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2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers

It’s April now. The weather is slowly getting warmer here in the northeast (finally), Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is just days away (finally), and the Rule 4 Draft’s first round is slowly beginning to take shape. I’ve been lax in publishing any of my macro draft projections, but it seems like as good a time as any to put this first look at the first round out there for all the world to see. And for those of you that only visit these parts for the mocks — something I do for plenty of NFL and NBA sites, so believe me when I say I’m passing no judgment — consider this a precursor to the eventual April mock draft (coming soon!) and, who knows, maybe a helpful resource to aid in putting together a mock of your own.

There are 32 picks in this year’s first round. How many of those spots are currently accounted for? How many are still up for grabs? Which players are most likely to land the last few spots in the round and which players are such stone cold mortal locks that they can feel safe putting down payments on a whole bunch of fancy new toys? Any player with a chance of going in the first round in June has been broken down into a distinct tier. The tiers are far from perfect (maybe a player is in Tier 4, but should be in Tier 5), but they serve as realistic classifications of where players are currently valued by big league clubs.

  • Tier 1 —> 1 player

RHSP Stephen Strasburg

This guy is so far and away the best prospect in this draft that he gets his own tier…but you knew that already.

Confidence Level —> Couldn’t be higher

  • Tier 2 —> 10 players

College: OF/1B Dustin Ackley, RHSP Kyle Gibson, RHSP Aaron Crow, RHSP Alex White, SS Grant Green
Prep: RHSP Shelby Miller, LHSP Tyler Matzek, LHSP Matt Purke, LHSP Tyler Skaggs, OF Donovan Tate

The only tier split up into distinct college and prep sides, Tier 2 includes 10 players that are “write it down in that super never disappearing pen that S. Epatha Merkerson advertises for” kind of locks for the first round. Seattle has to be hoping against hope that one of these players will separate himself from the group because, at this point anyway, you could make a legitimate argument for literally any of the players on the list going to the Mariners at pick number two. I’d love to hear the arguments in favor of any of the prep pitchers going that high (none of the four players are quite talented enough to warrant taking a chance on that high, I think), but the other 6 players all could conceivably wind up in the Pacific Northwest.

Confidence Level —> Bet more than you have on any odds that these players will be first rounders

  • Tier 3 —> 5 players

RHSP Mike Leake, RHSP Tanner Scheppers, C Luke Bailey, C Austin Maddox, 1B Rich Poythress

These players just barely missed the previous tier, so know that if I was a bolder prognosticator I would have had them in that group without reservation. Of course, there are reasons why each player doesn’t get the Uniball pen Youtube video of approval. Leake may be my favorite prospect in all the draft, but I’m not sure how much my opinion matters to teams drafting in the first round…yes, he’s a very good prospect and an almost sure-fire first rounder, but I don’t want my inflated opinion of him getting in the way of properly assessing his relative value. Same story for Scheppers, another personal favorite.

Bailey and Maddox are hard to place on a draft board because, well, they are high school catchers. In a typical year it’s hard to figure out how early teams are willing to take a chance on a prep backstop, but it’s even wilder this year because of the excess of quality high school catchers expected to be taken early. Poythress is another player tricky to place, but for the opposite reasons. He is an established college first baseman, a position with an absurdly high success rate when taken early in the draft. However, this year’s draft is so devoid of quality bats (especially advanced bats) that it is hard to narrow down exactly what range he’ll go in – will teams overdraft a hitter knowing they are less likely to find a good one later? Or will teams instead focus on the strength of the draft — pitching, pitching, and more pitching — and go best player available, thus pushing hitters down the board?

Concerns aside, these players are still top-level prospects who should feel confident enough in their draft stock to begin daydreaming about their big first round pay days ahead.

Confidence Level —> As high as it gets without being a stone cold lock

  • Tier 4 —> 8 players

LHSP James Paxton, LHSP Mike Minor, SS DJ LeMahieu, OF Jared Mitchell, OF Kentrail Davis, RHSP Trent Stevenson, RHSP Zack Wheeler, RHSP Jacob Turner

Much like the group prior, these latest 8 prospects should feel really good about getting the chance to hear their names called on draft day. We’re up to 24 overall players through 4 tiers with definite consensus first round grades at this point in the process. The biggest reaches on this group are the two fastest risers of the bunch – Paxton and Stevenson.

Confidence Level —> Beginning to waver slightly, but still feeling good about 7 of the 8 players listed winding up as first rounders…which player or two (or three) doesn’t make the cut is anybody’s guess

  • Tier 5 —> 6 players

RHSP Alex Wilson, RHSP Ryan Berry, LHSP Andy Oliver, OF Brett Jackson, RHRP Jason Stoffel, RHSP Matt Hobgood

With the inclusion of Tier 5, our grand total of potential first rounders is now up to a nice, round 30. There are 32 first round spots up for grabs this year. Of note, Wilson and Berry are both Texas-based college guys that have risen in tandem up the boards this spring, Oliver has seen a dip in his stock but could still easily be a tier or two higher (I’m doing my best to be conservative here), and Stoffel is another hard to judge player based on the position he plays.

Confidence Level —> Nobody predicts who will go in the first round over two months ahead of time, so confidence is low that these are the right names. However, and remember this is me going out on a limb (something I’m too big a pun to normally do), at least three of the five college guys will be first rounders. Bold, right?

  • The Rest…

3B/OF Matt Davidson, 3B Bobby Borchering, C Max Stassi, SS Jiovanni Mier, OF/2B AJ Pollock, OF Brian Goodwin, RHSP Kendal Volz, RHSP Sam Dyson, LHSP Brooks Raley, SS Robbie Shields, SS Ryan Jackson, RHSP Mychal Givens, RHRP Brad Boxberger, C Josh Phegley, C Tony Sanchez, RHSP Keyvius Sampson

16 other names in the mix as potential first rounders bringing our final tally to 46 players duking it out for 32 spots. If I had to bet, I’d say Borchering and Mier wind up as first rounders based little more on the fact that a) the first round needs more high schoolers, and b) the first round needs more hitters, especially if said hitters can defend at important infield positions.

Who am I missing? Who do I have that won’t wind up a first rounder come June?



  1. Joshua B. says:

    Nice. I really like the idea of this post, and agree with most of the organization of it. Just a few thoughts. The inclusion of Skaggs and Miller in tier 2 would signify that either or both of them could go before Matzek and/or Purke. That seems like a bit of a stretch, especially Skaggs, because at least Miller is the top right-hander on the list. It also seems like this draft class is, at least a little, deeper than I originally thought. Robbie Shields, Mychal Givens, Borchering, Davidson, Ryan Jackson, Phegley and Kendell Volz are on the fringe list! Any one of those guys could go in the first half of the draft. I especially like the two high school bats, Borchering and Davidson, this draft is really hurting for high school position players — of the non-catcher variety — and those two could jump in the draft due to that fact alone, right?

    Rich Poythress is a very interesting prospect. Last year he would have slipped behind Smoak, Alsonso, Hosmer, Allan Dykstra, Ike Davis, Brett Wallace, and David Cooper but, this year, he seems to be the only first base college bat of first round quality, I don’t know what to make of him.

    College pitching is so obviously the strength of this class; especially compared to last years’ Matusz, Crow, Shooter Hunt and Friedrich, as far as starters were concerned.

    Where are all the toolsy HS shortstops? If I were creating a top 50 big board of all draft eligible players, a HS shortstop would not make the list, maybe that’s a mistake but, I do not like Mier, or Devan Marrero for that matter.

    That being said, it will be interesting what happens at the end of the first round. Do team’s take toolsy players like Brian Goodwin or established college pitchers that will likely still be around because of the depth, Berry, Alex Wilson, Stoffel/Tootle, Volz, etc?

  2. […] tiers align with the first round board tiers from last week, with the exception of Dyson rising up to join Wilson and Berry. Volz and Inman are […]

  3. rfozga says:

    Thanks, I was hoping this particular post would be of interest. Your comments were, as usual, well thought out and constructive in nature.

    The HS rankings are still so fluid that anything I say at this point is subject to change a day later. I think Matzek is the top prep pitcher at this point, but after that I’m lost…Purke is the favorite, Miller is the top righty and thus deserves a mention, and Skaggs is the projectable (6-5, 180) dark horse. At this point I’m comfortable with all four being mentioned in the same breath, but I admit that’s a bit of a conservative approach. If I was the type to really take a stand, Skaggs would be dropped a tier.

    Totally agreed on the potential rise of high school bats – my guess is that it will take a bit of time, but within the next six weeks or so we’ll see some real separation as certain players (Borchering, Davidson, another catcher, an outfielder, maybe even a SS or two) emerge. Speaking of shortstops, the prep SS class is so darn underwhelming, I’m not sure how it’s all going to shake out. I currently have Scooter Gennett atop my ranking of high school middle infielders and pretty high overall relative to other publication’s rankings, but shortstops like Mier, Marrero, Stephen Perez, and David Nick are all barely hanging on to their spots in the bottom third of my high school top 50. I should publish that soon…

    Also agreed on the surprising depth of this year’s class. It’s been a pleasant discovery in doing a lot of the draft homework to find the high number of quality guys that will be available outside of the first round. It’s hard to speak to the expected depth in the later rounds (I’m thinking rounds 6 and on), but it certainly seems like as good a year as any to have a number of high round picks, especially in that supplemental/second round range.

    Poythress gets a huge bounce for the exact reason you mentioned – the absence of a Smoak, Alonso, Hosmer, Dykstra, Davis, Wallace, and Cooper. Incidentally, I’d rank Poythress fifth on a combined 2008/2009 list, behind Smoak, Hosmer, Alonso, and Wallace, but ahead of Cooper, Davis, and Dykstra. I’ve actually heard a Wallace-Poythress comp thrown out, but I think that was mostly based on a player with a big bat and iffy glove who may be stretched by a daring pro club to play third early in their career. I actually think a Cooper-Poythress comp is the better one, but I’ve been admittedly very late in joining the Poythress bandwagon so I’m still in the process of formulating a real opinion on his game.

    Your last point is excellent and it echos a thought I’ve had rattling around in my brain for weeks. Will teams draft according to the strength of the players on the board (grab pitching, pitching, pitching) or will they jump at the bats (and lesser prospects) when they are available, knowing they won’t be around later?

  4. […] tiers. Alright, that’s not entirely true — it’s been almost three weeks since we first did this — but calling this a triweekly isn’t nearly as catchy, plus it’s way more […]

  5. Travis Hughs says:

    Astros are taking Von Rosenberg with 21st pick.

  6. […] Last year I threw out 30 names that I thought would be first rounders in 2009. Remember that? Good times. I hit on a whopping 17 of them. I’m not sure what the success rate should be, but I get the feeling that 17 of 30 isn’t particularly good. The players I had in the first round who weren’t first rounders in the end included Tyler Skaggs, Tanner Scheppers, Luke Bailey, Austin Maddox, Rich Poythress, James Paxton, DJ LeMahieu, Kentrail Davis, Trent Stevenson, Alex Wilson, Ryan Berry, Andy Oliver, and Jason Stoffel. The majority of those misses make me feel like a real dope in hindsight. […]

  7. […] April 2, 2009 Leake may be my favorite prospect in all the draft, but I’m not sure how much my opinion matters to teams drafting in the first round…yes, he’s a very good prospect and an almost sure-fire first rounder, but I don’t want my inflated opinion of him getting in the way of properly assessing his relative value. […]

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