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September 17, 2002

The 2002 Draft

Status of the First Round Picks

by Deric McKamey

In keeping with the recent trend, Major League Baseball's 2002 amateur draft was both heavily tilted toward high school pitching and greatly influenced by issues of signability. Top college hitters were scarce, and a number of picks have yet to sign.

Here is an update of this year's first round selections, and how they've performed in their professional debuts.

 

  1. Bryan Bullington, RHP, Pirates. There isn't much progress in the negotiations between Bullington and the Pirates (they're about $1.5 million apart), which is a problem since the selections below him are waiting for him to set the market. That said, it is unlikely that Bullington will return to Ball State University. Stay tuned.

     

  2. B.J. Upton, SS, Devil Rays. Upton signed a contract on 9/11, just as he was to attend classes at Chipola JC. Rated as the best athlete and middle infielder amongst high school players, he'll fill a void that the Devil Rays have at the shortstop position. He has plus speed (6.5/60) and generates line-drive power with his right-handed bat. His arm strength, range, and hands are all above average, and could move very quickly through Tampa Bay's minor-league system.

     

  3. Chris Gruler, RHP, Reds. Few teams had him rated this high, but the Reds were one of just a handful of teams that knew he was one of the top two high school pitchers available. He demonstrated incredible poise and a competitive desire, mixing in a quality curveball with both two- and four-seam fastballs. He posted a 1.08 ERA and a .180 opponent batting average in four starts at short-season Billings before a promotion to Class-A Dayton, where he logged a 5.60 ERA, but 10.2 K/9 in seven starts. He has a solid frame that will allow him to add more strength, and will need to continue to perfect his splitter.

     

  4. Adam Loewen, LHP, Orioles. He's chosen to take his plus curveball to Chipola JC rather than sign with the Orioles, though he will have the opportunity to sign as a draft-and-follow at the conclusion of the upcoming season. He did participate in the World Junior Championships for Canada, playing the outfield and hitting a solid .733 to earn the games' top hitter award.

     

  5. Clint Everts, RHP, Expos. The Expos signed him for a $2 million bonus and a college scholarship on August 21--just days before he was to attend Baylor University. His pitches have excellent movement, especially his curveball, and he just needs to refine his mechanics. His first professional appearance will likely come next June, in short-season baseball, after he spends this fall in an instructional league.

     

  6. Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals. He signed late, but did manage to make three starts for the rookie-level Royals, where he posted a 1.93 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched. His 91-94 MPH fastball has excellent movement, as does his sinking change and cutter. He is more poised than most high school pitchers, and just needs some minor league experience and a tighter curveball. He'll participate in an instructional league, and be ready for the low Class-A level in 2003.

     

  7. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers. He started the season on fire, hitting .390 with a .521 OBP, including a grand slam in his first game at short-season Ogden. A late-season promotion to low Class-A Beloit tested his hitting skills, though, where he batted only .241. He has both tremendous left-handed power (13 HR/.589 SLG) and impressive control of the strike zone. He's an advanced hitter for his age, and has shown some agility, but his weight may become a real issue as he matures. He joins an ever-growing list of first base prospects for the Brewers.

     

  8. Scott Moore, SS, Tigers. A pure-hitter who drives the ball into the gap, Moore's bat will be his ticket to the majors. He is an instinctive baserunner and a hard worker--hitting .293/.349/.459 with four home runs in 133 at-bats in rookie ball. Drafted as a shortstop, he will likely outgrow the position, hindering his already average range. Third base would be ideal with his arm strength and first-step quickness.

     

  9. Jeff Francis, LHP, Rockies. He became the second high school pitcher drafted from Canada in the first round, and shows an even demeanor and extreme poise for his age. He throws three pitches for strikes--an 88-92 MPH fastball, slider, and a straight-change--and with his projectable build, more velocity is expected. Between short season Tri-Cities and Class-A Asheville, he posted a sparkling 1.17 ERA, accompanied by a K/BB ratio of nearly four-to-one and a .186 opponent batting average. The Rockies are usually cautious in promoting their pitchers, so expect him to be eased through the system.

     

  10. Drew Meyer, SS, Rangers. Drafting a shortstop might have been questionable for the Rangers, but they felt he was the best college hitter available at the time. He did split his defensive innings between shortstop and second base (his eventual position), but showed a lack of range and average hands. A left-handed batter, Meyer struggled with the at the plate between low Class-A Savannah and Double-A Tulsa, where he hit .241/.280/.311. He tends to get pull-conscious, will need to be more patient (0.16 BB/K), and has to get comfortable with the wood bat.

     

  11. Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins. One of the best pure hitters in the draft, Hermida was originally projected to go much higher. He made a slow transition to the wood bat, hitting a combined .249 with a lowly .343 SLG between two short-season clubs (Jupiter/Jamestown). The left-handed hitter did show good plate discipline, though (0.63 BB/K), along with above-average speed. Defensively, he shows decent range and arm strength, but will likely end up in an outfield corner. He usually makes good adjustments, so expect all of his numbers to improve in a full-season league in 2003.

     

  12. Joe Saunders, LHP, Angels. The Angels were looking for some immediate help in the draft, and homed in on Saunders--a fastball/change-up pitcher who was inconsistent at Virginia Tech, but pitched solidly as a professional. He was 5-2 with a 2.80 ERA between short-season Provo and Class-A Cedar Rapids, posting a strikeout-to-innings ratio of 7.1/9. He actually pitched better after being moved up a level (1.88 ERA vs. 3.62 ERA). He hasn't yet mastered the ability to spin the ball, so he will need to improve both his curveball and his splitter before he takes the next step.

     

  13. Khalil Greene, SS, Padres. The top college hitter in 2003, the Clemson product carried his hot bat over to the minors where he hit a combined .309/.359/.486 with nine homers between short-season Eugene and Class-A Lake Elsinore. No one questions his ability to swing the bat, his average range and arm strength may force a move from shortstop. The Padres had him play a little at both second base and third base, but will leave him at shortstop for the immediate future.

     

  14. Russ Adams, 2B, Blue Jays. The Blue Jays were extremely happy with the way he swung the bat, and played with solid fundamentals. Adams, a left-handed batter, shows a keen eye at the plate (1.50 BB/K), along with gap power and plus speed (4.1 seconds to first base). He hit .285/.384/.445 with 18 stolen bases between short-season Auburn and Class-A Dunedin. Predominantly a shortstop in college, the Blue Jays will kill two birds with one stone by moving him to second base, where his skills are a better fit and he fills an organizational need.

     

  15. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Mets. The Mets were shocked when he fell to them at this spot, but his bonus demands and Scott Boras representation scared off several teams. He has dominated like no other high school pitcher, posting a 0.50 ERA while striking out more than 17 batters per nine innings. His 91-96 MPH fastball, curveball, and slider all have big-league potential and won't back down from any hitter. He has the ability to advance quickly through the Mets system and be a quality #2 starter.

     

  16. Nick Swisher, OF, Athletics. The Athletics, with multiple picks, wanted a solid college hitter, and former Buckeye Swisher fit the bill. Likely a stretch at this point in the draft, the switch-hitting Swisher has gradually improved his power with a mature approach to the plate, something the Athletics cherish. Between short-season Vancouver and Class-A Visalia, he hit .242/.353/.410 with 16 doubles and a 0.66 BB/K. He was used more in the outfield than his natural position at first base, and though he'll never be an above average fielder, he did look comfortable in his new digs.

     

  17. Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies. Hamels signed late (8/23) for a $2.0 million bonus and a college scholarship, so the Phillies elected not to put him in a short-season league. Instead they decided he will participate in an instructional league. He is very polished as far as high school pitchers go--sporting a 89-92 MPH fastball, complimented by a knee-buckling curve. With any luck, Hamels will fill the need for a quality left-handed pitcher within the Philadelphia organization.

     

  18. Royce Ring, LHP, White Sox. Drafting a reliever in this spot made some eyebrows jump, but the White Sox were obviously enamored with his aggressive style of pitching and his lethal 89-94 MPH fastball/slider combination. He's working on a circle-change to give right-handed batters something to think about--something that will hopefully allow him the ability to appear for multiple innings. Going straight to low Class-A Kannapolis, he saved five games with a 3.91 ERA, a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, 8.6 K/9, and a .225 opponent batting average. He could vault through the minors rather quickly.

     

  19. James Loney, 1B, Dodgers. He was highly rated as a pitcher as well, but ended up with one of the more impressive offensive debuts, hitting .371/.457/.624 with five home runs and a solid, 1.39 BB/K at short season Great Falls. He was later promoted to Class-A South Georgia, where he was batting .303 in 66 at-bats before breaking his left wrist. He's got obvious arm strength and average mobility, so he could land in the outfield at some point.

     

  20. Denard Span, OF, Twins. The left-handed speedster signed a contract on August 15 with a $1.7 million bonus. Minnesota will have him participate in an instructional league, with the hope of turning him into a leadoff hitter/center fielder, and place him in a full-season league in 2003.

     

  21. Bob Brownlie, RHP, Cubs. He was atop most teams' lists coming into the 2002 college season, but a bout with biceps tendinitis and a lackluster performance at Rutgers dropped his stock. He and the Cubs are about $2.5 million apart, though he is unlikely to return to school. Not pitching for the latter part of the summer gave him some much-needed rest and could really benefit his long-term health.

     

  22. Jeremy Guthrie, RHP, Indians. His signing is imminent as Cleveland is eager to add yet another top-flight arm to their system. He's polished, and can nail hitters with an effective fastball/slider combination. Cleveland was looking for someone who could help the team by 2005, and his chances look promising if they can get him under contract.

     

  23. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves. Possibly the player with the most offensive upside in the draft, the Braves gambled on him when most teams were afraid he'd opt for college. A strong, athletic package who hits from the right side, Francoeur hit .327/.395/.585 with eight HR and eight SB in 147 at-bats for short-season Danville. He has the range and strong throwing arm needed to play center field, but just needs some professional experience.

     

  24. Joe Blanton, RHP, Athletics. The pitcher who probably made the biggest leap between college preseason and the draft, Blanton showed flashes of dominance for Kentucky--brandishing a four-pitch repertoire with outstanding command. He was limited to only 20.1 innings between short-season Vancouver and Class-A Modesto, but posted a 4.42 ERA, along with 9.3 K/9 and a .238 opponent batting average. Experience will be the issue with Blanton, and he may have to learn on the fly.

     

  25. Matt Cain, RHP, Giants. The Giants went the signability route with the high school hurler, though they love the way he attacks hitters with a plus 76 MPH curveball. He also throws an 88-92 MPH fastball and a 79 MPH change-up. At rookie-level Scottsdale, he had command problems (1.5-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and three wild pitches), but had a 4.15 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and a .188 opponent batting average in 17.1 innings pitched.

     

  26. John McCurdy, SS, Athletics. He struggled as much as any first-round pick, showing poor strike zone judgment (0.21 BB/K) at short-season Vancouver. This was a trait that he didn't show at Maryland, and he flashed some good power for a middle infielder. Scouts predicted that he would not have the range or hands to play shortstop, and his 20 errors last season only reinforced that idea. He's demonstrated good hitting skills before, though, so they'll likely return.

     

  27. Sergio Santos, SS, Diamondbacks. Scouts were concerned about both ends of his game as his stock plummeted during his high school season. His offense was a surprise, where he showed wiry strength, good speed, and decent contact, though he'll need to shorten his swing. At short-season Missoula, he hit .272/.367/.520 with nine homers and a 0.59 BB/K. His defense was another matter, where his 28 errors were troublesome, and mainly attributed to "stiff hands." He will likely outgrow the position, reducing his range, and may move to third base.

     

  28. John Mayberry, Jr., OF, Mariners. The Mariners should get him signed in the next week, as they are only about $500,000 apart. He is mulling an offer from Stanford, but really wants to sign. More slender and athletic than his father, he'll have the range and arm to play a corner outfield spot. His left-handed bat sprays vicious line drives to all fields and he's got good strike zone judgment. Assuming he can participate in an instructional league, he may be ready for a full-season league in 2003.

     

  29. Derrick Grigsby, RHP, Astros. He signed a 2003 contract on August, so he technically cannot play until instructional league this fall. His bonus of $1,125,000 is the smallest of any first-round pick in 2002. He should be ready to unleash his power sinker/slider combination on a low Class-A team in 2003.

     

  30. Ben Fritz, RHP, Athletics. He was draftable as a two-way player at Fresno State, so he's obviously skilled. His 89-93 MPH fastball was too much to overlook, and he's developing both a cutter and change-up. In 12 starts between short-season Vancouver and high Class-A Visalia, he was 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and a .206 opponent batting average. Though he was used as a starter to develop his pitches, he may be better suited to pitch in relief.

Deric McKamey is a minor league analyst for Baseball HQ and Street & Smith's publications. He can be reached at dmckamey@wcoil.com.

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