OK, take a deep breath. You're about to embark on a wild ride.
The following is my first stab at a complete projection of the first round's 30 picks. There are many, many updates to the Top 20 that appeared here a week ago, with guesses ... ummm, prognostications for picks Nos. 21-30 after that.
There is still a great deal still up in the air, starting with the first pick in the draft. The lack of clarity filters all the way down, with teams in the lower third of the draft often giving me a "We really don't have any idea who will get down to us" response when I ask. I've been told that if I can project the back end of the first round correctly this year, I'll be taken on the first plane to Vegas or asked repeatedly for lottery number suggestions.
Let's just say I'm not booking my flight just yet. Remember, what follows is a work in progress that I will continue to update leading up to the June 6 draft. So happy reading.
1. Kansas City Royals: Andrew Miller, LHP, North Carolina
You can call me reactionary, or just wanting the challenge of re-casting the draft by making a change at the top. Truth be told, the Royals haven't made up their mind and are still considering Washington right-hander Tim Lincecum and Houston's Brad Lincoln along with Miller. Around baseball, most feel Miller is the obvious choice for who should go here talent-wise, and it was a question of whether the Royals wanted to pay the bonus out for him at No. 1 overall. In the end, just like with Alex Gordon last year, I think they'll sign the check and bring Miller into the fold.
Last week's projection: Lincecum
2. Colorado Rockies: Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State
The Rockies have been following Longoria hard all year, and while they might rather have Miller, if he goes to the Royals, they'll likely pass on the other pitchers being mentioned near the top. Lincoln's name has been mentioned in this spot some, but we'll stick with Longoria for now. With the third basemen already in the Rockies system, Longoria likely would have to move over to second where he could eventually form a double-play combination with college teammate Troy Tulowitzki.
Last week's projection: Miller
3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Brad Lincoln, RHP, University of Houston
It's now pretty clear that Miller won't get to them here, so they'll focus attention on the other top pitchers in the draft (Longoria would be a consideration if the Rockies decide on Lincoln). That means a choice among Lincoln, Cal's Brandon Morrow and Lincecum. Right now, I think Lincecum and Morrow start the ol' first-round slide when the Rays go with Lincoln.
Last week's projection: Longoria
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Brandon Morrow, RHP, Cal Berkeley
For a while, it looked like Stanford's Greg Reynolds was moving his way up to the top of the Pirates' board. His clunker on Friday didn't help him, and while he may still be in the mix, he's no longer the front-runner. That would leave Morrow and Lincecum as the top choices. It could come down to who shows what down the stretch here, but in terms of potential as a starter, Morrow has the edge.
Last week's projection: Morrow
5. Seattle Mariners: Luke Hochevar, RHP, No school
Last week, I had him at No. 11. Assuming he goes back into the draft -- and there are those who actually think the Dodgers will end up signing their 2005 draftee -- he'll go much higher than that. He could be a good fit as high as No. 2. The Mariners will be looking for the top college arm here; if Morrow or Lincoln dropped, they'd be all over that. Lincecum, as a local pick, would be a good PR move, but doesn't seem likely at this point.
Last week's projection: Lincoln
6. Detroit Tigers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Highland Park HS, Dallas, Texas
Just when it seemed like the Tigers might turn attention elsewhere because they hadn't been able to see Kershaw pitch in weeks, the top prep arm in the draft returned to action after dealing with an oblique issue and was about as good as a pitcher can be. How does this line work for you: 5 IP, 15 batters faced, 15 Ks. Detroit does have interest in University of Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs, so if a decision-maker decides they want a toolsy outfielder, they could go that route. But they've been on Kershaw for a long time, and it's hard to see them jumping off now.
Last week's projection: Kershaw
7. Los Angeles Dodgers: Tim Lincecum, RHP, University of Washington
At last, he comes home to rest. The Dodgers have the reputation of being fond of high schoolers and would be thrilled if Kershaw dropped to them. The next high school arm talent-wise is Kyle Drabek -- some would say he should be at the top, based on talent -- but there are some makeup issues there. The Dodgers could throw people some for a loop and go college arm. Lincecum has electric stuff and could get to LA in a hurry as a reliever.
Last week's projection: Greg Reynolds
8. Cincinnati Reds: Bill Rowell, 3B, Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken, N.J.
For a while, it loooked like the Reds were all over Stubbs, but I now have reason to believe that won't happen. Some say that Rowell, a high school shortstop who profiles as a power-hitting third baseman, might be sliding because of a poor playoff performance, but word on the street is that the Reds were bringing Rowell in for a private workout. If he puts on a show, the Reds will be tempted to take him here.
Last week's projection: Stubbs
9. Baltimore Orioles: Drew Stubbs, OF, University of Texas
There are still debates about Stubbs' bat, even though he went 6-for-11 over the weekend with a bunch of walks and has been red-hot in the second half of the season. There is no question about his glove, which is Gold Glove-caliber right now, and he's got plus speed as well. If Baltimore thinks he'll make enough contact, he could look very good in Camden Yards.
Last week's projection: Rowell.
10. San Francisco Giants: Daniel Bard, RHP, University of North Carolina
The roller-coaster that is Bard's junior season continued last weekend with a pretty strong start. Whoever takes him will have to believe they can take his projectable body and plus stuff and make him consistently like the pitcher who was dominant in the Cape last summer. The Giants could be that team. If they decide they're not, this is a team that has been hot on Drabek's trail.
Last week's projection: Bard.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks: Greg Reynolds, RHP, Stanford
Reynolds' rough outing last week could work to the Diamondbacks' advantage. Prior to that start, he beat Morrow and Lincecum in back-to-back starts and was heading up the charts. Arizona is almost certainly looking at a college pitcher and top flight arms with injury questions, like Nebraska's Joba Chamberlain and Missouri's Max Scherzer, could sneak in here if they answer all health-related questions down the stretch.
Last week's projection: Hochevar.
12. Texas Rangers: Kyle Drabek, RHP, The Woodlands HS, Texas
The names still most closely attached to the Rangers live in Texas, with a new wrinkle or two. If Stubbs drops here, he won't go any further. There's also been some noise about Longhorns ace Kyle McCulloch going here, with the local ties playing a huge part in the decision. They've also supposedly brought Alabama high school lefty Kasey Kiker in for a private workout, but if they're going to go high school, they'll stay in the Lone Star State with Drabek, Doug's kid. His arm and ceiling are unquestioned.
Last week's projection: Drabek.
13. Chicago Cubs: Chris Marrero, 3B, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
The Cubs are looking for a high school bat here, and while they like Travis Snider, my projection last week, it now seems unlikely that they'll take him here. Marrero was once considered to be the top position player from the high school ranks but hasn't separated himself as hoped this season. Still, he's got power and knowledge of the strike zone and the ability to stay at third. It could be enough for the Cubs to bite, with catcher Hank Conger still on the radar.
Last week's projection: Snider.
14. Toronto Blue Jays: Matt Antonelli, 3B, Wake Forest
Nothing has changed with the Blue Jays, it seems. They still like Antonelli, the athletic third baseman from Wake Forest. He hits for average, some power, terrific plate discipline and some speed. He could play a number of positions as a pro, even in the outfield.
Last week's projection: Antonelli
15. Washington Nationals: Josh Butler, RHP, University of San Diego
The Nats like local high school product Jeremy Jeffress, but they're hoping he's still around with their second pick at No. 22. If Rowell slid here, it's pretty clear Washington would take him and they have some interest -- and some questions -- about Kent State speedy middle infielder Emmanuel Burriss. In the end, though, I think they go the advanced pitcher route, and perhaps with one they can make a pre-draft deal with. Butler, who started off the season as hot as anyone in the nation, has been a little inconsistent since, but has a projectable body and a plus fastball with a changeup and slider.
Last week's projection: Jeffress.
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Nebraska
The Brewers may have an interesting choice to make. A college pitcher might make the most sense, and there could be some intriguing arms available, including Chamberlain, Scherzer and last week's projection, Brooks Brown from Georgia. Brown, it seems, has become secondary and the Brewers will probably be all over the Big 12 tournament next week to see both formerly injured starters mentioned above. They're not afraid to go the high school route, either, and they do like Kasey Kiker's arm.
Last week's projection: Brown
17. San Diego Padres: Andrew Carpenter, Long Beach State
Chamberlain might be a good fit if he were to slide here; Scherzer probably would not. Most people think of Jared Hughes when they think of Long Beach pitchers. But Carpenter's name has cropped up in first-round conversations of late. A transfer, Carpenter is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and he has three usable pitches. The Padres love college pitchers and they've been able to see plenty of Carpenter (7-3, 2.93 ERA), the Dirtbags' Saturday starter, in Southern California.
Last week's projection: Chamberlain.
18. Philadelphia Phillies: Kasey Kiker, Russell County HS, Phenix City, Ala.
It's looking like the Phillies will either go high-ceiling athlete or high-ceiling arm with this pick. I don't see the athlete who should go here, though they could reach for some of athletic high school bats out there. So I'll stick with the high school arm. It does seem that Chris Tillman will slide on by. Kiker, a lefty with a mid-90s fastball, could be a very good fit. Yes, there have been some makeup concerns here, but the Phillies could get those questions answered by draft time. There was some word of them trying to bring Kiker in for a private workout.
Last week's projection: Tillman
19. Florida Marlins: Hank Conger, C, Huntington Beach HS, Calif.
We know the Marlins like high school players (though they've taken some college guys high in the past), and with so many teams keying in on college arms, there might be some players of interest for them here. Last week's projection, Marrero, could be gone by this pick. Conger is the next best bat. A switch-hitter with power from both sides, there's some debate whether he can stick behind the plate. But the Marlins have the kind of system that would be willing to wait that out. If they want to go with the strong prep arm, Jeffress could be a possibility here.
Last week's projection: Marrero
20. Minnesota Twins: Brett Anderson, LHP, Stillwater HS, Stillwater, Okla.
Think Glen Perkins, but in high school. Anderson is the most polished pitcher in the high school draft, and scouts say it's like scouting a college player. Part of that is because his father, Frank, is the head coach at Oklahoma State. He's got a four-pitch aresenal and can throw all of them for strikes. The Twins don't shy away from high schoolers and they don't rule out college guys. Anderson seems to be the perfect fit for them as a result. There are some high school bats available, with Snider or Kyler Burke possibly figuring into the mix.
Last week's projection: Conger
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21. New York Yankees: Max Scherzer, RHP, Missouri
When all is said and done, Scherzer probably pitches his way into the upper part of this round. But for now, I'll slot him here for two reasons: 1. Injury: He's just coming back from a biceps issue that kept him off the mound for a while. His last start -- against Texas -- started to answer the health question, but scouts may want to see more before using a top half pick on him; 2. Advisor: Whatever your thoughts on Scott Boras, he usually has an impact. If Scherzer continues to pitch well down the stretch, it won't matter as much as some team will take him based on his obvious talent. But injury concerns plus advisor concerns equals a slide in this projection.
22. Washington Nationals: Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Halifax County HS, South Boston, Va.
If the first round plays out like this, I think the Nats would be ecstatic. I had Jeffress going to them at No. 15, but since have found out they might not be ready to pull the trigger for him there. But at No. 22? It's a no-brainer. Jeffress has hit triple-digits on the gun, is extremely athletic and has drawn comparisons to Dwight Gooden. Of course, his secondary pitches are extremely inconsistent and he's very raw as a pitcher, leading some to compare him to Colt Griffin. But it's hard to pass up an arm like that here, especially one in the Nats' new backyard.
23. Houston Astros: Kyle McCulloch, RHP, University of Texas
It's likely that the Astros will go with the best college arm on the board, and there could be a lenghty debate over who that might be. A Scherzer or Chamberlain sure would be intriguing, but if they slide this far, you start to wonder why. Houston likes Missouri State's Brett Sinkbeil, but an oblique injury kept him out of action for a month and he just got back on the mounnd for 40 or so pitches last weekend. If he can come back and resemble the pitcher he was prior to this year, he may not be here for the Astros to consider. With all those questions, I felt the Astros would go with a home-state product in McCulloch, who despite his earlier struggles, is a fairly proven commodity.
24. Atlanta Braves: Chris Tillman, RHP, Fountain Valley HS
If you don't know the Braves like high school arms (and position players, for that matter), you don't pay attention to the draft each year. Tillman's name was one that was at one time mentioned up closer to the top of this list, but some lackluster performances late have hurt his stock. But he's big at 6-foot-5 and very projectable with a good fastball and a big curve. The Braves love taking guys like this and moving them along in their farm system, turning them into big leaguers.
25. Los Angeles Angels: Travis Snider, OF/1B, Jackson HS, Everett, Wash.
The Angels like taking high schoolers (and the occasional risk-pick college guy). Suffice to say, they seldom do what's expected. They could go high school arm here with choices from Florida like Colton Willems or Matt Latos. But for now, I'll say they'll try to add to their coffer of good, young hitting talent and go with whichever high ceiling bat is left. In this exercise, it's Snider, who's not a toolsy athlete, but can flat out swing the stick.
26. Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Latos, RHP, Cocunut Creek HS, Margate, Fla.
The two LA teams might battle it out for which prepster goes in these two picks. If the Dodgers go the surprsing college route at No. 7, there's no way they pass on a high schooler here. If they want to go offense, Chris Parmalee could be the guy. If they want to go pitcher, they can choose between Latos or Willems in Florida if they desire.
27. Boston Red Sox: Brett Sinkbeil, RHP, Missouri State
The Sox proved last year they are not beholden to any one philosophy, taking three college players and two high schoolers with their five first-round picks. They've got back-to-back ones here, so we'll split it accordingly here. Let's start with the college arm. Sinkbeil's got one of the better ones and could very well pitch his way up if he can show he's healthy in his last couple of starts. If not, the Sox are kind of team who might be willing to take a risk and think the Sinkbeil of 2005 is the guy they're actually getting.
28. Boston Red Sox: Chris Parmalee, OF/1B, Chino Hills HS, Chiino Hills, Calif
And now the high school bat (I figured, why not do the opposite of last year, when -- with the notable exception of Craig Hansen -- they took two college bats and two high school arms). Parmelee could be a good fit because of a sound hitting approach -- and good left-handed power potential -- and a lot of poise. He profiles as a corner outfielder with a strong arm or a good defensive first baseman. If the Sox, by the way, wanted to repeat last year and take a college closer, the top guy right now appears to be Miami's Chris Perez.
29. Chicago White Sox: David Huff, LHP, UCLA
At this stage of the draft, the White Sox could go anywhere, and chances are, whoever is atop their board when it's their turn -- be it high school or college -- is who they'll pursue. But if the strength of this draft is college arms (it is), some will undoubtedly slip to this spot. Thus the Huff pick. UCLA is his third amateur stop in the college ranks and he was drafted last year in the 19th round by the Phillies. He throws a fastball, curve, changeup and slider, and he throws them all for strikes. Can you say "pitchability?"
30. St. Louis Cardinals: Brooks Brown, RHP, University of Georgia
I first mentioned Brown as a possibility up at No. 16. He's done nothing to warrant such a slide; such is the nature of projections, I guess. He's a big, strong right-hander with a plus fastball. Some see him as a reliever in the future, a role he held in the past. Others think he's shown enough as a Saturday starter to have a future there.