FIELD OF DREAMS: Cheesy interior decor aside, the 30 MLB franchises are going to collectively select 1,500 baseball players over the next few days. Photo courtesy

It doesn’t get nearly the hype that the NFL draft does, but it might just be the Mecca for diehard draft fanboys. Totaling 50 rounds with over 1,500 players selected each year, the MLB draft is EASILY the largest amongst major professional sports leagues. But with so many players eyeing a roster in the big leagues someday, it’s hard to decide where to place your focus.

Overall, this year’s class is a bit of a letdown from last year’s, but that has more to do with just simply how loaded the stock was last year. Specifically, though, this is a down year for prospects coming out of college, which means the number of polished products on the fast track to the big leagues will be few and far in between.

Instead, you will see a lot of teenagers taken early out of high school or junior college. Almost all of these guys will need time to grow up — literally — and improve their game. The term “project prospect” is thrown around a little to loosely, but it should apply to many guys in this year’s first round.

As with any other prospect class, the cream usually rises to the top, and that’s where I have been keeping an eye on the developing talents. Here is my Big Board for this year’s draft:

The Top 10

BIG BUX: Buxton is the top player on just about everyone's draft board. Photo courtesy Mike Janes/Associated Press

1. Byron Buxton | OF/Appling County H.S.
It’s not every day true five-tool candidates come along, but Buxton may be the best candidate in this year’s draft. He has blazing fast speed that not only will give pitchers ulcers when he gets on base, but will undoubtedly make him a premier center fielder defensively. Right now, the biggest knock when it comes to Buxton seems to be his power. There’s no doubt the ball pops off his bat, but some scouts question his ceiling as a major-league slugger. Even if they’re right, though, four out of five tools is more than plenty of big league players have right now.

2. Mark Appel | RHP/Stanford University
When I said there aren’t a lot of MLB-ready prospects in this year’s draft, I was definitely not talking about Appel. As with all draftees, there is of course room for growth, but with an overpowering fastball that can peak at 97 MPH with a plus changeup to boot, Appel may be in the show in 2013. But if Appel wants to be a dominating ace at the next level, he needs to improve the movement on his pitches. His breaking ball is only average and it shows in his other stuff when his fastball flies too straight and allows batters to square it up. Still, no one in this draft has such excellent raw stuff as Appel, and he may be the first name called tomorrow when Houston is on the clock.

3. Carlos Correa | SS/Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Correa is by far one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft class. Some scouts place him over Buxton as the top prospect while others have him outside their Top 10. What is causing this disparity is that Correa is simply so raw as a professional baseball player. The tools and upside are 100% there, but there is work to be done on this 17-year-old. He’s big and powerful, which leads some to question his future at shortstop, but he has the glove instincts to play up the middle. If he were to move over to the hot corner it would perhaps highlight his infield arm even more as his throws across the diamond have been clock at 97 MPH. Only downside right now seems to be his speed, which is no more than average at best.

4. Mike Zunino | C/Florida
Zunino may just take the stigma about catcher’s bats personally. With exceptional power and solid leadership skills, scouts drool over the possibility of Zunino rising quickly to the big leagues and making an instant impact a la Buster Posey. When it comes to his game, however, a better comparison for his ceiling might be Jason Varitek. He hit .371 last year as a sophomore, but his elongated swing is something professional pitchers will exploit. Realistically, his absolute ceiling is probably as a .290 BA/25 HR guy but that’s plenty good for most of major league ballclubs.

5. Kyle Zimmer | RHP/University of San Francisco
The average person probably didn’t know San Francisco “had” a university. And, when Zimmer was pitching, most people also didn’t realize there were 8 other guys in the field. At somewhere between 6’2″ and 6’3″ (I guess inches are not a standardized unit of measurement), he has good size and his leverage helps him put a nasty sinking action on his fastball that he can get up to 97 MPH. But unlike many other top pitchers in this class, Zimmer also has breaking pitches in his repertoire. His curveball is borderline unfair with its ability to miss bats and slider could join it with a little more coaching. At this point, the supreme lack of competition while pitching for San Fran is the only thing holding him out of the top, top spots.

STEP ON THE GAUS: Gausman is probably the only pitcher who can hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. Photo courtesy Dave Martin/AP

6. Kevin Gausman | RHP/LSU
The Dodgers took Gausman in the sixth round out of high school, but he passed on their offer and went to go play college ball. There, he was one of the most dominant starters in the NCAA from his freshman year. As he goes along, Gausman may want to drop the “u” from his last name because he has the ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun with his fast ball. Like Appel, many question his breaking ball, but the fastball-changeup combination is impressive and, even with those two pitches, he still projects as a #2 guy in a rotation.

7. Max Fried | LHP/Harvard-Westlake H.S.
There’s no need to run sabermetrics on this equation: Southpaws with a good three-pitch mix are going to get a lot of attention. This holds true for Fried who stepped even farther into the spotlight once top prospect and teammate Lucas Giolito was sidelined with injury. Fried has a good fastball that should be slightly above average at the next level and a curve that he has tremendous command on for a pitcher his age. He also feature the famous cut fastball that has revived so many pitchers career. Combine this arsenal with his good size and presence and it’s easy to see how the future is bright for this youngster.

8. Albert Almora | OF/Mater Academy
It’s not every day high school prospects appear with noticeably less risk, but Almora is one of the few. Scouts rave about his character and work ethic which would lead teams to take a chance on him even if there were gaping holes in his game. But there aren’t. Even at a miniscule 6’2″, 180 lbs., Almora has shown true power with his swing which make some believe it will only increase that much more once he fills into his frame. He’s not lightning fast on the base paths or in the outfield, but an exceptionally high baseball IQ gives him superb instincts and he could still end up stealing 10-15 bases each season once he’s at his peak. There’s simply no other high school prospect in this draft that comes with such a high floor. He’s a pretty safe pick, even for a teenager.

9. Lucas Giolito | RHP/Harvard-Westlake H.S.
Injury, injury, injury. Where does the promising Giolito stand after his season-ending sprained UCL (elbow) in his senior year? Had he been healthy, he might’ve been the first ever right-handed high school pitcher taken first overall with a ceiling even higher than Buxton’s. But that is all academic now because Giolito’s injury is very much real. Not only that, but having it happen so recently further clouds his future because no one has been able to see how he will bounce back. This kid has tremendous talent but there is no one on this earth who can possibly know where he stands right now.

10. Michael Wacha | RHP/Texas A&M
There’s something about tall, lanky pitchers that make you feel as though they are throwing from a mountain instead of a mound and Wacha is no different. He was ignored by MLB out of high school but turned in an extremely successful college career with the Aggies. His fastball is his featured pitch and it measures as being slightly above average but his changeup might be even better if and when he ever throws it. Still, Wacha is an intimidating pitcher on the mound  and the way he attacks batters only enhances the fear factor.

The Next 20

BALL HAWK: Hawkins has a name from the heartland of Texas and the big-league swing to go with it. Photo courtesy

11. Courtney Hawkins | OF/Carroll H.S.
Classic power corner outfielder. May strike out a lot, but there’s room for improvement.

12. Lance McCullers | RHP/Jesuit H.S.
Ultra power pitcher. May be destined for the bullpen unless he can improve his third pitch (a changeup).

13. Richie Shaffer | 1B/Clemson
Corner infielder with jaw-dropping power in his bat. Defensively, he plays like a DH sometimes, though.

14. Andrew Heaney | LHP/Oklahoma State
Scouts loved him in high school and will love him more now. One of the safest bets in the class.

15. David Dahl | OF/Oak Mountain H.S.
Can hit for average and some power. Has base-stealing speed. Could use some coaching defensively.

16. Michael Stroman | RHP/Duke
Great stuff but sorely undersized. His ceiling stands as the next Wandy Rodriguez of sorts.

17. Gavin Cecchini | SS/Barbe H.S.
Scrappy like a true middle infielder. Hits for average and runs well. No HR power whatsoever.

18. Deven Marrero | SS/Arizona State
Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, but won’t hit for power and may not hit for a great average, either.

19. Stephen Piscotty | 3B/Stanford
Plays like a Top 10 prospect if you believe there is HR power to his bat. Can hit for average, though.

STAYING AGG-RESIVE: Stratton shone in superb competition as a Texas A&M weekend starter. Photo courtesy Mississippi State Media Relations

20. Chris Stratton | RHP/Mississippi State
His varied arsenal will help him as a starter. His ability to mix pitches and throw for strikes is a plus.

21. Zach Eflin | RHP/Hagerty H.S.
Tremendous stuff for a teenager. There are some questions to his health going forward.

22. Corey Seager | 3B/Cabarrus H.S.
Likely headed to college. Can field well and hit even better, but has the speed of a rain tarp.

23. Ty Hensley | RHP/Santa Fe H.S.
Throws all his pitches decently, but needs work with his fundamentals. Middle-of-the-rotation guy.

24. Addison Russell | SS/Pace H.S.
Has a bat fantasy owners may come to know well. May be a little to “thick” to play short in the pros.

25. Stryker Trahan | C/Acadiana H.S.
May be the second-best catcher in the class or may get moved. Some real plus power behind his swing.

26. Joey Gallo | 3B/Bishop Gorman H.S.
Has 35-40 HR potential, but also has 100+ SO potential. If he slides too far, he may opt for college ball.

27. D.J. Davis | OF/Stone County H.S.
Ridiculously fast and is superior on defense. His commitment to a community college says a lot, though.

28. Victor Roache | OF/Georgia Southern
Strong, slow, and powerful. Looks a lot like a Vernon Wells to me but may not have that kind of ceiling.

29. Tyler Naquin | OF/Texas A&M
Cannon of an arm but no power to his bat. May get lost in the shuffle with his best position being RF.

30. Matt Smoral | LHP/Solon H.S.
Monstrous human being. Has some health issues but they aren’t arm-related. Unlikely to sign.

NOTE: This story was originally posted on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!