I don’t have a plan of attack in how I want to approach draft grades, so I just made up some categories and started writing. If anybody out there has a better idea on how to do this, I’m all ears. For now, my quick look at what each big league team did in the 2009 MLB Draft…
Three (3) Picks I Liked A Lot
Am I a byproduct of a the instant-gratification, “what have you done for me lately” generation? Do I place too high a value on a singular event that doesn’t have quite the real life importance explaining the way a team operates the way it does that I’ve assigned to it? Or am I just a typical Negadelphian who is only ever happy when there is something, real or imagined, to complain about? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m not happy that the Phillies, just one year removed from providing me with some of the very best moments of my young life, have now put themselves in the position where their 2009 draft class, a draft class that serves as a proxy to their true commitment to putting a winning product on the field, will be considered a success or failure based almost entirely on the whims of a 7th round high school righthanded pitcher from Louisiana. Brody Colvin (7th Round – HS RHP) is easily the most talented player taken by the Phillies in 2009, but whether or not he signs is a 50/50 proposition at best. No matter what happens, it’s hard not to like the pick itself, especially when looked at from an actual cost/potential benefit perspective. I’m finally buying into the Kelly Dugan (2nd Round – HS OF) selection, even though I’m not sure what to make of his ultimate upside. His is a weird skillset to wrap the head around as it isn’t every day a high school first baseman is converted instantly to centerfield as a professional. Lance Berkman is the pie in the sky optimist comp being bandied about, but even 80% of Berkman would work just fine over the long haul. Jonathan Singleton (8th Round – HS 1B) should be what Michael Durant could have been.
Three (3) Picks I Didn’t Like At All
Kyrell Hudson (3rd Round – HS OF) may in fact be a worthy high upside gamble in the third round (he looks great in a uniform, I’m told), but high school players with well below-average hit tools just plain don’t excite me personally. This seems like a research project worth looking into, though it may be difficult to objectively pin down the parameters to make it worthwhile. The Adam Buschini (4th Round – COL 2B) pick is a frustrating one because it brings back terrible memories of an inexplicably cheap Phillies ownership group overdrafting signable no-leverage college players for no clear reason.
Three (3) Best Bets to Play Major League Ball
Kelly Dugan and Brody Colvin are the two easiest names because each player has the upside needed to be above-average at their position while also coming ready made with useful enough tools that should play within the confines of a carefully carved out big league role if things don’t all come together and stardom isn’t achieved. The wild card of this group is Washington State LHP Matt Way, a fifth round pick. Brian Gump (26th Round – COL OF) could be a fifth outfielder somewhere, someday based on his plus speed tool alone, but now I’m just getting cute with this category. Part of my appreciation of Gump here is my coy way of mentioning that two of his many nicknames include “Hot Pants” and “Shiggles.” Shiggles Gump. For real.
California Condor Award (Longest Incubation Period aka Longest Expected Time in Minors)
Plenty of one promotion at a time high school guys in this particular class – lots of 2014 ETA’s. Hudson is probably the biggest name among the group that would take the longest time to reach the bigs…if that makes sense.
Hudson is almost all projection at this point, so he would appear to be a favorite for this category. On paper, it does make some sense – Hudson is Eddie Murphy raw with tons of potential growth to his game. Then again, your mileage might vary on how high his actual upside really is. It’s great that he can run really fast and even better that his physical frame belies potential plus power down the road, but if a player can’t hit high school pitching with any kind of regularity then his upside is ultimately going to be quite limited. It’s too early to say Hudson — or any high school player for that matter — will never hit as a professional, so I won’t come out and say it, but…it’s generally not too wise to invest too much hope in players who haven’t shown the ability to make consistent contact against what should be overmatched competition. My real answer would be Colvin, a pitcher with true top of the rotation quality stuff and the drive to get there.
Tina Small Biggest Potential Bust Award (Google Her, It’ll Make Sense – NSFW)
Has to be Hudson at this point, right? He could conceivably never make it past AA. If you are counting on underslot top five round college signees to become above-average big league contributors, then you could also throw either Buschini or Way in the mix. I personally would be surprised to see Buschini get a big league at bat. That would make his selection a “bust,” right? I guess it depends on how we want to define “bust.” For now, I’m just looking at high round players (top five, generally) that have a long ways away from being big league quality players. Hudson fits that definition almost too perfectly.
Way could be a back of the rotation crafty lefty starter if things break the way he and the Phillies hope, but his most likely landing spot is as a LOOGY. Austin Hyatt (15th Round – COL RHP) is another player that may not quite have the upside as a legit big league starter, but has just enough stuff and more than enough guile to outwork those around him and win a bullpen job someday.
Three (3) Unsignable (Probably) Players To Remember
I’m too much of an optimist to put Colvin here, so I won’t. I’d actually bet on him signing a pro contract in the next month or so over him heading down to LSU. If the category was really best non-top five round high school player, then Colvin, Singleton, and Andrew Susac (16th Round – HS C) would make for an easy top three. If we restrict the category to players picked in rounds 10 or later, the best bets to emerge as legit prospects in 2012 include Jake Stewart (Round 14 – HS OF), Susac, and Jeff Gelalich (Round 41 – HS OF).
As it stands now, this draft is one of the weaker ones from top to bottom. However, like many drafts around the league at this point, that potentially negative grade comes with plenty of caveats. Attempting to grade the Phillies prep bunch is tricky because it raises the question of talent vs. signability. Do you grade the high school players on talent or on the likelihood of whether or not each player signs? If it’s the former we’re ignoring the realities of the draft, but if it’s the latter then we’ve just wasted time analyzing picks that shouldn’t really be discussed until after the August signing deadline. I guess a balance is the way to go, let’s try that approach and see what sticks.
Dugan could be an above-average regular outfielder, but was still an undeniable overdraft and not great relative value. Hudson is an all or nothing pick, no other way of putting it. Singleton could be the high schooler than makes or breaks this particular subset (high school bats) because his power potential, bat speed, and age all point to big things to come. Aaron Altherr (Round 9 – HS OF) is Kyrell Hudson with better makeup, thus making him an excellent gamble at this point in the draft. An incredibly raw high school outfielder with a questionable hit tool in the third? Bad idea. Similar player in the ninth round? Let’s roll the dice and see if we can get lucky. Speaking of toolsy outfielders, Stewart and Gelalich both qualify as worthy shots in the dark past round ten. Stewart could part of the insurance policy the Phillies took out in case Colvin doesn’t sign. Susac and the already signed Marlon Mitchell (Round 27 – HS C) are both quality defensive catchers that could develop into starting caliber players.
Colvin is naturally the star of the prep pitching group. His basic scouting report (mid-90s fastball, near plus curveball, above-average athlete and hitter, sometimes sloppy mechanics) sounds a lot like former Phillies first round pick Kyle Drabek’s coming out of high school to me. Steven Inch (Round 6 – HS RHP) has a great frame and that fantastic blend of untapped potential mixed with present polish that make him a personal favorite. Colin Kleven (Round 33 – HS RHP), like Inch a Canadian, grades out as having a tad less upside and a great deal less polish, but he could be a possibility as an early August sign simply because he is one of the very few projectable arms drafted by the Phils here in 2009.
One or more out of Way, Nick Hernandez (12 Round – COL LHP), Hyatt, or still unsigned AJ Griffin (34th Round – COL RHP) should reach the bigs in some capacity – I’m personally a huge Griffin fan, though the lack of a signature on a pro contract by now seems to indicate the ship has all but sailed on him signing and he’ll head back to San Diego for his senior year. The quartet make up four of my favorite under the radar college arms from this year’s class, so at least they have that going for them. There are almost literally no college bats that profile as Major Leaguers, with the only exceptions being longshots like Buschini (who I’m on record as not liking), Darin Ruf (20th Round – COL 1B), and unsigned Texas A&M Aggie Brodie Greene (37th Round – COL 2B). I’m doubtful that any of the three get more than a handful of big league at bats, but Ruf was still a solid selection as a late round senior sign and Greene was a worthy gamble (though it is doubtful he signs) as an offensive second baseman in the 37th round.
Overall, it’s a draft heavy on high school bats and college arms. Based on what I know and what I think I know, they’ll sign two of the four toolsy outfielders (Hudson and Altherr), none or both of the prep righties (I think both Colvin and Inch sign), and then one of the two remaining potential impact bats (either Singleton or Susac, with Singleton being the more likely of the two). A haul of Colvin, Dugan, Singleton, Inch, (Susac), (Stewart), (Gelalich), Hudson, Altherr, Hernandez, Mitchell, Way, Ruf, Buschini, and Hyatt wouldn’t match the potentially historic 2008 draft class for overall value, but it still stacks up as an above-average group with plenty of impact upside.