Here is my final take on a Mock Draft for 2012. In previous mocks, Matt Garrioch and I cooperated and alternated picks, but we decided to do separate ones this time. You can never have too many mock drafts!
As always, take this with a grain of salt. The draft is unusually fluid this year. The top talents are obvious to everyone, but as I write this, it isn't guaranteed who the Astros will take, or how early someone will gamble on Lucas Giolito's health. One unexpected pick (like Seattle's selection of Danny Hultzen last June), will have repercussions all the way down the line.
1) Houston Astros: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford. He's got a great arm, and he made a lot of progress this spring putting to rest concerns about a past lack of statistical dominance.
2) Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF, Georgia HS: The Twins need pitching, but are strongly rumored to be drawn to Buxton's huge upside. Carlos Correa is also said to have greatly impressed them recently.
3) Seattle Mariners: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: He's been utterly spectacular in recent workouts, and I don't think we'll see another Hultzenish surprise choice.
4) Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU: Like Appel, Gausman has answered a lot of questions with a strong spring, putting up the numbers to go with his talent.
5) Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco: The general consensus is that the Royals will take the leftover top college pitcher who falls here. Giolito would be an interesting gamble with a potentially huge payoff, but I don't think they take that risk.
6) Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF, Florida HS: This seems like a logical choice, given Almora's combination of upside and relative safety, although there's talk that Max Fried or Mike Zunino could go here, and the Cubs don't always do the expected thing on draft day.
7) San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP, California HS: He could go as high as 5, but if he's still on the board the Padres are rumored to be strongly interested in this polished lefty. David Dahl has impressed people of late and could also get popped here. A polished "safe" choice could be Andrew Heaney.
8) Pittsburgh Pirates: Mike Zunino, C, University of Florida: This one is hard to get a handle on. Rumors persist that the Pirates like Deven Marrero, but his bat just isn't good enough with the talent still left on the board. Zunino also plays a premium defensive position, and he's not Tony Sanchez. Lance McCullers also fits into recent Pittsburgh draft philosophy.
9) Miami Marlins: Here is where things really break wide open. Dahl, Courtney Hawkins, and Corey Seager all seem like plausible choices, as do McCullers, Heaney, and Michael Wacha if the Marlins want someone who can advance quickly. With no firm indicator either way, we'll go with homestate fireballer Lance McCullers, Jr, RHP, Florida HS.
10) Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF, Alabama HS: Sources agree the Rockies are looking at young hitters with upside, and Dahl has the balance of tools and skills that should interest them.
11) Oakland Athletics: "Don't draft for need" the saying goes, but it would be awfully hard to resist an advanced college bat like Richie Schaffer, 3B, Clemson, given the organization's paucity of hitting. Seager and Hawkins would be top high school options with impressive upside but longer paths to the majors, with Heaney or Marcus Stroman available if they want pitching.
13) Chicago White Sox: I think this comes down to a high-upside high school bat (Hawkins, Seager, or perhaps speedy D.J. Davis) or the best college pitcher still on the board. In the end, Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State has a great balance of upside and refinement.
14) Cincinnati Reds: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke University: The Reds aren't afraid of "short" right-handers, especially if they have an arm like Stroman's.
15) Cleveland Indians: Cleveland likes college pitching, and Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State is the best one still available here.
16) Washington Nationals: Rumors here are vague and contradictory and what the Nats do depends in great measure on what happens ahead of them. I think something outside the box could happen here (Giolito? Nick Travieso? Brian Johnson? Clint Coulter? Mitch Nay? Addison Russell?). Deven Marrero and Pierce Johnson are the two best college guys left. Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State University.
17) Toronto Blue Jays: D.J. Davis, OF, Mississippi HS: He's blazing fast, his hitting has improved, he'll sign for slot, and he fits with Toronto's recent philosophies.
18) Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers usually go with pitching of some variety, and that doesn't seem like it is going to change this year. They are consistently linked with Ty Hensley, RHP, Oklahoma HS...but other options seem plausible as well, including Shane Watson and Travieso. Longshots: projectable California southpaw Hunter Virant, or perhaps slugger Joey Gallo if they want hitting.
19) St. Louis Cardinals: Will the Cardinals handle their extra picks by taking more chances, or will they play it safe and avoid signability/money problems? You can make a case for the Cards picking Giolito, daring him to turn down the money and risk his arm in school. While there are some rumors to that effect, it seems like a long shot. . but what the hell, it will make this mock draft more interesting, it is somewhat plausible, and at this point in the process it is all guesswork anyway. Lucas Giolito, RHP, California HS. If you don't feel like gambling, Gallo, Pierce Johnson, Addison Russell, and Stryker Trahan could all fit here.
20) San Francisco Giants: A sturdy hard-throwing high school arm like Nick Travieso, RHP, Florida HS seems like a good bet here. Ty Buttrey, Walker Weickel, Zach Eflin, Shane Watson, and Lucas Sims are all logical too. If they want a bat, Gallo or Seager would make sense.
21) Atlanta Braves: Remember when the Braves were all about high school guys? They focus on college ranks more often now. Victor Roache would be a nice pick if his medicals are OK. Prep infielder Tanner Rahier and college outfielder Tyler Naquin are rumored. Both strike me as overdrafts but could very well happen for a team on a budget. Corey Seager may go to college if he falls much further than this. Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M.
22) Toronto Blue Jays: Gavin Cecchini, SS, Lousiana HS is not likely to fall any further than this, and the Jays are reportedly very interested in him.
23) St. Louis Cardinals: If the Cardinals really do roll the dice on Giolito, picking someone financially safe here would be likely. Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State University would be attractive and is a home state guy to boot.
24) Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have gone for power in recent drafts, and nobody has more power than Joey Gallo, 3B-1B, Nevada HS. Rahier and Roache would also be plausible; you could also see a mild surprise like Mitch Nay, Clint Coulter or Wyatt Mathisen at this stage.
25) Tampa Bay Rays (John): Stryker Trahan, C, Louisiana HS has the tools and athleticism to play outfield if catching doesn't work out, and his bat is among the most potent in the prep ranks.
26) Arizona Diamondbacks: Tons of options here, although everyone thinks Arizona is looking for hitting. The farm system needs depth up the middle, and Addison Russell, SS, Florida HS would fit the bill. Other options: Stephen Piscotty, Rahier, Roache, or James Ramsey as a no-hassle pick.
27) Milwaukee Brewers: Somebody unexpected always drops, and in this case it is mashing monster Courtney Hawkins, OF, Texas HS, who may have the most power in the draft other than Gallo, but is raw enough to slip to the back of the round.
28) Milwaukee Brewers: Putting all your eggs in the high school basket is a bit of a risk. I thought about Clint Coulter here and that pick is rumored, but a college guy to balance things out would be nice too. Home-state product Adam Brett Walker, 1B-OF, Jacksonville University, could be enticing, but he has some of the same flaws as Hawkins. I'll go with Clint Coulter, C, Washington HS and would look at Walker in the supplemental round.
29) Texas Rangers: The Rangers do some unconventional things at times. Adding some high-upside pitching seems like a good plan, and J.O. Berrios, RHP, Puerto Rico HS has as much upside as any of the more-heralded high school arms still on the board. Other options would include Watson and injury-hampered arms Matt Smoral and Zach Eflin.
30) New York Yankees: High school upside pitching is the rumor here, although the Yankees are known to go off the consensus board. Watson, Smoral, Eflin, Sims, and helium-laden Mitchell Gueller are all entirely plausible. If they want someone closer to the majors, Brian Johnson or outfielder James Ramsey would also fit. Corey Seager could also go here. Shane Watson, RHP, California HS.
31) Boston Red Sox: Seager is still on the board, and if he's not happy with slot money, the Red Sox are one of the few teams who might risk the financial penalty to get someone they really want. There are also intriguing high school arms still available. On the other hand, in recent drafts they've shown an interest in college players whose stock has dropped. Pitchers Jake Barrett and Chris Beck fit that profile, as does Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern.