After spending the first two days of our 2012 MLB Draft Preview presenting the top hitters and pitchers available, today I want to delve a little deeper and discuss some prospects outside of the 1st round worth familiarizing oneself with, along with acquainting everyone with my favorite sleepers in this year’s class. The collection of talent in this draft has received criticism from scouts for the perceived lack of depth, and although there is some merit to their evaluation, the prospects I discuss below all have significant skills and the ability to become major leaguers with the proper development in the minors. Each player is expected to be drafted inside the top-10 rounds and has the potential to greatly out-produce their respective draft positions. On Day 3 of our 2012 Preview, let me introduce some additional players worth learning about in advance of Monday’s draft.
Names To Know
Kenny Diekroeger SS/2B Stanford University -> Another in a long line of Stanford hitters that have seemingly regressed in their time on campus, Diekroeger was a 2009 Tampa Bay 2nd round pick that spurned their purported hefty contract offers to play college baseball. After a successful freshman season, Diekroeger has slowly lost himself at the plate and his reputation as a solid hitting middle infielder has plummeted in the past two seasons. In spite of his struggles, Diekroeger still shows flashes of his exceptional talents on occasion, and a team willing to patiently work to rebuild his swing and confidence could be rewarded in a few years with a quality major league starting second baseman.
Josh Elander C/OF Texas Christian University -> Elander spent much of last summer as the starting catcher with Team USA, and entered this spring as a potential 1st round pick due to his above-average right-handed bat, quality arm strength, and quick release. Although he has some intriguing catch-and-throw potential, Elander has earned the reputation as a poor defensive catcher, and scouts believe he will transition to an outfield corner as a professional thanks to his solid arm and surprising athleticism. If a team is convinced that Elander can remain behind the plate defensively in the major leagues, he could be selected as highly as the supplemental 1st round, otherwise he will be chosen between the 2nd-5th round as a slugging corner outfielder.
Travis Jankowski OF Stony Brook -> Jankowski is one of the best athletes in his draft class with above-average to plus speed, a strong throwing arm, and a propensity to square up the baseball. Jankowski has an unusual left-handed swing and lacks home run power, but as a tremendous athlete with the defensive skills to stay in center field and a track record of hitting, in particular with a wood bat, Jankowski should see himself drafted before the end of Round 2.
Brian Johnson 1B/LHP University of Florida -> Maybe the top 2-way player in college baseball as a power hitting first baseman and left-handed starting pitcher, his future in professional baseball is on the mound as a well-polished lefty with four average pitches and above-average command. Without an above-average or plus pitch, his upside is limited to a #4-#5 starter, but Johnson’s command of the strike zone and experience makes him a solid bet to move quickly through the minor leagues. Johnson should be drafted sometime before the end of the 2nd round.
James Ramsey OF Florida State University -> One of the best “winners” in college baseball in recent memory, Ramsey was drafted last summer in the 22nd round by Minnesota and spent the summer playing for Yarmouth-Dennis of the Cape Cod League, batting .313/.448/.571 and winning MVP honors in the all-star game. Ramsey eventually spurned the Twins offer and returned to Tallahassee for his senior season and did little to disappoint, hitting .382/.515/.673 with 12 home runs while shifting from right field to center field. Ramsey is unlikely to remain a center fielder due to his average speed and athleticism, but his impressive ability to hit for average and his occasional power should make him profile well in left field or second base professionally.
Raph Rhymes OF Louisiana State University -> After being picked in the 40th round last summer by the Pirates, Rhymes decided to return for his junior season and produced a spectacular .459/.513/.555 batting line and was named the SEC Player of the Year. A right-handed hitting college left fielder with little to no power, a shift to second base would greatly improve Rhymes chances of making the major leagues. Rhymes will be drafted somewhere in the first 10 rounds to the team that believes his extraordinary ability to hit a baseball will continue all the way to the majors.
Adam B. Walker 1B/OF Jacksonville University -> A massive physical specimen at 6-5 250 lbs. with surprising athleticism, Walker has as much right-handed power as anyone in this year’s draft class. Unfortunately Walker has a long swing that struggles against velocity, especially on the inside part of the plate, which forces him to rack up strikeouts at an alarming rate. A true boom-or-bust prospect due to his swing-and-miss tendencies, Walker expects to be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round to a team willing to work on shortening his swing and to gamble on his prodigious power.
Christian Walker 1B University of South Carolina -> One of the offensive leaders on the South Carolina back-to-back College World Series championship teams, Walker has secured his reputation as a dangerous collegiate power hitter. However, as a 6-0 220lbs right-handed hitter limited defensively to first base, professional scouts are not especially enamored with his profile, making him a probable selection outside the top-3 rounds. That said, his quick swing and the pop in his bat make him a nice gamble to slug his way to the major leagues in a few years.
Taylor Dugas OF University of Alabama -> Projected to be selected in the 3rd-6th round area, Dugas could see himself drafted slightly higher as a senior sign if a team decides to shift its resources to other draft choices. A star at Alabama as their all-time leader in hits, Dugas has a small frame and fringy tools except for his impressive ability to square up and hit a baseball and above-average speed, leading me to believe he becomes a solid contributor in the major leagues.
Buck Farmer RHP Georgia Tech -> After a noteworthy performance last summer in the Cape Cod League, Farmer returned this spring as the Friday night starter for the Yellow Jackets and performed well, posting a 3.43 ERA over 99.2 innings pitched, allowing 93 hits and striking out 110 against 34 walks. A sturdy right-hander with three solid offerings, Farmer throws a heavy fastball around 90-92mph (topping out at 94mph), along with an above-average changeup, and a mediocre slider. Because of his fringy breaking ball and the effort involved in his delivery, most scouts believe he will shift to relief as a professional. I, however, respectfully disagree with those scouts, and think he becomes an innings-eating #4/#5 starting pitcher after a few seasons in the minors developing his slider and refining his delivery.
Dan Gulbransen OF Jacksonville University -> My favorite player in this year’s draft, I would likely injure myself pounding my fist against the desk imploring my scouting director to select Gulbransen, as I see him as an underappreciated left-handed hitter with a strong hit tool, solid on-base skills, average or above-average speed, and the instincts to sufficiently play center field in the major leagues. Most organizations will not share this opinion, labeling him a 4th outfielder at best, likely causing Gulbransen to slip to the 5th-8th round. I have a strong conviction that he hits his way through the minor leagues and overachieves his tools with a lengthy career in the majors.
Luke Maile C/1B University of Kentucky -> I do not believe Maile can handle being a major league catcher defensively, and I do not think he has enough power to profile as a major league first baseman, but I respect his right-handed swing and think his power translates in professional baseball. Expected to be drafted in the 4th-7th round area, I think Maile carves out a more noteworthy career in the majors than a sizable percentage of the players selected in front of him.
In Part 4 of our 2012 MLB Draft Preview, I will focus on the Washington Nationals and examine their possible strategies as they select #16th overall in the 1st Round, beginning next Monday evening.
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