Sure, not many people follow the MLB Draft compared to the NFL and NBA, but the league has taken steps to hype it a little more in recent years, finally televising the event in 2007 on ESPN2. Clearly, they won’t show all of the maximum of 50 rounds, but the MLB Network will show the first round Monday night beginning at 7 PM EST; however, rounds 2-50 will only be available to keep up with through the MLB Draft Central page (http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2011/).
People always remember the busts of draft picks past, but this is an exciting time for teams and young players, as they reach and develop talent to try to keep things going or to change their miserable fortunes. Based on various reports, it seems like Gerrit Cole, RHP out of UCLA, is going to go #1 overall to Pittsburgh. Here are some players to keep an eye on next week, especially if you have a team in the top 10 or you are in a keeper league format of a fantasy baseball league:
Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA – 6’4″, 220 lbs. – Great frame for projection but his results leave a lot to be desired (6-7, 3.28 ERA, 107 IP, 108/23 K/BB). He throws hard, as he can reach the upper 90’s with his fastball, and has two solid secondary pitches in his hard slider and hard change. He was a 1st round pick of the Yankees prior to going to UCLA, so his pedigree hasn’t really changed much.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA – 6’2″, 185 lbs. – Probably a better pitcher right now than Cole, Bauer is rising up draft boards. His results are about what we would expect from a #1 overall pick (12-2, 1.27 ERA, 127 2/3 IP, 189/34 K/BB), so Cole’s stuff must be good, as he doesn’t look like the best pitcher on his own college team. Bauer is getting comparisons to Tim Lincecum due to his size, but he is just thin, not short, but an unorthodox delivery could have something to do with that. He won’t last past the Nationals at #6, who need another arm that is close to add to Strasburg next season.
Josh Bell, OF, Dallas Jesuit H.S. – 6’3″, 206 lbs. – This kid looks like a Major Leaguer already, but he is telling teams that he is going to Texas to play baseball, possibly a contractual manipulation. He is a legitimate threat to hit 40 HR in his prime, and has the best raw power in the draft. He could get drafted by a team early or drop significantly due to bonus demands, but he is worth keeping an eye on, even if he does go to college.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice – 6’0″, 190 lbs. – Rendon is coming back from a pretty gruesome injury to his ankle that he suffered while playing with Team USA last year. He had a .327/.523/.535 slash line this year with 20 2B, 6 HR, 35 RBI and 12 SB. In 2010 he had a .394/.530/.801 slash line with 26 HR and 14 SB. He will probalby be picked up by the Mariners at #2 overall, and while his power numbers would take a hit in Safeco Field, he will be batting behind Dustin Ackley and in front of Justin Smoak for a number of years, providing a nice offensive foundation that the M’s so desperately need right now.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia – 6’3″, 200 lbs. – Hultzen is also rising up the draft board, like Bauer, and will be the top lefty available in the draft. His numbers in a tough ACC are very impressive, having gone 10-3 with a 1.59 ERA in 96 1/3 IP while posting a 136/16 K/BB. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 10th round of the 2008 draft after going 13-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 140 K’s in 73 IP as a senior in high school, and he followed that up by winning ACC Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Not bad.
Derek “Bubba” Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton, Kansas – 6’5″, 200 lbs. – A star QB recruit as well as a top high school baseball player, Starling comes from the hot-bed of baseball…Kansas…Sure, we’ll take him. He could have some leverage in contract negotiations due to his football skills, as he has committed to Nebraska for football and baseball. He is a dynamic athlete and plays CF. He is a freak of nature athletically, probably the best athlete in the draft. He runs a 4.36 40 and throws a 95 mph fastball, I can see why Nebraska wanted him as a QB in that spread offense. His Team USA coach, former big leaguer Brian McRae said: “There’s not a lot of guys that run as fast as him and have that power potential. It was eye-opening. He can do some things that other people can’t do.”
Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy, Florida – 5’11”, 175 lbs. – The Major League Draft equivalent to Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias, Lindor is a defensive wizard already, but he isn’t going to wow you with his bat. He should be capable of hitting 10 homers but he will not be an offensive juggernaut. A team will grab him in the 1st 10 picks, knowing that they have their SS of the Future.
Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU – 6’1″, 192 lbs. – Mahtook hit .383/.496/.709 with 14 HR and 56 RBI in 56 games in a tough SEC. He is a five-tool prospect but he probably won’t be capable of staying in CF in the Majors. He should be an above average corner OF for a long time, not All Star level, but very useful.
George Springer, OF, UConn – 6’3″, 200 lbs. – Springer is this year’s Michael Choice. Last year at this time, everyone was ripping apart Choice’s swing, basically saying it was too long, but filled with power. Springer has a lot of the same mechanics that are “wrong” to some, but he has been productive: .361/.462/.644 with 12 HR and 74 RBI in 59 games. Choice right now in the High-A California League: .256/.354/.498, 14 2B, 11 HR, 34 RBI, and a 69/28 K/BB in just 203 AB. Fix that hole, son!
Enjoy the draft. We’ll look back in five years to see how these guys look.