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Day Three 2009 MLB Draft Thoughts

I was keeping tabs of a handful of players heading into the third day of the draft because, well, that’s what I do. Then it occurred to me in a flash – hey! Why don’t I actually publish some of my thoughts and put them up on that website I run? Clever, right? A quick recap of day three for those of you who made it that far…

RHSP Scott Griggs – The prep arm from California went in the 34th round to Seattle. If you can believe it, I actually had Griggs ranked as the number five overall high school righthander coming into the year, so this is one heck of a fall. The reasons I liked Griggs coming into the eyar (three above-average pitches and potential plus command) are why I think he could re-emerge as a first rounder out of UCLA in 2012.

C Austin Maddox – It’s possible that Maddox could be insurance if the Rays can’t sign 4th rounder Luke Bailey, but it seems almost a certainty that he won’t be needed as a backup plan and will be free to head to Gainesville for three years with the Gators. I’m not sure if it’s been speculating on one way or another yet, but I’ll go ahead and wonder it aloud: any possiblity Maddox, a player with good present skills but little projection left in his body, opts to go the junior college route and re-enter the draft in 2010?

RHSP Scott Swinson – The University of Maryland junior was a deep sleeper coming into the year who must have forgotten to set his alarm clock this spring. The finesse righty will head back to college next year in hopes of improving his draft position (46th rounder of Baltimore).

C Jack Murphy – I thought he had done enough in his first two years at Princeton to warrant a 7/8th round grade, but big league clubs did not agree. Perhaps he made his intentions to return to Princeton known and teams were scared off because of it. Or maybe his subpar junior year against subpar competition was enough to turn teams off. His quick scouting report can be found here, but I included a relevant snippet for those who don’t click through on the links (mostly because I never do):

Murphy is a below the radar 2009 draft prospect who interests me greatly because he seems to have the formula for this year’s draft-eligible college hitters down pat: a couple of above-average tools with some semblance of a track record of success, but no overwhelming physical attributes that would carry him if all other aspects of his game failed, noticeable blips in performance that cause concerns about future production, and an overall lack of polish…

…Final verdict on Jack Murphy – worth a flier in round ten or later because he has the upside of a good big league offensive-minded backup catcher

Murphy could be re-establish himself as a top ten round pick with a big senior year, assuming he heads back to Jersey to grab that Ivy League school diploma.

RHSP Chris Jenkins and RHSP Ethan Carter – Unless I’m missing something, both Jenkins and Carter went undrafted. I find this stunning for many reasons, but I won’t jump to crazy conclusions because I’m sure there is a logical explanation (signability, probably) that explains it all away. I’d love to hear it. I had these two players back-to-back (13th and 14th, I believe) in my preseason rankings and noted their how similar they were at the time:

Carter

Eerily similar stuff Jenkins, but his classic big-bodied pitcher’s frame (6-5, 205) gives him the edge in projectability. Truth be told, his stuff is probably a tick better across the board than [Jordan] Cooper’s (Ed. Note: Cooper was a 17th round pick of the Pirates and ranked just behind Carter on my preseason list) – slightly better present fastball heat, more advanced and varied breaking stuff, and a real changeup. Carter has a chance to fly up this list with a good spring, something that is easy to envision this big righty with sterling makeup doing.

Jenkins

There is plenty to like about Chris Jenkins, namely a heavy fastball that touches 94 MPH and sits in the low 90s, a potential low 80s MPH power slider, a gigantic frame (6-7, 235), and interest from schools like Stanford and Duke. There is also plenty to dislike about Chris Jenkins, namely his spotty command, and high effort delivery. Jenkins’ raw potential is undeniable, but he is a long way away from unlocking it. I know I previously compared Ethan Carter to Jordan Cooper, but perhaps the better comparison is between the two big righties, Carter and Jenkins. Carter has a touch more polish at present, but very few pitchers, Carter included, stack up with Jenkins when it comes to upside.

Was I totally off the mark? Or is something far more nefarious at play? What say you, Google? It appears that Carter is a strong enough commit to South Carolina that he is already enrolled in Summer II classes. Jenkins is going to Stanford, a fact that teams knew about heading into the draft and a perfect explanation why teams would stay away. That explains that. Thanks, Google!

LHSP Chris Manno – The junior from Duke went in the 38th round to Washington. Underrated collegiate performer with good enough stuff to get out big league hitters. I think he could go back to school and turn himself into a top 10 round pick in 2010.

OF Tarran Senay (Pennsylvania) – Like Manno, another 38th round pick. Unlike Manno, Senay is a high school player who is rumored to be about a 50/50 shot to sign. If he doesn’t, he’ll take his high-contact lefthanded approach to NC State.

C Miles Hamblin – How in the world did Miles Hamblin (Howard JC) go undrafted?

RHRP Kyle Thebeau  – Another shocker. The Texas A&M senior was a 9th round pick as a junior, but somehow failed to get drafted at all in 2009. For a player with good enough stuff, improved fastball command, ample big game experience, and a strong finish to the year (as noted by Bryan Smith) to not get drafted at all, well, that’s just weird. Is he hurt?

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2009 MLB Draft: Top 25 Draft-Eligible Catcher Big Board

Hope everybody out there had a nice, relaxing long weekend. I spent too much of mine trying to think of creative ways I could cobble something ready to publish Tuesday morning without having it eat into my own nice, relaxing long weekend. I also made my selections as the Angels scouting director in the MVN MLB Outsider Mock Draft, so I’ll be sure to shamelessly self promote my rationale once it goes live later this week.

In the meantime, let’s unleash the full fury of my very own personal draft-eligible catcher big board. It’s not necessarily where I think the players will go on draft day (i.e. Stassi and Sanchez seem like they’ll both land in the first), but instead where I would value each player if I was the boss. Next up in the queue: College Team Profile – Texas Longhorns

Round 1: Wil Myers

Round 1s/2: Luke Bailey, Josh Phegley, Austin Maddox, Max Stassi, Tony Sanchez

Round 4/5: Mike Ohlman, Jonathan Walsh

Round 5/6: Tucker Barnhart, Dan Black, Mark Fleury, Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac, Josh Leyland, Miles Hamblin, JR Murphy

Round 7/8: Michael Zunino, Jack Murphy, Justin Dalles

Round 9/10: Carlos Ramirez, Steve Baron, Cameron Garfield

Round 10+: Dane Phillips, Miles Head, Robert Stock

2009 MLB Draft: Top Twenty High School Catchers

Because they are catchers, duh

Photo Source: eCoupons.com

  1. Wil Myers (North Carolina) – raw, but with plus power and arm; versatile on defense, but questions abound about his ability to stick behind the plate; he has the tools to remain a catcher, but his bat may be special enough to make a position switch (expediting his path to the big leagues) worthwhile; South Carolina commit who may very well be this year’s version of last year’s first round pick Brett Lawrie; incredibly fast riser who may be in the mix in the top half of the first round
  2. Luke Bailey (Georgia) – best blend of tools outside of Donovan Tate in all of prep class; 6-1, 200; MLB-caliber arm (pre-Tommy John surgery, we’ll have to wait and see how his recovery goes) with very good pop times (1.92 seconds); fantastic athlete with above-average speed (not simply good for a catcher, but overall); Auburn commit who now has more questions (injury and signability) than answers surrounding his game, but I still think he goes in the top two rounds as I believe he’s a safe bet to sign if he gets a fair offer
  3. Austin Maddox (Florida) – ML-size (6-3, 225) with two truly outstanding tools – plus raw power and plus, arguably plus-plus, arm strength; loses points for not being a natural between the lines, despite extensive experience playing year-round ball in Florida; hasn’t had a great spring performance, but still firmly in the running to go in the top two rounds due to the presence of those two present plus tools; with mid-90s heat, could be a potential pitching conversion down the road; Florida commit who forces scouts to ponder the age old question – do you take a more well-rounded prospect or a player like Maddox with two over-the-top excellent tools already present?
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Monday News Burst

Two high school stars were in the “news” recently, but for two very different reasons. What happened and why should we care? Let’s find out in our first ever foray in actually covering real life stuff as it happens…

Shelby Miller

The Blue Jays have had scouts at recent starts made by star prep righthanded pitcher Shelby Miller

Why is this important?

Toronto avoids high school arms like few teams in baseball, so it’s noteworthy whenever they take notice in a prep pitching prospect. At this point it would be an upset to see Miller slip to Toronto in the first (they pick 20th overall), but that’s not quite what makes this note so important. Sure, if Miller is sitting there at 20 and Toronto gets a crack at him then it’ll be intriguing to see how real this interest is. What I find interesting here is the fact that the Blue Jays seem to be opening themselves up to the possibility of drafting high school arms this year. Then again, there is no doubt Toronto (and every other team in the league for that matter) scout so thoroughly that it’s no real shock to hear a rumor going about supposed interest like this even when the team has no real intention of drafting a particular player. So, to recap – maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing, but in any case it’s information worth storing away come draft day. If you’ve got a mock draft going and Miller has somehow slipped to the Jays at 20, it may help you to look smart by putting his name down as the pick.

Luke Bailey

Top overall catching prospect Luke Bailey’s draft future is in question due to recent injury…no, not a strained medial ligament and bone bruise to the knee, but rather a strained UCL that has him scheduled for Tommy John surgery

Why is this important?

Big league teams who just last week had Bailey, an Auburn commit, high on their first round draft boards are now faced with the challenge of placing a proper value on the heretofore projected top 15 pick. Teams won’t only have to reshuffle their boards based on where they think Bailey’s value will be league-wide after the injury; no, that would be too easy. Teams will also have to figure out how willing Bailey is to sign a professional contract and for how much cash money it’ll take to get him ready to play pro ball. Every big league front office will have to place a round/dollar value on Bailey and determine whether a) he’ll be signable, and b) whether or not his recovery from injury will make him worth chasing after. That last point is a big one because the 2009 Draft has a chance of being remembered for the premium crop of high school catchers – when faced with the choice of a sliding Bailey or one of the other top round catching candidates (anybody outside of Max Stassi and Austin Maddox, I’d venture), who do you take? A week ago Bailey was a pretty clear number one at the position, but now he faces the very real possibility that he’ll be bypassed not only by high end guys like Stassi and Maddox, but also members of the second group like Jonathan Walsh, Wil Myers, Michael Zunino, or which ever prep prospect you happen to fancy near the top of the prep catching lists. Is a healthy Walsh a better pick than an damaged goods Bailey? I just don’t know.

If you are Bailey, how far do you have to slip to decide “hey, maybe three years playing ball in the SEC and transforming myself into the next Matt Wieters” might be worth while? On the other hand, Bailey might decide that recovery from major arm surgery might be something he’d rather let a big league medical staff oversee and a front office finance.

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers 2.0

Another week, another crack at separating the first round of the upcoming draft into tiers. Alright, that’s not entirely true — it’s been almost three weeks since we first did this — but calling this a triweekly isn’t nearly as catchy, plus it’s way more confusing. Did you know triweekly can either mean “three times a week” or “every three weeks?” How can a word mean such different things and get away with it? English, what a silly language…

This is a modified, way wimpier version of the tiered breakdown from three weeks ago. I’m sticking to players that are stone cold locks to go in the first round only. I have the utmost confidence that the following players will be first rounders in June.

  • Tier 1 –> 1 player

Strasburg

  • Tier 2 –> 9 players

Dustin Ackley/Kyle Gibson/Aaron Crow/Alex White/Grant Green
Shelby Miller/Tyler Matzek/Matt Purke/Donovan Tate

  • Tier 3 –> 6 players

Mike Leake/Tanner Scheppers/Rich Poythress

Luke Bailey/Zack Wheeler/Tyler Skaggs

That’s my new line of demarcation. 16 players that seem like sure bets to go in this year’s first round. If I wanted to get it up to an even twenty, I’d add the LSU duo (LeMahieu and Mitchell), my new favorite prep position player (yes, I’ve finally come around to Bobby Borchering), and this week’s fastest riser, lefty Rex Brothers of Lipscomb.  I’m hesistant to call any of those players locks at this point, but I reserve the right to be a wimp for now.

Where am I wrong? Which player listed won’t be a first rounder? (Tyler Skaggs?) Are there any names left off the list that will be guaranteed first rounders that I missed? (Max Stassi? Matt Davidson? Andy Oliver? Austin Maddox? Brett Jackson?)

Unranked Ranking of 2009’s Top Twenty Prep Prospects

I’m still trying to get a feel when some of this year’s top prep talent will go off the board this June, so excuse me if this post comes across as little more than just some nut thinking aloud. The tiers below the jump are even more arbitrary than earlier iterations of the tier system, but they exist primarily as a means of separating the top talent while still allowing plenty of wiggle room in the future. Between not having any kind of worthwhile stats to go on, conflicting scouting reports, and fewer opportunities to actually see the guys play, evaluating the draft stock of high schoolers can be a real pain. Saying that one high school lefty is beyond a shadow of a doubt a superior prospect than another similarly ranked prospect is a fool’s game at this point in the process. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am a fool who enjoys engaging in fool’s games very much, far more than I should probably, so expect plenty of Player X is better than Player Y talk on this site in the future…just not with high schoolers two months before the draft).

Instead, you get tiers for now. It’s mostly just an organizational piece for me, or a way of creating a launching pad (I love the mental imagery that evokes) for future high school draft talk. For now, mull over a quick top twenty of 2009 high school draft prospects – consider it a mix of where industry insiders have players ranked (Stevenson and Hobgood being two players with tons of helium right now that I’m not buying as elite prospects just yet) and a personal set of rankings chock full of my own special herbs and spices (as of now, I’m one of the very few on board with believing a player nicknamed Scooter is a top two round talent). It’s a difficult happy medium to reach, going with the consensus while also interjecting your own — hopefully informed — personal take, but ideally the end result is something worthwhile. Remember, the end goal here is simple…as the great Herm Edwards once said, “WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!”

Unranked ranking of the top twenty prep talents of 2009 after the jump

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2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers

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

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

  • Tier 1 —> 1 player

RHSP Stephen Strasburg

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

Confidence Level —> Couldn’t be higher

  • Tier 2 —> 10 players

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

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

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

  • Tier 3 —> 5 players

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tier 4 —> 8 players

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

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

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

  • Tier 5 —> 6 players

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

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

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

  • The Rest…

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

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

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