What’s not to like about a catcher skilled beyond his 18 years, a left-handed power hitter who signed with the South Carolina Gamecocks before his ninth-grade baseball season? Nick Ciuffo (SHOE-foe) is a shoe-in for the first round of tonight’s Major League Baseball draft; he’s in New York City as part of MLB Network coverage.
Consensus projections have the Mount Pleasant native and recent Lexington High School graduate going between the 15th and 28th picks.
There probably aren’t many MLB Draft office pools. But for those participating, these are your most likely Nick Ciuffo destinations:
1. Cardinals. St. Louis has the No. 19 and No. 28 picks in the first round, and a keen understanding of draft pool bonus money allotments. That is, the Cardinals’ second pick might get as much as their first. Ciuffo would benefit growing up in one of the best farm systems in baseball.
2. Rays. Tampa Bay picks at No. 21 and No. 29. An otherwise well-stocked farm system is relatively weak at catcher.
3. Orioles. Baltimore, with the No. 22 pick, has been very interested throughout the spring. Yes, the Orioles have an All-Star at catcher in Stratford High School grad Matt Wieters. But Wieters is 27, nine years older than Ciuffo. Two talented catchers from South Carolina would be a great problem for Baltimore.
4. Rangers. Texas has the No. 23 pick, right behind Baltimore, and pick again at No. 30. The Rangers love high school hitters with upside.
5. Mariners. Seattle would love for Reese McGuire (Kentwood High School, Covington, Wash.) to fall to them at No. 8. But if the Mariners don’t get the only catcher rated above Ciuffo, they might make the move.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff