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2011 MLB Draft Preview: My Picks, Predictions

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The day is here, by golly the day is here!! After reading dozens of mock drafts, perusing scouting report after scouting report, and putting on my scouting director hat for a while (it sure was comfy!!), I feel adequately prepared to toss out what I think the 2011 draft's first round should look like.

Now, to be clear about things, this isn't about who I actually think each team will pick, although in some instances that may be the case. Rather, this is about who I personally think each team should pick, factoring in their actual draft tendencies and fiscal situations. The rumors may be touting that one guy is expected to go to one city, but that's not what we're looking at here. This is all me, and I hope you guys enjoy it.

Along with each pick, I'll toss out a potential long-term projection as well as a possible ETA. Hopefully I can get everyone as excited about the draft as I am. I should be around the Internets later today to discuss the draft live as it happens (I'll be watching on MLB Network), so stick around later if you guys have any questions or comments.

No. 1: Pirates select RHP Gerrit Cole (UCLA)

You could make legitimate arguments for all of the top-six guys (Cole, Bauer, Bundy, Rendon, Starling, Hultzen), but in the end I think that Cole is the right call for the Pirates. Rendon would probably be my second choice, but Cole's combination of size, stuff and projectability are too impressive to pass up in the end. Even with the command issues, he shows three pitches that could eventually be plus in his fastball, slider and change; his stuff is MLB-ready, so once the command and poise catch up, he has the looks of a legitimate No. 1 starter. Obviously how quickly he rises through the system depends on how he adjusts to pro ball and develops his command, but he could be in Pittsburgh by late 2012 if things go right.

No. 2: Mariners select 3B Anthony Rendon (Rice)

The Mariners appear to favor taking a bat here, as they're apparently still looking at Kansas prep outfielder Bubba Starling and Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor, and Rendon is clearly the best of the bunch. The shoulder issues have hampered his power production and left questions about his long-term durability, but he's still flashed impressive hitting ability and projects as a plus defender at third base. He could move quickly assuming that the shoulder injury is the thing of the past, and join Seattle sometime in late 2012 if things go right. You have to imagine that a possible 2013/2014 infield of Rendon, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin is getting some Mariners fans very excited.

No. 3: Diamondbacks select RHP Trevor Bauer (UCLA)

Bauer's stock has been gaining momentum for weeks now, and at this point I feel confident that he's a legitimate top-3 selection in this draft class. Some teams might be scared away by his unusual workout routine, massive pitch counts and long-tossing practices, but those concerns have little to no basis, and so far there's been nothing to make one think that these exercises are going to hurt the UCLA ace long-term. He may be unorthodox, but I've heard enough superlatives about his pitching skills and knowledge of the game to believe that he'll be able to adjust to professional hitters and thrive at the game's highest level. He may not be able to match Cole's ultimate upside, but Bauer has legitimate top-of-the-rotation potential, and should be able to reach the majors by 2013.

No. 4: Orioles select RHP Dylan Bundy (Oklahoma high school)

The word right now is that fellow Oklahoma prep pitcher Archie Bradley is gaining momentum in this spot, but I see Bundy as the superior prospect and you generally want to take the best player available at all times when it comes to the MLB draft. Bundy isn't like most high school pitchers in that he's extremely polished and should be able to move through the farm system fairly quickly. You could probably make legitimate arguments that Bundy is the top prospect in the draft, and I think that Baltimore would be quite happy to come away from this with Bundy in hand. He could be in Baltimore by 2013, joining a ridiculously good rotation that already features Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta.

No. 5: Royals select LHP Danny Hultzen (Virginia)

The Royals apparently want a pitcher that can move quickly through the system, and UVA's Friday night starter certainly fits the bill. Most mocks have the Royals getting Cole or Bundy if one of them drops, but in this scenario we've already seen Cole, Bundy and Bauer get taken. So the Royals opt to go with the top college pitcher left on the board in Hultzen, who provides plus stuff from the left side and the kind of command that should enable him to rise through the minors fairly quickly. An appearance in late 2012 isn't out of the question, and he could be a cog in KC's rotation by 2013.

No. 6: Nationals select OF Bubba Starling (Kansas high school)

The idea of Starling to Washington at 6 keeps getting more popular, and in the end I think that it would be a great investment by that club. With Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper already in hand, Starling would give Washington three of the game's most precious young talents all possibly playing for the same club. The biggest drawbacks with Starling are his proximity from the majors and a presumably large price tag (he's got a dual-sport scholarship to Nebraska to play QB), but he probably has more upside than any player in this draft. An arrival before 2015 is pretty unlikely, but an outfield that includes both Starling and Harper could be really special.

No. 7: Diamondbacks select SS Francisco Lindor (Florida high school)

Lindor is a hard guy to grasp sometimes because the evaluations of his bat tend to go all over the place, but praise of his glove has been pretty consistent all spring. He's essentially a lock to stick at shortstop and he has the tools to be a an above-average defender there, so there's obviously some star potential if the bat develops. This pick isn't protected so the Diamondbacks are going to have to feel pretty confident about signing Lindor, which might send them in a different direction, but I think that landing Bauer and Lindor in the same draft would be pretty impressive for Arizona. He's a few years away, but he gives them a premium up-the-middle talent, which is always huge for any organization. Expect the Diamondbacks to have a pretty stacked farm system next season with the rise of Paul Goldschmidt, the return of Jarrod Parker and the arrival of these top draft picks.

No. 8: Indians select LHP Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech)

Bradley lights up the radar gun from the left side and has performed well as the Yellow Jackets' ace, but without a quality breaking ball his stock has been held back a bit. He has two quality pitches in his fastball and change-up, and has precisely the kind of size that scouts want to see in a frontline pitcher. His ultimate ceiling is limited by the lack of a quality third pitch, but he can still develop into a quality mid-rotation starter with what he has right now, and there's obviously room for more if the slider or curve takes a leap forward. He could be a quick mover depending on how the Indians want to use him, but he should be able to hit the majors by 2013.

No. 9: Cubs select RHP Archie Bradley (Oklahoma high school)

I actually prefer Archie over Jed if we're talking Bradleys (they're not related), but I'm not convinced that Cleveland is willing to pay up the kind of bonus that he'll likely demand. The Cubs, on the other hand, should have the kind of money to pay up for a premium talent like the Oklahoma fireballer. There are strong rumors about Bradley going at No. 4 to Baltimore, but he should be able to drop to here if the O's pass on him. Keith Law mentioned that his curve might be the best in the draft, and scouts love his size and relatively simple delivery. He's further from the majors than Bundy and probably won't be ready until late 2014 or 2015, but this is pretty great value at No. 9.

No. 10: Padres select RHP Matt Barnes (Connecticut)

There are strong rumors about the Padres liking infielder Cory Spangenberg here, but I think this may be a bit too early to pop his name. So instead, I think that the Padres should go with UConn ace Matt Barnes. He's been scaring away some teams with iffy command and a delivery that he doesn't always repeat well, but he has a legitimate plus fastball and a quality curve, so the basis of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher is there. He needs to improve his command and develop a legit third pitch, but he has the build and stuff to be a very good pitcher.

No. 11: Astros select RHP Taylor Jungmann (Texas)

Jungmann isn't that different from Barnes in that he depends on a power fastball and a plus curve, but his performance has been more even over the years as the Longhorns' top starting pitcher. Also like Barnes, there are some concerns over his delivery, but they haven't affected his command much over the years so he should be able to move quickly. A possible 2013 rotation that includes Jordan Lyles, Bud Norris and Jungmann at the top has to make Astros fans smile a little.

No. 12: Brewers select RHP Taylor Guerreri (South Carolina high school)

The power right-hander has been lower than this on a lot of mocks lately, but he's got ridiculously good raw stuff and is the kind of high-upside player that the Brewers could really use. Armed with a legit mid-90's fastball that has quality movement and a tight power curve, Guerrieri has the kind of arm that could push him to the top of a rotation in a few years. His command isn't great and he's going to take a few years to reach the majors, but the Brewers don't have anything like this in their system right now.

No. 13: Mets select RHP Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt)

Word is that the Mets want pitchers, but their selection has been greatly diminished in this situation. This is the sixth straight pitcher to go in this draft, which obviously reflects the quality of pitching in the class, but the Mets shouldn't really be disappointed with Gray. Lots of scouts view him as a future reliever due to his small size and two-pitch mix, but those who like him see two plus pitches and the kind of competitive nature that an athlete is supposed to have. He could move very quickly as a reliever, hitting the majors next year, but he'd take a couple years to develop as a starter if the Mets opt to go that route. And considering how high this pick is, you'd want to try to develop Gray as a starter.

No. 14: Marlins select OF George Springer (Connecticut)

Rumors have them looking at bats, and Springer is a nice one to land. He's a unique prospect in that he's a legit five-tool talent coming out of college, but concerns over his swing mechanics have left some evaluators souring on him. He has the tools to be an impact player both on offense and defense, but he has to show that his swing won't lead to contact issues against higher competition.

No. 15: Brewers select RHP Joe Ross (California high school)

I'd take Alex Meyer here if I thought that Milwaukee could afford it, but I have a tough time seeing him as a reasonable sign in this spot given that the pick is unprotected. So I'll go with the prep right-hander Joe Ross, who is expected to command a large bonus but may sign for a reasonable amount this high in the draft. The brother of Athletics pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe sits in the low-90's with his fastball and has flashed two quality secondary pitches in his curve and change-up. He's got a good delivery, particularly compared to his brother, and projects to have three above-average pitches, so he's a very good pick in this spot assuming that the Brewers can afford him.

No. 16: Dodgers select RHP Robert Stephenson (California high school)

It's not really clear how much the Dodgers will have to spend here, but they should be able to sign the prep right-hander Stephenson to a reasonable bonus. At this point he's still pretty raw, but he's very projectable and has flashed very good raw stuff with a fastball/curve/change three-pitch mix. LA would have to wait a few years for him to develop, but he's the kind of projectable power arm that the Dodgers love.

No. 17: Angels select RHP Dillon Howard (Arkansas high school)

The prep ace has a commitment to pitch at the University of Arkansas, but he should be able to find the money that he wants if he gets picked this high. At this point Howard is still somewhat raw, but he's projectable with a clean delivery and should be able to repeat it easily over time. The big concerns with Howard relate to the lack of secondary pitches in his arsenal, as he's mostly depended on velocity to thrive at the high school level and that obviously won't work against professional pitches. But he has the size, delivery and arm strength to develop quality secondary pitches, and could emerge as an exceptional pitching prospect in a couple years. The big drawbacks obviously relate to how far he is from the majors and what's presumably going to be a large price tag.

No. 18: Athletics select OF Mikie Mahtook (LSU)

The Athletics have been primarily looking at bats, and Mahtook is the best of what's left in that category. A quality all-around player that should be able to stick in center field, Mahtook doesn't have any below-average tool and has been one of the elite performers in college baseball this season even with the change in bats. It's hard to tell what his ultimate upside is, but he's a high-energy guy that should be able to provide defensive value with a solid bat. The A's should be pretty happy to see Mahtook fall to them here, and he could make an impact for them in a couple years.

No. 19: Red Sox select RHP Alex Meyer (Kentucky)

Meyer declined to sign with the Red Sox after the club drafted him out of high school in 2008, but they should give him a long look once again if he falls to here. Armed with the kind of raw stuff that only Gerrit Cole can match at the college level, Meyer struggled in his first two years with the Wildcats before his command and control finally began to improve during his junior season. Meyer brings two ridiculously good pitches in his fastball and slider, and has a pretty clean delivery for someone that stands 6-foot-9. There's very legitimate No. 1 upside here, although Meyer may take a couple years to reach the majors.

No. 20: Rockies select 3B Cory Spangenberg (Indian River State College)

Spangenberg brings two plus tools in his bat and his speed, but his defense as an infielder has mostly been poor so far. A move to center field makes sense given his speed, and he could be plus there given the kind of range that he'd have. Even without a clear position, this is a good spot for the Rockies to land Spangenberg, and he gives them an interesting bat that should be ready in a couple years.

No. 21: Blue Jays select SS Levi Michael (North Carolina)

Michael doesn't have loud tools, but he's a solid defender at shortstop and should be able to stick there long-term. He's a switch-hitter with good speed and impressive contact skills that could profile as a top-of-the-order hitter, although his prime value is based in the fact that he's a legit middle infielder. He could be able to reach the majors by 2013, giving current top shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria some legit competition.

No. 22: Cardinals select LHP Daniel Norris (Tennessee high school)

Highly projectable but frustratingly inconsistent, Norris still has flashed the kind of raw stuff that could make him an elite pitching prospect. Some of his inconsistencies are due to difficulties in repeating his delivery, but he's flashed the potential for three plus pitches and could join Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Tyrell Jenkins to make quite the future rotation.

No. 23: Nationals select SS Javier Baez (Texas high school)

Baez probably won't fall this far on draft day, but if he does the Nationals should be pretty happy. Baez has explosive bat speed and is considered an elite prospect even though he's not expected to stick at shortstop long-term because of it. Apparently scouts have also been critical of his on-field demeanor; Keith Law described him as "showy" in his draft profile. But the bat has so much upside that he's still an excellent prospect, even though he's not likely to be MLB-ready until 2014 or 2015.

No. 24: Rays select 1B C.J. Cron (Utah)

Cron probably isn't the 24th-best prospect in this draft, but he's the kind of slugging power bat that the Rays' system could really use. Other teams are likely looking at Cron around this spot given the value of power these days, and they should be happy to snap him up here. NL teams probably aren't as hot on him given that he's likely a DH long-term, but 30-homer potential is there.

No. 25: Padres select RHP Jose Fernandez (Florida high school)

Fernandez isn't projectable like most high school pitchers because he's already physically matured, but he's already flashing two intriguing breaking pitches in his curve and slider and has ridiculously good arm speed. He should move slightly faster than some of the other guys picked before him, and could reach the majors by 2014 or so.

No. 26: Red Sox select C Blake Swihart (New Mexico high school)

People have been tying Swihart and the Red Sox together for a while now given that the Red Sox still haven't found a legit "catcher of the future" yet. The New Mexico prep catcher is going to command a big-time bonus, but he's a switch-hitter with legit impact bat potential that may be able to stick at catcher. There's a ton of star potential here even if Swihart is a fairly high-risk player, and he'd be going higher than this in the draft if his price tag wasn't so high.

No. 27: Reds select RHP Tyler Beede (Massachusetts high school)

A rare quality prospect out of high school from at traditionally cold state, Beede doesn't blow you away with raw stuff but is unusually polished and has very good command for his age. There's also still some projection left in his build, which could push his fastball above it's current 88-92 range, and most scouts see solid No. 2 potential from Beede. He's a few years away, but he gives the Reds another quality arm with some upside assuming that he's not completely serious about his desire to go to college.

No. 28: Braves select LHP Henry Owens (California high school)

We'll continue the run of high school picks with California prep lefty Henry Owens, who should be able to sign a reasonable contract at No. 28 and give the Braves another projectable live arm. His present day stuff won't blow you away, but he should be improve his raw stuff as he matures physically, and there's some nice deception in his delivery right now. He won't be ready until 2015 or so at the earliest, but he could be good with the right tutelage, which you know he'll get in Atlanta.

No. 29: Giants select LHP Tyler Anderson (Oregon)

San Francisco has been one of the best teams in the game at drafting pitching, and I expect them to go that route with their first pick here. Anderson doesn't have elite stuff, but he's thrived in a quality conference with the University of Oregon, and many scouts like his ability to command his pitches and repeat his delivery. His ultimate upside may be limited, but if his stuff ticks up a grade he could end up being a very, very good mid-rotation starter in a couple years.

No. 30: Twins select LHP Chris Reed (Stanford)

Reed was ludicrously used as a reliever in college despite flashing two quality secondary pitches along with his solid mid-90's heat, and should be able to convert to the starting rotation as a professional. It remains to be seen whether he'll actually be able to adjust to life as a starter, but he's shown the raw stuff to do it, and at least we know that he can thrive as a reliever even if the conversion to starting doesn't pan out.

No. 31: Rays select 2B Kolten Wong (Hawaii)

Wong may go higher than this even though he really only flashes one premium tool (his bat), but the Rays would likely be ecstatic to get him here. His defense at second is fringe-average, he's not a burner and he hasn't shown a great deal of pop, but he has an impressive ability to make hard, line-drive contact and he does a fantastic job of controlling the strike zone. He should be able to move quickly, too, arriving within a couple years.

No. 32: Rays select OF Brandon Nimmo (Wyoming high school)

It's pretty crazy to think that Nimmo is being discussed here when his high school doesn't even have a baseball team, but he's still shown enough to scouts to make his $2 million contract bonus demands look somewhat reasonable. He's got a great swing and legit tools, and that's where most of this investment would be based- it's hard to grasp his plate discipline when he hasn't been consistently facing quality competition.

No. 33: Rangers select OF Brian Goodwin (Miami Dade College)

Goodwin has legitimate five-tool potential in the outfield and gets to see the draft a year early after transferring from UNC to Miami Dade College due to academic issues. He's got legitimate upside as a position player, and that's one of the few things that's really been lacking in this year's class. With the plus speed to stick in center field and the potential to hit for both average and power, landing Goodwin here would be a very solid move by Texas.