2012 MLB Draft: First Round Mock Draft (6/4/12)

Draft day is finally here and with that comes my annual attempt at a first round mock. In baseball, unlike most other sports, mock drafts are a particularly futile exercise. In all honesty, no matter how many calls I make leading up to the draft, if I get five names with the right teams in the first round, I will be doing pretty well. Despite that, here’s the latest and greatest of what I’m hearing and what my gut says for each of the first round picks.

1.       Houston Astros: Mark Appel (RHP) – Stanford University
Everything that’s swirling around out there suggests it is still a coin flip between Appel and prep outfield Byron Buxton. There are other players on the periphery, but those two are the focus of the Astros interest at 1-1. There’s no clear indication either way, but I’m betting the new regime in Houston will want a shiny toy to run through the system and demonstrate quick positive results. If Not, Then: Byron Buxton (OF)

2.       Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton (OF) – Appling County HS (GA)
The Twins will happily take whichever player the Astros don’t take at the top. Despite a dire need for pitching and rumblings that Kevin Gausman is also in the mix, Buxton would likely be too tough to pass up here. If Not, Then: Mark Appel (RHP) or Kevin Gausman (RHP)

3.       Seattle Mariners: Carlos Correa (SS) – Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
The Mariners are notoriously tight-lipped around draft day, but Correa has been atop their list for quite some time. He has impact potential at the plate and the chance to stick at a premium position long term. After passing on Francisco Lindor last year, the Mariners won’t do it again. If Not, Then: Mike Zunino (C)

4.       Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman (RHP) – Louisiana State University
This decision gets a little dicier if Correa or Buxton somehow falls to the fourth spot in the draft. If that doesn’t happen, Gausman is the guy here as the Orioles have been all over him late in the year. If Not, Then: Michael Wacha (RHP)

5.       Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer (RHP) – University of San Francisco
I’ve had Lucas Giolito pegged in this spot during a few drafts of this list, but late word is if the Royals gamble, it won’t be with their top pick in the draft. They could go with Giolito’s teammate, Max Fried in this spot as well. If Not, Then: Max Fried (LHP)

6.       Chicago Cubs: Marcus Stroman (RHP) – Duke University
I didn’t go with my gut on one pick last spring and it has haunted me since that time. Despite the overwhelming consensus tying the Cubs to Almora GM Theo Eppstein was in town for Stroman’s final collegiate start. I’m going out on a limb and pegging them to pop Stroman here. If Not, Then: Albert Almora (OF)

7.       San Diego Padres: Max Fried (LHP) – Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The Padres will be pretty happy if Fried gets past the Royals and makes it to the seventh spot. He gives them a premium young arm to continue bolstering an already strong minor league system. There’s a lot of other names in play at this spot, but if Fried is on the table, he makes too much sense. If Not, Then: Albert Almora (OF) or Michael Wacha (RHP)

8.       Pittsburgh Pirates: Mike Zunino (C) – University of Florida
While the Zunino will show up much higher than this on many draft boards, he seems to be falling in the days leading up to the draft. He’s the tail end of the truly top-end talent in this draft and the Pirates won’t be able to pass up his power potential and defensive skills. If Not, Then: Deven Marrero (SS) or Chris Stratton (RHP)

9.       Miami Marlins: Albert Almora (OF) – Mater Academy (FL)
If Almora doesn’t go off the board to the Cubs as I have indicated above, the Marlins would be a very logical home for the local Florida product. He’s a polished prep player that should move relatively quickly through the system. If Not, Then: Michael Wacha (RHP)

10.   Colorado Rockies: David Dahl (OF) – Oak Mountain HS (AL)
Dahl reportedly “blew away” the Rockies brass in some recent workouts at Coors Field and he seems like a veritable lock to come off at this spot. The Rockies are reported interested in power-hitting outfielder Courtney Hawkins if they shy away from Dahl at the last minute. If Not, Then: Courtney Hawkins (OF)

11.   Oakland Athletics: Richie Shaffer (3B) – Clemson University
There has been a vast array of names tied to the A’s in this spot and really, it’s anybody’s guess as to what direction they go when on the clock. Shaffer gives them a power college bat that can move quickly and catch up to the rest of the talent they have headed for the big leagues. If Not, Then: Chris Stratton (RHP) or Michael Wacha (RHP)

12.   New York Mets: Lance McCullers, Jr. (RHP) – Jesuit HS (FL)
The Mets broke out and went big to sign prep outfielder Brandon Nimmo in last year’s draft and there are rumors they are prepared to endure another tough negotiation this year. McCullers shouldn’t be a terribly difficult sign in this spot and still gives them a high-ceiling arm. If Not, Then: Courtney Hawkins (OF) or Gavin Cecchini (SS)

13.   Chicago White Sox: Michael Wacha (RHP) – Texas A&M
If the White Sox don’t go with a college arm in this spot I think everyone will be shocked. Wacha is the high ceiling and most polished of the college arms on the table in this range and the White Sox could push him through the system very quickly. If Not, Then: Andrew Heaney (LHP) or Chris Stratton (RHP)

14.   Cincinnati Reds: Andrew Heaney (LHP) – Oklahoma State University
Polished college pitching run, come and get it! Heaney has been moving up draft boards all spring and despite some late rumblings that he could go in the top ten to a team looking to save money, this seems like his realistic landing spot. If Not, Then: Chris Stratton (RHP) or Deven Marrero (SS)

15.   Cleveland Indians: Chris Stratton (RHP) – Mississippi State University
The Indians polish off the quick college pitching run by getting Stratton off the board right where he’s expected to go. The Indians have been tied to a variety of players this spring, so there are a lot of options on the table. If Not, Then: Ty Hensley (RHP)

16.   Washington Nationals: Deven Marrero (SS) – Arizona State University
The Nationals have proven they aren’t afraid of Scott Boras clients and they have precious few middle infield prospects in their system. Marrero is a good bet to stay up the middle and some believe the Nationals are convinced they can coax more out of the bat. If Not, Then: Lance McCullers (RHP) or Pierce Johnson (RHP)

17.   Toronto Blue Jays: Lucas Giolito (RHP) – Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The Blue Jays have been as aggressive as anyone in recent years and with two first-round picks, they could balance their bonuses later on to be able to pay Giolito, who remains the draft’s biggest wild card. If Giolito doesn’t head off the board here, he could fall to some of the other big spenders that will have a harder time paying him under the new rules. If Not, Then: Ty Hensley (RHP) or DJ Davis (OF)

18.   Los Angeles Dodgers: Ty Hensley (RHP) – Santa Fe HS (OK)
Several sources have the Dodgers linked to Hensley and several other high-ceiling high school players. Hensley has shown well in front of Dodgers brass and could be the guy if he makes it this far. If Not, Then: Gavin Cecchini (SS) or Matt Smoral (LHP)

19.   St. Louis Cardinals: Stephen Piscotty (3B/1B) – Stanford University
The Cardinals are rumored to really like Piscotty’s potential and believe he could move quickly through the system and help them at any of the infield or outfield corner spots. This would be a slight reach for his talent and may allow the Cardinals to save some money to spend on the 23rd pick. If Not, Then: Gavin Cecchini (SS) or Lucas Giolito (RHP)

20.   San Francisco Giants: Luke Sims (RHP) – Brockwood HS (GA)
Everything I hear has the Giants tied to big time high school arms and Sims fits the mold of some other prep arms they have popped the last couple of years with the likes of Kyle Crick in 2011. If Not, Then: Matt Smoral (LHP) or Walker Weickel (RHP)

21.   Atlanta Braves: Tyler Naquin (OF) – Texas A&M
Reports on the Braves draft plans have been all over the map this spring and there is not final opinion on where they might head. They are rumored to believe in Naquin’s abilities in center field more than most and that could bring him off the board. If Not, Then: Courtney Hawkins (OF) or Tanner Rahier (SS)

22.   Toronto Blue Jays: Courtney Hawkins (OF) – Carroll HS (TX)
I hate seeing Hawkins and his incredible power potential this low on my mock, but I just haven’t found a fit earlier. If the Blue Jays go with Gioltio at #17, then this pick becomes a bit of a long shot, but I wouldn’t put any aggressive draft move past that front office. If Not, Then: DJ Davis (OF) or Matt Smoral (LHP)

23.   St. Louis Cardinals: Gavin Cecchini (SS) – Barbe HS (LA)
Some within the Cardinals scouting staff truly covet Cecchini’s offensive and defensive potential, believing he could be a star in the making. If he lasts this long, I won’t be shocked at all if they pull the trigger with one of their two first round picks. If Not, Then: Pierce Johnson (RHP) or Victor Roache (OF)

24.   Boston Red Sox: DJ Davis (OF) – Stone HS (MS)
The Red Sox aren’t afraid of toolsy athletes or difficult negotiations and Davis could fit the bill on both items. He’s arguably the fastest player in the draft and if he makes it to the Red Sox, there are some that think he’s a lock to end up in their system. If Not, Then: Tanner Rahier (SS) or Joey Gallo (3B)

25.   Tampa Bay Rays: Joey Gallo (3B) – Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Tampa Bay is another team that is willing to risk it with high risk, high reward players, and if the Red Sox pass on Davis, he may not make it past this spot. With Gallo, the Rays get a potential high-end slugger that could hit in the middle of their lineup. If Not, Then: Pierce Johnson (RHP) or Addison Russell (SS)

26.   Arizona Diamondbacks: Lewis Brinson (OF) – Coral Springs HS (FL)
Late rumors have the Diamondbacks looking for pure ceiling with this pick and there are many talent evaluators that Brinson offers the highest raw ceiling of any player in this draft. He’s a very risky pick but the tools are undeniable. If Not, Then: Victor Roache (OF)

27.   Milwaukee Brewers: Clint Coulter (C) – Union HS (WA)
With back-to-back picks the Brewers are likely to take one easier sign and one tougher sign. This is a little higher than Coulter’s talent suggests he should go and the Brewers should get him for slightly under slot with this pick. If Not, Then: Carson Kelly (3B) or Lewis Brinson (OF)

28.   Milwaukee Brewers: Addison Russell (SS) – Pace HS (FL)
Russell had enough helium for some mid-first round rumors earlier this spring but I’m having trouble finding a home for him in this exercise. After going with two pitchers in the first round last year, the Brewers have largely been tied to position players this year. Russell won’t be an easy sign here, but should get done if the Brewers can save some money with Coulter at #27. If Not, Then: Victor Roache (OF) or Tanner Rahier (SS)

29.   Texas Rangers: Matt Smoral (LHP) – Solon HS (OH)
The Rangers are all but a lock to go with a pitcher here unless a premium position player falls in their lap this late in the first round. Smoral’s upside is considerable and the Rangers are always looking for upside. If Not, Then: Duane Underwood (RHP) or Corey Seager (3B)

30.   New York Yankees: JO Berrios (RHP) – Papa Juan XXIII HS (PR)
Berrios has made a strong late push up draft boards and has been sneaking into the discussion as a potential pick late in the first round. He gives the Yankees a high ceiling arm that they can be patient with. If Not, Then: Walker Weickel (RHP) or Ty Buttrey (RHP)

31.   Boston Red Sox: Corey Seager (3B) – Northwest Cabarrus HS (NC)
Seager had some noise as a mid-first round pick earlier this spring but seems to be in limbo because of some relatively high bonus demands. The Red Sox are not afraid to spend and are always looking to add high-end talent, something Seager offers in spades at the hot corner. If Not, Then: Walker Weickel (RHP) or Zach Eflin (RHP)

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