest in a draft is not necessarily a bad thing, as fan bases and media scribes tend to love jumping the gun on judging draft classes before the draftees take their first snap, swing, or layup. No draft class can be realistically graded for at least three years after the fact, but the 2011 MLB Draft class should be viewed, in tiem, similarly to the classes of 2002 and 2005, thanks to a pool of talent slightly deeper than the Mariana Trench.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates – Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
The Pittsburgh Pirates took a couple of talented arms in last year’s draft (Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie), but Gerrit Cole would automatically become the organization’s top prospect and could contribute at the MLB level faster than either youngster. Cole throws a 92-99 MPH fastball, and features a biting 88 MPH slider and changeup as knockout pitches.
2. Seattle Mariners – Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
Much like the Seattle Supersonics in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Seattle Mariners will take whichever prospect (Cole, Anthony Rendon) the Pirates don’t. Rendon is far and away the best position prospect in the 2011 MLB Draft, and has a ceiling at or above that of Scott Rolen. Rendon also has some injury issues, but should win a few Gold Gloves and maybe a home run title once he arrives in the Bigs.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks – Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
Pitching is a common theme throughout the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, and the Arizona Diamondbacks would be getting the best south paw prospect available at pick three. Danny Hultzen had a monster year at Virginia, and his 90-94 MPH fastball, decent slider, and devastating changeup have drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.
4. Baltimore Orioles – Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
Five years ago, a short (5’11”) right hander with a quirky delivery wouldn’t have a chance at becoming a top five pick. Now, thanks to the successes of Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt, a pitcher like Sonny Gray is nearly guaranteed to be gone by pick five. Gray throws four quality pitches with great control, including a 92-95 MPH fastball, and a curveball has been described as “the best in college baseball.”
5. Kansas City Royals – Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgarton HS (KS)
A Jason Heyward-sized high school outfielder with a football scholarship to Nebraska sitting on the table might scare a few teams. But Bubba Starling’s Kansas City Royals could be the one that convinces him baseball is his calling. Starling can run, field, hit, and hit for power, and would boost the already soaring stock of baseball’s best farm system.
6. Washington Nationals – Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS (OK)
To give you an idea of how truly deep the 2011 class of the MLB Draft is, you could easily justify Dylan Bundy as a top three pick. From his junior to senior year, Bundy increased his fastball velocity from the high 80s/low 90s to the upper 90s and triple digits on occasion. He has the bulldog mentality of Shaun Marcum, with a nightmare cutter and plus curve that should improve with age.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks – Francisco Lindor, SS, Monteverde Academy (FL)
This Arizona Diamondbacks cold opt for a more affordable college pitcher, and they also have a decent shortstop prospect in waiting (Chris Owings). But Francisco Lindor is easily the best overall at the position in this draft. Lindor has the fielding ability of Alcides Escobar with above average speed. His swing can be erratic, but is very correctable and capable of producing 15-20 home runs.
The Cleveland Indians have had a history of success with left handers (Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia), and Jed Bradley would be a great fit in a system that features two rising star pitchers (Alex White, Drew Pomeranz). Bradley has the confidence to throw his low to mid-90s fastball, plus changeup, and late breaking slider in any situation. Bradley’s polish could expedite his track to the Bigs in a few short years.
Trevor Bauer’s delivery is reminiscent of Tim Lincecum, and his mid to upper-90s fastball and polished slider had him ranked at the top of most mock drafts in January. However, he struggles with a consistent delivery and has fallen behind a few rising stocks over the past couple of months. Still, the Chicago Cubs are in dire need of young, talented pitchers, and Bauer has true ace potential.
10. San Diego Padres – Taylor Jungmann, RHP, University of Texas
The San Diego Padres didn’t reach a deal with 2010 first round pick Karsten Winston, but should have no trouble doing so with the 6’6” Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann has a few rough edges to buff out in his delivery, but he has the fastball/change/slider stuff of a front end starter. San Diego knows how to develop pitchers, and Jungmann’s potential outweighs his drawbacks.
11. Houston Astros – George Springer, OF, UConn
The Houston Astros have some major rebuilding to do, and should probably go for a pitcher. However, George Springer’s five-tool capabilities and college experience are too attractive to overlook at No. 11. Springer grades out like an upgraded version of Eric Byrnes, including the constant balls-to-the-wall attitude and playing style.
12. Milwaukee Brewers – Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Spring Valley HS (SC)
Of all the teams that failed to sign their 2010 picks, the Milwaukee Brewers were easily the most unlucky (Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes at his physical). The Brewers should repeat their choice of a developmental high schooler by taking Taylor Guerrieri, who has the makeup and potential to be a top 10 pick in any other draft.
13. New York Mets – Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
The New York Mets are hitting rock bottom as a franchise, so anyone they draft will have to come at a decent asking price. Matt Barnes throws a pretty solid fastball in the 92-96 MPH range, and features a couple borderline plus pitches (changeup, curveball) that could turn into major out pitches with some seasoning in the minors. Some places have compared him to a young John Smoltz.
14. Florida Marlins – Archie Bradley, RHP, Oklahoma HS
The Florida Marlins have been known as a prospect factory over the past decade, but most have come from the Dominican Republic or other South American countries. Four of their best pitching prospects are south paws, so a righty like Archie Bradley will balance that out. Bradley compliments his 95 MPH fastball with a rare knuckle curve, and has a circle change cooking in the oven.
As bad as the Brewers have been at developing pitchers in the past, they have had a good amount of success with hitters. Mikie Mahtook had a monster season at LSU, and can field as well as he can hit. Milwaukee’s system is so depleted that adding two arms in two first round picks would be just as good as splitting between an arm and a bat.
16. Los Angeles Dodgers – Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS (NM)
Russell Martin’s career in Los Angeles started well, but gradually turned disappointing. Unlike Martin, Blake Swihart comes through a pipeline first Roto-Rootered by Joe Mauer and Matt Weiters. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Mauer’s or Weiters’, but a solid defensive catcher with power from both sides of the plate and the ability to play third or outfield is a rarity.
17. Los Angeles Angels – Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS (ARK)
Baseball America described Dillon Howard as the best Arkansas-born prospect since Torii Hunter, which is a compliment to Howard’s talent and a semi-insult to Arkansas’ lack of baseball talent. Howard is most effective when mixing his two and four seam fastballs (clocked in the mid-90s), and has the potential to further develop his changeup and curveball into knockout pitches. He can be inconsistent, though.
18. Oakland Athletics – Josh Bell, OF, Texas HS
Billy Beane traditionally loves guys with selective batter’s eyes and good power, and Josh Bell already fits both of those stereotypes as a high schooler. Bell isn’t extremely fast or a Gold Glove defensive talent, but he’s average at both and has an accurate arm when it’s challenged. That’s pretty much the profile of what you want out of a starting left fielder.
19. Boston Red Sox – Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
Matt Purke would be a shoe-in as a top five pick if the draft were held last November. But a shoulder injury has dropped his stock in a draft chock full of neck-in-neck college pitching talent. The Red Sox are stocked with talent at all levels, and can afford to take a high risk, high reward player that can be brought along at a slow pace.
20. Colorado Rockies – Alex Meyer, RHP, University of Kentucky
Alex Meyer is a 6’9” power pitcher that boasts a mid-90s fastball, a great knuckle curve as a secondary pitch, and a developing two seamer as his third option. Meyer obviously won’t be intimidated by anyone on the mound, and would be a top 10 pick if he didn’t have problems with command on occasion. However, Meyer has acknowledged his faults and is smart enough to work through them.
21. Toronto Blue Jays – Jackie Bradley, OF, University of South Carolina
The Toronto Blue Jays are loaded with pitching prospects just one or two years away from the Majors, and Jackie Bradley is one of the current prospects closest to maxing out their potential. This obviously limits his ceiling of growth, but Bradley could contribute within a year thanks to his great defense and arm, above average contact rate, and developing power.
22. St. Louis Cardinals – Daniel Norris, LHP, Johnson City (TN)
Just how deep is the 2011 MLB Draft? Daniel Norris is considered the best lefty high school pitching prospect in the country and isn’t off the board until pick 22. Norris has a solid mid-90s fastball with a power curve and low-80s changeup, and possesses very solid mechanics. He’s got a great off-the-field reputation, so you can be sure that Norris isn’t going to get caught in an unfortunate situation at 3 a.m.
23. Washington Nationals – John Stilson, RHP, Texas A&M
John Stilson shined as a sophomore reliever at Texas A&M last year, and transitioned beautifully into the starting rotation this season. Stilson can run his fastball up to 98 MPH, and has a sweeping slider with a changeup in need of some buffer. If he finds a way to maintain a consistent delivery, Stilson could be one of the steals of this draft in the late first round.
24. Tampa Bay Rays – Levi Michael, SS, UNC
The Tampa Bay Rays are the New England Patriots of the MLB Draft in that they compile compensatory draft picks by letting their veterans go and plugging in equally good (and younger) talent as replacements. Levi Michael would give the Rays a versatile player in the vein of Ben Zobrist (he played three infield positions in college and is a switch hitter with two-way power).
25. San Diego Padres – Javier Baez, SS, Arlington Country Day (FL)
Javier Baez’s value is fairly ambiguous from scout-to-scout, but if he pans out, the Padres could be adding some much needed positional depth to their farm system. Baez is good at nearly everything (footwork, fielding, running, hitting for contact, bat speed), but isn’t great at anything. A solid everyday player would be considered an equally solid pick at this point in the draft, but that’s about it.
26. Boston Red Sox – Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State
Andrew Susac is the best college catcher available, and would be a great pick for the Boston Red Sox to fill the long-term shoes of the skeletal Jason Varitek. Susac is patient, has a good power stroke, can defend well behind the plate, and has a cannon for an arm. Susac is also capable of transitioning to third or the outfield if needed.
27. Cincinnati Reds – Jose Fernandez RHP, Alonso HS (FL)
Jose Fernandez is strong, imposing, and fearless on the mound. His fastball tops out at around 96 MPH, and he can drop his changeup velocity down into the low 80s. Fernandez also has a respectable curve, but is a “max effort” guy that deserves all the adjectives you can think of to describe him as a future MLB closer. Think Francisco Cordero or Jose Valverde.
28. Atlanta Braves – Brian Goodwin, OF, Miami-Dade JC
The only thing Brian Goodwin doesn’t do very well is hit for power, and most teams would absolutely be happy with a four tool outfielder. Goodwin is fast, has excellent range in the outfield, and has graded out similarly to Andrew McCutchen or Kenny Lofton, depending on your preference. Goodwin also displays leadership qualities that are indispensible for a center fielder.
29. San Francisco Giants – Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon
A fastball-change combination has been a formula for success for quite a few pitchers, and Tyler Anderson has a lot of confidence in those two pitches. He also throws a decent slider, and could very well be included in the discussion with Johan Santana and Tom Glavine as notable lefties with amazing breaking pitches.
30. Minnesota Twins - Kolten Wong, 2B, University of Hawaii
Just read Kolton Wong’s draft profile and tell me he doesn’t fit perfectly into the Minnesota Twins’ system philosophy. He is a constant hustler, rarely strikes out, has a little bit of pop in his bat, and plays with solid instincts at second base. He’s also capable of swiping a bag or two, and could be quickly promoted if his skills bear out in the minors.
31. Tampa Bay Rays – Anthony Meo, RHP, Coastal Carolina
Anthony Meo throws a mid-90s fastball with a late breaking slider in the high-80s. Meo’s slider truly is MLB-ready, and could help accelerate his path through the Rays’ loaded minor league system. He’s also capable of mixing in a decent changeup and a developing curve, but both need some polish before they become consistent parts of his game.
32. Tampa Bay Rays – C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah
CJ Cron played catcher through much of his college career, but his power is much too valuable to be kept behind the plate. Cron is a humble, beastly player (6’4”, 230 lbs), and doesn’t bring much more to the table than a decent glove and Adam Dunn-like power. But if his one talent garners attention as a potential first round pick, that should give you an idea of how truly good he is at that one thing.
33. Texas Rangers – Josh Osich, LHP, Oregon State
On one hand Josh Osich is a year removed from Tommy John surgery. On the other hand, he bounced back nicely and recorded a no-hitter this past season. The Texas Rangers would do right to take Osich at this point from both a value and need standpoint, as he is another south paw with a fastball-changeup repertoire that could soon include a solid breaking pitch.
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