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June 2, 2006

Future Shock

NL Draft Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Arizona Diamondbacks

Scouting Director: Mike Rizzo. Rizzo is one of the senior scouting directors out there, having been in charge of the Arizona drafts since 2000. His last three drafts have consistently been among the best in baseball.In 2003, he selected Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin with his two first-round picks, and the following year he was able to get Stephen Drew with the 15th overall pick when other teams shied away from his bonus demands. Last year, he didn't blink with the first pick, taking Justin Upton, despite the fact that he would require a record bonus to sign. He's found nice talent after the first round as well, and his fearless approach totaking the top talent regardless of outside influences is commendable. Why he didn't get more serious consideration for the Arizona GM job is beyond me.

What The System Needs: Pitching. The most loaded system in baseball when it comes to elite hitting talent, they could use some more starters, especially with the season-ending injury to 2005 first-round pick Matt Torra.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking 11th, the Diamondbacks will be focusing on college pitching. One of the bigger names out there should drop to them, with late-surging Scott Boras client Max Scherzer looking like a distinct possibility.

Atlanta Braves

Scouting Director: Roy Clark. Clark played four years in the Seattle organization, topping out at Triple-A. Afterwards, he spent a few years with the Mariners as a minor league coach before getting into scouting. He moved to Atlanta in 1989, and moved up from area scout, to crosschecker, to national scout, finally taking over scouting director responsibilities from the legendary Paul Snyder in 1999. Clark's reputation has grown over the years as the Braves continue to win with home-grown talent. While primarily focusing on high school players, with an affinity for local talent (having the East Cobb program in their backyard doesn't hurt), the team surprised by selecting college reliever Joey Devine with their first pick last year.

What The System Needs: The system has pretty decent prospects all around the diamond, so while there is no specific positional need, the system is lacking in power threats.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking 24th, the Braves are expected to return to their high school ways, and while no Georgia candidate fits at that slot, they have their eye on East Cobb's best player, outfielder Cedric Hunter, with one of their five picks between No. 38 and No. 72.

Chicago Cubs

Scouting Director: Tim Wilken. As the Cubs fade into oblivion in the National League Central, Wilken is looking more and more like their best offseason acquisition. He joined the Blue Jays in their expansion year, was named national crosschecker in 1989 and served as the team's scouting director from 1996-2001 before spending three years as an assistant GM, and then moving on to two years as a special assistant to Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar. He is one of the prime architects of the Blue Jays success, and his legacy is still in effect, as he played a major role in the drafting of Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios. The two drafts he consulted on in Tampa Bay are also highly regarded, and he's one of the most respected men in the business. There are no patterns to his drafts when it comes to positions or source, only in talent.

What The System Needs: Outfielders. As Ryan Harvey continues to struggle, Felix Pie becomes the team's only real prospect among flychasers.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Drafting 13th in the first round, the Cubs are willing to take a player that takes a surprising fall, but with Arizona picking in front of them, that player will have to get by the Diamondbacks first. They've scouted the college pitching crop heavily, but late whispers have them working out several high school power sources.

Cincinnati Reds

Scouting Director: Chris Buckley. Buckley learned under Wilken, spending 17 years in the Toronto organization before joining the Reds this year. He was the assistant scouting director in Toronto from 1999-2000, assumed scouting director responsibilities in 2001 when Wilken moved up, and then joined Wilken as an assistant GM in 2004. In the three drafts he conducted, all three of the first-round picks reached the majors, and two of three second-rounders have.

What The System Needs: Infielders on the left side. While it certainly looks like Edwin Encarnacion and Felipe Lopez could be the long-term solutions there, the system has nothing to offer at shortstop or the hot corner.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Drafting eighth, the Reds have their eye on the top college arms along with high school slugger Billy Rowell.

Colorado Rockies

Scouting Director: Bill Schmidt. Schmidt has been the scouting director since 2000, and his drafts seem to get better every year. His first featured the Matt Harrington debacle and the bust that is Jason Young, but by 2005 he was stealing Troy Tulowitzki with the seventh overall pick and following that up with a number of very good selections through the fourth round. His drafts tend to be college heavy, but he's far more flexible with early first-round picks, taking high schoolers Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson in the two years before Tulowitzki.

What The System Needs: Pitching, as always. The Colorado rotations are loaded with power arms who many project as relievers down the road. As far as finding the right pitcher for Coors Field, I'll leave that challenge to Schmidt and general manager Dan O'Dowd.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking second overall, the Rockies will wait to see if the Royals take University of North Carolina lefty Andrew Miller. If the Royals pass on Miller, the Rockies will select him. Otherwise, they are leaning towards Long Beach State infielder--and former Tulowitzki teammate--Evan Longoria.

Florida Marlins

Scouting Director: Stan Meek. Meek pitched at Oklahoma and then spent 14 years as the Sooners' pitching coach. He then moved into scouting and has been in charge of the Marlins draft since 2002. He tends to go for high school talent, and he's recently drafted a truckload of pitchers early, including five in row with his five picks between Nos. 16 and 44 last year.

What The System Needs: Bats, especially up-the-middle players. The system is almost overflowing with arms, yet has nearly nobody to catch them. A center fielder who can do more than just run would be a plus, as well.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Marlins draft 19th in the first round, and will almost certainly take a high school player. They have their eyes on a number of local talents, including third baseman Chris Marerro who began the year as the top high school hitter in the draft before a disappointing senior year.

Houston Astros

Scouting Director: Paul Ricciarini. Ricciarini has been in scouting for over 30 years, but is entering just his second year as a scouting director. Before joining Houston, he worked in various scouting roles with the Reds, Blue Jays (yet another Wilken protégé), Braves and Mets. We don't have a long track record to go on, but the 2005 Houston draft was marked by a unique combination of polished, low-ceiling college players and raw, high-ceiling high school ones.

What The System Needs: Infielders, especially on the right side, and power bats. Hunter Pence is rapidly becoming the only plus-power hitter in the entire organization.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking 23rd in the first round, there have been a number of players attached to Houston but none has stuck. There's a handful of second-tier college pitchers who should go between 20 and 40, and the Astros could have their pick of that pack.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Scouting Director: Logan White. White has had the job since 2002, and the amount of talent he's added to the system borders on ridiculous. He's quickly become one of the most highly regarded minds in the business, and it's notable that when Paul DePodesta was hired as GM, he still let Logan run the draft his way. White prefers high school players and prefers tools, and the only real black eye on his record is last year's Luke Hochevar nightmare.

What The System Needs: With Russ Martin up, the system has very little to offer in catching. With Matt Kemp up, the system has very little to offer in center fielders. When Chad Billingsley comes up, the system will be surprisingly thin in right handed starters. Still, when your system has holes to fill because you graduated prospects to the big league club, that's a good problem.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Drafting seventh overall, the Dodgers are once again eyeing high school arms, with their favorite being Texas lefthander Clayton Kershaw. With the Tigers picking sixth and also eyeing Kershaw, it's hard to figure the Dodgers' backup plan, though hard throwing righthander Jeremy Jeffress seems like a perfect fit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Scouting Director: Jack Zduriencik. Zduriencik served as scouting director with the Pirates from 1991 to 1993 before spending four years with the Mets as the team's farm director and then as a special assistant to GM Steve Phillips. He's been the Brewers scouting director since 2000. He's generally credited with the Brewers' recent turnaround, taking J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks with high picks from 2001-2003. Last year's top pick, third baseman Ryan Braun, represents the first time Zduriencik has taken a college player with his first selection.

What The System Needs: The Brewers have a remarkably balanced system. They are a little weak at catcher and on the right side of the infield. However, with Weeks and Fielder set to fill those roles at the big league level for some time, no worries there.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Brewers generally play it close to the vest, and it's no different this year. Because of the way the talent lies, Zduriencik will likely return to the high school ranks this year.

New York Mets

Scouting Director: Rudy Terrasas. Terrasas has been in scouting for 25 years, beginning in a part-time role with the Phillies in 1981. He went to Texas in the late 80s, where he first worked with current Mets GM Omar Minaya. Terrasas remained with the Rangers until 2003, advancing to a special assistant position for GM Doug Melvin before moving with Melvin to Milwaukee in 2004. Minaya hired him away in 2005 and he spent less than a year as assistant scouting director before replacing Russ Bove. 2006 will be the first draft that he's in charge of.

What The System Needs: Talent. After outfielders Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez, is there a single position prospect in the system than excites anybody? Oh yeah, the pitching ain't so great, either.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Not much early on. The Mets have a history of taking highly-rated players that drop, including Scott Kazmir, Milledge and Mike Pelfrey, but it's highly doubtful such a talent will fall to their first pick at No. 62.

Philadelphia Phillies

Scouting Director: Marti Wolever. Wolever has been the Philadelphia scouting director since 2002, and I have to say, his track record isn't the greatest. He did nab Cole Hamels with a first round pick in 2002, but little else. The 2003 draft is much like the 2002 one, only without picks in the first two rounds and therefore no Hamels, and things are going remarkably bad for 2004 first-round pick Greg Golson. It's far too early to judge the 2005 picks, but top selection Mike Costanzo has struggled so far.

What The System Needs: The organization is doing pretty well in the arms race, but the cupboards are nearly bare when it comes to hitting prospects.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The team is desperate for bats, and the Phillies will most certainly take one with the 18th pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Scouting Director: Ed Creech. Creech has been a scouting director since 1994 for four different teams; the Expos (remember them?) from 1994-1997, the Cardinals in 1998, the Dodgers from 1999-2001 and the Pirates since 2002. In his first draft he selected Bryan Bullington with the first overall pick instead of B.J. Upton, as the team gauged Upton's bonus demands as too high, yet he cost only $600,000 more than Bullington in the end. In the last two drafts, he has taken big-tool high school players Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker with his first-round picks.

What The System Needs: Position players, all over the place. McCutchen gives them one decent outfield prospect, which gives the group an advantage over the infielders, who lack even one.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Picking fourth, the Pirates are the first wildcard team in the draft. Nobody is sure in which direction they are going right now, but they seem to favor the big name college arms.

St. Louis Cardinals

Scouting Director: Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow's background may be the strangest of any scouting director, as he's been working in the industry for less than three years. A former management consultant, Luhnow was hired by St. Louis in 2003 to fill a created position called Vice President of Baseball Development (catchy, huh?). In general, he was a top-notch analyst brought in to supervise and manage the analytical tools that the Cardinals would use in their baseball operations. One of his first projects was a complete analysis of the team's scouting department, and soon after presenting his findings he was made scouting director in 2005. To his credit, he has worked hard with the scouting department to understand the process, and depends upon them heavily for their thoughts on potential draftees. With six picks in the first two rounds last year, the Cardinals added significant depth to their system with an interesting mix of talents. It's far too early to categorize Luhnow's strategy, if he even has one.

What The System Needs: Lefties, corner infielders and catchers--though the system lacks depth at nearly every position other than starting pitching.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Cardinals pick 30th and 42nd this year, and will likely be in "best available player" mode.

San Diego Padres

Scouting Director: Bill "Chief" Gayton. Gayton has spent over 20 years in scouting with the White Sox, A's, Yankees, Rockies and Padres. He has been San Diego's scouting director since 2001. The Padres middle infield of the foreseeable future, second baseman Josh Barfield (4th round, 2001) and shortstop Khalil Greene (1st round, 2002) were heady picks, but both the 2003 and 2004 drafts have been highly unproductive, yet not completely because of Gayton. 2003 first-round pick Tim Stauffer was discovered to have an injured shoulder after his selection, and in 2004, ownership decided late in the process to not allow the team to select Stephen Drew with the first overall pick, leaving them scrambling at the last minute before finally settling for shortstop Matt Bush, who has been disappointing (to put it mildly). Since joining the organization last year, Grady Fuson also influences draft-day decisions.

What The System Needs: Outfielders, in particular ones who can patrol center field or hit balls over the fence. Some more starting pitching wouldn't hurt, either.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: The Padres have generally favored college players recently, and Fuson's influence tips the balance towards them even more. With the gap between the few top college players and the second level ones being pretty sizeable, it will be interesting to see if they can find one with the 17th pick.

San Francisco Giants

Scouting Director: Matt Nerland. Nerland has been with the Giants since 1989, starting as an intern. He began working in the scouting department in 1991 and elevated to scouting director seven years later. The Giants have made specific moves in the past two years to sacrifice their first-round picks, and have become very college-heavy recently, waiting until the ninth round to take a high school player in 2004, and going all the way to the 20th round before selecting one last year. It's interesting to note that the last time they used their top pick on a high school player it was for Matt Cain, so it's not like they've gotten burned or anything, making the draft (or non-draft as it were) strategies of late a bit perplexing.

What The System Needs: Hitters everywhere but the outfield. If shortstop Marcus Sanders doesn't heat up, it leaves the organization pretty barren on the left side of the infield.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: Because of those pesky free-agent compensation rules, the Giants couldn't get rid of the 10th overall pick, though recently the team has indicated that they will select the top talent available and spend the money necessary to sign him. A solid innings-eating pitcher like Nebraska's Joba Chamberlain could offer the least amount of risk.

Washington Nationals

Scouting Director: Dana Brown. Brown has been the Nationals/Expos scouting director since 2002, and deserves credit for even surviving the last three years in Montreal, when his staff was reduced to bare bones. While his first draft in 2002 looks highly questionable because of injury problems with first-rounder Clint Everts, the first-round picks from 2003 (Chad Cordero), 2004 (Bill Bray) and 2005 (Ryan Zimmerman) are all already on the big league roster.

What The System Needs: Outfielders and arms, as most of the Nationals' top starting pitcher prospects are either injured or ineffective this season.

What They'll Do On Tuesday: With two first-round selections at No. 15 and No. 22, the Nationals are thought to be focusing on pitching, with some rumors spreading that they'll try to save money with the second pick by doing a pre-draft deal, possibly with University of San Diego reliever Josh Butler.

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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