It's the time of year to try to start piecing together what the first round of the First-Year Player Draft is going to look like. Call me a glutton for punishment, but it's an exercise, as futile as it may seem, that's extremely enjoyable.
In this first go-round, it's a projection of the top 10 picks. Over the next few weeks, it will be updated several times before the Draft begins on June 9. By then, there will be predictions for each of the 32 first-round picks this year.
So, let's start slowly, with the top 10. This year, as most already know, the No. 1 pick is pretty much a slam dunk. But after Stephen Strasburg, it's still very much muddled for picks 2-10. The hope for Round 1 is to get the names more or less right. The order will come later. So here goes nothing.
1. Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
He was the top guy heading into the season and basically ran away and hid right from the get-go. The only question was about the bonus demands, and whether Washington would be willing to go down that road, knowing they really had to sign their first pick after not getting pitcher Aaron Crow into the fold a year ago. It seems likely they will select Strasburg, and look for the Nats to get it done and move him on the fast track.
2. Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina
This is where it gets murkier. After Strasburg, it's still very much up in the air. If the Mariners want to go with a pitcher, it's looking like Crow and perhaps Kyle Gibson are still in the mix. It's no secret that when he was the Brewers' scouting director, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik loved the bats, and Ackley's the best one in this class. The question mark around him is his position, as most would like him to play the outfield, but he hasn't been out there very much for scouts to evaluate. Considering Zdureincik took Matt LaPorta and turned him into an outfielder, it might not matter.
3. San Diego Padres: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
Traditionally, the Padres have been fairly college-heavy, at least early in Drafts, and the thinking here is they'll go that route again. The pick for now is the Vandy southpaw with a very good track record, but a guy like Crow could fit as well. If the M's don't take Ackley, the Padres very well could. That being said, there is some talk going on in the organization about going in a different direction. Specifically, that's toolsy outfielder Donavan Tate, who has tremendous athletic talent and a commitment to play football and baseball at North Carolina.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
The Pirates would have serious interest in Ackley if he somehow gets to them, but that seems unlikely at this point. If they decided a college bat is what they need, there has been some talk they've been interested in USC shortstop Grant Green. The next-best choices might be college arms, and Pittsburgh has been all over the Tar Heels' ace, as well as watching Crow and current Missouri starter Kyle Gibson. Don't forget the high school arms because they haven't, with prep stars like Zack Wheeler, Matthew Purke and Matt Hobgood still in the mix.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
Crow was taken No. 9 overall a year ago by the Nationals, but didn't sign. Instead of returning to Mizzou, he went the indy route, pitching for a Fort Worth club that has had guys like Luke Hochevar pitch for it. Word is Crow looks the same as he did a year ago, and there were plenty of teams who liked him in 2008. The O's were one of them before they decided to go in another direction, and they still like the right-hander. Like in most spots in the top 10, a team looking at Crow is probably also looking at Gibson. Wheeler, the high schooler out of Georgia, is on their short list as well, and they could go for a bat like Green if they so choose.
6. San Francisco Giants: Michael Trout, OF, Millville Senior HS, N.J.
And now we have our first high schooler going off the board. This is a little bit of a leap, but there's no doubt Trout has been a late riser on Draft boards. Word is the Giants have been in heavy to see the toolsy outfielder and they are an organization willing to take whoever they want, regardless of perception. In that regard, they could also have interest in Tate. They could have an interest in Wheeler if they wanted to go with the young power arm instead.
7. Atlanta Braves: Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
This one almost seems to make too much sense, with the Braves loving power arms and taking guys in their own backyard. Wheeler fits both of those criteria. If Wheeler is taken above them -- which is extremely possible -- they could look elsewhere for a high school pitcher, perhaps Purke or fellow lefty Tyler Matzek.
8. Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri
Once again, it's college-arm time and it might just depend on who falls to Cincy at this spot. In this scenario, it's Gibson, and the Reds would likely be just fine with that. They might have a discussion about Tanner Scheppers, who has top-of-the-Draft talent, but still has the question mark of a shoulder issue following him. A high shcool arm like Jacob Turner could enter the mix as well.
9. Detroit Tigers: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
The Tigers are liable to do anything and will take whoever they feel is the best player available, period. That often means they are linked with whatever wild cards there are in a Draft. This time, that could mean Tate, it could mean Scheppers, or it could mean Turner. Instead, for this first week, we'll go with the prep lefty from SoCal in Matzek, who's dazzled at times with his great stuff but has been a little enigmatic with consistently bringing it to the table.
10. Washington Nationals: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kenesaw State
I know what you're thinking -- that the Nats are going cheap because of Strasburg. Not so fast. Sure, if they can save a few dollars here, they won't say no, but the fact of the matter is Jenkins was rising up many Draft boards, not just in Washington, surpassing his teammate Kyle Heckathorn, also a first-round candidate. And it's not like he's the only option here. They could get in on the Scheppers hunt or, believe it or not, re-draft Crow. They were also spotted en force watching Matzek recently, and he could be the guy if they go high school arm here.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.