The Wheelhouse: Head of the Class

The Wheelhouse: Head of the Class

This article is part of our The Wheelhouse series.

The 2013 MLB first-year player draft is almost here, making it a good time to check in on the first rounders from the 2012 draft class.

Of course, it will take several years to grade teams on these selections and their respective 2012 drafts as a whole, but here's a look at how the first year as a professional has gone for the first 31 selections last June.

(All stats are compiled from games played through May 28)

1. Carlos Correa, SS, HOU - Correa is hitting .292/.410/.424 with three homers, 31 RBI and five steals in his first professional season at Low-A Quad Cities in the Midwest League. Considering that he won't turn 19 until September, it's possible that he will spend the entire year at that level, although his plate discipline (26:34 BB:K) has been very good. As power environments goes, the Midwest League is very pitcher-friendly, so the lack of pop thus far given the league context and his age shouldn't be an overwhelming concern.

2. Byron Buxton, OF, MIN - Any concerns about Buxton being raw have been erased through the first two months of his season at Low-A Cedar Rapids. With a .992 OPS (.332/.436/.556) including seven homers, 39 RBI a 35:39 BB:K and 23-for-31 mark as a basestealer, Buxton is showing all five tools and putting himself in position for a promotion to High-A Fort Myers.

3. Mike Zunino, C, SEA - The decision to move Jesus Montero into a first base/DH role following his demotion to Triple-A Tacoma should open things up long term for Zunino. After raking to start the year in the PCL, the 22-year-old has slipped to a .231/.299/.517 line including nine homers, 38 RBI and an 11:47 BB:K while striking out in 28.1 percent of his plate appearances. Breaking balls have been the issue for Zunino, but he could still see a significant time in the big leagues during the second half if he's able to improve his pitch recognition.

4. Kevin Gausman, SP, BAL - Gausman's second career big league start left many to wonder if the Orioles made a mistake bringing him up to Baltimore after just 61.1 innings in the minors since being drafted last June. Things won't be any easier in his next start Sunday against the Tigers, but the O's will be caught in a difficult spot if Gausman gets knocked around again. With a plus fastball and plus-plus changeup, and the ability to command both pitches, Gausman came out of the draft with enough polish that led some analysts to believe he might have been a September callup last fall. That didn't materialize, how much additional development time would he receive if the front office decides he's simply not ready?

5. Kyle Zimmer, SP, KAN - After making six starts in the Midwest League last summer (29:8 K:BB in 29.2 innings), the Royals assigned Zimmer to High-A Wilmington to begin 2013. Free passes have been a problem, as he's walked 21 batters in 46 innings, but there doesn't appear to be much in question about his ability to miss bats as he's already fanned 60 during that span. Consistency has been lacking from start-to-start, so it may simply take Zimmer longer to make a push to see Double-A, ultimately limiting his chances of getting anything more than a late-season taste of the big leagues. Perhaps overlooked by some, is that Zimmer converted to pitching in 2010 after previously playing third base at the University of San Francisco, which supports a longer path to the big leagues than the typical college arm.

6. Albert Almora, OF, CHC - Almora has been slowed by a hamstring injury in recent days (it's not considered to be serious) after missing the start of the season due to a broken hamate bone in his left wrist. Now 19, Almora did not play on a full-season club last summer after being drafted, and is starting his 2013 campaign at Low-A Kane County in the Midwest League. His first seven games have led to plenty of production as he was 14-for-27 (.519) with four RBI and just two strikeouts prior to suffering the injury Monday against Beloit.

7. Max Fried, SP, SD - Fried is part of a loaded rotation at Fort Wayne in the Midwest League (yes, there are a lot of very good prospects in that league at the present time). Over eight starts, he's carried a 42:19 K:BB (40.2 innings) and allowed just two homers thanks in large part to his ability to keep the ball on the ground (2.27 GO/AO). The left-handed Fried was considered the best high school pitcher in the 2012 draft class after Lucas Giolito's elbow injury caused his stock to tumble.

8. Mark Appel, SP, PIT - Appel returned to Stanford for his senior season rather than signing with the Pirates after being the eighth overall pick last June. It's expected that Appel will be one of the first two selections in the 2013 draft next week (along with Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray) after carrying a 130:23 K:BB over 106.1 innings (2.02 ERA, .203 BAA) in his final college campaign.

9. Andrew Heaney, SP, MIA - A lat strain suffered in spring training landed Heaney on the disabled list until May 20. A short stint in the Sally League last summer included a 21:4 K:BB over 20 innings and a 3.67 GO/AO, which along with his experience as a college pitcher at Oklahoma State, likely prompted the Marlins to start him at High-A in 2013. His first two starts have been very good, as Heaney has allowed an unearned run on eight hits over 9.1 innings while carrying a 15:3 K:BB. With the delayed start, a big league debut in 2013 seems like a long shot, but as the Marlins showed with the aggressive promotion of Jose Fernandez, Heaney could be on the radar in early 2014.

10. David Dahl, OF, COL - If Mark Appel had gone earlier than eighth overall as projected, Dahl would have been selected by the Pirates, as the two sides had a pre-draft deal according to Jim Callis of Baseball America. Dahl has not played since May 7 due to a hamstring injury, while he missed most of April after being sent back to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons (it's believed that Dahl missed a flight). Little can be taken from the 10 games he's played at Low-A Asheville thus far, where he compiled in a .275/.310/.425 line with seven RBI and a pair of steals (2:8 BB:K) over 40 at-bats.

11. Addison Russell, SS, OAK - Entering the 2013 season, Russell the player that would have moved up the 2012 draft board the most in the event of a redo. The A's were happy enough with his .369/.432/.594 line over 55 games in the Arizona Rookie League, New York-Penn League and Midwest League last summer to have him open the year with Stockton at High-A. Just 19, Russell is extremely young for that level of competition, and it's not entirely surprising that he's struggled through the first 40 games with a .217/.314/.428 line including a 23:52 BB:K over 166 at-bats. He's shown more pop recently, with five of his six homers coming in May, while Russell has also drawn his share of walks around his contact issues and displayed a proficiency on the basepaths (five steals in six attempts) to this point.

12. Gavin Cecchini, SS, NYM - Cecchini is ticketed for short-season ball with Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League, and his 2013 season should get underway when the Cyclones visit Staten Island on June 17.

13. Courtney Hawkins, OF, CHW - Hawkins, who flashed his athleticism at MLB Network Studios last June upon being selected by the White Sox, has not played since May 1 after suffering a left rotator cuff and biceps strain while diving for a ball in a game at High-A Winston-Salem. The early returns have shown raw power (seven homers in 79 at-bats), but an approach that still needs a lot of work thanks to a 7:45 BB:K and 50.6 percent strikeout rate.

14. Nick Travieso, SP, CIN - Just 19, Travieso is likely headed for a short-season league to begin his 2013 season in June.

15. Tyler Naquin, OF, CLE - Naquin has handled his first year of full-season ball well, with a .305/.366/.452 line including three homers and 19 RBI over 48 games at High-A Carolina. The left-handed hitting outfielder has handled righties much better than lefties to the point, carrying an .847 OPS against the former compared to a .683 mark against the latter. From an organizational standpoint, the Indians' decision to sign Michael Bourn to a four-year deal this winter could make Naquin an in-house replacement for Michael Brantley down the road, although he does not project to develop the power teams typically seek in an outfield corner.

16. Lucas Giolito, SP, WAS - Giolito had Tommy John surgery in August, so he'll likely be limited to instructional league work in the second half of the season. Before suffering an elbow strain during his senior year of high school, Giolito projected by some as a potential No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 draft class.

17. D.J. Davis, OF, TOR - The Jays are expected to send Davis to short-season Vancouver, where his season will begin June 14. In his limited time in short-season leagues last summer (60 games), Davis carried a .355 OBP and went 25-for-35 on the basepaths.

18. Corey Seager, SS, LAD - More important than his results thus far in the Midwest League is that Seager has been playing shortstop (three errors in 103 chances, .971 fielding percentage) as there were concerns about his ability to stay at the position and avoid a move to third base upon being drafted. While those concerns are at least temporarily eased, Seager is hitting .267/.333/.410 with three homers and 15 RBI along with five steals (seven attempts) over 29 games. Seager has been in Arizona rehabbing a hamstring injury, and has not played at Low-A Great Lakes since May 8 due to the injury.

19. Michael Wacha, SP, STL - Wacha is a good example of why major league comps are often laughable. With 6-foot-6 right-hander, you might see anything from Jon Garland to Adam Wainwright in the write-up. Very limited time in the Gulf Coast League, Florida State League and Texas League last season resulted a 40:4 K:BB over 21 professional innings. Not surprisingly, the Cards elected to assign Wacha to Triple-A Memphis in the Pacific Coast League after spring training, where he's continued to get very good results including a 2.05 ERA over nine starts. Scheduled to make his big league debut Thursday, there may be some question as to whether Wacha will immediately miss bats at the top level after striking out just 34 hitters in 52.2 Triple-A innings. Still, with the loss of Jaime Garcia for the season, a permanent place in the St. Louis rotation may be Wacha's for the taking, although top prospect Carlos Martinez is returning to a starting role following his demotion back to Triple-A. As far as the 2012 draft goes, is it too early for the Royals to have legitimate regret for taking Zimmer at fifth overall instead of Wacha?

20. Chris Stratton, SP, SFG - Stratton has been pitching well at Low-A Augusta so far, handling a level that should be relatively easy competition for him after he was drafted as a junior out of Mississippi State last summer. Over his first nine starts, Stratton is carrying a 3.13 ERA with a 57:20 K:BB (54.2 innings) while maintaining a steady 1.28 GO/AO mark. A chance to pitch under closer watch of the Giants' front office with a promotion to High-A San Jose may not be far off.

21. Lucas Sims, SP, ATL - The Braves limited Sims' workload in his first full professional season by using him out of the bullpen for his first 10 appearances at Low-A Rome. His starting debut came May 24, and was a nice line for the 19-year-old as he struck out seven while giving up two runs - one earned - on three hits over 3.2 innings. With no organizational need to rush him, Sims could spend all of 2013 in the Sally League.

22. Marcus Stroman, SP, TOR - When the Blue Jays drafted Stroman out of Duke last summer, the buzz suggested that he could be the first 2012 draftee in the big leagues if he was going to remain a reliever. A 50-game suspension following a positive test for a banned stimulant called Methylhexaneamine in late August ultimately kept Stroman from getting that opportunity. The Jays have elected to use him in the rotation at Double-A New Hampshire now that his suspension has been served, where Stroman had an 11:2 K:BB over nine innings (10 hits allowed) in his first two starts in the Eastern League. If he fares well, the overwhelming organizational need for starting pitchers could still afford him a 2014 debut.

23. James Ramsey, OF, STL - Considered to be one of the most polished hitters in the 2012 draft class, Ramsey is already playing at Double-A Springfield after a four-year career at Florida State. Although the ceiling is not particularly high and Ramsey could end up as a fourth outfielder at the big league level, he's shown good plate discipline (30:33 BB:K) over 38 games between High-A Palm Beach and Springfield this season, although his overall numbers following the promotion have come with a significant drop in power (.309 SLG) in his first 20 games in the Texas League.

24. Deven Marrero, SS, BOS - Other than crushing lefties (.346/.452/.577), Marrero has done little to excite at the plate around a hamstring injury in his first 25 games at High-A Salem. Defensively, he's been excellent and has gone without making an error in 140 games at shortstop this season.

25. Richie Shaffer, 3B, TAM - Shaffer has struggled in all facets to this point at High-A Charlotte, making seven errors in 42 games at the hot corner and delivering a .247/.286/.368 line over 45 games this season. Given the Rays' patience with their farmhands, Shaffer should have plenty of time to find a permanent position (or improve enough at third base to become a viable trade chip there) as he continues his development.

26. Stryker Trahan, C, ARI - Trahan remains at extended spring training with the D-Backs, while it's likely that he'll begin his 2013 campaign at Hillsboro or Missoula in June.

27. Clint Coulter, C, MIL - With a recent 10-game surge (11-for-37), Coulter is making strides at the plate at Low-A Wisconsin. The overall line through 33 games isn't great - .207/.299/.345 - but considering that it's the 19-year-old's first exposure to full-season ball and that he's on a long-term development plan as a catcher drafted out of high school, he'll likely get the entire season to solve the Midwest League.

28. Victor Roache, OF, MIL - The Brewers were able to land a potential top-10 pick in the No. 28 spot since Roache had a broken wrist that derailed his junior season at Georgia Southern and he was unable to play after being drafted last summer. Over 36 games at Low-A Wisconsin in the Midwest League, Roache is hitting .208/.325/.360 with five homers, 19 RBI and a 20:40 BB:K. The strikeouts are the concern for now, as Roache has fanned in 17 of his last 37 at-bats. Perhaps the lost time in 2012 will lead to full year at Low-A, but the power should begin to surface a bit more as he gets further away from the injury.

29. Lewis Brinson, OF, TEX - A quick glance at the season line for Brinson confirms anything you may have read or heard about his tools - especially the 10 homers and six steals, but the short-term issue comes in his plate discipline. Brinson has already struck out 83 times in 192 at-bats, and improving his pitch recognition figures to be a season-long assignment at Low-A Hickory.

30. Ty Hensley, RP, NYY - Hensley will likely miss the entire 2013 season following hip surgery, adding to the health concern for a player who was discovered to have a shoulder abnormality after being drafted by the Yankees last summer. In 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League last season, Hensley had a 14:7 K:BB with a .174 BAA and 3.00 ERA.

31. Brian Johnson, SP, BOS - The 22-year-old Johnson has pitched well through eight starts at Low-A Greenville with a 34:16 K:BB over 34 innings (3.71 ERA) after tossing 5.2 innings in the New York-Penn league last summer. He uses four pitches, although none of the offerings have been graded as plus pitches to this point. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Johnson should have little difficulty withstanding the heavier workloads of being a starter as he continues to move through the Red Sox's system, while it's expected that he'll serve as an eventual contributor in the back of the rotation for Boston.

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Derek VanRiper
Derek was a frequent writer and media host. During his tenure, he'd been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also had hosted RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).
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