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Mock Draft #4 - First Round

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It’s been three weeks since my last mock draft, and there’s enough movement for me to feel comfortable updating my projections. I feel much better with this mock than I did the last one, and like last year, I’ll feel the same way with each mock as the draft gets closer.

This is the fourth installation, and I’ve put the last three draft positions I had players at next to their names for your enjoyment this time, with the most recent position coming last.

1. Washington Nationals – Bryce Harper, C, CC of Southern Nevada – Well, we’ve reached the point where the common fan only knows of Harper’s faults, and they’re about ready to tear him down as the next overhyped bust. That’s what incessant media coverage and nitpicking does. However, I feel very comfortable with this placement, and I don’t expect any movement between now and June. Previously: 1, 1, 1.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss – Though I’m sure some people will think this movement has to do with me seeing Pomeranz in person last weekend, I had already made my mind up for this change before I ventured up to Athens. Pomeranz is showing the best stuff of the college pitching class, along with incredible on-field performance, and he’s a legitimate top five option. Previously: 9, 16, 4.
3. Baltimore Orioles – Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU – I’m glad to see that Ranaudo is starting to get back into shape, and if he stays healthy, there’s no reason that he won’t be back in the competition for top college arm. I know that the placement of Ranaudo and Jameson Taillon is most tricky, and I think one of the biggest questions will come with the picks of the Pirates and Orioles. Previously: 2, 4, 14.
4. Kansas City Royals – Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (TX) – Kansas City fans rejoice! The Royals are bound to find themselves picking from a big pool of top talent, and it’s likely they’ll pick a top-tier starter, either at the college or high school level. A lot of their choices will depend on how much the Pirates and Orioles spend on their first picks above them, and if 2009 is a true barometer, then the Royals could up with the second-best talent in the class in the fourth spot. Previously: 3, 3, 3.
5. Cleveland Indians – Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast – I still see the Indians going with the top available college arm as they re-stock the pitching in their system during a rebuild. I point to a college arm, because they haven’t historically spent much more than slot in their top picks, and collegiate pitchers typically come in close to slot. The choice here is between Sale and Deck McGuire, and Sale represents a higher ceiling, though with more risk. Previously: 10, 12, 5.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks – Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech – It’s time to take the Diamondbacks away from the A.J. Cole selection. The reason for that is simply that there is a strong possibility that they’re likely to be able to choose one of the top college arms, and that makes more sense to me considering their history outside of Jarrod Parker. McGuire hasn’t really fallen in the last three weeks, but with Ranaudo coming back, he could slip into the tier below Pomeranz and Ranaudo. Previously: 5, 10, 2.
7. New York Mets – Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS (FL) – Sometimes pitchers that slowly improve over time are overlooked by the names that explode onto the scene. Whitson is one of those steadily-improving pitchers that is flashing top tier stuff, coming out in better shape and with sharper command than in the summer and fall. I see the Mets going after a prep arm, though if Taillon slides, I don’t see them spending that money. Previously: 7, 9, 11.
8. Houston Astros – Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) – This pick assumes that Wilson doesn’t want $10 million, not that I’m saying I’ve heard anything about him wanting that much. Wilson represents the best raw upside in the entire hitting class outside of Harper, and the Astros typically love their raw, powerful, athletic hitters. With a pair of first-round picks, it’s questionable that they could afford an Austin Wilson type of prospect, but don’t underestimate them. Previously: 17, 13, 10.
9. San Diego Padres – Manny Machado, SS, Brito Private HS (FL) – I would probably put Machado up a spot with the Astros if they hadn’t drafted and signed Jiovanni Mier a year ago. The new San Diego front office finds itself in the midst of a big re-build with their system, and I see them going for one more position prospect up the middle to build a potential big-time lineup including prospects Logan Forsythe, James Darnell, Everett Williams, Donavan Tate, and Jaff Decker. Add in a shortstop or catcher and you have the potential for elite production in a few years. Previously: 21, 11, 9.
10. Oakland Athletics – Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas – Once again, no matter who I pick for the Athletics, I’m going to be told I’m behind on their new scouting techniques, which focus more on athleticism and upside. Well, I think people constantly undersell Cox, who is the best collegiate hitter behind Harper. Though there are concerns about his power projection, he could be a .300 hitter with 20-25 home runs a year, and that’s about the level that people expected from a Brett Wallace or Ike Davis in a loaded class in 2008. Previously: 8, 5, 8.
11. Toronto Blue Jays – A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS (FL) – Lately, I’ve found myself really wondering where the Blue Jays will go with their bounty of picks. How willing are they to really spend the most they’ve ever spent in the draft? Well, I believe in their commitment, though I completely dismiss the notion that they’ll spend $16 million this year. Cole represents an option they’ll likely have for extreme upside in their pick, and they could go either way with a position player or pitcher. Previously: 6, 6, 6.
12. Cincinnati Reds – Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State – Wimmers has had an excellent season so far, and most teams are comfortable with the idea that he’s a first round prospect, likely sitting in the middle third of the round. The Reds generally prefer polish with their first pick under this current front office, and Wimmers offers a solid amount of polish with above-average stuff. He profiles similarly to Mike Leake, though with a little more upside and less polish. Previously: 12, 15, 15.
13. Chicago White Sox – Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee – I get the feeling that the White Sox are in the midst of trying to rejuvenate the hitting side of their system, even while hearing whispers about their desire for pitching this year. Brentz has convinced some detractors with strong performances this year, though that was before he went down with an ankle injury a couple weeks ago. He offers one of the best bats in the class, though with question marks about his pitch recognition. Previously: 20, 22, 26.
14. Milwaukee Brewers – Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton – Colon started out cold, but he’s been heating up since my last mock draft. I think the Brewers will find themselves in a unique position to snag a player that was considered a top ten prospect at one point or another, as they pick right at that cusp between elite talent and above-average talent. They have a good relationship with Scott Boras, and I think Colon won’t need ridiculous money to sign. Previously: 4, 2, 24.
15. Texas Rangers – Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS (CA) – A lot of the lineup for the next five picks depends on how much the Rangers will be willing to spend on a pick that’s not protected by compensation. Covey has had a good spring so far, but his command has been lacking just a tad, and the Rangers have had an increasingly strong Southern California presence over the last few years. This seems like a solid fit, but it depends on Covey’s asking price. Previously: 23, 7, 7.
16. Chicago Cubs – Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech – Hahn continues to improve as a starting pitcher, and more and more teams are starting to really view his long-term projection as a starter, too. That can only bode well for Hahn. The Cubs are always an interesting club to project, as they like athletic pitchers and athletic hitters from the college ranks, and Hahn has the type of power arm that could fit well in their system. Previously: 13, 35, 16.
17. Tampa Bay Rays – Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet HS (WA) – The Rays typically focus on the high school ranks on both the pitching and hitting side for their early picks. They also have a strong presence in the Northwest, so there’s a strong possibility that Sale is high on their board. A lot depends on how the Rays view Sale’s athleticism, which might be below what they want as an organizational philosophy. Sale could easily be off the board before this pick, and I don’t see him lasting past the Red Sox at #20 if he’s healthy and raking come June. Previously: 24, 14, 18.
18. Los Angeles Angels – Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland HS (FL) – Cabrera and teammate Eric Arce haven’t had the best spring, and Arce has gone as far as getting kicked off the team following an arrest. Cabrera hasn’t been hitting as well as expected, though he stills shows all the tools of a powerful corner infielder or right fielder. The Angels have the best Florida area scout in Tom Kotchman, and Cabrera has a long baseball history, and I don’t expect him to fall as far as some have been speculating. Previously: 25, 17, 17.
19. Houston Astros – Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grandview HS (CO) – It really bothers me when I continually plug in the same player in the same slot over a number of mock drafts. However, this pick just makes too much sense. The Astros really like projectable prep arms with good command and plenty of potential, and they also aren’t afraid to find those pitchers in non-traditional baseball states. Gausman fits all of that criteria, and his season is just heating up. Previously: 27, 19, 19.
20. Boston Red Sox – Kaleb Cowart, RHP, Cook County HS (GA) – The Red Sox always have some of the most diverse drafts, and their success rate with draftees is pretty interesting. They have had enormous success with former two-way player Casey Kelly, and Cook brings the most upside of two-way players in this class. He’s starting to look more like a pitching prospect than a hitting prospect, though he’s strong either way. I expect he’ll be off the board in the first round quite easily, and he represents someone who could explode as a prospect while only focusing on pitching. Previously: NR, 21, 21.
21. Minnesota Twins – Nick Castellanos, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) – Castellanos continues to be slightly polarizing in the scouting community. Some scouts see him as a premier hitter in this class, while others see him as a slow future first baseman without enough upside at the plate to warrant a solid first round spot. I fall closer to the former argument, as I still see him as a future third baseman with good hitting upside, though he’s no Josh Vitters or Mike Moustakas. Previously: 18, 18, 20.
22. Texas Rangers – Micah Gibbs, C, LSU – I still see the Rangers investing an early pick on a catcher, and if they wait a little on going that direction, they’ll at least make a solid investment in hitting in this draft. Gibbs offers the best defensive polish of any catching prospect in this class, and while he may be viewed as the Jason Castro of this draft, he has enough secondary skills and plus makeup to warrant a first round selection, though he needs to go in the back third. Previously: NR, 49, 12.
23. Florida Marlins – Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Barstow HS (CA) – Predicting a Marlins pick is hard at this point, because they generally stick very close to slot, while also sticking close to the high school side of prospects. It’s hard to gauge signable players right now, but Sanchez is one of the fast risers who’s considered signable and worth a late first round selection. While I personally prefer a few other prep arms above Sanchez, the hype is definitely building. Previously: NR, NR, NR.
24. San Francisco Giants – Brett Eibner, RHP, Arkansas – A lot of the two-way players in this class have started to really succeed on the mount. Eibner represents the top collegiate two-way player, and his pitch-controlled outings for Arkansas have been very successful. Though John Barr went with the prep arm last year, I see him going with an athletic pitcher regardless of classification this year. Eibner represents one of the biggest upsides in the collegiate pitching class. Previously: 28, 43, 43.
25. St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Harvey, RHP, North Carolina – As Matt Harvey continues to answer questions about his checkered collegiate career this year, I continue to look for a draft slot that fits in with his talent. I believe that he’s reached consideration for the back end of the first round, and the Cardinals aren’t afraid to invest in pitching in the draft, especially if they consider that pitcher elite, as they did with Shelby Miller last year. It’s all about Boras and Harvey’s performance for the balance of the season. Previously: NR, NR, 36.
26. Colorado Rockies – Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, The Citadel – I named Wojciechowski as one of the players that just missed my last mock draft, and I don’t think he’ll miss another mock for the rest of the year. To go along with good physical size, Wojciechowski’s stuff has matured, as has his command, which was a big question entering the year. The Rockies have an affinity for college pitching, Tyler Matzek aside. Previously: NR, NR, NR.
27. Philadelphia Phillies – Chevez Clarke, OF, Marietta HS (GA) – The Phillies are going to pick a high school player, and that high school player is going to be athletic with a high ceiling, whether it be on the mound or in the field. Clarke fits into the Phillies’ mold rather well, as he has the potential to turn into a solid five tool player if his power matures as a few scouts have predicted it might. I’m not as high on his power as some, but the rest of his tools aren’t questioned, and he could be the best defender to come out of this class. Previously: NR, 28, 27.
28. Los Angeles Dodgers – Gary Brown, OF, Cal State Fullerton – Speaking of good defenders, Brown could turn out to be the best big leaguer in the entire draft class, depending on how much you value defense. A burner at the plate and in the field, Brown has steadily risen throughout the season, as he’s really matured at the plate and gotten a chance to show what he can do in center field. The Dodgers typically value athleticism and instincts, and Brown shows both. Previously: NR, 46, 46.
29. Los Angeles Angels – Justin O’Conner, SS/C, Cowan HS (IN) – Sadly for a number of scouts, the number of times they’ll be able to see O’Conner catch this spring is less than they expected. That means he’ll really have to show he can continue raking at the level that’s expected, as there will be more doubts about his catching ability than Wil Myers had a year ago. I expect the Angels are one of the teams interested in his catching ability, as they would love to find a long-term solution that is plus defensively. Previously: 32, 30, 23.
30. Los Angeles Angels – Sammy Solis, LHP, San Diego – The Angels once again have a huge number of picks in the early going this year, and they’re bound to go to the collegiate pitching class to fill in with signable arms. Solis offers significant upside from the left side, and if Tyler Kehrer and Pat Corbin taught us anything last year, it’s that the Angels value high-upside left-handed pitchers. Solis does need to show continued improvement and strength this year, but most view him as the better prospect between him and teammate Kyle Blair. Previously: NR, 37, 28.
31. Tampa Bay Rays – Justin Grimm, RHP, Georgia – This is another pick, like Texas’ at #15, that is hard to gauge, as the Rays could go for upside or signability. Grimm fits into both, depending on how they view his long-term potential. If a team can settle down his mechanics, Grimm could slot in as a mid-rotation pitcher in relatively short order, and if the Rays are looking for solid collegiate upside and signability after picking a more expensive pick first, then Grimm could be an option. Previously: NR, 41, 47.
32. New York Yankees – James Paxton, LHP, Grand Prairie AirHogs – The Yankees, as usual, are in a position to pick up the high-upside names with signability questions that fall to the end of the round. Paxton could end up being one of those names. He’s signed with the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs since my last mock, and with a little more certainty, he could be a late first round pick, though Scott Boras complicates things sometimes. Previously: 19, 25, 35.