Mock Draft: Harper should go No. 1, even if Nats aren't saying so
The Washington Nationals are expected to take Bryce Harper with the first pick
Manny Machado and James Taillon are among the few special talents in the draft
Mets pitcher Oliver Perez needs to accept a demotion to the minor leagues
With baseball's first-year player draft just five days away, the Nationals aren't saying who they will take first overall. But that's more about their own rules regarding caution and secrecy than anything else. By now everyone knows who the star of this mostly average draft is: 17-year-old slugging sensation Bryce Harper, a Sports Illustrated cover boy at 16 last June and a college superstar at 17 this June, two years ahead of his time.
Miami prep shortstop Manny Machado and Houston area high school right-hander Jameson Taillon are two more special talents in what's seen as a decent but far from great draft pool, but Harper was the obvious choice for No. 1 even before he went 6-for-6 with four home runs in a playoff game a week ago for the College of Southern Nevada. Overall, Harper hit 27 home runs in a rare wood-bat league and established what appears to be future greatness (though among draftees, there are no guarantees).
For the second year in a row, Washington has the first pick in a draft headlined by a an obvious can't-miss guy. Last year, it was college pitcher Stephen Strasburg whom they took at No. 1 and this year, Harper is the likely choice. The Nats showed a willingness to spend last June, signing Strasburg to a record $15.067-million bonus. While that number was about 50 percent higher than the previous record (Mark Prior, $10.5 million), it was short of the $50-million asking price that was rumored early. Word is, Harper will seek a record bonus through his adviser, Scott Boras, who also represented Strasburg. While Harper is thought likely to break Mark Teixeira's record bonus of $9.5 million for a position player, he's expected by most to receive less than Strasburg. Because he could have more than just one year of college ball left, Harper might have slightly more leverage than Strasburg, who was a 21-year-old junior. But everyone knows Harper's been programmed to be a pro, almost from the cradle, so no one expects him not to sign.
Scouts are wowed by Harper's incredible power and arm, and while some might like to see him remain a catcher, others say it would be a waste to employ his booming bat there and envision him instead at third base or right field, where his superior arm will also be utilized. The Nats already have a franchise third baseman in Ryan Zimmerman so the outfield might make sense for Harper.
That's only conjecture, of course. But what's obvious now is that he will be No. 1.
Here's my mock draft of the entire first round:
1. Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper, Catcher, College of Southern Nevada
Incredible power can't be ignored. Though, one scout said, "He isn't perfect. I keep thinking of Todd Marinovich," the football player programmed by his father who ultimately flopped. Others don't love his set-up as a catcher. But this is all nitpicky for one of the greatest power prospects of alltime.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
Manny Machado, Shortstop, Brito HS (Miami, Fla.)
Has huge power and tools, but according to one scout, "He's not very fast. I'm not sure he'll stay at shortstop.'' He's received comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, another big-time high school prospect from Miami. Of course, no one's A-Rod. Still, Machado is a huge talent who's clearly worked his way into the top three of draft that some say falls off after No. 3.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
"He's the best pitcher in this draft, by far,'' one scout says. Taillon has a 98-mph fastball, superior breaking ball and terrific makeup. The latest in a long line of great young pitchers from Texas (Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Josh Beckett, etc.)
4. Kansas City Royals
Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
He has great stuff, including a superior changeup, and has been moving up the board all year. The question is the competition. The Royals could also consider third baseman Zack Cox, of the relatively nearby University of Arkansas, especially if their faith is running low in Alex Gordon.
5. Cleveland Indians
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, University of Mississippi
He has an excellent breaking ball but his uneven college performance has dropped him from No. 2 to at least No. 4, and perhaps lower.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
A very solid college pitcher, he makes sense for the D-backs and appears to be the consensus pick here. If Pomeranz or Sale fall, they're possibilities, as well, but the Diamondbacks are likely to take a college pitcher no matter who it is.
7. New York Mets
Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina
Harvey's had a very nice bounce-back junior year after a slow start to his college career following a legendary prep history. The Mets and Harvey's agent, Scott Boras, have battled lately over Carlos Beltran and Oliver Perez (see below) but have a decent history that includes Mike Pelfrey, so it'll be interesting to see if they purposely avoid Harvey, whom they like very much. Many see the Mets taking a hitter, anyway, and if they go in that direction, the prime prospects would be Oregon prep slugger Josh Sale, Middle Tennessee St. outfielder Bryce Brentz and Cox, if he's still available.
8. Houston Astros
Michael Choice, OF, UT-Arlington
Choice has great power and is very signable, and the Astros already scored with Hunter Pence, another outfielder from UT-Arlington who they drafted in 2004.
9. San Diego Padres
Zack Cox, 3B, University of Arkansas
The best college hitter could go even higher, perhaps fourth or fifth. "I'd take him second,'' one scout says (though that won't happen). He can play second base as well.
10. Oakland A's
Stetson Allie, RHP, St. Edward HS (Ohio)
Allie has a huge arm, and has taken positive steps lately. California prep pitcher Dylan Covey has been speculated as the A's choice in other mock drafts. The A's have had success with college pitchers (Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder), so perhaps Ohio State RHP Alex Wimmers is a possibility.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
Gary Brown, OF, Cal State-Fullerton
This Jacoby Ellsbury type may be the fastest player in the draft. The Jays could use an injection of speed, though there are questions about his hitting.
12. Cincinnati Reds
Christian Colon, SS, Cal State-Fullerton
"The most major-league ready player in the draft,'' according to one scout.
13. Chicago White Sox
Brandon Workman, RHP, University of Texas
Another in a decent crop of college pitchers.
14. Milwaukee Brewers
Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State University
You'd think they have to take a pitcher. There are many high school kids to choose from, but the Crew needs someone who can get to the majors quickly. and Wimmers is the most polished, big-league ready pitcher in the draft. Prep hitting phenom Nick Castellanos could also be the pick because the Brewers are aggressive and willing to spend.
15. Texas Rangers
Yasmani Grandal, C, University of Miami (Fla.)
Still lots of good choices but the Rangers need catchers and Grandal has answered questions about his hitting with a big year.
16. Chicago Cubs
Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet High (Wash.)
Muscular hitter who knows the strike zone. Could go even higher.