05/28/08 10:00 AM ET
Crystal ball: Projecting the first round
Slipping college arms could shake up Draft selections
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
It seems like I say this every year, but trying to project all 30 picks, especially picks 21-30, at this juncture, is no easy task. I actually had a scouting director tell me I should include a caveat from him that this is perhaps the toughest first round to project in 20 years. So there you have it, a disclaimer from a high-ranking team official.
But it's a labor of love and as impossible as it seems to be, great effort was made to at least have players who made some sense in each spot. This week's projection has the same No. 1 overall pick and no changes at the very top, but things get interesting after the top five, with some college arms possibly slipping a little bit to change the look of the board.
This isn't the be-all, end-all. I'll be back with updates of the first 30 picks at the beginning of next week with the ultimate projection coming the night before the Draft.
1. Tampa Bay Rays: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS, Griffin, Ga.
Thought about switching back to FSU catcher Buster Posey here, but instead decided that the toolsy high school shortstop out of Georgia is the way to go ... for now. Southern California catcher Kyle Skipworth, Vandy third baseman Pedro Alvarez and San Diego lefty Brian Matusz are still in the mix for the Rays.
Last week's projection: Tim Beckham
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
No change here, with the Pirates still in line to make some waves by taking Alvarez. They'll still consider Posey and perhaps even Matusz if they feel they need to go with the top college pitcher.
Last week's projection: Alvarez
3. Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
People keep wanting Hosmer to fall because of signability, but I'm sticking to my guns here. Now, I'm well aware things can change in the last several days and if the Pirates don't take Alvarez, the Royals just might and send Hosmer sliding some. 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
It seems to be coming down to Matusz or Smoak in this spot and depending on who you talk to, the O's are going in different directions. I came very close to switching to the bat here, but the gut is telling me the southpaw is the pick.
Last week's projection: Matusz
5. San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, C, Florida State
If the Rays don't take him and the Pirates take Alvarez, this is the next place Posey can end up. The Giants supposedly are leaning bat even if Posey's gone, with Smoak and Skipworth beings possibilities. If Matusz is around, they might discuss going in that direction, but they'll be pleased as punch to get the FSU catcher.
Last week's projection: Posey
6. Florida Marlins: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS, Riverside, Calif.
If the O's go for a hitter along with the Giants, the Marlins could possibly jump on Matusz. But assuming he's gone, like he is in this scenario, Skipworth still seems to make a whole lot of sense here, and they've been on him all along.
Last week's projection: Skipworth
7. Cincinnati Reds: Yonder Alonso, 1B, University of Miami
It sounds like it might come down to a hitter-vs.-pitcher debate. Aaron Crow, the Missouri ace who's been in this spot since the first projection, still is very much in the mix, but here's thinking he could slide a few spots and the Reds decide to go with the college first baseman they like the best.
Last week's projection: Crow
8. Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia
They'd have interest in Alonso if the Reds don't take him and they might have interest in Skipworth if he's around. ASU's Brett Wallace still gets mentioned occasionally here, but G-Beck still makes the most sense in this slot.
Last week's projection: Gordon Beckham
9. Washington Nationals: Justin Smoak, 1B, University of South Carolina
As stated here last week, SoCal high school outfielder Zach Collier will likely be discussed, as would Skipworth if he somehow is still there. Crow could be considered, as could lefty Christian Friedrich, though that's less likely. The way things are lining up in this projection, though, the switch-hitter from South Carolina is the pick.
Last week's projection: Smoak
10. Houston Astros: Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri
College arms have always been what made sense here, starting with Tanner Scheppers before he got hurt. Shooter Hunt was a possibility, but there's talk of him sliding a bit. A bat could still be a possibility, but if Crow actually does make it to this spot, he won't go any further.
Last week's projection: Alonso
11. Texas Rangers: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian
Hunt was in this spot a week ago and it still seems likely that a college arm will go here, though the possibility of California high school pitcher Gerrit Cole is still a possibility along with SoCal outfielder Aaron Hicks. But Cashner has had plenty of helium, has a big arm and a good delivery and has the added bonus of being in the Rangers' backyard at TCU.
Last week's projection: Hunt
12. Oakland A's: Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
If Hunt (or Crow, for that matter) are still around, they'll get some consideration here, no doubt. Wallace is still in the mix, as are high schoolers Aaron Hicks, an outfielder, and Ethan Martin, a right-hander. But I'm sticking with my initial pick here, the next-best college lefty in the class after Matusz.
Last week's projection: Friedrich
13. St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Perry, RHP, University of Arizona
Zach Collier still gets mentioned prominently here and Hunt would likely get some consideration. Aaron Hicks is reportedly in the mix, but we're sticking with Perry, the Arizona right-hander with the big velocity.
Last week's projection: Perry
14. Minnesota Twins: Aaron Hicks, OF/RHP, Woodrow Wilson HS, Long Beach, Calif.
Hicks, the toolsy outfielder (and talented pitcher, though he doesn't want to go that route), is still the best choice here. Other considerations could be Collier and maybe Canadian high schooler Brett Lawrie, who's name is starting to pop up at least in discussions about picks at this point in the round.
Last week's projection: Hicks
15. Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills HS, Calif.
It's hard not to put a high school arm like Ethan Martin (last week's pick) or Jake Odorizzi with the Dodgers, and they both might be in the mix. So might Brett Lawrie. But if Collier, another toolsy outfielder from SoCal, is still available, the Dodgers might find his upside too difficult to pass up.
Last week's projection: Ethan Martin
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Anthony Hewitt, SS, Salisbury School, Salisbury, Conn.
Hewitt's still very much in the mix here and will likely be part of a very interesting draft-room discussion. Other high schoolers who could figure into that debate are Hicks, if he's still around, and Lawrie. If a power arm like Cashner or Perry floats down, that might be the way to go and perhaps Josh Fields, Georgia's closer, could sneak into consideration. For now, though, we'll stick with Hewitt and his tremendous upside.
Last week's projection: Hewitt
17. Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Wallace, 1B/3B, Arizona State
A guy who can hit like this might deserve to go higher, and he just might. If that's the case, the Jays may stay within their borders and take Lawrie, who hails from British Columbia. But with Wallace on the board, his offensive skill set will be too hard to pass up.
Last week's projection: Wallace
18. New York Mets: Ike Davis, OF, Arizona State
It's still looking like the Mets will opt for talent that can help them sooner rather than later, at least with some early picks. There was talk of an Anthony Hewitt workout recently, but keep in mind he lives nearby and a workout doesn't necessarily mean being picked. That being said, he might be a backup plan if other things fail. If Perry makes it down this far, he could be a choice, but we'll stick with ASU's Davis, the son of former big-league reliever Ron.
Last week's projection: Davis
19. Chicago Cubs: Brett Lawrie, C/3B, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.
It's looking likely that the Cubs will go with a high school bat if the right one is there. That could be Collier, or it could be Sarasota High shortstop Casey Kelly. But if Lawrie and his bat (and athletcism) are still around, that seems like the best bet. His recent performance in the Dominican Republic with Team Canada, however, might price him out of this spot when all is said and done.
Last week's projection: Lawrie
20. Seattle Mariners: Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane
All along, the feeling was the Mariners would look for the best college pitcher with a live arm. It could be Perry or Cashner if they were here, but they're not in this projection. Hunt is and the slide will stop here.
Last week's projection: Cashner
21. Detroit Tigers: Casey Kelly, SS, Sarasota HS, Fla.
The Tigers have been willing/able to do just about anything with their top picks and it's automatically assumed that any "signability issue" types could slide to them. Barring that, they would have interest in high school talents like Collier or Lawrie, or strong college arms like Perry or even Rice's Bryan Price. Kelly, the son of one-time Reds bench coach Pat, has a ton of athleticism and could one day be a very good, big shortstop. He also could be the quarterback at the University of Tennessee and there is some concern it might take a little extra to sign him away from that. The Tigers are a team who could do it if they so choose.
22. New York Mets: Jason Castro, C, Stanford
Castro, a left-handed hitter who's proven he can catch to most scouts, has been mentioned as a possibility all up and down the first round over the past few weeks. With the Mets still looking for college bats and Castro still not off the board, this seems to be a good match.
23. San Diego Padres: Daniel Schlereth, LHP, University of Arizona
Scouts have always liked Schlereth's arm and his bulldog mentality, but he had kind of a setup-man profile. Then he pitched in a series against Stanford with a ton of eyes on him and came out throwing 97-98 mph. He's been lights-out in his last few outings, greatly enhancing his status, and now is being looked at as a guy who might be able to close at the next level.
24. Philadelphia Phillies: Ethan Martin, RHP, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
There's a tendency to want to put any toolsy high schooler with the Phillies and while they've taken their fair share, it's not a guarantee (see Savery, Joe, from last year). That being said, they'd certainly be interested if Hewitt or perhaps Collier was sill on the board here. Since neither is, we'll go with the top high school arm still around in Martin. There's a chance he'll be long gone, but the Phillies have shown a willingness to take who they think is the best available player when it's their turn.
25. Colorado Rockies: Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland HS, Ill.
Odorizzi's name moved steadily up the charts this spring as he continued to throw consistently well to the point where some thought of him as perhaps the best prep arm in the class. He might not be the first off the board, but word is the Rockies would love to see him around at this slot.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia
Another strong-armed college reliever (it appears to be a strength in the class), he might go above to a team looking for a short reliever who can move quickly. Fields had a subpar junior season and went back to school rather than sign with the Braves, who took him in the second round last year. He was unhittable in his senior season and though he's a Scott Boras advisee, he should sign and move quickly, a la Matt LaPorta.
27. Minnesota Twins: Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville HS, Fla.
The inclination was to find a "safer" pick to offset the high-risk, high-reward pick of Hicks by the Twins at 14. There wasn't one that fit and the Twins have never been afraid of going their own route. DeVall is the best lefty in the high school ranks and a pretty advanced pitcher, so he could be seen as rather safe, at least as far as prep arms go.
28. New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS, Orange, Calif.
There's been a lot of talk about the Yankees repeating -- in a way -- what they did in last year's Draft by taking an injured college pitcher with their first-round pick. In this case, it would be Fresno State's Tanner Scheppers. That shoulder injury is so unusual, though, that it could scare any team off. So could Cole's supposed price tag, but the Yankees can obviously afford to negotiate with the Boras advisee. There's no doubt about Cole's arm strength and he can crank it up into the upper 90s. New York is a team that can definitely wait to let the rest of his game catch up to the velocity.
29. Cleveland Indians: Jemile Weeks, 2B, University of Miami
Rickie's younger brother isn't quite as strong as big bro, but he can run and has shown more pop this year than expected. If another college bat made its way here, the Indians could go in that direction, but Weeks could be the top name on their board by the time their turn to pick comes around. The only question is whether he can stick at second, with some believing a move to center field is in order.
30. Boston Red Sox: Lance Lynn, RHP, University of Mississippi
The Red Sox are willing to go in any direction at any point in the Draft, so this pick could be anyone's guess. There'd been a lot of talk about South Carolina's Reese Havens in this spot, but Lynn's name has recently cropped up as a late-first-round candidate. After a bit of a dip in performance in the middle of the season, he's really stepped it up lately (when it counts), including an outstanding start at the SEC Tournament, with plenty of people on hand to see it.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.