Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Kevin Gausman. Each of the afore-mentioned players are expected to be stars at the professional level, and as such, each player was selected in the first-round. Unfortunately, baseball is a tricky, and sometimes cruel game, and not all of the players drafted in the first 31 selections is going to have a prosperous career in the big-leagues. Likewise, there will no doubt be several players who were not drafted in the first-round who will go on to have productive, and in some cases, even prolific big-league careers.
Like these guys.
Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres (supplemental first)
Jankowski fits the profile of a prototypical leadoff hitter. He has great on-base ability and has elite-level speed to do incredible damage once he gets there. He stole 36 bases this year for Stony Brook and maintained a .417 average. In addition to an above-average hit tool, Jankowski offers impressive defensive ability. He committed only one error in his final two college seasons and showed great instincts. Getting drafted by the Padres is the ideal scenario for Jankowski, whose small-ball approach should work wonders at Petco and who’s defensive range should be welcomed by San Diego’s pitchers.
Tony Renda, 2B, Washington Nationals (second)
Renda has been one of the hottest hitters in college baseball the past two years, and despite concerns about his size (5-8, 180) he profiles to be a solid offensive second baseman in the big-leagues. The Nationals lucked out with Ian Desmond, but Danny Espinosa has proven to be a mixed bag at second base. Renda could provide some much needed offensive output at the position and he could be ready to contribute at the big-league level in short time.
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (third)
Alford is exactly the kind of player one envisions the Jays going after: toolsy, raw with an incredibly high-ceiling. However, Alford is also a star on the gridiron and has a full-ride to Southern Miss. The ever-crafty Jays were able to sign him to a deal that allows him to play for Southern Miss while playing baseball during the summer. That gives them the time to persuade him that his brightest future is in pro ball, where he could be a legitimate five-tool star. He runs a 4.45 40-yard dash and projects to be a 30 HR/30 SB type of producer.
Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles (fourth)
The Orioles are trying to build a squad of winners at the big-league level, so who better to bring in at a true position of need than Walker, who already has two CWS titles under his belt and who’s hunting for his third this year. Walker isn’t just a great collegiate player though, he has tools that should translate to the pros. He has average hitting ability, above-average power and great plate discipline that should allow him to hit around .280 with 20 or more home runs and a significant number of walks. Defensively, he’s solid, and better than anyone else the team has in it’s farm system.
Dylan Baker, RHP, Cleveland Indians (fifth)
Arguably the top arm from the 2012 juco ranks, Baker put together a sterling campaign this past year. The right-hander went 13-0 with a 1.90 ERA, a .155 average and 124 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. He helped lead his squad to the NJCAA World Series and became the highest player ever drafted from Western Nevada. Built with a strong frame (6-2, 215), Baker has the stuff, including a mid 90s fastball, to pitch in the middle of a big-league rotation. His curveball and changeup grade out as average, but could improve with proper coaching.
Kurt Heyer, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (sixth)
Anyone who saw Heyer’s gutsy performance against St. John’s in the super-regionals knows this kid is destined to exceed all expectations as a professional. The well-built (6-3, 200 lbs) right-hander has great stuff, an incredible attitude and most important, a rubber-arm. He led the nation with seven complete-games in 2012, and not even surrendering 17 hits against SJU could keep him from tossing 9.1 innings. He seems a lock to pitch at least 180 innings per season assuming he can work his way up to St. Louis.
Tyler Heineman, C, Houston Astros (eighth)
You can’t teach instincts, and that simple fact makes Heineman an incredible value pick for Houston in the eighth-round. Heineman’s defensive chops have allowed the Bruins to breeze their way back into the CWS for the first time since 2010. In addition to throwing out 47% of runners attempting to steal on him, he also put together an impressive season offensively, hitting .343. He was an expert at getting on-base, racking up 17 hit-by-pitches and showed exceptional leadership, pacing the team with 17 sacrifice hits. If he can prove that he can hit at the pro level even a little bit, his defensive ability will take him at least to the big-leagues as a defensive stalwart.
Kevin Brady, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (tenth)
Brady was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, and once he spurned an offer from the Orioles, he seemed destined for an early-round selection in 2012. His time at Clemson didn’t go as planned, in part due to nagging injuries, but he still managed to generate enough momentum that the Phillies took notice of him. His mid 90s fastball and curveball are both big-league pitches, which means he should at least be a reliever. If he can rediscover his changeup, he could be more.
Blake Hauser, RHP, Seattle Mariners (13th)
Hauser was lights-out this year pitching for VCU, striking out 66 batters in 35.2 innings while picking up ten saves along the way. At the professional level he has the same potential, as a dominant closer. His fastball, which sits in the mid 90s, and his knockout slider should be more than enough to thrive in late-inning situations.
Phildrick Llewellyn, C, Arizona Diamondbacks (13th)
Think of Llewellyn as insurance for Arizona’s first-round pick, Stryker Trahan. Like Trahan, Llewellyn’s hitting ability is his meal ticket, although he’s no slouch on defense. At the plate, he switch hits and has decent power. Behind it, he produces good pop-times and enough athleticism to stick there long-term.