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June 9, 2011

Future Shock

AL Central Draft Wrap

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chicago White Sox
First Three Rounds
1s. (47) Keenyn Walker, OF, Central Arizona College
2. (80) Erik Johnson, RHP, California
3. (110) Jeff Soptic, RHP, Johnson County College

Who They are: Walker is exactly the kind of player the White Sox used to avoid, but with Kenny Williams' edict to focus on upside, he's a great find. Yes, he's raw, but he's a big athlete with plus speed and is developing power from both sides of the plate. Scouts that like him, really like him, and while Walker is a significant risk, his kind of upside is hard to find outside the first round.

Johnson is a safer pick with third- or fourth-starter upside, but he's a big, physical right-hander with above-average velocity and a good slider. He's not pretty to watch and needs to throw more strikes.

Soptic is 6-foot-6, throws 95-98 mph, and I'm done saying good things about him. The hope is that he can find some command, hone his breaking ball, and turn into a late-inning reliever.
Later Picks of Note: The White Sox stuck with college players in the early rounds. One of the most interesting selections could be seventh-round pick Kevan Smith, a big catcher with defensive skills and raw power.
Analysis: The White Sox tried to make up for their lack of a first-round pick early but played it safe from afterward. It’s neither a good nor a bad draft, and not the haul needed to bulk up one of baseball's worst systems.

Cleveland Indians
First Three Rounds
1. (8) Francisco Lindor, SS, Monteverde HS (FL)
2. (67) Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS (AR)
3. (97) Jake Sisco, RHP, Merced College

Who They are: Lindor was in the mix at second overall to Seattle, and Cleveland has to be thrilled with him at seven. A series of almost legendary private workouts in the days leading up to the draft left some thinking Lindor was the best position player available. He's a potential plus defender who will certainly stay at shortstop, and he's a switch-hitter who put on a shocking power display in both Seattle and Arizona, leaving projections for 15-20 home runs annually.

Howard is a first-round talent who matches up well with many of the high school arms taken in the second half of the first round. He's ultra-athletic and can get his fastball up to 95 mph, but he's also a Scott Boras client who will require a seven-figure signing bonus.

Sisco is a rare polished arm from the junior college ranks. His fastball, breaking ball, and changeup are all at least average.
Later Picks of Note: Sixth-round pick Bryson Miles has bat speed and plus speed, but might not be able to play center field as a pro. Eighth-round pick Stephen Tarpley is a lefty with a good ceiling, but he'll need big money to spurn attending college.
Analysis: The Indians must have been ecstatic when they grabbed Lindor. They stayed aggressive with the Howard selection and several later picks that are considered tough signs. Lindor alone makes this a good draft, and their negotiations with Howard and others over the next two months could make it special.

Detroit Tigers
First Three Rounds
2. (76) James McCann, C, Arkansas
3. (106) Aaron Westlake, 1B, Vanderbilt

Who They are: McCann is a classic college catcher with big makeup, decent arm strength, and a modicum of power. He's not thrilling, but he could end up good enough to play every day in the big leagues as a second-division starter due to positional scarcity.

Westlake is a huge first baseman with big-time raw power, but he's also a bat-only player who has to hit plenty or he will not a prospect.
Later Picks of Note: Fifth-round pick Brandon Loy is an outstanding defensive shortstop, but scouts aren't sure he has enough hitting ability to separate himself from guys like Cale Iorg and Danny Worth. The Tigers love big guys who throw hard, and they found their man in the seventh round with left-hander Brian Flynn, who stands 6-foot-8 and can get into the mid-90s.
Analysis: Forced to sit on their hands for 75 picks, it was hard for the Tigers to have an exciting draft. It ended up more boring than even anticipated, with a focus on safe college players low on upside.

Kansas City Royals
First Three Rounds
1. (5) Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS)
2. (65) Cam Gallagher, C, Manheim Township HS (PA)
3. (95) Bryan Brickhouse, RHP, The Woodlands HS (TX)

Who They are: No position player in the draft is close to Starling’s upside. He has well above-average power and speed, excellent defensive skills, and a cannon arm. The only question is how much he will hit. He has little exposure to top-flight competition. One scout put it best, saying, “In 10 years, we could be taking about Mickey Mantle, or talking about that Starling guy who never got out of Double-A.”

Gallagher is a big, athletic catcher with raw power and good defensive skills, but like Starling, there are questions about how much he will hit.

Brickhouse got plenty of eyeballs on him when he pitched behind 2010 first-round pick Jameson Taillon. He has an impressive fastball/curve combination, but his frame and mechanics leave a bit to be desired.
Later Picks of Note: Fifth-round outfielder Pat Leonard has more power than any Texas prep player not named Josh Bell, but there are some holes in his swing. Eighth-round righty Evan Beal doesn't have much “now” stuff, but his super-skinny 6-foot-6 frame offers plenty to dream on. Terrance Gore, a 20th-round outfielder, is only 5-foot-7 and comes with plenty of questions about how good a baseball player he is, but he was among the fastest players in the draft, with pure 80 speed on the scouting scale.
Analysis: The Royals were focused on pitching with the fifth pick, but when the hurlers they liked came off the board, they were happy to take the local product with crazy upside. A focus on tools, velocity, and projection continued in the latter rounds, as the quality of the current system provided for a larger appetite for risk.

Minnesota Twins
First Three Rounds
1. (30) Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina
1s. (50) Travis Harrison, 3B, Tustin HS (CA)
1s. (55) Hudson Boyd, RHP, Bishop Verot HS (FL)
2. (87) Madison Boer, RHP, Oregon
3. (117) Corey Williams, LHP, Vanderbilt

Who They are: It was surprising to see Michael fall to the end of the first round, but it was even more surprising that he wasn’t the first college shortstop chosen. He might not have a true plus tool, but none are below average, either. He has some hitting skills, a bit of power, runs well, and plays solid defense with enough athleticism to stay at the position.

Harrison offers plus power and a good bat, but there are questions about his ability to stay at third base, and he might not be graceful enough to fit in an outfield corner.

Boyd is a very thick righty with decent velocity. He is the kind of pitcher the Twins favor, as he’s a strike-thrower with a clean arm.

Boer also fits the Twins’ mold, and as a college product, he's even more polished. His best pitch is a power slider, which he backs up with low-90s velocity and good movement.

On the other hand, Williams is the exact opposite of what the Twins tend to favor; he had an ERA approaching six in college, but he does offer well above-average velocity from the left site.
Later Picks of Note: Fifth-round shortstop Tyler Grimes should get to the big leagues based on his speed and excellent defensive ability alone, and could end up a steal if his hitting develops more. Sixth-rounder Ivan Rodriguez is Pudge’s son, but doesn't have the thick build to keep the nickname going. He's an outfielder and inherited dad's arm. Adam McCreery, a 14th-round pick, is a fascinating flyer; the 6-foot-8 lefty had nothing but arm problems over the last year but offers a lot to dream on.
Analysis: The Twins rarely excite with their drafts, but it's hard to argue with their track record of identifying and developing future big-leaguers. Michael could solve Minnesota’s shortstop problem in short order, and if he does so, the rest of the selections are gravy. 

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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