Monday night's baseball draft is considered one of the best and deepest in years, but for the first time in three years, there's no sure No. 1 overall pick.
The Pirates, who choose first, are looking for someone to pair with big righthander Jameson Taillon, their top pick a year ago, and appear to be deciding between UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole and University of Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen. Cole is thought to have the biggest upside of any college pitcher in the draft, but the accomplished Hultzen may be the surest thing in a draft full of quality. Cole appeared slightly more likely as of late Sunday to be called first, but no one could be absolutely certain.
The first eight or 10 picks are considered supreme talents with scores of more very good players to follow. Here is how we see the first round, which will begin at 7 p.m. ET in Secaucus, N.J., on the MLB Network:
Cole, who was drafted out of high school by the Yankees in the first round in 2008 but never listened to their offer despite the impression he was a Yankees fan, is said by scouting directors to have the highest ceiling of the many fine pitchers in this draft. He hit 102 mph in a recent outing at Arizona State, enhancing his chances to be No. 1. Nearly half the competing execs still see Hultzen as the No. 1 pick. Close call, but we'll go with Cole.
Some questions were raised when he missed part of the year with a shoulder issue, then returned as a second baseman. But the Mariners, who need offense and could round out a nice infield of the future with Rendon, recall his monster freshman and sophomore years and are thought to see him as a third baseman. Cole appears to be their second choice, though they like all-around prep outfield talent Bubba Starling and Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor, as well.
In a boffo year for pitchers, perhaps no one improved their stock more than Bauer. A shortish stature (he's 6-feet tall) and quirky delivery won't alter Arizona's plans, who recall division rival Tim Lincecum's monster success story. Hultzen, whom they picked in the 10th round and offered first-round money three years ago, is a consideration, as is Starling.
One lower-picking scouting director said if other scouting directors "had any (guts)" they'd take this 100-mph thrower No. 1. Thing is, no high school righthander has ever gone first. Bundy is said to seek $30 million, but teams are looking at that as pie in the sky. "Six or seven million is about right,'' one scouting director said. Bundy's brother Joe is in the system, but that's not the reason behind the pick. There was a rumor going around late Sunday they might go for yet another Oklahoma high school righthander, Archie Bradley. So lots of intrigue here.
The Royals are shooting to win by 2012, so Bauer, Cole or Hultzen probably suits them most. But will they be there? Pitching is the overwhelming need, but Starling, a local hero (he's from Kansas, and the Royals get guff for once passing on Kansas City product Albert Pujols), will be a strong temptation. Hultzen is a lefthander with three above average pitches, has been consistently the best-performing NCAA pitcher and is 8-0 with 99 strikeouts in 61 innings for the Cavaliers. He seeks $13 million plus the ability to finish his degree, which one scouting director said is a "logical asking price.''
The Royals might feel pangs of regret if Starling goes next to Washington. He is considered the best athlete in the draft and is expected to forego a University of Nebraska quarterback scholarship for a number that could even trump Cole and Hultzen considering his superior leverage. One scouting director likened him to a former multi-sport star who wound up in the Hall of Fame by calling him the "Dave Winfield of this draft.'' The Cubs, Mariners and Diamondbacks like him, too. The Nats could actually use a centerfielder now, though this wunderkind is at least a few years away.
He has "electric stuff,'' and the guess here is that general manager Kevin Towers could snap up the second ultra-talented, shortish pitcher (he's 5-foot-10). Some see him as a reliever with his dynamic two-pitch combo, which is a negative. Lindor also would make sense here for a pick where the player must be signed.
He has a huge arm, though sometimes it's hard to judge kids from the North.
The other talented Oklahoma righthander is said to be a great kid, though maybe not with the killer instinct of Bundy. The $20 million asking price reflects an opportunity to play football at Oklahoma (and perhaps a bit of delusion). The Cubs like two-sport stars and would take Starling if he's still available (he won't be).
This talented all-around performer showed impressive power at PETCO Park, where he won the 2010 Aflac All-American Home Run Derby, something the Padres may have noticed. This is an unprotected pick, so they'll have to sign whomever they take.
The temptation to take a relatively local kid who's had a terrific year may be too great.
Solid pick in a pitching-rich draft.
Huge junior year has moved him into the top half of the first round. Could fill one of many Mets needs (though pitching is a greater necessity).
Marlins scouts aren't afraid to tab a high school pitcher.
Yet another talented pitcher in a draft full of them, Guerrieri has a big arm and big potential.
Frank McCourt's team isn't about to spend another $5 million like it did last year. This is yet another supremely talented prep player from Florida.
Howard has talent but the Angels may decide to go with local product Henry Owens, a high school lefthander who has ability, though some view him as a laid-back Huntington Beach surfer dude.
Big-time tools, although there's a question whether they show in games.
Boston is known to be seeking catchers, with Andrew Susac of Oregon State and California prep standout Austin Hedges other possibilities. A more interesting call would be Josh Bell, the best-hitting prep player who has sent every team a letter that he intends to go to the University of Texas (supposedly at the request of his mother, a college professor). Word is, a couple teams floated $6-million-plus bids in efforts to change his mind. That figure sounds like it must come from the Red Sox, Yankees and/or Tigers. Considering his stated intention, he could also fall a round or two, or more.
Another of the pseudo locals, he's put up big numbers in college and could be Todd Helton's replacement.
Solid shortstop has moved up the board, though some would still consider this a reach.
Big kid who has a high ceiling.
Big righthander has a chance to become anything from a star to a bust. Moved up the board this year after an iffy college beginning.
Tampa likes players versatile enough to play several positions, a la Ben Zobrist.
Very solid lefty isn't too far away.
Boston isn't afraid to take a flyer on a local prep star
Cincinnati can add to its stockpile of fine young pitchers.
If they seek an athletic outfielder, another possibility could be Jackie Bradley in a draft stocked with multitalented outfielders.
Local kid is a solid pick.
Minnesota needs help in the middle-infield department.
Very talented kid has been compared to a young Rocco Baldelli, who is coincidentally helping out the Rays with their vast stash of selections. Nimmo will be first prepster from Wyoming ever picked.
The velocity is down from 94-96 mph to 89-91, but at least he's back on the mound. He turned down $4 million from Texas last time and is a threat to reject again. Tampa can take a few like this since it's questionable whether they have the loot to sign 12 of the first 89 picks.
Another interesting arm in a draft chock full of them. Local star Bell is an interesting call for them if he's still there.