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Only one day remains until all the speculation ends with the beginning of the 2009 MLB draft.

The Washington Nationals likely will draft San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg (right) with the No. 1 overall pick, but the rest of the first round is uncertain.

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North Carolina's Dustin Ackley is one of the best college players available, but he underwent Tommy John surgery last season. Some teams might be concerned with his health, but the Seattle Mariners will probably gamble with the second pick.

As evidenced by their reported efforts to reduce the payroll, the San Diego Padres would probably like to make a safe selection. Right-hander Aaron Crow, who declined to sign with the Nationals last year, would be a tremendous pick because he's not going to want to miss another season in affiliated baseball.

While Donavan Tate is headed to North Carolina to play football and baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates could attempt to change his mind after making him the fourth overall pick. He's going to command a lot of money, so it's not out of the question that he slides down the draft board.

The Orioles are rumored to be considering a high school pitcher – California left-hander Tyler Matzek and Georgia right-hander Zach Wheeler are popular names – but they have selected college players in the first round during the past two drafts.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail seems to like experienced college players, similar to Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz, so North Carolina's Alex White would be a good choice at No. 5.

The first round of the 2009 draft will be broadcast live on MLB Network, beginning at 6 p.m. tomorrow night.

Below, I've listed my best guess at the projected picks for the first round. Remember, the MLB draft is a lot harder to predict than the NFL or NBA drafts because the players might not make an impact for several years.1. Washington Nationals – Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State – Only question remains whether the Nationals will be able to sign the power-throwing right-hander.

2. Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina – Hitting over .400 and leading the Tar Heels in home runs and RBIs, he's clearly the best batter in the draft.

3. San Diego Padres – Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats – Didn't sign with Nationals last season after being chosen at No. 9, which looks like a good move if his draft position improves as expected.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates – Donavan Tate, OF, Cartersville (Ga.) H.S. – Draft position could be affected by college commitment, but he's too good to let slide and not attempt to sign.

5. Baltimore Orioles – Alex White (left), RHP, North Carolina – Statistics aren't great (8-4, 4.13 ERA), but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander struck out 109 batters in 98 innings so far this season. As an experienced player, he would add another starting pitcher to the Orioles' surplus in the minor leagues.

6. San Francisco Giants – Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley (Calif.) H.S. – Reminds me of former Orioles starting pitcher Erik Bedard with good command but some questions on attitude.

7. Atlanta Braves – Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding (Ga.) H.S. – Doesn't project to be ready for the major leagues in the near future, but his upside fits nicely with the Braves' track record of developing pitchers.

8. Cincinnati Reds – Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt – Not as highly touted as another Commodores left-hander – Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price – but experience could push him quickly to the major leagues.

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9. Detroit Tigers – Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints – Pirates couldn't sign 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander after taking him in second round last year. Shoulder injury ended his college career, but he seems to be healthy now.

10. Washington Nationals – Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State – With compensatory pick for failing to agree to terms with Crow, Nationals want someone they can sign. The 6-foot, 180-pound pitcher fits into that category.

11. Colorado Rockies – Mike Trout, OF, Millville (N.J.) H.S. – Won't turn 18 until August, but the 6-foot-1, 200-pound outfielder climbed up draft boards with a great finish to high school career.

12. Kansas City Royals – Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian (Mo.) H.S. – Not as polished as some of the other high school pitchers, but he's a great pick for the hometown Royals.

13. Oakland Athletics – Grant Green, SS, Southern California – Scouts seem to disagree on the 6-foot-3, 185-pound infielder's skills, but he is one of the best shortstops in college baseball.

14. Texas Rangers – Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood (Texas) H.S. – Rangers have their pick of in-state pitchers, and they'll likely grab the hard-throwing right-hander.

15. Cleveland Indians – Matt Purke, LHP, Klein (Texas) H.S. – Rumblings about the 6-foot-3, 175-pound southpaw commanding a big signing bonus, but Indians will be happy if he falls to them.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks – Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb – Pitched to Orioles minor league catcher Caleb Joseph in college in 2007 and 2008. The 6-foot, 205-pound left-hander struck out 132 batters in 94 innings.

17. Arizona Diamondbacks – A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame – Could move quickly through the minor leagues. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder batted .365 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs in 59 games for the Fighting Irish.

18. Florida Marlins – James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky – The 6-foot-4, 210-pound left-hander touches 98 mph with his fastball, but the biggest question is whether he will be a starter or a reliever in the future.

19. St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco (Calif.) H.S. – Listed as a 6-foot-4, 245-pound right-hander, he could turn into a power pitcher in the future. For now, he'll need some refinement but is worth this pick.

20. Toronto Blue Jays – Bobby Borchering, 1B/3B, Bishop Verot (Fla.) H.S. – While he reportedly struggles defensively, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound corner infielder is considered one of the best hitters available.

21. Houston Astros – Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento State – Speedy contact hitter who added power -- 18 home runs and 72 RBIs in 54 games -- to his repertoire this season.

22. Minnesota Twins – Jared Mitchell, OF, Louisiana State – Call it a hunch, but Mitchell is going to be one of the best values of this year's draft, in my opinion. The 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder has 35 stolen bases in 2009.

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23. Chicago White Sox – Matt Davidson, 3B, Yucaipa (Calif.) H.S. – The 6-foot-3, 210-pound corner infielder projects to be an above-average power hitter in the future, but he's several years away from the big leagues.

24. Los Angeles Angels – Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana – An underrated starting pitcher who climbed draft boards with a strong season. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander would fit well in the Angels' system.

25. Los Angeles Angels – Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri – Although a stress fracture in his right forearm hurts his draft position, the Angels can gamble and select the 6-foot-6, 210-pound right-hander with this pick.

26. Milwaukee Brewers – Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State – Although he is inexperienced, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander provides a cheap option who could rise quickly to the major leagues.

27. Seattle Mariners – Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Santa Monica (Calif.) H.S. – The 6-foot-4, 180-pound left-hander could develop into a durable starter in the major leagues.

28. Boston Red Sox – Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College – With Jason Varitek getting older, the Red Sox should grab the local college product who is arguably the top catcher in the draft.

29. New York Yankees – Andrew Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State – Hard-throwing left-hander, who touches 98 mph with his fastball, could help the Yankees in the rotation or bullpen in the future.

30. Tampa Bay Rays – Brett Jackson, OF, California – Considered to be one of the most athletic players in the draft, but he needs to pick up some power in order to become a solid contributor in the major leagues.

31. Chicago Cubs – Garrett Gould, RHP, Maize (Kan.) H.S. – Reportedly has one of the best curveballs among pitchers available in the draft, which should get the 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander picked in the first round.

32. Colorado Rockies – Everett Williams, OF, McCallum (Texas) H.S. – Uncertainty about his potential hitting ability in the major leagues bumps him down, but overall athleticism should keep the 5-foot-10, 200-pound outfielder in the opening round.

Top photo: Getty Images

Bottom photo: Associated Press

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