The major league draft is gaining more and more exposure with each passing year, and even though it’s still the third most popular such event of the three major sports (especially after the first round), the gap is closing dramatically. Yet with the developmental structure of minor league baseball, players often fall out of our consciousness while they’re in the minor leagues.
The process is getting better. With the earlier signing deadline for draft picks, we saw more players than ever before get time on the field during their draft year. Much of that time came in short-season and rookie leagues, especially for high-school picks, with only a few of the more advanced college players reaching full-season ball.
That makes it easy for us to forget about them.
In our ultra-quick, Twitter-dominated society, it’s easy to lose track of even last year’s draft picks, so here’s a rundown of where 2012′s first-rounders have debuted this year, and how they’re doing.
1 – Carlos Correa, Houston: Made his full-season debut in Low-A Quad Cities of the Midwest League, and is hitting .276/.432/.483 in the early going. All the potential is still there, but he may need a full season at each level though the minors. Eight walks in his first seven games this season is a good start, though.
2 – Byron Buxton, Minnesota: After struggling in rookie/short-season ball last year, Buxton has come out on fire in 2013 at Midwest League Cedar Rapids, hitting .438/.526/.719. Four-extra-base hits in his first nine games is a good sign for the development of his power.
3 – Mike Zunino, Seattle: Zunino is dominating Triple-A the same way he dominated Double-A, short-season ball, and the SEC last season. He’ll be in the majors by the summer.
4 – Kevin Gausman, Baltimore: Jumped directly to Double-A this season, Gausman has yet to walk a hitter in 2013 and just one in 25 professional innings. He would move quickly in many systems, but the Orioles of late have shown a conservative approach to developing pitchers. He could get a cameo this fall, but that’s about it.
5 – Kyle Zimmer, Kansas City: After proving he could handle Low-A ball last year, Zimmer is doing the same in the High-A Carolina League. Pitching in Wilmington won’t provide him much challenge, and he should be in Double-A by mid-summer.
6 – Albert Almora, Chicago (NL): Yet to make his full-season debut after breaking his hamate bone during spring training. The injury didn’t do much other than make it likely that he spends the entire season in Low-A ball, where he was scheduled to report.
7 – Max Fried, San Diego: Two starts into his full-season career, we’ve seen lots of strikeouts and lots of walks and restrictions on his early-season workload. The Midwest League shouldn’t be too challenging for Fried, but he could spend the whole season there on the Archie Bradley-schedule from last season.
8 – Mark Appel, Pittsburgh: Did not sign. He’s dominating at Stanford and is the leader to be the top pick this year.
9 – Andrew Heaney, Miami: After making it to Low-A Greensboro last year, Heaney will report there again after he’s done rehabbing from a lat strain.
10 – David Dahl, Colorado: Dominated the short-season Pioneer League last season. Went 0-for-4 in his Sally League debut this year before being sent back to spring training for a non-baseball related issue.
11 – Addison Russell, Oakland: You can’t do much better in your draft year than Russell, who went from high school to full-season ball while hitting .369/.432/.594 in the process. This season he’s in the California League, where he could put up huge numbers.
12 – Gavin Cecchini, New York (NL): Struggled in the New York-Penn League last season and is back in extended spring training to begin this season.
13 – Courtney Hawkins, Chicago (AL): Made it through three levels to participate in the Carolina League playoffs last season, but is struggling this year in High-A, with 18 strikeouts to just two walks in his first eight games. He does, however, have four home runs.
14 – Nick Travieso, Cincinnati: Threw 21 innings of rookie ball last season but remains in extended spring training at the moment. He should be in Dayton at some point this season if the Reds keep him on a similar timetable as they have with 2011 first-rounder Robert Stephenson.
15 – Tyler Naquin, Cleveland: Jumped over Low-A ball to the Carolina League where he’s hitting .351/.400/.568 to start the season.
16 – Lucas Giolito, Washington: Known as an injury risk when selected, Giolito has already had Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. Before injuring his arm during his senior season of high school, he was in the running to be the first-ever prep right-hander selected first overall.
17 – D.J. Davis, Toronto: Played in three different short-season leagues last year, but is still in extended spring training in 2013.
19 – Michael Wacha, St. Louis: Was so impressive last summer and this spring that there was talk of sticking him in the major league bullpen this year. Instead he’s in the Pacific Coast League, where he’s experienced his first hiccup, as so many prospects do. He should be in the Cardinals rotation by next season, however, and could be called up to pitch in their pen down the stretch.
20 – Chris Stratton, San Francisco: After faring well in short-season ball in 2012, Stratton is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in the Sally League to start his full-season career. The college right-hander could move quickly.
21 – Lucas Sims, Atlanta: A power-armed right-hander, Sims was erratic but effective at two rookie-level stops last year. In three appearances in the Sally League this year, however, he’s managed just 5.2 innings and a 7.94 ERA with almost a walk per inning.
22 – Marcus Stroman, Toronto: The former Duke Blue Devil continues to work as a reliever, meaning he should move quickly once he returns from his 50-game drug suspension (methylhexaneamine).
23 – James Ramsey, St. Louis: The Florida State outfielder was jumped directly to the Florida State League last season and struggled, hitting just .229/.333/.314 there in 56 games. His second shot at the league is going much better: He’s hitting .417/.523/.722 through 10 games this season.
24 – Deven Marrero, Boston: A high-profile college player who fell in the draft, Marrero is hitting .300/.364/.500 in the tough-hitting Carolina League in his first full-season assignment while trying to fight his way up the crowded Red Sox depth chart at shortstop.
25 – Richie Shaffer, Tampa Bay: The Rays typically take it slow with their prospects, so jumping Shaffer directly to the Florida State League after just 33 NYPL games last year shows confidence in him, despite his .235/.229/.324 line thus far this year.
26 – Stryker Trahan, Arizona: A beast of a teenager, Trahan remains in extended spring training to work on his defense behind the plate, which still lags well behind his advanced bat. He’s going to hit no matter where he goes, so he should jump to full-season ball this year.
27 – Clint Coulter, Milwaukee: Coulter tore up the Arizona Rookie League last hear, hitting .302/.439/.444 in 49 games, but he’s off to a slow start in the Midwest League, hitting just .143/.219/.393 thus far. Hitting outdoors in Wisconsin this time of year, however, can be nearly impossible, so there’s no need to worry just yet.
28 – Victor Roache, Milwaukee: Has yet to play due to injury.
29 – Lewis Brinson, Texas: Brinson brought his big power and big strikeouts from the Arizona Rookie League to the Sally League this season. He already has two home runs but also 16 strikeouts in 10 games.
30 – Ty Hensley, New York (NY): Hensley threw just 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League last season, then had hip surgery this spring. He won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest.
Other notable prospects
39 – Joey Gallo, Texas – The biggest power hitter in the draft, Gallo hit 22 home runs in 59 games last season, but also struck out 78 times. The same is going on this season in the Sally League, with three home runs but 17 strikeouts in 11 games, but now it’s hurting his batting average: .179.
44 – Travis Jankowski, San Diego – The star of the CWS Cinderella darlings from Stony Brook, Jankowski is hitting .394/.462/.455 early in the California League season.