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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…)