Chicago White Sox
With their first two picks in the draft, in the first and supplemental first rounds, the White Sox added some serious juice to their minor league system. The 13th overall pick, outfielder Courtney Hawkins, offers some of the most impressive power available in the prep class. There is some crudeness in his offensive game and he could take a while to adjust to some of the more advanced pitching in pro ball, but he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order slugger.
Supplemental rounder Keon Barnum is another powerful player, earning plenty of plus-plus power grades from scouts. Barnum signed quickly for about $100,000 below slot value and while he will likely spend this summer in the complex leagues, he could move to Low-A next year with his solid offensive approach.
Beyond the powerful duo at the top, the White Sox draft lacks flash and is largely uninspiring. Though they have gone under-slot to sign Barnum, second rounder Chris Beck and third rounder Joe DeMichele, there aren’t a lot of places for the White Sox to use that money to add other significant talents. The White Sox have been notorious for ardently sticking to MLB’s recommended slots, and even with the new system in place, they appear poised to avoid even spending their entire bonus allotment.
Beck is an intriguing play in the second round. Widely considered a first-round talent entering the spring, Beck’s stuff regressed from what scouts had seen on the Cape last summer and while his numbers were still strong, he just didn’t impress throughout the season. If the White Sox can manage to find the magic he displayed throughout 2011, they could have an additional first-round talent.
Third rounder Joey DeMichele hits everywhere he goes and it won’t be shocking if he continues to hit in pro ball. The scouts I spoke to question his abilities at second base but the White Sox seem committed to allowing him to play the position until he becomes a liability.
Ninth rounder Micah Johnson is another second baseman that can hit. He generates surprising bat speed given his size and that allows him to rip the ball into the gaps with regularity. There are scouts that would like to see Johnson in center field, but he has value at the keystone as well.
Two areas where the White Sox may be able to spend some of their extra bonus pool money are on right-handers Kyle Hansen and Eric Jaffe. Jaffe is a draft-eligible sophomore with some projection remaining and it could require a little extra cash to pull him away from UCLA.
Hansen is the younger brother of former first round pick Craig Hansen and he fills a similar profile as a hard-throwing reliever with questionable command and control and some funk in his delivery. There are rumblings that Hansen will want more than the bonus pool amount of $180,000 for his sixth round draft slot.
The Indians went very conservative at the front of the draft and then again at the back of the top ten rounds. With outfielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians get solid player that has a very high floor and good big league potential, but he also has a bit of a tweener profile that causes scouts to pause. The Indians have a good chance of inking Naquin below the bonus pool amount of $2.25 million, which could help them land some of their more exciting players in the middle rounds.
From the second through eighth rounds the Indians largely pursued projectable high school talents. The lone exception to that approach was sixth rounder Joe Wendle out of Division II West Chester. Wendle signed cheap but does offer some hitting ability and a decent second base profile.
The Indians popped four projectable right-handers that warrant significant attention. Between Mitch Brown, Kieran Lovegrove, Dylan Baker and Caleb Hamrick, the Indians should see an infusion of potential impact arms. Brown flashed premium stuff at times this spring and as a northern kid from Minnesota, his arm is still raw. Lovegrove has been very hit or miss over the last two years but when he’s on, his stuff flashed at a level commensurate with some of the premium prep arms in this year’s draft class.
Dylan Baker offers a unique story, hailing from Alaska and having spent the last two years with two different junior college teams. He has a relief profile and could sign for below slow, but in short bursts he has shown a fastball up to 95-96 mph.
Texas high school right-hander Caleb Hamrick may be the most intriguing of the bunch for me. He has a very physical 6-3, 225 pound frame that still has some projection remaining and it helps scouts see more fastball in the tank. Though he only has average velocity now, he has an idea of how to use it and could bump 95 with late life in the future.
Two players the Indians could target with larger bonuses outside the tenth round are outfielder Andrew Calica and catcher Matt Fultz. Calica is an excellent athlete with the potential to have defense, arm strength, speed and hitting ability all as a part of his game.
Fultz dropped on draft boards this spring but he has enticing potential at the plate with a strong, physical body that lends to excellent power potential, along with a natural feel for hitting. Whether or not he remains a catcher long term is an open debate, but the Indians could opt to buy the bat and figure that out later.
Without a first round pick the Tigers played a lengthy game of “wait and see” until their first pick arrived at #91. They did manage to pluck two projectable Texas high school players with their second and third round picks, as the popped right-hander Jake Thompson and outfielder Austin Schotts.
Thompson doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling but he does offer a quality fastball and good body that could allow him to develop into a number three starter. Schotts is a good athlete that will move to center field as a pro. He has plenty of speed, a little bit of thump in his bat and the potential to hit for average, making him a possible top of the order piece.
In the middle rounds the Tigers went conservative with a host of polished college players including left-handers Joe Rogers and Jordan John, right-hander Hudson Randall and outfielders Jeff McVaney and Jake Stewart.
Rogers and John offer similar profiles despite both being lefties. At times, Rogers has run his fastball up to 94 mph and if he can sit in the low-90s, that certainly raises his profile. John is a classic touch-and-feel left-hander that could fit in the back of a big league rotation.
The club added one of college baseball’s best defensive catchers when the picked Ben Pickar in the eleventh round, and while he is outstanding with the glove, he has little offensive potential. Due to his lack of offense, his long term profile comes up short and he looks like more a defense-first backup.
The Tigers will have some chances to go get higher-ceiling players in later rounds as they will likely pursue players like third baseman Dylan LaVelle, left-ander Logan Ehlers and outfielders Rashad Brown and Miguel Paulino.
For Scout.com subscribers, I have more details on the Tigers draft in this interview with Director of Scouting David Chadd and my analysis of the class’ best tools.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals have wasted absolutely no time dealing with their draft class, having already inked 28 of their 40 picks. Though the club wanted desperately to add a college pitcher in last year’s draft, the presence of Bubba Starling was too much to pass up. They got their wish this time around with right-hander Kyle Zimmer falling in their laps at the five spot.
Zimmer was generating huge buzz early in the college season and was even beginning to draw discussion as a possible 1-1 guy. The second half of his junior year was a little more rocky as he dealt with some minor injuries and his performance fluctuated, but that shouldn’t deter fans from seeing his potential as a number three starter with great raw stuff.
Zimmer’s bonus came in under the slot value of $3.5 million, and when combined with some other under-slot signings in the first ten rounds, the Royals were able to go over the bonus pool amount for Colin Rodgers, Kenny Diekroeger, Chad Johnson and Zach Lovvorn.
Rodgers has a lightning quick arm and despite being only six-feet tall, he can run his fastball up to 93 mph from the left side. His hard breaking ball is a true plus pitch at times with the potential to be a swing-and-miss monster.
Diekroeger has been an enigma since turning down a $2 million offer from the Tampa Bay Rays coming out of high school. He has shown a good feel for hitting as an amateur and while it comes without any significant power, he should be able to hit for average as a pro. Few scouts think he can handle shortstop on more than a part-time basis, but he is a solid defender at second base and has enough arm to play third as well. If he doesn’t hit enough to truly profile at second, he could make an excellent utility player.
Johnson and Lovvorn require some dreaming but both players show the raw tools to be solid prospects. Johnson could be a well-rounded catcher down the line and Lovvorn could be a solid mid-rotation starter with a three-pitch mix if it all comes together.
The Royals could continue to be aggressive with the remaining money in their draft pool. They still have at least three high school players with the potential to warrant solid six-figure bonuses, including second baseman Jackson Willeford, left-hander Austin Fairchild and right-hander Justin Alleman.
With the number two overall pick in the draft, there was no doubt the Twins would add an extremely talented player. Entering draft night, Byron Buxton was widely considered the top talent on the board and the Twins didn’t hesitate to pop him when he was there.
Buxton is an impressive athlete with very good tools across the board. He has the potential to develop into a true five-tool player at his peak, but that peak could be a long way off. Buxton didn’t play against top high school competition regularly and he could be a developmental project over the next couple of years. That said, if and when things click, Buxton could take off.
The Twins added another high-end talent in the supplemental round with Puerto Rican right-ahnder JO Berrios. Berrios had late first-round helium and was thought to be a guy that could surprise and go in the mid-20s. With his fastball jumping into the 92-95 range this spring, Berrios suddenly has a more impressive profile.
After the top two picks the Twins seemingly went in a different direction, opting for several high-powered college relievers in right-handers Luke Bard, JT Chargois and Tyler Duffey, and left-handers Mason Melotakis and Zach Jones. Bard, Duffey and Jones have a chance to start in pro ball, with Duffey offering the most potential in that role, but nearly all scouts I spoke with believe all three will end up relievers down the line.
Chargois and Melotakis could move very quickly as relievers with at least eighth inning profiles and power stuff. If the Twins decided to push both players, it is not unrealistic to believe they could succeed in Double-A late this year.
Adding first baseman Adam Brett Walker in the third round gives the Twins system an injection of power that it sorely needs. Though some teams were willing to give Walker a try in the outfield, his long term home is likely at first base where he has the power in his bat to fit the profile. The big question for Walker will be whether he can tighten his strike zone enough to completely unleash his power potential against pro pitching.
Left-hander Taylor Rodgers is a classic Twins pick, offering solid but not overwhelming stuff and tremendous pitchability. He has the potential to be a fast-moving prospect that could fit in the back of a big league rotation.
I’ve been a bigger fan of second baseman LJ Mazzilli over the years and I still believe he could be a solid all-around player down the road. He is an instinctual player that understand the game and moves well on the field. He is a solid athlete that could still be an above-average defender at the keystone. Offensively, Mazzilli has the strength to drive the ball into the gaps and he makes good contact on a variety of pitches.