1) Houston Astros- Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Think of Appel as a left-tackle from the Big Ten. A safe, low-risk pick with a bit of projectability left. The Astros will think long and hard about Byron Buxton, but in the end, the possibility that it will take three or four years just to see what kind of player Buxton will be will scare them towards the Stanford ace.
2) Minnesota Twins- Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
Minnesota will also be tempted to take Buxton, and they probably should, considering they lack elite position talent (aside from Miguel Sano). Zimmer, however, is the kind of pitcher who could lead their rotation for many years, and hopefully guide the team back to respectability.
3) Seattle Mariners- Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (GA)
It’s either Buxton or Mike Zunino here. The M’s were poised to take a position player last June, but surprised us all and went with a pitcher. This year they go hard after Buxton, in the hopes that he’s a budding Ken Griffey Jr.
4) Baltimore Orioles- Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rican Baseball Academy
What the O’s do will be dictated by Seattle’s pick. If the Mariners take Mike Zunino, then Baltimore will gladly scoop up Buxton. If he goes, however, they’ll move on to Correa. Between the trio of Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Correa, they have a future 2B, SS and 3B, each of whom has an impact bat.
5) Kansas City Royals- Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
The Royals draft much more cautiously than they get credit for. Bubba Starling was a perfect fit in ’11 and the hometown kid, otherwise they would have gone with a college pitcher. This year that’s the route they take, picking up the top remaining arm, Wacha.
6) Chicago Cubs- Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
After the triumvirate of Appel-Zimmer-Wacha, the next best college pitcher will be Gausman. The Cubs system is incredibly shallow when it comes to true impact players. Pitching is by far the weaker area, and Gausman would give them a solid starter with frontline potential.
7) San Diego Padres- Mike Zunino, C, Florida
My guess is that the Padres would love a shot at Gausman, who was drafted by division rival Los Angeles back in 2010. With him gone, they’ll gladly scoop up the best college hitter. They did draft Austin Hedges last year, but his offense is light years behind his defense. Zunino is balanced in both areas and could be in the big-leagues in less than two years.
8) Pittsburgh Pirates- Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The MLB draft is always a fickle thing. Teammate Lucas Giolito gets all the love, but something tells me it’s Fried who will hear his name called first on draft day. Giolito’s injury isn’t considered career-threatening and he might actually get back on the mound by the end of the year, but Fried might have even more potential.
9) Miami Marlins- Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia HS (FL)
I’m as sure of anything that Weickel will find his way into the top-ten. He’s without a doubt the most unheralded player in this year’s draft class, and I’d put his ceiling up there with some of the top players. The Marlins appear to have struck gold with their last two first-rounders, Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez, both of whom have appeared incredibly advanced for high-schoolers. Weickel could continue that stretch.
10) Colorado Rockies- Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
The Rockies have quietly put together a strong cache of starting pitchers in their farm system, including Chad Bettis, Edwar Cabrera, Peter Tago and Tyler Anderson. What they lack, however, is a pitcher with true ace capability. Giolito has that without a doubt. If he stays healthy and reaches his ceiling he’s going to be the best player from this draft.
11) Oakland Athletics- Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
The A’s have never let things like size dictate their drafting. Stroman is similar to Oakland’s 2011 first-rounder, Sonny Gray, and while Gray has the superior stuff, Stroman has been much more dominating in college, especially this season..
12) New York Mets- Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Despite the questions about his bat, Marrero is the most big-league ready shortstop in this class. At the very least, he’ll provide above-average defense, and at best he’ll hit near the top of the order.
13) Chicago White Sox- Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Tampa Jesuit Prep (FL)
The White Sox have hit with two other reliever/starters (Addison Reed and Chris Sale), so why not add McCullers to the mix. Simply put, the Sox are in dire need of some elite prospect talent, and McCullers is one of the few players left on the board with any one standout tool.
14) Cincinnati Reds- Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern
A few trades and some hitter-friendly drafting have thinned out the Reds pitching depth significantly. After starting the season as a potential top-five pick, Beck would slot in nicely here.
15) Cleveland Indians- David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS (AL)
The Indians are searching for a franchise centerfielder to replace the ever-injured Grady Sizemore. Dahl hasn’t performed incredibly well this spring, but still has top-ten tools, including the speed and range to stay in center.
16) Washington Nationals- Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS (TX)
The Nats would love a middle infielder, but Hawkins’ power is simply too much to ignore. Between Hawkins and Harper, they could have two of the top young power hitting prospects in the game.
17) Toronto Blue Jays- Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA)
Gavin can join his brother Garin (Boston) in the A.L. East, as well as give the Jays another talented middle infielder. Cecchini would be a steal this late, seeing as how he might be the most well-rounded shortstop available.
18) Los Angeles Dodgers- Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (FL)
With their financial situation solved, the organization can now go after the best player available, which in this case is Almora, who played on the same JV squad as Manny Machado, and who some believe is a more talented hitter.
19) St. Louis Cardinals (for Pujols)- Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS (LA)
The Cards nightmare scenario: both Beck and Stroman are already gone. Of the remaining candidates, the most intriguing is Trahan, a switch-hitting catcher with plus speed, a toolset that would fit well in the National League.
20) San Francisco Giants- Travis Jankowski, OF, Stony Brook
On the surface, Jankowski appears to be too similar to Gary Brown, but the former is more of a prototypical lead-off hitter, who could allow Brown to move to second in the lineup, making better use of his tools.
21) Atlanta Braves- Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
The Braves are undyingly loyal to the college ranks, especially when it comes to first-rounders. Heaney is the best college pitcher left on the board, and makes perfect sense for an organization that is famous for refining and producing big-league pitchers.
22) Toronto Blue Jays (for Beede)- Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS (CA)
No team has been as willing to go after high school lefties as Toronto. Adding Virant to their collection, which also includes Justin Nicolino and Daniel Norris gives them some of the best southpaw depth in the minors.
23) St. Louis Cardinals- Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
A bit of a stretch, no doubt, but with the new draft rules, who knows how high, or low, it is to draft anyone? Naquin’s bat has been solid gold this season, and his outfield arm is as good as any in this class. That’s two outstanding tools.
24) Boston Red Sox- Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
Russell continues to rank higher here than anywhere else. His power is legit and he has the athletic ability to stick at shortstop. Those two things can’t be said of anyone currently in the Boston system.
25) Tampa Bay Rays- Joey Gallo, 1B/OF, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Gallo’s power is rivaled only by Hawkins among high-schoolers. He’s either a first baseman or a corner outfielder long term, but regardless of where he plays his bat will be his meal ticket.
26) Arizona Diamondbacks- Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
Had he stayed healthy, Roache would have been a lock to go in the top-15 picks. Instead, he’s dropped off the radar. Wrist injuries are a tricky thing and often sap power hitters of their most precious tool, but the D-Backs have enough talent that they can afford to wait on it to come back.
27) Milwaukee Brewers (for Fielder)- Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS (GA)
Sims is arguably the top pitcher left on the board, and with the possibility of Greinke leaving town, the Brewers are going to need all the options they can get. Sims has a ceiling as a #2.
28) Milwaukee Brewers- Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert HS (CA)
Rahier is getting a lot of love as of late, and could sneak his way into the first-round. He has average to slightly-above average tools across the board, and is pretty advanced for a high-schooler.
29) Texas Rangers- Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon HS (OH)
Smoral is also the unfortunate victim of a late-spring injury, one that could cost him close to 20 draft spots. His fastball is enough to make Nolan Ryan drool, and he has a chance at two other plus pitches.
30) New York Yankees- Brett Mooneyham, LHP, Stanford
Another player we’re higher on than most, Mooneyham has had a resurgent redshirt junior season and has generated more helium each time he has taken the mound. Mooneyham has solid velocity, two potential above-average pitches, and knows what it’s like to deal with adversity.
31) Boston Red Sox (for Papelbon)- Kenny Diekroeger, 2B/SS, Stanford
Due to the new draft rules, we might see some odd selections towards the end of the first-round, like that of the reemergence of Diekroeger, who once upon a time was considered a top-ten pick. He seems to be working through things at the plate, and if that’s the case he could be a major steal.