2012 MLB Draft: National League Central Division Analysis
Chicago Cubs: With the sixth overall pick the Cubs went with Florida high school outfielder Albert Almora, who combines impressive tools with unusual polish for a prep player. After him, the emphasis was on pitching, with a mixture of high school and college backgrounds. Pierce Johnson (RHP, Missouri State, 1st round supplemental) is an excellent value assuming that health issues don't interfere. Fellow supplemental choice Paul Blackburn (RHP, California HS) and second rounder Duane Underwood (RHP, Georgia HS) provide two strong prep arms. Blackburn has more polish, Underwood has more upside but is inconsistent. Both of these guys were considered first round candidates in the months leading up to the draft. The Cubs then alternated college (Josh Conway, RHP, Coastal Carolina, 4th round; Trey Lang, RHP, Gateway CC, 6th round) and high school arms (Ryan McNeil, RHP, California HS, 3rd round; Anthony Prieto, LHP, Texas HS, 5th round). Conway has the best arm strength but is also recovering from Tommy John. Overall, the Cubs did a lot to add pitching to a farm system that needs it.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds surprised some by picking Florida HS RHP Nick Travieso with the 14th overall pick, about 10 slots earlier than expected, but he has one of the strongest arms and best fastballs in the draft. Supplemental choices Jesse Winker (OF, Florida HS, already signed) and Jeff Gelalich (OF, UCLA) both have solid bats in my view, while second round pick Tanner Rahier (INF, California HS) excites scouts with his high-energy style of play that makes the most out of decent tools. Third round RHP Dan Langfield (Memphis) and fourth round RHP Jon Moscot (Pepperdine) add more college arms, with Langfield having plus stuff and Moscot sharp command. Sleeper: Ben Klimesh (RHP, Trinity University, 15th round) blew past Division III competition with slightly above average stuff and is a good value in this spot. Overall I think there is good balance between talent and affordability with this class.
Houston Astros: I thought Carlos Correa was the best player in the draft, so obviously I think the Astros made the right decision here, even aside from the financial consideration that he took less money than slot. This makes it more likely that they can sign supplemental pick Lance McCullers (RHP Florida HS) and perhaps even 11th rounder Hunter Virant (LHP, California HS), but even they only get one of those guys, this was still a good way to handle it. Fourth round pick Rio Ruiz (3B, California HS) is also a first-round talent but fell due to a bloodclotting disorder. Polished college choices Nolan Fontana (SS, Florida, 2nd round), Brady Rodgers (RHP, Arizona State, 3rd round), and Preston Tucker (OF-1B, Florida, 7th round) also stand out as particularly good values. I don't think C.J. Hinojosa (26th round, Texas HS) will end up signing. Overall, I think the Astros managed both the talent and monetary aspects of the draft very well.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers emphasized bats and got a pair of strong power hitters with Clint Coulter (C, Washington HS) and Victor Roache (OF, Georgia Southern) with their two first round picks. Both feature impressive power potential, and Roache only fell to the bottom of the round due to his wrist injury. He could be a steal. Supplemental choice Mitch Haniger (OF, Cal Poly) is more of an across-the-board type and also has considerable pop, while second rounder Tyrone Taylor (OF, California HS) has excellent tools but is still aw due to his football background. Among the pitchers, Damien Magnifico (RHP, Oklahoma, 5th round) is the most intriguing due to his 100 MPH fastball, but he needs work with his secondary pitches and command. Sleeper: Adam Giacalone (1B, Neosho County CC, 16th round) dominated junior college competition as both a hitter and pitcher. The Brewers drafted a bunch of pitching last year and a bunch of hitting this year; it will be interesting to see if they are more balanced in 2013.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Stanford ace Mark Appel doesn't seem too thrilled falling to eighth-overall, but I think the Pirates have most of the leverage here given that next year's draft is deeper and the pick is protected. It will go down to the wire but it should get done. Supplemental pick Barrett Barnes from Texas Tech is speedy, gets on base, and has some power, while second round pick Wyatt Mathisen (C, Texas HS) was rated the best high school catching prospect in the draft due to a strong throwing arm, power potential, and makeup. Intriguing mid-round picks include Brandon Thomas (OF, Georgia Tech, 4th round) who has solid tools, and Adrian Sampson (RHP, Bellevue JC, 5th round), who works in the low 90s and has a good curve. Can they find the bonus money for Walker Buehler, Kentucky prep RHP with first round talent who went in the 14th round due to a Vanderbilt commitment?
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals had two first round picks and three supplementals. They emphasized college talent: Michael Wacha (RHP, Texas A&M), James Ramsey (OF, Florida State), Stephen Piscotty (3B, Stanford), and Patrick Wisdom (3B, St. Mary's). Wacha projects as a mid-rotation guy, while Ramsey and Piscotty project as solid major leaguers. Wisdom is a bit more speculative due to his erratic track record, as is high school catcher Steve Bean (Texas HS, supplemental pick), a solid defender with a chance to hit. Second round pick Carson Kelly (3B, Oregon HS) has more upside than the guys picked ahead of him, and the money should be there if a couple of the college picks sign cheaply. College picks fill out most of the class, with the major exception of Trey Williams (3B, California HS, 11th round) who has first-round power but an erratic spring. Overall, this is a typical Cardinals draft, a group of proven college players with a few upsiders sprinkled in. They've built a very strong farm system that way.