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June 8, 2004

2004 Amateur Draft Review

A Look at the Top College Picks

by Boyd Nation

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"Guerra, which is Spanish for war."

Before I get to talking about the actual players or any of that stuff that you're actually here for, I want to thank someone. Tommy Lasorda, thank you. I agree with Rob Neyer that the MLB draft just doesn't have the sort of short-term impact on the game that would justify making a big NBA-style production number out of the first few rounds. As it turns out, though, the teams seem to go out of their way to make the event as dull as possible, with a host of mid-level functionaries, some with decent TV and/or radio (OK, Internet audio, but you know what I mean) presence, and some decidedly without, all opening their statements with a nondescript five-digit accounting number. Then there's Tommy, whose announcements, even for a seventh-rounder who's going to be out of the system in four years, have the character and enthusiasm of a state delegate to a national political convention. He, along with the occasional oops moment with a mike left open, provided all the entertainment of the day.

Anyway, on to the players. Here are the season numbers with a few comments for all of the senior college players drafted in the first two rounds. The first thing you'll notice about these lists compared to last year's is that they're longer; the trend toward drafting college guys has definitely snowballed. First, the hitters:

Player          College         MLB Team     SoS  PF   AVG/OBP/SLG    HR
Stephen Drew    Florida State   Diamondbacks 109  83  .353/.472/.716  17
Josh Fields     Oklahoma State  White Sox    110  105 .362/.465/.580  10
Landon Powell   South Carolina  A's          109  80  .339/.425/.641  19
Richard Robnett Fresno State    A's          111  117 .384/.469/.699  13
Danny Putnam    Stanford        A's          114  99  .378/.454/.643  16
B. J. Szymanski Princeton       Reds         94   92  .362/.433/.610  6
Seth Smith      Mississippi     Rockies      111  80  .284/.364/.422  7
Brian Bixler    E. Michigan     Pirates      99   106 .453/.519/.650  8
Erick San Pedro Miami, Florida  Expos        108  92  .333/.452/.633  12
Jon Zeringue    Louisiana State Diamondbacks 110  94  .389/.446/.636  12
Curtis Thigpen  Texas           Blue Jays    113  97  .363/.457/.542  6
Donald Lucy     Stanford        White Sox    114  99  .313/.381/.534  12
Mike Ferris     Miami, Ohio     Cardinals    96   103 .361/.513/.755  21
Jason Jaramillo Oklahoma State  Phillies     110  105 .350/.435/.500  8
Hunter Pence    Texas-Arlington Astros       107  93  .395/.441/.616  8
Dustin Pedroia  Arizona State   Red Sox      114  109 .393/.502/.611  9
Kurt Suzuki     Cal St Fllrton  A's          114  107 .435/.525/.731  15
Eddy Martinez-Esteve  FSU       Giants       109  83  .391/.462/.720  19

I discussed Drew, Fields, Powell, Putnam, Zeringue, Suzuki, and Martinez-Esteve last week; here are the highlights of the rest:

  • Robnett is a nice grab. His defensive reputation (which is about all we have at this point on college players) is excellent, and his numbers stand out on a fairly mediocre team. He's a sophomore, which gives him a bit more leverage, but one would assume the A's have dotted those particular i's ahead of time.

  • Szymanski was overrated when he was being talked up as a top-10 pick, but he's not too much of a stretch in the second round. He's a converted football player whose numbers don't stand up too well when you adjust for the level of competition. His temper still reflects a football mentality--the word "raw" comes up way too often in discussions of him. That said, he has a high upside, so he was worth a flyer, although the third or fourth round might have fit him better.

  • Pedroia is an excellent catch this far down. He's an excellent all-around player, hitting for power and playing a flashy but consistent shortstop. The main concern about him is durability, as he's a bit on the small side.

  • Thigpen and San Pedro are proof of the Timo Perez Principle: the same performance is worth a lot more to you personally if you do it on a team that's winning a lot.

Now the pitchers:

Player           College       MLB Team   SoS  PF  ERA   IP    HR   K  BB
Justin Verlander Old Dominion  Tigers     99   97  3.49  105.2  8  151 43
Philip Humber    Rice          Mets      109  107  2.27  115.0  7  154 37
Jeff Niemann     Rice          D-Rays    109  107  3.02   80.1  4   94 30
Jeremy Sowers    Vanderbilt    Indians   109   89  2.64  119.1  6  118 23
Wade Townsend    Rice          Orioles   109  107  1.80  120.1  6  148 45
Thomas Diamond   New Orleans   Rangers   103   90  2.38  113.2  8  138 45
Jered Weaver     Long Beach St Angels    114   86  1.65  136.1  7  201 19
Bill Bray        William&Mary  Expos      96   97  2.44   59.0  4   84 15
David Purcey     Oklahoma      Blue Jays 111  108  3.11  118.2  5  130 54
Chris Lambert    Boston Collge Cardinals 100   87  3.02   92.1  4  107 51
Glen Perkins     Minnesota     Twins     103  103  2.83  111.1  6  113 21
Taylor Tankersley  Alabama     Marlins   108   92  2.00   67.2  3   70 26
Matt Campbell    S. Carolina   Royals    109   80  3.02  107.1  5  129 26
J. P. Howell     Texas         Royals    113   97  2.24  116.2  5  140 44
Zach Jackson     Texas A&M     Blue Jays 111  103  3.54  112.0  5  119 26
Justin Orenduff  VCU           Dodgers    97   95  2.43  100.0  4  129 34
Tyler Lumsden    Clemson       White Sox 109   82  3.98   81.1  3   88 37
Matt Fox         Central Fla   Twins     100   93  1.85  111.2  5  125 32
Huston Street    Texas         A's       113   97  1.49   48.1  3   48 12
Brett Smith      UC Irvine     Yankees   113   87  2.54  113.1  8  113 29
Eric Beattie     Tampa         Tigers    ?     ?   3.38  104.0  ?  127 22
Matt Durkin      San Jose St   Mets      110  114  4.49  110.1  4  103 49
Justin Hoyman    Florida       Indians   110   95  2.71  132.2  8   86 37
Michael Rogers   N.C. State    A's       107   84  3.08  117.0  8  110 21
Wes Whisler      UCLA          White Sox 114  106  5.24   92.2 10   60 35
Billy Buckner    S. Carolina   Royals    109   80  3.16   77.0  8   95 22
Grant Johnson    Notre Dame    Cubs      100   99  1.87   57.2  2   51 26
Jason Vargas     Long Beach St Marlins   114   86  4.23  104.1  8   86 29

Once you get past the blue-chippers I talked about last week, a lot of these guys are pretty darn interchangeable big right-handers. I doubt anyone but their mothers could tell Smith, Durkin, and Hoyman apart from the stands.

  • Bray wasn't a terrible choice, but strength of schedule is a more reliable indicator for relievers than for starters, and his numbers aren't quite as good as you'd like for the level of competition he's faced.

  • Everybody seems to have gotten the memo about drafting college pitchers. I think the next one should be about not overpaying for potential rather than performance. The Cardinals will pay several hundred thousand dollars for a guy who walked more than four batters per nine innings against a mediocre schedule this year in Lambert.

  • Tankersley is a converted closer who will probably have to head back to the bullpen to make it to the big leagues. He's one pitch short of a good starting arsenal.

  • Perkins raises a couple of interesting questions: Is there a box office boost to having locally-raised talent, if the talent level is otherwise equal? If so, are teams in northern areas, where amateur talent is thinner, at a disadvantage? The Twins took a lot of grief over the Mauer-over-Prior selection, but at least Mauer was a legitimate prospect and could still conceivably be more valuable than Prior if their DL numbers work out a certain way from this point forward. Perkins doesn't have that going for him; he's a marginal third-rounder, unless you completely ignore competition level and park factors.

  • Vargas is the best two-way player taken to this point in the draft--his offensive numbers are actually more impressive for this season as a DH than his pitching numbers. Nonetheless, the Marlins listed him as a pitcher.

Boyd Nation is the sole author and Webmaster of Boyd's World, a Web site devoted to college baseball rankings, analysis, and opinions. In real life, he's an information security analyst with an energy company. He can be reached at boyd.nation@mindspring.com.

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