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Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (1-5)

Much has changed in my life since 2009. When I started the site I was fresh out of college, back at home for a brief stay (no, not in my mother’s basement…we don’t have a basement, so there!), and looking for work. I enjoyed working on the site in my ample free time and was generally a pretty happy camper. Now I sit here gainfully employed, paying rent as often as I remember to, and, against all odds, still quite happy to while away my rare scraps of free time trying to put up something interesting to read on the site. The more things change, the more things stay the same, you know?

One thing that has definitely changed, both with the site and in my life in general, has been the degree of wimpiness I approach “scary” things with. The older, wiser me has no time to waste on self-doubt anymore. I would once freak out if Baseball America didn’t rank a guy I had in my top twenty in their top hundred, choosing to assume that, as the industry leaders, they obviously knew something I didn’t. Honestly, with their resources and collective brain power, they often do know something I don’t. Often is the operative word there; often is much different than always. Nowadays I’m less inclined to automatically jump to the conclusion that they have to be right and I have to be wrong. It is much more fun to take position that, hey, maybe I’ve heard something that hasn’t yet made it to the mainstream than always assuming the other way around.

These were good rankings and I wish I had stuck with them more than I did. Instead, I waffled and switched things up without really thinking things over, at least not in the way I do so now. My top 13 high school RHSPs by draft day were, in order: Jacob Turner – Shelby Miller – Zack Wheeler – Garrett Gould – Brody Colvin – Madison Younginer – Keyvius Sampson – Jake Barrett – Zack Von Rosenberg – Matt Hobgood – Ryan Buch – Michael Heller – Scott Griggs. A solid list, sure, but not one that I could justify to my liking if ever called out on it. How much did I really know about Garrett Gould, outside of the fact both Baseball America and Perfect Game had him as a late rising helium guy, before I shot him up my draft board? Why not stick to my guns a little bit more and stand by the prospects that I did the legwork on myself? I’m not saying it pays to be stubborn and ignore new information as it comes — that’s ridiculous, obviously — but I do think the rush to alter rankings based on what the industry leaders put out is a temptation that did me far more harm than good back in the day. I remember specifically boosting Gould and Younginer, deserving prospects both by the way, based almost exclusively on what I read about them from Baseball America in the two weeks leading up to draft day. I’m transparent enough to admit I’m still a huge fan of the work done by the team at Baseball America (and Perfect Game…and countless other excellent independent sites run in a similar fashion to this one) and consider their scouting updates an invaluable resource that helps confirm or deny reports I’ve put together myself. I guess that right there is progress in and of itself; using Baseball America as a last resort to confirm or deny original reports I’ve worked to obtain is a step above relying on them as my sole provider for information (with ample citing, of course!) like I used to.

Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-5 are up now, the rest will come as the week progresses.

1. Shelby Miller | Brownwood HS (TX) | St. Louis Cardinals | 19th Overall (2009)

2.57 ERA – 112 IP – 139 K/38 BB – 0.77 GO/AO

Miller had an even split of 53 innings in High A and 53 innings in AA when I sat down to write the first draft of this piece. It takes very little to amaze a simple fellow like me, so I was pretty geeked to use that perfectly equal innings comparison as a jumping off point in the Miller discussion. Sadly, that original draft is in the internet ether somewhere, on account of WordPress not being able to handle switching from Full Screen mode to whatever they call it when you aren’t in Full Screen mode. I was so mad that I lost an hour’s worth of work that I put this on the shelf for a few days, only to return to see Miller now has a much less exciting to compare 53 innings in High A and 59 innings in AA.

There might be a team or two in the minors  that can look at the Cardinals minor league pitching depth with a feeling other than outright envy, but no more than that. Miller’s development from stud prep arm to stud pro arm makes him one of the crown jewels of St. Louis’ minor league staff. He joins Carlos Martinez and Tyrell Jenkins in the system as potential top of the rotation starting pitchers. His fastball has jumped in velocity (as expected) and is now seen as a plus-plus pitch, and both his curve and change look like legit big league out pitches at times. The competition for best high school pitching prospect rages on to this day, but Miller remains the best long-term bet from where I’m sitting (a bright red IKEA couch I kind of hate).

Miller’s fastball sits between the upper 80s and the low 90s (88-92), and he is capable of dialing it up to 93/94 MPH when necessary. His frame is reminiscent of those of Matt Graham, Scott Griggs, Daniel Tuttle, and Zack Wheeler (remember how there is a thin line separating all of these righties?), so everything positive suggested about those other players’ bodies filling out accompanied by velocity pick-me-ups apply to Miller as well. This is a pretty good class of high school pitching when it comes to velocity, so it’s easy to lose sight of how rare it is to see a high schooler with such a fine combo of mid-90s heat, workable (or better) secondary stuff, and better than average command. Take a look at big league starting pitchers with legit mid-90s peak velocities some time. I bet you’ll be surprised at the disparity between fastball speed perception and reality. I know I was.

His offspeed stuff is quality, with a mid-70s curveball (potential plus pitch alert) and an 80 MPH changeup. I’ve heard of a slider being worked on, but don’t have any concrete information to actually comment on it. His command is good, not great, but good command out of a high school pitcher is a fine jumping off point.

Miller’s delivery looks clean and his arm action loose and easy, but what stands out about his mechanics is his tremendous balance. His excellent mechanics help lead to one of Miller’s standout attributes – his uncanny ability to hold velocity late into ballgames. Reports have Miller hitting his peak velocities (93/94 MPH) even as his pitch counts vaulted past the century mark late in the season. We talked earlier about having a special skill that helps you stand out – great velocity and the ability to muscle up enough to hold it late into games is one of Miller’s defining characteristics as a young prospect.

2. Jacob Turner | Westminster Academy (MO) | Detroit Tigers | 9th Overall (2009)

3.48 ERA – 113.2 IP – 90 K/32 BB – 1.22 GO/AO

Turner is sort of the anti-Shelby Miller. Before jumping all over me for that, I promise the comparison is not based on anything between the lines. As outlined above, Miller is but one part of the Cardinals three-headed monster of potential big league impact righthanded starting pitchers. Turner, on the other hand, is the cheese that stands alone in a Detroit farm system bereft of anything resembling a righthanded starting pitching prospect. The numbers above show what Turner has accomplished in his Age 20 season in AAA. They numbers don’t reflect how well he acquitted himself (5.1 IP 3 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K) in his big league debut on Saturday in a loss to the Angels. His repertoire is similar to Miller’s, from the plus-plus fastball to the promising curve and change. Come to think of it, not much has changed from Turner’s high school days, at least in terms of future stuff grades: fastball has always been a weapon, curve still has plus upside, and change is well on its way to becoming a nasty third offering.

Also, and please don’t judge me, I couldn’t help but notice that Turner’s full name is Jacob Edward Turner. If nothing else, he’ll have a built-in tween audience once he reaches the big leagues to stay. For now, he’ll head to AAA.

  • Good size? Is 6-4, 205 good enough? Check.
  • Good athlete? Solid, if not spectacular. Check.
  • Clean mechanics out of a ¾ delivery? Check.
  • Fastball velocity? How does a peak velocity of 93-94 MPH sound?
  • Good command? Check.
  • Off-speed repertoire? Curveball is already a plus pitch and circle change should be an average big league offering, at worst.
  • College scholarship from a school that knows pitching? If North Carolina wants you to pitch for them, you’re probably a good one. If you decided to Carolina only after turning down Vanderbilt, you’re almost certainly a good one. Those two universities have coaching staffs that really know their pitching. Check.

3. Mychal Givens | Plant HS (FL) | Baltimore Orioles | 2nd Round (2009)

.231/.298/.282 – 372 AB – 24 BB/55 K – 13/21 SB

It’s probably a bit premature to say I was wrong for ranking Givens the third best high school pitching prospect in the country back in 2009, but…alright, I’m not sure how to finish this sentence. There’s still ample time for Givens to turn it around, either as a middle infielder or after a conversion to the mound (fingers crossed!), but his first two pro seasons have been undeniably rough.

His first full year was all but lost due to a busted thumb. This year he flunked in a trial at Low A to start the season, but is now doing better in Short Season ball where he is back playing SS after sliding to 2B in deference to better prospects Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop while playing for Delmarva. The positive spin here is that, due to his injury in 2010, he’s developmentally right where he should be, despite being older than you’d like in Short Season ball.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of prospect Givens would be if given the chance to develop as a professional pitcher instead of a position player. His fastball made such an impression on me when I saw him in high school, I thought it could almost single-handedly get him to the big leagues, at least as a reliever.

Givens has arguably the top fastball in this year’s high school class. His speedball has been clocked anywhere from 96-98 MPH. The beautiful thing is that his best pitch defines the term “velocity” in that the vector physical quantity of the pitch covers both the speed and direction of the baseball. Givens’ fastball isn’t just fast, it sinks and moves all over the place. Givens’ slider and change both need much refinement, but his overwhelming fastball and overall pitching aptitude — he plays short when not pitching and may be the top prep middle infielder in his class, yet still shows good feel on the mound – make him a premium prospect. As of now, Givens’ reminds me a little bit of Kyle Drabek, minus Drabek’s excellent spike curve.

4. Zack Wheeler – East Paulding HS (Texas) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Overall (2009)

3.99 ERA – 88 IP – 98 K/47 BB – 1.35 GO/AO

The numbers are from Wheeler’s time with the Giants High A team. He’s now with the Mets organization after being dealt by San Francisco for star outfielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran is an awesome talent and an excellent pickup for the offensive starved Giants, but Wheeler was a pretty price to pay for a two plus month rental. In what seems typical of high round prep pitchers, Wheeler’s fastball is already a well above-average big league offering, but his secondary stuff (curve looks alright, change/splitter has a ways to go) has stagnated as a pro. I’ve always been bullish on young pitchers with outrageous athleticism and plus fastballs, so consider me a fan of the newest member of the New York Mets family.

Zack Wheeler has the kind of frame that scouts everywhere love to dream on. He’s a lanky 6-4, 180 (lanky, but athletic – Wheeler can get above the rim and throw down 360 dunks) with plenty of room to fill out, and, if things go according to plan, capable of adding some serious velocity. If Wheeler was throwing in the high-80s, he’d be a very intriguing prospect based on the prospect of physical maturity and increased heat alone. However, the kid is already sitting comfortably in the low-90s (91-92) and has hit 94-95 MPH on the gun out of the bullpen at the summer showcases. Add a couple of ticks to that fastball and you are really on to something. Wheeler’s very good curve, power slider, and burgeoning splitter all complement the fastball well.

5. Scott Griggs | San Ramon Valley HS (CA) | Seattle Mariners | 34th Round (2009)

2.44 FIP – 17.2 IP – 11.21 K/9 – 10.19 BB/9

Griggs is one of my favorite college arms eligible for the 2012 Draft, but even I have to admit that his generous placement on my big board is highly speculative at this point. He’s currently 43rd on said list of top 2012 MLB Draft talents. His fastball remands an explosive pitch, and both his curve and change — apparently FB/CB/CU were the cool pitches back in 2009 — flash above-average (or better in the case of the change) at times. Funny that I praised his command back in high school when one of the biggest concerns about him after two years of college is whether or not he’ll throw enough strikes as a pro. I realize command and control are different things, but, hey, still funny to me.

Scott Griggs pitches in the low-90s, peaking at 95 MPH, with an above-average change that should be a plus pitch before long. What makes Griggs stand apart from the rest of the crowd (besides the big-time heater) is his impeccable command. This isn’t run of the mill “good for a high schooler” command, this is major league quality, plus potential command. Another quality that I like about Griggs is his sneaky, deceptive delivery. He hides the ball well allowing his already fast fastball to appear, well, even faster.

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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?

Alternate Reality Mock Draft – Name Game

Don’t freak out, this isn’t a “real” mock draft.

We began last month we an Alternate Reality Mock Draft, so it just feels right to kick June off in similar fashion. What the heck is an alternate reality mock draft? So glad you asked. This is how I described it (without actually describing it, of course) last month…

We’re promoting a new feature straight from AA to the big leagues today because, well, it’s Friday and that seems like as good a day as any to trot out something totally random and nonsensical. Alternate Reality Drafts – the name evokes a certain feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I like. Something about alternate realities and parallel universes really get the blood flowing.

A “real” mock draft is primed and ready, but it’ll need another quick edit before seeing the light of day. In the meantime, let’s pretend for a second that Bud Selig is utterly incompetent, out of touch, and flat out bad at his job. I know it’s a stretch, but try your best. Now let’s pretend that Bud’s latest executive decision was to announce that all big league clubs could only draft players with last names that share the first letter of the city in which they play. Got it? Good. Ignoring for a minute how utterly stupid and arbitrary such a decision would be, let’s see how this Alternate Reality Mock Draft would look if such rules were in place…

1.1 Washington: RHSP Zack Wheeler – The Nationals just can’t catch a break. Wheeler is a very good prospect, but missing out on a generational talent like Stephen Strasburg is a bitter pill to swallow. At least they’ll save some serious coin, right? Hey, maybe they can use the savings to hire a spellchecker…

1.2 Seattle: RHSP Stephen Strasburg – Hot rumor alert – Seattle’s petition to have MLB adopt my silly draft rule is being faxed to corporate headquarters as we speak…

1.3 San Diego: RHSP Tanner Scheppers – Scheppers may not be a terrible idea for the Padres in the real draft. He figures to be a reasonably easy sign (little to no leverage), but not at the expense of upside (I waffle at times, but I think I’m buying the talk that he has the second best raw stuff of any “college” guy behind Strasburg).

1.4 Pittsburgh: LHSP Matthew Purke – The Pirates have very few options here at pick number four (AJ Pollock being the only other potential first rounder with the magic letter leading off his last name), but Purke isn’t a bad consolation prize for a franchise in need of impact talent.

1.5 Baltimore: 3B Bobby Borchering – Slim pickings here for Baltimore, but they make the most of it by taking one of my absolute favorite bats in this entire draft. They have to hope that this pick works out a little better than the last time they drafted a high school infielder in the top ten…

1.6 San Francisco: LHSP Tyler Skaggs – After losing out on two electric arms, the Giants can only curse their bad luck and settle for a high upside prep arm. Max Stassi was also considered, but the Giants couldn’t justify using back to back high first rounders on catchers. Skaggs actually reminds me a little bit of a Madison Bumgarner/Tim Alderson mashup, so maybe there will be a happy ending in San Fran after all.

1.7 Atlanta: CF Dustin Ackley – If Seattle was the clear big winner in this format, then Atlanta is a close second. Ackley is a perfect fit for a Braves team loaded with young talent, but desperate for a fast moving bat. Ackley could slide right into the big league lineup by late summer; he would easily be the best hitter in their outfield from day one one, a backhanded compliment if there ever was one.

1.8 Cincinnati: RHSP Aaron Crow – A fake mock pick that could imitate the real thing, the Reds would be more than happy to land the near ML-ready groundballing righthander. The Reds thank their lucky stars that they pick ahead of the Rockies, knowing that the pickings are slim after Crow. Who would be next on their list? Brody Colvin is one of the few names I can come up with off the top of my head…

1.9 Detroit: RHSP Sam Dyson – Dyson over 3B Matt Davidson only because of Detroit scouting director David Chadd’s love of high velocity pitching. Dyson’s stock has yo-yoed all spring long, but the raw stuff is pretty sensational and worth the gamble at this spot. If he had performed better this season, this pick could have had an outside shot of happening in real life, but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

1.10 Washington: RHSP Alex White – It’s not quite Strasburg, but a Wheeler/White combo is intriguing in it’s own right. If the Nationals were still in Montreal, they could have had a 1-2 punch of Tyler Matzek and Shelby Miller. Wheeler and White or Matzek and Miller – which is the better combo? I think I’d take the latter, but it’s close.

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).

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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