The last article in this series will look at picks 21-33. These picks should be your low-floor/high-ceiling lottery tickets. These should be the 6’4″ pitchers who throw hard, or who teams think they can teach to throw hard, and the hitters who either have good plate discipline and room to develop power or who have “light tower power” that you hope will come with a developing eye for the strike zone. Or you could be the Texas Rangers.
21. Toronto Blue Jays: Tyler Beede (RHP, Lawrence Academy, MA) For a team trying to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox by building through the draft, Beede was the perfect pick at number 21. They just messed up the end game and couldn’t get Beede to sign. As compensation, the Blue Jays received the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft and selected RHP Marcus Stroman out of Duke University.
22. St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong (2B, Hawaii) C+ — Wong was mildly hyped going into the 2011 draft, as the 5’9″ second baseman was seen as having plus speed and hit tools, but not a ton of power or arm. The Cardinals get a C+ for playing it safe here, but for the most part Wong has held up his end. He doesn’t strike out very often, walks a little, steals a little (though he gets caught quite often), and should be able to make it to the major leagues soon, though his future role is unknown.
23. Washington Nationals5: Alex Meyer (RHP, Kentucky) B+ — The Nationals had a third consecutive productive first round in 2011, taking the 6’9″ Alex Meyer out of Kentucky. He ended his junior year throwing in the upper-90s with a very hard slider, giving him two plus pitches and a work-in-progress changeup. He’s old for the leagues he’s pitched in, but since he’s still quite a project arm it makes sense not to rush him. He’ll turn 23 in the offseason, but so far his strikeout numbers look good and he’s been able to limit his line drives and walks. He’s another guy I’m interested to watch as he develops because if he can develop a third pitch, that Nationals rotation is only going to get more dangerous.
24. Tampa Bay Rays6: Taylor Guerrieri (RHP, Spring Valley HS, SC) B+ — This was an interesting pick simply because Guerreri was projected to go in the first half of the first round in some mock drafts. Despite slipping to the 24th pick and only being a high school draftee and receiving considerably less bonus money than the three following pick, Guerreri decided to sign anyway. Thus far in 2012, he’s been fantastic. Guerreri has 30 strikeouts in 37 innings. Ho-hum, not bad, not impressive. What is impressive is that in that time he’s allowed two walks. Two. That’s a 1.4 BB%. He has touched 97mph with his fastball and possesses a plus curveball and solid cutter and changeup. Like most hard throwing high school pitchers, he didn’t throw many changeups but seems to be able to throw strikes with it regardless. He’s got the frame and stuff to move quickly, but at this point there’s no reason to rush him.
25. San Diego Padres: Joseph Ross (RHP, Bishop O’Dowd HS, CA) C — I actually like Joe Ross a lot, but I’m not exactly sure what the Padres are doing with him. He’s spent time in rookie ball, Lo-A and A ball this year, currently sitting in Lo-A Eugene. What’s odd is he had a high ERA in A ball, but his ratios at all three levels are very similar. He’s actually the 10th youngest player in the Northwest League right now, and he’s been impressive in all categories with some bad babip luck in A ball so Padres fans should have high hopes for Ross, but with the Padres moving him around so much it’s hard to tell what they want out of their former first round pick. The Padres get this C, not Ross.
26. Boston Red Sox7: Blake Swihart (C, V. Sue Cleveland HS, NM) C- — Swihart has had a rough first full professional season. His OBP currently sits at .299 but his .403 SLG makes his OPS seem respectable. His bat should be solid as he continues on, but he may not be able to stick at catcher and he likely won’t hit enough to be a corner outfielder or first baseman. Swihart is going to have to hit as he moves up, otherwise this will be $2.5mil the Red Sox will never get back.
27. Cincinnati Reds: Robert Stephenson (RHP, Alhambra HS, CA) B+ — The 10th youngest player in the Midwest League has been very impressive early in his career. Over 57 innings in 2012, Stephenson has a 28.6 K% with only an 8.5 BB%. The high school righty touches 97mph with his fastball, but went into the draft with just an average curveball and changeup, limiting his value.
28. Atlanta Braves: Sean Gilmartin (LHP, Florida State) B+ — The fact that Gilmartin is already in AAA at only 22 years old makes this a great pick. His ability to throw strikes makes him a back end starter within the next couple years as the Braves look to reload after Tim Hudson’s deal expires and especially if Jair Jurjjens loses his spot. At the very least, Gilmartin lets the Braves trade one of their other to pitching prospects to fill holes elsewhere while maintaining a reasonable option with which to fill out the major league starting rotation.
29. San Francisco Giants: Joseph Panik (SS, St. John’s) B — The 21 year old Panik has been a solid late first round pick for the Giants. Now in Hi-A, his .288/.363/.400 TSL is good, though non-elite for the league. His best asset is his ability to put the ball in play and draw a walk, and if he can keep that up while sticking at shortstop this could be a nice value pick for San Francisco.
30. Minnesota Twins: Levi Michael (SS, North Carolina) C- — It’s hard to be upset with anyone the Twins were to pick when it comes this low in the first round, but Michael is a future second baseman with good speed but no arm and, so far, an inability to put the ball in play. His plate discipline is nice, but as he gets challenged moving up the minor league system I don’t think his bat is going to warrant getting pitched around. I think the Twins could have taken more of a risk here since guys like Michael can be found for cheap in major league free agency every year.
31. Tampa Bay Rays8: Mikie Mahtook (OF, LSU) C — Mahtook is a guy that relies heavily on his power to produce. He’s yet to show very much plate discipline, but he is said to have good speed and good baserunning instincts which is apparent in his 21 SB this year. He does have a weak arm, however, which could force him to left field thus limiting his value. If he can stick in CF the Rays might have something, but for now I’m doubtful.
32. Tampa Bay Rays: Jake Hager (SS, Sierra Vista HS, NV) B — The 9th youngest player in the Midwest league has been impressive to date. His .291/.352/.416 TSL in A ball is above league average across the board, and his ability to put the ball in play consistently, and with some authority, is exciting. This could be another successful first round for the Rays.
33. Texas Rangers9: Kevin Matthews (LHP, Richmond Hill HS, GA) D — I’m not sure what the Rangers were going for here. At 5’11″ Matthews isn’t a traditional projectable starter, and he’s walked nearly 20 percent of batters he’s faced in the minor leagues. In the last year the Rangers would be able to spend unconstrained, they chose a short lefty who throws mostly in the high 80s, touching 94-95, with no offspeed pitches to speak of. Maybe they saw something in his mechanics they thought they could fix or think they can teach him control and a breaking pitch or two, but they have some real work to do for this to turn into a winning lottery ticket.
5: Compensation from Chicago White Sox for loss of Adam Dunn
6: Compensation from Boston Red Sox for loss of Carl Crawford
7: Compensation from Texas Rangers for loss of Adrian Beltre
8: Compensation from New York Yankees for loss of Rafael Soriano
9: Compensation from Philadelphia Phillies for loss of Cliff Lee