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April 29, 2010

Future Shock

Projecting The Top 10

by Kevin Goldstein

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Doing a mock draft in late April is a silly exercise, but it makes for a good construct to talk about some of the rumors swirling around the top of the upcoming first round, as well as some general directions, so let's look at the first 10 picks and just take a general temperature.

1. Washington Nationals. There are no rumors here other than Bryce Harper who, if anything, is getting better as the season rolls on. Now at .410/.497/.917 with 21 home runs and 27 walks in 156 at-bats, Harper has done everything expected and more. The only nitpick is throw accuracy, as while his arm strength is plus-plus, he has gunned down only four of 28 runners attempting to steal.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates. Much of the talk right now revolves around the Pirates "pulling another Tony Sanchez," as one team official put it. While they won't reach as far down as they did last year, much of their focus of late has been on Florida high school infielder Manny Machado, as the Pirates have been four to six deep at recent games, including appearances by general manager Neal Huntington. Machado has established himself as the top high school position player in the draft, but nobody sees him as the best non-Harper talent available. However, with the top of the draft exceedingly unbalanced in favor of pitchers, positional scarcity could play a role here.

"In a normal year, he's not a top-five pick," said one team official. "But there's power, maybe a special bat, and about a 50/50 chances of sticking at shortstop."

Meanwhile, another scouting director wasn't nearly as optimistic.

"I just don't think I'd be excited about taking a guy like that with a top-five pick," he said. Other options here would be top college arms like Mississippi lefty Drew Pomeranz, but price tags and the Pirates’ history with highly drafted pitchers make that a bit of a long shot.

3. Baltimore Orioles. By all accounts, the Orioles would love to see James Taillon still on the board for them at third overall. The quintessential Texas high school righty, Taillon has been inconsistent at times this spring, but he's a 6-foot-6 power righty who has been up to 98 mph with a very good curveball. No pitcher in the draft comes close to his ceiling, but he could end up costing Baltimore something in the Tyler Matzek ($3.9 million)-to-Jacob Turner ($4.7 million) range, if not more. He's represented by the Hendricks brothers, and while Scott Boras has the far more negative profile among fans, there are plenty of teams who would rather take a Boras client than deal with the Hendricks brothers, with all other things being equal.

"At least with Boras, you know how things are going to go," said one team official.

4. Kansas City Royals. Rich in young pitching, the Royals also have their eye on Machado, while they are monitoring top college arms like Pomeranz, Florida Gulf Coast lefty Chris Sale, and LSU's Anthony Ranaudo, who has slipped in the eyes of many due to injuries and inconsistency. Like many teams, they'd like to find a position player, but don't know if any are worthy of a pick this high.

5. Cleveland Indians. This is the highest the Indians have picked since 1992, when they selected North Carolina righty Paul Shuey, who had an 11-year career as a good set-up man. The Indians are said to be focusing on upside here, and while the crop of college pitchers is deep, they're more safe than sexy, leaving Cleveland's focus on the high school crop. The best two after Taillon are a pair of highly-projectable right-handers, Dylan Covey in Calfornia and Karsten Whitson in Florida.

6. Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have one of the worst systems in baseball, and they are looking for something that can help quickly, so this could be any one of the big college arms mentioned above, and this is also the first slot where Georgia Tech right-hander Deck McGuire comes into play. McGuire has excellent statistics, but mixed reviews from scouts. One scouting director praised the 6-foot-6 righty for having four average-to-plus pitches along with a good feel for his craft, while another called him, "just a big version of [failed former White Sox first-round pick] Kyle McCulloch."

7. New York Mets. Multiple sources indicated that the Mets will "go off the board," or "pull a surprise" at No. 7. While one of the remaining college arms might be the more obvious choice, three sources indicated a connection between the Mets and Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon. While this draft is filled with players generating highly divergent scouting reports, maybe nobody has brought more wide-ranging opinions than Colon. Here a sample from two high-ranking team officials.

The Good: "He's shocked us with his power and he's proven some stuff with wood bats for us already as well. He's not a runner, but he has great footwork, great hands, and a good arm. He's not sexy with upside, but for me, if you are talking about a guy like Manny Machado, you're hope is that in three years he's as good as Colon is now."

The Bad: "Based on what I expected, he's the most overrated and overhyped guy I've seen all spring. He's a 30 [on the 20-80 scouting scale] runner and he's kind of fat. It's a gritty utility guy for me, as I just saw no tools there. How many 30 runners are playing shortstop in the big leagues? At best, he's maybe Ronnie Belliard."

8. Houston Astros. One of the worst systems in baseball, by all accounts the Astros are simply lining up the top college arms and playing the waiting game to see who is still on the board when their pick arrives. They've been deep on some recent outings by Sale.

9. San Diego Padres. While the quick-moving college arms are appealing, the Padres are also looking at the high school models, with particular attention being given to Covey, the Pasadena righty who offers a lot of polish for a teenager and considerable stuff, with a fastball that gets up to the mid-90s, an already plus curve, and some feel for a changeup.

 10. Oakland Athletics. The A's are one of the teams that are harder to predict, as with so many mixed feelings about players coming from the teams ahead of them, they could be in a position where something unexpected falls in their lap. Without that happening, many have connected them to Arkansas infielder Zack Cox, but that might be a lazy guess, as Cox is this year's Moneyball player. With a .436 batting average and 28 walks in 165 at-bats, Cox is an on-base machine, but he lacks the athleticism to play up the middle, and with just six home runs, he doesn't have the power to profile well for a corner. A great sleeper pick here might be fast-rising Michael Choice, the Texas-Arlington outfielder who is exploding up draft charts and currently hitting .401/.565/.754 for the Mavericks. You like walks? Choice has drawn 53 in just 142 at-bats, and he far outstrips Cox on a tools level with a classic right-field profile of plus power, plus arm strength, and solid average to a tick-above speed.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Righty,  The Who

26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Bill Parker

"The only nitpick is throw accuracy"...and that he's a world-class jerk, right? :)

Apr 29, 2010 06:53 AM
rating: 2
 
Fresh Hops

I keep hearing this, but what has he done to merit the reputation? I'm sure he's not humble. But what actual make-up issues does he have that would make teams not want him?

These are serious questions, not rhetorical ones.

Apr 29, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 0
 
Bill Parker

I was making reference to one of Mr. Goldstein's recent columns. I don't know any of the answers to your questions, but apparently a lot of scouts think they do.

Apr 30, 2010 07:17 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

4/28 isn't good. Is it the accuracy -- bad throws, mechanics (correctable?) or is it the pitchers? At his size, if he's not a catcher, are we going to see Adam Dunn comps?

Apr 29, 2010 07:40 AM
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Pitchers certainly aren't helping, but it definitely takes some time for him to uncork a throw.

Apr 29, 2010 09:52 AM
 
GagneCY03

Yeah, I wouldn't expect JC pitchers to worry much about holding runners, but Bryce Harper has a Tim Tebow-like release.

Apr 29, 2010 16:56 PM
rating: 0
 
BaseballNUT2009

Can Harper play CF in MLB?
That kind of a bat on a CF would be great.

Apr 29, 2010 08:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Jeff Reese

If he has to move (and I lean that way), he'll likely end up at 3B or RF.

Apr 29, 2010 09:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

No way he's a CF as a pro. Order of operation here will be catcher, then third, then right.

Apr 29, 2010 09:51 AM
 
Hank Brockett

Is Machado a Jio Mier type?

Apr 29, 2010 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
dtung

No, more bat and definitely more pop. Less likely to stick at SS.

Apr 29, 2010 09:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Not at all. Mier is a slick defender that not only projects as a big league SS, but as a plus one. Machado will likely move off SS, and his value is mostly offensively.

Apr 29, 2010 09:50 AM
 
TheBunk

I have such a hard time wrapping my head around Baltimore taking Taillon when they wouldn't take Matzek last year.

Apr 29, 2010 09:08 AM
rating: 1
 
Brian Kopec

You want another nitpick about Harper? (The nitpickiest nitpick of all?) He has drawn only 28 walks in roughly 185 plate appearances.

28/185 is a damn fine ratio under most circumstances, but not for a guy slugging .910 in a league with very inexperienced pitchers. Now, I am NOT about to criticize the plate discipline of a guy with a .497 OBP(!!!), but something odd is going on here.

Perhaps league offensive numbers are a bit higher than I think and .910 sluggers are nothing special. Perhaps pitchers recognize that they will get noticed if they get Harper out and are trying to make their reputation by going right at him. It just seems like he should be getting pitched around a bit more than he is, considering his numbers and the quality of pitching in his league.

Apr 29, 2010 09:18 AM
rating: 0
 
tdrury

Well, we ARE talking about a guy that swung at an intentional walk pitch in his first game, right?

Apr 29, 2010 09:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Dano

He was doing his Kelly Leak impression.

Apr 30, 2010 07:36 AM
rating: 0
 
awayish

he's in the league to showcase his skills. obviously he would want to show off the ability to hit the ball.

Apr 29, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
Hoff

yeah if you're dominating the pitching that hard you're better off trying to swing aggressively.

Apr 29, 2010 16:49 PM
rating: 0
 
kpr0314

Not sure I understand the comments on the Pirates at all-Machado is a high schooler with Boras as his advisr-is he not? If Pirates are going to take him, it would be for one reason only-they think he's worth the pick. If money's the issue the college players would be the way to go over him.

Apr 29, 2010 09:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

Not necessarily. If the consensus on Machado is that he's not really a top-five pick in most drafts, then the 2nd-round slot money would still be more than he could probably get after a couple of years in college. Boras is smart enough not to play hard to get when prince charming asks him out.

Apr 29, 2010 15:15 PM
rating: 0
 
dantroy

This is the first I've heard about the Mets going off the board. They rarely go overslot, which is bad enough, but there's really no excuse for picking a signability guy. They won't pick this high again next year, after all.

Apr 29, 2010 09:57 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Haha. I wouldn't be so sure of that.

That aside, they need a college arm. But we must never underestimate the ineptitude of Omar Minaya.

Apr 29, 2010 17:37 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

All speculation aside, the Mets have a history of taking pitchers in the first round. I don't think they'll break with that trend for a chubby shortstop. My guess is Chris Sale.

Apr 29, 2010 17:43 PM
rating: 0
 
drmorris

Would Oakland's selection of Choice essentially replace the vanished Grant Desme?

Apr 29, 2010 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
Cardinals645

I know it's early to be projecting picks, but how soon will you be putting out a Top Potential Draftees list?

Apr 29, 2010 11:24 AM
rating: 1
 
villapalomares

what is it about the hendricks brothers that makes them difficult to negotiate with?

Apr 29, 2010 20:29 PM
rating: 0
 
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