With the draft quickly approaching, things are very slowly beginning to take shape, and the more obvious first round talents are being marked. The risk from college players has been to be shown to be less than from a prep player selection, but in some years (depending on how talented that draft class is) you lean toward a prep player in the first round. Sometimes a higher ceiling is that much more obvious in a prep player, and in 2012 it may carry one particular bat to the top of the pile.
Byron Buxton arguably has almost more raw talent than anyone else in the 2012 Draft. He’s looking like a great bet to give a very solid return on whatever signing bonus he gets, already showing lots of value on the bases and as a defender at a premium position. Add in the fact that he already shows off a quick bat and great power potential for a center fielder; and one has to wonder just who in the prep class could possibly come near to offering as much ability.
But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s all still raw talent, and something can also be said for those bats in the prep ranks that show slightly more maturity, power, and a real feel for hitting. It’s not to say that Buxton is incredibly raw at the plate, he’s not. His swing is quick, and it looks capable of doing a lot of damage from the right side of the plate. It revolves more around the fact that there are other prep hitters who have been more consistent with the bat, while also showing similar physical tools offensively.
That brings us to David Dahl, an Alabama prep outfielder who many think can be one of the better hitters that will come out of the 2012 Draft. Though athletic, he is much less of a guarantee to be a center fielder as a professional than Buxton, Albert Almora, Lewis Brinson, or Jameis Winston. His bat should be his calling card, and that might not be such a bad thing with a quick, powerful left-handed swing that looks utterly violent, but clean all at the same time. In the prep ranks, you could argue that he has the best overall bat of any player available.
The comparison between these two reminds me a bit of two 2011 Draftees- Bubba Starling and Josh Bell. Starling clearly has the higher ceiling, and also holds the ability to play a quality center field over Bell. Even still, the maturity and high ceiling that Bell showed at the plate rivaled Starling’s displays, and many argued that it projected to be better (if not just having a higher floor than Starling’s). Dahl lacks the pure stand-out tools that Buxton does, just as Bell did opposite Starling.
Just as it did in 2011, it doesn’t appear that the less-heralded outfielder will be selected higher, but don’t be disappointed if your team ends up with Dahl. Though he may only end up in a corner outfield role, the Alabama bat could very well hit for more power and average than the tools-ier Buxton. After all that round-about thinking, it’s hard to not come to the same conclusion as before- these two players will both be great picks come June. One could argue that both would have been fine first round picks even in last year’s excellent class. In a 2012 draft class that’s just average, that’s probably all that matters.