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May 31, 2011

Future Shock

Draft Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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You having fun yet? Good, because teams certainly are not as they set up their respective war rooms for next week's draft. This IM conversation with one front-office official says it all.

FO: So who are we getting?
I don't even know who Pittsburgh is taking.
We don't have a clue either, and we're in here arguing about who will be there when we go.

The list of players the official’s team is considering is nearly double where the team is picking. The size of the list shows how the flattening of talent and the absence of no-brainer selections have left teams scrambling for one last look at players in high school tournaments, private workouts, and the first round of NCAA tournament play.

The last two years were much easier; everyone knew Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper would be the first picks in the draft, so you worked from there. Now, just one week away from the first selection, the Pirates are still considering a range of players, which complicates any flow chart of draft logic. Rumors of the Pirates being interested in the top high school pitcher (Dylan Bundy) and position player (Bubba Starling) have waned considerably, but there is a consensus that there is very little consensus within Pittsburgh in terms of taking Rice infielder Anthony Rendon, UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole, or University of Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen. If forced to do a mock draft today (you'll see one later in the week), I'd attach Hultzen to the Pirates, but based on numerous conversations with both teams and agents, this would be my level of confidence:

Danny Hultzen: 40%
Gerrit Cole:
Anthony Rendon:
The Field:

That creates quite a conundrum for teams right below Pittsburgh, but here's how things are shaking out in the next four picks.

2. Seattle Mariners: They've been attached to Rendon all spring, and it has reached the point where if the Pirates nab Rendon at first overall, nobody has a good feel for just what Seattle would do with the pick.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona has been heavy on Hultzen all spring, but if he's gone, they'll likely stick with a college arm. One interesting rumor has them favoring UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer over his teammate, Cole.

4. Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore is the first team thought to have heavy interest in Dylan Bundy, the top high school pitcher in the draft. He’s only tangentially in the mix for the first three picks, so he should be around for the Orioles. This could come down to getting a more realistic feel for Bundy's bonus demands toward the end of the week.

5. Kansas City Royals: The Royals could be in a similar pickle to last year: The players they really wanted were gone, so they settled for infielder Christian Colon, who signed quickly for the recommended slot. There are plenty of scenarios with the Royals spending Sunday night calling around to figure out which college pitcher would do the same this year, saving the extra cash for the international market or stowing it away to help lock up some young stars down the road.

The Annual Money Game Begins
Chances are good that you've already heard the crazy numbers being thrown around. Dylan Bundy wants $30 million, Archie Bradley wants $20 million, and Bubba Starling will need a record deal to buy him away from becoming the next quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over these figures on forums, Twitter, and other places where people gather to talk about baseball, but keep in mind that absolutely none of this is real. Remember the kind of numbers being thrown out for Strasburg and Harper. Remember Buster Posey scaring off the Rays with the first overall pick in 2008 with an eight-figure demand. In the end, all of those players signed huge deals, but they were for less than half of the numbers that were out there prior to the draft. This is just posturing; there is no need to get too worked up over anything you hear about money until Monday.

“Historic Draft My Ass”
That's how one front-office official summed up this year's class, whereas another was more diplomatic, insisting the historic quality of this year’s class an invention of the media and had little basis in reality. This is not a bad draft by any stretch, but it does have its weaknesses. It's remarkably pitching-heavy, and there are very few hitters that you can dream of being a middle-of-the-order run producer. There are plenty of scenarios where as many as eight of the first 10 picks could be pitchers, and even of those, how many have ace ceilings after Cole and Bundy? “There is a remarkable amount of good in this draft,” said one scouting director, “but we haven't seen the amount of great we were hoping for.” This draft could turn out to be better for teams picking late in the first round, or those with multiple compensations picks (hello, Rays), as there should be plenty of solid players available, and the talent gap between single- and double-digit selections won't be as wide.

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:  Anthony Rendon,  Dylan Bundy

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

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In regards to Bubba Starling, how much of his desire to play QB at Nebraska is a smokescreen to gain leverage? Taylor Martinez is entrenched as the starter there for the next three seasons (he is a RS Sophomore) and he isn't the type of player to declare early for the draft as he isn't a prototypical NFL QB.

May 31, 2011 04:19 AM
rating: 2
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

It's a real thing, but he's generally seen as signable for those willing to buy him away from football.

May 31, 2011 08:55 AM

With the way the MLB game is becoming more and more a pitcher's league, and this draft being so top-heavy on arms, I would have to think that the better position players would be that much more valuable. Thoughts?

May 31, 2011 04:53 AM
rating: 0

You could just as easily make a case for the counterpoint in that you need to draft pitching to keep up with the league.

May 31, 2011 07:46 AM
rating: 2

KG, 2011 is a lost season for the Mets. But if they actually use the draft to rebuild (for once), it would be a huge step forward. Historically the Meta have cheaped out and gone lockstep with Selig on slots. Any hope for 2011?

May 31, 2011 05:52 AM
rating: 0

One wonders how much the cash-strapped Metropolitans could ante up in terms of this year's draft. Einhorn's infusion is apparently already spoken for on the team's balance sheet, so it may not be the optimal time for going over slot.

May 31, 2011 06:46 AM
rating: 0

Lets not forget that these are the Mets, not to mention they have a lot of money coming off the books at the end of the year. They could easily allocate a big chunk of next year's payroll to the draft budget.

May 31, 2011 07:48 AM
rating: 0

I'm also wondering about the Amazins. BA says they are leaning bat (Mahtook, Michael). Shouldn't they get an arm? (Barnes, Guerrieri, Meyer)?

May 31, 2011 07:56 AM
rating: 0

Shouldn't they get the best player they can? It's not like they're loaded with surefire positional players for the future.

May 31, 2011 22:15 PM
rating: -1
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Alderson says they will spend, and even with their financial issues, draft bonuses are just a drop in the bucket of a larger baseball economy.

May 31, 2011 08:56 AM
John Carter

Re Wagman's pitcher-heavy draft making position picks more valuable: To some degree that must be so. However, this is only one year and, of course, this class will not all rise to the Majors at the same time. They will blend with the surrounding draft classes which are likely more balanced.

May 31, 2011 06:31 AM
rating: 1
Brian Kopec

Why does it seem like the Pirates always get the first overall pick when there is no 'slam dunk' candidate? I feel like I'm being set up for yet another clunker.

May 31, 2011 07:17 AM
rating: 0
Mtn Jam

As, presumably, a Pirates fan, who do you want them to draft? For a while I hoped they'd take Cole but now I'm back to Rendon. This is a pick the Pirates can't afford to screw up and I think Rendon is the safer pick who'll still provide plenty of upside.

May 31, 2011 07:24 AM
rating: 0

If there are as many as four or five plausible #1 choices, the chances that the Pirates will "screw up" and take a complete clunker are very small. However, this draft is going to a barometer on fan support, because the flip side is that no matter who they take, they'll be open to criticism for not taking someone else instead. Patience with Huntington and crew seems appropriate, at least from my perspective as having no particular rooting interest in the team, for or against. I don't envy the guy his situation.

May 31, 2011 09:51 AM
rating: 0
Brian Kopec

I have neither patience nor pity for anyone in that front office. All goodwill has been thoroughly spent. I am no longer interested in being fair-minded.

May 31, 2011 11:58 AM
rating: 2
Brian Kopec

Rendon. Of course, I haven't been sitting in the stands for any of his games so I assume (HA!) that the Pirates have had a better look at him than I.

May 31, 2011 11:56 AM
rating: 0

Thanks for being the first (that I've seen anyway) try to knock some of the air out of this historic draft nonsense.

It's been pretty clear for awhile (imo) that the only thing really historic about this draft class if the amount of coverage and therefore hype.

May 31, 2011 07:30 AM
rating: 1

It MAY be historic in that it might be the last one under the current draft rules .... hard slotting, anyone?

May 31, 2011 07:36 AM
rating: 0

Why would smart owners want hard slotting? They know it's a relatively cheap expense, and the current structure allows for one to gain an edge in talent by spending just a few extra million bucks. Also, how could you justify hard slotting for American players, yet international signings still be unregulated? I just don't see it happening.

May 31, 2011 07:54 AM
rating: 0

Since when do the smart owners run things?

May 31, 2011 11:44 AM
rating: 2

Where are the Monday Morning ten packs? I haven't seen them the past two weeks? Am I missing them?

May 31, 2011 07:54 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Just a bad timing thing. Yesterday was a holiday, and with the draft next week you won't get one. They'll return the week after.

May 31, 2011 08:57 AM

No doubt Mr. Joe Wieland would have had a mention...now up to a ridiculous 70:3 K/BB ratio after his last gem... 7 5 0 0 9

May 31, 2011 10:07 AM
rating: 1

Yup, and Matt Moore and Jedd Gyorko.

May 31, 2011 13:40 PM
rating: 0

They haven't been there. And I AM missing them.

May 31, 2011 08:58 AM
rating: 1

Kevin, any thoughts on where Matthew Purke might go?

May 31, 2011 14:57 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Too many worries about the performance vs. the money. Not even first round is a sure thing right now.

May 31, 2011 15:18 PM
Brian Cartwright

As a Pirates fan I'd be happy with Rendon, but I'm surprised KG doesn't have Bauer, a guy who's been growing on me, on their list of possible choices.

Jun 01, 2011 17:12 PM
rating: 0
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