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August 16, 2005

Fantasy Focus

The First Round - A Year Later

by Jeff Erickson

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Forty-one players were picked in the first and supplemental rounds of the 2004 draft. Yesterday, we checked in on the first 20 selections. Today, the other 21:

  1. Greg Golson, OF, Phillies - Golson, who was drafted out of high school in Texas, was slowed early this season by an ankle injury at low-A Lakewood. He has a lot of raw talent that needs to be refined. The power isn't there yet (.391 SLG) nor is the plate discipline (24 walks, 72 strikeouts in 279 at-bats), but again that's the benefit of drafting a high school position player--there's plenty of time for him to develop.

  2. Glen Perkins, SP, Twins - Perkins, a local product from the University of Minnesota, has been the most successful of the Twins' five first-round picks (including sandwich picks). After a great campaign last year in low-A Quad Cities, he cruised through high-A Ft. Myers in a half-season before getting promoted to Double-A New Britain in June. He hasn't quite maintained his supporting stats since the promotion (42 strikeouts, 29 walks in 54 1/3 innings), but the 22-year old is holding his own there. Look for him to complete the year at Double-A and start off next year there as well.

  3. Philip Hughes, SP, Yankees - The Yankees surprised many by taking Hughes, a high-school pitcher from California, but so far they have to be pleased with the results. Hughes was recently promoted to high-A Tampa and is off to a good start there. While keeping in mind the risks associated with pitching prospects, Hughes is among the better right-handed prospects from this class.

  4. Landon Powell, C, A's - Powell, drafted out of the University of South Carolina, suffered a torn ACL in February and is out for the season. Powell underwent a "cadaver graft" operation to repair his knee. He's projected to begin 2006 in the high-A California League.

  5. Kyle Waldrop, SP, Twins - Waldrop was the third player and second pitcher taken by the Twins in the first round. A 6'4" high-schooler from Tennessee, Waldrop has had good control for low-A Beloit (21 walks in 133 1/3 innings) but has had trouble with his command within the strike zone, giving up 164 hits and a 5.27 ERA.

  6. Richie Robnett, OF, A's - Robnett will probably be evaluated in tandem with fellow first-rounder and college outfielder Danny Putnam. Robnett, from Fresno State, has lagged behind Putnam this year, mostly because of a high strikeout rate (45 walks, 122 strikeouts in 385 at-bats) at high-A Stockton. On the bright side, he has hit for some power, with 15 homers and 27 doubles. He's capable of handling center field, but Mark Kotsay's recent contract extension likely means that if Robnett advances quickly, he'll make his major-league debut in one of the corner outfield spots.

  7. Taylor Tankersley, SP, Marlins - Tankersley missed the first two months of the 2005 season with shoulder soreness and has struggled since at low-A Greensboro, going 2-7 with a 5.18 ERA and 12 homers allowed in 66 innings. Tankersley spent most of his college career at Alabama as a reliever, but has been used exclusively as a starter in the Marlins' farm system. Given his results since returning, it's no guarantee that his shoulder is fully healed.

  8. Blake DeWitt, 3B, Dodgers - DeWitt was drafted as a shortstop out of high school in Missouri but was then immediately moved to third base. He's off to a decent, but not great, start at low-A Columbus, hitting .279/.332/.422 in 448 at-bats there. Speed isn't part of his offensive game--he's just 0-for-1 in stolen base attempts.

  9. Matt Campbell, SP, Royals - Campbell was the second first-rounder from the University of South Carolina (the first being Landon Powell) to be lost for the season with an injury when he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder in July. Of all the injuries for a pitcher to have, this is the worst. The long-term prospects for Campbell are pretty grim.

  10. Eric Hurley, SP, Rangers - Hurley, a high-school teammate of Billy Butler, was the second pitcher taken by the Rangers in the first round, after Thomas Diamond. While not at the same advanced levels, he too is giving the organization cause for optimism, putting up good numbers a low-A Clinton (11-5, 3.75 ERA, 125-to-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 132 1/3 innings). There have also been good reports about the development of his change-up.

  11. J.P. Howell, SP, Royals - Give credit to the Royals for making a nice pick with Howell, who spent his college days at the University of Texas. However, they have a bad habit of rushing up their top pitching prospects, from Howell and Zack Greinke this year, to Jimmy Gobble and Chris George in the past. Gobble and George clearly didn't work out, and Greinke has struggled this year. They showed their greatest haste with Howell, who had all of three Double-A starts and one Triple-A start before they called him up to the big-league squad. He predictably struggled there and is back with Triple-A Omaha, where he still might be in over his head but at least is holding his own. He needs to cut down on his walks (14 in 27 innings at Omaha), but he's worth following.

  12. Zach Jackson, SP, Blue Jays - Jackson has progressed faster than organizational mate David Purcey, getting promoted to Triple-A Syracuse at the end of July. The Jays might have been compelled to advance Jackson earlier than they would otherwise because of the glut of pitching prospects in their system, the fruits of their emphasis on college pitchers in the past three drafts. While a good problem to have, they might have pushed Jackson a little too quickly here, judging by the initial results in his first four starts (5.40 ERA, 15/13 K/BB in 23 1/3 innings). Still, the numbers for the former Texas A&M Aggie at high-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire were spectacular and solid, respectively.

  13. Justin Orenduff, SP, Dodgers - Orenduff, a supplemental first-rounder out of Virginia Commonwealth, has advanced the quickest of the three Dodger first-round picks, getting promoted to the talent-loaded Double-A Jacksonville squad in June after dominating in the Florida State League. His strong work has continued there, where he's 5-1 with a 3.95 ERA and a 43/16 K/BB in 43 1/3 innings. Look for Orenduff to start 2006 in Double-A as well, especially with the wealth of pitching talent in the Dodgers' system, but a good start in 2006 could call for a quick promotion.

  14. Tyler Lumsden, SP, White Sox - Lumsden, a college draftee from Clemson, had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in January and hasn't pitched yet this season. There's a small chance he could get in a game or two at low-A Kannapolis before the season's end.

  15. Matt Fox, SP, Twins - Fox, a collegian out of Central Florida, underwent shoulder surgery in June and is out for the year. He went 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a 32/8 K/BB for rookie league Elizabethton in the Appalachian League last season.

  16. Danny Putnam, OF, A's - Putnam is having a solid season for high-A Stockton in the California League, despite suffering one of the more bizarre injuries of the year. The former Stanford outfielder missed about a week of action after tearing his esophagus while choking on a grape. On the field, Putnam is hitting .302/.390/.467 for Stockton, with 12 homers and a 61/80 BB/K in 424 at-bats. We'll see how he scales the Double-A wall next year, but we could see Putnam get a September trial in 2006.

  17. Jon Poterson, OF, Yankees - Poterson, drafted as a catcher out of high school in Arizona, has been moved to the outfield already. He started 2005 off in the low-A Sally League but got demoted to Staten Island in the New York-Penn League in June. He's fared much better there, hitting .286/.338/.468.

  18. Gio Gonzalez, SP, White Sox - In a bit of a surprise, Gonzalez decided to sign with the White Sox rather than attend the University of Miami, where he had already signed a letter of intent. The move has worked out well so far, with Gonzalez getting promoted to high-A Winston-Salem in mid-June. After a rough start there, Gonzalez is adapting well to play in the Carolina League. He's currently 5-2 with a 4.47 ERA and a 54/18 K/BB in 48 1/3 innings.

  19. Jay Rainville, SP, Twins - Rainville, the fifth player and fourth pitcher taken by the Twins in the first round of the draft, was promoted to high-A Ft. Myers in July after a solid half-season at low-A Beloit. The high school draftee from Rhode Island has adapted well to the Florida State League so far, going 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a 20/3 K/BB in five starts.

  20. Huston Street, RP, A's - No further introduction needed here: Street was the first of the 2004 first-round draft class to make the majors and clearly has made the biggest impact. The A's envisioned him in the closer's role, but Octavio Dotel's elbow injury accelerated the timetable.

  21. Jeff Marquez, SP, Yankees - Marquez is 7-12 with a 3.65 ERA and a 93/57 K/BB over 125 2/3 innings pitched at low-A Charleston of the Sally League. He was taken out of Sacramento City College with the final supplemental first round pick in the 2004 draft. Marquez is starting to have his pitch counts limited at low-A Charleston, because of the high workload that he's shouldered so far this year.

Others of Note:

Dustin Pedroia, SS, Red Sox - Pedroia was Boston's first pick at #65 overall. He has drawn comparisons to David Eckstein as a player, but that's a bit unfair to Pedroia, who has torn through three levels of the minors in the last calendar year to land at Triple-A Pawtucket in June. He posted .400+ OBPs at each of those levels. Second base is the most likely position with the Red Sox for the former Arizona State Sun Devil. A wrist injury has slowed him some at Pawtucket, but he might be worthy of a September call-up.

Hunter Pence, OF, Astros - The Astros' first pick at #66 overall, Pence has been promoted to Salem of the high-A Carolina League, where he's hit .281/.347/.438 in 17 games. An earlier quadriceps injury didn't do much to slow down Pence.

Jason Vargas, SP, Marlins - A college teammate of Jered Weaver at Long Beach State, Vargas (#68 overall) beat him to the majors with the Marlins after a very brief stay at Double-A Carolina, where he had all of three starts. Like Howell with the Royals, this promotion seems rapid. The Marlins like to promote their pitchers from Double-A and quickly, and at the very least Vargas isn't being counted on to anchor their staff and probably gets better defensive support. Still, don't be surprised if he has a setback or two once opposing teams get a decent scouting report on him.

Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF, Giants - Esteve was the Giants' first pick in the draft at #70 overall because of their purposeful relinquishment of their first-round pick (all for the low, low cost of signing Michael Tucker...bleah). Still, despite surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in November, Martinez-Esteve has turned out to be a good pick for the Giants. The former Florida State Seminole is hitting .323/.431/.550 for high-A San Jose.

Three players from the first round class have made the majors so far, all pitchers, all collegians. Six pitchers from this class have come down with some form of arm injury, four of those injuries being major (year-long) injuries. All six of those pitchers were drafted from the college ranks.

Jeff Erickson is the senior editor at Rotowire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Focus," heard every weekday at noon ET on XM Channel 175. He can be reached here.

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