Crystal ball: Projecting the first round
Signability issues could cause shuffling of Draft's first 32 picks
With fewer than 48 hours remaining before the start of the First-Year Player Draft, the first-round picture should be getting much clearer, right?
Not so much.
There seem to be more questions than answers atop Draft boards everywhere right now, making a projection challenging. Never to shy away from a challenge, below is the first crack at predicting all 32 picks of the first round.
Needless to say, it's a volatile list. With teams in meetings trying to line up things, variables like signability or injury risk can shake things up in a hurry.
The best example of this comes in the form of Donavan Tate. The outfielder from Georgia is generally considered to be the best high school position player prospect, a tremendous athlete. He's also a two-sport star with a commitment to North Carolina to play football and baseball. Couple that with advisor Scott Boras and placing him in the first round is difficult to do. It doesn't mean he won't go in the first round when all is said and done, but he's not there in this go-round.
For picks that have changed, last week's selections are included for comparison. The next update will come on Monday.
1. Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
Was, is and will continue to be the top guy.
2. Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina
There's not enough information to change this pick, though there was some buzz that the Mariners were backing off of him. If that's the case, Aaron Crow still seems like the best bet.
3. San Diego Padres: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
Still the same debate of college pitcher vs. high school athlete (Tate). There could be some discussion between Minor and Crow here, and it could go either way. But Minor remains the choice for now.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
The Pirates would love it if the Mariners and Padres passed on Ackley and he dropped to them, something that now sounds to be at least a remote possibility. The other choices are the same, with Grant Green potentially in the mix if they want a bat and Ackley's gone. Other college pitchers in the mix could be Alex White or Kyle Gibson, though that seems unlikely now, and there might be a high school pitcher or two who could sneak up here.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
No change here as of now, with pitching the name of the game. Jacob Turner and Wheeler are still in the high school mix. Green might be the bat who's still being discussed as well. Word was that Wheeler went to Baltimore for a meet up and there was talk that the O's and college pitcher Alex White's agent spoke about his signability. California high school right-hander Matt Hobgood was also reportedly planning to meet with the Orioles, but there isn't enough definitive information to go in that direction now.
6. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
There are still a number of possibilities here, but after Matzek's two-hit shutout in the playoffs on Tuesday, there was no real reason to make a switch.
7. Atlanta Braves: Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina
The Braves are more than likely to go with the "best arm available." They'd love it if hometown hero Wheeler or California standout Matzek were around, but in this scenario both are off the board. It looks like Shelby Miller is off the list now and the Braves may go the college route. White has been pitching with a bit of a hamstring issue and assuming the Braves are assured he's fine otherwise, he could be their guy.
Last week's projection: Miller
8. Cincinnati Reds: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State
An undersized right-hander is not typically the M.O. for the Reds, who would love for Matzek to still be available here. They'll also have a conversation about Tanner Scheppers, but here's thinking the concerns about his shoulder will make them pass. Turner fits Cincy's mold more and is a possibility, but signability might get in the way. That leaves Leake, who's done nothing but perform, perhaps well enough to get some teams that normally would pass to look at him.
Last week's projection: Scheppers
9. Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy, MO
Staying put with this pick as it's still a definite possibility. Two of the Draft's wild cards, Scheppers and Tate, could feasibly find a home here. For now, though, Turner remains the pick.
10. Washington Nationals: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford
I know what people will think, that this is purely a money-saving maneuver. I won't refute that completely as Storen should not be a tough sign. But he's also a guy who could get to the big leagues this season as a reliever and might have upside potential as a starter. Add in a makeup that is off the charts and it's easy to see why the Stanford closer has moved up and will land in the first round even if he doesn't go here. If Minor somehow slips here, he won't get past this spot.
Last week's projection: Chad Jenkins
11. Colorado Rockies: Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb
This is another place where Hobgood's name has been mentioned as a possibility and the Rockies would probably entertain any of the high school arms selected above should any of them fall to here. They could go best player, period, and roll the dice with Texas high school lefty Matt Purke and his supposed high price tag, but instead the thinking is they'll go with the hard-throwing Brothers, who could get to the big leagues quickly if and when he's shortened up into a relief role.
Last week's projection: Kyle Gibson
12. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Gibson, RHP, University of Missori
Normally, the Royals would probably be ecstatic for Gibson to be available here and not just because it'd be a "backyard" pick. But Gibson had two straight starts of dropped velocity, throwing a reported 82-87 mph in his regional win last weekend. He was quoted as saying that it was just some forearm tightness caused by the long season. The alarm bells you're hearing are that baseball folk will make a quick leap from "forearm tightness" to an elbow problem. If he can get the medical question answered, this is a good spot for him. If not, he could keep sliding. As a backup, there was word that North Carolina high schooler Wil Myers had impressed recently in a workout.
Last week's projection: Tony Sanchez
13. Oakland A's: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints
Speaking of medical questions, whether the one about Sheppers' shoulder can be answered will determine where the big right-hander goes. He's thrown very well this spring and to most who have seen him, he looks just fine. What team doctors say is a different story and Scheppers is planning on meeting with some teams individually for examinations. Some teams have already passed on him, but the A's are still studying it carefully. Stuff-wise, he belongs higher.
Last week's projection: White
14. Texas Rangers: Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS, Texas
Last week, it appeared like Miller might go above this spot, leaving the Rangers with the option of taking Purke and dealing with that potential signability issue. It's not that Purke is completely out of the question, but as mentioned last week, the Rangers have been on Miller all along.
Last week's projection: Purke
15. Cleveland Indians: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana University
Without one of the better high school arms making it down here, it's looking like the college-pitcher angle will play well here. The Indians were at Arnett's regional start en force and they liked how the big right-hander competed. He's a good athlete with great makeup who will sign quickly, something that works in his favor.
Last week's projection: Brothers
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame
If Leake, last week's pick, somehow gets this far, he'd likely go no further. But since that doesn't seem probable at this point, it's time to look elsewhere. There are some high school bats they could consider, like a Mike Trout, perhaps, but word on the proverbial street was that they might go for who they believe is the best polished bat on the board and that could be the Notre Dame outfielder.
Last week's projection: Leake
17. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot HS, Fla.
Borchering's a switch-hitter with pop and while he may eventually have to move to first base, he'll at least get the opportunity to stay at third. He's considered to be one of the best high school bats in the class.
18. Florida Marlins: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kenesaw State
Sticking with a college pitcher in this spot again. With Arnett, last week's pick, going a few slots higher, another big right-hander could make sense. Jenkins has been mentioned as high as No. 10, a bit as a safe sign, but also because he pitched himself into first-round consideration.
Last week's projection: Arnett
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Grant Green, SS, USC
Green remains one of the tougher guys to pinpoint, with his name still in the mix all over the board. He could go higher or he could slide until the end of the first round. For now, he stays put.
20. Toronto Blue Jays: Everett Williams, OF, McCallum HS, Texas
This might seem like quite a departure, especially compared to last week's choice, a college closer, but in recent years, the Jays have shown a willingness to draft toolsy high school outfielders early, taking Kenny Wilson and Eric Eiland in the second round each of the past two years. They still could go the college route and take catcher Tony Sanchez, but Williams gets raves from some regarding his hitting ability and overall set of skills.
Last week's projection: Storen
21. Houston Astros: Jared Mitchell, OF, Louisiana State University
There are varying opinions of Mitchell's upside as a hitter, but no one doubts his speed and athleticsm. A two-sport standout at LSU, there are plenty who believe his bat speed will turn into power and he'll develop into a center fielder with power who can steal bases once he's no longer playing football and can focus only on baseball.
22. Minnesota Twins: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco HS, Calif.
Hobgood's name has been tossed around much higher up and he does seem to be at or near the top of the unofficial "second tier" of high school arms right now. If Hobgood does go earlier, another high school pitcher like Garrett Gould could be in the mix. Offensively, the Twins wouldn't mind if Borchering were still available in this slot.
23. Chicago White Sox: Michael Trout, OF, Millville HS, NJ
The White Sox had great success with the college bat last year, but there won't be a Gordon Beckham at this slot. They've never been afraid of high school athletes and there are a few who could fit in here. Trout, who was coming on strong as his season in the Northeast extended a bit longer than some other high schoolers, could fit nicely.
24. Los Angeles Angels: Garrett Gould, RHP, Maize HS, Kansas
The temptation is to give the Angels high schoolers and to have them come from Southern California. In this edition, the high schoolers are there, but the Angels will tread outside of state lines, starting with Gould, a fast-rising right-hander from Kansas. He's got one of the best curves in the class and the Angels were in attendance for his dominant championship-winning start a while back.
25. Los Angeles Angels: Matthew Purke, LHP, Klein HS, Texas
Based on talent alone, Purke likely belongs in the top 10, or at least in that conversation. But talk of a very large bonus demand has caused a slide, and who knows, maybe that was the point. The Angels have not been afraid of "tough signs" over the years and they might be willing to take the chance here. If they were to stay in SoCal, someone like shortstop Jiovanni Mier could come into play.
26. Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Davidson, 3B, Yucaipa HS, Calif.
This will be Bruce Seid's first Draft as scouting director, so it's difficult to know which direction he'll go in. If one of the high school pitchers gets down here, that could be the way to go, though some believe the Brewers will want to take less of a risk the first time around. Davidson, a high school bat with some definite power potential, would provide a happy medium.
27. Seattle Mariners: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
It's quite possible that the Mariners will try to split their two first-rounders, so if they go hitter at No. 2, this could be a spot to take a pitcher. They also have multiple picks, so they can always make up for that if need be. There will be some high school catchers available here and in some of those other picks, but if the best college catcher in the class is available, he could come off the board right here.
28. Boston Red Sox: Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS, Calif.
There's always an inclination to place the signability sliders with the Red Sox and there's no doubt they'll take the best player on the board at the time, regardless of that issue. For that reason, names like Tate, Purke and Green will be mentioned here. Stassi is possibly the best of the deep high school catching class and there were rumors that he was floating top-of-the-first round bonus figures to teams. The Red Sox certainly wouldn't flinch.
29. New York Yankees: Brett Jackson, OF, Cal-Berkeley
Often, the Yankees get lumped in as that end-of-round haven for the tough signs, but here's the thing. They didn't sign their pick last year -- that's why they have a first-rounder this year -- and if they don't sign the pick this year, they won't get compensation. That's not saying they'll go safe, but it's something to think about. Jackson's got some very intriguing tools in a slightly more advanced package than you'd get from the high school set.
30. Tampa Bay Rays: Jiovanni Mier, SS, Bonita HS, Calif.
Now this is a different vantage point, isn't it? The Rays may not know what to do with themselves having to wait until pick No. 30. But it's a problem they'd love to have. They've always been a best-available kind of team and will certainly see how things go by the time they get to make a selection. They could have interest in a guy like Mitchell if he sticks around, as well as some of the better high school bats. Mier is one of the few who actually will be able to stay at short, something that's always in high demand.
31. Chicago Cubs: Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento State
Trying to figure out Tim Wilken's drafts might be an exercise in futility because there's no telling which way he might go. They have taken a college bat with one of their first two picks in each of the past three Drafts, for whatever that's worth. Wheeler could go higher if teams decide to go the college-hitter route, as he's shown an ability to make consistent contact, run well and hit with a little more power this year than he had in the past.
32. Colorado Rockies: Slade Heathcott, OF, McCallum HS, Texas
Heathcott has tools aplenty, with an ability to hit for average and power, speed that plays on both sides of the ball and a plus arm. He's an intense competitor on the field -- perhaps the football mentality showing. Much has been made of a rough family life for Heathcott, but that shouldn't necessarily reflect poorly on him.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.