With the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft having so many great college and high school pitching prospects, it is difficult to predict five college and high school positional players guaranteed to be selected in the first round of the draft. There is solid talent at both levels, but teams will be focused on all of the great power arms available and selecting pitching will be the priority. The college list below is very fluid with the only guaranteed top-10 pick and he should go in the top five if teams are comfortable with his injury history. The remaining four have questions to answer over the remaining months before the draft to ensure that they will be first round selections.
1. Anthony Rendon, R/R, 3B, Rice University
32 games, AVE .364 HR 3 RBI 20 SLG% .579 SB 7
Rendon is the most polished hitter in this year's draft and the most major league ready. An American League scout said the 5'11’’, 180 pound Rendon has the most advanced eye in the draft with great hands and quick wrists through the strike zone. One NL scout believes that he could make it to the big leagues within a year. He has a plus arm and a plus hit tool with plus power and a solid glove. Mechanically he has a fantastic swing and outstanding patience with a great eye at the plate, advanced understanding of the strike zone and great discipline. He has average speed and a playable arm for third base. Scouts believe he will be able to stay at third base. The big issue for Rendon over the last few years has been injuries as he has not been able to stay completely healthy. He has had two ankle injuries in the last year, which are well documented, and he's had a shoulder strain this year, which has prevented him from playing third base. Scouts who follow him regularly believe the shoulder injury is not serious and he should be back at third base soon but given that he is projected to be the first or second pick of the draft, teams are rightly concerned about the injuries he has sustained over the last two years.
2. Mikie Mahtook, R/R, CF, LSU
28 games, AVE .404 HR 10 RBI 32 SLG% .828 SB 16
Mahtook is probably the fastest rising positional prospect in this year's draft. He has been on a tear for the last couple of weeks and scouts are thrilled that he is harnessing his athleticism and producing on the field. Mahtook is a freakish athlete and was a star in football and baseball in high school. He is a pure center fielder with raw power, above-average speed and a strong arm. Two area scouts I spoke to have no doubt he can stay in centerfield once he reaches the big leagues. He is one of the few athletes in this draft that is considered to have five-tool potential. The six-foot, 200 pound Tiger has quick hands, an aggressive swing and he has the speed and power combination to potentially be a 30/30 player in the pros. Some scouts are concerned about his approach as they feel he is a "see it/ hack at it" batter but his tools cannot be over looked. If the second half of his season is anything like his first, Mahtook could be a top 10 pick.
3. George Springer, R/R, OF, UConn
25 games, AVE .337 HR 3 RBI 26 SLG% .581 SB 10
Springer came into the season as one of the nation's better power hitters and some scouts thought he could go as high as the number two pick in the draft. However, a slow start to his season coupled with some questions about his swing and Springer now may still be on the board into the 20s. He has started to heat up over the last couple of weeks and scouts think the power will come once the weather warms up a bit. I saw him last week and he was ripping line drives all over the park. He has great hands at the plate and generates plus bat speed. An AL scout recently spoke of how impressed he was with Springer’s approach and patience and thinks Springer has ironed out his swing. The 6'3’’, 200 pound outfielder has above-average speed and an above-average arm and will be a defensive presence in the pros. It's his power and speed potential that will keep him in the top 20 picks but if he can start to consistently flash the potential he showed in 2010, he could move back into the top-10.
4. Andrew Susac, R/R, C, Oregon State
26 games, AVE .364 HR 4 RBI 25 SLG% .614
Susac is a draft-eligible sophomore and a solid catch-and-throw guy. Scouts love his raw power and his raw arm strength. A National League area scout I spoke to believes Susac has the best arm in the draft. The 6'1’’, 205 pound catcher has quick hands and scouts like how he has improved his footwork and presence behind the plate and some believe he could play catcher in the big leagues right now. Susac has good bat speed and poise at the plate and is starting to drive the ball. He is still young and most think his power will continue to develop. As a draft-eligible sophomore he could be a tough sign but he should be selected high enough that he will get the money he wants in order to sign.
5. Jackie Bradley, Jr., L/R, OF, South Carolina
27 games, AVE .299 HR 6 RBI 23 SLG% .588 SB 1
Bradley was the Most Outstanding Player at last year's College Baseball World Series leading the Gamecocks to the championship. Bradley has a solid approach at the plate and scouts love how he has a plan at the plate and that he implements the plan. He has good bat speed and is always able to square up on the ball. His power projection is a point of contention with scouts. Some believe he will hit 10 home runs a year while others think he can be a 15-20 homer guy in the bigs. He has good speed but not great speed and an above-average throwing arm. A question on the 5'10’’, 175 pound outfielder is if he can play in centerfield in the major leagues. If scouts believe he can, then he is that much more of an intriguing prospect and he will be selected in the upper part of the first round.
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