05/21/08 10:00 AM ET
Crystal ball: Projecting the first 20 picks
Key injuries shake up potential order as teams examine options
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
While the biggest difference from last week's top 10 is in the No. 1 spot -- giving the Rays a different selection -- the change with the larger ramifications for the first round comes at No. 10.
Last week, Fresno State's Tanner Scheppers was the pick for the Astros in that slot. Since then, however, much has changed. Scheppers' original diagnosis of "shoulder tenderness" turned out to be a stress fracture, an injury that no scout contacted about it had ever heard of occurring as a result of pitching. Further details about his condition have been hard to come by, but it's safe to assume that Scheppers' chances of being a first-round pick are minimal at best.
What that does to the rest of the first round remains to be seen. Will teams reach a little bit for the college pitchers still seen as viable options? With Scheppers on the shelf, joining preseason first-round favorite Brett Hunter of Pepperdine, and Cal's Tyson Ross pitching hurt according to some reports, it's possible that teams will not wait and take the few good advanced arms they feel are out there.
Many of them are in this top 20, a list that is sure to evolve and change as we get closer to June 5. Next week, we'll tackle the entire first round, all 30 picks.
1. Tampa Bay Rays: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS, Griffin, Ga.
It's the same five names in consideration as last week: Buster Posey, the FSU catcher; Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez; San Diego lefty Brian Matusz; Southern California high school catcher Kyle Skipworth, and Beckham, the toolsy high school shortstop in Georgia. For some reason, the growing sentiment is that it's between Posey and Beckham, but I'm told that isn't the case. In any event, I'm switching up the pick mostly to show a different scenario as well as to indicate it's still very much up in the air.
Last week's projection: Buster Posey
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
Even with the change up top, I'm not inclined to change anything here. Yes, it would be an interesting decision to make -- whether to take Posey, whom most people believe will be a very good everyday catcher in short order, for a bunch of money less than it would likely take to ink Alvarez. But Alvarez has the chance to be a special player and could be the Pirates' third baseman in a hurry. If things fall apart in terms of signability, there's still the option of Posey in this scenario, along with the top college pitcher in the draft, Matusz.
Last week's projection: Alvarez
3. Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
No change here. Again, KC would love to have Alvarez in its system, but assuming the Pirates take him just one spot above, Hosmer still seems the most likely choice. Justin Smoak, the South Carolina first baseman, and Matusz still could figure into it if things on the bonus end go awry.
Last week's projection: Hosmer
4. Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego
Don't worry, there will be some interesting changes coming in a bit. But there's been nothing to indicate the O's aren't still very much interested in the San Diego southpaw. If, in the end, they do decide to go with a bat -- and they've done that in the first round in four of the past five drafts -- it's still likely to be a college one, perhaps Smoak or University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham.
Last week's projection: Matusz
5. San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, C, Florida State
I bet you were wondering where he was going to end up, right? The Giants would probably be ecstatic to get Posey, a player they've liked for a while but thought wouldn't be there for the taking. If Tim Beckham goes No. 1, this is really the first place Posey really makes sense. It seems more and more likely the Giants will go with a bat, so if Posey for whatever reason isn't an option, they could turn to Gordon Beckham or Smoak from the college ranks. A backup plan could be Skipworth should they decide to go the high school route.
Last week's projection: Tim Beckham
6. Florida Marlins: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS, Riverside, Calif.
There are still plenty of signs that point to this making sense. Word is the Marlins have continued to watch Skipworth intently. There have been a few whispers that perhaps he isn't their first choice and some believe that if Matusz were available, he'd be the pick here. But he's not, and neither is Hosmer, the other name mentioned by some, so there's no reason to skip Skip at this point.
Last week's projection: Skipworth
7. Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri
Still the most plausible choice here, especially with Scheppers out of the mix and college pitching a little harder to come by. Shooter Hunt could be a possibility, but even with his struggles, Crow figures to go ahead of the Tulane product. If there's a change of heart and they want a bat, Gordon Beckham makes the most sense.
Last week's projection: Crow
8. Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia
There's still some mention of ASU's Brett Wallace, and Skipworth could be a possibility if he were to slip a bit, but G-Beck really makes a whole lot of sense here, both from a best player available and need in the organization standpoint. I know, you don't draft for need this high, but it's a nice bonus when it happens.
Last week's projection: Gordon Beckham
9. Washington Nationals: Justin Smoak, 1B, University of South Carolina
The most interesting name being mentioned of late in this spot has been SoCal high school outfielder Zach Collier, who has, as they say, helium. I'm not ready to put him in this spot yet, but he sure is interesting to float out there. For now, though, we'll stick with the switch-hitter from South Carolina.
Last week's projection: Smoak
10. Houston Astros: Yonder Alonso, 1B, University of Miami
With last week's pick, Scheppers, no longer an option, the Astros could still go pitching with Hunt or maybe Christian Friedrich out of Eastern Kentucky. But here's a hunch that they'll decide an advanced bat is the way to go and unless Smoak drops to them, Alonso is the next best option as a lefty-hitting first baseman who can hit for average and power.
Last week's projection: Tanner Scheppers
11. Texas Rangers: Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane University
One of the more interesting rumors being thrown around was that the Rangers want to take California high school righty Gerrit Cole at this point. It's true the Rangers have liked big-armed prepsters in the past and with none in Texas who fit here, maybe they'll decide to go out of state. Perhaps I'm not brave enough, but I'm not ready to make the leap yet and project it as such, so I'm going with the college guy with good stuff who should be able to help a lot faster.
12. Oakland A's: Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
A lot of people want to automatically put Brett Wallace, the good-bat/bad-bodied first baseman, in this spot because of the Athletics' well-known past. While he is in the mix, Oakland doesn't always draft that way these days. Friedrich, the best college lefty behind Matusz, would be the next best college pitcher on the board and the A's might be tempted. If they want to go in a completely different direction, it's believed they're interested in a couple of high school right-handers, Ethan Martin out of Georgia and Anthony Hicks in SoCal. Hicks reportedly doesn't want to pitch (he's a toolsy outfielder as well), so that may keep him out of serious consideration. For now, here's betting that the advanced southpaw gets the nod.
13. St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Perry, RHP, University of Arizona
The Cards could go in any of a number of directions. Collier's name has been mentioned quite a bit, and St. Louis has shown the willingness to go high school early. On the other end would be the advanced bat of Wallace, mostly a first baseman but a guy some might give a chance at third. There are two big-armed college pitchers throwing in relief right now who some believe can/should be starting. Both Perry and TCU's Andrew Cashner have started in the past and for this week, we'll go with the Cards feeling Perry's the better choice.
14. Minnesota Twins: Aaron Hicks, OF/RHP, Woodrow Wilson HS, Long Beach, Calif.
Remember how I said Hicks reportedly doesn't want to pitch and that he was a toolsy outfielder as well? Here's a team that might be willing to take a shot on those considerable tools. Hicks has shown the ability to be a game-changing center fielder, though it may take some time for the bat to come. You never want a fall-back for a pick this high, but any team giving Hicks a shot as an outfielder surely knows that they can always turn to pitching and his 96-mph fastball if things don't work out after a while.
15. Los Angeles Dodgers: Ethan Martin, RHP, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
Taking a high-risk, high-reward high school arm here does seem a bit like an obvious choice and the Dodgers could go with a power college arm like Perry's if he's there. If they want a bat, they could go with Canadian high schooler Brett Lawrie or an outfielder like Collier. But they do like their high school pitchers and it could come down to Martin, who really stepped it up this year, or Illinois prepster Jake Odorizzi.
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Anthony Hewitt, SS, Salisbury School, Salisbury, Conn.
Guessing what Jack Zduriencik and his scouting department will do in the first round is easier said than done. Remember, this is the organization that brought you Matt LaPorta as an outfielder last year. They might be interested in the power arms Perry and Cashner have to offer. They could go the college catcher route with Jason Castro out of Stanford. But Hewitt's got as much helium as anyone as a toolsy high schooler and the Brewers, with multiple picks, could reach a bit for him here.
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Wallace, 1B/3B, Arizona State
This feels almost as cliche as putting him with the A's, especially considering the Jays' recent draft history. There's a real chance Wallace isn't around by now, in which case perhaps Toronto looks close to home to take the Canadian Lawrie. But with Wallace's advanced bat -- perhaps one of the best all-around hitters in the class -- still here, it'll be too much to pass up.
18. New York Mets: Ike Davis, OF, Arizona State
With a pair of picks in the top 30 (they've also got No. 22), word is the Mets are looking for some college hitters who can move quickly. Davis, the son of former big league reliever Ron, may have missed some time recently with an oblique issue, but he was having a terrific season to put him in this position. Castro could get a look if they decide to go with college catching and there's likely to be some interest in any of a number of those college power arms should they be here, from Perry and Cashner to Georgia's Josh Fields, JC product Craig Kimbrel and Mississippi State's Aaron Weatherford. Right now, though, the bat seems more likely.
19. Chicago Cubs: Brett Lawrie, C/3B, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.
Along with Collier and Hewitt, Lawrie is another high school hitter who has been moving up the charts rather quickly. Scouts love his bat and he's showing more and more people that he's got the tools to stay behind the plate while being athletic enough to even play center field if a team wanted to go that route. The Cubs, by the way, could also be interested in Collier here or perhaps even shortstop Casey Kelly from Sarasota, Fla.
20. Seattle Mariners: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian
Many signs point to the Mariners wanting a college pitcher here. Perry and Cashner both make some sense, especially if the M's are one of the teams that believe they can be starters. Even as a reliever, a guy like Cashner, who had a huge jump in velocity up to the upper 90s, could help out pretty quickly. Seattle could also be interested in a power bat and that could be Cal first baseman David Cooper. Along with first basemen, college relief is a strength in this class, so we'll go that route this time around.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.