Here's the first spring edition of my 2010 mock:
1. Washington Nationals – Bryce Harper, C, CC of Southern Nevada – I’ve seen a couple of inferences that Harper has somehow fallen off from the number one slot, most recently here by BP’s Kevin Goldstein. I just don’t see it happening. Harper’s got the best tools for stardom by a landslide in this class, and the money shouldn’t be an issue too big to overcome. He’s going to mash as a 17 year-old JUCO player this spring, and the doubters will be silenced. Previously: #1.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton – For all the talk of Jameson Taillon and Anthony Ranaudo, I see the Pirates sticking to their 2009 script, when there wasn’t a clear-cut best player available to them at their selection. All things being equal, they’ll choose the hitter, and Colon’s the best on the board here. There’s a method to their madness, as they were able to add quality arms in Victor Black, Brooks Pounders, Zack Dodson, Zack Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, Colton Cain, and Jeff Inman, while still picking Tony Sanchez a year ago. Previously: #4.
3. Baltimore Orioles – Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (TX) – Taillon’s the clear-cut best prep arm at this point in time, and if he drops here, I don’t see the Orioles passing him up. To most teams, Taillon would be the best player available after Harper and Colon, with Ranaudo being the other option. I see the Orioles opting for the higher-ceiling arm and picking Taillon. Beware the Rice commitment, though. He could end up as Gerrit Cole version 2010. Previously: #3.
4. Kansas City Royals – Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU – Ranaudo’s made a bold move by selecting Scott Boras as his advisor heading into his draft year. Having attached his name to Boras means he needs to have a dominating junior year to sit this high in the draft, where teams know they’ll be extorted for every penny by Boras. Don’t get me wrong, Boras is only doing his job, but the pressure now on Ranaudo to perform to the high expectations is magnified. I think he’ll do just fine, and the Royals will have no qualms about paying him. Previously: #2.
5. Cleveland Indians – Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas – This is a tough pick to handicap. The Indians went with a clear best player available pick in 2009 with Alex White, and they paid over slot for the first time in a few years. Some might argue that Cox is just more of the Beau Mills/Lonnie Chisenhall picking from the past, but Cox has the highest upside of any college bat in this draft. His price tag may be a bit high as a draft-eligible sophomore, but I don’t expect him to get much more than slot at such a high pick. This pick could be similar in fashion to picks by Pittsburgh and Baltimore from a year ago, saving some budget money for later rounds. Previously: #8.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks – A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS (FL) – The Diamondbacks haven’t chosen a high school pitcher in the top round (or supplemental round) since Jarrod Parker in 2007, and Cole’s arm is in that same category. Picking this high, Arizona has to hit with this pick, as they don’t have any extra picks to fall back on this year. They need high-ceiling arms in their system, and Cole’s got a special one. I haven’t heard anything about Cole’s signability yet, so this is definitely a constantly changing pick. Previously: #6.
7. New York Mets – Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS (CA) – As explained in my bits and pieces entry, Covey’s stock has been on the upswing. After missing time this summer with a minor injury, Covey came back strong in the fall, and he’s in the conversation with Taillon and Cole for best prep arm in the 2010 class. The Mets have gone with some prep arms in the past, and their top pick from a year ago was prep lefty Steven Matz. If Covey’s spring is as good as his fall, he’s definitely a top ten pick if signable. Previously: #23.
8. Houston Astros – LeVon Washington, OF, Chipola JC (FL) – Washington’s another player on the rise, as he’s got early first-round potential in both center field and at second base. He’s still got a great bat and excellent speed, and there’s thought that he could be a dominant leadoff hitter in a relatively short period of time when compared to other bats so young. He’s still got the Boras factor, but the word is that his asking price wasn’t ridiculous at all when the Rays failed to sign him in August. Their mistake. Previously: #14.
9. San Diego Padres – Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS (FL) – Regime change is always interesting when putting together mock drafts. However, it’s becoming clear that this regime will depart from the previous one when it comes to the draft. Expect more prep arms and more upside, though at the cost of risk. Whitson has an elite arm, and if his asking price is reasonable, he’s also a top ten to fifteen level talent. The top four prep arms in general are excellent compared to most years, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a situation like this one where they are all picked in the first nine picks. Previously: #7.
10. Oakland Athletics – Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech – No matter who I slot here, if it’s a college player, I always get the complaints that the A’s don’t pick "safe" college guys anymore. However, McGuire has way more upside than your typical college righty, and with a great spring, he won’t fall this far. This is no James Simmons pick. I see the A’s pouncing on another high-ceiling college player that falls this year, similar to Grant Green from 2009. Previously: #5.
11. Toronto Blue Jays – Manny Machado, SS, Brito HS (FL) – Read the above statements about regime change, then copy and paste them here. The Jays will look for much more high-ceiling talent to help restock a system that’s been suffering from too many years of safe picks and, most recently, unsigned ones. Machado has his question marks, but with a bat that’s gained a little more attention over the fall and some hope of a long-term stay at shortstop, he’s climbed up boards. Previously: #21.
12. Cincinnati Reds – Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast – Sale established himself among the elite of college pitchers with an excellent summer on the Cape, and with the slight fall of Drew Pomeranz in some scouting circles, he’s found himself at the top of the lefty pitching pile. He’s got good upside and projection, along with current production, and the Reds have been working to build young pitching from within over the past few years. This is a solid match. Previously: #10.
13. Chicago White Sox – Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) – I had Wilson discounted a little in my first mock draft in October, but I now don’t see him dropping past some of the tool-hungry scouting departments in this section of the first round. Despite drafting Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson a year ago, the White Sox still have a place to pick a high-level future right fielder with plus-plus power potential in Wilson. The White Sox don’t have a lengthy history of drafting prep bats this high, but they didn’t have an opportunity to do so most years, so the logic is here. Previously: #17.
14. Milwaukee Brewers – Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet HS (WA) – There are some baseball players who just seem born to hit. Sale (pronounced Sally) doesn’t have the best athleticism, the best arm, or the best body in the 2010 class, but he might have the best pure bat. That’s caught the attention of numerous clubs, and the Brewers are likely one of them. Milwaukee doesn’t shy away from prep hitters, and they took a far less refined one in Max Walla in the second round in 2009. Sale shouldn’t come with a high price tag, as he’s only committed to nearby Gonzaga, so he’ll get drafted on talent alone. Previously: #24.
15. Texas Rangers – Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State – This pick is compensation for Matt Purke not signing in August, so I expect to see the Rangers go a bit conservative, saving money for their #22 overall pick and their two supplemental first-round picks. Wimmers is an excellent candidate for such a pick, and he offers roughly #2 or 3 starter upside. He’s bound to go somewhere in the middle of the round with a good spring, and his signability won’t be an issue. Previously: #12.
16. Chicago Cubs – Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss – Another player mentioned in my bits and pieces writeup, Pomeranz has drawn a few more audible complaints about his motion than I had been hearing back in October. That’s not necessarily a result of anything he’s done between then and now, but only a reflection of scouts that now have time to compare their summer scouting. He still has excellent upside, and a team like the Cubs who see him as a long-term starter might take the risk of trying to clean up his motion and preserve his arm from wear and tear. Previously: #9.
17. Tampa Bay Rays – Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland HS (FL) – I’m listing Cabrera as a shortstop here, but my speculation is that the Rays would pick Cabrera as a right fielder in this situation. I think they have third base covered, and Cabrera’s not going to stick at short. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I continue to call him a shortstop. Anyway, Cabrera’s bat consistently draws raves, and he’s older than any of his prep counterparts, so the though process is that he’s a bit advanced compared to more risky prep bats available here. This is a good fit for the nearby Rays, who have another first-round pick after this. Previously: #25.
18. Los Angeles Angels – Nick Castellanos, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) – Interestingly enough, I had Castellanos going in this slot when the Mariners owned it back in October. There’s been plenty of speculation that Castellanos has pushed himself into the top ten, but that’s a bit much when the defensive concerns are more present than ever. Castellanos might be a first baseman acting as a third baseman right now, so his plus bat takes a bit of back seat when thinking about drafting prep first basemen. The Angels have multiple early picks, so taking a chance here wouldn’t hurt them too much, as Castellanos could easily hit himself into being an asset anywhere on the diamond. Previously: #18.
19. Houston Astros – Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grandview HS (CO) – The Astros under Bobby Heck have become known for their ability to find excellent pitchers with pre-draft workouts, drafting them earlier than expected, then getting them signed and into their system fairly quickly. Having picked a bat in Washington earlier in the round, I expect nothing less than another such find here. Gausman comes from a non-traditional state in Colorado, but his arm is far from lagging behind. He has an LSU scholarship that might be an obstacle, but without strong family ties or state ties, it doesn’t look too bad on the surface. Previously: #27.
20. Boston Red Sox – Stetson Allie, RHP, St. Edwards HS (OH) – The Red Sox aren’t afraid of prep arms, but the question about Allie is what team will actually view him as a starter, rather than a power reliever. Boston has had success turning previous two-way player Casey Kelly into a top arm, so I don’t doubt their willingness to go after someone like Allie, but once again, only if they believe he has the durability and motion to go six innings with something more than his plus-plus fastball. The arm is special, and his arm strength is number one in this class, but I can’t see him cracking the top fifteen at the moment. Previously: #16.
21. Minnesota Twins – Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Cook County HS (GA) – I literally just changed the position for Cowart as I was writing. That’s how talented this kid is. He could easily be a first-round draft pick at either third or on the mound, reminding some observers of Ethan Martin, another Georgia prep product. The Twins took another talented two-way kid in Aaron Hicks the same year, and with the success they think he’s having, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them dip into the prep pool again this year, barring a Kyle Gibson-like fall of a more talented name that’s affordable to this slot. Previously: NR.
22. Texas Rangers – Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee – Brentz is a bit of a message board sensation that even people with average interest in the draft have heard about. Looking at his stats can do that. However, with reports surfacing that Brentz has possible makeup and work ethic issues, I was generous in placing him even as high as this. He’s an all bat corner outfielder that’s faced limited competition, though the bat is truly special at times. If he has another monster year and answers some questions, he’ll go higher, but for now he slots well here as the Rangers’ second first-round pick. Previously: #20.
23. Florida Marlins – Stefan Sabol, C, Aliso Niguel HS (CA) – Calling Sabol a catcher is generous, though there’s a good chance that a team like the Marlins might pick Sabol this high even as an outfielder. He’s got all the tools to be an excellent pro ballplayer, and his price tag isn’t expected to top his slotting number, at least if picked in the first round. That’s the Marlins’ type of player. He’d fit well into their development program, though California prep catching product Kyle Skipworth hasn’t worked well there. For now, the Marlins’ and their heavily-scouted California base mix well with Sabol. Previously: NR.
24. San Francisco Giants – Rick Hague, SS, Rice – There’s little that Hague does badly, and the Giants are still looking for someone they can call on to fill their need at shortstop that’s been burning them recently. Drafting for need isn’t always bad, and if Hague has a good spring, he definitely deserves a draft slot this high. Some Rice players choose to use their university name as a bargaining chip, and a fair number actually return to school for a senior year, so that will have to be monitored, but this makes as much sense as any other pick. Previously: #22.
25. St. Louis Cardinals – James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky – I might not be writing that Paxton is from Kentucky for much longer. It will be sad if Paxton truly becomes the latest victim of the NCAA, as Paxton has admirably come back for a senior year of college, despite a substantial offer from Toronto in August. Scott Boras is definitely a factor here, but if Paxton falls this far due to being unable to be on the field or having a similarly rough year to Andy Oliver’s 2009, he won’t be an early pick. There’s enough concern already to force him down this far. Previously: #19.
26. Colorado Rockies – Chad Bettis, RHP, Texas Tech – After staging a successful draft coup with Tyler Matzek, Tim Wheeler, Rex Brothers, and more a year ago, I expect a bit of a regression in 2010, not because of poor scouting, but lesser draft position. Brothers fit the traditional mold for Rockies’ scouting, and Bettis fits into that mold of a power college arm, too. A bullpen that would feature a healthy Casey Weathers, Brothers, and Bettis could shut down some Major League clubs now. Previously: NR.
27. Philadelphia Phillies – Garin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS (LA) – I should probably stop writing about Cecchini as a shortstop now, much like Yordy Cabrera. Cecchini’s long-term home is probably third base, though he would have good tools for that spot. Philadelphia has a noted history of drafting prep bats that are down a little on the refinement side of things, and I’d put Cecchini in that class. He’s got as much natural talent as the next prep, but will need significant work and a large number of minor league at-bats before seeing that natural talent on a Major League field. Previously: NR.
28. Los Angeles Dodgers – Chevez Clarke, OF, Marietta HS (GA) – I messed around with putting Clarke here in the October mock, only to go with Brett Eibner of Arkansas. Clarke has excellent tools and is a solid switch-hitter at the plate, and he’s got some good momentum heading into the spring. I expect him to be in the conversation at numerous spots late in the first round, though his college commitment to Georgia Tech might pose a problem if it is discovered that it’s strong. The Dodgers like tools with good makeup, and I see a match here. Previously: NR.
29. Los Angeles Angels – A.J. Vanegas, RHP, Redwood Christian HS (CA) – The first of back-to-back picks, I continue to see this pick making a lot of sense. I was saying the same thing about Tyler Skaggs a year ago, and he ended up in the Angels’ lap in the supplemental first round. Vanegas had an up-and-down summer, though he definitely regained his prospect status with some eye-opening fall performances. He fits well into the Angels’ development program, so this pick makes good sense if the Stanford commitment is less than the typical Stanford commitment. Previously: #30.
30. Los Angeles Angels – Justin O’Conner, SS, Cowan HS (IN) – Until the catching experiment is deemed successful this spring, O’Conner is still a prep shortstop, and a good one at that. With all the tools to be plus at the position (and catching), along with an excellent hit tool, O’Conner has stirred up some conversations as a back-third first-round candidate. He’s a little less refined than the premier prep names in the top part of the round, but if O’Conner’s catching experiment does go well, he could easily leapfrog Sabol. Previously: #32.
31. Tampa Bay Rays – Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas – I said in the October mock that I think the Rays will go with a college pitcher in this spot, and I continue to say it. This pick is compensation for Washington not signing in August, and they lose this pick if their new pick doesn’t sign, too. Workman’s a signable righty with a good pitch mix that would work well as either a mid-rotation starter or back-end reliever. The Texas pitching staff will be scouted plenty as it is, so whoever picks him will know what they’re getting when the time comes. Previously: #15.
32. New York Yankees – Cameron Bedrosian, RHP, East Coweta HS (GA) – The Yankees have typically liked their raw talent guys early in the draft over the past number of years. Bedrosian isn’t an excellent fit into that mold, but the bloodlines carry a lot of weight. He could easily sneak himself into first-round consideration, and with a price tag that’s supposed to be fairly reasonable (despite an LSU commitment), Bedrosian could offer solid upside while leaving budget room beyond this pick. It’s just an early thought before the spring season starts. Previously: NR.
What do you guys think?