1.1 Washington: RHSP Stephen Strasburg – San Diego State
Do us a quick favor, will ya? See this franchise here? We need a little help, as I’m sure you know. If it’s not too much trouble, could you, if you’d be so kind, please save baseball in Washington? Simple enough, right? We just need you to sign without too much of a fuss (talk about a PR headache), avoid getting injured in the first few years of your deal (that would be such a buzzkill), and pitch well enough to live up to your reputation as the greatest amateur player of your generation (no pressure!). You’ll be compensated quite handsomely, of course, but terms will be discussed only on the condition of a minimum six-year commitment.
We can’t deny any of the negative press you’ve probably heard about us recently. Yes, it’s true that attendance is way down, our front office/ownership group is in disarray, and we don’t actually have any kind of on field plan in place (I personally love the 14 corner outfielder plan to begin the year), but things aren’t all bad in our nation’s capital. There are building blocks in the organization like Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, and Elijah Dukes, plus you’ll be joined by another top ten draft pick upon signing. We have a new park, a small but fervent fan base, and, really, who among us could possibly resist the temptation of all the chili half-smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl you can handle? Think about it, Stephen. This is your chance to be the most talked about savior in DC since that other impossibly hyped guy who took charge back in January.
I think he signs for $18.88 million, by the way. Why $18.88 million? So glad you asked. $18.88 million because a) I think he signs for somewhere between $15 and $20 million, but probably closer to $20 million, and b) 8 is my favorite number. How’s that for sound logic? $18.88 million (or whatever the heck he winds up getting) is a relatively small price to pay for relevancy, big crowds every fifth day, and, oh yeah, a damn fine pitcher. He’ll sign, the price won’t be extraorbitant, and the only real concern for Washington will be making sure they spell his name right on the back of his jersey.
1.2 Seattle: CF Dustin Ackley – North Carolina
There is no potential high round pick that I’ve seen in person more often than North Carolina star CF/1B Dustin Ackley. I know what you’re thinking – congratulations, but, really, who cares? I’m not a scout, I’m not an expert, heck, I’m not really anybody worth listening to at all (now that’s a ringing endorsement for this site!). That said, if you are reading this then I’m going to have to assume you love/like/at least tolerate baseball on some level, so you’ll understand when I tell you that with some players…you just know. Watch Ackley swing a bat and you might just get the same feeling I got the first time I saw him swing a bat as a freshman at UNC. Here’s what I wrote about him heading into the season back from Mock Draft 1.0:
Ackley is one of my favorite players in this or any draft because, even though there are a lot of players that you can compare him to, in the end he is still, somehow, someway, a really unique prospect. What position will he play? Where will he fit best in a lineup? Will the power develop? How’s his arm holding up post-Tommy John surgery? How much of his prospect value is tied into the answers of these questions? Maybe his skillset isn’t all that unique (there are plenty of examples of high average, good plate discipline, questionable power bats in this draft), but he certainly offers a weird blend of talents for a guy expected to go so high.
Ackley was an excellent prospect heading into the season, but, as you can see, there were questions about his game that needed to be answered this spring. Let’s see how he did, shall we?
Q: What position will he play?
A: He’s a centerfielder until he proves otherwise. A legitimate case could be made for a pro transition to second base, something the coaching staff at UNC believes he could handle with relative ease. The worst case scenario defensively is that he’ll settle in at either an outfield corner or first base, but the team that drafts him can take comfort in the fact he’ll at least be a well above-average defender at any of the three spots in question.
Q: Where will he fit best in a lineup?
A: To answer this question, let’s examine my string of Ackley comps and see if a pattern develops. Now obviously I’m incredibly high on Ackley’s upside, so these player comps may be a little more optimistic than some seen elsewhere. I tried to use as many contemporary comps as I could, but the one “old-timer” I heard referenced by scouts in the stands down in Chapel Hill was Fred Lynn. I liked that one a lot, even though my knowledge of Fred Lynn is limited to box scores, highlight videos, and stories from those who actually watched him play. As for the more recent comps, feel free to try any of these out for a spin and see what you like: Paul O’Neill, Bobby Bonilla with more speed/patience, Brian Giles at his Age 28 to 31 power peak, Bobby Abreu minus some strikeouts, John Olerud with speed, Bernie Williams, Roberto Alomar, and, my personal favorite, Chase Utley. To finally get back to answering the question, he’ll hit third as a pro.
Q: Will the power develop?
A: He’s not currently. nor will he ever be, a prototypical power hitting slugger, but his compact yet emphatic line drive stroke, wiry strong build, and ability to consistently square up on all pitch types portend well above-average power numbers to come. There is also the matter of that 2009 slugging percentage (.781), a number even more impressive taken in context – Boshamer Stadium, Carolina’s newly renovated home, is a moderate pitchers park. Nobody will make the argument that college statistics have the kind of predictive value that minor league stats have, but at some point the results must be acknowledged as something worth talking about. For Ackley’s ultimate power upside, I think the Chase Utley comp works pretty darn well.
Q: How much of his prospect value is tied into the answers of these questions?
A: Ha, trick question! You can reword the question into this statement: Ackley’s prospect stock was directly tied to his defense, his power, and his health. To steal what is apparently a perpetually funny phrase from sixth graders everywhere, “NO DUH!” Of course his stock was tied to those things…every player in every year is evaluated similarly, right? The question isn’t worthless, however, when we consider potential negative “what-if” scenarios. What if Ackley was tied to first base going forward, but still had the monster 2009 offensively? Would he still be in the running for the second overall pick if he was strictly a first baseman? What if he was totally healthy and playing every day in CF, but put up a .417/.520/.571 line instead of his actual .417/.520/.781? Would the questions about his power scare teams off from taking him in the top five? Top ten? Who knows?
Here is what I do know, or at least thing I know: Dustin Ackley is a future .300/.400/.500 hitter capable of providing above-average defense at an up-the-middle defensive position. It stinks that Seattle missed out on Strasburg, but Ackley is a prospect worthy of the number two overall pick in this or any draft year.
1.3 San Diego: OF Donavan Tate – Cartersville HS (Georgia)
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a Padres fan right about now. The days leading up to such a pivotal draft should be tense but in a good, exciting way; it certainly should not be as stressful and panic attack inducing as it would appear to be for fans of the Pads. Maybe I take my own personal baseball fandom too far, but reports that the Padres may take Vanderbilt LHSP Mike Minor third overall would have me breathing into a paper bag if I was a fan of the team. Then again, if I was a Padres fan then chances are I would be a resident of San Diego. If that was the case, I’m not sure I’d be in a position to complain about too much.
With the top pitcher and hitter both off the board, the Padres will be faced with the challenge of sorting through a collection of two classic categories of player: high risk/high reward (Donavan Tate, Tyler Matzek, Kyle Gibson, and Zack Wheeler) and safe/signable (Aaron Crow and Mike Minor). It’ll be the job of Bill Gayton and his scouting staff to find the player that offers them the best blend of each category – reasonable upside, a high floor, and a sure bet to sign for the right price. That’s the hope, anyway. The reality could very well be that the safest route (an overdraft like Minor) is the path ownership forces upon the baseball side and it’s as simple as that. My worry about this pick is that it becomes less about the players involved and more about the unfortunate San Diego draft idealogy. Let’s take a closer look at the three most likely players involved and where they fit in with this idealogy.
If Tate is the pick, as I’m predicting in this version of the mock, then we’ll know who has one of the most influential scouting voices on the San Diego staff. Baseball Prospectus claims Padres VP of Scouting and Player Development Grady Fuson is lobbying hard for OF Donavan Tate, a report that has been verified by just about every other draft publication since. Tate’s upside is through the roof (I think the Carlos Beltran comp is a bit much, but a poor man’s version of Beltran is still pretty exciting) and the ability to spread his signing bonus out as a two-way athlete ought to be enough of an enticement for San Diego to get a deal hammered out.
In the past two weeks or so, the aforementioned Mike Minor has emerged as the hot signability pick that could become a reality if the Padres opt to draft on the cheap. If Minor is the guy, then you’d better believe the pick will get panned by pundits everywhere, but I don’t think it’s as big a talent stretch as some seem to believe. I’ve been hard on a potential Minor selection, but I want it to be clear that it would be more about what it would represent than the actual player being picked. No, Minor is not the third best prospect in this year’s class, but I still think he’s a first round talent that will be better as a professional than he was as an amateur.
If the Padres decide to go with Crow, the chain reaction will be a sight to behold. The Pirates have Crow at or near the top of their board, so they may be forced to go to their Plan B. Let’s say that Plan B includes one of the high profile high school arms (Tyler Matzek?). That wouldn’t sit well with either one of the next two drafting teams because Baltimore (another team that could have Matzek atop their board) and San Francisco (Matzek, Jacob Turner, and Zack Wheeler just to name a few) both are reportedly to be leaning heavily towards high school arms as well.
The rest of my final 2009 MLB Mock Draft after the jump…
1.4 Pittsburgh: RHSP Aaron Crow – Forth Worth Cats
The Pirates have scouted independent league action as much as any team this spring, so you know they have been in on both RHSP Aaron Crow and RHSP Tanner Scheppers. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to convince Scheppers to agree to sign a redraft consent form, but the consolation prize of Crow isn’t half bad.
I know the pick here is Crow (a fine pick, by the way, although a little scary when you consider Pittsburgh’s track record with pitching prospects and the questions surrounding Crow’s junior year workload at Missouri), but I feel the need to blab about Scheppers a little bit while he’s on my mind. Much has been made of the former Fresno State Bulldog’s health problems worrying teams picking in the first half of the first round, but I’m not so sure it’s anything more than a whole lot of smokescreening going on. The Pirates were hot after Scheppers early on in the draft season, right? That’s something we can all more or less agree on, I think. Assuming that’s the case, then I find it very interesting that a team with more knowledge of Scheppers’s medical reports would go out of their way to scout him so aggressively this spring.
1.5 Baltimore: LHSP Tyler Matzek – Capistrano Valley HS (California)
There is enough smoke about Baltimore leaning towards a high school pitcher that a potential pick of any of the following prep fireballers — LHSP Tyler Matzek, RHSP Jacob Turner, and RHSP Zack Wheeler — wouldn’t come as a surprise. I’d guess their board lines up with Matzek at the top, followed closely by Wheeler and then Turner. Matzek is my personal favorite prep pitcher in this year’s class and his recent peak radar gun fireworks (97 and 98 peak velocity lately) allow him to stake his claim as a better prospect at this stage in his development than the player he is often compared to, Orioles farmhand Brian Matusz.
1.6 San Francisco: RHSP Jacob Turner – Westminster Christian Academy (Missouri)
San Francisco figures to be picking from a similar pool of talent as Baltimore. RHSP Zack Wheeler is apparently a long-time personal favorite of GM Brian Sabean, so his name will surely be in the mix for the Giants on draft day. RHSP Jacob Turner (as noted by Baseball Prospectus), LHSP Matt Purke (as high as I’ve seen him projected lately, but mentioned by Perfect Game as a possibility here at six), and LHSP Tyler Matzek (haven’t seen him linked specifically, but he makes sense) are all definite possibilities for the Giants first rounder.
There are also very quiet rumblings that the Giants like a college player in this spot. The obvious guess would be OF Tim Wheeler, a player worked out by the Giants in San Francisco this past week, but the sneakier theory is that somebody in the front office has really taken a shine to Mike Minor. As mentioned in the writeup on San Diego’s pick (third overall), I like Minor way more than most…but that still doesn’t mean I’d endorse him for a top ten pick with players like Turner, Wheeler, and Purke all still on the board. I don’t buy either rumor, but they are fun to talk about (unless you’re a Giants fan, I guess).
1.7 Atlanta: RHSP Zack Wheeler – East Paulding HS (Georgia)
When I put together a mock, it’s done in a completely non-linear, scattershot style. Look through the teams, look through the available players, and try to see where a sensible fit works. Wheeler to Atlanta is that kind of fit. It’ll be sad for mocks everywhere if/when this pick doesn’t wind up happening.
1.8 Cincinnati: RHSP Kyle Gibson – Missouri
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Call it a hunch, but I think the Reds look to add another young arm to their already impressive stable of talented pitchers. Gibson is a fun pick for the Reds because it’s nice and efficient. Why? Well, after super heavy usage this year at Missouri Gibson may or may not be heading towards a date with the operating table as is, thus saving Dusty Baker the trouble of overworking the young arm himself.
(6/8/09 EDIT: So that injury sure changes things, huh? Gibson will fall, but it’s unclear how far. Any quick guesses before draft day?)
1.9 Detroit: RHSP Alex White – North Carolina
The two names that are getting the most heat in Detroit are RHSP Jacob Turner and RHSP Alex White. Both pitchers fit the typical Detroit draft profile (good size, good fastball), so whichever player is on the board could very well be the Tigers pick. Baseball America mentioned RHSP Garrett Gould, LHSP Chad James, and OF Reymond Fuentes as potential sleepers for the pick, by the way. I mention it because the rise of Gould over the past few weeks is one that wasn’t anticipated by many in the industry and certainly wasn’t anticipated by some bozo like me.
1.10 Washington: RHSP Chad Jenkins – Kennesaw State
I’d be lying if I said that I had any actual insight into which way Washington was leaning with this pick. A name I haven’t heard connected (though I’m sure it has and I’ve just missed it) with the Nationals that seems plausible to me is Puerto Rican OF Reymond Fuentes, arguably the easiest sign of any player in this draft. Other names noted by the far more reputable Baseball America include OF Mike Trout and C Wil Myers.
We haven’t talked a whole lot about Jenkins this spring, so now seems like as good a time as ever to give a brief scouting report on one half of the dynamic Kennesaw State righthanded duo. Jenkins stuff is above-average across the board, but his lack of a true plus pitch and questionable fastball command have me relatively cool on his prospect stock going forward. His fastball sits in the low-90s, peaking as high as 93 MPH, and he uses a sinking mid-80s cut fastball very effectively when needed. His changeup is another above-average offering while his low-80s slider has similar potential. All in all a nice package, but not quite on the level of his teammate at Kennesaw State, RHSP Kyle Heckathorn. I’d understand this pick if Washington made it, but I wouldn’t necessarily like it.
1.11 Colorado: RHSP Mike Leake – Arizona State
Originally published March 3rd:
Leake literally has everything I look for in a pitching prospect. Let’s do it bullet point style:
- Plus athleticism – has played first, second, short, and every outfield position as a Sun Devil
- Ability to handle the bat – hit .340/.500/.574 in 47 at bats last season (12/9 walk to strikeout ratio)
- Groundball inducing stuff – so far this season, 19 of his 23 non-K outs recorded have come on the ground
- Plus secondary pitch – slider works better as another groundball inducing weapon, but it also creates plenty of swings and misses
- Above-average third pitch – his changeup is nearly as good as his slider
- Plus command – his ability to spot any of his three pitches has earned him universal praise from scouts
- Plus control – roughly 1.75 BB/9 in his college career
- Plus makeup/competitiveness – only good things have been said by scouts, coaches, teammates, and parents about Leake’s drive to succeed and strong work ethic
What Leake is missing is an ideal frame (he’s 6-0, 180), an overpowering fastball (sits 89-92), and a whole lot of room for growth. I’d argue the last point a bit because I think any two-way player stands to gain a little something once they begin to focus solely on one aspect of the game, but, on the whole, those negatives are fair criticisms of Leake’s game. Fortunately, a blazing hot fastball and a “prototypical pitcher’s frame” each fall very low on the list of things I care about. A high radar gun reading on a fastball is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but good fastball movement (something Leake has in spades) trumps good fastball speed every time. There is something to be said about a physical frame that needs filling out eventually producing a better fastball down the road, sure, but many college pitchers are what they are by their junior seasons anyway. The backlash against short righthanders is not grounded in empirical research, so I tend to actually look at short righthanded pitching as being a potentially undervalued asset in the draft every year. Yes, I just spun Leake’s lack of height as a positive. Your mileage might vary with that part of the assessment.
1.12 Kansas City: SS Grant Green – Southern California
You know who I hate? That guy who has to quote himself to show off just how right he was. More often than not, he just happened to stumble into being right just one lousy time, but that guy, you know that guy, will harp on his success until everybody has heard him twice over. You have to know where this is heading, right? From February 2, 2009:
The Grant Green as a special Troy Tulowitzki/Evan Longoria hybrid model comp that I’ve heard makes little to no sense to me, but that’s in no way an indictment of Green’s abilities. Just because you don’t measure up to Tulowitzki and Longoria doesn’t mean you aren’t a fine player in your own right. However, it is fair to say that Green has a long way to go to reach the level of either prospect. In fact, I believe that Grant Green has more to play for this upcoming season than any other college prospect. With a good spring, he goes second to Seattle. If he struggles –and it’s not out of the question for a guy with a less than inspiring walk rate to have a letdown season as pitchers begin to adjust their approach — then he come slip down the board. Of course, even with an off junior season he would still be the premier middle infield prospect by a large margin and a very desirable prospect.
A recap, based entirely on things we absolutely know: Green did not have a good spring and therefore will not be heading to Seattle. He did struggle, so it is now very likely he will slip down the board. He did have an off junior season, but he is still the best draft-eligible middle infielder by a wide margin, so teams picking early in the first will still kick the tires on him. The Royals, a team reportedly hot on the trail of all kinds of up-the-middle college defenders, could be the team to drive him off the lot.
I have a bit of a problem with not letting go some of the longstanding comps I come up with even after they have passed their point of relevancy, but, darnit, I still think Green looks like a rich man’s Jason Donald.
1.13 Oakland: 3B Bobby Borchering – Bishop Verot HS (Florida)
The rumors that Oakland has had some of their heavy hitters at every Donavan Tate game these past few weeks makes me feel a little bit better of my oft-panned projection of Borchering to the A’s. Oakland is in desperate need of impact bats and there may be no position player in the draft (Ackley excepted) with a as much upside at the plate as Borchering. This year’s class of hitters is so weak that it makes some big picture sense for an organization like Oakland to jump on a premium position player when they have the opportunity.
1.14 Texas: RHSP Shelby Miller – Brownwood HS (Texas)
The reason I don’t mind pointing out a prediction that turned out halfway decent (like the Green quote two picks above) is that I make plenty of dumb ones I’ll never shy away from. In the initial mock, I claimed that Miller wouldn’t fall out of the top eleven picks and halfheartedly compared him to a righthanded Madison Bumgarner. Whoops.
Remember what I said about the Wheeler to Atlanta pick?
When I put together a mock, it’s done in a completely non-linear, scattershot style. Look through the teams, look through the available players, and try to see where a sensible fit works. Wheeler to Atlanta is that kind of fit. It’ll be sad for mocks everywhere if/when this pick doesn’t wind up happening.
Substitute Miller for Wheeler and Texas for Atlanta and that just about sums this projection up.
1.15 Cleveland: LHSP Matt Purke – Klein HS (Texas)
Cleveland has played it very close to the vest so far, so it’s difficult to guess which direction they are heading with the pick. The general consensus seems to be that they are looking at starting pitching (both prep and college) and college outfielders (Baseball America mentioned AJ Pollock recently, as well as Arizona State OF/INF Jason Kipnis). I originally had them popping RHSP Tanner Scheppers in this spot, a pick that I enjoyed because it set up a pretty natural comparison to perennial Indians pitching prospect Adam Miller. Purke’s talent should get him drafted somewhere between pick ten and pick twenty, but his price tag has scared teams off. Cleveland hasn’t shown that they are necessarily willing to break the bank for players seeking above-slot bonus demands, but they have shown a proclivity to zig when other teams zag on draft day; a Purke selection would qualify as a zig in my book.
1.16 Arizona: 1B Rich Poythress – Georgia
1.17 Arizona: RHSP Tanner Scheppers – St. Paul Saints
Here’s where I begin to get annoyed with all the Johnny-come lately style draft analysis you see in the two week period leading up to the draft. What bugs me most is the declarative statements so often used by people trying to make a name for themselves. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen this type of criticism with regard to a team’s potential pick in a mock: THERE IS NO WAY ARIZONA WILL DRAFT ANYTHING BUT A COLLEGE PITCHER EVER BECAUSE THAT’S ALL THEY EVER TAKE IN THE EARLY ROUNDS EVER. EVER! DON’T YOU KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL? EVERY TEAM DRAFTS AS THEY HAVE ALWAYS DRAFTED! ALWAYS!
Alright, draft trends do tell us a whole lot about the sort of players that teams target – college bats, prep arms, high risk tools-freaks, speed guys, power pitchers, groundballers, shortstops from the state of Kansas…front offices do have a tendency to play favorites (for tons of reasons, some legitimate and some not, that we’ll go into at a later date) on draft day. However, draft trends don’t tell us as much as many people want so desperately to believe because, even with months and months of preparation, the best laid draft plan can get blown to bits because of the unpredictable nature of the entire process. I’m not sure I’m explaining that quite the way I’d like to, so I’ll steal a page from a past version of me and see if this is any better:
Arizona is another one of those teams that confuses me. The most obvious trend is the selection of collegiate pitchers at the top of the past few drafts – Scherzer and Brown in 2006, Roemer in 2007, and Schlereth and Miley last draft. However, it is fair to wonder whether this has more to do with the flow of the past few particular drafts than anything else. This year’s draft could be a little bit of a test: does Arizona really target collegiate arms early or has it been a coincidence based on the overall talent breakdown of the recent years?
Part of what I’m getting at here comes back to an old statistical standby, small sample size. Most scouting directors around the league have only been in place for a handful of years. With such limited data to go on, it’s really hard to make any kind of bold declarations stating that “this team never does this” or “this team always does this.” Does Arizona really target collegiate arms early? Probably. Has it been a happy coincidence that the past few drafts have gone in such a direction that has funneled top college arms to Arizona’s early round picks? Probably. Can we strongly believe that Arizona prefers college arms to prep arms with early round picks? I think that’s a fair enough statement, sure. Does that make it impossible to envision a scenario in which Arizona takes a high school pitcher early on? Not quite.
One last thing on draft trends before I get off my high horse. Sometimes draft trends aren’t quite what they appear to be at face value or, more often, they are given too narrow a scope when discussed. For way too long I’ve had to hear that national draft experts tell me that the Phillies just flat out love toolsy high school outfielders. If you’re ever stuck on what player to give the Phillies in a mock, just go with the toolsiest, most non-hitting high school outfielder you can find (bonus points if he happens to be African American and thus toolsier!) I’m not stupid enough to ignore the way the Phillies have drafted in recent years, and I do think that there is something to the idea that they place a high priority on plus tools and developmental rawness* in their draftees. One last time – yes, the Phillies do love toolsy outfielders (especially ones that don’t hit), but limiting them to that one defining draft tend isn’t the way to go.
* I just made up that term, “developmental rawness.” I think it means thinking of draft picks as lumps of clay. The Angels, Braves, and Twins are all famous for preferring the most malleable lumps of clay out there; all three organizations run very particular professional programs that make it crucial that every player buys into what they are selling. It’s far easier to get a high school guy (less habits, both good and bad) to adapt his style to your kind of ball than it is to change a more fully formed (for better or worse) college player. Raw skills that can be developed in a particular way = developmental raw.
I don’t think the trend is as simple as “the Phillies love toolsy outfielders in early rounds.” As drafts moved towards seemingly safer collegiate players in the earlier part of the decade, the Phillies believed toolsy prep outfielders weren’t being properly valued. Now we’re talking basic Moneyball theory here – identifying market inefficiencies and exploiting the heck out of them. Cole Hamels, Kyle Drabek, and Joe Savery – all three pitchers fell far below where their true talent level warranted because teams were scared off due to a) questionable makeup, b) injury concerns, either in the past or in the future, or c) a combo platter of both a and b. Just as I mentioned in Cleveland’s writeup, sometimes it works to zig when the rest of the league zags.
This whole matter is reminiscent of the “college pitchers selected first overall flame out at a high rate therefore Stephen Strasburg isn’t a good investment” argument that one prominent national baseball writer was repeating ad nauseum earlier this spring. Trends are important, no denying it, but it’s best to judge based on the individual skillset of the particular player in question. In other words, I don’t quite understand how the sins of Kris Benson should be held against Stephen Strasburg. None of this is meant to sound anti-stat in any way, I just don’t think that many of the draft trend statistics are based on significant enough samples to be worth much of anything.
Despite all of my bluster, I still don’t think Arizona grabs a difficult sign with one of their firsts. To be honest, I originally had Matt Purke going to D’Backs and Scheppers going to the Indians until I flippy flopped them at the last minute. Maybe I’m just a big ole dumb hypocrite after all. Anyway, I think the Diamondbacks jump on two potentially undervalued commodities, Poythress and Scheppers. Poythress is hurt by the fact he is a very good but not great hitter player capable of playing first base only, while Scheppers’s injury history (and future) has many teams rethinking his place on their big boards.
1.18 Florida: LHSP Rex Brothers – Lipscomb
Florida is a difficult team to project because, as an organization, they seemingly do whatever they want whenever they want with little worry about how outsiders perceive their actions. As Marlins fans can no doubt attest, this observation is meant both as a compliment and a criticism of how their team runs things. When it comes to drafting, however, it’s almost always a positive. Ignore the pundits, ignore consensus groupthink, ignore the fans, and just pick the players that you believe will bring your franchise the most value. The players high on Florida’s draft board this year are rumored to fall predominantly under one category: high school pitching. Matt Hobgood, Garrett Gould, and Chad James have all been linked to the Marlins at one point or another, but some of the high upside college arms (Brothers, Eric Arnett, and James Paxton) will get consideration as well. It’s hard to envision a hitter intriguing Florida enough to grab him at pick eighteen, but the name Slade Heathcott has been whispered as an outside possibility.
1.19 St. Louis: RHSP Eric Arnett – Indiana
Here is another perfect example of believing in the power of draft trends at the expense of common sense. Everybody and their mother have the Cardinals taking a college pitcher in the first round because, well, that’s what they always do, right? Not so fast, my friend. The Cardinals go off the board to get their guy (Pete Kozma and Brett Wallace come to mind), regardless of position, more often than they are given credit for. It is sounding more and more like Randal Grichuk could be their kind of player this year. A pick of Grichuk jives with what members of the Cardinals front office have recently said about pursuing younger, toolsier players this year.
In the end, I think the pick will be a blend of the two target areas for the Cards – college pitcher with considerable upside. Names like Rex Brothers and Kyle Heckathorn are possible, as could be a selection of Kyle Gibson if he drops. The pick here is Eric Arnett, the hard throwing righty with the Midwest connection.
1.20 Toronto: OF Mike Trout – Millville HS (New Jersey)
The Blue Jays are a team that is rumored (or should that be rumoured in honour of our friendly neighbours to the north?) to be looking at players that would actually buck a good number of their recent draft trends. Toronto has looked at a number of top high school players all spring long (most famously scouting Texas’s Shelby Miller extensively) and while it would be foolhardy to think that a prep player is a lock for Canada’s Team, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
I may kick myself for having them bypass native son LHSP James Paxton of Kentucky, but that’s the chance I’m willing to take.
1.21 Houston: LHSP Chad James – Yukon HS (Oklahoma)
Another pick that fits into the “too good to be true” projection category. Houston loves James, James should be on the board for Houston, so let’s not overthink things and just make this happen. It certainly doesn’t hurt that another prime Houston target, Rex Brothers, is already off the board in this particular mock. The Astros may also feel like they can get one of their top position player targets (Tim Wheeler, Slade Heathcott, Matt Davidson, Everett Williams, Jiovanni Mier, Randal Grichuk, or Jeff Malm) with their second pick, the 69th overall selection.
1.22 Minnesota: LHSP Andy Oliver – Oklahoma State
I debated long and hard before deciding on which of Minnesota’s two high profile redrafts, Andy Oliver and Jared Mitchell, to give the Twins in the this year’s first round. Organizationally, I think a hard throwing lefthanded starting pitcher prospect makes more sense than another raw, yet immensely talented centerfielder.
1.23 Chicago White Sox: RHSP Kevius Sampson
I hate that this mock is so by the book, but I don’t want to make crazy picks just to make crazy picks, you know? That’s a great tip though for any young mockers out there – go with as many off the wall picks as possible because, on the off chance you get lucky and nail one of them, you’ll be lauded as a prophet. Mock drafts almost work counter to basic human nature as people often forget the bad picks, but clearly remember the good ones. Here’s a crazy, hunch pick that I haven’t been able to shake from my very first iteration of the mock:
Sampson is one of my guys, so he’s higher on this mock than he’ll show up on others. I tried to keep my own personal take out of this – it’s about what I expect to happen and consensus building, not what I would do/want to see happen. That in mind, it only makes sense for my own personal opinions to flavor a mock for a draft that doesn’t happen for over six months. I like Keyvius Sampson and I think scouting directors will get wise to him in the coming months; that’s what makes it a projection, you know? Sampson is one of the most athletic pitchers in the draft with a sharp curve that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has peaked at 95 MPH.
A pet scouting theory on mechanics of mine can be summed up like this: The most direct path to smooth, consistent, and repeatable delivery is through outstanding athleticism. Anecdotally, it seems that plus athletes tend to “figure things out” mechanically more often than other pitchers. It could be an offshoot of the great size debate – again, anecdotally it seems pitchers in the 6-0 to 6-3 range tend to be more athletic than the larger, “classic” pitcher’s frame guys (pitchers 6-4 and up). The scouting bias against short pitchers, righthanders especially, has turned them into a valued underappreciated commodity. It’s more than just that, however; these shorter pitchers, once more anecdotally, seem to have better control of their more athletic bodies, and thus smoother, easier to repeat deliveries. Smooth, easy to repeat deliveries lead not only to cleaner injury records but also increased velocity.
Just a pet theory, nothing more. Honestly, my knowledge of pitching mechanics isn’t really at the level where I should be coming up with any half-baked theories. All I look for (or, more honestly, all I really know how to look for) in a young pitcher is repeatability. Even if the motion looks weird and, in some extreme cases, painful, the question I always come back to is can he repeat it every time? If he can, sign him up. If not, back to the drawing board.
1.24 Los Angeles Angels: LHSP Tyler Skaggs – Santa Monica HS (California)
1.25 Los Angeles Angels: OF Everett Williams – McCallum HS (Texas)
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.
Before getting into which player fits the Angels draft blueprint best for their second first rounder, 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.
One last note on the Angels while we’re on the subject – 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.
1.26 Milwaukee: LHSP James Paxton – Kentucky
It’ll be very interesting to see what Milwaukee does in their first year A.Z. (After Zduriencik). Paxton makes sense here as a hard throwing player without a ton of mileage on his arm. For the second straight year the Brewers grab the draft’s best player with a Canadian connection. Can you tell that I wrote those three sentences totally independent of one another with the hope that I’d find a clever way to make it all flow? Well, it’s late and we’re at pick 26 so it’ll have to do as is.
1.27 Seattle: C Max Stassi – Yuba City HS (California)
Yes, Max Stassi at 27 means no Steve Baron at 33. Rumors are flying that Seattle has decided on making Baron their man with their supplemental first rounder, but I’m not really buying it just yet. Maybe it’s me being a contrarian, maybe it’s me being too lazy to change the pick, but I’ll stick with the better prep catcher in Stassi at the higher pitch.
1.28 Boston: C Wil Myers – Wesleyan Christian HS (North Carolina)
Teams may not be 100% sure what position Myers will ultimately play, but many are darn sure that wherever he’ll play he’ll hit. The Red Sox are rumored to be all over both Myers and Everett Williams, so it may be time for both guys to start practicing the words to Sweet Caroline just in case.
1.29 New York Yankees: CF Reymond Fuentes – Fernando Callejo HS (Puerto Rico)
This one may be a bit of a surprise because Fuentes is considered one of the absolute safest signs in the entire 2009 draft class. There is really no predicting which path the Yankees (or Red Sox or Rays or any team picking this late in the round) will do, but a signability pick here makes sense for two reasons. First, remember that this is the compensatory pick they received for not signing Gerrit Cole last year, so it’s a use it or lose it pick this year. Second, if nobody New York has targeted falls all the way down to pick 29 (say, Matt Purke or Donavan Tate or Grant Green) then the Yankees may decide to take a talented, but safe sign like Fuentes and then save some of their draft budget on mid-round fallers (like any number of those Stanford commits – Jenkins, Appel, Stewart, and Diekroeger) that slip down the board.
1.30 Tampa Bay: RHRP Drew Storen (SO) – Stanford
Would an enlightened organization like Tampa Bay really draft a college closer in the first round? Maybe Tampa Bay’s current lack of an end of game bullpen hammer will convince them that a late first rounder is worth gambling on a cheap (not talking bonus money, but big league dollars), club-controlled player for six years. Or maybe the Rays, like many teams in the first round, believe Storen’s pro future is as a starting pitcher.
Storen is one of the fastest risers of this year’s draft class with his name now being linked to Washington at 10 and the Angels at 24/25. Remember when Jeff Inman was the more likely Stanford
1.31 Chicago Cubs: OF Tim Wheeler – Sacramento State
Wheeler is a hard player to place because he possesses no standout tool that will make a team fall in love with him. He is solid enough in all phases of the game that he should find his way in the first round, somehow, someway. Hard to ignore the Notre Dame connection within the Cubbies front office, so don’t sleep on the much hyped AJ Pollock pick that may have legs.
1.32 Colorado: RHSP Matt Hobgood – Norco HS (California)
I’m sure it’s just me, but it looks a little strange to see a team that is picking 32nd overall and last in the first round that isn’t the reigning Super Bowl Champion.
There’s a part of me that is worried that this is the right player, the right team, but the wrong pick. Colorado is supposed to really, really like Hobgood and they may be so worried he won’t make it to the end of the round that they pick him near the top.