Top high school baseball prospects
Correa dazzled scouts at summer and fall showcases in 2011. He is a slick defender with smooth fielding actions and a powerful arm. He shows signs of becoming a unique hitter. During an October showcase, Correa, using a wood bat, drilled an opposite field home run directly down the right field line which, to quote a long ago Joe Garagiola description, "didn't get up, didn't get down...it just got out."
Recent drafts have featured hard-throwing righthanders the size of tight ends, such as Stephen Strasburg, Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. The 6-foot-6, 242-pound Giolito is next in that line. He fires a blistering 93-94 mph fastball which touches 97 and adds a vicious hard slider at 83-84. An enthusiastic fan of Cole, last year's No. 1 overall pick, Giolito is working to develop a change, a curve and a two seam fastball. He profiles comfortably as a staff ace or shutdown closer.
Prior to each year's draft, baseball publications and websites shower the term "five plus-tools" on numerous prospects. In reality, a player who possesses five plus-tools is extremely rare. Buxton is an exception. Swift and graceful, he races down the line in a blazing 3.93 seconds. Buxton's exceptional speed and promising arm combine to make him an outstanding defensive centerfielder. Blessed with a loose, whippy swing, Buxton projects to hit for both average and power as he fills into his lanky, 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame.
Smoral is a towering lefty with a buggy whip arm action that delivers a 91-94 mph fastball and a sweeping low 80's curveball. Smoral will need to tweak his mechanics and improve his conditioning, for he has a tendency to lose velocity in later innings. Smoral projects as a No. 2 or 3 major league starting pitcher.
Lefthanded hitters who combine speed and power are as unique as an apology at a Bud Selig press conference. Williams' quickness and strong arm make him an ideal fit for any of the three outfield spots. He sparkled on the showcase circuit in 2011, blasting mammoth drives during home run contests. Home run derbies are not games, of course, and Williams must ditch his severe upper cut showcase hack and revert to his natural, near level "on plane" swing. Williams has been bothered by a hand injury this spring.
For his senior season, Fried transferred from tiny Montclair Prep, which dropped baseball, to Harvard Westlake. He will team with Giolito to form perhaps the finest 1-2 starting pitching duo in high school baseball history. In his build, pitching mechanics and raw stuff, Fried is a near clone of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. With ease, Fried delivers a fastball which touches 93 mph and adds a sharp, hissing low- to mid-70's curve. If he fine tunes his circle change, Fried (whose idol is Sandy Koufax) will eventually own three above average or "plus" major league pitches, which is unusual for any prospect.
The strength of the 2012 MLB Draft is the remarkable bounty of quality high school outfielders available. Dahl is the smoothest and most fundamentally advanced of the entire crop. His raw tools are impressive as well. Dahl is speedy, flashes a fine arm and displays excellent power. At bat, he is disciplined, patient and an impressive opposite field hitter. Dahl is strikingly similar to Josh Hamilton in stance, hitting mechanics and swing path.
McCullers utilizes a classic, old fashioned "drop and drive" delivery, his right knee scraping the dirt as he follows through, a la Tom Seaver. His father, also named Lance, was a major league pitcher for seven seasons and the younger McCullers also possesses big time stuff: A heavy mid- to high-90's fastball coupled with a biting low-80's breaking ball. In his pitching motion, McCullers severely cocks his arm behind his back prior to releasing the pitch, raising concerns of a future shoulder injury. As a professional, McCullers could be a fine starter but he profiles best as an elite closer.
Pure power is Hawkins' forte. During a showcase game last summer, he flailed helplessly at curveballs in his first three at bats. In his final AB, he picked out a tasty fastball and hammered it 400 feet for a home run. Hawkins has a strong and mature build, runs well for a youngster of his size and packs a powerful arm. Defensively, he fits best as a corner outfielder. Mechanically sound as a hitter, Hawkins will still need to shorten his stride, keep his front hip closed and fight a habit to "drift" his weight onto his front leg.
Raw power and fastball velocity are the two easiest tools for scouts to judge. Gallo exhibits both. He launched a 442-foot home run during a showcase game in August at Petco Park in San Diego -- one of the longest drives in the history of the stadium. As a pitcher, Gallo touches the mid-90's with his four seam heater. He doesn't run well, and if he chooses the mound, Gallo projects as a one inning middle reliever or closer.