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College First Basemen: 2008 to 2012

As I sat down over the weekend to at least begin to attempt to justify some of the odder placements from last Friday’s 2012 initial top 100 list, I found myself struck with the weirdest case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. There was plenty to talk about — a defense of Lance McCullers at the top, the super high top ten rankings of a pair of college guys from Texas schools, a higher than usual number of draft-eligible sophomores primed to crash the first round — but for some reason my mind kept coming back to 2008, the year I started to look at the draft less in terms of specific players I had personally seen play and more in a comprehensive, 30 team/50 round way. I’ve also always been a sucker for a good hook, so the allure of any type of draft-related “Year of the _____” appealed to me. The 2008 draft was built up as the “Year of the First Baseman,” and, though the results have been predictably mixed thus far, on balance I think the hype has been justified. I became so stuck on this one thought — early round first basemen of the recent past and how they stack up to the four first basemen on my top 100 — that I couldn’t get to anything else.

What I think I’ve always been fascinated about with respect to first base prospects is the high stakes gamble that comes with taking a first baseman early on draft day. If your athletic five-tool up-the-middle draft prospect doesn’t hit as expected, you’ve still got — wait, let me get my calculator — four tools, including defense and the ancillary positional value boost, remaining. If your first base prospect doesn’t hit (and hit a ton), then you’re left with nothing but regret. I also like the fact that college first baseman represent arguably the safest possible investment early on in the draft. Close reading shows that we’ve gone from “high stakes gamble” to “safest possible investment” in a single paragraph. Studies (that I can’t seem to be able to Google up right now) have shown that elite college hitters (with the numbers to back up said “eliteness”) tend to translate very well to the pro game. That’s what made 2008 so thrilling for me, I guess. Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso had that power/plate discipline blend that made them look like ready-made big league regulars even on draft day. College teammates Brett Wallace and Ike Davis both seemed likely to settle in as starters as well. It wasn’t crazy to think Allan Dykstra and David Cooper would be hitting 25+ bombs a year. If any of their bats betrayed them, however, then poof! any hope of a real big league career would be gone.

As I’ve written before, this past year didn’t have a Smoak, Alonso, or even a Wallace, at least not until it became clear CJ Cron wouldn’t be capable of donning the tools of ignorance as a pro. Even still, Cron, as impressive a hitter as he is, was seen as a prospect closer in pre-draft stature to Davis than one of ’08’s bigger names. A comparison, rough as it is, between Baseball America’s very early draft preview (taken from the Prospect Handbook published in January each year) and this year’s current rising group of first base prospects (according to me) provides some context to the discussion. Included are only players who wound up as first, supplemental first, or second round picks:

Draft Year: Player Name (ranking)

2008: Smoak (3), Alonso (5), Dykstra (24), Wallace (28), Cooper (55), Davis (68)

2009: Rich Poythress (33)

2010:

2011: Cron (40)

2012: Jayce Boyd (25), Christian Walker (27), Richie Shaffer (38), Max Muncy (69)

The upcoming draft won’t have six college first baseman taken in the first round nor will it have two (or three, depending on how some felt about Wallace at the time) potential franchise cornerstones who happen to play first, but it does have a handful of young men who just might have enough bat to play first base everyday at the highest level. Without getting too deep into the scouting profiles of Boyd, Walker, Shaffer, and Muncy (plenty of time for that in the next 11 months, plus I’ve already gone into some detail on Boyd here and Shaffer there), I thought a “quick” look at how all twelve of these college first basemen stack up from both the statistical and scouting sides could be interesting.

To keep the comparisons going, I’ve provided the basic information for all eight of those first, supplemental first, and second round college first base picks from the past three drafts, plus the four players listed in my early top 100 for 2012. All stat lines are raw, unfortunately, as we don’t have access to park/league/schedule adjusted stats going back a few years. Keep in mind that the batting lines are also really tough to compare on account of the BBCOR bats debuting in 2011. Also included are quotes taken from the aforementioned Baseball America Prospect Handbook, as chosen by yours truly. All quotes for the prospects from 2008 and 2009 are from the prospect’s first year out of college. The CJ Cron entry has quotes pulled from Baseball America’s draft preview, and the quotes on the current college players are ones that I’ve managed to get on record from the always entertainingly nebulous “industry insiders.”

You may be wondering “what’s the point?” after reading though the comparison below. Truthfully, I’m not sure there is one. I had originally hoped some wonderful epiphany about college first base prospects would come to me, either in the form of a statistical trend or a certain scouting similarities. Heck, you know as much as I like to “force” comps that I’m dying to match up some of the 2008-2011 players with a 2012 counterpart, but I’m really not sure I see a fit. As it is, I think what we have here is context.

*****

Yonder Alonso | 2008 | Cincinnati | 1.7 | University of Miami

FR – .295/.373/.492 – 32 BB/37 K – 244 AB
SO – .376/.519/.705 – 64 BB/31 K – 210 AB
JR – .370/.534/.777 – 76 BB/35 K – 211 AB

  • “rare hitter who has both plus power and the swing and pitch awareness to hit for a high average as well”
  • “allergic to strikeouts”
  • “yet to prove that he can recognize and hit a quality breaking ball”
  • “below-average athlete and runner”
  • “soft hands and adequate range should allow him to develop into at least an average defender”

Justin Smoak | 2008 | Texas | 1.11 | University of South Carolina

FR – .303/.407/.586 – 40 BB/39 K – 244 AB
SO – .315/.434/.631 – 54 BB/40 K – 260 AB
JR – .383/.505/.757 – 57 BB/28 K – 235 AB

  • “well-above-average power”
  • “Gold Glove potential at first base”
  • “below-average speed”
  • “projects as a middle-of-the-order power hitter”

Brett Wallace | 2008 | St. Louis | 1.13 | Arizona State University

FR – .371/.439/.583 – 17 BB/26 K – 151 AB
SO – .423/.500/.719 – 37 BB/34 K – 253 AB
JR – .410/.526/.753 – 48 BB/33 K – 239 AB

  • “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”
  • “balanced, level swing creates consistent line drives”
  • “Think batting champ with the ability to be a big bopper”
  • “average arm and surprising footwork”
  • “below-average athleticism, speed, and agility”

David Cooper | 2008 | Toronto | 1.17 | University of California

FR – .305/.337/.404 – 9 BB/18 K – 151 AB
SO – .382/.450/.627 – 30 BB/21 K – 204 AB
JR – .359/.449/.682 – 37 BB/35 K – 220 AB

  • “tremendous barrel awareness and excellent hand-eye coordination”
  • “should produce high batting averages”
  • “could develop average power and hit 18-20 homers per season”
  • “below-average athlete and poor runner”
  • “offers limited range and slow reactions at first base”

Ike Davis | 2008 | New York Mets | 1.18 | Arizona State University

FR – .329/.387/.542 – 20 BB/58 K – 240 AB
SO – .346/.400/.532 – 26 BB/39 K – 231 AB
JR – .385/.457/.742 – 31 BB/34 K – 213 AB

  • “considered a slick defensive first baseman – the type who could contend for a Gold Glove some day”
  • “strong arm”
  • “below-average speed”

Allan Dykstra | 2008 | San Diego | 1.23 | Wake Forest University

FR – .324/.479/.670 – 51 BB/32 K – 185 AB
SO – .310/.479/.615 – 57 BB/33 K – 226 AB
JR – .323/.519/.645 – 62 BB/45 K – 186 AB

  • “plus-plus raw power and plate discipline”
  • “should hit for some average as well”
  • “above-average arm”
  • “below-average athlete, runner, and defender at first base”

Rich Poythress | 2009 | Seattle | 2.51 | University of Georgia

FR – .282/.354/.410 – 17 BB/31 K – 156 AB
SO – .374/.461/.626 – 46 BB/40 K – 265 AB
JR – .376/.473/.764 – 42 BB/39 K – 237 AB

  • “power is his standout tool”
  • “controls the strike zone and doesn’t try to pull everything”
  • “ought to hit for a decent average”
  • “below-average range and fringy arm”
  • “doesn’t have much speed”
  • “Some scouts who saw him in college wonder if his power will play against better velocity”

CJ Cron | 2011 | Los Angeles Angels | 1.17 | University of Utah

FR – .337/.380/.557 – 14 BB/31 K – 246 AB
SO – .431/.493/.817 – 17 BB/23 K – 197 AB
JR – .434/.517/.803 – 31 BB/21 K – 198 AB

  • “doesn’t move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner”
  • “above-average hitter”
  • “legitimate 80 raw power that translates into at least above-average usable power”

*****

Jayce Boyd | 2012 | ranked 25th | Florida State University

FR – .326/.394/.507 – 27 BB/38 K – 227 AB
SO – .335/.415/.515 – 34 BB/32 K – 233 AB

  • “plus raw power, maybe a touch less”
  • “potential award winner with glove at first base”
  • “such a naturally gifted hitter that he could probably do it with his eyes closed”

Christian Walker | 2012 | ranked 27th | University of South Carolina

FR – .327/.384/.518 – 18 BB/18 K – 226 AB
SO – .361/.442/.556 – 32 BB/26 K – 241 AB

  • “plus hit tool with enough strength and loft to hit 20+ homers at next level”
  • “currently a shaky defender, but upside to be average”

Richie Shaffer | 2012 | ranked 38th | Clemson University

FR – .323/.415/.525 – 18 BB/36 K – 158 AB
SO – .315/.438/.577 – 44 BB/53 K – 222 AB

  • “recovered from broken hamate to show true plus power”
  • “good present defender with the chance to be excellent”
  • “strong arm”

Max Muncy | 2012 | ranked 69th | Baylor University

FR – .300/.374/.500 – 24 BB/48 K – 230 AB
SO – .322/.428/.511 – 37 BB/36 K – 227 AB

  • “far from the prototypical slugging first base prospect”
  • “good athlete, good defender, average runner”
  • “line drive machine who specializes in squaring up and making consistent solid contact”
  • “development of power will make or break him…bat currently profiles as much better at his high school position [catcher]”

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.

(more…)

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 First Round Mock Draft 2.0

Another week, another mock. Let’s see what we see…

1.1 Washington – RHSP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State)
1.2 Seattle – 1B/OF Dustin Ackley (North Carolina)
1.3 San Diego – RHSP Aaron Crow (Missouri/Fort Worth Cats)
1.4 Pittsburgh – RHSP Alex White (North Carolina)
1.5 Baltimore – SS Grant Green (Southern Cal)

I still have no idea which way Seattle is leaning with the second pick. Any one of Ackley, White, Tate, Matzek, or Scheppers could be the guy. Green’s stock is falling faster than [insert fast falling stock symbol here], but I still think it’s a tad reactionary to have him falling more than a few picks from the top considering the total absence of quality bats at premium positions in this year’s draft. Heck, I was one of Green’s biggest detractors heading into this season so if anybody could support a slip in his stock it’s me. About a month ago I said this:

It’s not quite a fully developed idea, but I’ll just throw it out there here so I can have it on the record…Grant Green (Southern Cal, SS) and Jason Donald (Arizona, Phillies, SS/3B/2B). Am I crazy in thinking they have similar enough profiles to compare the two?

I like Grant Green and I like Jason Donald, but I’m not sold on either player being “worth” the fifth overall pick. However, and this is worth pointing out time and time again, the top of the draft has so few interesting bats that there is some justification for reaching for a potential plus bat at a key defensive position.

1.6 San Francisco – OF Donavan Tate (Cartersville HS – Georgia)
1.7 Atlanta – RHSP Zack Wheeler (East Paulding HS – Georgia)
1.8 Cincinnati – RHSP Kyle Gibson (Missouri)
1.9 Detroit Tigers – LHSP Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS – California)
1.10 Washington – RHSP Tanner Scheppers (Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)

How do you spell Tate’s first name? I’ve literally seen a 50/50 split (or darn close anyway) in the major publications when it comes to his spelling. Off the top of my head, I think Baseball America and Pefect Game both call him Donavan, but MLB.com claims he goes by Donovan. Even the great Google comes up empty – 824,000 hits for “Donovan Tate” and 870,000 “Donavan Tate” in a race too close to call.

I debated far too long about Atlanta’s pick, but there is too much noise about Atlanta loving Wheeler to go against the grain. Brian Sabean was at a recent Cartersville start to watch Wheeler throw, so it’s entirely possible he’ll be off the board at pick six. In a way that would be convenient because we can then just flip the Giants and Braves picks with little shaking up of the draft board.

Strasburg & Scheppers…that’ll do nicely. I like the Nationals popping Scheppers here because there is absolutely no chance he won’t sign a fair deal, he has no other options besides professional baseball. The question for me is whether or not he’ll be sitting there for them to debate the pick…

1.11 Colorado – RHSP Mike Leake (Arizona State)
1.12 Kansas City – RHSP Shelby Miller (Brownwood HS – Texas)
1.13 Oakland – 3B Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS – Florida)
1.14 Texas – LHSP Matt Purke (Klein HS – Texas)
1.15 Cleveland – LHSP Mike Minor (Vanderbilt)

A prep superstar sandwich with delicious high floor (and high fiber!) college pitcher bread. The Royals and Rangers would both be ecstatic (I’m guessing) if the draft actually went like this, though I now wonder if the two Texan high schoolers might be flip flopped.

1.16 Arizona – LHP/OF Brooks Raley (Texas A&M)
1.17 Arizona – C Max Stassi (Yuba City HS – California)
1.18 Florida – LHP/1B Colton Cain (Waxahachie HS – Texas)
1.19 St. Louis – LHSP Andy Oliver (Oklahoma State)
1.20 Toronto – LHSP James Paxton (Kentucky)
1.21 Houston – LHSP Rex Brothers (Lipscomb)

How’s that for a run on lefthanded pitching? That’s 7 out of 8 lefties if you’re scoring at home, with the run only being broken up by the presence of new top 2009 catcher Stassi. Cain is the real wild card in all of this, but he is only this high up because Florida is such a difficult team for me to project. Cain would be a big stretch at 18, but a high upside, athletic high school arm makes sense in the spot.

1.22 Minnesota – OF Jared Mitchell (Louisiana State)
1.23 Chicago White Sox – RHSP Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw State)
1.24 Los Angeles Angels – LHSP Tyler Skaggs (Santa Monica HS – California)
1.25 Los Angeles Angels – 3B Matt Davidson (Yucaipa HS – California)

Mitchell to Minnesota would be a re-draft (they took him out of high school in 2006), so we know he fits their typical draft demographic beautifully. It’s possible that Mitchell fits the Twins model too well, seeing as they already have about a half dozen players with similar skillsets already in the system – it would almost be overkill at this point to draft another.

1.26 Milwaukee – OF Mike Trout (Millville HS – New Jersey)
1.27 Seattle – RHSP Jacob Turner (Westminster Academy – Missouri)
1.28 Boston – RHSP Sam Dyson (South Carolina)
1.29 New York Yankees – RHSP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M)
1.30 Tampa Bay – 1B Rich Poythress (Georgia)
1.31 Chicago Cubs – SS Jiovanni Mier (Bonita HS – California)
1.32 Colorado – OF Kentrail Davis (Tennessee)

Turner to the Mariners makes sense, if they are as willing to pony up the bucks as they have intimated. Projecting the top AL East teams is a killer, but it’s not much more than a coincidence that all three wound up with college players – Dyson and Wilson are high upside arms that would represent good value late in the first, but carry significant injury risk going forward. Poythress is a really hard player to squeeze in, but he’d be a really nice fit for a team in need of another big bat to balance out an already strong lineup, slotting in as either Pena’s successor at first or a DH option down the road. Davis is another player that probably shouldn’t be as high as he is in a vacuum, but in a draft like this he’ll get a substantial bonus because he has shown he can at least hit a little (we’re setting the bar low for bats this year, unfortunately).

Mid-Week Underdeveloped Musings

First Round Puzzle Pieces

I’m a simple man who tends to think in simple terms. Filling out a mock draft brings back grade school memories of manipulating jigsaw pieces every which way until a pretty picture of a duck or a lake or an eighteenth century Parisian castle emerged from the cutouts. It always helped to get the corner pieces first to frame the picture, a lesson I try to apply to my mock draft construction today – get the corners first and build from there. Find picks that make so much sense that they just have to happen and work backwards once they are filled in. Find teams that will under no circumstances take a particular player or position. Eliminate picks that don’t make sense.

So let’s start piecing this puzzle together. Which teams can we rule out for certain positions early on? Can anybody out there realistically see any of the following teams — Baltimore, San Francisco, Texas, Cleveland, Florida, or Houston — taking a first round catcher? Maybe Texas (lots of young catching, but still sorting itself out), maybe Cleveland (Carlos Santana is coming, but they strike me as an organization that would take a catcher high if he was the best player on their board), but certainly not the other four teams. What about first baseman? I definitely can’t envision a scenario where Rich Poythress goes to Kansas City (Hosmer), Texas (Smoak), or St. Louis (Pujols/Wallace). What have I concluded from my brief puzzle session? Teams don’t draft the same position (excepting pitching) in the first round in consecutive years, so don’t expect it to happen when putting together a mock. Is that a fair conclusion?

More Luke Bailey Fallout

I’ve been thinking more and more about how Bailey’s recent injury will impact the upcoming draft. The Nationals are faced with the very weird predicament of having to pick and pay the most celebrated amateur talent ever AND then sign another top ten player on top of it. Various logical college names have been bandied about for the ten spot (Poythress, LeMahieu, Mitchell…Leake, Paxton, Brothers) that would serve the Nationals well in that they are all talented enough to justify the tenth spot (some more than others), but also not quite sexy enough to warrant a scary overslot bonus. Does Bailey at number ten make sense? He’s got more upside than any of the college names mentioned (though Poythress and Leake are personal favorites, and Mitchell has plenty of untapped potential in his own right), plus his injury could lead to an under the table pre-draft agreement on monetary terms that would have otherwise been untenable. Luke, sign with us and you’ll get the cache of being a top ten pick, the slot (or maybe slightly less) bonus that comes with the position, and a top notch professional staff to walk you through your rehab. Crazy idea, but there it is.

Bailey going tenth would be pretty out there, but there are other spots late in the first that might not be quite as crazy. Check out the teams picking 28th, 29th, and 30th. Boston, New York, and Tampa all have consecutive late first round picks this year. All three teams have shown a willingness to draft aggressively, and all three teams have an organizational need at catcher. No chance they would have had a shot at a healthy Luke Bailey, but now…well, now they’ll be in a position to decide on whether or not he’s worth the risk.

Enough looking ahead, let’s look back. I found one of my unpublished mock drafts from a few weeks ago and, much to my surprise, noticed I had Bailey slotted as high as pick number 9 to Detroit. I know I have toyed with the idea of giving him to Kansas City (12), Oakland (13), Cleveland (15), and Arizona (16/17) at various points prior. How far will he slide?

Player Range Finder

A random feature where I pick a random player and randomly decide where I think he’ll randomly go in the draft. Sounds like a party, right? Our first player is…

Rich Poythress –> crazy optimistic scenario could see him being popped as high as pick number six to San Francisco; worst case scenario sees him falling no further (farther?) than pick 27 to Seattle.

Poythress to the Giants? The odds are Manute Bol slim, but not quite minute enough to rule out entirely. Fact 1 – the Giants organization is rich in prospects, but the pitching still outpaces the hitting by a comfortable margin. Fact 2 – the Giants . Fact 3 – This may or may not be an actual “fact” — I scoff at the notion that words need to fit “definitions” decided on unilaterally by the “Man”– but every draft needs a surprise, right? At this point the talent at the top of the draft looks about as predictable as can be – Strasburg, White, Crow, Ackley, Green, Tate, Matzek, Gibson, Wheeler in some order. It can’t be that simple, can it?

Of course, I think the Giants go best player available (hoping for one of the three position players, I’m guessing) which will rule out Poythress going off the board at six, but it’s not totally inconceivable and that’s all I’m really trying to get at.

Poythress to the Mariners? Now this I could see happening. Poythress plays a mean first base (something the M’s value highly), the Seattle system needs fast moving bats, and he’d represent really good value this late in the round. Of course, the idea that he’d go no later than 27th to Seattle means there are a bunch of teams that represent logical fits well before Jack Z will even get a crack at him.Teams like Washington, Arizona, Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles all are likely to show heavy interest in the sweet swinging first baseman.

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?)

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?