If they fall to #16, grab them up immediately
OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, GA) – Currently the #1 guy on my board. Very athletic, with great tools across the board (Keith Law rates both his speed and arm as an 80… an 80 arm is Ankiel/Harperesque). Buxton is one example of when you should NOT be scared off by the label of “toolsy.” Only an injury or an outrageous salary demand will drop him to the Nats.
RHP Mark Appel (Stanford University) – The draft is all about taking guys with the right tools and molding them into major league ballplayers, and Appel is the perfect example. He’s the safest option at #1 overall due to his projectability, but doesn’t necessarily have ace potential as it stands. Law says that he is more hittable than he should be, so he could be a minor project for an organization’s pitching coaches.
C Mike Zunino (University of Florida) – The best college bat on the market led the SEC in TB, H, R, 2B and HR last season. Did I mention he is a solid defensive catcher? His swing is currently a little too long, and he’s struggling in SEC play this season, but he should still be long gone before the Nats pick.
SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy HS) – You can dream on the glove (if he ends up at 3B) and the power. Correa is probably the biggest risk/reward type in the top half of the first round. I could really see him turning into a superstar, even more than Buxton, but at a greater risk.
OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy HS, FL) – Rapidly moving up lists with great intangibles, fielding and speed. Has decent pop and can likely hit consistently enough to become a five-tool player. Not your average “toolsy” player with a short and smooth swing.
RHP Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco) – In my opinion, has the greatest ceiling and floor out of the top tier pitchers. He’s got four solid pitches, but needs to improve his slider and changeup to make it to the MLB level. Inconsistent at times.
RHP Kevin Gausman (Louisiana State University) – Throws hardest out of the top college pitching prospects, but without great direction and lacks a breaking ball. Is it worth taking a guy like Gausman in the top 5 when there is a high chance he turns into a power reliever? Easily my least favorite of the top tier, although he is still a major pitching prospect.
RHP Lucas Giolito (Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) – Sitting out his senior season due to an elbow injury. Fastball is excellent; at 95 MPH, it gets good movement and pairs well with his all-around good command and secondary offerings. Injury concerns crushed his draft stock for now. If he can prove to be healthy and make an encore appearance in the next month, he could end up being taken in the 5-10 range.
Probably going to be off the board well before #16, but could drop
SS Deven Marrero (Arizona State University) – Cousin of Nats 1B Chris Marrero. Great defensive SS, but question marks surround his bat. Upside is a five-tool all-star SS. I think he’ll turn into an Alex Gonzalez type (albeit with a little better plate discipline). Rumors of a lack of effort are not what you want to see when you are looking at drafting a guy high in the first round. Looks like he won’t last past Pittsburgh at #8.
LHP Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) – Fastball isn’t crazy impressive (90-94 MPH) but curveball is excellent. Similar scouting report to Jack McGeary, and a sizeable amount of risk goes into drafting a soft-tossing HS lefty.
3B Stephen Piscotty (Stanford University) – Has good plate discipline and power potential, but lousy defense. Youkilis build isn’t for everybody, but can pay dividends at MLB level.
RHP Michael Wacha (Texas A&M University) – Fastball and changeup are good enough to survive without a solid breaking ball in the low minors, but he’ll have to scrap something to be a solid big-leaguer. Jonathan Mayo sees him as a Jon Garland-type of pitcher, which isn’t sexy, but is definitely worth grabbing in the top 10. Safest of the 1st-round RHSPs, but lowest upside.
Likely in the Nats’ range at #16
LHP Andrew Heaney (Oklahoma State University) – Low 90s heater pairs with slider/change up that can be decent MLB pitches, but limited upside — #3 starter at best.
RHP Marcus Stroman (Duke University) – The Nats took Stroman in the 18th round of the ’09 draft. At 5’8” he’s not much of a physical specimen, but he throws a hard fastball and power curveball. His command isn’t great, and he’s likely destined to become a reliever, but could rise to the big leagues faster than any other 2012 draftee. Talk of keeping him as a starter is intriguing, but people said the same thing about Drew Storen back in 2009.
3B Richie Shaffer (Clemson University) – Good raw power and defense, with bat speed praised by Keith Law. Upside is an above-average 3B, but likely reality is MLB average.
RHP Zach Eflin (Hagerty HS, FL) – Projectable righty with a good fastball and changeup. Lacks a solid breaking ball at the moment, but could be a #2/3 if he gets one.
SS/3B Addison Russell (Pace HS, FL) – Won’t hit for excellent average, but excellent defense and power. High risk.
1B Joey Gallo (Bishop Gorman HS, NV) – Excellent power makes his other tools look lousy by comparison, but it’s really just his excellent power looking excellent. Could be a below average fielding but mashing 3B, but more likely to play 1B. Intriguing to say the least, and the Nats’ last Nevadan teenager draft pick worked out okay.
LHP Matt Smoral (Solon HS, Ohio) – Very tall and projectable, but small injury concerns (stress fracture in foot) can turn into big ones when you’re talking about giants (6’8” and 225 lbs). If healthy, he has ace potential, with a great fastball and slider. Raw, LHP version of Alex Meyer.
SS Gavin Cecchini (Barbe HS, LA) – Has 2 very solid tools in defense and ability to hit for average, but lack of power/plate discipline keep him from being an elite prospect.
RHP Lucas Sims (Brookwood HS, GA) – Does not have a violent delivery, which is music to my ears. Decent pitches across the board, middle of the rotation starter potential.
RHP Lance McCullers (Jesuit HS, FL) – The son of the former major league reliever Lance McCullers can dial it up to 97 MPH with a great slider and a lousy changeup. He’s bound for the bullpen, with only two pitches and mediocre control, but could quickly develop into an 8th- or 9th-inning guy. Higher upside than Stroman, but much worse floor.
OF David Dahl (Oak Mountain HS, AL) – A tick below Almora and Buxton across the board with a similarly high ceiling and low floor. Mike Trout comparisons are a bit premature (I’ve also seen Adam Jones) but I think his bat is the real deal.
3B Corey Seager (Northwest Cabarrus HS, NC) – a more well-rounded 3B prospect than Russell, but a downgrade in power and defense.
OF Courtney Hawkins (Carroll HS, TX) – Your average toolsy HS player. Hawkins has a great arm and power, but has a long, strikeout-prone swing and is doubtful to remain in CF as a pro. He’s the type of player the Nats have (in my opinion, correctly) stayed away from over the last few years.