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.
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…
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…)
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).
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 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.
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.
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…