MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Breaking down the Top 50 Draft prospects

Breaking down the Top 50 Draft prospects

If you blink, you might miss something.

That's the warning that comes with looking at any ranked list of talent in any Draft year. The minute a list is set or published, several things happen to scramble the order. So keep in mind when perusing this 2011 Draft Top 50, it is about as fluid a list as one could have.

This is not a list based on who is going to go where on Draft Day. While information about which teams are considering which players undoubtedly sneaks into the decision-making, this Top 50 is largely talent-driven. Things like signability do not come into play here. That's a variable that gets more attention in projections of how the first round will play out. Updates will most certainly be made along the way.

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Draft Central

Reports that this is a deep class are indeed true. While questions remain at the top, which in turn makes it more difficult to ascertain what teams further down might do, there's no question there's a good deal of quality talent to be had throughout the early stages of the Draft. As one scouting director has put it, "The guy who picks [No.] 8 or 10 could have the No. 1 talent. That's how good this Draft is."

Here's how the Top 50 breaks down:

Pitching, pitching, pitching

WHERE DO THEY PLAY?
Position #
Right-handed pitchers 17
Outfielders 11
Left-handed pitchers 8
Catchers 5
Third basemen 3
Shortstops 3
First basemen 2
Second basemen 1

The word on the street is that you can never have enough of it, and it's always a hot commodity come Draft time, with the ability to develop homegrown arms vitally important for an organization's long-term success. In last year's first round, 13 of the 32 picks were used on pitching, with five of the first 10 selections being pitchers.

This year's class is even deeper in terms of arms -- and power arms at that -- so it shouldn't be a big surprise if the percentage of pitchers taken at the top increases. Half of the Top 50 are those who hope to go to the next level on the mound.

A final note on the positional breakdown: Positions that players are primarily playing now were used, not ones where they will or might play in the future. There might be a shortstop or two, for example, who will have to move to second or third, and not all of the catchers will stay behind the plate, in all likelihood.

Prep vs. college

It's been a debate for a long time, even before "Moneyball." What's the best way to go in the Draft? The oversimplified explanation of this dichotomy is that college picks are safer bets, but the high schoolers have higher ceilings. While there might be some shreds of truth to that, it's not wholly accurate, either. But even when a certain Draft class skews more to the high school ranks, the tendency has been for college players to rise to the top and high schoolers to slide a bit as teams tend to get a bit risk-averse when it's decision time.

Last year was a bit of an aberration in that regard, with the top three picks being teenagers, although one -- Bryce Harper -- was technically a junior college product. A total of 19 high schoolers were taken in the first round a year ago, a higher total than usual (there were 15 in 2009, for example).

This year's class does seem to lean a bit toward the college ranks, talent-wise, with 28 of the Top 50 coming from campuses (including junior colleges). Seven of the top 10 are college players, but when looking at the strength of this Draft -- pitching, right-handed in particular -- it's much more even. Of the 17 right-handers in the Top 50, nine are prepsters, with six in the Top 20.

where are they from?
State #
California 8
Florida 7
Texas 4
South Carolina 3
Tennessee 3
Connecticut 2
Georgia 2
Oklahoma 2
Oregon 2
Ark., Hawaii, Ill., Ind., Ky., Kan., La.,
Mass., N.C., N.M., Ohio, Pa., Va., Wyo.
1

Draft geography: The usual places

It should not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Draft that California and Florida are the most heavily represented in the Top 50, with Texas coming in third. They tend to be, after all, the hotbeds of amateur baseball. In tabulating the geographic breakdown, school locations were used, rather than a player's hometown.

It should be noted that while California still topped the list, at eight, it is not considered an overwhelmingly strong year out West. Scouts have marveled at the possibility of there not being a single California high school position player selected in the first round, something that hasn't happened since 2005 (John Drennen was a supplemental first-rounder that year). Southern California is particularly dry this season, without even many first-round pitchers to consider. In total, 23 states were represented on this list, including entries from Hawaii and Wyoming.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.