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June 1, 2006

Future Shock

AL Draft Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Baltimore Orioles

Scouting Director: Joe Jordan. Jordan worked with Orioles VP Jim Beattie in Montreal for five years and was a scout with the Marlins before getting the Baltimore head job in 2005. We only have a one-year track record to go on, but last year's draft gave a much-needed shot in the arm to a depleted system, so he's off to a good start.

What The System Needs: Anything resembling a prospect at any of the four infield positions.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking ninth overall, the Orioles are said to like high school slugger Billy Rowell, along with the usual suspects among the top college arms. A late, surprising entry into their mix is Kent State shortstop Emmanuel Burris. Most see him as a late first-round talent, but he is one of the few ultra-athletic college infielders around.

Boston Red Sox

Scouting Director: Jason McLeod. McLeod spent ten years working for the Padres in various coaching, scouting and player development roles and it was there that he first met Theo Epstein. When Epstein was hired in Boston, he brought on McLeod to work in the scouting department, and promoted him in 2005 when existing scouting director David Chadd moved to Detroit. In his first draft, he got two excellent talents in Jacoby Ellsbury and Craig Hansen in the first round, when both had the talent to be drafted higher. He also took Boston away from their college-only ways by selecting four consecutive prep talents between the supplemental first and fifth rounds.

What The System Needs: Boston is particularly shallow at shortstop and first base, and after Jon Lester, there are very few quality lefties.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: For the second straight season, the Red Sox have back-to-back picks late in the first round, selecting 27th and 28th. While they still like taking college players early, it's hard to imagine two quality college players falling in that range. One of the college players whose stock has fallen, like Florida's Matt LaPorta, could fit here, but at least one of the picks will likely be a projectable high school bat.

Chicago White Sox

Scouting Director: Duane Shaffer. In 1969, the White Sox drafted Shaffer in the 11th round and he's been with the organization since, minus three years in the late 80s when he worked for the Angels and Athletics. He was the White Sox scouting director from 1991-2000, and moved into baseball operations for three years before returning to the scouting director role in 2004. Shaffer's drafts have no clear pattern or philosophy other than taking a player the team likes, though five of their last six top picks have been college players. The team also has a willingness to draft minor signability issues in the middle rounds and ink them to slightly over-slot bonuses.

What The System Needs: Up-the-middle talent, particularly second basemen and shortstops. The system is also desperate for relievers, but sometimes those just show up when starters fail.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking 28th, the White Sox don't need immediate help and will be willing to take a high-risk/high-reward type of high school player. Think toolsy athlete.

Cleveland Indians

Scouting Director: John Mirabelli. Mirabelli is in his seventh year as the Tribe's scouting director, and while Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti get much of the credit for Cleveland's success, Mirabelli deserves to be right there with them. The Indians mix it up when it comes to drafting high school or college players, but they do have some notable trends. In 2003 seven of their first eight picks were hitters. The next year, eight of the first nine were pitchers. Last year saw a return to hitters, with five of the first six selections being position players.

What The System Needs: While logically, the next step would be a return to pitchers, what the team needs is position players, particularly catching and middle infielders, where the Indians don't have a single prospect who projects as a regular.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: While they have no first-round pick, the Indians select 39th, 56th, 57th, 69th and 75th, which should allow them to put together some interesting rosters for their short-season teams.

Detroit Tigers

Scouting Director: David Chadd. Chadd was an All-America college player at Kansas State and spent the early 90s coaching both there and at Wichita State. He spent eight years with the Marlins (with current Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski) from 1994-2001, working his way from area scout to management. He spent 2002-2004 as the scouting director for the Red Sox before leaving to rejoin Dombrowski in the Motor City. Chadd was hampered in Boston by the front office's obsession with college players, and left for Detroit because he felt his philosophy fit in better there. His first draft with the Tigers earned high grades, as beyond stealing Cameron Maybin with the 10th overall pick, he found some pretty nice prospects in the middle rounds, including reliever Kevin Whelan (4th), sluggers Jeff Larrish (5th), and outfielder Clete Thomas (6th).

What The System Needs: Lefthanders and catchers ... and more lefthanders.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Maybe take a lefthander with the sixth overall pick, as the team loves Clayton Kershaw, the top high school pitcher in the draft. If Kershaw goes earlier, Chadd is a guy who believes in big tools, so look for a high velocity pitcher or a power bat who is more than just a one-dimensional slugger.

Kansas City Royals

Scouting Director: Deric Ladnier. Ladnier played seven years in the Royals system and then spent nine years in the Atlanta front office (where he worked with new GM Dayton Moore) where he advanced from area scout to farm director. He was hired as the Royals scouting director in 2001 and is overseeing his sixth draft in Kansas City. His first draft was a debacle, as the Royals selected way-to-raw fireballer Colt Griffin in the first round and outfielder Roscoe Crosby, who got paid without having ever played a game, in the second round. Ladnier's made up for it since with some solid drafts at the top over the past three years, though tight budgets often limited his flexibility after the first few rounds. When I think of people to blame for the Royals' miserable state, Ladnier isn't near the top of the list.

What The System Needs: Talent, and plenty of it, because if this team is going to turn around, it's going to be through the system. While the Royals have a nice core of hitting prospects at Double-A Wichita, they have a nice core of pitching prospects, um, nowhere.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Be the first team to pick, though we are still trying to figure out what Dayton Moore's presence will mean here. In the end, this pick is probably Moore's call, though money will enter the decision making process. That weird Luke Hochevar scenario just keeps making more and more sense, no?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Scouting Director: Eddie Bane. Bane is one of the top pitchers in college baseball history, going 40-4 with a 1.64 ERA in three years at Arizona State. The 11th overall pick in the 1973 draft, Bane made his pro debut at the big league level, but finished his 44-game big league career with a career ERA of 4.66. After his playing days, he spent 11 years working for the Dodgers as a pitching coach, scout and crosschecker before spending five years as an assistant GM in Tampa Bay. He was hired by the Angels as their scouting director in 2004. Bane's drafts have combined guts and inventiveness and he's one of the main reasons the Angels system is so strong.

What The System Needs: Outfielders, particularly power-hitting ones. A few more lefties wouldn't hurt either, but you can say that about nearly any organization.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Angels lost the 26th pick for signing Jeff Weaver, but gained the 25th selection for losing Paul Byrd. It's an ideal slot for a high-ceiling high school talent, and that pick will carry the weight of this draft, as the team doesn't select again until pick No. 102. The only thing is, you know at some point an interesting name could still come up for them, and Bane won't be afraid to take that risk.

Minnesota Twins

Scouting Director: Mike Radcliff. The dean of scouting directors, Radcliff joined the Twins in 1987 and has been the scouting director since 1994. He's also considered one of the best in the business, as the Twins have stayed competitive despite being a so-called small-market franchise. In the last two drafts, he's absolutely loaded the Twins system with pitching prospects. One of his most famous decisions came in 2001, when he selected catcher and local product Joe Mauer with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft over pitcher Mark Prior, who Radcliff deemed as unsignable by Minnesota.

What The System Needs: Power hitters, regardless of position. The system has almost zero catching, but with Mauer at the big league level, it's not a high priority.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking 20th, the Twins will look to fix their power outage with a projectable high school bat.

New York Yankees

Scouting Director: Damon Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer joined the Padres as a scout after playing college baseball at Southern California and has been with the Yankees since 1994. Working out of the Tampa office, Oppenheimer was named farm director in 2001 and became scouting director in 2005. Prior to becoming scouting director, Oppenheimer was credited with the Yankees change in philosophy concerning international scouting that has led to some good depth at the lower levels, and his first draft was marked by the selection of C.J. Henry in the first round when The Boss refused to give Craig Hansen a big league deal. His signing of eighth-round pick Austin Jackson to an $800,000 deal may be setting a new precedent for the organization, which may begin to treat draft signability players in the same way they treat free agents. Oppenheimer is generally considered the heir apparent to Brian Cashman.

What The System Needs: Cue broken record. Catching and lefthanded pitching. While the team has some intriguing positional prospects at a number of positions, few project for plus power.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Yankees pick 21st (from the Phillies for Tom Gordon), and while some are pointing them towards a polished college arm who could get there quickly, don't rule out a high school player who could kill two birds with one stone, like switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger.

Oakland Athletics

Scouting Director: Eric Kubota. Kubota's rise to the position is an atypical one. He's 41 years old, but entering his 22nd season with the Oakland organization. He began his career while still in college, working in the media relations department and moving to baseball operations six years later as assistant director of scouting, an administrative position that involves a ton of paperwork but exposes one to nearly every piece of information from the department. By 1996, Kubota was an area scout in California and also the team's Pacific Rim coordinator. He was supervisor of international scouting for three years before becoming scouting director in 2002. Kubota's first draft was the well-publicized Moneyball draft of 2002, though the team has become far less dogmatic in recent times, as six of their first nine picks last year came from the prep ranks. One common trait in the recent draft has been strong makeup, which may sound counterintuitive for an organization with a reputation of relying on quantitative information.

What The System Needs: Repeat mantra here. Left handed pitching. In addition, some high-ceiling bats would be nice. The system has plenty of hitters who project as solid major leaguers, but not a whole lot of guys who look like future all-stars.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Sit around for a real long time and wait. The A's don't pick until No. 66, and don't be surprised to see the A's top pick come from the high school pool for the first time since Eric Chavez in 1996.

Seattle Mariners

Scouting Director: Bob Fontaine. Part of the old guard, Fontaine has been a scouting or farm director for the last 20 years, running the Angels drafts from 1987-1999 before spending 2001-2003 as the White Sox farm director. General Manager Bill Bavasi tabbed him for the Mariners in 2004. His first draft with Seattle was marked by the $2.29 million bonus given to Matt Tuiasosopo in the third round, as the team had no first- or second-round pick. In addition the majority of their 2005 draft falls on the shoulder of No. 3 overall pick Jeff Clement, as free agent signings Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson cost them their second- and third-round picks.

What The System Needs: To put it lightly, talent. Pretty much everywhere.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking fifth, the Mariners are going to take a college pitcher, and if Luke Hochevar is there, he's not getting past them.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Scouting Director: R.J. Harrison. Harrison has been with the organization from the start, coming aboard in 1995 and serving as a crosschecker and scouting coordinator. This will be the first draft he's in charge of, but he was able to spend the last two years learning under Tim Wilken (now with the Cubs), who's one of the best. He has some big shoes to fill.

What The System Needs: It would be nice if the team could find a top talent who can stay healthy (I'm talking to you Wade Townsend and Jeff Niemann) or stay on the field (Delmon Young).

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking third, the Devil Rays will get another big talent. It's going to be a college pitcher no matter what, and luckily there's no overworked Rice pitcher in the mix.

Texas Rangers

Scouting Director: Ron Hopkins. Hopkins spent eight years in the Oakland organization before following Grady Fuson to Texas in 2003. While his official title was scouting director, Fuson ran the drafts until he left for San Diego, and assistant GM Jake Krug also plays a major role in the Texas selection process.

What The System Needs: Center fielders and first baseman. The system doesn't have a lot of projectable athletes.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Owner Tom Hicks is a huge University of Texas fan, and if Drew Stubbs slips a little bit, the Rangers will pounce. After that, there will be plenty of other local talent to choose from.

Toronto Blue Jays

Scouting Director: LaLonde has been with the Blue Jays since 1999, beginning his career on the business side of things and moving over to baseball operations as the team's scouting coordinator in 2001. He was promoted to scouting director in 2003. Still a hardcore Moneyball team under GM J.P. Ricciardi, the team has not taken a high school player in the first ten rounds under LaLonde.

What The System Needs: Up-the-middle players: second basemen, shortstops, center fielders.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The whole wide world has them on Wake Forest infielder Matt Antonelli, who fits into the Russ Adams/Aaron Hill mold, only more athletic. But don't count out a high school surprise like Washington outfielder Travis Snider.

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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