Because amateur baseball cannot claim an iota of the popularity shared by college football and basketball, almost every name and face in Thursday's Major League Baseball draft will be an unfamiliar one.
So, based on input from scouts and other league sources, we introduce you to 30 of the players whose names should be called after 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2, when MLB tries its hand at televising and commercializing the event for the first time.
1) Tampa Bay Devil Rays: David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt – The only no-brainer in the draft. Price is tall, left-handed, delivers a 95-mph fastball and biting slider from a classic motion and, with Bo McKinnis as his agent, shouldn't be a holdout concern.
2) Kansas City Royals: Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress High (Calif.) – The best high school bat in the draft, Vitters comes from good baseball stock (brother Christian is in the Oakland organization). The Royals would have preferred Rick Porcello, the strapping right-hander from New Jersey, but agent Scott Boras' demands of a bonus that could reach eight figures were too much.
3) Chicago Cubs: Jarrod Parker, RHP, Norwell High (Ind.) – Tim Lincecum Jr.? Somehow Parker pumps out 98-mph heat from his 6-foot frame, and though the Cubs hoped Vitters dropped to them, they don't mind crossing state lines for Parker.
4) Pittsburgh Pirates: Devin Mesoraco, C, Punxsutawney High (Pa.) – Among the highest risers this year with Parker and Phillippe Aumont, Mesoraco leapt past Yasmani Grandal as the top prep catcher available. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery two years ago, Mesoraco enthralls scouts with his arm and steady bat. This is still a big overdraft because Mesoraco is an easy sign and from nearby Punxsutawney.
5) Baltimore Orioles: Ross Detwiler, LHP, Missouri State – The Orioles' bereft farm system needs a jolt, and while Detwiler isn't a sexy pick, he's safe. Hard-throwing and left-handed, his Missouri Valley Conference schedule doesn't scare scouts because of a commanding performance with Team USA last summer.
6) Washington Nationals: Mike Moustakas, SS/3B, Chatsworth High (Calif.) – Nationals president Stan Kasten says he wants to build through the draft and internationally, and he paid former Arizona scouting guru Mike Rizzo a lot to take care of the first part. Moustakas, who smacked 20 home runs and can hit 97 mph on the mound, is neck and neck with Vitters for the best high school hitter.
7) Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech – On talent alone, he should go No. 2. But like Porcello and Moustakas, the switch-hitting Wieters is represented by Boras, which always brings up a red flag. This would be a big risk for the normally conservative Brewers, though one that doesn't carry nearly as much of a penalty as in the past. If teams can't sign picks by the new Aug. 15 deadline, they receive almost the same pick next season. (In the Brewers' case, they would get No. 7a, or the eighth overall pick.)
8) Colorado Rockies: Daniel Moskos, LHP, Clemson – The last time the Rockies selected a college left-hander in the first round was five years ago. Jeff Francis has turned into a solid No. 2 or 3 starter, and Moskos, who can dial his fastball up to 94 mph, should likewise be a mover.
9) Arizona Diamondbacks: Matt Dominguez, 3B, Chatsworth High (Calif.) – Scouts rave about Dominguez's glove at third base, and though this deviates from their style under Rizzo – the Diamondbacks tended toward college players – they'll settle for Moustakas' teammate even though they preferred him.
10) San Francisco Giants: Beau Mills, 1B, Lewis-Clark State – The first of the three Giants first-rounders, they need position players to replace an everyday lineup that is almost 300 years old combined. Mills – who left Fresno State after academic troubles, then hit 38 home runs in 62 games at the NAIA school – is the draft's top power bat, even if Boras says Moustakas could be the next A-Rod.
11) Seattle Mariners: Nick Schmidt, LHP, Arkansas – Seattle loves to push its prospects, and Schmidt is the kind who could be in the big leagues by September if they truly believe they'll be in the American League West hunt. Another possibility: Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers, an easy sign who could start at Double-A.
12) Florida Marlins: Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Ecole du Versant Gatineau (Quebec) – Another arm for an organization teeming with them. The 6-foot-7 Aumont might be too tough to pass up, with his motion and sinker that draw Kevin Brown comparisons. And, as Florida well knows, there's no such thing as too many pitching prospects.
13) Cleveland Indians: Blake Beavan, RHP, Irving High (Texas) – Not your classic Texas fireballer. Beavan tends to drop his arm angle, though he still brings his fastball in the mid-90s, much like the player to whom he's often compared: Adam Miller, the Indians' No. 1 prospect. Cleveland will also consider left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
14) Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, OF, Henry County High (Ga.) – The last time the Braves took someone in the first round from outside of the South was 2000, when they selected Canadian first baseman Scott Thorman. Heyward, who may go eighth to the Rockies, is everything the Braves love: full of tools, high ceiling and local.
15) Cincinnati Reds: Julio Borbon, OF, Tennessee – One of the most well-stocked organizations in baseball, the Reds can go in plenty of different directions. Early projections linked them to Houston-area third baseman Kevin Ahrens, though this seems a bit early. Borbon, the polished outfielder, seems a better fit, much like Texas center fielder Drew Stubbs was last season.
16) Toronto Blue Jays: Casey Weathers, RHP, Vanderbilt – In size and likeliness to shoot through an organization, Weathers most resembles Huston Street. His stuff, however, is straight power compared to Street's finesse. A 97-mph fastball and slider that creeps toward the 90s screams closer, something the Blue Jays could use until B.J. Ryan's return from Tommy John surgery.
17) Texas Rangers: Rick Porcello, RHP, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) – Scouts have called Porcello the best right-handed high schooler in the draft since Josh Beckett. And the Rangers, though still stung by the Alex Rodriguez contract, don't mind negotiating with Boras.
18) St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew Brackman, RHP, North Carolina State – Speaking of potential, the 6-foot-11 Brackman has the most in this draft. He throws 99 mph with a curveball to match. So what's the issue? Well, he wasn't altogether dominating this season, he had to be shut down with a dead arm and he's a Boras client who will command a lot of money, perhaps more than the Cardinals are willing to spend, which could mean he falls to the New York Yankees at No. 30.
19) Philadelphia Phillies: Josh Smoker, LHP, Calhoun High (Ga.) – If Heyward goes to Colorado, Smoker could go to the Braves at No. 14. It would be tough to let him drop much further than here, though, because his five-pitch repertoire is so advanced for a high schooler.
20) Los Angeles Dodgers: Madison Bumgarner, LHP, South Caldwell High (N.C.) – Should Bumgarner drop this far, the Dodgers will do cartwheels. It would continue a trend of tremendous left-handers sliding to them in the first round. Last year's No. 1, Clayton Kershaw, could end the year as the top pitching prospect in the game, and 2005's, Scott Elbert, had been tremendous before shoulder tendinitis sidelined him in April.
21) Toronto Blue Jays: J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee – The Blue Jays would have rather seen Mesoraco slip to No. 16 but will be happy with Arencibia, who came into the season as the second-rated catcher in a tremendous class behind Wieters.
22) San Francisco Giants: Kevin Ahrens, 3B, Memorial High (Texas) – Switch hitter with a bat one scout called "awesome," Ahrens has ascended draft boards and could end up with the Giants as a slight overdraft who would sign for under slot (the money MLB suggests a team pay). More than anything, the Giants' barren farm system needs position players.
23) San Diego: Michael Main, RHP/OF, DeLand High (Fla.) – The last time the Padres took a two-way star was three years ago with Matt Bush at No. 1 overall. He was a miserable failure at shortstop and recently converted back to pitcher. Main will likely start as a pitcher, his fastball that sits in the high 90s too good to pass up.
24) Texas Rangers: Kyle Russell, OF, Texas – Long and lean, with all kinds of power, Russell hit 28 home runs for the Longhorns this year. If Brackman drops past the Cardinals – and Rangers owner Tom Hicks really wants to have a stressful August – he could land here.
25) Chicago White Sox: Corey Brown, OF, Oklahoma State – Lots of power potential for an organization without much at its top levels. Brown brings speed – which general manager Kenny Williams loves – and a patient approach, though his strikeout numbers are alarmingly high.
26) Oakland Athletics: Aaron Poreda, LHP, San Francisco – Classic Oakland pick: the polished college player. Poreda doesn't strike out a lot of batters, which may be of enough concern for the A's to opt for UC-Riverside right-hander James Simmons.
27) Detroit Tigers: Matt Harvey, RHP, Fitch High (Conn.) – Harvey could slip this low because of signability issues. (Guess who his agent is?) He started the year next to Porcello as the top amateur pitcher, and the Tigers have gone above slot for their last three first-round picks, Justin Verlander, Cameron Maybin and the player who should have gone No. 1 last season, Andrew Miller.
28) Minnesota Twins: Tim Alderson, RHP, Horizon High (Ariz.) – In 72 1/3 innings this season, Alderson struck out 111 and walked four. That sounds about perfect for the Twins, whose minor-league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp works wonders every year.
29) San Francisco Giants: Joe Savery, LHP, Rice – A top-10 prospect entering the season, Savery dropped as his velocity did. After touching the mid-90s in a recent start, though, he has vaulted himself back into the first round. Perhaps the greatest concern: playing for Rice, which has produced pitcher after pitcher with arm troubles from overuse.
30) New York Yankees: Matt LaPorta, 1B, Florida – After an awful junior season, LaPorta decided to stick around for his senior year despite the Red Sox choosing him in the 14th round. Good move: He hit 20 home runs, got on base almost 60 percent of the time and slips this far only because of his ties with Boras. The Yankees need a first baseman and are willing to pay for one, too.
- Mike Moustakas
- Rick Porcello
- Scott Boras
- Josh Vitters
- Matt Wieters