Looking into the crystal ball
How the 10 picks of the First-Year Player Draft may go
Projecting the first round four weeks prior to the draft is a lot like the old Rubik's Cube, that old fad of the 1980s. It's fun to do, but nearly impossible to accomplish.
Yet here I am, publicly trying to get the colored squares to match up. The only thing that allows me to keep my cool and not chuck the cube against the wall (sorry, a little '80s flashback there) is the knowledge that scouting directors across baseball are trying to decipher the same puzzle with a lot more at stake.
Over the next four weeks, I will attempt to shed some light on what the first round of the 2006 Draft will look like. We'll start off slowly, unveiling my best estimate of the top 10 now. Each week, I'll include 10 more teams with projected picks, along with updates on the top of the list. The final installment, set to run the Monday before the draft, will provide one final update of all 30 first-round picks.
Keep in mind that a lot can change over the next few weeks. That should be reflected in the detailed comments that will come with each projection. At this stage of the game, I'm shooting for getting the top 10 names right. Getting the order correct is something I'll be working on over the course of the next three installments.
1. Kansas City Royals: Tim Lincecum, RHP, University of Washington
Their minds not yet made up, the Royals had been looking at a quintet of college players, four of them pitchers: Andrew Miller, Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow, Lincecum and Evan Longoria. Longoria, the lone position player, never really was a serious consideration as Kansas City would very much like a pitcher who can help in a hurry. Miller, the early front-runner, hasn't separated himself as hoped, while Lincecum continues to dominate (though he reportedly threw 140-plus pitches in his last outing). The undersized right-hander -- who just set the Pac-10 career strikeouts record -- could have a lower pricetag than his taller, left-handed counterpart.
2. Colorado Rockies: Andrew Miller, LHP, University of North Carolina
The Rockies have been hot on Longoria's trail, where they would most likely move him to second base and they'd probably take him if the Royals change up and do go with Miller. But in this scenario, they wouldn't pass up the opportunity to draft Miller, even though he hasn't run away as the top draft prospect in the class. His power slider could play at Coors Field, and soon.
3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State
The Rays would love nothing more than for Miller to slide to them, especially considering they drafted him three years ago (albeit with different management). That's not likely to happen, though, so they'll pick the only college position player being mentioned in the top third of the draft thus far. Longoria can play all over the infield, though he'd likely stay at third for the Rays, the position he's played at Long Beach State this season while hitting .361, slugging .627 and posting a .493 on-base percentage.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Brandon Morrow, RHP, Cal-Berkley
The Pirates will likely take the best pitcher available when they pick, choosing between Morrow and Brad Lincoln. If things fall differently and Longoria slips to them, they could go in that direction. They also looked at high schooler Clayton Kershaw, but right now it appears the Bucs will go with the advanced arm, and Morrow -- with a 1.74 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings -- is their man.
5. Seattle Mariners: Brad Lincoln, RHP, University of Houston
Once upon a time, the M's may have dreamed of going local with Lincecum, but he's streaked by them. They like UNC's Daniel Bard as well, and it may simply come down to who's pitched better down the stretch. If they had to pick today, it probably would be Lincoln, who improved to 10-1 over the weekend.
6. Detroit Tigers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Highland Park HS, Dallas, Texas
Finally, a prepster. Kershaw has risen to the top of a relatively weak high school class, though a recent oblique problem may cause some pause. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he is the epitome of the projectable high school lefty.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Halifax County HS, South Boston, Va.
What? Two high school pitchers in row? I know, it sounds impossible. But if there's anything bankable in this year's draft, it's that the Dodgers will go the high school route. Jeffress has as much buzz as anyone after reportedly hitting triple digits on the radar gun and consistently sitting in the upper-90s. If Kershaw gets past the Tigers, the Dodgers could have a decision to make and you never know if Kyle Drabek -- yes, that's Doug's kid -- can make a late charge.
8. Cincinnati Reds: Drew Stubbs, OF, University of Texas
Stubbs was the top college position player heading into this season, but his inconsistency has some scouts scratching their heads. He can hit -- he's got a .338 average, 11 homers, 47 RBIs and a 1.044 OPS -- when he makes contact. But that's the thing. He's whiffed 51 times in 51 games for the Longhorns. But the Reds love his power-speed combination (he's got 20 steals) and won't let him get past them here, though they'd consider Lincoln if he slid this far. And there's one surprising high schooler who could sneak in here, but my guess is he goes next...
9. Baltimore Orioles: Bill Rowell, 3B, Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken, N.J.
Rowell is on the rise, it seems. A shortstop at his New Jersey high school, most see the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder sliding over to third as a pro. He could make a nice complement in the O's system with last year's first-rounder, Brandon Snyder, unless, of course, the Reds nab him first.
10. San Francisco Giants: Daniel Bard, RHP, University of North Carolina
Bard's struggles for much of this year could work out well for the Giants, who are believed to be in the market for a pitcher. Once considered to be in the running for the top spot along with his Tar Heels teammate Miller, Bard has been maddeningly inconsistent. But he's turning it on of late and was throwing in the upper 90s with command in his last start. If he keeps that up, he could move up higher, meaning San Francisco could decide to go the high school route with someone like Drabek. If they don't like what they see on the pitching front, it is believed they like Wake Forest third baseman Matt Antonelli.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.