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June 15, 2010

Future Shock

Draft Wrap: NL Central

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chicago Cubs

Day One Selections
16. Hayden Simpson, RHP, Southern Arkansas

Inside the Pick:
Easily the biggest shocker of the first round, but post-draft inquiries had it making more sense, as he's the player the Cubs wanted, and they feared a team with multiple first-round picks would nab him before they selected again.
What He is:
A guy who can light up a radar gun, as some scouts have seen him touch 97 mph with fastball while parked comfortably in the 92-95 range. He also has a plus curveball, and maintains his stuff deep into games.
What He is Not:
One with a classic scouting profile. The stuff is good, but he's undersized for a right-hander, and his fastball tends to be straight. He's unproved against top-notch competition, and will certainly need to make some adjustments as a pro.
Path with the Cubs:
Simpson shouldn't be a tough sign, but despite his college background, he'll likely start slowly with Boise in the Northwest League in preparation for a full-season debut in 2011.

Through Three Rounds
2. Reggie Golden, OF, Wetumpka HS (AL)
3. Micah Gibbs, C, Louisiana State

Golden is a tremendous athlete without classic toolsy outfielder size. Compact and strong, he's a plus runner with intriguing power, excellent arm strength, and the skills to play center. He's unrefined at the plate, but his upside is higher than many picked ahead of him. Gibbs is another potential steal, as some teams only had him a notch behind first-rounder Yasmani Grandal as the top college catcher in the draft. His beefy (to be kind) frame turns some off, but he should get to the big leagues on his defensive prowess alone, and he has a good offensive track record.

Of Note Afterward:
Fifth-round pick Matt Szczur is a blazing leadoff type who doubled as a wide receiver at Villanova. He doesn't offer much power-wise, but he knows how to get on base and steal bases. Seventh-rounder Ben Wells is a big, projectable righty from a small Arkansas high school who is a project, but has upside. Bryan Harper, the 27th-round pick, is Bryce's brother and a reliever with good velocity for a lefty.
Summary:
While it was initially hard to understand the Simpson selection at 16, at least it's more understandable with some time to digest the pick. Golden and Gibbs are one of the best second/third round combos around, and the club seemed to focus on upside throughout day two.

Cincinnati Reds
Day One Selections
12. Yasmini Grandal, C, Miami

Inside the Pick:
In the days leading up to the draft, Grandal is rumored to have floated a big price tag, which made the Royals nervous at four, and had some thinking he might slide all the way out of the first round. In the end, he went about where his talent belonged.
What He is:
An excellent offensive prospect for a catcher as a switch-hitter with power and patience. He also has a plus arm and earns huge grades for his makeup and leadership skills.
What He is Not:
Other than the arm, Grandal's defense can be slow and sluggish, with one scout saying, "When I look at him back there, it's like watching some 34-year-old Triple-A veteran." Like Yonder Alonso, another first-round pick from Miami with the Reds, he struggles at times against lefties.
Path with the Reds:
If the pre-draft rumors of a big-money request are true, Grandal likely won't sign until the deadline. It was be interesting to see if the Reds try to get him some time in the Arizona Fall League or just wait until 2011.

Through Three Rounds
2. Ryan LaMarre, OF, Michigan
3. Devin Lohman, SS, Long Beach State

LaMarre is a lanky, toolsy outfielder who impressed with his athleticism at Michigan, but didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet. He has already signed and tied a team record with three stolen bases in his second pro game for Low-A Dayton. Lohman is one of those polished college infield types with solid tools across the board and great makeup, but nothing that really stands out.

Of Note Afterward:
Fourth-rounder Brodie Greene is, in many ways, a clone of Lohman. Sixth-round pick Drew Cisco is the grandson of former big-league pitcher and coach Galen Cisco and it shows, and while he doesn't blow anyone away on a stuff level, he has three average-to-slightly-plus offerings and the command of a veteran. 
Summary:
Much of the success of this draft could end up revolving around Grandal, as the remainder of the Reds’ selections were predictable, if not out-and-out boring.

Houston Astros
Day One Selections
8. Delino DeShields, 2B, Woodward Academy (GA)

Inside the Pick:
The Astros had DeShields in their targets throughout the spring, and while few saw him as a top-10 talent, Houston feared he'd be gone by the time it selected again at 19.
What He is:
A burner with tools. Beyond his plus-plus speed, he generates surprising power with his whippy bat, and his game instincts are highly advanced thanks to his bloodlines. He's a very good defender at both second base and center field.  
What He is Not:
Arm strength is one of the few weaknesses in DeShields' game, and at 5-foot-9, he lacked the size for many teams to even consider him in the first round.
Path with the Astros:
DeShields should get a good amount of rookie-ball games in, as drafted this high, he shouldn't be a tough sign.

19. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Minooka HS (IL)

Inside the Pick:
Also going higher than expected, most teams thought that the best player in Illinois would go in the supplemental first round or second round.
What He is:
A big right-hander with upside. He is 6-foot-5 and athletically built. Foltynewicz consistently touched the mid-90s this spring, and his curveball was just as impressive for some.
What He is Not:
Foltynewicz will need some development. There are a lot of moving parts to his delivery, leading to inconsistent release points and control issues. Like many high school arms in cold-weather states, he doesn't have much of a changeup.
Path with the Astros:
Foltynewicz should be another easy sign, and Houston hopes he'll be good enough in short-season ball to earn a 2011 roster spot in Low-A.

33. Mike Kvasnicka, 3B/C, Minnesota

Inside the Pick:
While he rarely played there, many teams were intrigued by Kvasnicka's potential as a catcher, and while he primarily played outfield in the past, he was announced as a third baseman.
What He is:
Kvasnicka's multiple positions speak more to his athleticism than an inability to find a defensive home. He's a polished switch-hitter with at least average power, and his arm is a positive attribute anywhere on the field.
What He is Not:
Kvasnicka's swing can get a bit long at times, and he's not much of a runner. Teams like the bat, but there are questions as to whether it will be good enough to profile at third base of an outfield corner. 
Path with the Astros:
Kvasnicka has polish, and could go straight to Low-A once he signs.

Through Three Rounds
2. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Garey HS (CA)
3. Austin Wates, 2B/OF, Virginia Tech

Velasquez is an outstanding athlete who had legitimate pro potential as a shortstop, with teams wondering if his already above-average fastball would improve with a full-time commitment to the mound. Wates is an athletic, speedy player who can hit, but doesn't offer much power and still doesn't have a true defensive home.

Of Note Afterward:
Fourth-rounder Bobby Doran is a big power righty with plus heat and a good curveball that projects as a solid innings-eater in the pros. Fifth-rounder Ben Heath has big-time power for a catcher, but needs to improve behind the dish.
Summary:
With three picks on day one, the Astros looked to bring some life to a moribund system, and while some players look initially to be over-drafts, at least the club focused on athleticism and upside.

Milwaukee Brewers
Day One Selections
14. Dylan Covey, RHP, Marantha HS (CA)

Inside the Pick:
One of the top high school righties in the country, Covey's stock slipped following some rough outings late in the season, and while he fell out of consideration as a top-10 selection, he found a safe landing spot not too far down.
What He is:
Covey's combination of velocity and command is rarely found in teenagers. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, touches 95-96 nearly every time out, and throws consistent strikes with the pitch while using all four corners of the strike zone. His curveball is already plus, and his slider and changeup have a chance to get there.
What He is Not:
Covey has had some consistency issues, and is just more hittable than one with his stuff could be at times. He'll need to tighten up his changeup as a pro and learn how to pitch off his fastball more, as opposed to over-relying on the pitch.
Path with the Padres:
Covey's polish could have him moving quicker than most high school arms.

Through Three Rounds
2. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Alabama
3. Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Charleston Southern

Jimmy Nelson is massive righty that draws some comparisons to a younger version of current Reds starter Aaron Harang. Thornburg is seven inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter than Nelson, but he arguably has better stuff, touching 94-95 mph with his fastball and missing bats with a hammer curve.

Of Note Afterward:
Fourth-round pick Hunter Morris was among the NCAA leaders in home runs this year, but as a first base-only prospect, he has no margin for error. A seventh-rounder from Canada, righty Joel Pierce is loaded with size and projection, but is definitely a project. Dan Gibson went in the 26thround, but the high-school lefty from Florida was a fourth-to-sixth-round talent who will be a tough sign.
Summary:
The Brewers need for pitching defined their draft, as only six of their first 18 picks were position players. With that in mind, this is a nice mix of upside and some players who could help quickly.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Day One Selections
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (TX)

Inside the Pick:
The Pirates waffled back and forth all spring between Taillon, the best high school pitcher in the draft, and Manny Machado, the top high school position player. Ultimately, and to their credit, they selected the better (and more expensive) talent.
What He is:
For some, Taillon is the top high school arm to come out of Texas in a decade. He's 6-foot-7 and a powerfully-built 230 pounds, and he consistently sits at 94-95 mph with his fastball while touching 97-98 every time out. His power curveball has the potential to be a plus-plus wipeout offering, and he even has an advanced changeup for his age.
What He is Not:
Taillon pitched down to his competition at times, and was occasionally hit hard this spring, although he finished the year strong. Like many pitchers his size, he can have occasional control problems.
Path with the Pirates:
Taillon is looking for record money, so don't expect him to pitch this year. That said, and assuming Pedro Alvarez is up, he's the best prospect in the system by a mile the second he signs.

Through Three Rounds
2. Stetson Allie, RHP, Lakewood HS (OH)
3. Mel Rojas Jr., OF, Wabash Valley (JuCo)

Allie's pure stuff is just as good, if not better than Taillon, although he lacks the higher pick's polish or command. He's already touched 100 mph in high school and has a wicked slider, but he's only been throwing strikes for about six weeks and has a reported $3 million price tag. If the Pirates sign both Taillon and Allie, they've nabbed to the two highest-upside arms in the draft, and it has the possibility of being a huge moment in the franchise's troubled recent history. The only position player taken by the Pirates in the first 10 rounds, Rojas has plus speed, a great arm, and the potential for power, but his game needs considerable refinement.

Of Note Afterward:
Of the slew of right-handers taken on day two, high school talents Nick Kingham (fourth round) and Austin Kubitza (seventh) offer the most size and projection.
Summary:
Taillon and Allie could define this draft for the Pirates, and maybe even the franchise for the upcoming decade. Now the Pirates just have to sign them both, a task that could cost upward of $10 million.

St. Louis Cardinals
Day One Selections
25. Zach Cox, 3B, Arkansas

Inside the Pick:
One of the top pure hitters in the draft, Cox floated a huge price tag in the hours leading up to the draft, which led to him nearly plummeting out of the first round.
What He is:
Cox is an extremely refined hitter. He works the count like a veteran, draws his fair share of walks, and consistently barrels up balls and drives them into both gaps. Scouts have little problem seeing him as a .300 hitter in the pros with excellent on-base skills.
What He is Not:
The majority of Cox's value revolves around his bat, and there are plenty of debates about his power potential due to a single-plane swing designed for line drives as opposed to loft and power. He's a bad-bodied third baseman with average-at-best defensive skills.
Path with the Cardinals:
Cox has the kind of advanced bat that should move through the system quickly, but look for the Cardinals to call his bluff on the money, as nobody is interested in granting his request of "Pedro Alvarez money."

46. Seth Blair, RHP, Arizona State

Inside the Pick:
An advanced college arm was thought to be a late first-round pick for some, and it was a surprise to see him fall this far, although the Scott Boras factor may have entered into his slight drop.
What He is:
With athleticism and a smooth delivery, Blair's fastball can be an overwhelming pitch at times, as notable for its 92-95 mph velocity as it is for its natural sink. All spring, he showed the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games, and his command and control both rate as above average.
What He is Not:
Blair does not have a plus secondary offering, as his curve and change are inconsistent, but at least flash as quality offerings at times. 
Path with the Cardinals:
Blair's ability to throw strikes, miss bats, and generate ground balls could lead to a quick run through the minor-league system.

50. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Henderson HS (TX) 

Inside the Pick:Seen by most as a supplemental first-round selection, Jenkins had to wait until the final pick of Monday to hear his name called.
What He is:
Hugely athletic and projectable, Jenkins is nearly everything one looks for in a high school arm. He's in the low-90s now, can spin a breaking ball, and scouts drool as to what he can do once he focuses full-time on baseball.
What He is Not:
A sure thing, by any sense. One can dream on Jenkins all day, but it would be foolish to expect any kind of immediate dominance out of him.
Path with the Cardinals:
Despite a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Baylor, Jenkins is not expected to be a tough sign. He'll likely be a one-level-at-a-time prospect unless there's a sudden, major step forward.

Through Three Rounds
2. Jordan Swagery, RHP, Arizona State
3. San Tuivailala, SS, Aragon HS (CA)

Swaggerty was one of the better closers in college baseball this year, and while he could move quickly, his big-league ceiling is more of a set-up type. Tuivailala is a much better athlete than one can normally find in the third round, as he offers plus speed and a huge arm, but his baseball skills are quite raw.

Of Note Afterward:
The biggest story is 12th-round pick Austin Wilson. Arguably the toolsiest player in the draft, Wilson has easy first-round talent, but he has no agent, and nobody can get a good feel for what it would take to sign him away from Stanford, where he has a strong commitment, as well as a family that stresses education ahead of all else. More signable should be fourth-rounder Cody Stanley, a small catcher with good defense and excellent contact skills, and fifth-rounder Nick Longmire, a big, strong outfielder who also has a speed element in his game.
Summary: While they might not blow anyone away, all three of the Cardinals' Monday picks could have gone much higher, so it's quite a haul based on that alone. Wilson is highly unlikely to sign, but simply using a 12th-round pick to be the only team that can dangle a check in front of him is a commendable, albeit risky, maneuver.  

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

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