05/09/05 8:00 AM ET
Projecting the draft's first round
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
All signs point this year to be about as muddled a field as anyone can remember. In talking to countless people in the scouting industry, what was once thought to be a very rich and deep draft class hasn't played out exactly according to plan.
It's not that this is a class devoid of talent. In fact, there is some of the depth people hoped for. But there hasn't been the separation at the top people thought they'd see.
As a result, one month before Draft Day, there are far more questions than answers. In other years, there's usually as many as 35-40 potential first-rounders. This year, it seems, many feel there are only 15-25, tops, who fit the typical "first round" definition.
As a result, scouts are scrambling to get extra looks at guys they may have earlier dismissed as top picks. That's allowed some players to rise up the charts and firmly into the first round.
There is some consensus at the very top, more on who the top talents are, rather than in what order they'll be picked. But almost everyone agrees that high school shortstop Justin Upton, B.J.'s younger brother, and University of Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon have separated themselves as the top two talents in the draft class.
The opinions start to vary after that, but there could be some agreement on the top 10 or so talents, though the order is completely still up in the air. Then it becomes anyone's guess, though there seems to be a good mix of college and high school talent without one being completely dominant.
As a result, making the projections below was a bit of a challenge. The names listed Nos. 1-15 are fairly solid, though the deck could easily be shuffled. The second half of the first round is a little shakier, mostly because it's still very unsure footing even for the decision-makers. They need to see how the top half shakes out before they can get a grasp on how it will filter down.
There are also a couple of wild cards in Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew. The Scott Boras clients still have not signed and if they re-enter the draft, the first round could change dramatically. Since they are still not in the draft pool -- they are under the control of the teams that drafted them last year until the end of May -- they are not included in this projection.
With so many questions on the board, this is clearly a first draft, a work in progress. There will be updates between now and June 7 as the first-round picture becomes a little clearer.
1. Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, SS, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
This certainly isn't a sure thing, though Upton -- B.J.'s younger brother -- is considered to be the top position player in the draft class, even if he has to move to center field. Arizona's selection may depend on what happens with the unsigned Stephen Drew. There have been a lot of rumors about some kind of package deal with agent Boras, in which the Diamondbacks would finally come to terms with Drew and take another Boras client with this pick. That puts Tennessee's Luke Hochevar and Wichita State's Mike Pelfrey still in the mix, but try this surprise on for size: The D-Backs get Drew then take St. John's closer Craig Hansen -- another Boras guy -- at No. 1 to save money. Hansen wouldn't command the same price tag as the two starters, so Arizona would be getting close to a 2-for-1 deal.
2. Royals: Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska
There was some talk of a pre-draft, below-slot deal with Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington -- like they have in recent years with Chris Lubanski and Billy Butler -- but those rumors seem to be unfounded. If the Diamondbacks end up not taking Upton, the Royals won't let him go by. But if Upton's off the board, they'll go with the guy who is the consensus next best player in the draft in Gordon. He's an advanced hitter with legit power from the left side, and that doesn't exactly grow on trees. It might mean they'll have to make concessions later on in the draft to save some money, but they're willing to do so to get a talent like Gordon's in the fold.
3. Mariners: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Long Beach State
While the M's could use some pitching, they may not want to go the Boras route. The possibility of Gordon or even Upton sliding to them would understandably make them excited. If that doesn't happen, all signs point to them being big fans of Tulo, a guy who's not "toolsy," but does everything well. There's also been some talk about Virginia's Ryan Zimmerman and even Stanford's John Mayberry Jr., who they drafted but didn't sign in 2002.
4. Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Virginia
In an ideal world, the Nationals would have unlimited resources and could take any player they wanted. In this fantasy world, they probably take Hochevar to address a pitching need. Since this is reality, and there's no new ownership in place yet, they'll have to seek out a deal, and there are reports they have things all but worked out with Zimmerman. If something were to fall apart, they've shown interest in Wade Townsend, who may be more reasonable than Hochevar, and they're also high on high schooler Cameron Maybin.
5. Brewers: Cameron Maybin, OF, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden, N.C.
Several names have come up in discussions about the Brewers' pick, largely because they could go in any direction and aren't a high school- or college-only kind of team. They've had some success with high school hitters and Maybin is the best of the lot after Upton. If a Zimmerman or Tulowitzki fell to them, they'd probably have a decision to make, but Maybin's tools have many scouts drooling.
6. Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, LHP, Cal-State Fullerton
Even after taking two college lefties at the top last year, the Jays have been following the Cal-State Fullerton ace very closely. He's the best college lefty on the board. They've also been watching draft reentrant Wade Townsend, the former Rice star, in his workouts for scouts.
7. Rockies: Luke Hochevar, RHP, Tennessee
It's hard to tell exactly what the Rockies will do in this spot, and what happens Nos. 1-6 will largely determine which way they go. They're not afraid to deal with Boras and are constantly looking for pitchers who can succeed at Coors Field, making Hochevar a good possibility. If Romero were to slip to them, that could be a possibility, as could Townsend, a real wild card in this year's draft. They're always on the lookout for five-tool guys (they took Chris Nelson last year) and with Maybin off the board, they could take a look at Texas high school center fielder Jay Bruce to fit that bill.
8. Devil Rays: Wade Townsend, RHP, no school
Everyone expects the Devil Rays to go back to picking athletic high school talent and if Maybin slid here, that's a distinct possibility, and they like Florida high schooler Andrew McCutchen, too. But assuming Maybin's off the board, they may be more likely to go college pitcher or position player (USC catcher Jeff Clement or Mayberry from Stanford). They may decide Townsend is the best of what's available, allowing him to join former Rice teammate Jeff Niemann in the system, though they'd also consider Mike Pelfrey as well.
9. Mets: Craig Hansen, RHP, St. John's
The Mets have the financial resources to take anyone they wish on the board, making it a little tougher to pinpoint a selection right now. They've been following the local college closer closely -- proximity certainly helps. If that wacky scenario at No. 1 actually plays out, the Mets could be interested in Pelfrey. If the Mets decide to go in a non-pitching direction, they've shown interest in Bruce, the high school outfielder from Texas.
10. Tigers: Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State
The Tigers love Zimmerman and if he somehow falls to No. 10, that's their pick. In lieu of that, they've reportedly been watching Pelfrey carefully. A high school athlete like McCutchen or Bruce, or a college bat like Clement, could slot in here as well.
11. Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Fort Meade HS, Fort Meade, Fla.
The only question seems to be if the high school outfielder will be here when the Pirates are up. If he is, he's likely their guy. If not, Bruce might be next in line.
12. Reds: Ryan Braun, 3B, University of Miami
The Reds have reportedly been sitting on the Miami third baseman consistently of late. They want a college bat and Braun might be the best one -- he's got power and speed -- still available, even if most believe he'll have to change positions as a pro. Other possibilities include Mayberry Jr. and Oregon State outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
13. Orioles: Jay Bruce, OF, West Brook HS, Beaumont, Texas
While the Orioles probably could use an advanced college pitcher, they may be wary of going down that path after their Townsend experience. The pickings at this point may also not be to their liking, so they could look at high school athletes and Bruce would be the best one available at this point.
14. Indians: Jeff Clement, C, USC
If Ryan Braun slipped to this spot, the Indians would likely take him here. Going with the projection that he'll be off the board, Clement is the next guy on their list. They've also been looking at Mississippi's Stephen Head, and were one of the top high school talents to slip to them, a Maybin or McCutchen, they might be tempted to go in that direction.
15. White Sox: Cesar Carrillo, RHP, University of Miami
Some think the Sox will take Tulane's Brian Bogusevic because of their need for left-handed pitching. But they'd love to take Clement's bat if it's there at No. 15 and, if not, they like Carrillo, despite being a righty, better than Bogusevic.
16. Marlins: Chris Volstad, RHP, Palm Beach Gardens HS, Palm Beach Garden, Fla.
There have been some mixed reports on Volstad, with his recent outings not as strong as some of his earlier work this season. Still, the Marlins have had a lot of success with young pitching, haven't they? Were they to go in another direction, they could take a look at Brandon Snyder, a high school catcher/shortstop.
17. Yankees: Brian Bogusevic, LHP, Tulane
Obviously, financial constraints are not a problem here, so if either of the Boras-advised starters slipped down here, the Yankees wouldn't hesitate. They like Volstad, too, so if the Marlins pass on him, the Yankees may not. But they've been seen at some of Tulane's games and Bogusevic, a two-way player, profiles as a first-rounder on the mound.
18. Padres: Cesar Ramos, LHP, Long Beach State
San Diego has interest in Bogusevic, but if both are no longer available, Ramos may be its man to address the need for left-handed pitching. If they decide they'd like a bat in the end, Ellsbury should still be on the board.
19. Rangers: Matt Garza, RHP, Fresno State
The Rangers would like to go college pitching, if possible, and have their sights on Ramos if the Padres don't take him. Next on their list could be Garza, the ace of a sub-.500 Fresno State team. He's been coming on the last eight weeks or so, moving him up to a position where going at No. 19 might make sense.
20. Cubs: Tyler Greene, SS, Georgia Tech
The Cubs have shown a willingness to draft guys who are perceived as "tough signs." Greene, a Boras guy, has had that label hung on him, allowing him to slip down to No. 20. The one-time second-round pick of the Atlanta Braves can join his old Yellow Jacket double-play partner, Eric Patterson, in the Cubs system.
21. Athletics: Jed Lowrie, 2B, Stanford
If ever there's a bankable thing in a draft, it's that the A's will go the college route in the first round (and many rounds after that). There are some intriguing choices left on the board, including Ellsbury and Lowrie's teammate, Mayberry Jr. But Lowrie's got that combination of OBP and SLG the A's covet at a position it's not often easy to find both.
22. Marlins: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Oregon State
After going the high school route at No. 16, the Marlins may try to even things out with a "safer" college guy. Ellsbury might have the OBP the A's love, but he's also got a lot of speed, something that might appeal to the Marlins.
23. Red Sox: John Mayberry Jr., 1B, Stanford
Chances are the Red Sox are running in the same circles as the A's, although there's been some talk that because they have so many early picks, they might actually take a high school guy sooner than they usually would. That being said, going college here makes sense and Mayberry Jr. is arguably the best guy still on the board. If Ellsbury gets to them, he could get the nod. Other possibilities are Arizona State's Travis Buck and Arizona's Trevor Crowe.
24. Astros: Jordan Danks, OF, Round Rock HS, Round Rock, Texas
The Astros could go in any direction, high school or college, but they may decide just to stay in their own backyard, though there are recent reports that Danks plans on honoring his commitment to the University of Texas. Danks' older brother, John, is one of the top pitching prospects in the Rangers' system.
25. Twins: Justin Bristow, SS, Mills Godwin HS, Richmond, Va.
The Twins have been incredibly successful with going counter to the college trend and that should continue here. They'll take the top high schooler on the board and that could be Bristow, though if Danks drops to them, he could be their guy.
26. Red Sox: Travis Buck, OF/3B, Arizona State
Sorry, just can't project the Sox taking a high schooler in the first round. Instead, they may take Buck, though Crowe is still a possibility here. If they do go high school, it could be shortstop Reese Havens out of Bishop England High School in South Carolina.
27. Braves: Brandon Snyder, C/SS, Westfield HS, Centreville, Va.
The Braves like high school players, particularly pitchers, allowing them to develop slowly in their system. This time, they may go for the high school bat. Even with some catching depth in the system, this is exactly the kind of organization that could be patient and see if Snyder can handle his defensive chores behind the plate at the pro level.
28. Cardinals: Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A&M
The Cards have definitely looked more into the performance-based, stats-oriented side of things, but they aren't beholden to it. Taking one college guy and one high schooler with their two first rounders sounds about right. Here, they'll go for the college shortstop in Pennington.
29. Marlins: Bryan Morris, RHP, Tullahoma HS, Tullahoma, Tenn.
The Marlins may have the opportunity to get two quality high school arms in the first round, and they love the young pitchers. Morris' name has risen quickly up the charts this spring.
30. Cardinals: Craig Italiano, RHP, Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound, Texas
And here's the high schooler for the Cardinals. Italiano is probably the best high school arm still on the board.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.