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FINAL 2009 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

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… (more…)

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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.