Draft Preview: The Top Ten

Before we know it, the draft will be underway and it'll be the second or third round in no time. By that time, the big names of this draft are sure to be long gone. While the entire draft is certainly exciting, everyone still concentrates the most on what becomes of the elite. Find out more about the ten best players in this year's class and where they might be headed come draft day.

1. Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin High School (GA)

What To Expect: In a tight race for the title of number one overall pick, Beckham has a slight edge over Buster Posey and Pedro Alvarez. According to sources, he's likely the leading candidate going into Thursday. Now, of course, we need to consider where he may go if the Rays take their top choice and use it on someone else. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have their sights set on Pedro Alvarez at this point, and would be likely to pass on Beckham. Their fan base is craving a player who can help in a hurry and Beckham may not be that guy. With that in mind, Beckham would be an attractive option for both Kansas City and Baltimore at picks three and four respectively. The Giants at pick number five have not shown quite the interest, but could take a hard look if some of their top options are off the board. That leaves us with the Florida Marlins with the sixth pick. This is the farthest you will see Beckham fall on draft day. According to source, Florida would pounce in a hurry if the exciting high school shortstop were to be there. If he is not the top pick, this could be his next most likely landing place.

What The Scouts Say: "Beckham is that player loaded with tools that everyone wants to see at the top of the draft class. He's got all the athleticism and speed you could want and a real feel for the game."

2. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt

What To Expect: In terms of statistics and overall performance, it would easy to call Pedro Alvarez' junior season a disappointment. The fact of the matter is, however, that it is hard to find a scout that would agree with that sentiment. Despite a hand injury keeping him out of the lineup for a good portion of the spring and less than Alvarez-like numbers since getting back into the action, the general consensus is that he hasn't missed a beat or had any of his prospect status diminished. He has an outside chance of being the top overall pick, but that, at this point appears to be unlikely. What appears to be more and more of a likelihood though is that the Pirates will take him with the number two overall selection. He's expected to ask for the big bucks, but it doesn't appear to be scaring anyone off. As unlikely as it seems, if the Vanderbilt star slips by Pittsburgh he could be in play for Kansas City but will not get past the Baltimore Orioles at number four.

What The Scouts Say: "He's going to hit. Everyone knows he was hurt and the statistics don't look like they should but he just hits. When he's right, there's no one in the class the matches him in that department."

3. Buster Posey, C, Florida State

What To Expect: Perhaps the word isn't "shocking", but the word to describe Posey's monstrous spring performance and rapid ascension to the top of the '08 class would certainly have to be something in the neighborhood of "pleasantly surprising." Not a player in the nation, at any level, can match the FSU catcher's play this season and it has put him squarely in position as a near lock for the top five overall picks. There's a current divide among scouts and experts about who the Rays will take as the top overall selection, with Buster Posey being the alternative to the aforementioned Tim Beckham. Tampa Bay's scouting department has yet to come close to tipping their hand, but while Beckham has the very slight edge Posey is by no means a long shot. If he is not the top choice, Pittsburgh is rumored to have interest, but appear to be set on Pedro Alvarez. Kansas City will most likely pass and Baltimore will take a long look, but will most likely lean towards left-handed pitcher, Brian Matusz. The righty swinging catcher's slide would more than likely end there, though. The Giants have been all over the Seminole backstop and would not let him slip by.

What The Scouts Say: "The move behind the plate went smoothly. And, we know what a hot commodity a catcher who can swing the bat is. Posey may not be a slugger, but he can swing the bat and stick behind the plate."

4. Brian Matusz, LHP, San Diego

What To Expect: With this being a year dominated by hitters, it seems like Matusz has been the forgotten man at times. By no means, however, is he being forgotten by teams picking in the top ten. All along, there have been whispers, as faint as they may be, that teams picking in the top three could have interest in the southpaw strikeout artist. Even with that being said, Matusz is the favorite to land with Baltimore at pick number four. The Giants, always on the hunt for pitching, could also be a fit for the tall left-hander. The most interesting recent rumor has Matusz linked with the Florida Marlins. Rumors have been flying of late that Florida has been looking for a pre-draft deal with someone; whether that player is Matusz is unknown but it's certainly a possibility. If he falls any farther than the sixth pick it will be very surprising.

What The Scouts Say: "He really the total package. [Matusz] is everything you could want when you are drafting a college pitcher. The command, the live stuff, the polish. It's all there."

5. Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina

What To Expect: Justin Smoak has been one of the more difficult prospects to make a prediction on in this year's draft class. Considering he has some perceived high bonus demands, that could play a large role in that uncertainty. Although the demands are still unknown, we won't know for sure until the draft begins to unfold but Smoak could be the player this year who slides farther than his talent would indicate. The Baltimore Orioles have proven to be unafraid of taking on tough negotiations and they are probably his earliest possible destination. Look for the Giants, Reds, and especially the Nationals to be major players for the South Carolina slugger. The odds are that he won't get by Washington at pick number nine, but if he does, the slide could begin.

What The Scouts Say: "After Alvarez, Smoak is the next guy. He's got a lot of competition with all the big bats this year, but he can swing it from both sides and will hit for big power at the next level. You have an idea of what you're getting with him."

6. Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage High School (FL)

What To Expect: Hosmer is being talked up as a major wildcard in this class and as the player who could really slide down the first round. If that were to happen it would shakeup the entire makeup of the draft. But, it is looking less and less likely that that scenario will play out. The Royals appear to be undeterred by Hosmer and Scott Boras' reported sky-high bonus demands. It would come as quite a surprise if the Royals top selection come draft day was not the high school slugger. If the Royals do pass on him, then it is time to start looking for other landing spots in the first round for his enormous price tag. Washington, at pick number nine has proven to be a free spending team when it comes to the draft and it would say a lot about the size of Hosmer's demands if even they let him slide by.

What The Scouts Say: "He's not your typical high school hitter. He's not all about the big raw power or what he shows in the batting cage. The kid can just hit. His approach is not anything like a high school player's usually is."

7. Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri

What To Expect: A combination of power stuff and college polish, Crow will be a sought after commodity come draft day and will not make it out of the top ten picks. Where exactly in those top ten picks he could go is in flux. The Reds and White Sox at picks seven and eight have been taking a long look at the hard throwing righty, according to several scouts. He could go as high as number four overall to the Orioles, but that appears unlikely.

What The Scouts Say: "There's not many arms out there like Aaron Crow. He's got power stuff and has been very durable this spring. He hit a rough patch and his stuff didn't look as lively but he looks like he's back in top form."

8. Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot High School (CA)

What To Expect: Few players have been as talked about in this draft class as much as Kyle Skipworth. His performance in front of scouts and word of his recent workouts with various teams have been the buzz of the last couple weeks. Despite some poor performances in front of scouts and in his workouts, Skipworth has bounced back and had some incredibly impressive displays. The latest word is that he put on absolute show at a pre-draft workout for the Nationals, putting ball after ball into the stands in batting practice. That also may not be the last time he launches home runs for them. According to sources, Washington will not pass on the slugging catcher if he's available at pick number nine. With the Marlins all over him and potentially using the sixth overall pick on him, however, the Nationals may not get their man.

What The Scouts Say: "Skipworth has some work to do behind the plate but he's got the skills to stay back there. His ticket is his bat though. He's got huge upside at the plate."

9. Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane

What To Expect: There have been reports that Hunt is slipping down the draft boards, but according to a handful of industry sources, those reports are at least somewhat unfounded. Both teams in Texas appear to be on hot on the hard throwing Tulane ace's tail and his most likely landing place is with the Texas Rangers at number eleven. Hunt could go as high as the eighth overall pick to the White Sox, who are also said to have significant interest in the right-hander. He's expected to be signable for slot money so it's unlikely that a signable power arm with a college track record will slip too far.

What The Scouts Say: "There have been some concerns with his command, definitely. But, it is very hard to ignore the power stuff and the two plus pitches. He has frontline potential."

10. Brett Wallace, 1B/3B, Arizona State

What To Expect: Rumors that Wallace could go as high as the eighth overall pick to the White Sox have fizzled of late, but in that time more rumors have emerged. The Nationals are said to have interest as well as Oakland with the twelfth overall pick. If nothing else, he fits beautifully into the "Moneyball" concept. No, they aren't selling jeans, so even with a "bad body" which really is not nearly as bad as it is made out to be, the Athletics will not let that influence their evaluation of the lefty slugger.

What The Scouts Say: "Say what you want about his body are his defense, or that he will have to play first base. What no one can say is this guy can't hit. He's close to a sure thing at the plate."

Author Bio: Frankie Piliere has worked as a scout for Major League clubs in a part-time capacity for the last two years and has covered the draft for Scout.com in different capacities since 2004. He can be reached for questions or comments at fpiliere44@yahoo.com.

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