2012 MLB Draft Primer: Getting to Know the First Round Candidates

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2012 MLB Draft Primer: Getting to Know the First Round Candidates

Chicago Cubs

[The first in a short series of primer posts discussing the upcoming 2012 MLB Draft, which could be huge for the Cubs. The Draft will take place from June 4 to 6, and you can expect plenty of live coverage here at BN.]

Thanks to an ugly 2011 season, the Chicago Cubs will be picking 6th in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft (we call that one of the upsides of awful). The MLB Draft, for a great many reasons, isn’t quite the same affair as the NFL or even NBA Draft. One of those great many reasons is because, generally-speaking, sports fans aren’t as familiar with the players to be taken in the early rounds of the Draft as we are with those in the other two drafts. Part of that is ESPN-style megacoverage, but part of it is a decreased public interest in college baseball, and the fact that half of the draftees are high schoolers whom we couldn’t have watched even if we wanted.

So, with that in mind, and in the knowledge that the Draft is a heck of a lot more interesting if you know a bit about the cast of characters from whom the Cubs will be choosing in that sixth slot, I’d like to offer you a little background on 10 Draft prospects from whom the Cubs might be choosing. BN Minor League Editor Luke Blaize also offers a few thoughts on each player.

In a semi-ranked, but not-necessarily-ranked order:

Byron Buxton, OF – Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga. Height: 6’2″, Weight: 190, DOB: 12/18/1993

Buxton is probably the best prep player in the Draft, an athletic outfielder with huge speed. He’s going to be above average defensively, but his game could still use some polish. That’s true of most 18-year-old players. No one anywhere seems to think Buxton will still be on the board at six, so you can probably let him pass from your mind. Speaking of which …

Luke: Pipe dream. I do not see a scenario in which Buxton is on the board when the Cubs pick.

Mike Zunino, C – University of Florida. Height: 6’1″, Weight: 215, DOB: 03/25/1991

The best catcher in the Draft, one who could be a long-time, above-average catcher in the bigs, Zunino is expected to go very early in the Draft. Indeed, like Buxton, there’s very little chance he’s still on the board at six. He’s got a good bat that could get better, and a good makeup.

Luke: I’m not as high on Zunino’s bat as many others, so I would not take him over one of the top three college pitchers. I don’t think I’d take him over Fried or Almora either. On the other hand, he could move through the system fairly quickly.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP – University of San Francisco. Height: 6’3″, Weight: 210, DOB: 09/13/1991

Zimmer has four pitches that could be average in the big leagues, led by a fastball that touches 97. He’s got K-stuff and control, having struck out 96 (and walked just 15) in 83.1 innings. Although the Cubs’ brass has undoubtedly scouted a number of top players, we’ve heard multiple reports of Jed Hoyer checking out Zimmer in person.

Luke: If he is on the board, I think he’ll be the pick.

Mark Appel, RHP – Stanford University. Height: 6’4″, Weight: 195, DOB: 07/15/1991

Appel’s got a shot to go number one overall, and he’s highly unlikely to still be on the board when the Cubs are picking at number six. A big righty with great stuff (though his strikeouts are a bit down this year (then again, who’s complaining about 108 Ks in 103 innings?)), and a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. If he fills out a bit more, it could go even higher. He uses a good slider and changeup, and controls games well.

Luke: Even if the rumors of Appel going to Houston do not pan out, he won’t fall past Kansas City.

Kevin Gausman, RHP – Louisiana State University. Height: 6’4″, Weight: 185, DOB: 01/26/1991

The last of the three big-time college pitchers at the top of the Draft (or first of the three, depending on your perspective – they’re all good), Gausman is another hard-throwing righty. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, but he sometimes struggles with his command on breaking stuff. Still, in 100.2 innings this year, he’s struck out 118 and walked just 23. For my part, I’d like to see the Cubs get one of the three big college pitchers.

Luke: Like Zimmer, if he is on the board, he should be the pick. Between the two I prefer Zimmer by a hair, but I do not think both of them will fall that far.

Carlos Correa, SS – Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R. Height: 6’4″, Weight: 190, DOB: 09/22/1994

An above-average defensive shortstop who could actually stick at shortstop long-term, Correa is a very attractive top 10 pick. Add to that his above-average bat, and big power, and he’s suddenly a virtual lock in the top 10. If the Cubs can’t get one of the big three college pitchers, many folks believe that Correa will be their pick. Heck, he might be the pick no matter who else slips.

Luke: Young, athletic shortstops who can both hit and stick at the position are always nice to have, but I don’t think the Cubs should take him over one of the college arms. I don’t think Correa will still be on the board when the Cubs pick anyway. He could still be the key to the Draft, though. The Cubs’ best chance of landing Appel, Gausman or Zimmer would be if Correa is taken by third overall by Seattle. If Seattle drafts someone else, I think those top three pitchers will be off the board when the Cubs pick.

Albert Almora, OF – Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla. Height: 6’2″, Weight: 180, DOB: 04/06/1994

Almora, who just turned 18, is a toolsy outfielder who is above average in every respect. He’s an excellent defensive center fielder with a big arm, and he is developing power. He’s also said to be a “good makeup” guy, who plays hard with a great attitude.

Luke: Interesting player. Not only does he have a chance to be a plus defensive center fielder with plenty of power, I think he could move up the system more quickly than most high school players. If the top three college arms are off the board, Almora would be a good choice.

Michael Wacha, RHP – Texas A&M University. Height: 6’6″, Weight: 195, DOB: 07/01/1991

Wacha is the “other” college pitcher who could go in the top 10, but virtually every ranking service places him behind the big three. He’s a hard-throwing, strike-throwing, fastball-reliant guy, whose fastball typically sits in the 93/94 mph range.

Luke: If Wacha would sign for a figure far enough under slot that the Cubs could chase an higher impact guy who slid into the suplimental rounds, I’d take Wacha. Otherwise, there will definitely be someone on the board I like better.

Lucas Giolito, RHP – Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. Height: 6’6″, Weight: 230, DOB: 07/14/1994

Once thought to be a candidate for the first overall pick in the Draft – which would have made him the first high school righty to be taken at the top of the Draft – Giolito’s stock has fallen thanks to a UCL sprain (the UCL is the ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery). He’s resting the arm now, and, if he shows folks he’s healthy before the Draft, he could still go plenty high. But there’s obviously a lot of risk, which makes the tall, powerful righty tough to project. Highest upside? Highest risk? Sounds about right for Giolito. But if you take him down at six, how much is he going to want to sign? He had $7 million in his future just a few months ago, would he now settle for $3 million? Or less if you grab him later in the Draft?

Luke: Tempting. Very, very tempting. He might be the best pitcher in the Draft. If the medical reports are clean and the Cubs know he will sign for a figure near slot, I would be on board with drafting him. Otherwise, if he falls out of the first round (which is possible due to medical and signability issues), I’d use a supplemental pick on him. (Brett: I’d only consider using a supplemental pick on him if I knew the first rounder was going to sign for under slot. Giolito ain’t comin’ cheap no matter where he’s drafted, so the Cubs would have to free up some cash elsewhere if they wanted to sign Giolito after drafting him later than the first round.)

Max Fried, LHP – Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. Height: 6’4″, Weight: 170, DOB: 01/18/1994

A teammate of Giolito’s, Fried is considered by many to be the best left-handed pitcher in the entire Draft. Fried is a tall, lanky kid who doesn’t throw especially hard (he usually sits in the low 90s), but he’s got an excellent curveball and natural sink on his fastball. The Cubs are going to take the best player available, whomever they deem that to be, but if they were drafting based on need, you could understand why they might consider taking a polished, high upside, lefty starter.

Luke: I probably wouldn’t take Fried over one of the three college pitchers, but I would happily take him if those guys are gone. Given the way the Draft appears to be shaping up, I think the Cubs will likely be picking either Fried or Almora.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.