LIVE: The 2012 MLB Draft First Round (Cubs Take Albert Almora at No.6, Pierce Johnson at No.43, Paul Blackburn at No.56)

It has arrived. The night that marks the beginning of what many are calling the Chicago Cubs’ most important Draft in years. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do agree that the next three days are easily among the most important days of the year for the Cubs.

The Cubs pick sixth overall in the first round, and then again at 43 and 56. Assuming they eventually sign, the Cubs will nab three excellent prospects this evening. The latest scuttlebutt has them taking polished high school outfielder Albert Almora with their first pick, but you never know for sure how these things will play out. The Cubs are believed to be considering, together with Almora, kids like high school shortstop Carlos Correa, high school pitcher Max Fried, college pitchers Kevin Gausman and Kyle Zimmer, and college catcher Mike Zunino. Or the Cubs could throw us all a curveball and take someone no one expects, like college pitcher Michael Wacha.

Things get underway at 6pm CT, and you can watch on MLB Network, or a stream at MLB.com.

We’ll cover the picks here live, for the top half of the first round, and then again as we approach the Cubs’ supplemental round picks. Throughout, I reckon there will be a steady stream of salient thoughts dropped in the comments, on the Message Board, on Twitter, and on Facebook. So join in, wherever your preference for chatting might lie.

Away we go…

Pre-Draft UPDATE: Kevin Goldstein says college pitcher Kevin Gausman will not be on the board at six, to which I said “sad trombone.” He then encouraged me to “be happy with Almora.”

The Picks…

1. Wow, the Houston Astros surprise everyone and take high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick. Also, there are sudden rumors of the O’s and Royals surprising by taking Max Fried and Chris Stratton, respectively. That could really shake things up for the Cubs at six.

2. No surprise, the Minnesota Twins take high school outfielder Byron Buxton. Seattle’s got an interesting choice now.

3. Well, it was thought that the Mariners would take Mike Zunino for a long time, and they did. But, then again, that was when folks thought Mark Appel would be off the board. In any event, it’s the Florida catcher for the Mariners.

4. Crud. The Orioles select Kevin Gausman, the pitcher from LSU. He wasn’t expected to still be available for the Cubs at six, but with things going nutty at the top of the Draft, there was a chance. Bummer. Appel still on the board, but I bet the Royals take him. If so, the Cubs will probably be choosing from among Almora, Fried, and Zimmer.

5. The Royals took San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer, so now the Cubs have a very tough choice. Try and sign Appel, who might be the best pitcher in the Draft? Risk him rejecting $3.25 million?

6. As expected by many – and predicted by me – the Cubs take high school outfielder Albert Almora, even with Appel still on the board. The Cubs have wanted Almora for a while, and wanted him over many of the guys who went ahead of him. I’m thinking the Cubs are happy to get Almora, and if they like him that much, then I’m happy, too. We’ll have quite a bit more on Almora over the coming days – some believe that, when he signs, he’ll instantly become the best prospect in the Cubs’ system behind Anthony Rizzo. Given everyone in the industry’s certainty about the Almora pick in the days leading up to the Draft, I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve already had some serious money discussions, and whether Almora might be a quick sign. That would be awesome.

7. The Padres take Max Fried, as expected by many. I bet he was the Cubs’ other choice at six, but they wanted Almora more. As the first round goes on, I’ll update these picks periodically. Don’t forget, the Cubs pick again later tonight at numbers 43 and 56.

8. Whoa, the Pirates step up and take Mark Appel, the big-time starter out of Stanford. We’ll see if they can figure out a way to sign him.

9. The Marlins take OK State pitcher, Andrew Heaney.

10. The Rockies take high school outfielder David Dahl.

11. The Oakland A’s take high school shortstop Addison Russell.

12. The New York Mets take high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini.

13. The White Sox take high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins, who’s a nice pick at that spot. Good for them.

14. The Reds take high school pitcher, Nick Travieso.

15. The Indians take Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin.

16. The Nationals take the big risk (big reward) by selecting high school pitcher Lucas Giolito. He’s a consensus top 5 talent with an injured UCL in his elbow (yes, that’s the ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery). He says he’s healthy, but he hasn’t thrown off a mound yet. So, he slipped, and now the Nats will have to figure out how to sign him, because he’s not going to take a pay cut.

17. The Blue Jays take high school outfielder D.J. Davis.

18. The Dodgers take yet another high school position player, Corey Seager. Starting to wonder whether the Cubs’ plan to take pitchers later might be a good move.

19. The Cardinals get a freaking steal in taking arguably the fourth best college pitcher in the Draft, Texas A&M righty Michael Wacha. Freaking Cardinals. They always draft well.

20. The Giants take Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton.

21. The Braves take high school pitcher Lucas Sims. The Braves are always right about young pitchers, so you can pencil him into the rotation for 2017.

22. The Blue Jays take Marcus Stroman, a pitcher out of Duke who could actually be the first player in the Draft to make it to the bigs. He is a tremendous pitcher who could have gone 10 picks higher, but is thought of as a reliever, only. Those types tend to slide, even if they’re dominant.

23. The Cardinals might have just been the first team to try and take someone they feel they can sign way under slot by taking college senior, James Ramsey out of Florida State. I hope they’re wrong and he squeezes them. You know, with no leverage…

24. The Red Sox get college shortstop Deven Marrero, who could have gone as high as 8 to the Pirates. This is more where his talent level is, though.

25. The Rays take Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer.

26. The Diamondbacks take the awesomely-named high school catcher Stryker Trahan.

27. The Brewers take high school catcher Clint Coulter, one of the few kids actually in attendance for the Draft.

28. The Brewers take Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache.

29. The Rangers take high school outfielder Lewis Brinson.

30. The Yankees take high school pitcher Ty Hensley.

31. The Red Sox take Florida pitcher Brian Johnson.

And that ends the first round of the Draft. I won’t cover every pick in the supplemental first round, but obviously I’ll drop the names of the Cubs’ picks, and an early take on them, as well. The first of the two should be coming in about 20 minutes or so.

43. The Chicago Cubs take right-handed college pitcher Pierce Johnson out of Missouri State. It sounds like he was a kid who was going to go much higher, but had an injury issue. Here’s MLB.com’s take: “Johnson was moving quickly up Draft boards, but a forearm strain put that on pause. He came back and threw well, with plenty of time to show everyone he’s fully healthy leading up to the Draft. Johnson has a good three-pitch mix starting with a fastball that is plus at times, touching 94 mph. He’s more successful when he keeps it down in the zone, which he does when he repeats his delivery well. Johnson throws a hard curve that works as an effective out pitch, missing more bats than he does with the fastball. He doesn’t use the changeup as much, but it has the potential to be at least an average pitch in the future. He throws strikes and competes very well on the mound. Assuming he’s healthy, Johnson should join a solid group of college starters who could go off the board shortly after the top tier, profiling well as a No. 3-type starter at the highest level.” Sounds like, if healthy, the Cubs got nice value at 43.

56. The Chicago Cubs take Paul Blackburn out of Heritage High School in California, and he’s apparently a “strong” commitment to Arizona State. In other words, he’s a tough sign, and is what, in years past, we would have called an “overslot” type. MLB.com’s take: ”After a big performance at last summer’s Area Code Games, Blackburn has continued pitching well this spring to keep him firmly on the prospect map. The NoCal high schooler has a good fastball that hits 92 mph consistently and will touch a tick or two higher on the radar gun at times. His two secondary offerings – a curve and a changeup – both have the chance to be very effective pitches. He’s generally around the strike zone and thanks to his athleticism and sound delivery, his command should only improve with experience. The Arizona State recruit has some projectability, meaning his already pretty good stuff has room to get even better. That should get him off the board early enough to keep him from heading to Arizona.” I imagine the Cubs wouldn’t have taken him if they didn’t have a plan to sign him, so I’m sure they love his upside.

And that concludes the live coverage for the first round. Obviously we’ll have A LOT more on these three players tomorrow and in the coming weeks. And, a reminder, things don’t end tonight – there are still two more days of Draft coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

593 responses to “LIVE: The 2012 MLB Draft First Round (Cubs Take Albert Almora at No.6, Pierce Johnson at No.43, Paul Blackburn at No.56)”

  1. a_mazz_ing

    They’re saying that Almora compares to Adam Jones. I love B-Jax, but he is not projected to be as good as Almora. This is a really exciting pick.

  2. Jzwizard

    I’m not all that great on the amateur side of the game, but I feel like OF is the only place we are strong in the farm system. With Brett Jackson and Sczur already. I hope to add Soler to that mix shortly. Happy to get a great athlete though.

    1. nkniacc

      Hey take talented players you can always end up trading one if needed

  3. nkniacc

    Be ver y iteresting to see if Almora signs for

  4. Jason "Thundermug"

    Scott Boras is a good agent when it comes to players that are close or in on their big pay after they get in the major leagues but when it comes to College kids Boras hurts them more than helps them…. I agree why take up a huge chunk on your draft money on one kid and spread that same money on multiple guys that can help your organization also

  5. JungleDrew

    Almora will be a guy who always gives his all (Im basing that off his little bio on MLBnetwork), but I really think Fried was the better choice. He was a level pick with Almora (considering he went 7th overall) and he is a left handed starting pitcher. Oh well, maybe we can get Fried in a trade in the future.

    1. djriz

      You also have to take into account the VERY low success rate for HS pitchers compared to hitters. Almora is safer.

  6. Dave

    I’m sure this kid is talented and worthy of the puck but I have a hard time getting excited about another 18 year old who might be in the majors in 4 or 5 years.

    1. nkniacc

      I understand that the only thing I can say is atleast theis guy has played for team USA since he was 14 so he’s semi polished and a bit different than most HS kids in the fact that hes got a higher floor than most 18 year olds

  7. KC

    MAybe Appel will be there for our next pick!

  8. Kyle

    Scouting report card for Almora. Scale is 20-80, 50 is average major leaguer, 80 is HOF potential. First number is current, second number is ceiling/potential.

    Hit/contact: 30/70
    Power: 30/50
    Arm: 50/60
    Fielding/range: 60/70
    Speed: 50/50

    1. TWC

      Those are quire pleasant numbers.  Nice ceiling.

    2. Cyranojoe

      Who produced that report card?

      1. terencem

        Not sure but here’s KLaw’s card on him (pre-draft)

        He has an uncanny ability to square the ball up with a track record of doing it with wood bats against top competition. His hands get very deep to maximize power and his bat speed and direct bat path allow him to get to the ball quickly and create backspin. These elements, along with his wiry strength and explosive hips, help Almora creates surprising power for his size that could produce 20-25 home runs annually, if not more. His aggressive weight transfer at times will cause his back foot to be in the air at contact, but it is a fixable, minor nitpick.

        Hitting 35 65
        Power 55 60
        Plate Discipline – –
        Running Speed 50 50
        Fielding Range 60 60
        Arm Strength 55 55
        Feel for Game – –

      2. Serious Cubs Fan

        Sounds like a Hunter Pence to me. I be happy with a hunter pence but we’ll see

  9. lou brock lives

    Appel & Boras have NO leverage. If he goes back to Stanford for his senior year & gets hurt – he gets nothing. If he comes out 1 year older after next year he is not as appealing because of age. He also as a graduating senior is not as appealing as really good & younger junior or high school phenom. What are his other options – to sign in Japan ? or the Independent League ?

  10. Mugsy

    @Serious Cub Fan, do you believe in this regime, then let the pro’s make the picks. I used to be a scout and so many ball players fail even the one’s I scouted at the College World Series. Almora is a solid pick and the Cubs saw something in him and I’m fine with that.

    1. Serious Cubs Fan

      I understand. I’m sorry for over reacting. He’ll be good its just I want whats best for the team. They def know better then me. I just have questions about the ceiling. He’ll be a good player I think he’ll never be known as a top 3 OF in the league by the time he’s in his prime. But he’s our guy! So I hope I’m wrong and he turns out to be a HOFer

      1. Cubs Dude

        No worries, I get the intensity level and seeing the presumed #1 pick passed by. But there is so much behind the scenes with the agents, that rest assured the Cubs did the right thing. Boras is an ass to deal with and Theo prob said hell with u..

      2. Cyranojoe

        I hear you. Look, everybody said this was neither a deep draft nor one that had any guaranteed All Stars. A guy who is very likely to make the majors and play at a high level was as good as we could hope for, in this draft and at this stage in the game. The rest is up to him, our coaches who develop him, and the baseball gods who don’t let him get injured, knock on Louisville Slugger wood.

  11. Cubbie fan lost in Atlanta

    Does signing Almora mean the Cubs are no longer intrested in Jorge Soler????

    1. Cyranojoe

      No.

  12. Doug

    Ok Luke…You’ve had time to digest. Where do you rank Almora among our other top prospects?

    1. TWC

      Luke’s wife is busy helping him off the floor after he passed out in shock that Pittsburgh took Appel. He might be a few minutes…

    2. Luke

      Right behind Rizzo.  Probably No 3 over all.

      1. Doug

        Thanks!!

  13. 1908Blues

    If Almora signs quickly, what level does he start?

    1. Luke

      Arizona Rookie League, most likely.

      1. Kyle

        When does that start? Don’t forget the early signing deadline this year.

        1. Luke

          Same time as Boise.  It’s a short season league.  They’ll both get started in a couple of weeks.

          1. Kyle

            I’m foggy after being jacked in the jaw by my two-year-old today. Does that replace EXST?

    2. Kyle

      Boise at best. Probably EXST

  14. Richard Nose

    I want to trade Starlin Castro for Carlos Correa straight up.

    1. rcleven

      Beaz is the bomb. You will be pleasantly pleased when you see this kid play.

      1. Richard Nose

        Can’t wait. The random vids looks like he rakes all day. Wonder what position he’ll end up at. Stick at SS…Sheffield comparison…3B…corner OF?

  15. Robert

    Off-topic but the cubs say Anthony Rizzo will *NOT* be called up for inter-league play.

    1. CityCub

      With this season going the way it is, leave him there. Gain the extra year of control. Better move in the long run.

    2. Joe

      Well that was a “no-brainer” by the Cubs.(Where did you hear that, anyway)

  16. Doc Evans
    1. Eric

      Very sweet. Love that he buried his gold medal with his grandfather. I think that shows alot of character. I think character plays a role too and Theo and Jed probably loved his character combined with his talent. Pretty happy with that pick. Can’t wait to see who they might beable to overslot with the next 3 picks.

  17. die hard

    On paper hes the second coming of Joe Dimaggio

    ALBERT ALMORA

    OF, Mater Academy (Fla.), 6-foot-2, 170 pounds.

    One of the top high school hitters in the draft is possible top-five pick and has established himself in big-time competition, playing on six national teams including being MVP of gold medal-winning U.S. team at 18-under Pan American Championships in Colombia. Has terrific outfield instincts and projects as big league center fielder with outstanding arm. Also has powerful bat. Hit .606 with six homers and 35 RBIs as senior.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/baseball/mlb/wires/06/03/2010.ap.bbo.baseball.draft.capsules.1510/index.html#ixzz1wsBm3NEN

  18. Drew7

    Will Giolito fall far enough?

  19. 1908Blues

    Does Harold Reynolds think he’s Chris Rock?

    1. Billy

      Imagine if John Kruk was saying that. He’d be on CNN before the night’s over

      1. 1908Blues

        Exactly. The guys around him were clearly uncomfortable and couldn’t wait for the moment to pass

    2. beerhelps

      You would think getting fired once would make you think before talking out your arse

      1. Eric

        what happened? I have it recorded and want to see it. between what picks did it happen?

        1. Bric

          Beer helps- help me out. I also want to know what Harold Reynolds said.

          1. 1908Blues

            Dahl, i think, is white and fast, so they break out the gratuitous video of him racing a black guy, whom he beats and Reynolds is all about him beating the “brother”.

        2. 1908Blues

          After either 9 or 10, i think 9.

          1. Bric

            What did he say?

            1. Billy

              “you know you can run when you’re beating the brothers” or something ignorant along those lines

              1. Bric

                Thanks, bud.

            2. beerhelps

              talking about some white kid drafted beating out a “brother” in a foot race… must have said “he beat a brother” like 3 times. while everyone else just giggled uncomfortably.

    3. Cyranojoe

      What was that?

  20. nkniacc

    No I think WSH orToronto take him

  21. DocPeterWimsey

    Well, the Pirates took the leap.  I hope that they don’t get burned too badly on this.  However, Boras is going to be crowing immediately that the new CBA did what he said it would: stopped the highest talent from being drafted first.  (He’ll skip the fact that this had been true for years thanks to, well, Scott Boras!)

  22. die hard

    Meanwhile, what about the rest of the current season…or is this season written off in exchange for dreaming about a HS kid starting a hall of fame career in 2018?….

    1. Drew7

      As opposed to what? Breaking the bank picking a future #2 to see him in 2015?

    2. Cyranojoe

      Absolutely. I cannot pay attention to a Draft and a major league season ALLATONCEOHNOOOOOES!!!!!!

      Troll.

  23. Jzwizard

    Does the decision to sign Almora mean the Cubs don’t see LaHair in their long term plans? I was thinking he would play RF but with Jackson, Sczur, now Almora, and possibly Soler, LaHair doesn’t fit in.

    1. nkniacc

      First you draft talent worry abount where they play later. 2. i think Lahair could be traded this july

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        That is not entirely true: teams sometimes make decisions based on deficiencies in their systems.  If you are split between a good outfielder and a good pitcher but your system has multiple good outfielders and a dearth of good pitchers, then you go with the pitcher.  We read this all the time when we read that teams are targeting particular types of players.  However, you are looking at your farm system, not your MLB team in that case.

        1. Kyle

          That’s something that reporters write, but I don’t think it’s really all that true. Remember when we all knew the Cubs were focused on college pitchers?

          1. nkniacc

            No. We knew they were foucused on impact pitchers

        2. Luke

          Ties can go to need, like you suggest.  But I don’t think the Cubs saw Almora as being tied with much of anyone.

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            Moreover, I think that everyone thought Appel was going (almost) immediately, so he probably was out of their plans.  In a way, I think that I would rather that they stick to their plan which was jelling around picking Almora first and then following “the plan” (which supposedly is college pitching) the rest of the draft.  In a way, Appel was a gut check for teams after the Astros and Twins: everybody else was planning on him being gone.

            To use a baseball analogy, sometimes it’s best to lay off the slow, hanging curve rather than taking a completely out-of-whack swing at it…..

    2. Kyle

      Almora would push Jackson to the corners, according to the scouting reports. Not the other way around.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        heh, aren’t we still waiting for Ty Griffin to push Ryno to 3rd?  Sorry, couldn’t resist…. ;-)

        1. Toby

          Ryno can’t play third. There’s this Scott kid that is the second coming of Ron Santo.

    3. Luke

      What the Cubs do in the draft has nothing at all to do with what they have on the field or in the farm system today.  They took the best player.  If they wind up with a log jam, they’ll figure out what to do about it then.

  24. nkniacc

    Most people wrote this season off to start th year. Most were really interedted to see who the Cubs could draft and who they could get in trades as the Cubs have a ton of money coming off the books after the year

  25. Cub Gone Wild

    I love Almora. Cubs got it right. Got a class act. He has a chance to be in the express lane to Wrigley. Now Theo can package Szurzur along with some younger players to get better pitching.

    1. Richard Nose

      Dead on. Hopefully Almora can teach Castro how to give a shit. And yeah loading up with athletes, packages to include szczur, vogelbach, lake, etc to bring a pitching load.

  26. Kyle

    Kevin Goldstein’s BP podcast had an interesting discussion of an interview with Boras, who had some interesting ideas for the draft. One was to make to make the pools 5-year instead of one-year, so teams had more flexibility to pick their spots.

    But the Pirates’ pool really can’t afford Appel unless he signs for way less than thought or he becomes their entire draft.

  27. nkniacc

    I think Szuzer doesn’t get traded atleast not until next july. I think Vitters and Lake maybe the prospects that could get moved in deals involving pitching coming back

  28. Jzwizard

    If Jorge Soler were in this draft, where would he have been chosen?

    1. Jeremy

      Most said he would have been Top 5.

    2. cubfanincardinalland

      Most things I have read say he would be a top 10 pick this year.

    3. Kyle

      Top 5-10. Someone today said he was “by a nose” better than Almora, but close.

  29. Don

    Great pick! This kid can hit. Now if only we can get Giolito as a supplemental pick!

    1. nkniacc

      I don’t think Gilito lasts that long 1 and 2 he won’t take what the cubs can offer at that point

      1. Jeremy

        Giolito won’t get past the Blue Jays.

  30. nkniacc

    Depending on demands somewhere between 5 an 12