Today is the day that fans of baseball's lesser teams have been looking forward to since the end of the 2011 season. With festivities set to kick off at 6:00 central and with nobody really knowing which teams would be taking which players, there's still been no shortage of speculation surrounding this year's top picks. On Sunday afternoon, Jim Bowden of ESPN XM Radio fired this through the Twitter:
According to source the Houston Astros are expected to select Stanford RHP Mark Appel with the first over all selection in tomorrows draft.— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) June 3, 2012
Before we get into this too much, it's worth noting that Bowden likes to drop names. And sources. And rumors. It's his job, so it's basically all he does. The magic of being someone in that position is that if you make enough guesses or throw enough things at the wall, eventually something sticks. Which means that it becomes impossible to dismiss out of hand something that person says.
Not that we want to dismiss Bowden, mind you, even if I did call his information into question last summer at the trade deadline. But he does throw a great many things at the wall.
In spite of the clear lack of a "number one" pitcher, or even a clear "number one" pick at all, Mark Appel is consistently the first pitcher taken in mock drafts. He's certainly been a player who has been thought of as a real possibility for Houston. So it's believable, then, that the Astros could be leaning in his direction.
If this is the case, how does it affect how the Twins will draft with the second overall pick?
Over the last few weeks we've talked about potential draft targets for Minnesota, even reviewing a batch of mock drafts to see if there was any kind of a consensus. We've all heard the names, so we know which players will be...well, players. And the only way that the Astros drafting Appel would have an effect on the Twins' draft strategy is if they thought Appel was the best player available. Mike Radcliff spoke to Tyler Mason of Fox Sports North:
"We certainly have needs on the major league team and in our organization," Radcliff said. "But if the best player, the guy that has a chance to be an All-Star player, an impact player, if he's of the position that we already think we have some talent, you still need to take that guy. Because you go ahead and address your need and then that player turns into be just an ordinary player or doesn't make it. Meanwhile, you pass on a guy you thought was the best guy but you don't need him and he plays in 10 All-Star games, well, then you made a bad draft."
Mason seems to think that Appel and high school outfielder Byron Buxton are the consensus two top picks, and that the Twins will take whichever player Houston passes up, while also mentioning collegiate hurlers Kevin Gausman and Kyle Zimmer. He doesn't mention college catcher Mike Zunino or high school shortstop Carlos Correa, who has been gaining traction for the second pick in certain circles.
Reading Ratcliff's comments, it certainly sounds like he's implying that the Twins would have no problem taking Buxton. Outfield is the one area of real strength in the minor leagues, but clearly if the front office thinks Buxton is the best player then they'll go that route. It's hard to argue the point.
If the Twins don't take Buxton following the selection of Appel, it seems that Correa is the best position player option followed by pitchers like Gausman and Zimmer. With the lack of smoke regarding a selection of Zunino, which is mildly surprising, it appears the catcher has been demoted to a dark horse candidate for the number two pick.
It's an exciting day for this organization. A good draft today, particularly good choices in their first few picks, will go a long way towards restocking the farm system and giving the talent pool a real kick start. By this time tomorrow, hopefully the franchise's Top 10 prospect list will boast a couple of new names.