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MVN MLB Outsider: 2009 MLB Mock Draft Selections

I mentioned it briefly earlier in the week, but I participated in the MVN MLB Outsider: 2009 Mock Draft. Out of context my turn as the Angels scouting director may not be the most interesting read (that’s why I linked to the whole mock – it’s full of pretty interesting opinions on who is going where and well worth a look), but if you take it as a mini scouting report on the drafted players (Skaggs and Williams) then it sort of works as a stand alone piece. Anyway, I did my best Eddie Bane impression and came up with the following:

1.24 Los Angeles Angels: LHSP Tyler Skaggs

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in prime position to completely restock a rapidly declining farm system with five selections in the draft’s first 48 overall picks. Relatively weak draft or not, scouting director Eddie Bane and his staff are no doubt as geared up for June 9th as Vlad Guerrero sitting on a 3-0 meatball. As much fun as it must be for the Angels front office to actually, you know, have early round picks at their disposal (they haven’t had a first rounder in two years), it’s also serious business for a franchise that has seen their young talent supply dwindle as the decade has rolled along.

So, what to get the farm system that needs everything? The Angels have shown a proclivity towards youth and upside over experience and polish. Due to the desire to get their hands on prospects as early in their development as possible, Eddie Bane has explicitly stated his preference for drafting high school players over college players, all other factors being equal. Keeping that in mind, and noting that potential college targets (Rich Poythress and Rex Brothers to name two) are already off the board, the Angels first pick of the first round is LHSP Tyler Skaggs from Santa Monica HS in California.

In a draft year loaded with high upside prep pitching, the Angels figure to be in on any number of the talented high school arms. Of the pitchers left on the board, Skaggs represents the most impressive blend of projectability and present skills. The Californian portsider is unusually mature for a high school lefthander with a build and curveball that evoke memories of a young, effective Barry Zito. If the comparison to the former Oakland A’s star is unbecoming to an interested Angels fan, then perhaps a more palatable name would be Colorado’s first round pick last year, Christian Friedrich. The similarities in scouting profiles describing both Friedrich and Skaggs are uncanny, but Skaggs has the advantages of youth and projection on his side.

His excellent performance against his tough Southern California high school competition and extensive high level tournament experience give scouts confidence that he’ll make a smooth transition to professional ball. His fastball currently sits at a solid-average 88-90 MPH, but plus movement and above-average command of the pitch make it a good one at present.  His aforementioned slow low-70s CB is a plus pitch already. A big part of Skaggs’ success going forward hinges on the development of a solid third offering; whether or not his slowly developing slider or his little used, but promising changeup emerges as that pitch remains to be seen.

Buying on Skaggs means believing in his ability to add bulk to his 6-5, 180 pound frame as a professional. If he fills out as hoped, he’ll be in a much better position to unleash the full potential of his fastball velocity, but it’s far from a guarantee. Even so, a potential mid-90s plus fastball, a present plus curve, and the chance at developing a third above-average offering (I’m a believer in the change, for what it’s worth) make Skaggs a likely target of a team that loves their high reward high school pitchers.

1.25 Los Angeles Angels: OF Everett Williams

Before getting into which player fits the Angels draft blueprint best, I think it’s wise to make note of the franchise’s willingness to bust slot and draft players with signability red flags in recent years. If a player drops due to signability concerns, then you can be sure scouting director Eddie Bane has confidence that owner Arte Moreno will pony up the big bucks to take advantage. The Angels track record of snagging risky signs in late rounds (Jordan Walden in the 12th, the late Nick Adenhart in the 14th round, and Mark Trumbo in the 18th, and) may not show a perfect correlation to their enthusiasm in taking an early round faller, but it does show a pretty clear pattern of an ownership group willing to spend an extra dollar (give or take seven hundred fifty thousand dollars) to get the player they identify as having the best value with each pick. Players like Grant Green, Donavan Tate, Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, and Shelby Miller all might want to at least mentally prepare for the possibility that they could slide right into the mid-20s and become Angels property before the end of the summer. Get those base tans, flip flops, and board shorts ready just in case, gentlemen.

Assuming the draft board shakes out like it has here so far (no big fallers), the Angels may be faced with their choice of yet another premium prep prospect. Everett Williams is a fast rising, tools-laden high school outfielder from McCallum HS in Austin, Texas. Despite early reports comparing him to speedsters like Houston’s Michael Bourn and fellow 2009 Draft prospect Brian Goodwin, Williams is a different kind of player with a unique power/speed blend.  What makes Williams stand out from Goodwin and the rest of the crowded prep outfielder peer group is his ceiling with the bat. Scouts were slow to accept Williams’ near-plus raw power because it didn’t quite look right coming from his thin 5-10, 175 pound frame. The already substantial power took another step forward this spring as Williams followed through on a commitment to adding muscle, putting on close to 15 pounds of good weight since last summer. Combine that with a very strong throwing arm, enough speed and athleticism to easily stick in centerfield, and you’ve got a player that profiles favorably to Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson. Everett Williams is, like Tyler Skaggs before him, another high upside high school pick for the Angels that just makes sense.

A closing thought as I run up against the maximum word threshold – watch out for the Angels popping University of Washington OF/QB Jake Locker with an early mid-round pick (early as round 4, late as round 7).  Adenhart, Trumbo, and Walden were all risky signability picks, but Eddie Bane and his staff did their homework to know exactly how much each player needed to sign on the dotted line. Locker’s commitment to football and time away from baseball make him as risky a signability pick as any player in the draft, but his raw tools are good enough that some team will call an all-out blitz in an attempt to get him signed. That team will be the Angels, you heard it here first.

College Team Profiles: Texas Longhorns

One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new set of questions, we’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (great to less great) within each class.

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (thebaseballdraftreport@gmail.com) or in the comments section.

Photo Source: Freewebs.com

Photo Source: Freewebs.com

Typically, these College Team Profiles will have all the interesting prospects (including future classes), but we’ll stick with 2009 draft-eligible talent for now. Players are ranked based on my own personal board with drop-offs in prospect status after the first two (Belt and Wood) and then again after Boening. The 9 highest rated draft-eligible Longhorns after the jump…

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Business First, Texas Second

On this week’s agenda: respond to comments/emails, update links on the sidebar, finish Texas team profile, publish new first round tiers post, publish new mock draft…and get to anything else topical that comes to mind.

For now, the first three writeups from the “College Team Profile – Texas” post that I had hoped to have completed by now, but couldn’t because of a wonky laptop. Yeah, I know – excuses, excuses.

One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new set of questions, we’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (great to less great) within each class.

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (thebaseballdraftreport@gmail.com) or in the comments section.

Introducing three draft-eligible players of note from yooooooour number one national seed, the Texas Longhorns…

  • 2009: Brandon Belt – 1B

I’m a very big fan of the toolsy Belt, something that is easy to admit after he put it all together with a .342/.432/.582 season line in a pitcher’s park this past year. He has a pretty lefthanded swing that has a tendency to get too long at times. That same swing has a setup that resembles Jeff Bagwell’s right down to the deep crouch though I promise that the comparison is more of a fun frame of reference for nostalgia’s sake than any kind of baseball skills comp. Belt has good size (6-5, 205) with above-average power potential. In fact, he has already shown that his player plays with wood. He has a very good arm and is a plus athlete, two factors that had teams scouting him as a lefthanded pitcher out of high school and junior college. Belt is a fourth to eighth round possibility that will no doubt spend his draft day hoping to break his own personal 11th round curse – he’s twice been drafted in that very round. The aforementioned pitching experience is an added perk that could make him a realistic conversion candidate if hitting doesn’t work out professionally.

  • 2009: David Hernandez – SS

Hernandez is little more than an organizational type, but only because of his ability to play shortstop. He doesn’t have it in him to contribute anything meaningful with the bat, but could develop with the glove to advance a level or two professional over time. Even though I don’t like him as a prospect, I think he’ll be a mid-round draft for a team in need of a rookie ball middle infielder. I’d put money on him returning to the Longhorns for his senior year.

  • 2009: Austin Wood (SR) – LHRP

A rubber-armed closer capable of pitching multi-inning games, Wood has a tremendous work ethic and plenty of big game experience. He doesn’t throw particularly hard and he doesn’t have have a shutdown breaking ball, but he throws from a modified sidearm slot that lefthanded batters have a very tough time dealing with. It’s easy to typecast Wood as a LOOGY and nothing more going forward, but his success as both a multi-inning closer and starting pitcher during his career at Texas should afford him the opportunity to at least get a chance in middle relief as a pro. He’s another mid-round candidate that will be drafted more for organizational depth than anything, but he has a shot at a big league career if drafted by the right team.

2009 MLB Draft: Top 25 Draft-Eligible Catcher Big Board

Hope everybody out there had a nice, relaxing long weekend. I spent too much of mine trying to think of creative ways I could cobble something ready to publish Tuesday morning without having it eat into my own nice, relaxing long weekend. I also made my selections as the Angels scouting director in the MVN MLB Outsider Mock Draft, so I’ll be sure to shamelessly self promote my rationale once it goes live later this week.

In the meantime, let’s unleash the full fury of my very own personal draft-eligible catcher big board. It’s not necessarily where I think the players will go on draft day (i.e. Stassi and Sanchez seem like they’ll both land in the first), but instead where I would value each player if I was the boss. Next up in the queue: College Team Profile – Texas Longhorns

Round 1: Wil Myers

Round 1s/2: Luke Bailey, Josh Phegley, Austin Maddox, Max Stassi, Tony Sanchez

Round 4/5: Mike Ohlman, Jonathan Walsh

Round 5/6: Tucker Barnhart, Dan Black, Mark Fleury, Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac, Josh Leyland, Miles Hamblin, JR Murphy

Round 7/8: Michael Zunino, Jack Murphy, Justin Dalles

Round 9/10: Carlos Ramirez, Steve Baron, Cameron Garfield

Round 10+: Dane Phillips, Miles Head, Robert Stock

2009 MLB Draft: Top Ten High School First Basemen

  1. Jeff Malm (Nevada) – good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…
  2. Colton Cain (Texas) – first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit
  3. Jonathan Singleton (California) – very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit
  4. Kris (KC) Hobson (California) – not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit
  5. Telvin Nash (Georgia) – above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit
  6. Ethan Bright (Mississippi) – in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit
  7. Geoff Baldwin (Colorado) – potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit
  8. Breck Ashdown (Arizona) – ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player
  9. Rudy Flores (Texas) – excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International
  10. Kelly Dugan (California) – my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months

2009 MLB Draft: Top Twenty High School Catchers

Because they are catchers, duh

Photo Source: eCoupons.com

  1. Wil Myers (North Carolina) – raw, but with plus power and arm; versatile on defense, but questions abound about his ability to stick behind the plate; he has the tools to remain a catcher, but his bat may be special enough to make a position switch (expediting his path to the big leagues) worthwhile; South Carolina commit who may very well be this year’s version of last year’s first round pick Brett Lawrie; incredibly fast riser who may be in the mix in the top half of the first round
  2. Luke Bailey (Georgia) – best blend of tools outside of Donovan Tate in all of prep class; 6-1, 200; MLB-caliber arm (pre-Tommy John surgery, we’ll have to wait and see how his recovery goes) with very good pop times (1.92 seconds); fantastic athlete with above-average speed (not simply good for a catcher, but overall); Auburn commit who now has more questions (injury and signability) than answers surrounding his game, but I still think he goes in the top two rounds as I believe he’s a safe bet to sign if he gets a fair offer
  3. Austin Maddox (Florida) – ML-size (6-3, 225) with two truly outstanding tools – plus raw power and plus, arguably plus-plus, arm strength; loses points for not being a natural between the lines, despite extensive experience playing year-round ball in Florida; hasn’t had a great spring performance, but still firmly in the running to go in the top two rounds due to the presence of those two present plus tools; with mid-90s heat, could be a potential pitching conversion down the road; Florida commit who forces scouts to ponder the age old question – do you take a more well-rounded prospect or a player like Maddox with two over-the-top excellent tools already present?
    (more…)

Monday Bullets

A few quick bullet points to start the week off right. I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that they are almost all meta-bullets…I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and this seemed like as good a place as any to unclog some of my jammed up thoughts. Sorry again, that’s a gross metaphor. Here’s what I came up with so far…

  • I’ve gotten to as many comments as I can, but there are still a few left that I’m looking forward to responding to. I make it a point to respond to every comment I get, so if you have been eagerly anticipating a response then most of you will be pleasantly surprised that I’ve finally caught up. If you could care less about me responding, well…carry on. If you want reach me via email instead of through the comment section, that’s fine by me. Get in touch at thebaseballdraftreport @ gmail.com (no spaces though).
  • My confession: This site wasn’t designed with 2009 in mind. I’m a long-range planner, believe it or not, so when I first decided to get in on this I knew deep down that there wouldn’t be enough time between my start up in February and the draft in June to sit down and publish all of the information I’ve been collecting. In fact, that’s the problem that is killing me right now – information overload. I’ve got lots of information, information that I think is good and worth sharing, but not enough time to sift through it, organize it into a string of cohesive thoughts, and then pretty it up so that it’s ready to be published for the masses to tear it apart (I do love that last part). On top of that, I want to evolve past being primarily a hunter-gatherer of information and settle into a website with roots – we’re talking more firsthand accounts, guest pieces from people way smarter than I’ll ever be, interviews and analysis from inside sources, and more in-depth scouting reports. In the meantime, I’m faced with the dilemma of picking and choosing what is most important to get out in front of the ’09 Draft. I still think positional lists are useful, so that’s something I want to cover. Mocks aplenty, of course. I want to bust out my own personal big board (with the accompanying lists of my own personal favorites), plus a consensus big board that hopefully will reflect how the first 100 picks or so will go down. There may be more of a post-draft focus this year because it’ll be easier for me to deal with less time sensitive material – I can digest each team’s picks and do that instant-grading thing that so many columnists tear apart every year (I still love it and I always will – who doesn’t enjoy reading post-NFL Draft report cards?). Any other definite features that I should add but am forgetting? I don’t want the site to get bogged town into solely worrying about who will go where in the first round, but I get easily frustrated when I realize there isn’t enough time for me to report on every draft eligible player that I have info on. That’s when I fall back on just worrying about the first round, something I know I don’t want to do. But if I begin talking about my favorite high school third basemen from Utah, then I know I’ll eventually get mad at myself for not having enough time to talk about my favorite (insert position) from (insert state) from (insert age grouping). It’s hard to run a website when you are crazy, you know? I need a plan…
  • I seriously have a little black book chock full of…wait for it…brief scouting reports of players from the draft. Give me a second to reflect on how cool that makes me. It would be one thing if the book wasn’t literally little and black, but it is. Oh, it is. If it was a normal sized notebook with Hannah Montana or someone on the cover, that would be alright. But, no, it had to be little and black. I am that suave, sophisticated, charming ladies man that you see out and about hitting up the local nightlife. Me and my little black book. I value it quite highly, even though on more than one occasion I have been stopped by a stranger who wanted to know if I always carried a bible around with me. Do kids today still have little black books? I guess they probably have evolved into little BlackBerries, right? Man, now I sound like Andy Rooney. I’m too young to sound this old. Did kids ever actually use little black books? That always seemed like more of a TV/movie device than anything else, but maybe I was just never big time enough to know any differently. Anyway, yes, I do have a little black book full of draft notes. That has all of my positional rankings in it. I think it’s about time I just get into those – no more messing around with other things, no more getting distracted with my job or my moving into a new place, none of that. So, if you made it this far in this rambly disjointed mess of a post, get ready for a week or so of rapid fire position-by-position lists of the top draft prospects for 2009. This is the short-term plan, but it is, like so much of what I do here, subject to change at a moment’s notice.
  • Lastly, Strasburg/Ackley as the first two picks? Is this something we can all agree on? Strasburg is a slam dunk, we know that much, but is Ackley such a clear front runner for the second spot that we can finally begin to pencil him in with confidence?

Stephen Strasburg’s Final Out of No Hitter

Video courtesy of farmsystem

Draft 101 – The Basics

What and Why: Formally known as the First-Year Player Draft or Rule 4 Draft; informally known (by me) as the MLB Draft or the Draft. The basic concept behind holding a draft is to restock the worst teams in the league with the best amateur talent available. The Rule 4 Draft is massive in size and scope with a gigantic pool of eligible players and up to 50 rounds of drafted talent. It’s only “up to” 50 because teams have the option to end their draft at any point they choose. Selection order works in reverse order of finish going by the final standings of the previous season. If two teams are tied in the standings then the previous year’s standings are used as a tiebreaker. Easy enough, right? Compensation picks are assigned to teams whose Type A or Type B free agents signed elsewhere, but only when said Type A or Type B players were first offered arbitration. Compensation picks are also assigned when a team fails to sign a player chosen in the first three rounds of the draft prior.

Who: College players at four-year schools who have either completed their junior or senior seasons or are at least 21 years old; junior college players no matter what year they are in; high school players who have graduated but not yet enrolled at college. All players who meet these requirements from the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada are eligible to be drafted. Cuban defectors living in the United States are also subject to the rules of the draft. Teams have the rights to sign a player from the moment they draft him until August 15th of the draft year.

When: June 9, 10, and 11. Yeah, it’ll really take three days to run through all 1,500 or so selections. This will be the third televised year of the Rule 4 Draft, but the first time that the First-Year Player Draft will ever be held in prime-time. See how I seamlessly dropped both official draft names in there? Anyway, expect the Nationals to go on the clock around 6 PM EST. June 9th will include Round 1, Compensation Round A, Round 2, Round 3, and Compensation Round B.

Where: Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey

How to Watch: Round 1 will be televised on MLB Network. Subsequent rounds will air on a live video stream at MLB.com. Day 1 begins at 6 PM EST, but Days 2 and 3 should both begin at roughly 12 noon EST.

Draft Prospect Retro – North Carolina’s Daniel Bard

This site has only been around a few months, but my own personal obsession with tracking amateur talent goes back years. Indulge me for a moment as I share an old piece I wrote about the newest member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen, Daniel Bard. This was, I think, the very first “published” thing I ever wrote, so please do keep that in mind as you mentally tear it to shreds. Part of the fun of following amateur players from high school to college (or not) to the pros is seeing them eventually make it as big leaguers, so it seems like as appropriate a time as any to revisit my first brush with Bard now that he is on the cusp of making his debut in the bigs. The original date of publication was March 28, 2006, so don’t hold any of the stupid predictions against me…

Photo Credit: duelingcouches.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: duelingcouches.blogspot.com

North Carolina righthanded starter Daniel Bard is one of the most highly touted pitching prospects at the amateur level. His much hyped game really needs no introduction…and yet, in an attempt to be as thorough as possible here, allow me to rattle off a sampling of his accomplishments and accolades. Bard was a twentieth round pick by the New York Yankees after graduating from Charlotte Christian School. He spurned the Yanks to sign with the University of North Carolina – good thing, too, or else this piece would make a heck of a lot less sense. The decision to head to Chapel Hill paid off for Bard as he went on to win the ACC Freshman of the Year award and a spot on the Freshman All-American team as named by Collegiate Baseball. Bard followed up his strong freshman season with an even stronger sophomore campaign. His sophomore year was followed up by his breakthrough performance pitching for the Wareham Gatemen (love that team name) of the Cape Cod League. Baseball America named him to their College Summer All-America second team and rated him the league’s number two professional prospect (the number one prospect that summer was his UNC teammate, lefthanded starter Andrew Miller). Heading into 2006, Bard was named to just about every preseason All-America and All-ACC team possible – Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, and SEBaseball.com all lauded him as player to watch in 2006. Baseball America finished up the Bard-lovefest by naming him college baseball’s number four junior prospect.

Despite all of the glowing praise, I was skeptical of Bard going into the game I “scouted” for two reasons. First off, Bard has a rather high career BB/IP rate (74 BBs in 184.2 IP) and reports of his shaky control in the scouting community are well documented. The second concern about Bard deals with scouting reports which claim he lacks any kind of solid secondary pitches. Those two concerns led me to mentally prepare for one of those classic dominating pitchers who can get by in the college game by simply blowing away lesser talented competition with a fastball better than any other pitch they’ve seen before. If old baseball clichés are more your thing, try to imagine a player who scouts like to proclaim is more of a thrower than a pitcher – this description is exactly what I was expecting as I settled into my seat behind home plate at Boshamer Stadium. It seems the two concerns over Bard’s game go hand in hand. He doesn’t have the secondary stuff that can be thrown consistently for strikes which hurts his overall performance. Because of this, he tends to get wild at times; check his BB, HBP, and WP numbers as evidence for this. Bard has had trouble controlling his less refined secondary stuff; perhaps, if he sharpened up said secondary stuff and managed to get his slider over for strikes consistently, his control as a whole would improve as well.

Bard’s lack of control and relatively weak secondary stuff will have significant implications on his success in the major leagues unless addressed. If Bard has shown iffy control at the college level (where it is not at all uncommon to see players overanxious and willing to go after that first ball fastball, especially when facing a pitcher capable of throwing a 95 MPH heater), one can only imagine the potential difficulties he’ll face when going against pros. Advanced professional hitters eat up any pitcher who relies solely on his fastball in an attempt to blow people away. Bard has been able to get by with just that four-seam fastball of his thus far, so the pressure to develop better breaking stuff when facing inferior collegiate competition isn’t there. If a guy can simply throw a fastball by a hitter, then he can undoubtedly get himself into the bad habit of simply trying to do so every time. Why mess around with setting up hitters and developing quality breaking stuff when it just hasn’t been necessary for him to do to this point? I’m sure Bard realizes (along with the UNC coaching staff, hopefully) if he wants to reach the bigs some day, these are the flaws in his game he will need to iron out as a pro.

More on Bard’s draft stock, his start against Purdue, and a brief afterword that ties it all together after the jump… (more…)

2009 First Round Mock Draft 2.0

Another week, another mock. Let’s see what we see…

1.1 Washington – RHSP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State)
1.2 Seattle – 1B/OF Dustin Ackley (North Carolina)
1.3 San Diego – RHSP Aaron Crow (Missouri/Fort Worth Cats)
1.4 Pittsburgh – RHSP Alex White (North Carolina)
1.5 Baltimore – SS Grant Green (Southern Cal)

I still have no idea which way Seattle is leaning with the second pick. Any one of Ackley, White, Tate, Matzek, or Scheppers could be the guy. Green’s stock is falling faster than [insert fast falling stock symbol here], but I still think it’s a tad reactionary to have him falling more than a few picks from the top considering the total absence of quality bats at premium positions in this year’s draft. Heck, I was one of Green’s biggest detractors heading into this season so if anybody could support a slip in his stock it’s me. About a month ago I said this:

It’s not quite a fully developed idea, but I’ll just throw it out there here so I can have it on the record…Grant Green (Southern Cal, SS) and Jason Donald (Arizona, Phillies, SS/3B/2B). Am I crazy in thinking they have similar enough profiles to compare the two?

I like Grant Green and I like Jason Donald, but I’m not sold on either player being “worth” the fifth overall pick. However, and this is worth pointing out time and time again, the top of the draft has so few interesting bats that there is some justification for reaching for a potential plus bat at a key defensive position.

1.6 San Francisco – OF Donavan Tate (Cartersville HS – Georgia)
1.7 Atlanta – RHSP Zack Wheeler (East Paulding HS – Georgia)
1.8 Cincinnati – RHSP Kyle Gibson (Missouri)
1.9 Detroit Tigers – LHSP Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS – California)
1.10 Washington – RHSP Tanner Scheppers (Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)

How do you spell Tate’s first name? I’ve literally seen a 50/50 split (or darn close anyway) in the major publications when it comes to his spelling. Off the top of my head, I think Baseball America and Pefect Game both call him Donavan, but MLB.com claims he goes by Donovan. Even the great Google comes up empty – 824,000 hits for “Donovan Tate” and 870,000 “Donavan Tate” in a race too close to call.

I debated far too long about Atlanta’s pick, but there is too much noise about Atlanta loving Wheeler to go against the grain. Brian Sabean was at a recent Cartersville start to watch Wheeler throw, so it’s entirely possible he’ll be off the board at pick six. In a way that would be convenient because we can then just flip the Giants and Braves picks with little shaking up of the draft board.

Strasburg & Scheppers…that’ll do nicely. I like the Nationals popping Scheppers here because there is absolutely no chance he won’t sign a fair deal, he has no other options besides professional baseball. The question for me is whether or not he’ll be sitting there for them to debate the pick…

1.11 Colorado – RHSP Mike Leake (Arizona State)
1.12 Kansas City – RHSP Shelby Miller (Brownwood HS – Texas)
1.13 Oakland – 3B Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS – Florida)
1.14 Texas – LHSP Matt Purke (Klein HS – Texas)
1.15 Cleveland – LHSP Mike Minor (Vanderbilt)

A prep superstar sandwich with delicious high floor (and high fiber!) college pitcher bread. The Royals and Rangers would both be ecstatic (I’m guessing) if the draft actually went like this, though I now wonder if the two Texan high schoolers might be flip flopped.

1.16 Arizona – LHP/OF Brooks Raley (Texas A&M)
1.17 Arizona – C Max Stassi (Yuba City HS – California)
1.18 Florida – LHP/1B Colton Cain (Waxahachie HS – Texas)
1.19 St. Louis – LHSP Andy Oliver (Oklahoma State)
1.20 Toronto – LHSP James Paxton (Kentucky)
1.21 Houston – LHSP Rex Brothers (Lipscomb)

How’s that for a run on lefthanded pitching? That’s 7 out of 8 lefties if you’re scoring at home, with the run only being broken up by the presence of new top 2009 catcher Stassi. Cain is the real wild card in all of this, but he is only this high up because Florida is such a difficult team for me to project. Cain would be a big stretch at 18, but a high upside, athletic high school arm makes sense in the spot.

1.22 Minnesota – OF Jared Mitchell (Louisiana State)
1.23 Chicago White Sox – RHSP Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw State)
1.24 Los Angeles Angels – LHSP Tyler Skaggs (Santa Monica HS – California)
1.25 Los Angeles Angels – 3B Matt Davidson (Yucaipa HS – California)

Mitchell to Minnesota would be a re-draft (they took him out of high school in 2006), so we know he fits their typical draft demographic beautifully. It’s possible that Mitchell fits the Twins model too well, seeing as they already have about a half dozen players with similar skillsets already in the system – it would almost be overkill at this point to draft another.

1.26 Milwaukee – OF Mike Trout (Millville HS – New Jersey)
1.27 Seattle – RHSP Jacob Turner (Westminster Academy – Missouri)
1.28 Boston – RHSP Sam Dyson (South Carolina)
1.29 New York Yankees – RHSP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M)
1.30 Tampa Bay – 1B Rich Poythress (Georgia)
1.31 Chicago Cubs – SS Jiovanni Mier (Bonita HS – California)
1.32 Colorado – OF Kentrail Davis (Tennessee)

Turner to the Mariners makes sense, if they are as willing to pony up the bucks as they have intimated. Projecting the top AL East teams is a killer, but it’s not much more than a coincidence that all three wound up with college players – Dyson and Wilson are high upside arms that would represent good value late in the first, but carry significant injury risk going forward. Poythress is a really hard player to squeeze in, but he’d be a really nice fit for a team in need of another big bat to balance out an already strong lineup, slotting in as either Pena’s successor at first or a DH option down the road. Davis is another player that probably shouldn’t be as high as he is in a vacuum, but in a draft like this he’ll get a substantial bonus because he has shown he can at least hit a little (we’re setting the bar low for bats this year, unfortunately).

2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part IV – Jack Murphy Edition)

With the draft a little more than a month away it’s time to get a move on. Let’s jump back in to this year’s college catching prospects. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Why Do College Catching Prospects Fail?
An attempt to answer the above question
Introduction – The 2009 Field
Part IPart IIPart III
Bonus Coverage – Three Quick Notes

Why I’ve spent so much time thinking/writing about such a weak position in this year’s draft is anybody’s guess, but I started this darn catching tournament thing and by gosh I’m going to finish it. It may take me weeks to do what a real writer would do in minutes, but…wait, I have no idea how to finish that thought. But…at least I’ve avoided the Swine Flu thus far? But…at least I’m the best looking baseball draft writer around (you should really see my smile, it makes man, woman, child, and Clooney all weak in the knees, all at once). But…at least I’ve put my time to good use when not writing – I mean, I must have watched this about 6,000 this past week alone. See, there really is no good way to finish that thought? It may have taken me weeks to ge through this simple task, but the end is finally in sight. The beginning of the end starts now. One more regional to go.

The final (maybe) installment of our college catching prospect tournament — yes, it has dragged on long enough that it no longer deserves highly coveted formal title capitalization status — is thankfully here. Let’s see what we’ll see…after the jump, of course.

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Mid-Week Underdeveloped Musings

First Round Puzzle Pieces

I’m a simple man who tends to think in simple terms. Filling out a mock draft brings back grade school memories of manipulating jigsaw pieces every which way until a pretty picture of a duck or a lake or an eighteenth century Parisian castle emerged from the cutouts. It always helped to get the corner pieces first to frame the picture, a lesson I try to apply to my mock draft construction today – get the corners first and build from there. Find picks that make so much sense that they just have to happen and work backwards once they are filled in. Find teams that will under no circumstances take a particular player or position. Eliminate picks that don’t make sense.

So let’s start piecing this puzzle together. Which teams can we rule out for certain positions early on? Can anybody out there realistically see any of the following teams — Baltimore, San Francisco, Texas, Cleveland, Florida, or Houston — taking a first round catcher? Maybe Texas (lots of young catching, but still sorting itself out), maybe Cleveland (Carlos Santana is coming, but they strike me as an organization that would take a catcher high if he was the best player on their board), but certainly not the other four teams. What about first baseman? I definitely can’t envision a scenario where Rich Poythress goes to Kansas City (Hosmer), Texas (Smoak), or St. Louis (Pujols/Wallace). What have I concluded from my brief puzzle session? Teams don’t draft the same position (excepting pitching) in the first round in consecutive years, so don’t expect it to happen when putting together a mock. Is that a fair conclusion?

More Luke Bailey Fallout

I’ve been thinking more and more about how Bailey’s recent injury will impact the upcoming draft. The Nationals are faced with the very weird predicament of having to pick and pay the most celebrated amateur talent ever AND then sign another top ten player on top of it. Various logical college names have been bandied about for the ten spot (Poythress, LeMahieu, Mitchell…Leake, Paxton, Brothers) that would serve the Nationals well in that they are all talented enough to justify the tenth spot (some more than others), but also not quite sexy enough to warrant a scary overslot bonus. Does Bailey at number ten make sense? He’s got more upside than any of the college names mentioned (though Poythress and Leake are personal favorites, and Mitchell has plenty of untapped potential in his own right), plus his injury could lead to an under the table pre-draft agreement on monetary terms that would have otherwise been untenable. Luke, sign with us and you’ll get the cache of being a top ten pick, the slot (or maybe slightly less) bonus that comes with the position, and a top notch professional staff to walk you through your rehab. Crazy idea, but there it is.

Bailey going tenth would be pretty out there, but there are other spots late in the first that might not be quite as crazy. Check out the teams picking 28th, 29th, and 30th. Boston, New York, and Tampa all have consecutive late first round picks this year. All three teams have shown a willingness to draft aggressively, and all three teams have an organizational need at catcher. No chance they would have had a shot at a healthy Luke Bailey, but now…well, now they’ll be in a position to decide on whether or not he’s worth the risk.

Enough looking ahead, let’s look back. I found one of my unpublished mock drafts from a few weeks ago and, much to my surprise, noticed I had Bailey slotted as high as pick number 9 to Detroit. I know I have toyed with the idea of giving him to Kansas City (12), Oakland (13), Cleveland (15), and Arizona (16/17) at various points prior. How far will he slide?

Player Range Finder

A random feature where I pick a random player and randomly decide where I think he’ll randomly go in the draft. Sounds like a party, right? Our first player is…

Rich Poythress –> crazy optimistic scenario could see him being popped as high as pick number six to San Francisco; worst case scenario sees him falling no further (farther?) than pick 27 to Seattle.

Poythress to the Giants? The odds are Manute Bol slim, but not quite minute enough to rule out entirely. Fact 1 – the Giants organization is rich in prospects, but the pitching still outpaces the hitting by a comfortable margin. Fact 2 – the Giants . Fact 3 – This may or may not be an actual “fact” — I scoff at the notion that words need to fit “definitions” decided on unilaterally by the “Man”– but every draft needs a surprise, right? At this point the talent at the top of the draft looks about as predictable as can be – Strasburg, White, Crow, Ackley, Green, Tate, Matzek, Gibson, Wheeler in some order. It can’t be that simple, can it?

Of course, I think the Giants go best player available (hoping for one of the three position players, I’m guessing) which will rule out Poythress going off the board at six, but it’s not totally inconceivable and that’s all I’m really trying to get at.

Poythress to the Mariners? Now this I could see happening. Poythress plays a mean first base (something the M’s value highly), the Seattle system needs fast moving bats, and he’d represent really good value this late in the round. Of course, the idea that he’d go no later than 27th to Seattle means there are a bunch of teams that represent logical fits well before Jack Z will even get a crack at him.Teams like Washington, Arizona, Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles all are likely to show heavy interest in the sweet swinging first baseman.

Pitch Counts

No, this won’t be another rant about the responsibility (or lack thereof) that college coaches have towards balancing saving their own hides by pleasing the alumni base by winning as many ballgames as possible in the short-term with respecting the overall health and potential loss of future professional earnings of student-athletes supposedly under their care. (Man, how’s that for a run-on sentence? My high school English teacher must be rolling in her grave…). Nor will it be a treatise on how often evidence showing high pitch counts (especially pitch counts over 120) as dangerous to a pitcher’s long-term health and short-term performance is ignored by a certain segment of the population, a group that still believes in the infallibility of many of the arm shredding techniques of yesteryear. (Not only a run-on sentence, but also awkwardly worded…I’m on a roll!). No, none of that – not today, anyway.

All I’m trying to say is that high pitch counts absolutely have to be considered when teams stack their draft boards each year. Nothing more, nothing less. To that end, let’s take a quick look after the jump at a few of the big names stretched beyond a “safe” number of pitches this past weekend…

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Monday News Burst

Two high school stars were in the “news” recently, but for two very different reasons. What happened and why should we care? Let’s find out in our first ever foray in actually covering real life stuff as it happens…

Shelby Miller

The Blue Jays have had scouts at recent starts made by star prep righthanded pitcher Shelby Miller

Why is this important?

Toronto avoids high school arms like few teams in baseball, so it’s noteworthy whenever they take notice in a prep pitching prospect. At this point it would be an upset to see Miller slip to Toronto in the first (they pick 20th overall), but that’s not quite what makes this note so important. Sure, if Miller is sitting there at 20 and Toronto gets a crack at him then it’ll be intriguing to see how real this interest is. What I find interesting here is the fact that the Blue Jays seem to be opening themselves up to the possibility of drafting high school arms this year. Then again, there is no doubt Toronto (and every other team in the league for that matter) scout so thoroughly that it’s no real shock to hear a rumor going about supposed interest like this even when the team has no real intention of drafting a particular player. So, to recap – maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing, but in any case it’s information worth storing away come draft day. If you’ve got a mock draft going and Miller has somehow slipped to the Jays at 20, it may help you to look smart by putting his name down as the pick.

Luke Bailey

Top overall catching prospect Luke Bailey’s draft future is in question due to recent injury…no, not a strained medial ligament and bone bruise to the knee, but rather a strained UCL that has him scheduled for Tommy John surgery

Why is this important?

Big league teams who just last week had Bailey, an Auburn commit, high on their first round draft boards are now faced with the challenge of placing a proper value on the heretofore projected top 15 pick. Teams won’t only have to reshuffle their boards based on where they think Bailey’s value will be league-wide after the injury; no, that would be too easy. Teams will also have to figure out how willing Bailey is to sign a professional contract and for how much cash money it’ll take to get him ready to play pro ball. Every big league front office will have to place a round/dollar value on Bailey and determine whether a) he’ll be signable, and b) whether or not his recovery from injury will make him worth chasing after. That last point is a big one because the 2009 Draft has a chance of being remembered for the premium crop of high school catchers – when faced with the choice of a sliding Bailey or one of the other top round catching candidates (anybody outside of Max Stassi and Austin Maddox, I’d venture), who do you take? A week ago Bailey was a pretty clear number one at the position, but now he faces the very real possibility that he’ll be bypassed not only by high end guys like Stassi and Maddox, but also members of the second group like Jonathan Walsh, Wil Myers, Michael Zunino, or which ever prep prospect you happen to fancy near the top of the prep catching lists. Is a healthy Walsh a better pick than an damaged goods Bailey? I just don’t know.

If you are Bailey, how far do you have to slip to decide “hey, maybe three years playing ball in the SEC and transforming myself into the next Matt Wieters” might be worth while? On the other hand, Bailey might decide that recovery from major arm surgery might be something he’d rather let a big league medical staff oversee and a front office finance.

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