Among the players from the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft who will be making their professional debuts in 2012, pitchers predominate. It's not surprising that organizations would baby those valuable arms, though a handful of hurlers were given a chance to experience the Arizona Fall League. As their climb up the organizational ladder begins in earnest, here's a look at where many of the top debuts will take place on Minor League Opening Day, April 5.
Gerrit Cole, Bradenton Marauders
A few weeks after locking up the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 Draft just 15 minutes before the Aug. 15 signing deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to turn Gerrit Cole loose on the highly talented Arizona Fall League. In his first outing, the UCLA product reached triple digits on the radar gun. He went on to compile a 2-0 record in five starts, fanning 16 over 15 innings.
Now, the 21-year-old right-hander is poised to make his pro debut, and his first destination on the path to Pittsburgh will be with the Bradenton Maurauders in the Florida State League. His next stop is likely to be Double-A Altoona. So, though it's still cool up North, the Florida sunshine should provide a welcome stop for the California native, who will seek to dominate Class A Advanced opponents as he develops his game. Local fans can look for occasional triple-digit speed, while Bucs fans everywhere salivate over another premier addition to their talent-laden MiLB pitching cadre.
Danny Hultzen, Jackson Generals
Taken by Seattle with the second overall pick in 2011, left-hander Danny Hultzen starts a rung higher on his organizational ladder than Cole does. The University of Virginia product starts his ascent at Double-A Jackson with a pair of fellow pitching prospects that rivals Pittsburgh's duo of Cole and Jameson Taillon for upside potential.
In 18 AFL frames, he put together a 1.40 ERA earning a start in the Rising Stars Game where he pitched two hitless innings en route to the win. There was speculation that he could advance straight to the big leagues and a depleted staff in Seattle out of Spring Training, but he has landed on a more traditional path. The question Mariners fans will be asking is, "How long before we see Hultzen up here?"
Dylan Bundy, Delmarva Shorebirds
Taken by Baltimore with the No. 4 overall pick out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, Dylan Bundy was not merely a consensus All-American, he was named Player of the Year by all three of Baseball America, Gatorade and USA Today. His older brother, Bobby Bundy is also in the Orioles organization, but the pair will not be sharing a roster just yet, as the elder (1/13/90) Bundy is at Double-A Bowie, while 19-year-old Dylan will get his pro career underway with the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds.
Likely the top right-hander in the South Atlantic League entering the season, Bundy already boasts a four-pitch mix. If he approaches his high school dominance -- he fanned 322 over 151 innings in his junior and senior seasons -- he will pose a challenge to the O's, who will be glad to see the development but will want to let the teenager build endurance and arm strength as he progresses in full-season ball.
, Potomac Nationals
Selected No. 6 overall by Washington out of Rice University, Anthony Rendon was the first infielder taken in 2011. Considered a solid four-tool player
-- speed being the one that's not quite great -- the biggest question marks to date have involved his health. A warm-weather start with Potomac of the Class A Advanced Carolina League should give the 21-year-old a comfort zone as he settles in to full-season pro ball.
Rendon will be joined in Potomac by third-round pick (No. 96 overall) Matt Purke, a southpaw considered to be one of the most complete pitchers in the Draft class, best described as a finesse lefty mixing four pitches with plus arm strength and power.
Taylor Jungmann, Brevard County Manatees
Jed Bradley, Brevard County Manatees
The Brewers will send a pair of first-rounders to the Brevard County Manatees of the Class A Advanced Florida State League. Jungmann was selected out of Texas with the 12th overall pick and Bradley out of Georgia Tech with the 15th. The pair didn't overwhelem during Spring Training so were sent to Minor League camp to build up some innings. At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Jungmann is a big right-hander with three plus pitches with stuff he can maintain deep into every start. Bradley notched a win in six AFL outings but only worked 8 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder profiles as a workhorse who can throw a lot of innings and get to the big leagues fairly quickly.
Matt Barnes, Greenville Drive
Henry Owens, Greenville Drive
Another L/R pitching combo, selected a bit farther apart, appears headed for a single destination. The Boston Red Sox will send both right-hander Matt Barnes, selected 19th overall out of UConn, and left-hander Henry Owens, selected in Compensation Round A with the 36th overall pick, to the Greenville Drive in the Class A South Atlantic League. Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2011, Barnes looks and acts like a frontline starter. The 6-foot-6, Owens can start to add a changeup to the four-pitch mix that was sufficient to let him master high school opponents in Southern California.
Mikie Mahtook, Charlotte Stone Crabs
Selected by Tampa Bay with the 31st overall pick, outfielder Mikie Mahtook was a 2011 first-team All-American at LSU who posted a .344 lifetime batting average there. He also ranks No. 2 in the school's storied history in triples with 12 and No. 5 in stolen bases with 60. After a couple months vacation, he carried that sort of performance over to the AFL, batting .338 (23-for-68) in 18 games, alternating between left and right field. The Rays have assigned the 22-year-old with the speedy bat to the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
Joining Mahtook in Charlotte will be Grayson Garvin, a 6-foot-6 left-hander out of Vanderbilt taken with the 59th overall pick in Compensation Round A.
Michael Kelly, Fort Wayne Tin Caps
One top pitching prospect named Kelly apparently wasn't enough for San Diego, which selected right-hander Michael Kelly out of West Boca Raton (Fla.) Community High School with the 48th overall pick in Comp Round A. While fellow-Floridian Casey Kelly will be just a notch away from the big leagues with Triple-A Tucson, 19-year-old Michael will get his pro career underway with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps in the Class A Midwest League.