David Price has plenty of reason to smile, and will soon have millions more as the expected No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft.
Believe it or not, baseball — never confused as a sport on the cutting edge — will finally enter the 20th century next month. That’s right, fans: we’ll actually get to see the Major League First-Year Player Draft ‘ on television! The sport, apparently, has come to realize that this whole TV thing isn’t some fad that will fade away in time. After 75+ years, television has proved it’s a medium worth exploring more, so watch for first round coverage on ESPN’.2 (well, it’s a start, anyways).
So to prepare you for the June 7-8 draft, we’ve prepared this handy primer to help you familiarize yourself with some of the names you’ll soon be hearing much more about. This is not a mock draft, per se, but rather a list of players we expect to make a splash next month.
- David Price, a 6’6′ lefty currently with Vanderbilt, is the consensus top selection in this draft, a pick owned by Tampa Bay. This kid can light up the radar gun to the tune of 98 mph. The Rays claim they haven’t decided yet, but if they don’t take Price, they deserve to remain a second-tier team for a long time coming. Price has improved each year he’s been a Commodore, going 9-0 so far this season. This is one talented dude.
- Max Scherzer, taken 11th overall by Arizona last year, has yet to sign. With Scott Boras as his agent, negotiations could go right down to the wire, and if he isn’t signed by May 31, he wouldn’t be the first Boras client to roll the dice on going back into the draft. The former Mizzou Tiger is a 6’2′ righty that can bring the heat in the high 90s. He’s currently pitching for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association. Arm troubles last spring didn’t seem to hurt his draft status too much, and with him proving he’s healthy pitching in Indy ball, either Arizona’s going to have to pony up, or some other team is going to get a very quality young arm.
- Rick Porcello is another arm that will definitely go in the top five. He heads up what is considered an incredibly strong high school class. The 6’5′ righty, currently starring with a New Jersey high school, has the stuff to be a Tom Seaver-type, based on some reports. Kansas City, picking second, may opt to grab him to join Luke Hochevar as the nucleus of its future rotation. Porcello looked like a mid-first rounder in the fall, but he’s raised his draft stock considerably this season with dominating performance after performance, most recently throwing a seven-inning perfect game on Saturday. He’s reached 97 mph with his fastball.
- The top catching prospect in this draft is Georgia Tech’s Matt Wieters. He’s a big (6’5′) switch-hitter who makes great contact, has good power and is expected to be a top notch defender. Hmmm’does that sound anything like another former Yellow Jacket backstop who happens to the current captain of the Boston Red Sox? Wieters will be top five pick, possibly going third overall to the Cubs, where he’d become the heir apparent to Michael Barrett. If for some reason he can’t remain at catcher (there are plenty of questions about that), he has enough bat to make it as a first baseman. Wieters possesses the best hitting ability in the collegiate ranks in this draft, and there’s a chance KC will grab him a two if they don’t take Porcello. He could also slide to four, where the Pirates would scoop him up. Some scouts have claimed that Wieters is the best catching prospect they’ve seen since Joe Mauer.
- John Vitters, a California high schooler, is the top third base prospect in the country and the best high school bat in the draft. The Pirates are very likely to seek offense, so if Wieters is gone, look for them to grab Vitters at four. He has some serious power potential, and could finally help ease the sting of losing Aramis Ramirez a few years back. Of course, there’s a chance Vitters could go as high as two, but with KC already owning Alex Gordon, I’d expect to see Vitters slide a spot or two. His power is starting to return after a lengthy case of pneumonia sapped much of his strength.
- Andrew Brackman, a behemoth at 6’11’, was considered the best pitching prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer. The NC State righty had divided his attentions between the diamond and the hoops court until this past year, so he’s much more attractive to teams now that he’s focused solely on baseball. Some have suggested his ranking has slid in this draft, but he has the stuff ‘ including a 99 mph fastball — to be a top five pick. He certainly won’t make it past the top 10.
- Another Georgia product worth tracking is Josh Smoker. The 6’2′ lefty is one of the better southpaws available in this draft and was selected to play in last year’s Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic. He’s polished for a high schooler, thanks in no small part to his participation in the renowned East Cobb baseball program. As a sophomore, this kid went 12-0 with an ERA of ‘ are you ready for this? ‘ 0.09. Smoker can reach 91 mph on the gun. Keep an eye on the Braves, drafting 14th, because they have a long-standing penchant for selecting local high school pitching talent. They’ve strayed slightly from that traditional in recent years, but Smoker, with the tremendous movement he gets on his pitches, may be too tempting to pass up.
- The top Canadian prospect in the draft is righty Phillippe Aumont, and — amazingly — Baltimore could be interested in taking yet another Canuck hurler (to go along with Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen). Charm City seems to like the Great White North, apparently. Perhaps I should have worn a big maple leaf on my last trip to Baltimore, as I feared for my life after dark. But I digress. Aumont is a 6’7′ high schooler from Gatineau, Quebec who has reached 93 to 94 mph. He ranks at or near the top 10 on most major scouting lists and impressed scouts with his recent performances against a pair of extended spring training teams in Florida.
Other names to keep front and centre:
- Ross Detwiler, LHP ‘ One of the best southpaws in the draft.
- Sean Doolittle, LHP/1B ‘ ACC Player of the Year last year.
- Kyle Lotzkar, RHP ‘ Another Canadian arm, this B.C. native hit 95 mph at a MLB camp.
- Matt Harvey, RHP ‘ His command is looking better as the draft nears and with his mid-90s stuff, he could be a top 10 pick.
- Mike Moustakas, 3B/C ‘ He’s gaining traction after breaking the California HS career mark with his 48th homer.
- Michael Burgess, OF ‘ Has a nice power bat.
- Nick Schmidt, LHP ‘ Power lefty with effective curve is a nice combo.
- Daniel Moskos, LHP ‘ Could be a starter or have a future as a closer.