Big Winners at the Draft? Maybe.
The 2012 MLB Amateur Draft has now come and gone, and with the dust settled, it's an excellent time to start thinking about how the Draft has impacted some of the weaker farm systems in baseball. Did they improve enough to contend, or are they still a few drafts away from viability? Here's a look at the draft moves of the more interesting teams to watch as they rebuild, retool, or otherwise attempt to bootstrap themselves into contention.
The Houston Astros, a team as much in need of rebuilding as any in memory, made a bold move to open the 2012 Draft, selecting teenage shortstop Carlos Correa first overall. Correa isn't enough to fix the Astros' farm system, but no player could ever do that: this is a team that will need a solid five or six years to reach viability, a task that will be especially challenging for a team moving from baseball's weakest division to one of the strongest. Still, taking a foundational player rather than a quick-fix MLB-ready pitcher (there were several available) does signal that the new Astros will be patient, and Correa could indeed be a superstar five or six years from now, which is exactly the window that the Astros should be targeting for contention. With that in mind, the Astros' subsequent selections of young pitcher Lance McCullers and even younger Brady Rogers makes a lot of sense, too.
Speaking of teams who are still a fair distance away from contending, the rebuilding Chicago Cubs added a player in this draft, young outfielder Albert Amora, who might very well have become the club's best prospect immediately upon signing. Amora is the kind of all-around talent that the Cubs need to have, and a future offense featuring Amora along with players like Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Javier Baez could be a good one indeed. The team's bigger need is on the pitching side of the game, however, and their selection of pitching for most of the rest of the draft (such as righthanders Paul Blackburn and Pierce Johnson) shows that's exactly the area they're focusing on, too.
The Seattle Mariners, on the other hand, are a lot closer to viability in that same AL West division as the Astros, as they boast a core of powerful young talent that's just about to get augmented from one of the most pitching-rich farm systems in baseball. When that happens, those pitchers will need a strong, leadership-caliber catcher to grow with, and first-round pick Mike Zunino definitely looks like the right player for that role. Securing Zunino will also give the Mariners a chance to rest their best slugger, rookie phenom Jesus Montero, or even move him to a less-punishing position a few years from now. The Mariners continued to build a long-term machine that looks to balance offense and defense, too, as their picks of high-ceiling lefty Tyler Pike and infielder Joe DeCarlo demonstrates.
Our database of prospects includes thousands of players, and those recently-drafted prospects of significant note have already begun moving up our 2012-2013 Top Prospects List into the range in which our ureaders will be able to read about them. So while Bryce Harper and company won't be retired from our list anytime soon (wait for September for that), our Top Prospects List will already start to look a whole lot different by the All Star Break than it does today.