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Draft  | Mock Draft  | 6/4/2011

Mock Draft Version 4

David Rawnsley     
Photo: UCLA

The More Things Change, the More They Stay The Same; It Will Be Cole, Rendon After All

This is my fourth mock draft of the year, and I’m finding that it is increasingly difficult to move players around much from one exercise to the next. I’m pretty much sticking to my earlier intuitions and ignoring all the talk, and the wheeling and dealing that goes on in the final days leading up to the draft.

I’m not a big fan of listening to all the endless chatter that generally begins with this tired line, “I hear that this team likes this player . . . ,” because unless you actually hear it yourself (or read it via e-mail/IM/text, etc.) from a credible inside source, at least at a cross-checker level on the team in question, it generally has little or no validity.

You don’t know who started the information string, and without the source you just don’t have reliable information, just gossip.

I’m also not a big fan of reports that say, “Player X had a great workout at the big-league ball park earlier in the week.” There have been far, far, far more bad decisions made based on pre-draft workouts on players at or near the top of the draft than good decisions. Trust me!

In this day and age when a scouting department has seen a top high-school player, such as Florida high-school prospects Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor, take literally hundreds of at-bats over the course of a year, do you make a million-dollar decision on a few nervous BP swings? If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a bad decision. And I’d rather not base my mock drafts on anticipating bad decisions.

The fact of the matter is that virtually every one of the players worthy of consideration in the first round this year has been broken down in every way possible, and analyzed time and again, over at least the last 12 months, and in many cases, the last 3-4 years. There shouldn’t be any snap judgments just because the team’s general manager and/or assistant GM saw the guy hit 12 BP balls into the left-field bleachers.

I’m also not a big fan of allowing “signability issues” to play into more than a couple of mock-draft decisions. Historically, there are teams that won’t go over slot in the first round, or whose tentative financial situations (i.e., the Dodgers) might point towards making a conservative decision, but that doesn’t often apply.

Players/advisors throw around high-bonus figures as a matter of routine, and they sometimes sound foolish doing it, but it’s often just a smoke screen. Who can blame them? A team might buy their line, and actually give them what they are asking. It’s all really background noise that accompanies any draft, and almost everything works itself out in the end.

With that preamble, I’m sure I must sound like an old, weathered scout, which is essentially correct. But I’ve seen too many drafts in my lifetime to know how to cut through the fat and get to the meat.

So let’s move on with what might make some sense in this year’s draft, and I’ve essentially come to the conclusion that what made sense a month or two ago, still makes sense. The first two picks in this draft will still be UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole and Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Beginning with those two, here’s how we see the first round unfolding:

Gerrit Cole, rhp, UCLA
Cole was the presumptive top pick at the beginning of the 2011 season, and has done nothing to warrant changing that—even with a few rocky performances. For goodness sake, his fastball was 96-101 mph in his last outing, and he beat the No. 7 team in the country. What more do you want him to do?

Anthony Rendon, 3b, Rice
I keep wanting to put someone else here, but as long as the Mariners want a bat, which they apparently do, Rendon is still the only player who really belongs in this slot—at least for where the Mariners are as a rebuilding organization. Kansas outfielder Bubba Starling and Florida shortstop Francisco Lindor, while great young high-school players, do not fit here.

Danny Hultzen, lhp, Virginia
For as well as he has pitched and all the hype he has received, it would be a major surprise if Hultzen didn’t go somewhere in the top three picks. There is nothing but support for him, and for every part of his game, in the scouting community.

Dylan Bundy, rhp, Owasso (Okla.) HS
Bundy is arguably the best high-school pitching prospect in draft history, or at least has the best present stuff across the board of anyone that has passed before him. He is so advanced that he could really be evaluated as a college pitcher, though he is only 18. Taken in the context of his falling to the fourth pick, the Orioles would be getting a steal here.

Trevor Bauer, rhp, UCLA
I’ve had Starling in this spot all spring, mainly because of his local connection with the Royals, and feel bad moving him. But it seems apparent that the Royals want a fast-track arm to fit into where their flourishing farm system sits at this moment, and one can hardly fault that thought process. They would have more than enough polished college arms to choose from.

Bubba Starling, of, Gardner-Edgerton HS, Gardner, Kan.
Does it get any better for Nationals fans to get Steven Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Bubba Starling in three consecutive drafts?

Matt Barnes, rhp, Connecticut
This could be a surprise draft and one that the Diamondbacks get worked out beforehand, given that it is not a protected pick (they would get no compensation a year from if this pick goes unsigned). They would like to get two premium college arms with the Nos. 3 and 7 picks, and selecting Hultzen and Barnes in these spots would instantly change the face of their minor-league pitching talent.

Taylor Jungmann, rhp, Texas
The best comparison in the big leagues to the 6-foot-5 Jungmann, in terms of pitching style and basic stuff, is Philadelphia Phillies righthander Roy Halladay. That isn’t to say that Jungmann has Halladay’s savvy and command, because no one does, but no one in college baseball has Jungmann’s savvy and command, either.

Jose Fernandez, rhp, Alonso HS, Tampa
There is often nothing more difficult in any draft than trying to figure out what Cubs veteran scouting director Tim Wilken is thinking. In keeping with past draft, he’ll most likely do something off the board that will raise eyebrows in the industry; more often than not, he will eventually be proven right. In a good-news/bad-news scenario, Fernandez’ best major-league comparison might be volatile Cubs righthander Carlos Zambrano.

Francisco Lindor, ss, Montverde Academy, Clermont, Fla.
The Padres’ leadership is smart enough to know that with their expansive ballpark, they need to draft as many top-level position players as possible, as pitchers are much easier to find or develop.

Archie Bradley, rhp, Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS
The depressed state of the Astros organization simply means that they can’t afford to take anything less than the best prospect available, which at this point in the process might be either Bradley or hard-hitting Texas prep outfielder Josh Bell.

Sonny Gray, rhp, Vanderbilt University
I’ve loved the Gray/Ben Sheets comparison ever since Perfect Game’s Patrick Ebert, who may know the Brewers system as well as anyone, brought it up earlier in the spring. Milwaukee needs immediate help in every area in its stripped-down organization, and Gray would be a very positive first step.

Jed Bradley, lhp, Georgia Tech
I’ve had Bradley much higher in previous mock drafts, but he hasn’t thrown as well over the second half of the season for Georgia Tech, and performance has to factor in to an extent.

Taylor Guerrieri, rhp, Spring Valley HS, Columbia, S.C.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Guerrieri drafted a little higher as he has the type of stuff and profile that will often elevate a high-school pitcher into the top 10 picks. But this is a very deep draft, and there just isn’t much room to get him into that mix.

George Springer, of, Connecticut
Milwaukee’s already-thin farm system was gutted again this off-season for proven starting pitching, so the organization is in a true “best-prospect available” mode for this draft. At this pick, that would mean a player like Springer, a high-ceiling, five-tool type talent. I’m still tempted to put power-hitting Utah first baseman C.J. Cron here, as I did in my first mock, but Springer is a better pick.

Tyler Anderson, lhp, Oregon
It’s no secret that the financially-strapped Dodgers will be mandated by Major League Baseball to stick with slot picks in this draft. Remember the Texas Rangers fiasco with Texas prep lefthander Matthew Purke two years ago, while under MLB’s watch? The Dodgers wouldn’t have to apologize to anyone for picking Anderson, a solid, mid-first-round value in any draft.

Mikie Mahtook, of, Louisiana State
With all due respect to top prospect Mike Trout, it’s about time that the Angels started bringing in some young, talented outfielders instead of overpaid veterans on the back end of their careers (Gary Matthews Jr., Torii Hunter, Bob Abreu and Vernon Wells, just to name four).

Daniel Norris, lhp, Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn.
The A’s obviously value lefthanded pitching with Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and the injured Dallas Braden leading one of baseball’s top young starting rotations.

Blake Swihart, c, Cleveland HS, Rio Rancho, N.M.
I’m pairing up this pick with the one that the Red Sox have at No. 26. In a perfect world, they would like to get both Swihart and Texas high-school outfielder Josh Bell. If they feel that one or the other has a chance of being picked from 20 to 25, they would put that player 19th and slide the other to 26. The opportunity to sign two premium, switch-hitting athletes with plus power potential in one draft? It seems like an easy decision to make, if budget constraints aren’t a concern.

Andrew Susac, c, Oregon State
I find it hard to believe that there are people raising yellow flags because of things that Susac has been doing, or not doing, after returning from hamate-bone surgery in five weeks. It’s naïve to think that Susac wouldn’t be back at 100 percent immediately. If anything, it’s a testament to Susac’s makeup, work ethic and lack of fear of scout’s discerning opinions that he did come back so quickly. Good for him, I hope he’s rewarded.

Levi Michael, ss, North Carolina
It’s interesting that two players, Michael and UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer, who skipped their senior seasons of high school in 2009 to enter college early, are both likely to end up as first-round picks. Astute decisions by both young men, but not a decision that many should be encouraged to make.

Alex Meyer, rhp, Kentucky
I would like to have put Meyer a couple of slots higher up, including much higher in one case, but there always seemed to be a better fit. He can’t slide too far, especially with the way be pitched late in the 2011 season. I’d be curious to hear a veteran scout compare Meyer with Detroit Tigers righthander Justin Verlander at the same point in their careers.

Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State
I firmly believe that Chafin is one of the unrecognized values in this draft, and I don’t see him being much different in the big scheme of things than Stanford’s Drew Storen was in roughly the same spot in a more shallow 2009 draft. The Nationals signed Storen to a below-slot, pre-draft deal and he was on the fast track to the big leagues before most other first-rounders signed that year. That’s not to say that Chafin profiles as a reliever, like Storen. It’s just that having a plus fastball, a plus/plus slider and advanced pitchability shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Javier Baez, 3b, Arlington Country Day HS, Jacksonville, Fla.
I keep seeing Baez being elevated significantly higher than this spot in some mock drafts, and I simply don’t think, with all due respect, that he is that type of player, in anything but a strict signability situation. For Tampa Bay, with its menagerie of 10 draft picks between slots 24 and 60, it’s a very good fit, however.

Cory Spangenberg, 3b/2b, Indian River State (Fla.) JC
I feel the same way about Spangenberg going in the top 10-15 picks as I do Baez (see pick No. 23). No disrespect intended, but there are just too many better, more-established players at that point in the draft for anything but a signability pick.

Josh Bell, of, Dallas Jesuit HS
Bell’s well-publicized letter to Major League Baseball, reaffirming his intent to attend college at Texas, probably only more-tightly defined his market, which may have been his intent all along. If the letter was sincere, then the entire baseball industry may need to apologize to the Bell and his family, but most believe there was an ulterior motivation.

Robert Stephenson, rhp, Alhambra (Calif.) HS
It wouldn’t surprise me if Stephenson didn’t reach this slot as there isn’t much that separates him from fellow prep righthander Taylor Guerrieri (slotted at No. 14), except a less-consistent breaking ball. The Reds present management has spoken loudly in the past few years about how much they value strong-armed young pitchers.

Kolten Wong, 2b, Hawaii
Wong would be a great value here as many believe he has a strong chance to fulfill his projection as a top-of-the-order offensive catalyst. Remember, the Braves have an entirely different scouting leadership than they did when high-school pitchers and players from the southeast filled their draft board.

Anthony Meo, rhp, Coastal Carolina
The Giants may be World Series champions, but they need to get more athletic and address their long-term offensive woes. They are not the type of organization, though, that will pick more-risky players like Wyoming outfielder Brandon Nimmo or Florida junior-college outfielder Brian Goodwin in this slot. The fallback is the best college pitcher still on the board, which would be Meo, but might also be one of two lefthanders, Florida State’s Sean Gilmartin or Vanderbilt’s Grayson Garvin.

Tyler Beede, rhp, Lawrence Academy, Auburn, Mass.
The Twins are much like the Giants in that they need an injection of athleticism and offensive potential into their system, but would be stretching to find it here. Beede, one of the most-mature pitchers in the country despite his Northeast upbringing, fits the Twins’ mould for pitching prospects. So would Gilmartin or Garvin.

C.J. Cron, 1b, Utah
I’m still not convinced that Cron doesn’t belong significantly higher than this slot. He can flat-out hit, and that type of player usually carries the day when scouting directors have to make a tough decision.

John Stilson, rhp, Texas A&M
This is a protected pick, so the Rays are in a position to roll the dice a bit. They could elect to go for a tough-signability pick, a player coming off a serious injury or maybe even a leveraged two-sport athlete. I previously had Texas Christian lefthander Matthew Purke, who missed a chunk of the 2011 season with a shoulder issue, here and there still is some logic to that. But based on the latest reports that Stilson is not as seriously hurt as previously believed and should be back at full strength this summer, seals it for me. Getting a mid-first-round talent at No. 32 would be a steal for Tampa Bay.

Trevor Story, ss, Irving (Texas) HS
Story would be much more than just a local pick as his name came up more and more frequently as a potential first-rounder. He would require some patience with the bat, but is a first-round quality defender and athlete.