Attention: This is only a test.
This is not the real draft.
Not even close.
This is a mock draft, meaning I will undoubtedly be ripe mocking material Tuesday night after the real draft is conducted by real major league baseball decision-makers. The MLB first-year player draft is far less predictable than its NBA and NFL cousins. Most first-rounders in those sports became recognizable names through their college exploits. Their games were played in stadiums and arenas packed with fans, broadcast on prime-time television and covered by national media.
Even the best college and high school baseball players play mostly in front of family, friends and scouts. Any TV is probably local cable. And the person holding a notebook is a reporter from the campus newspaper.
Stephen Strasburg, thanks to his 100-plus mph fastball, is an exception. He pitched for Team USA in the Olympics and had several magazine-length profiles written about him as his amazing junior season at San Diego State unfolded. He'll be the first pick. After that, it's a guessing game, choosing from a pool of about 50 college, high school and independent league players.
Factors besides ability and team needs often determine picks. Is a player signable at a reasonable price? Is a high school player apt to turn down millions and attend college? Is Scott Boras his advisor? If so, a team must be prepared for negotiations to run up against the Aug. 15 deadline for players to sign.
So, with those caveats, with all that anonymity, and with Boras in the back of everyone's mind, let's draft:
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
Interim GM Mike Rizzo has already said on numerous occasions that Strasburg will be the pick. Then the grind of negotiations will begin, and it will be great fun determining what Boras is demanding? A $50 million, six-year deal? A $15 million signing bonus and premium dollars before Strasburg's arbitration years? A security pass for the White House?
Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina
New GM Jack Zduriencik cut his teeth as a crosschecker and scouting director, so this pick and this draft are very important to him. The Mariners have taken college players in three of the last four years, and are likely to do so again. Ackley is far and away the best hitting prospect in the draft and is already close to major-league ready. The Mariners had been vacillating between Ackley and a highly developed pitcher, probably Aaron Crow or Tanner Scheppers, both of whom sat out this year after failing to sign last summer.
San Diego Padres: Aaron Crow, RHP, Ft. Worth Cats/Missouri
The Padres are on a tight budget and have drafted miserably recently, so it would be surprising if they chose a Boras client or someone who has signing leverage. That's why their infatuation with two-sport high school outfielder Donavan Tate is so perplexing. Here's thinking decision-makers Kevin Towers, Bill Gayton and Grady Fuson will come to their senses and take a pitcher who could be in the big leagues shortly after they trade Jake Peavy for prospects less risky than Tate.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
California prep left-hander Tyler Matzek has more upside, but indications are that the Pirates want a starter with a quicker path to the big leagues. They probably would take Crow ahead of Minor, and have also scouted college power arms Kyle Gibson and Alex White. Gibson, however, has a stress fracture in his arm and is no longer being considered.
Baltimore Orioles: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
Matzek has steadily climbed draft boards because he is the best high school player for whom signability isn't an issue. He also shined during late starts in the playoffs and has respected Orioles area scout Gil Kubski in his corner. In a few years, the Baltimore rotation could be anchored by two California left-handers with similar odd surnames: Last year's No. 4 overall pick was Brian Matusz.
San Francisco Giants: Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
The Giants will be tempted by Tate, but will lean toward the hard-throwing Wheeler, whom Giants GM Brian Sabean made a special trip to watch pitch. Wheeler has excellent movement from a three-quarters arm slot and many scouts believe he has the most upside of any pitcher in the draft besides Strasburg.
Atlanta Braves: Donavan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS, Ga.
After mourning for five minutes over missing out on local kid Wheeler, the Braves will regroup and go with another Georgia product, the multi-talented Tate. Although he has a combination football/baseball scholarship to North Carolina, Tate would rather go straight into professional baseball, where he could team with Jason Heyward and Jordan Schafer as the Atlanta outfield of the future.
Cincinnati Reds: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
Several exceptional pitchers remain available, and the Reds ought to go with the closest to a sure bet. White followed two rough outings with an excellent start in the super regionals last weekend, quelling concerns that he's fatigued. His fastball and slider are big-league ready. A year or so in the minors to tighten his command and he'll be ready for the middle of the Reds' rotation for years.
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis
Turner is an incredible talent for the No. 9 spot, falling this far only because he's of the glut of great pitching. Oh, and he's a Boras client. That hasn't deterred the Tigers in the past, however, and they will grab this 6-foot-5 hard thrower. Turner also might have the best curveball this side of Strasburg.
Washington Nationals: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State (Ga.)
With Strasburg in hand, the Nationals plan to add another college pitcher to give them a double-barreled addition to their horrific rotation within a year or two. Gibson was a possibility until his injury, and White would be the pick if available. But the burly Jenkins, a late bloomer from an obscure program, looks like a solid pick. Another possibility is Tanner Scheppers, who didn't sign as a second-round pick last year after an injury sent him tumbling in the draft. The Nationals have to draft somebody here they are sure to sign – they won't get a compensation pick because this is a compensation pick for not signing Crow a year ago. Scheppers can't afford not to sign again, so from that standpoint it's a good match.
Colorado Rockies: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints/Fresno State
The Rockies have taken college pitchers with their first pick in the last three drafts, a reflection of the team's difficulty in attracting top free-agent pitchers to high-altitude Coors Field. With Crow, White, Minor and Jenkins gone, the run on 20-something arms continues with the Rockies taking a determined pitcher whose recovery from a shoulder injury has been remarkable. Scheppers has touched 98 mph in recent weeks. Gibson is another possibility, but his injury, while less severe, creates more uncertainty because he hasn't recovered.
Kansas City Royals: Grant Green, SS, USC
Can the Royals stand a fourth consecutive year of wrangling with Boras over first-round money? They'll have to if they take Green, who six months ago was projected as possibly the second overall pick. He got off to a horrible start this season, however, making errors, popping up and not handling the adversity with aplomb. He did finish strong, however, and scouts remember him tearing up the Cape Cod League last summer. The Royals could use a long-term solution at shortstop, and Green is that guy.
Oakland Athletics: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State
All the chatter that GM Billy Beane is reversing his long-held revulsion for high-ceiling high school players might be just that – chatter. If Tate is available, we'll find out. If Tate is gone, that will be another reason for Beane to revert to form and take a proven arm, in this case that of Leake. Although he's only 5-11, Leake has electric stuff and his statistics were rivaled only by Strasburg.
Texas Rangers: Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS, Texas
Rangers president Nolan Ryan might see a glimmer of himself in Miller, a hard-throwing Texas kid whose stock rose throughout the spring.
Cleveland Indians: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana
With Fausto Carmona in never-never land and Cliff Lee on the trading block, the Indians need a pitcher who can help sooner rather than later. Arnett, a tall sinkerball specialist who matured rapidly this season, is the closest to filling that bill if Scheppers, White and Jenkins are gone. Gibson is another possibility here if the medical report isn't too frightening. The next-best college options are left-handers Rex Brothers and Kyle Heckathorn.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B/1B, Bishop Verot HS, Fla.
All the emphasis on pitchers allowed the best high school hitter to drop to the D'backs, who have two straight picks.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb University (Tenn.)
The Diamondbacks follow their choice of a prep bat with a college arm. Brothers is an exceptional value this low in the round and he could break into Arizona's beleaguered bullpen as a situational reliever within a year. And with more seasoning he could become a starter.
Florida Marlins: Kyle Heckathorn, LHP, Kennesaw State (Ga.)
The Marlins have watched in anguish as one top arm after another has dropped off the board. There is still more to be had, though, and Heckathorn is a good get, a big-bodied power pitcher who could be in a big-league bullpen within a year or a rotation within two.
St. Louis Cardinals: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford
The Cardinals drafted Scott Boras' son, Shane, last year in the 35th round (he didn't sign) and Boras played in the Cardinals' minor league system decades ago. Does that mean St. Louis would draft high school left-hander Matt Purke, the best player on the board but a Boras client who will want far beyond the slot to sign? Uh, no. Instead, they pick a polished closer with exceptional mental makeup and the desire to get to the big leagues ASAP.
Toronto Blue Jays: James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky:
Scouting director Jon Lalonde shies away from high school players, and Paxton has Canadian roots. Paxton also has shot up draft boards the last two months by displaying a 95 mph fastball and a hard-breaking slider. He is represented by Boras.
Houston Astros: Chad James, Yukon HS, Okla.
A high school left-hander with huge upside, James fits into the mold of recent Astros first-round picks. He is using his commitment to Oklahoma State as leverage, but should be an easier sign than Purke, the other high-profile left-handed high school pitcher available.
Minnesota Twins: Matt Hobgood, Norco HS, Calif.
The most likely pick by scouting director Deron Johnson would be a high school pitcher, but again it won't be Purke because of the Twins' payroll constraints. Hobgood, a hulking hard thrower who attacks hitters, fits the Twins' organizational philosophy of developing aggressive strike-throwers.
Chicago White Sox: Tim Wheeler, Sacramento State
GM Kenny Williams is partial to college players and partial to athletes, so the White Sox likely will choose between Wheeler, LSU's Jared Mitchell, California's Brett Jackson and Notre Dame's A.J. Pollock. Wheeler might have the highest ceiling, combining tremendous speed with enough power to generate 18 home runs this season.
Los Angeles Angels: Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Santa Monica HS, Calif.
Nobody is smiling more broadly than scouting director Eddie Bane. The Angels haven't had a first-round pick in two years, and this year they get two – plus three compensation picks before the second round. They could stay close to home with both picks, and with this one they grab the best available high school pitcher besides Purke. Skaggs, in fact, is a fair imitation, another tall left-hander with a live fastball and devastating curve.
Los Angeles Angels: Jiovanni Mier, Bonita HS, Calif.
Bane likes high school players with tools that enable them to develop into stars. Mier is the best shortstop in the draft, an exceptional fielder with mental makeup to match. Another possibility is a high school outfielder – either Reymond Fuentes or speedster Everett Williams.
Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Davidson, Yucaipa HS, Calif.
One of the few power hitters in the draft, Davidson is the best player available unless the Brewers prefer an outfielder such as Fuentes or Williams.
Seattle Mariners: Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS, Texas
With Ackley in the fold, the Mariners will look to pitching. Lo and behold, a top-five talent remains on the board in Purke, who has said he wants a $7 million deal to sing. Seattle just might spring for it. If not, the Yankees probably would with the next pick.
Boston Red Sox: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
Yes, the Red Sox could actually pick a player who honed his skills in Beantown. Sanchez grew up in Florida but somehow ended up at BC, where he went from a flabby non-prospect to a chiseled first-rounder. Sanchez fills a need for the Red Sox, who would be tempted by Purke, Turner or Tate if any of the tough-to-sign crowd drops this far.
New York Yankees: Reymond Fuentes, Fernando Callego HS, Manati, Puerto Rico
The expectation is that the cash-rich Yankees would snap up Purke or Turner if signability concerns caused them to fall this far. True enough. But with those players off the board, Fuentes, the nephew of Carlos Beltran, is the smart choice. Fuentes has all the tools to become an everyday center fielder in the big leagues.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers, C, Wesleyan Christian, High Point, N.C.
Truth be told, the Rays would love to see Sanchez here. And truth be told, they probably regret not taking college catcher Buster Posey with their first pick last year instead of high school shortstop Tim Beckham. But Myers is a solid fallback, a superior athlete who is a catcher because he's good at it, not because it's the only place he can play.
Chicago Cubs: A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame
The Notre Dame connection tips the scales in a close call between Pollock, Jackson and Williams. Pollock is closer to the big leagues than the other two outfielders and his bat could produce a lot sooner.
Colorado Rockies: Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS, Calif.
In this mock draft the Rockies used the No. 11 pick for Tanner Scheppers, the pitcher who missed a year with a shoulder injury. So they wouldn't dare take Kyle Gibson, the Missouri pitcher who fell out of the first 10 picks because of a stress fracture in his throwing arm. However, if Scheppers wasn't the earlier choice, Gibson would be the way to go ending the round. Stassi is alongside Myers as the best high school catcher, a well-rounded catch-and-throw guy who also has shown a good bat.