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June 4, 2011

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Let's call it the year of the catcher.

From Jorge Posada being the last one to realize he can't do it anymore to Joe Mauer perhaps wondering if he shouldn't be doing it anymore to Giants management asking if Buster Posey should be doing it, some of the games best may be moving from behind the plate.

It's a position so mentally and physically demanding that top stars (see Bryce Harper) often are steered away from the position from the day they turn pro and investments (see Victor Martinez) are quickly moved away from behind the plate to avoid further knee injury.

The position, however, isn't going away. Getting a good catcher - one who can do more than just manage the game - gives you a tremendous edge. So it's no surprise that our final mock draft before the MLB draft on June 6-7 features a handful who can play the position in the first round.

Blake Swihart, easily the best high school catcher in the draft, figures to be the first one taken. Whichever team selects the heady player will have to pay him enough to steer the Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland High star away from his dream school, the University of Texas. We have him going No. 19 to the Angels who have seemingly fell in love with the backstop.

Andrew Susac, a draft-eligible sophomore at Oregon State, and Nicky Delmonico, a senior at traditional high school power Knoxville (Tenn.) Farragut, also figure to go in the back half of the first round.

Whether any of the players have the career of Mike Piazza or are quickly moved to another position like Harper is still to be determined.

With that, our latest mock draft:

1. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pick: Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
The Buzz: If the Pirates have decided on who to take, they have kept it a fantastic secret. The organization has gone back and forth with the pick on a multitude of players and by the time the Draft is here, the Buccos could go back again. Cole has a big arm and has shown plenty of poise on the mound in both the College World Series and with Team USA. His front-of-the-rotation ability is a little safer than Anthony Rendon at this point.
May Mock: Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
April Mock: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
2. Seattle Mariners
The Pick: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
The Buzz: This draft is incredibly deep but Rendon and Cole are the prizes, so the Mariners are not disappointed with having the No. 2 pick. Taking Rendon, who has been complimented with comparisons to franchise players Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria, could give Seattle a future infield of Rendon, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. His production has been slowed with ankle and shoulder injuries but neither appear to be long-term issues.
May Mock: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
April Mock: Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Pick: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
The Buzz: Hultzen has been skyrocketing up draft boards with his stellar season. He has been being labeled as the pitcher with the most polish in the Draft and has pushed his name as high as the No. 1 pick. The lefty projects to be a quick contributor to any staff as a solid No. 3 pitching option. With another pick at No. 7, the Diamondbacks stick with the plan of adding quality arms.
May Mock: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
April Mock: Matt Purke, RHP, TCU
4. Baltimore Orioles
The Pick: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (Okla.) High
The Buzz: Baltimore is in a great spot here with any number of very solid pitching options to target. Bundy has already told several teams not to select him with his preference to continue his throwing regimen of long toss. The Orioles already have his older brother in the farm system so this make sense as the spot to take him - it also is a fun story line in a few years as they both develop.
May Mock: Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
April Mock: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (Okla.) High
5. Kansas City Royals
The Pick: Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner (Kan.) Gardner-Edgerton
The Buzz: The Royals are playing with smoke-and-mirrors as to their interest in Starling and using the depth of the Draft as a reason it could pass on the local product. The Scott Boras client is going to be asking in the neighborhood of $6 million to buy him out of the opportunity to compete at Nebraska as a quarterback; the Royals will likely pay it to bring in the very talented outfielder.
May Mock: Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner (Kan.) Gardner-Edgerton
April Mock: George Springer, OF, UConn
6. Washington Nationals
The Pick: Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
The Buzz: Bauer, like Dylan Bundy, prefers to use a long toss regimen and the Nationals are reportedly okay with that approach. This is a good fit for a pitcher that has been given grades higher than his teammate and the No. 1 projected pick, Gerrit Cole. A long term trio of Strasburg, Zimmerman and Bauer could be nasty.
May Mock: Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde (Fla.) Montverde Academy
April Mock: Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner (Kan.) Gardner-Edgerton
7. Arizona Diamondbacks - For Failure to sign Barrett Loux
The Pick: Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
The Buzz: For the first time in the history of the draft, a team has two picks inside the first seven. It presents the Diamondbacks a fantastic opportunity to land two very high-quality picks early; with this being a compensation pick, though, signability is a premium as Arizona would not get another pick for missing on this selection. Meyer is starting to learn to pitch and not just throw. Meyer's radar gun readings have impressed plenty of teams - and his stuff matches - but the youthful lack of control has plagued him. His 6-foot-9 frame provides plenty of room for him to develop physically. With a decent amount of pitching in the system, this is a spot to take a guy who can progress quickly and make as impact soon.
May Mock: Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
April Mock: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
8. Cleveland Indians
The Pick: Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde (Fla.) Montverde Academy
The Buzz: Cleveland will be very happy if Washington passes on Lindor as its system has been a wasteland for shortstops. While the Tribe has not selected a high school player in the first round since 2001, it appears the organization is poised to do so here. Lindor has been compared to Omar Vizquel by several scouts and if he has that type of career, many in Cleveland will be happy to have him.
May Mock: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (Okla.) High
April Mock: Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde (Fla.) Montverde Academy
9. Chicago Cubs
The Pick: George Springer, OF, Connecticut
The Buzz: The Cubs have been all over the map with interest and players they have been tied to with this pick. Springer is among the best college athletes in the Draft and is leading the Huskies in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases. His ability to stay in center field has to excite the Cubs who have an aging starting lineup and limited depth coming through the system.
May Mock: Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, North Augusta (S.C.) Spring Valley
April Mock: Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
10. San Diego Padres - For failure to sign Karsten Whitson
The Pick: Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow (Okla.) High
The Buzz: Bradley has been looked over by nearly every team in the Top 10 and, if he slides past the Diamondbacks, this looks like the place he comes off the board. The No. 2 high school prospect - and No. 1 pitcher - has his high school team in the pole position for a national title. A hard worker and humble player, Bradley would fit in nicely with the Padres system.
May Mock: Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
April Mock: Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow (Okla.) High
11. Houston Astros
The Pick: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
The Buzz: The Astros reached on all three first round picks last season and this year are in a position to go with any number of quality pitchers still on the board. It is a pick that could be second guessed many times over but the organization sticks with a Texan and gets the Longhorns' 6-foot-6 workhorse pitcher.
May Mock: Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow (Okla.) High
April Mock: Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
12. Milwaukee Brewers
The Pick: Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU
The Buzz: By most reports, the Brewers look to be targeting an outfielder in the draft and, unless George Springer is still on the board, really any outfielder here could be a reach. Mahtook has been reviewed as a player with very solid overall skills and could blossom into an above-average major league player. High schooler Josh Bell could also be picked here if the Brewers select with ceiling in mind.
May Mock: George Springer, OF, Connecticut
April Mock: Jackie Bradley, OF, South Carolina
13. New York Mets
The Pick: Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
The Buzz: The Mets, like a few other teams already, have been all over the board with ties to several pitchers and a couple more college position players. The team is in a place to grab the best available and that could be Vanderbilt pitcher Sonny Gray or high schooler Taylor Guerrieri. Barnes, if he continues to develop secondary pitches, should be the right pick here.
May Mock: Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU
April Mock: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
14. Florida Marlins
The Pick: Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Buzz: The Marlins are in a great spot to grab a player that has graded out to be a Top 10 pick but is likely falling into their laps. Gray could go as high as No. 3 but has slid down to No. 14. Most likely, Gray reaches the majors quickly as a relief pitcher, but he also has the fastball/curveball combination to be a starter on most any rotation in the big leagues.
May Mock: Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
April Mock: Nicky Delmonico, C, Knoxville (Tenn.) Farragut
15. Milwaukee Brewers - For failure to sign Dylan Covey
The Pick: Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
The Buzz: An unprotected pick for the Brewers leads the team to grab a safer college arm than an upsided high school prospect. In this case, the Brewers are likely happy to turn in this pick as Bradley has great stuff. Control could be an issue for the Yellow Jacket but with his raw talent, this is a solid pick.
May Mock: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
April Mock: Henry Owens, LHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison
16. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Pick: Josh Bell, OF, Irving (Texas) Jesuit College Prep
The Buzz: Josh Bell has one of the best bats of all high school players entering the draft. His ability to remain in centerfield is pretty doubtful but he has plenty of pop to play a corner outfield spot as he progresses. The Dodgers situation is pretty fluid and a college player may make more sense but at this point Bell is the best on the board.
May Mock: Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
April Mock: Josh Tobia, 2B, Greensboro (N.C.) Southeast Guilford
17. LA Angels of Anaheim
The Pick: Blake Swihart, C, Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland
The Buzz: The Angels are very active in the high school market and sources have said the organization loves Blake Swihart. The switch hitting catcher has the chops to also slide over and play thirdbase if a long term move is mandated but he has the ability, and desire, to stay behind the plate.
May Mock: Blake Swihart, C, Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland
April Mock: Blake Swihart, C, Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland
18. Oakland Athletics
The Pick: CJ Cron, 1B/DH, Utah
The Buzz: Oakland has not used a first round pick on a high schooler since Eric Chavez in 1996 and the organization needs a bat, but this pick could easily change. Cron has shown plenty of pop in his bat and has a good eye. National League sources have said that Cron would have to go to an American League team as he "has no position to play."
May Mock: Daniel Norris, LHP, Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill
April Mock: Josh Bell, OF, Irving (Texas) Jesuit College Prep
19. Boston Red Sox - Compensation for Detroit signing Victor Martinez
The Pick: Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State
The Buzz: The Red Sox are an unpredictable bunch but could certainly fill a position in the minors with the addition of Susac, a draft eligible sophomore. Susac was the top rated catcher from his high school class and is the top rated college catcher despite a broken hamate bone stealing his season. His display in the Cape Cod League bought him enough good will.
May Mock: Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State
April Mock: Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
20. Colorado Rockies
The Pick: Henry Owens, LHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison
The Buzz: Owens is climbing the boards and has overtaken Daniel Norris as the No. 1 high school lefty in this draft. He has big game performances under his belt and projects well. The Rockies could also go after a sliding Jackie Bradley to fill its centerfield need in the minors.
May Mock: Henry Owens, LHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison
April Mock: Daniel Norris, LHP, Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill
21. Toronto Blue Jays
The Pick: Jackie Bradley, OF, South Carolina
The Buzz: If he falls beyond the Rockies, it looks like Toronto will jump on Bradley. Even with the wrist injury, Bradley is a solid value pick in this spot. He does not have one measurable attribute to rank above the other but his collection of tools and instincts make him a very good pick. His defensive ability in center field also makes him attractive.
May Mock: Jackie Bradley, OF, South Carolina
April Mock: Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt
22. St. Louis Cardinals
The Pick: Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
The Buzz: Injuries have pushed Purke down the draft board pretty far from his original No. 3 projection. The Cardinals, while battling injuries in the majors, will have done their homework on Purke and like what they see. The former No. 1 player in his high school class has showed flashed of dominance in his brief college career.
May Mock: Josh Bell, OF, Irving (Texas) Jesuit College Prep
April Mock: Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy (Ark.) High
23. Washington Nationals - Compensation for Chicago signing Adam Dunn
The Pick: Levi Michael, 2B/SS, North Carolina
The Buzz: Passing on Lindor at the top of the draft was a calculated risk for Washington and it will pay off with Michael still being on the board. In his three years at North Carolina, he has played 2B, SS and 3B. He projects better as a 2B than any of the other positions but he would make a serviceable shortstop. His patience at the plate and smarts on the base paths have drawn rave reviews.
May Mock: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon
April Mock: Brian Goodwin, OF, Miami Dade Junior College
24. Tampa Bay Rays - Compensation for Boston signing Carl Crawford
The Pick: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Tampa (Fla.) Alonso
The Buzz: Tampa Bay generally loads up on high school talent in the Draft, as it used all three picks on high schoolers last year. This year, the process begins again, landing the local product Fernandez. The Rays still have two picks in the first round to fill more pressing organizational needs and landing quality arms is never a bad thing. Fernandez's performance in the playoffs earmarked him as a surefire first rounder.
May Mock: Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy (Ark.) High
April Mock: Tyler Beede, RHP, Auburn (Mass.) Lawrence Academy
25. San Diego Padres
The Pick: Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, North Augusta (S.C.) Spring Valley
The Buzz: The Padres need a little bit of everything in the farm system and so it is a spot to grab the best high school arm left on the board. Guerrieri could, and maybe should, have gone earlier. He has been projected as high as No. 11 by some draft projections and the Padres could steal a kid that has hit triple digits at the bottom of the round. He could be demanding more than $2 million to buy out his option to go to South Carolina and that may be a steep cost.
May Mock: Levi Michael, 2B/SS, North Carolina
April Mock: Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
26. Boston Red Sox - Compensation for Texas signing Adrian Beltre
The Pick: Daniel Norris, LHP, Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill
The Buzz: This looks like it will be a high school pitcher. The question will be: Which one? Dillon Howard, Joe Ross and Kyle Crick could be in play for this pick. Norris, the only lefty of that group, was the No. 1 lefty in his class for much of the season and has been compared to fellow first rounder Matt Purke but with less risk in his delivery.
May Mock: Brian Goodwin, OF, Miami Dade Junior College
April Mock: Travis Harrison, 3B/OF, Aliso Viejo (Calif.) Tustin
27. Cincinnati Reds
The Pick: Cory Spangenberg, 2B/SS, Indian River Junior College
The Buzz: Spangenberg is seeing his draft stock soar at the right time and could sneak his way into the first round. He was a freshman All-American at Virginia Military Institute before transfering to Indian River Junior College. The left handed-hitting middle infielder has moderate power and good speed. He is currently slated to head to the University of Miami in the fall if he isn't signed and reporting to rookie league.
May Mock: Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt
April Mock: Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU
28. Atlanta Braves
The Pick: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon
The Buzz: Anderson has been one of the shining spots on a slightly disappointing Oregon team this year. He has good size and plenty of stuff. He has projectable pitches as well as very good control. His delivery is easy on the arm and looks to be a guy with very low injury risk.
May Mock: Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
April Mock: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon
29. San Francisco Giants
The Pick: Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii
The Buzz: Wong has come on strong, building from his MVP performance in Cape Cod last summer hitting around .400 all season for Hawaii. A rare quality and pure second baseman (despite moving over to 2B from catcher), Wong could develop quickly in the minors and give the team a long term answer at the position as early as mid-2013.
May Mock: Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii
April Mock: Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State
30. Minnesota Twins
The Pick: John Stilson, RHP, Texas A&M
The Buzz: The love affair continues in the Twin Cities as the organization drafted Stilson out of Texarkana (Texas) Junior College in the 19th round two years ago. The question will be where to put him, as his stuff is on par with anyone on the current staff. He could also develop into a long term solution as a closer.
May Mock: John Stilson, RHP, Texas A&M
April Mock: Alex Dickerson, OF, Indiana
31. Tampa Bay Rays - Compensation for New York signing Rafael Soriano
The Pick: Nick Delmonico, C, Knoxville (Tenn.) Farragut
The Buzz: Delmonico takes a fall from the mid-first round nearly into the compensation picks, but the Rays grab one of the most athletic of the high school catchers. Delmonico played mostly shortstop until this year and his knowledge of the rest of the position players is an added benefit. His bat has room to develop; at this point, he goes from a reach to a value pick.
May Mock: Nicky Delmonico, C, Knoxville (Tenn.) Farragut
April Mock: Austin Hedges, C, San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) JSerra Catholic
32. Tampa Bay Rays
The Pick: Javier Baez, 3B/SS, Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day
The Buzz: This is a great spot for Baez to come off the board as he has moved to shortstop with mixed reviews but has the ability to play SS, third, second or even catcher. He is currently commited to Chipola (Fla.) Community College so signing should be easy to nail down as well. His bat is strong and he has deceptive speed on the base paths.
May Mock: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Tampa (Fla.) Alonso
April Mock: Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
33. Texas Rangers - Compensation for Philadelphia signing Cliff Lee
The Pick: Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy (Ark.) High
The Buzz: Texas will likely grab the best available player at this point and not be pegged as looking for anything in particular. With that thought process, the team could go in many different directions. Grabbing a prep arm this low is somewhat risky but the signability of Howard has not been brought into question too much.
May Mock: Javier Baez, 3B/SS, Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day
April Mock: Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, North Augusta (S.C.) Spring Valley

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