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2009 MLB Draft Live Blog

5:45 PM

How ’bout them Pirates? Tony Sanchez at 4 is flat out insanity, sorry. I get that they are hoping to use some of their player development acquisition cash on the international scene, but it seems like a gigantic risk banking on being able to sign the guys they want on the free market like that. What if Miguel Sano backs out of their agreement and they somehow swing and miss on the other top international prospects? Risky, risky, risky.

I mentioned seeing Dustin Ackley more than any other player in the draft in one of the recent mocks, but Tony Sanchez and I go back almost as far. I probably saw Sanchez play about 30 games at BC and nothing about his game ever screamed front-line ML catcher to me. We’ll see.

I can’t be the only one stunned to see Matt Hobgood’s name connected with Baltimore at 5. I never would have guessed he would be the top prep arm off the bard in a billion years. Bizarre pick.

6:00 PM

Christmas in June. They are really holding the draft in Studio 42? What a hideous set. Jim Callis = Bob Saget. I formed that opinion based on a picture I saw long ago, so even when I see him on video like tonight and realize the comp is a stretch, I can’t get the Saget image out of my head.

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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…)

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers 3.0

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

Hey, this is pretty easy so far!

Tier 2 —> 14 players

CF Dustin Ackley/LHSP Tyler Matzek/RHSP Aaron Crow/RHSP Jacob Turner/RHSP Zack Wheeler/OF Donavan Tate

RHSP Tanner Scheppers/SS Grant Green/RHSP Shelby Miller/LHSP Matt Purke/RHSP Kyle Gibson/RHSP Alex White/RHSP Mike Leake/LHSP Rex Brothers

No big surprises in this group, I don’t think. Ackley, Matzek, and Wheeler seem like sure bets to go in the top ten. Gibson and White are two college righties who are seeing their stock slip heading into the big day, but for different reasons. Gibson has had very inconsistent velocity readings this spring (topping out at only 87 MPH in a recent start) and a number of high pitch count games worry scouting directors who may not want to pay big bucks for a jacked up elbow/shoulder (that last bit is totally unsubstantiated speculation, I haven’t read/heard any reliable source openly doubt Gibson’s current health). White’s issues are more performance based, as he hasn’t been the Friday ace that many expected to see this year for the Tar Heels. Both have clearly done enough to warrant high first round grades, but they aren’t necessarily the locks for the top ten like they once were.

Rumors have circulated that Purke could be the obligatory high bonus high schooler who drops down the board, but it would be a stunner to see him fall clear out of the first, if for no other reason than eventually one of the big budget teams would pull the trigger in the mid- to late-20s. Green is another player that many claim is sliding down boards, but his success with wood on the Cape will keep him in the top half of the round (at worst) when it is all said and done. Last, but certainly not least, Donavan Tate (yes, I’ve given in – I’m late to the party, I know, but I’m finally going with Donavan over Donovan…can we get one of those spelling bee kids to make a ruling?). Tate is about a 50/50 shot to go number three overall to the Padres next week, pretty good odds all things considered. However, if San Diego decides to pass, he is in danger of falling way down in the first based on how remaining teams figure to stack their respective boards.

Tier 2 is loaded with “star” quality amateur players – Ackley, Crow, Tate, Scheppers, and Green are just some of the names very familiar with even casual followers of high school and college baseball. The most obscure player on the list is easily the lefty from Lipscomb, Rex Brothers. Yeah, I know that Brothers has been talked about as a first rounder for a few months now, but he is still a name that looks a little funny grouped with the rest of these “star” guys. The high velocity lefty belongs.

Tier 3 —> 9 players

C Max Stassi/3B Bobby Borchering/RHSP Eric Arnett/LHSP Chad James/RHSP Matt Hobgood

OF Mike Trout/OF Everett Williams/LHSP Tyler Skaggs/C Tony Sanchez

The first two tiers are more about safety – in  a world with so few guarantees, I’d feel bad if any of the players on either list wasn’t a first rounder next week, so I played it safe and went with absolutely safe consensus first rounders only. Tier 3 is where things get complicated. I’d put the percentage on each individual player going in the first at around 75%. Going with the prep outfield duo of Trout and Williams over either of the top college guys (Tim Wheeler and AJ Pollock) is a little out there, I’ll admit, but each high school player has the raw tools teams covet late in the first. And with that, we have the theme of Tier 3 – high upside tools. 7 of the 9 players listed are high schoolers. Hobgood and James may or may not have legit first round talent (I think James probably does, but am personally not a huge fan of Hobgood), but they have been linked to enough teams picking in the mid-teens on that they seem likely to be off the board by the supplemental round. We may have been a tad premature in declaring Stassi a stone cold lock first rounder, but he still seems like a safe bet to get plucked by a team late in the first looking to capitalize on the fall of a player many consider to be the top draft-eligible catcher.

Tier 4 —> 4 players

RHRP Drew Storen/OF Tim Wheeler/LHSP James Paxton/C Wil Myers

Tier 4 has players that are safer bets to contribute in the bigs, but with a little less long-term star power. Storen should sneak into the back end of the first round, with Tampa rumored to have interest if he makes it to pick 30. Wheeler is another player that fits the Tier 4 prototype – no standout tool, but very well-rounded with a professional approach. Paxton’s fastball is one of the best in the draft, and Myers’ hit tool is as good as any high school position player.

28 players through 4 tiers. We need five more players to get to that magic first round number of 32. The Nationals seem heavily in on RHSP Chad Jenkins, but they could go in so many directions with that tenth pick that it’s hard to call him a lock of any kind. Washington is in the weird situation where the players they are choosing from with that second first rounder may not be first rounders at all unless they pick them. High school players like RHSP Garrett Gould, SS Jiovanni Mier, 3B Matt Davidson, and C Tommy Joseph could find spots at the back end of the first depending on how the board shakes out in front of them. Likewise, plenty of college talent (OFs AJ Pollock and Jared Mitchell, LHSPs Andy Oliver and Mike Minor, RHP Kyle Heckathorn, and 1B Rich Poythress) could hear their names called early next Tuesday as well.

Any names missing? Any player in a tier too high or too low? Does Strasburg deserve a one tier buffer between himself and everybody else?