05/28/09 10:00 AM ET
Crystal ball: Projecting the first 20 picks
Two college pitchers slide out of the top 10 selections
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Last week, we had the first round of projections, with selections for the first 10 picks. Now it's time to take a crack at the top 20 picks in the June 9 First-Year Player Draft.
While the overall picture still is a bit murky, the top three picks remain the same from last week to this. That doesn't mean anything is set in proverbial stone outside of the No. 1 pick, but Dustin Ackley at No. 2 makes more and more sense. There's a split at No. 3, but I'm sticking with the college lefty for now.
Then things shift, with two college arms sliding past the top 10, at least for this week. As you'll be able to tell from the comments with each pick, the players from No. 4 on down might be about right, but who goes where is still up for grabs. The college pitching ranks could still see a bit of a shakeup, with strong regional outings likely helping the stock of some who seemed to be slipping a bit.
For picks that have changed, I've included last week's selection for comparison. Next week, I'll give the entire first round -- all 32 picks -- a whirl.
1. Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
Was, is, and will continue to be the top guy.
2. Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina
As stated above, this continues to make sense. The only thing that could change it would be a money issue, though the M's continue to scout some of the advanced arms, like Aaron Crow.
3. San Diego Padres: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
It sounds like there's a split in Padres-town, with some wanting the college lefty and some wanting the toolsy high school outfielder Donavan Tate. Aaron Crow continues to be scouted heavily here as well. There wasn't enough to change the pick ... yet.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
The Pirates aren't definitely taking a pitcher, but with the strength of the Draft being on the mound, it does make some sense. Their general manager was at Crow's last outing, along with some other GMs who will be picking in the top 10. The other side of that coin, of course, is that the Pirates could take a bat here, thinking the pitching depth will extend to their sandwich-round pick and beyond. If that's the case, USC shortstop Grant Green is in the mix.
Last week's projection: Alex White
5. Baltimore Orioles: Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
The thinking is still pitching here, and some of the college arms are probably still in the mix. But the Orioles have really been on some of the top high school arms, namely Jacob Turner, from Missouri, and Wheeler. Like the Pirates, it's possible Green is still being discussed. With rumored bonus demands following Turner right now, we'll go with the seemingly more signable Wheeler.
Last week's projection: Crow
6. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
This is a spot that shows just how volatile this thing is. Normally by now, a team picking fifth can hone in on a couple of players. But everyone, including GM Brian Sabean, has been running around trying to see as many players as possible. They like Michael Trout, as mentioned last week, but that now seems like it's too much of a reach. A high school pitcher seems most likely at this point. With Wheeler gone, that could mean Turner or Matzek, the top prep lefty in the class. A big arm like Tanner Scheppers could be of interest to them. Want some dark horses? How about ASU starter Mike Leake (they were at his last regular-season start) or Stanford closer Drew Storen.
Last week's projection: Michael Trout
7. Atlanta Braves: Shelby Miller, Brownwood HS, Texas
There's little question that if Wheeler lasts this far, the Braves wouldn't let the local product go further. If Wheeler is gone and Matzek is available, that'd be a strong possibility. With both off the board, it's on to the next available high school arm in all likelihood. That might be Turner based on pure talent, but the signability issue would likely make the Braves look to Miller, a fine right-hander in his own right.
Last week's projection: Wheeler
8. Cincinnati Reds: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints
This is another place where "best arm available" is likely going to be the philosophy. One of the college guys could rise back into this slot, but right now it seems more likely they'll go with the indy-league re-draft in Scheppers, who's got a big, big arm. If they don't feel comfortable with the medical report there, they could just as easily go with the top high school arm remaining, if Matzek or perhaps Turner is still around.
Last week's projection: Kyle Gibson
9. Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, Westminster Christian Academy, Mo.
Sounds like a broken record, right? Another arm, most likely from the prep ranks. The Tigers haven't shied away from Scott Boras guys in the past. In fact, the one Turner might want to compare himself to -- Rick Porcello -- is already in the big leagues. If they really want to roll the dice, they could go after the toolsy and athletic Tate.
Last week's projection: Matzek
10. Washington Nationals: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kenesaw State
Still thinking Jenkins could be the guy here and there wasn't enough to go on to make a change yet. There's no guarantee the Nats will be making a money-saving pick only here and if they really want to throw caution to the wind, they could go with any of a number of apparent "tough signs" like Matthew Purke on the mound or Green at the plate. That seems unlikely and the Nats could be looking for other Jenkins-like options. One might be Storen, who threw extremely well with several members of the Nationals front office in attendance lats weekend.
11. Colorado Rockies: Kyle Gibson, RHP, University of Missouri
A year ago, the Rockies picked at No. 25 and were pleasantly surprised that college lefty Christian Friedrick dropped in their laps. They won't have to wait for as big of a slide this time at No. 11, but they could take advantage of a similar scenario. That could mean Mizzou's Gibson or North Carolina's White. For now, the thinking is Gibson. If one of those two doesn't fall, someone like lefty Rex Brothers could be considered and ASU's Leake probably enters into every conversation from this spot forward.
12. Kansas City Royals: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
This year's Jason Castro? Sanchez isn't as highly regarded as Castro was last year, but it could happen as a similar reach for the top college catcher in the class. He's a good catch-and-throw guy who showed something with the bat this year. The Royals would probably love for Gibson to slide to here and there's a natural inclination to think they'd also be keen on Missouri product Turner. This is another spot where Storen could be a backup option.
13. Oakland A's: Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina
No longer can you just take the most stats-friendly college guy and plug him into the A's slot. If one of those big high school arms are still around, that could happen. One who's still on the board is Matt Hobgood, but that seems a bit unlikely at this point. If Scheppers slides, would the A's take a shot? Maybe.
14. Texas Rangers: Matthew Purke, LHP, Klein HS, Texas
This isn't just a "put the best Texas arm with the Rangers" pick, though that does enter into the equation. The "other" Texas high schooler, Miller, is high on the list, with none other than Nolan Ryan having seen him. But in this scenario, he's off the board. Purke, based on talent, is one of the top prep arms, and perhaps the best lefty, in the class. But there's been talk of high bonus demands, which could push him down to this point of the first round.
15. Cleveland Indians: Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb University
In a perfect world for the Indians, one of those high school arms would make it down here. In this projection, alas, it is not a perfect world, so the Indians will look for a power arm, one that might be able to start, but at the very least could get to the big leagues quickly in the pen. Brothers, with a plus fastball and slider, fits that mold quite well.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Mike Leake, LHP, Arizona State
Another "in our own backyard" kind of deal, it's still extremely possible Leake will be gone at this point, but he's still on the board in this scenario, and the D-Backs won't let him go further than this. The right-hander might be a bit "under-sized," but he's done nothing but win in a tough conference for three years now, coming off a simply dominant junior year that would likely get more love as one of the best college seasons if it weren't for that Strasburg guy.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot HS, Fla.
It makes some sense, doesn't it, for Arizona to go with one arm and one bat with their back-to-back picks? Maybe even more sense to go with the "safe" college guy and a more risky high school hitter? Perhaps. Borchering's a switch-hitter with pop and while he may eventually have to move over to first, he'll at least get the opportunity to stay at third.
18. Florida Marlins: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana University
The temptation is always to give the Marlins the top high schooler on the board, and that's certainly a possibility. Pitching-wise, that could be James. Offensively, perhaps a Trout or Everett Williams comes into play. For now, we'll play a wild card, knowing that Arnett and his breakout season are in the mix here. A strong regional showing could move Arnett up a few more picks to where he could become a late signability pick a la Greg Reynolds circa 2006, but for now he's on the board and a distinct possibilty.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Grant Green, SS, USC
He had to go somewhere in the first round, right? Despite the lackluster start to his junior season, Green did finish strongly and with some more energy and effort to his game. That, combined with what he did in the Cape last summer and the fact he plays a premium position, is why he's still being discussed up and down the first-round board. The Cardinals aren't the automatic college-guy team they once were, but they do like their middle infielders (Pete Kozma, Tyler Greene).
20. Toronto Blue Jays: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford University
Storen's name is popping up all over the place in the first round, particularly as a guy who might be considered to be a backup option up high if money becomes an issue. It's probably more realistic that he finds a home somewhere in this neck of the woods. He's closed for Stanford and could get to the big leagues in a hurry as a reliever, but there are those who feel he has the stuff to start. If Storen isn't an option, this is another place where Tony Sanchez could land if he doesn't go higher.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.