A large part of the value in high draft picks is based upon how soon they may be able to help the major league roster, and the class of 2011 has no shortage of such talent. There may even be an arm or two in the big leagues assisting a contending team later this summer.
Here is a top 15 from picks who could reach the majors the fastest:
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP -- No. 3 overall, Arizona Diamondbacks (UCLA)
Bauer's fastball-curveball combination is already a big league-caliber arsenal, and he's shown he can get deep into games with regularity despite the lack of prototypical physicality. His heavy college workload -- topping 130 pitches in the majority of his starts this spring -- could impact whether he helps the Arizona Diamondbacks this season or what role in which that would come. He's an upgrade to either unit, however, and the club is well within reach of the National League West lead. Bauer's command will dictate his effectiveness, but the stuff is too good to project anything but success, and it actually helps his case for a pro debut that UCLA is done for the year. Of course, the D-backs have to get him signed before any of the above is even possible, though Bauer likely forces the club's hand very early in 2012 regardless of what happens this August and September.
2. Taylor Jungmann, RHP -- No. 12, Milwaukee Brewers (Texas)
Jungmann's stuff is above average, but it's his command that separates him from the rest of the college pitching crop in terms of his big league ETA. The Brewers may see an opportunity to use him in some role this season, but Jungmann is more likely to break through sometime next season. The club does have a solid 1-2-3 in veterans Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, which could allow them to break in right-hander at the bottom of the rotation after some seasoning in the minors. Barring injury, Jungmann isn't likely to spend much more than one full year down on the farm.
3. Danny Hultzen, LHP -- No. 2, Seattle Mariners (Virginia)
Hultzen is a candidate to break through to the big leagues as early as next season -- likely late in the year -- but has some work to do on his slider. He throws strikes, competes and repeats his delivery, however, so the chances he's following up Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda regularly by mid-2013 are very good.
4. Gerrit Cole, RHP -- No. 1, Pittsburgh Pirates (UCLA)
Cole remains the highest-ceiling arm in the class, warranting the top overall selection, but his late-season swoon serves as evidence that he's not yet a finished product. Command and the development of his breaking ball and overall consistency issues could delay his appearance in the big leagues until 2013, but once he's refined these areas he could be the Pirates' first true ace in decades.
5. Sonny Gray, RHP -- No. 18, Oakland Athletics (Vanderbilt)
Gray's timetable to the big leagues depends on which role the A's envision for the right-hander. As a starter, his lack of consistent control and an inconsistent delivery could mean a couple of full seasons in the minors before he's ready to break through. As a reliever, however, Gray could be a help right away, though the Athletics are nowhere near contending, eliminating the value of such an ascent.
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B -- No. 6, Washington Nationals (Rice)
Rendon is the college bat most likely to see time in the big leagues in 2012, but his health will ultimately dictate his timetable. There have been rumblings of a move to second base, and if that change is made permanently, Rendon's unlikely to skate through the minors. With the absence of further medical problems, a promising back-to-form start to his professional career could jump-start his trek to the big leagues that could arrive sometime next season, if not early in 2013. Ryan Zimmerman's stranglehold on the hot corner -- and a new long-term deal for the All-Star -- suggests Rendon will make that defensive change sans a trade.
7. Dylan Bundy, RHP -- No. 4, Baltimore Orioles (Owasso High School, Okla.)
Bundy's command of four pitches, tremendous arm strength and unmatched work ethic point to a quick-study prep pitcher that could hit the majors on the Rick Porcello plan. Porcello made just 24 minor league starts before making the roster out of spring training less than two years after being drafted. Bundy, however, is likely to do so with much more flair, thanks to better raw stuff and three present big league-caliber pitches.
8. Chris Reed, LHP -- No. 16, Los Angeles Dodgers (Stanford)
Reed's expected time of arrival in Major League Baseball depends very much on his role. He was used almost exclusively in relief at Stanford but has three quality pitches and a delivery that could allow him to start, despite a lower-than-typical arm slot for a starting pitcher. If he's to be used in the bullpen, Reed could be called upon with less than a year of pro ball under his belt. As a starter, he may need at least two full seasons, perhaps three. The Dodgers could break in Reed as a reliever if they are contending this year or next and then send him back down to start the following season, treating him similarly to the manner in which David Price was handled in Tampa.
9. Mikie Mahtook, CF -- No. 31, Tampa Bay Rays (LSU)
Mahtook is polished and showed signs of significant progress in all facets between his sophomore and junior seasons. That refined set of skills plus the potential for quick development could get him to Tampa inside of three seasons, suggesting a late 2012 cup of coffee is not out of the question.
10. Sean Gilmartin, LHP -- No. 28, Atlanta Braves (Florida State)
Gilmartin, despite offering little upside beyond a No. 4 starter, pounds the strike zone with an average fastball and good changeup, and commands his curveball despite its shortcomings. He dazzled college hitters with that stuff, and he'll likely skate through the lower minors in the same manner. The Braves selected a similar college arm in Mike Minor two years ago, but the left-hander added velocity to his game and now has a chance to be more than a back-end arm -- a path that Gilmartin, a good athlete, could also follow. He's still likely working with a late 2013 or early 2014 arrival.
11. C.J. Cron, 1B -- No. 17, Los Angeles Angels (Utah)
Cron's power gets all the attention, and for good reason, but because he brings solid all-around plate skills to the table, he could be eating big league meals sooner than later. Bats generally take a bit longer than the top college pitchers, but unless there are unforeseen developmental hurdles or injuries involved, Cron is likely to be helping the Halos' offense in two seasons.
12. Levi Michael, SS -- No. 30, Minnesota Twins (North Carolina)
Michael's late-season struggles aside (word is he wasn't 100 percent, anyway), the shortstop may need no more than three seasons to show he's big league-ready. The Twins, however, could make a few adjustments in his swing to help him generate more power, which could make him part of the rookie class of 2015, but sometime in '14 appears very possible, too.
13. Cory Spangenberg, 2B -- No. 10 -- San Diego Padres (Indian River College)
Spangenberg will be changing positions, which will push his ETA back a bit, but not as much as 2009 No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley, who had very little experience fielding ground balls and turning the double play as an outfielder and first baseman. Spangenberg played shortstop at VMI and third base this past season, likely making such a transition smoother. The one concern is the bat, since Spangenberg has faced mediocre pitching thus far as opposed to legitimate D-1 arms along the way. His speed and overall athleticism help his cause, and it'd be a surprise if he was still toiling in the minors in 2015.
14. Kolten Wong, 2B -- No. 22, St. Louis Cardinals (Hawaii)
Wong's above-average hit tool is his calling card but he will have to sharpen his defensive play at second to move quickly. The Cardinals lack high-probability middle infield prospects, so they could be aggressive with Wong if he responds well to pro ball early in the process.
15. Joe Panik, SS -- No. 29, San Francisco Giants (St. John's)
Panik's bat could get him to San Francisco inside of three full seasons, though it may be as a second baseman thanks to a below-average throwing arm. He lacks power, though, but he does have one thing going for him: The Giants often miscast infielders at shortstop -- Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada -- which may keep Panik in the picture at the position, but any time before 2014 may be too optimistic, at least if Panik is expected to play regularly.
Notes: Left-hander Andrew Chafin (No. 43, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Kent State) and right-hander Anthony Meo (No. 63, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Coastal Carolina) could beat a number of the top 15 to the big leagues if they are developed as relief pitchers. Chafin was a reliever before returning from Tommy John surgery and showing he could start. Meo is presently a two-pitch arm, but with even a fringy changeup could have value in the starting rotation. Prep right-hander Tyler Beede (No. 21, Toronto Blue Jays -- Lawrence Academy, Mass.) may be the quickest mover among prep arms after Bundy, even ahead of RHPs Archie Bradley, Jose Fernandez and Taylor Guerrieri, despite being selected after all three, thanks to better command and a mature approach on the mound. Infielder Javier Baez (No. 9, Chicago Cubs -- Arlington Country Day School, Fla.) is the most polished of prep bats, and any position change from shortstop to third base shouldn't delay his arrival.