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2012 MLB Mock Draft

The 2012 MLB Draft takes place on Jun. 4, 2012. The MLB Draft is becoming more vital for teams with low budget payrolls.  The San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals are two perfect examples of ball clubs building through the draft.

Stanford pitcher Mark Appel only surrendered two home runs in 2011. Appel even managed to win a start against UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer.  Bauer has made tremendous progress in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system. In many ways, Appel is the Andrew Luck of the MLB Draft, with his command at the plate. Appel has the velocity and the accuracy to give batters difficulty when pitching in the strike zone. In my mind, Appel is the best pitching prospect to enter the draft since Stephen Strasburg.

1. Houston Astros Pitcher Mark Appel – Appel was utilized as a relief pitcher as a freshman in 2010. Appel had an abysmal 5.92 ERA in 2010 as Stanford’s closer.

In 2011, Appel went 6-7 with a 3.02 ERA in his first year as Stanford’s number one starter in the Cardinal rotation; he had to transition, in terms of adjusting from a reliever to a starter. Appel recorded 86 strikeouts to wrap up the 2011 season. He has already nearly matched that feat with 85 strikeouts through eight starts in 2012.

Appel’s significant improvement in his ERA from 5.92 to 3.02 rivals Luck’s improvement in his completion percentage from 56.3 to 70.7.

You also have to consider that Appel posted a 1-3 record against pitchers drafted in the top 100 of the 2011 MLB Draft.  The one win came against Bauer, who looks like he could get his shot in the major leagues this season.

In 2011, Appel was listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. Appel now weighs in at 215 pounds, having added the extra bulk that is necessary for a big league pitcher. In 2012, Appel has posted a 8-1 record in 94 innings pitched. Appel’s 2.68 ERA in 2012 is a major improvement.

Appel has a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cutter fastball, a slider and a change-up that can give batters fits. Appel may appear to have only three plus pitches, but he has five plus pitches that he can use to strike batters out.

Some MLB scouts will make the argument that high school batter Byron Buxton is hands down the top prospect in the 2012 draft due to his play at the MLB showcases, along with the emergence of Bryce Harper in the big leagues.

I disagree about Buxton being the top prospect, because Appel continues to dominate at the college level. You simply do not know what you are getting with Buxton. Appel is one of the safest prospects in quite some time, and he can become a cornerstone franchise player for your team’s ball club. If there is one thing the Astros need, it’s a franchise player.

The Astros are in rebuilding mode, and will soon relocate to the AL West. It’s vital that the number one pick in 2012 is up in the majors by the time the Astros relocate in 2013. By the end of the 2013 MLB season, Appel should be the ace of the Astros’ starting rotation.

2. Minnesota Twins Outfielder Byron Buxton, Appling County High School, Ga. –  The Twins have a top two pick in the MLB draft.  They will likely take either Appel or Buxton at two, depending on who is available at that time.  I have been sold on the Stanford pitching phenom for months leading up to June’s 2012 draft. Buxton does display tremendous five-tool ability, but Appel offers more as a complete pitcher, which is why he got the landslide edge over Buxton.

Buxton’s production at the showcase games has caused him to propel up MLB Draft boards.  The Buxton bandwagon is nearly full, as MLB scouts have hopped on after watching him dominate the East Coast Showcase.

Before the MLB Showcases, Nick Williams was considered the top outfielder in the 2012 MLB Draft. Perception says Buxton is the top prospect in the 2012 draft, due to the upside. The reality is, Buxton is competing with Mike Zunino to be the second pick; plus, Buxton could be a boom or bust prospect in more ways than one.  Below is a description of things Buxton can do:

Buxton can hit 10+ home runs for the team that drafts him. He is not a 30 home run batter, however, he does have the ability to hit a home run now and then, obtaining double digit home runs on the season.

Buxton is a speedy base runner who can get singles just by running to first base on a grounder. He is also capable of stealing 20 bases with his speed. If you commit errors, Buxton can get a single just by bunting or a double off a grounder — depending on the error your team commits.

Buxton can also use his speed in the outfield as a defender. He displays the versatility to play anywhere in the outfield.

Buxton is like a golfer when swinging line drives at the plate; the only way to stop him from getting on base with his line drive is to strike him out or set up pop up flies for your outfielders.

Buxton has a nice frame at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. If he adds weight, there will be some upside with his ability.

Buxton will drive in between 50 and 94 RBIs, depending on how many games he plays in the MLB. He is capable of producing a .300 batting average.

Buxton has exception fielding skills and his defensive ability will be an asset to any team that drafts him. He also has power and physical ability when making contact with the ball; plus he can even use that power to add more pop when it comes to executing line drives.

There are so many things to like about Buxton, but how fast will he progress through the minors? That seems to be the biggest question. He may have just as much upside possibly, even more so than Appel. My biggest problem is that he may not even be the best batter in this year’s draft.

If Twins fans want a new catcher to eventually replace Joe Mauer, then Florida Gators catcher Zunino could be a wild card option to consider. Die hard Twins fans who do not view Mauer as a long term answer in Minnesota will be outraged if the Twins pass on Zunino and Buxton ends up becoming an MLB bust. As crazy as this sounds, I could very easily see that outcome occurring in the great state of Minnesota.

One other notable name is Lucas Giolito, the pitcher from Harvard Westlake High School. Giolito posted an ERA of 1.00 as a junior in high school in 2011, before a sprained ulnar collateral ligament kept him out as a senior in 2012. Giolito looked like the best overall prospect after Appel, prior to his injury.

I highly doubt Giolito goes second now. At the same time, I have a hard time believing the Twins have completely counted him out of the picture as a potential candidate.

At the end of the day, I believe Buxton or Appel will provide too much value for the Twins to pass on. With Appel gone, Minnesota selects Buxton second overall.

The Twins’ scouting department generally taking high school players over college prospects could be another de facto that has kept the Twins’ franchise from contention. The fact that the Twins have an MLB worst 5.37 ERA so far in 2012 would likely cause the Twins to take Appel, should he slip to the second pick.

Buxton should be up on the Twins’ main roster by the start of the 2014 season. I think he will need at least the end of the 2012 season in AA to adjust to the minors, plus a full season in the minor leagues before being called up to the big leagues.

3. Seattle Mariners Catcher Mike Zunino, Fl. – The Mariners could use a new catcher, and Zunino has probably been mentioned in the same sentence as current Twins catcher, Joe Mauer. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is probably a more accurate player to compare Zunino to.

The Florida Gators catcher weighs in at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds.  a sophomore in 2011, Zunino was named SEC player of the year in college baseball.

In 2010, Zunino was a member of Baseball America’s All-American Freshman Team. He made the all-SEC freshman team as well.

Zunino statistically dominated  for the Gators in 2011. He posted a batting average of .371, hit 19 home runs, obtained 23 doubles, recorded 98 hits, generated 75 runs and helped the Gators score 67 RBIs. Zunino was also seven for nine on stolen base attempts in 2011.

Zunino’s contributions in 2011 helped the Gators make the championship game of the 2011 College World Series. Florida lost to defending World Series Champion South Carolina.

At this point in 2012, Zunino has played in 48 games for the Gators. In 183 at bats Zunino has posted a .328 batting average, 37 runs, 60 hits, 21 doubles, 12 home runs, 45 RBIs, seven stolen bases, a .384 on base percentage and a .639 slugging percentage.

I would draft Zunino second overall if I were an MLB General Manager; I believe he is a safer pick, and a better overall player than Buxton. At the end of the day, Buxton’s hype, plus Mauer’s contract, will allow the Mariners to land the top batter in the 2012 MLB Draft with the third pick.

4. Baltimore Orioles Pitcher Lucas Giolito, Harvard Westlake High School, Ca. – This may be a little too high for Giolito in the eyes of some MLB Scouts. Giolito went 9-1 in 2011, with an ERA of 1.00 as a high school junior.

Giolito managed to strike out Trey Williams, who was once a top 10 prospect for the 2012 MLB draft. He throws a 95 mile per hour four-seamer, and a 92 mile per hour two-seamer. Giolito’s deadly curve ball is a knockout pitch that he can use on strike two to add Ks to the scoreboard by striking out batters.

Like Appel, Giolito has the pinpoint accuracy and velocity to strike out batters. Giolito weighs 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds.

I realize Giolito’s injury has left scouts with the wrong impression. Giolito is the most complete overall pitcher in this draft, outside of Appel. He provides the frame and low effort arm that you want in your starting pitcher.

Giolito has the potential to develop into the Orioles’ number one starter down the road. Giolito and Dylan Bundy could be a solid one, two punch rotation down the road in Baltimore.

Giolito would probably start out in AA for 2012. He would spend a full season in AAA in 2013, before being called up to the Orioles in 2014, along with Bundy.

5. Kansas City Royals Shortstop Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy – Correa may be a project; he has the versatility to play anywhere in the infield, even though shortstop is his best position. The same thing could be said about Christian Colon, the Royals’ 2010 first round pick, who is currently in AA.

Correa will likely spend 2012 in A, however I think he could make the jump to AA in 2013, with a possible promotion to AAA by midseason.

In 2014, the Royals could have The “A Team” of MLB infielders with Mike Moustakas at third base, Correa at short stop, Colon at second base, and Eric Hosmer at first base. After the top five picks, every other draft prospect will likely stay in the minor leagues for seasoning until 2015.

6. Chicago Cubs Pitcher Kevin Gausman, LSU – Theo Epstein ended his tenure with the Boston Red Sox on a very high note in the 2011 MLB Draft, as he had four draft picks in the top 40 of the 2011 MLB Draft. Epstein is now the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs.

The Red Sox opened shop by selecting Matt Barnes 19th overall. Barnes was a top 10 prospect that slipped to Boston, due to depth at pitcher in 2011. Boston added catcher Blake Swihart with the 26th pick, hoping to add a successor at catcher for Jason Varitek. Epstein snagged left-handed pitcher Henry Owens with his third of four top 40 draft choices. With the 40th selection, the Red Sox may have gotten another steal with former College World Series MVP Jackie Bradley. Bradley led South Carolina to a 2010 World Series win over UCLA, before injuries limited his ability in 2011.

Cubs fans expect Epstein to continue having awesome drafts for the Cubs, after dominating on draft day as the Red Sox general manager in previous seasons. Rant Sports has a loyal allegiance of Cubs fans that will hold Mr. Epstein to a golden standard in the windy city of Chicago.

Gausman has very deceptive pitches. His change-up appears as a splitter. Gausman’s high 3/4 arm slot technique adds to his pitches. Gausman has a deadly cutter fastball with good lower delivery at the plate. LSU’s ace Gausman also specializes in a hard 12-6 curve ball or a 1-7 slider; he can make the most difficult pitches look relatively easy.

LSU has clinched the SEC West. Gausman’s 7-1 record in 2012 is a huge improvement from a 5-6 record in 2011.

Epstein may view Gausman as 2012′s version of Matt Barnes. Gausman is a project pitcher with the upside to become the Cubbies’ ace down the road, after some seasoning in the minors.

7. San Diego Padres Shortstop Devin Marrero, Arizona State – Marrero has the defensive skill set at shortstop that MLB scouts will covet. From a defensive aspect, Marrero reminds me of a young Derek Jeter in many ways. Along with a very consistent batting average, Marrero has the speed and gunslinger arm to create single or double plays when presented with defensive opportunities to end innings.

After Buxton, Zunino, Carrea and Marrero there is a significant drop-off in batters. While there are other quality batters, these four batters are the cream of the crop in the 2012 MLB Draft.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates Third Baseman Trey Williams, Valencia High School Ca. – The Pirates have a tough decision to make: reach for a batter that could be a second-round talent, or stockpile their roster with more pitching prospects.

Considering the fact that the Pirates have one of the leagues’ better ERAs, along with 13 of their top 20 farm prospects being pitchers, you have to believe obtaining a batter is the bigger priority in Pittsburgh.

Andrew McCutchen is the only current player on the Pirates’ roster with a batting average above .300. The Pirates need more batters in their system.  Josh Bell, 2011 second-round pick, and 2011 third-round pick Alex Dickerson could help out. The problem is that both prospects will be up in 2015, at the very earliest.

Trey Williams is the son of Eddie Williams, who was a part of the 1997 Pirates roster. Williams has the versatility to play anywhere in the infield or the outfield, just like his father. He seems like a player that the Pirates could be really high on come June.

In 2010-2011, Williams had a batting average of .345, a .446 on base percentage, and a .762 slugging percentage. So far in 2011-2012, Williams has a .381 batting average, a .581 on base percentage, and a .714 slugging percentage.

Williams has been consistent at the high school level. The Pirates can use this pick to develop Williams in their farm system. If Pedro Alvarez does not blossom in the next two seasons, then the Pirates can summon Williams to be his eventual replacement at third base, or they can plug him into a shortstop role.

9. Miami Marlins Pitcher Kyle Zimmer, San Francisco – Zimmer helped the San Francisco Dons achieve a critical win over the UCLA Bruins in a regional game in 2011. The Marlins may add one more arm to their farm system.

Zimmer posted a 3.73 ERA while pitching 91.4 total innings, and he would also lead the Dons with six wins in 2011. So far in 2012, Zimmer is 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA and has a mind-boggling 96 strikeouts. Zimmer has the tools to develop into a starter for the Marlins; he is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds.

10. Colorado Rockies Pitcher Max Fried, Harvard Westlake High School Ca. – Like Giolito, Fried attended Harvard Westlake High School. In 2011, the UCLA Bruins had two top 10 pitchers in Cole and Bauer. This season, Westlake has the chance to duplicate what the Bruins did, with two high school arms.

Giolito suffered a season-ending injury as a senior. Fried was the number two starter in Westlake’s rotation prior to this season; let’s not forget that Bauer was once a number two starter behind Cole for the Bruins. History could repeat itself once again with the teams second-starter in the rotation having more success in the MLB.

The Rockies are really high on Fried, and there is even an outside chance that Fried could get selected before Giolito.

11. Oakland Athletics Outfielder David Dahl, Oak Mountain High School Al. – The Athletics have a good starting rotation, but they need more batters to produce runs. Dahl is drawing comparisons to Johnny Damon. When I watch Dahl’s tape, I see the same power with him that I saw with Damon from his Red Sox days. Here is a summary of things Dahl can do:

Dahl can develop into a 15 to 20 home run hitter; he has great power with his swings that allows the ball to drive extra distances.

Dahl can use his speed on offense to steal bases. On defense, he can use his agility to showcase versatility in the outfield.

Dahl has the arm necessary to help the infield generate outs when runners attempt to steal extra bases.

A very good baseball IQ will help Dahl excel through the minor league ranks. I really believe he is one of the more underrated prospects in the 2012 MLB Draft, due to his skill set as a batter and a fielder on defense.

In a few years, Dahl, Michael Choice and Josh Reddick could be anchoring Oakland’s outfield. The Athletics may have one of the MLB’s better outfielding units in a few seasons.

12. New York Mets Pitcher Matthew Smoral, Solon High School, Oh. – The Mets have reached for players in the past. I like Michael Wacha better than any other pitchers on the board, but at the end of the day, I strongly believe that the Mets will prefer Smoral because of his physical tools on the mound.

Smoral currently weighs in at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. The consensus has Smoral going 12th overall to the Mets; he would be a bit of a reach at this spot. Some believe Smoral has Randy Johnson like physical makeup, but I have a hard time buying that at this point.

13. Chicago White Sox Pitcher Michael Wacha, Texas A&M – Wacha may just be the steal of the 2012 MLB Draft. He has the size, consistent ERA, and pitches to be the White Sox next ace.

As a freshman in 2010, Wacha made 25 appearances for the Texas A&M Aggies, with 10 starts. He initially weighed in around 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. Wacha had a breakout freshman campaign for the Aggies; He posted a 9-2 record, a 2.90 ERA, 97 strikeouts, and pitched 105.2 innings.

Wacha added 10 pounds in order to bulk up to 200 pounds for the 2011 season. He led the Aggies with 129.2 innings pitched and 123 strikeouts. His ERA decreased from 2.90 to 2.29 in 2011.

In 2012, Wacha added 20 pounds, bulking him up to 220 pounds. He is currently undefeated with an 8-0 on the season. Wacha has posted an incredible 2.14 ERA in 13 starts for the Aggies. His 95 strikeouts and 16 walks on the season nearly equates to a 6/1 strikeout/walks ratio. Wacha has only surrendered two home runs so far in 2012 and his 92.3 innings pitched as a junior are certainly worth pointing out.

With Ozzie Guillen gone, the White Sox’s new regime may want to draft one more arm to groom for the future, and Wacha is clearly the top prospect on the board.

14. Cincinnati Reds Outfielder Albert Almora, Mater Academy Fl. – Almora is the best player on the board at this point. I strongly believe that he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft. When I watched the tape I saw a lack of power with Almora’s hits.

Everyone talks about his leadership, but I have not seen it. Every MLB Draft site has Almora graded higher than Dahl. The Reds have to take the 6-foot-2, 170 pound outfielder; by doing this, they will address a huge need in the outfield.

15. Cleveland Indians Third Baseman Stephen Piscotty, Stanford – Besides shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians have no other batters batting above .300 on their active 40-man roster. Stanford Cardinal third-baseman Piscotty has been one of the most consistent batters for the Cardinals.

In 2010, Piscotty played 56 games, posted a .326 batting average, 45 runs, 74 hits, 17 doubles, four home runs, 36 RBIs, and a .454 slugging percentage.

In 2011, Piscotty played 57 games, posted a .364 batting average, 35 runs, 82 hits, 13 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 40 RBIs, and a .471 slugging percentage.

So far in 2012, Piscotty has played 47 games.  In those 47 contests, he posted a .344 batting average, 36 runs, 66 hits, 11 doubles, three triples, five home runs, 51 RBIs, and a .510 slugging percentage.

The 6-foot-3, 215 pound third baseman is 10 for 14 when attempting to steal bases.  The bottom line is that Piscotty is a project third baseman with the upside to develop into an Evan Longoria type of third baseman.

16. Washington Nationals Shosrtstop Gavin Cecchini, Barbe High School La. – The Nationals have one of the league’s best starting rotations, and they are set at most skill positions; however, one area they can afford to upgrade is at shortstop.

Cecchini is the best batter on the board at this point. After Cecchini, most of the batters are first to second-round talents. It’s vital for the Nationals to add one more batter to their system.

17. Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher Marcus Stroman, Duke – Stroman has been used in the Duke Blue Devils’ rotation as a starter.  Stroman can be used as a relief pitcher, as well. His 5-foot-9 185 pound size is the biggest reason why Stroman falls to this pick rather than being a top 10 pick.

Stroman would make an excellent relief pitcher because he can be used as a long reliever, a middle reliever, a set-up pitcher or a closer. You can take a pitcher with Stroman’s skill set and plug him anywhere in your bullpen.

The Blue Jays have one of the league’s worst bullpens, and Stroman could fix that over time.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma State – New team owners like bringing in new pitchers to groom. This means that the Dodgers will add a new pitcher at some point for the Magic Johnson regime.

The Dodgers do have one of the league’s best rotations, but it would not hurt to add one more arm. Heaney is sort of under-sized, at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, but he can bulk up in the minors for a few seasons before the Dodgers call him up to the big leagues.

19. St. Louis Cardinals from Los Angeles Angels Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, Carroll High School, Tx. – Thanks to the Angels signing Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have two first round picks. They have five batters batting .500 and a great rotation. Not to mention, Chris Carpenter will be back in August.

The Cardinals have the luxury of going best player available, and at this point, that player is Hawkins.

20. San Francisco Giants Third Baseman Richie Shaffer, Clemson – Shaffer has the versatility to play third baseman or first baseman. He is a power hitter who has a batting average of above .300, and has the ability to become a 25+ home run hitter with his upside.

In 2012, Shaffer was named co-captain of the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers should continue to remain competitive with Shaffer’s presence.

The Giants’ infield has suffered major injuries in 2012, and adding Shaffer to the Giants’ farm system would be one way to fix this.

21. Atlanta Braves Third Baseman Addison Russell, Pace High School Fl. – Russell has the versatility to play third base or shortstop. The Braves need to find a successor to Chipper Jones; Russell could be the Braves’ new third baseman.

22. Toronto Blue Jays (Compensation Pick) Outfielder Nick Williams, Galveston Ball High School, Tx. – Williams is a boom or bust prospect that reminds me of Pujols with his home run hitting ability. The Blue Jays may take a flyer on a player like that late in round one.

23. St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit High School Fl. – The Cardinals could add an additional arm here, and McCullers Jr. is one of the top arms available. There was a time where McCullers Jr. was considered the top prospect in the 2012 MLB Draft.

His 6-foot-1 and 190 pound size is the biggest knock on his game. Worst case scenario, McCullers Jr. develops into a closer; best case scenario, McCuller’s Jr. develops into a solid starter.

24. The Boston Red Sox Pitcher Zach Eflin, Hagerty High School, Fl. – The Red Sox need more pitchers in their farm system, and they will add a pitcher to the teams farm system with new management coming  in. The Red Sox rank 28th out of 30 teams in ERA, with only the Rockies and Twins ranking lower in team ERA.

25. Tampa Bay Rays Catcher Stryker Trahan, Acadiana High School, La. – Trahan is a 6-foot-1 215 pound high school catcher, and the Rays need to add a catcher to their system.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks First Baseman Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman High School, Nv. – Gallo has the power hitting ability to execute home runs and line drives. The main question is, “Will he perform these actions on a consistent basis?” The Diamondbacks have tons of pitchers in their farm system, so they can take a flyer on Gallo late in round one.

27. Milwaukee Brewers from Detroit Tigers Outfielder Victor Roache, Georgia Southern – Roache is a 6-foot-1 225 pound outfielder who could have been a top 10 pick.  Unfortunately for Roache, he broke his wrist.  Now a team will have to look past Roache’s durability concerns, if they want to take him in round one. The Brewers need a replacement for Prince Fielder, so they could end up selecting Roache at 27 overall.

28. Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Chris Beck, Georgia Southern – The Brewers add Roache’s Georgia Southern teammate with this pick. Beck is a 6-foot-3 220 pound pitcher. The Brewers’ farm system has a lot of premium pitching prospects, and adding Beck gives their farm system one more arm.

29. Texas Rangers Pitcher Brian Johnson, Fl. – Johnson is one of the most physically gifted college pitchers. He has a gunslinger for an arm and great size, at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.

The biggest question with Johnson is the durability factor; he is perceived as injury prone in the eyes of some MLB scouts, despite having four different plus pitches. In an SEC Tournament game against Georgia last season, Johnson was knocked unconscious during the game. Nobody should ever have to be carted off the pitcher’s mound the way Johnson was.

The Rangers are practically set with their batters and pitchers, and  have one of the league’s best farm systems when it comes to developing future MLB players.

30. New York Yankees Pitcher Hunter Virant, Camarillo High School, Ca. – The Yankees need to add a pitcher to their farm system. C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees’ number one starter in the rotation, has a 3.77 ERA. The rest of the starters in the Yankees’ rotation have a minimum ERA of 4.50. Pitching has to be added to the Yankees’ farm system.

31. Boston Red Sox from Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Lucas Simms, Brookwood High School, Ga. – The Red Sox’ rotation speaks for itself; that’s why I gave them two pitchers in this 2012 MLB Mock Draft. The Red Sox got this pick from the Phillies because the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon.

Simms has an outside shot of going in the top 20 overall. If he slides to the Red Sox at 31, they will double up on pitchers in the 2012 MLB Draft.