There's been quite a bit written about the lack of bats in the upper echelons of this Draft class. Overall, that might be true, but the one place a case could be made for some depth is in the outfield.
There are a pair of college outfielders who figure strongly in conversations about the top half of the first round and a couple more who enter the discussion in the later stages of the round and the sandwich round.
But it's the high school crop that's more intriguing, with a five-tool player considered a top-10 pick and a couple of other high-upside bats that should go early on.
To see when these outfielders go, tune in to live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, beginning with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a closer look at the top outfielders in the class, with their rank in the Draft Top 50 prospects in parentheses.
Bubba Starling, Gardner-Edgerton HS, Kan. (5)
If you're looking for the proverbial high-ceiling five-tool talent, look no further than this Kansas high school outfielder. A tremendous athlete, he has the chance to be a premium position player with plus tools across the board. A plus defender with outstanding range and an excellent throwing arm, Starling also knows how to handle the bat. He's been described as a better Drew Stubbs, with similar athletic ability, defensive acumen and power potential as the Reds center fielder, but with better plate discipline and without holes in his swing. He's got a football scholarship to Nebraska to be the Cornhuskers' quarterback, so it might take a bit to get him signed.
George Springer, Univ. of Connecticut (11)
The toolsy UConn center fielder shook off a slow start to put up the numbers expected of one of the better college hitters in the country. Springer can do a bit of everything on the field, with outstanding raw power, above-average speed that helps him on the basepaths and in the outfield as well as a strong and true throwing arm. He plays the game hard and the right way. The biggest knock on Springer is that he does have a tendency to swing and miss too much. Still, there's a lot to like here, and some team is very likely to take him off the board in the top half of the first round.
Mikie Mahtook, LSU (22)
In a year when the new college bats are driving power numbers down, someone who is still driving the ball out of the park is going to be noticed. Mahtook, the center fielder for LSU, has managed to handle the transition just fine. He's got good swing mechanics that make it easy to imagine him hitting for average at the next level and tapping into his power even more when he learns not to chase. He's a solid runner who's better under way and has the skills to play all three outfield positions. He looks the part and should fit in nicely into a Major League outfield in the not-too-distant future, something that will likely entice a team to nab him in the first round.
Joshua Bell, Dallas Jesuit HS, Texas (23)
He's a legitimate switch-hitter from the high school ranks, one who can really hit -- with power -- from both sides of the plate. He plays center field right now, but he'll likely move to a corner. He should be good defensively there, and he's got enough bat to profile well there. He's got the kind of tools that could very well land him in the first round, depending on his signability.
Jackie Bradley, South Carolina (29)
A subpar offensive performance followed by wrist surgery has somewhat clouded Bradley's immediate future, though some think neither will impact his overall status too much. He's a better hitter than what he showed before his injury and while he's not a speedster, he's got the tools to be an excellent defensive center fielder. Despite the setbacks, Bradley's combination of tools at a very good college program should still enable him to hear his name called fairly early on in the Draft.
Brandon Nimmo, Cheyenne East, Wyo. (30)
With no high school team, Nimmo put himself on the map by earning co-MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American Game last summer following an invite to USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars. He's got a great left-handed swing that should enable him to hit for average and power. He runs well and has a strong arm, with an ability to play all three outfield positions. He's made a very strong impression in the limited amount of time scouts have been able to see him, moving him into serious first-round consideration.
Dwight Smith, McIntosh HS, Ga. (35)
Cubs fans will recognize the name, and this is indeed the son of the man who finished second in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. Smith 2.0 can really hit, with a very good approach at the plate. He should develop some power down the road and interest in him near the top might be based on just how much power a team thinks he'll grow into. He's not a big runner, so he'll have to man a corner-outfield spot at the next level. If a team thinks he'll hit enough for that corner, he'll be gone by the sandwich round at the latest.
Brian Goodwin, Miami-Dade College (37)
Drafted two years ago from the high school ranks, Goodwin went on to the University of North Carolina instead of signing with the White Sox. He transferred after a year to Miami-Dade College, a junior college, thus making him eligible for this year's Draft. Still very much the toolsy outfielder scouts liked in high school, Goodwin shows glimpses of all five tools, with an intriguing power-speed combination. Goodwin shook off a slow start and was putting up the kinds of numbers people expected as the Draft grew closer, putting him back into the first-round picture.
Alex Dickerson, Indiana (38)
An All-American as a sophomore a year ago, Dickerson followed the unusual path of playing high school ball in Southern California and his college ball in Indiana. The move to the Midwest hasn't hurt his bat, and that's what gets the most attention. He's a solid hitter who has made adjustments to his swing to continue performing well. He's got some power, though it remains to be seen how much it will translate at the pro level. He's played left field for the Hoosiers, and his defensive skills are fringy average at best. Some feel a move to first base might make sense. He's not one of those college hitters who will go at the top of the Draft, but a team that believes in his bat will nab him before long.
Derek Fisher, Cedar Crest HS, Pa. (42)
He might not be Mike Trout in terms of a Northeast high school hitter, but Fisher's a pretty solid prospect in his own right. He's got a good approach at the plate and excellent bat speed, with scouts thinking he should hit for average and some power. A center fielder now, he might grow into a corner spot when all is said and done, but he should hit enough to profile well there. He's got a commitment to the University of Virginia for teams to contend with.
Charlie Tilson, New Trier HS, Ill. (45)
A huge performance in front of a lot of eyes at last summer's Area Code Games really improved Tilson's stock heading into the spring. He's not the biggest guy in the world, with some thinking he's comparable to a Jacoby Ellsbury-type. He's more of an opposite-field hitter, hitting the gaps with a smooth swing. He's a leadoff or No. 2-type hitter, where he could use his above-average speed to his advantage. He's an average center fielder right now, and he doesn't have too high of a ceiling in that regard. Teams that like Ellsbury or Brett Gardner might see the same thing in Tilson and take a shot in signing him after the Draft.