06/05/08 4:51 AM ET
Crystal ball: Final Draft projections
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
I know I say this every year, but this year truly was a puzzle the folks at Rubiks would be proud of. Starting with uncertainty at the top and several question marks throughout, getting a real strong sense of the first round has been a struggle, to say the least.
But here's my last, best effort in nailing down the top 30 picks. Soon enough, the world will find out the true identities of the first round, so be sure to print this out and play along on the home version of the game while watching the drama unfold on ESPN2.
1. Tampa Bay Rays: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS, Griffin, Ga.
The Rays have been looking hard at the same five players for a long time, but when it comes down to making the ultimate decision, here's thinking they'll go with the guy generally considered to have the best overall package of tools in Beckham rather than a more advanced hitter like Buster Posey or the other previously mentioned candidates, Kyle Skipworth or Brian Matusz.
Last 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. Posey got some serious discussion, but Pedro is their guy.
Last projection: Alvarez
3. Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
This was still not decided, but Hosmer is still the top choice here. If the Pirates pass on Alvarez, he would be a consideration. If they decide to go pitching, Brian Matusz is still in the mix.
Last projection: Hosmer
4. Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego
They thought about Aaron Crow for a while and Justin Smoak has long been a possibility, but in the end, they'll go with the top college arm in Matusz.
Last projection: Brian Matusz
5. San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, C, Florida State
The Giants would love for Hosmer to drop here, but barring that, Posey does make the most sense. Word of a big bonus demand could force the Giants to look elsewhere, perhaps to Justin Smoak, but the thinking is they'll take the guy they feel is the best on their board and that will be Posey.
Last projection: Posey
6. Florida Marlins: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS, Riverside, Calif.
It sounded like it was coming down to a choice between Skipworth, the prep catcher, and Yonder Alonso, the University of Miami first baseman. In the end, the hunch is the easier sign (Skipworth) will go off the board in this spot.
Last projection: Brian Matusz
7. Cincinnati Reds: Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia
They've been looking at college players, from Yonder Alonso at the plate to Aaron Crow on the mound. They may have settled on Beckham because of his middle infieldedness (yes, that's a word) and perhaps a little because of possible price tags for the other two.
Last projection: Yonder Alonso
8. Chicago White Sox: Yonder Alonso, 1B, University of Miami
It's been mostly about bats in this spot and it still is. If Alonso doesn't work out, Justin Smoak is still around in this scenario. And if the Marlins take Alonso, then Skipworth could go off the board here.
Last projection: Gordon Beckham
9. Washington Nationals: Justin Smoak, 1B, University of South Carolina
The way things are falling, it could be a choice between a college bat and a college arm in Aaron Crow, with arguments to be made for both. Here's saying the bat will win out.
Last projection: Kyle Skipworth
10. Houston Astros: Brett Lawrie, C/3B, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.
It's time to take a shot with a wild card. Every draft has a top 10 surprise and there was some buzz that Lawrie would be it here. Word was the Astros really wanted Skipworth, but with him gone, they went for what could be the next best impact bat, and one that could also play behind the plate. College pitching is still an option, with Andrew Cashner being the best option
Last projection: Justin Smoak
11. Texas Rangers: Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri
Crow is not a name that's been mentioned here -- it's been all about Shooter Hunt, Andrew Cashner, Aaron Hicks, Gerrit Cole and Ethan Martin, mostly -- but it wasn't considered a possibility that Crow would be available. They've wanted a good arm if it was there for them and Crow certainly fits the bill while the Rangers have been a team that hasn't worried about signability in the past.
Last projection: Andrew Cashner
12. Oakland A's: Jemile Weeks, 2B, University of Miami.
Many players are in the A's mix at this point, from the college bat ranks (Brett Wallace), the college arm ranks (Christian Friedrich) and even the prep ranks (Ethan Martin, Aaron Hicks). In the end, it looked like they were going with the college second baseman with some speed, a little pop and good bloodlines (he's Rickie's brother, a former first-rounder).
Last projection: Aaron Hicks
13. St. Louis Cardinals: Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
The Cardinals have been in on much of the same names as listed above, with guys like Ryan Perry also in the mix. It was looking like they were going for the next-best lefty starter in the draft class in Friedrich when push came to shove.
Last projection: Perry
14. Minnesota Twins: Aaron Hicks, OF, Woodrow Wilson HS, Calif.
This is the scenario the Twins are hoping for as they've liked Hicks all along and aren't afraid to let him develop as an outfielder. If one of the teams interested in him above ends up taking him, the Twins would consider either Friedrich or Shooter Hunt as options.
Last projection: Christian Friedrich
15. Los Angeles Dodgers: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian.
There are many players in the conversation here, with the most interesting one being Arizona State's Ike Davis ... as a pitcher. While that sounds like a possibility, look for the Dodgers to go with the power-armed TCU closer over Davis or players like Zach Collier and Ethan Martin.
Last projection: Collier
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Jason Castro, C, Stanford
They'd love to have someone drop, but barring that, there's an interesting mix of Brett Wallace, Anthony Hewitt, maybe even Zach Collier. With this landscape, though, the left-handed-hitting college catcher gets the nod.
Last projection: Brett Lawrie
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 and Lawrie gone, his offensive skill set will be too hard to pass up.
Last 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. Ryan Perry could be a possibility, but we'll stick with ASU's Davis, the son of former Major League reliever Ron.
Last projection: Davis
19. Chicago Cubs: Casey Kelly, SS, Sarasota HS, Fla.
It's been looking likely that the Cubs will go with a high school bat if the right one is here. Collier and Lawrie have been mentioned, but with them off the board, it could leave the Cubs looking hard at Sarasota High School shortstop Casey Kelly. He's also a talented pitcher and a University of Tennessee QB recruit, but the Cubs have the resources to get it done if they so choose.
Last projection: Casey
20. Seattle Mariners: Ryan Perry, RHP, University of Arizona
All along, the feeling was the Mariners would look for the best college pitcher with a live arm. That could be Cashner if he were here, perhaps Tulane's Shooter Hunt. If they want to go with a safer college arm, Ole Miss right-hander Lance Lynn could be discussed. Or they could go pure closer with someone like Josh Fields. But with Perry still being here, he's the one who goes off the board.
Last projection: Shooter Hunt
21. Detroit Tigers: Ethan Martin, RHP, Stephens County HS, Ga.
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 if he's still around or even Rice's Bryan Price. Instead, they'll go with a prep arm with a ton of upside in Martin.
Last projection: Martin
22. New York Mets: Reese Havens, SS, University of South Carolina
This may seem like a bit of a stretch, and there is the possibility that Havens could be around for the Mets to nab in the sandwich round. But there are teams below the Mets in this round who do like him, and if the Mets want a second college bat, they may decide to take the solid Havens rather than risk losing him.
Last projection: Jason Castro
23. San Diego Padres: Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane University
I've had the Padres taking Arizona's Daniel Schlereth and that's still a possibility, but at the time it didn't seem like Hunt would be around to consider. Lance Lynn gets mentioned here as well, but with Hunt still on the board, that's the choice here.
Last projection: Daniel Schlereth
24. Philadelphia Phillies: Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills HS, Calif.
The Phillies don't shy away from the toolsy high schoolers and could very well take someone like Anthony Hewitt in this spot, with a sleeper like Destin Hood getting some consideration as well.
Last projection: Ethan Martin
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 have him still be around at this slot.
Last projection: Odorizzi
26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Daniel Schlereth, LHP, University of Arizona
The Diamondbacks would consider someone like Josh Fields as well, but instead when the local kid is around, the lefty reliever, who is the son of former NFL-er Mark, will get the nod.
Last projection: Fields
27. Minnesota Twins: Brad Hand, LHP, Chaska HS, Minn.
A reach? Perhaps. There are other prep arms who could go here, like the previously projected Brett DeVall. But the Twins never shy away from doing their own thing and while Hand could be around for their early sandwich pick, the Twins may want to make sure they nab the local product.
Last projection: Brett DeVall
28. New York Yankees: Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville HS, Fla.
There's always the inclination to give the Yankees the tough sigh, like Gerrit Cole, or the injured player (Tanner Scheppers or Brett Hunter). But I'm fighting that urge. They've also been looking at lefty arms and DeVall has the best one in the high school class.
Last projection: Brett Hunter
29. Cleveland Indians: Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia
The Indians would really like a college bat in this spot and there could be one that made sense for them when all is said and done. In this scenario, however, there isn't one that makes sense, so they'll go with the college reliever who is a short reliever only, but could get to the big leagues in a hurry. There's a chance Fields is gone by now as well, but for now, he's here for the taking.
Last projection: Jemile Weeks
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, and it wouldn't completely be a shock to take a shot at taking Anthony Hewitt. But Lynn's name has recently cropped up as a late-first round candidate.
Last projection: Lynn
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.