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June 10, 2010

Future Shock

Draft Wrap: NL East

by Kevin Goldstein

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Atlanta Braves
Day One Selections
35. Mike Lipka, SS, McKinny HS (TX)

Inside the Pick: Lipka had an outstanding private workout with the Braves less than a week before the draft, and they were looking for athletic, up-the-middle talents with their top selection.
What He is: The first things scouts talk about is Lipka's athleticism and makeup. His plus-plus speed stands out the most, but his upper-body strength provides surprising juice in his bat, and his arm is well above average.
What He is Not: Refined. Lipka was an outstanding wide receiver in high school, and he's never focused on baseball full time. He has all of the tools to play shortstop, but he's quite raw there and needs to improve his footwork and core fielding skills. 
Path with the Braves: Lipka should sign quickly and begin his career in the Gulf Coast League, with an eye toward full-season ball. The second he signs, he's the top middle-infield prospect in the system.

Through Three Rounds
2 (53): Todd Cunningham, 3B/OF, Jacksonville State
2 (70): Andrelton Simmons, RHP, Western Oklahoma State (JC)
3 (101): Joe Leonard, 3B, Pittsburgh
4 (134): Dave Filak, RHP, Oneonta State
5 (164): Phil Gosselin, 2B, Virginia

Cunningham had first-round aspirations going into the spring, but didn't have the season many expected. He's played all over the field and was announced at third base, but he's not especially good at any one position. He's one of those players who doesn't have a lot of holes in his game, but he also lacks a standout tool. Simmons is a crazy-great defender at shortstop, but he can't hit, and one scout called his stuff out of the bullpen, "downright nasty," as his fastball/slider combination could lead to big strikeout rates. That said, there are rumors that he might begin his career in the field. Leonard put up massive numbers at Pitt, though despite being 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he's not a power hitter, and his overall game is big and slow. 

Of Note Afterward:
Fourth-rounder Dave Filak was one of the most dominating D-III arms around, flashing mid-90s heat and a hammer curve after transferring from behind the mound to on it. He'll likely start for now, but late-inning relief in the big leagues could be his future. 
Summary:
The Braves did their best to address some system shortages without having a true first-round selection, and the preponderance of polished college types after Lipka was a surprise considering their general organizational philosophy. The club is hoping the 18th-round pick Zach Alvord will consider signing with his home-state team, as the athletic second baseman has a strong college commitment and a six-figure price tag.

Florida Marlins
Day One Selections
23. Christian Yellich, OF, Westlake HS (CA)

Inside the Pick:
A bit of a surprise for most. Not because of Yelich's talent, but because they had primarily been attached to local talent, especially high school arms.
What He is:
One of the better pure hitters among the high school class. Multiple scouts commented on the visceral attractiveness of his swing, and he's big and strong enough to project for plus power down the road. More than just a hitter, he's a very good athlete and currently a 55 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
What He is Not:
Somebody who will play a premium position. Primarily a first baseman in high school, the Marlins announced him as an outfielder, but he'll be limited to left as he lacks the skills for center and his arm is well below average.
Path with the Marlins:
Yelich won't be a fast mover, and his bat will have to carry him to the big leagues due to his defensive limitations.

Through Three Rounds
2 (73): Rob Rasmussen, LHP, UCLA
3 (104): J.T. Realmuto, SS, Albert HS (OK)
4 (137): Andrew Toles, OF, Sandy Creek HS (GA)
5 (167): Robert Morey, RHP, Virginia

Rasmussen is a short left-hander who nonetheless has above-average velocity, but it's his plus curveball that makes him dangerous. He'll begin his career as a starter, but many wonder if he can stay in that role. Realmuto is a good athlete, but maybe not good enough to stay at shortstop. The good news is that he can really hit, and he certainly has the arm for third base. 

Of Note Afterward:
Seventh-round pick Mark Canha played much of the spring hurt and is limited to left field, but he's shown incredible raw power in the past. Long, lean, and ultra-projectable, the Marlins will have to spend a lot of money to keep 16th-round righty Randy LeBlanc from going to college.
Summary:
To nobody's surprise, the Marlins went high-school heavy this week, and while Rasmussen isn't the kind of player they normally pick, what he lacks in upside he could make up for by moving quickly through the system.

New York Mets
Day One Selections
7. Matt Harvey, RHP, North Carolina

Inside the Pick:
After looking at college hitters throughout the spring, the Mets soured on the price tags of Zach Cox and Yasmani Grandal, while feeling that high school catcher Justin O'Conner just wasn't good enough to be taken this high. While Harvey doesn't have the consistency of some other college arms, he certainly has the upside.
What He is:
A pure power pitcher with a big frame and the ability to not only eat innings, but dominate late in games. His low-to-mid-90s fastball touched 96-97 mph on occasion this spring, and his slider is a plus offering that he throws with confidence at any point in the count.
What He is Not:
A guy many teams trust. His first two years at North Carolina were dogged by inconsistency in stuff, performance, command, and mechanics, and many teams couldn't put him high on their list after recalling his nightmarish showing in the Cape Cod League last summer. He's been awfully good this year, but there's a fear that he's could regress at any moment.
Path with the Mets:
Barring a step in the wrong direction, Harvey could move relatively quickly. As a Scott Boras client, don't expect a quick sign, but he should start 2011 at High-A.

Through Three Rounds
3 (89): Blake Forsythe, C, Tennessee

Forsythe has the kind of patience and power rarely found in a catcher, but it comes with plenty of holes in his swing as well, as few think he'll hit for average. Thanks to impressive skills, he should at least be a good backup, with the chance for more.

Of Note Afterward:
Fourth-round pick Cory Vaughn is the son of Greg and has similar tools, but his production has always fallen short of expectations. Fifth-rounder Matt den Dekker didn't sign last year after a tough junior year, but only improved a bit this season. He's a fantastic center fielder, but the bat remains a question mark.
Summary:
The Mets surprised many by being willing to spend with their first pick, and they should be commended for it, but after that, they became once again predictably boring with their selections.

Philadelphia Phillies
Day One Selections
27. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Germantown Friends HS (PA)

Inside the Pick:
Certainly a bit of an overdraft, but the Phillies wanted the local product, and they were positive that he wouldn't get to their next pick at 77th overall.
What He is:
A 6-foot-6 lefty who can touch 95 mph, he’s a pretty rare creature. He'll usually sit at 90-93, has some feel for a breaking ball, and has much better command than most tall teenagers. 
What He is Not:
A sure thing. Biddle needs to learn a changeup, and his complicated delivery can get a bit out of whack at times. His upside is worthy of the 27thoverall selection, but nobody thinks he'll move quickly through the minors.
Path with the Phillies:
As he went much higher than expected, Biddle shouldn't be a tough sign and will be able to get his feet wet in the Gulf Coast League. He's likely a one-level-at-a-time type from there.

Through Three Rounds
2 (77): Perci Garner, RHP, Ball State
3 (108): Cameron Rupp, C, Texas

Garner went to Ball State as a quarterback, but ended it as a pitcher. His plus-plus fastball (up to 96 mph) and rapidly improving slider should get him to the big leagues as a classic power reliever. Rupp went a bit higher than expected as a huge-makeup, good-defensive catcher who leaves college with tons of questions about his hitting ability, although he has some pop.

Of Note Afterward: Sixth-round pick Gauntlett Eldemire is a fantastic athlete with plus power and speed who could be a steal if he can close some of the holes in his swing. Ninth-round pick Brenton Allen is a classic Phillies selection as a big, athletic high school outfielder who is still learning how to play the game.
Summary:
While the Phillies surprised with the first-round pick, upside and athleticism was still their focus with later picks, and like most Philly drafts, the range of possibilities three years from now is vast.

Washington Nationals
Day One Selections
1. Bryce Harper, OF, College of Southern Nevada (JC)

Inside the Pick:
He was the Nationals pick here the second he skipped out on high school two years early, and that never wavered after he exceeded what were already historically high expectations.
What He is:
A player with absolutely historic-level power, as it already shows up in games with wood bats. But that's not his only tool, as some grade his arm at the top of the scale, and he's at least an average runner. 
What He is Not:
A catcher anymore, as the Nationals announced him as an outfielder, and that's a good call, as catching will add to the injury risk, distract from his offense as he was raw behind the plate, and force his bat to the bench once a week. With his power is going to come strikeouts, and his on-the-field showmanship is going to need to be tempered or he'll take some fastballs in the ribs.
Path with the Nationals:
As an outfielder, he could be in the big leagues in three years or less, despite his age. Getting there by 20 is almost an expectation at this point, and 19 isn't completely out of the question. Either way, he projects as a massive, MVP-level producer in the big leagues. Now, they just need to sign him.

Through Three Rounds
2 (51): Sammy Solis, LHP, San Diego
3 (83): Rick Hague, SS, Rice

The Nationals tempered their risk (and their wallet) with these two selections. Solis had some higher expectations, maybe even sliding into the end of the first round, and he's your classic polished college lefty who pounds the strike zone with an average fastball, average curve, and very good change. Hague had an up-and-down spring at Rice, but he's a scrappy infielder who profiles best at second, but can play on the left side in a pinch. If he can stay up the middle, he has solid pop there.

Of Note Afterward:
 Fourth-round pick A.J. Cole fell due to signability concerns, and one wonders if Washington has the budget to give the Florida high school product the seven figures he's looking for after they sign Harper. If they can, he's a great pick here as a highly projectable righty who already touches 95 mph. Harper caught 17th-round pick Tyler Hanks this spring, and he showed big-time velocity out of the bullpen, but little else.
Summary: Obviously, the success or failure of this draft revolves almost entirely around Harper.  

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:  A's,  J.T. Realmuto,  The Who,  Selections

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