Cubs 2012 First-Year Player Draft Preview

The Rule 4 First-Year Player Draft begins Monday night at 6:00pm CDT with round one and the compensatory round. MLB Network’s coverage begins at 5:00pm CDT. The draft continues Tuesday at 11:00am CDT with rounds 2-15 and concludes Wednesday with rounds 16-40.

The Cubs have four of the first 67 picks and five of the first 101 picks in the draft. The Cubs have the sixth pick in round one then two picks in the compensatory round. The compensatory picks are number 43 (Aramis Ramirez) and pick number 56 (Carlos Pena). The Cubs second round pick is number 67 and their third round selection is the 101st overall pick in the draft.

As for the first round pick, the Cubs have recently been connected to Albert Almora, a high school outfielder from Florida, Carlos Correa, a high school shortstop from Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and Max Fried, a left-handed high school pitcher from California.

Due to the new CBA, teams are restricted on how much they can spend in the draft. MLB has given each team a budget that they cannot exceed without penalties. The Cubs have 12 picks in the first 10 rounds and have been allotted a $7,933,900 budget for those 12 selections … bonuses for players signed after the first 10 rounds do not count against the overall budget, unless they exceed $100,000.

With the uncertainty that is the Major League Baseball Draft, I asked longtime reader and frequent contributor Aaron Dresdow for a run down on the top players in the draft and on how he thinks the first round of the draft could play out as well as which player he thinks the Cubs could select with the sixth overall pick.

1. Mark Appel (RHP), Stanford
Mark Appel began his college career as a relief pitcher in 2010. Appel had a 5.92 ERA in 2010 as Stanford’s closer. In 2011, he went 6-7 with a 3.02 ERA He recorded 86 strikeouts to wrap up the 2011 season. Appel is listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds and in 2012, Appel posted a 9-1 record, 2.45 ERA in 103 IP.

Appel has a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cut fastball, a slider, and a changeup that can give batters fits. That’s a pretty significant arsenal for a starting pitcher.

Appel is likely the safest pick in the entire draft. In other words, he’s what the Cubs … and the Bears used to draft ALL the time … guys with “high floors” where you know about what he’ll be, but he won’t be much better than that.

2. Byron Buxton (OF), Appling County High School Georgia
Byron Buxton does display a five-tool ability, but he’s a high school player. Even Reggie Golden was said to have five-tool ability … same for Ryan Harvey. Ironically, the scouting video I saw of him blasting a home run at Wrigley during a showcase was eerily similar to video I saw of Reggie Golden. Scouting reports say about 10+ home runs tops. Buxton is a speedy base runner who can get singles just by running to first base on a grounder. He has 20-plus stolen base ability.

The way I would describe him is a sort of cross between Dexter Fowler and Mike Trout.

3. Mike Zunino (C), Florida
Next to Mark Appel, Mike Zunino is probably the second safest pick. He has been compared to Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. Zunino dominated in 2011 for the Gators. He posted a batting average of .371, hit 19 home runs, obtained 23 doubles, recorded 98 hits, 75 runs, and had 67 RBI. In 2012, Zunino put together a line of .320/.391/.645 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. Those numbers are down from 2011, but still worthy of considering him as a top three pick in my opinion given the premium placed on his position.

4. Lucas Giolito (RHP), Harvard Westlake High School California
Lucas Giolito went 9-1 in 2011, with an ERA of 1.00 as a high school junior. He throws a 95 mile per hour four seamer and a 92 mile per hour two seamer. Giolito’s curveball is above average as well. Supposedly, he hit 100 mph a few times this year before going down with a sprained UCL in his elbow. (NOT a good sign….TJ is probably on the horizon for him). Like Mark Appel, Giolito has the pinpoint accuracy and velocity to strike out batters. Giolito is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds.

I will say this about him … had he not gone down with injury he easily would’ve been taken #1 overall. Now, he could potentially go anywhere from four all the way to the supplemental round given the injury concerns.

5. Carlos Correa (SS), Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Carlos Correa might be the best player in the draft for ceiling. In a way, he’s a more polished version of Javier Baez, if only because he’s faced better competition at his age than Baez did coming out last year. Correa has the versatility to play anywhere in the infield, even though shortstop is his best position.

6. Kevin Gausman (RHP), LSU
Kevin Gausman is a Mark Appel Lite … safe, but intriguing pitcher. Reportedly, Gausman has deceptive pitches and sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, including a changeup that appears as a splitter, cut fastball, 12-6 breaking ball, and slider.
In 2012, Gausman posted an 8-1 record with a 2.95 ERA in 13 starts (91 IP) with a 1.11 WHIP (21 walks and 112 strikeouts), so he’s definitely a strikeout pitcher with good control. Would I take him? Probably, but if Correa is still on the board, I’d have to think long and hard about this selection.

Since #6 is the Cubs’ pick, I’m just going to take a minute to comment, regardless of what so-called experts have to say about who they will pick. Personally, I would rank who the Cubs should take in the following order (assuming they had their pick of anyone outside of Appel, Buxton, and Zunino, who will most likely go 1-3):

  • Carlos Correa
  • Kevin Gausman
  • Albert Almora
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Max Fried
  • Victor Roache

Just to name a few

7. Devin Marrero (SS), Arizona State
Think Neifi Perez part deux and I’m only half kidding. The ONLY reason I have him listed this high, is because scouting services have him anywhere from 7-10, and I honestly have no idea why. He has no offensive upside whatsoever, having hit just .279 this year, and regressing every year since his .397 average as a freshman.

8. Trey Williams (3B), Valencia High School California
Trey Williams is the son of Eddie Williams, who was a former MLB-er. Williams has the versatility to play anywhere in the infield or the outfield. In 2011, Williams had a batting average of .345, a .446 on base percentage, and a .762 slugging percentage. So far in 2012, Williams has a .381 batting average, a .581 on base percentage, and a .714 slugging percentage. He has been pretty consistent in high school, so he very well might get selected in the top 10

9. Kyle Zimmer (RHP), San Francisco
Kyle Zimmer posted a 3.73 ERA while pitching 91.4 total innings and he also lead the Dons with six wins in 2011. In 2012, Zimmer is 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 12 starts with 96 strikeouts. Zimmer is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and is the brother of the Bradley Zimmer, a draft pick of the Cubs in 2011 who did not sign. He apparently has a mid-90s fastball, above average breaking pitches, and supposedly a decent changeup.

Normally, I would list him higher, but he didn’t exactly face stiff competition at San Francisco, so he might be at the back-end of the top 10, or even thereafter.

10. Max Fried (LHP), Harvard Westlake High School California
Max Fried is Lucas Giolito’s teammate, and might get selected higher than him. Reports I’ve read say he throws in the low 90s as a lefty, and doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but appears to be rising on draft boards, and for the life of me, I cannot figure that out.

11. David Dahl (OF), Oak Mountain High School Alabama
David Dahl can probably develop into a 15-plus home run hitter. Dahl also has above average speed on the bases and has an above average arm as well.

12. Matthew Smoral (LHP), Solon High School Ohio
Why do I have Smoral listed this high? Check out his size … 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. Supposedly he has a bulldog mentality on the mound like Randy Johnson, but I think this has more to do with his size than anything else.

13. Michael Wacha (RHP), Texas A&M
Michael Wacha is my darkhorse candidate for the 2012 draft. He is a more consistent pitcher than Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, and all the others mentioned in the first round, but reports say he doesn’t exactly have overwhelming stuff, but he certainly has the size at around 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. Wacha had a breakout freshman campaign for the Aggies. He posted a 9-2 record and a 2.90 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 105.2 innings.

Wacha added ten pounds to bulk up to 200 pounds for the 2011 season. Wacha 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 to bulk up to 220 pounds. He is currently undefeated with an 8-0 on the season. Wacha has posted an incredible 2.09 ERA in 14 starts for the Aggies. His 99 strikeouts and 16 walks on the season nearly equates to a 6:1 strikeout to walk 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. The problem is, as an 18 year old, he amassed 105 IP, the next year 129 IP, and this year, 99 IP so far. Do NOT discount that fact as a reason some teams might stay away from him.

14. Albert Almora (OF), Mater Academy Florida
Reports have said Albert Almora is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft. I watched the tape, and I saw a lack of power with Almora’s hits. Every MLB Draft site has Almora rated in the top 10, but I am starting to believe he might fall out, even though some sites have reported the Cubs will draft Carlos Correa, Albert Almora or Max Fried. I’d take Correa any day over the other two, but it’s why the draft is so unpredictable every single year. Almora is 6-foot-2, 170 pound outfielder.

15. Stephen Piscotty (3B), Stanford
Stephen Piscotty has been one of the most consistent batters for Stanford. In 2010, Piscotty played 56 games, posted a .326 batting average, 45 runs, 74 hits, 17 doubles, four home runs, 36 RBI, 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 RBI, and a .471 slugging percentage.

In 2012, Piscotty has played 54 games with a slash line of .319/.396/.460, five home runs and 54 RBI.

I have seen ridiculous comparisons to Evan Longoria, with some sites saying he has the ability to develop into him. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound third baseman might have the contact rate to eventually add power, but that’s a pretty lofty and outrageous comparison. My guess is he’s more of a DJ LeMahieu type than anything else.

16. Gavin Cecchini (SS), Barbe High School Louisiana
Gavin Cecchini is the best bat on the board at this point. After Cecchini, most of the bats are supplemental to second-round talents, with a few exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment.

17. Marcus Stroman (RHP), Duke
Marcus Stroman’s 5-foot-9, 185 pound size is the biggest reason why Stroman falls to this pick rather than being a top 10 pick. Reports say Stroman would make an excellent relief pitcher, though he is currently Duke’s Friday night starter. My guess is he’s either a starter or closer in pro ball. I would compare him to a right-handed version of Billy Wagner, with mid-to-upper 90’s stuff.

18. Andrew Heaney (LHP), Oklahoma State
Andrew Heaney is a lefty that converted from part-time relief to starting full-time this year, and he’s done very well with nearly 11 strikeouts per nine and only around one walk per nine. The main concern I have, is that as I pointed out with Michael Wacha, his innings pitched have jumped considerably from 67 innings to 118 innings this year.
Heaney is a bit under-sized at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds. Assuming he adds about 20-25 pounds, he might hit the mid-90s, but right now sits low-90s.

19. Courtney Hawkins (OF), Carroll High School Texas
Byron Like Buxton, I would describe Hawkins as Reggie Golden-esque. He could be boom or bust, but he could be the best player available in the middle of the first round.

20. Richie Shaffer (3B), Clemson
Richie Shaffer has the versatility to play third base or first base. He is a power hitter who has a batting average of above .300. Shaffer has the ability to become a 25-plus home run hitter with his upside.

21. Addison Russell (3B), Pace High School Florida
Addison Russell has the versatility to play third base or shortstop. .

22. Nick Williams (OF), Galveston Ball High School Texas
Nick Williams is yet another boom or bust prospect that reminds some of Albert Pujols with his home run hitting ability.

23. Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP), Jesuit High School Florida
Lance McCullers Jr. is one of the top arms available at this point. There was a time where McCullers Jr. was considered the top prospect in the 2012 MLB Draft. His 6-foot-1 and 190 pound frame is the biggest knock on McCullers. Worst case scenario, McCullers develops into a closer. Best case scenario, McCullers Jr. develops into a solid starter
.
24. Zach Eflin (RHP), Hagerty High School Florida
Yet another case of best pitcher available.

25. Stryker Trahan (OF/C), Acadiana High School Louisiana
Stryker Trahan is a 6-foot-1, 215 pound high school catcher that can also play outfield.

26. Joey Gallo (1B), Bishop Gorman High School Nevada
Joey 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?

27. Victor Roache (OF), Georgia Southern
Victor Roache is a 6-foot-1, 225 pound outfielder. Roache could have been a top ten pick but 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. But this guy is a LEGIT 25-plus home run hitter and 90-plus RBI threat in the big leagues.

28. Chris Beck (RHP), Georgia Southern
Chris Beck is a 6-foot-3, 220 pound pitcher.

29. Brian Johnson (LHP), Florida
Brian Johnson is one of the most physically gifted college pitchers. Johnson has a gunslinger for an arm plus great size at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. The biggest question with Johnson is the durability factor. Johnson is perceived as injury prone in the eyes of some MLB Scouts despite having four different plus pitches. In an SEC Tournament game versus 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.

30. Hunter Virant (LHP), Camarillo High School California
Again, another case of best available arm.

31. Lucas Simms (RHP), Brookwood High School Georgia
Lucas Simms has an outside shot of going in the top 20 overall.

Additional Draft Information from Baseball America

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  • Aaron

    Neil, you have already seen this from me, but I am posting for everyone else….
    For what it’s worth, I believe whomever chooses Roache will be getting a steal, but there’s no way you could have justified a Top 10 or even Top 15 pick with a power hitter coming off a wrist injury. Because this particular draft lacks much impact talent, you’re going to have a year where fans all over are going to bemoan their team’s picks in years to come, because you’re going to have several guys slip to the mid-to-late first round, or even supplemental rounds that will actually be better players than the guys selected 1-10 in the 1st round. They will say things like most Cubs fans have said throughout the years (mostly because their scouting has been dreadful, but I digress), such as, “_______(team XYZ) could’ve had _________. How could we have messed up that pick? It was so obvious” However, most baseball executives succumb to the public relations pressure with selections, so they often times will go with the biggest “name” talent on the board at the time, versus the true best player (if that makes sense)My guys to follow in the next few years would be:CorreaRoacheWachaStromanGalloI could be wrong…and have before…I still remember that I said Brett Nommensen a few years ago would be an outstanding talent, and couldn’t believe the Cubs didn’t pick him before the Rays did in the 8th round. He was a hitting machine in college, but has done very little in the minors thus far.Outside of Correa, none of those guys on my list directly above are getting much publicity (well, Roache is, but mostly from me). Unless it’s a once in a lifetime sort of player like Strasburg or Harper, the “sure-thing” guys are often just average players, but it’s the guys that do maybe 1 or 2 things very well, and the rest just average that end up making the biggest impact. For instance, scouts seem to have fallen in love with the 5-tool talents, but ignore the power hitters that just dominate with extra base hits, etc.  Or they completely ignore the guy in college that has a .400 average, but doesn’t have any power. Or they completely ignore the guy that has a 0.95 ERA in college, but has low K totals. MLB has turned into a game that’s all about power (both hitting and pitching), and the other-worldly 5 tool talents (which the game hardly has any true 5-tool guys if you think about it, but teams always seem to be searching for and claiming to have such prospects anyhow)

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. I’m now expecting Correa to be gone in the Top 3 picks. At that point, everything goes crazy, and the Cubs very well could end up with Zunino, mostly because Soto has been awful (and injured this year), Lopez has been injured, Castillo has been injured, and none of the other guys like Rosario, Brenly, etc. have improved enough to be considered building blocks of the future. If both Correa and Zunino are gone, then I would almost guarantee they select one of Gausman/Zimmer/Fried if they’re still on the board, otherwise they’ll go with Almora. 

    • Bdelan3

      I heard on another forum that Zunino is off the Cubs FO board at #6.

  • CubsTalk

    Of the 31 names listed above, maybe 5 will be in the league 10 years from now.

    • Aaron

      Yes, that’s about average. I don’t really like the pitchers at all in this draft. There could be a couple surprises later in the draft that I haven’t even heard of, but the first round pitching talent really is below average. Appel, Gausman, Zimmer, etc. are all guys that have experienced ups and downs. Michael Wacha has not experienced this, and has been a much more consistent performer, yet he doesn’t get the PR the other guys do, which should tell you a LOT about the draft as a whole.

      As for the position talent….what does it tell you that nearly all of the top hitters are high school guys? Furthermore, what is the success rate of high school draftees as a whole? Not very good if you look at history. College hitters usually take about 3 years to reach the majors, or flame out entirely. High school hitters usually take 3 years just to reach A ball (meaning the draft year they’re playing rookie ball, so that’s technically a part-time year, the next they’re playing a full season of advanced rookie ball, and the third year, they’re playing low-A ball) From there, they’ll go up about a rung every year, so if they’re 18 or 19 coming out of high school, they’ll reach AAA by the time they’re 24 or 25, and you’re looking at a 6 year process. With college guys, you’re looking at about 3 years, and they’ll be about the same age of 24 or 25, but you’ll find out if they can cut the mustard in half the time.

    • cubs1967

      90% of drafted players never make it to the majors; so when trading for suspects; it’s a very dangerous game of giving up MLB talent for what if’s?

      that’s why all this talk of trading garza is so interesting……he plus smardz and of course t wood make 3 starters under 30; add 2 more next year like e jackson, a sanchez, hamels, greinke, you could have 5 under 30.

      the offense will grow over time, but that could be a good SP staff other than wood…..who at least would eat innings.

      remember what the indians got for sabathia??…….exactly, nothing and he is a far superior pitcher to garza.

      not sure what next year holds, but this year is a bad draft. (cub like luck to have a high pick; yet no stars to fill the pick).

      here’s hoping this maybe 50 win team is worth the embarrassment to have the 1st pick next year who amounts to something.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Penrod/700030874 Jason Penrod

         Even with 2 of those FA pitchers, the cubs will still only be an 80 win team at best.  Most free agents want to go to a winning team, so I don’t think that they will land even one of those guys.  They see Dempster and Garza throwing gems left and right, only to leave with a loss.  If I was a big time pitcher, with hall-of-fame potential, I’d go where I could win several championships, and soon. 

  • John_CC

    Great job, Aaron.  Thanks for the effort and for sharing your takes on these guys and this draft.  

  • SuzyS

    Aaron, Thanks for all the work you put in on this….While I’m sure it is a labor of love for you…It still represents a ton of research…and I for one, greatly appreciate your insight…(right or wrong :) and work put into it.  Thanks again…-Suzy