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June 8, 2006

Future Shock

AL Draft Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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Baltimore Orioles
Billy Rowell, 3b, Bishop Eustace Prep (New Jersey) - 9th overall
Pedro Beato, rhp, St. Petersburg (Florida) JC - 32nd overall
Ryan Adams, ss, Jesuit HS (Louisiana) - 58th overall
Zach Britton, lhp, Weatherford HS (Texas) - 85th overall
Blake Davis, ss, Cal State Fullerton - 115th overall

Overall, this is a nice set of picks. The O's got what they feel is the top prep hitter in Rowell, and they got a first-round arm in Beato at 32. Beato could have gone higher, but most teams were convinced that the Mets were going to sign him as a draft-and-follow, and so the big scouts didn't see him, leaving teams afraid to take him on reputation as opposed to their own reports. To a smaller extent, the same could be said of Adams, who has battled hamstring problems the last two years, limiting his looks. Scouts like his bat more than his glove, and he's probably a second baseman in the end. Britton is yet another nice find in the third round. Very few prep lefthanders can match Britton's velocity (he touched 95 mph this spring), but his lack of a good secondary pitch creates a large gap between what he is and what he can be. Davis will quickly become a fan-favorite for fans of the Orioles system. He's a Lenny Dykstra-type gamer who makes up for average tools with an all-out style and terrific fundamentals. It's scouting director Joe Jordan's second straight impressive draft.

Best pick after these five: 10th-round pick Emeel Salem is an outstanding defensive center fielder with plus-plus speed and good contact skills. 17th-rounder Tony Watson is a top 100 pick on talent, but is considered a very difficult sign as a draft-eligible sophomore.

Boston Red Sox
Jason Place, of, Wren HS (South Carolina) - 27th overall
Daniel Bard, rhp, North Carolina - 28th overall
Kris Johnson, lhp, Wichita State - 40th overall
Caleb Clay, rhp, Cullman HS (Alabama) - 44th overall
Justin Masterson, rhp, San Diego State - 71st overall

While the BoSox lacked a premium pick, they did have two late first-round picks and two more in the supplemental first, allowing them to take advantage of a draft's depth. Place transformed himself from a budget-minded first round pick to a legitimate one in pre-draft workouts. He's big, athletic and toolsy, but his overall game is a little rough around the edges. Bard was one of the big droppers in the first-round thanks to inconsistency and a reported $4 million price tag, but he could be a steal at No. 28 if he and the Red Sox can agree to reasonable terms. Johnson is a draft-eligible sophomore who missed 2005 with Tommy John surgery, but pitched better and better as the season went on, with one scout telling me that with one more month in the season, he could have pitched himself into the first round. Masterson was hyped when he transferred from a tiny Indiana school to San Diego State after an impressive Cape Cod League stint, and he held his own at the higher level, but didn't blow a lot of people away. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, and armed with a low-90s fastball that can get into the 94-95 range, Masterson has surprisingly good control. The fastball is his only plus pitch and will likely mean a move to the bullpen.

Best pick after these five: The Red Sox took a number of players in the teens with top 100 talent, including first baseman Matt LaPorta and outfielder Lars Anderson, but as far as players that will almost certainly sign, keep an eye on sixth-round pick Zach Daeges from Creighton--a lefty bat with power and patience.

Chicago White Sox
Kyle McCulloch, rhp, Texas - 29th overall
Matt Long, rhp, Miami (Ohio) - 73rd overall
Justin Edwards, lhp, Olympia HS (Florida) - 105th overall
Tyler Reves, c, Texas Tech - 135th overall
John Shelby, 2b, Kentucky - 165th overall

It was surprising to see the White Sox spend their first two picks on starting pitching, which is one of the strengths of their system. McCulloch is a safe pick who effectively mixes a deep repertoire and throw strikes--much in the mold of current starter Jon Garland. Long is a Tommy John survivor who closed for the Redhawks this year, and could move quickly with his plus fastball-curve combination if they keep him in the bullpen. Edwards is a short, fringy lefty who rarely touches 90 mph, and I'm also not crazy about Reeves, who does give the team some catching depth, except he can't catch very well. The team makes up for it with Shelby, who started the year in a horrible slump but finished strong. He's the son of former big leaguer John Shelby and projects as an offensive second baseman with good speed and surprising power.

Best pick after these five: Ninth-round pick Chris Duffy has tons of power, but his bat will have to carry him as he lacks the athleticism to play third base and probably a corner outfield slot as well.

Cleveland Indians
David Huff, lhp, UCLA - 39th overall
Steven Wright, rhp, Hawaii - 56th overall
Josh Rodriguez, if, Rice - 57th overall
Wes Hodges, 3b, Georgia Tech - 69th overall
Matt McBride, c, Lehigh - 75th overall

The Indians made up for having no true first-rounder by having five picks between No. 39 and No. 75, which they spent exclusively on college talent. Huff was expected by some to go in the first round, but he lacks the ceiling of a pick that high. He has an outstanding changeup, and should be able to eat up plenty of innings, but with an 85-89 mph fastball, there is little star potential. How many cross-checkers and scouting directors were thrilled to hear that they had to go see the kid at Hawaii? Wright's a good one too, and while he'll probably begin his career as a starter, he might be more suitable for the pen with a nice fastball-slider combination and fantastic command. Rodriguez slipped a little bit since the beginning of the season, as elbow problems limited him defensively. He has good on-base skills and average power, but he lacks the speed to play shortstop and the reflexes for third, leaving him as a strong-armed second baseman for whom the development of his bat will be key. Hodges has a pretty swing and a great approach, but he's slow and soft-bodied, leaving his future at first base or left field. While he can smoke line drives all over the field, his stroke is just not designed for power, making him a bit of a misfit for a first baseman. The system is desperate for catching, and McBride is one of the better college options in what was a weak draft for backstops.

Best pick after these five: Fifth-round pick Chris Archer is a lanky righthander who has touched 95 and offers plenty of projection.

Detroit Tigers
Andrew Miller, lhp, North Carolina - 6th overall
Ronald Bourquin, 3b, Ohio State - 50th overall
Brennan Boesch, of, California - 82nd overall
Ryan Striebly, 1b, Kentucky, -- 112th overall
Scott Sizemore, 2b, Virginia Commonwealth - 142nd overall

Look, they picked sixth and got who was generally considered the best player in the draft--that's a win, end of story. After Miller, scouting director David Chadd surprised nobody by focusing on college talent, not taking a prep player until the 11th round. Bourquin seems like an overdraft, but it's an understandable one considering how much of a dent Miller is going to make in the signing budget. Both he and Boesch have plenty of power projection, but both are also far more projection than reality at this point, and nobody thinks Borquin can stay at third base. Speaking of power, Striebly is built more like a defensive end than a baseball player, and led the Wildcats in home runs (19) this year. He's surprisingly athletic for his size, but it's hard to start your career with no defensive flexibility. Sizemore is one of those classic polished college players who should get there, but offers little star potential.

Best pick after these five: In a draft extremely thin on catching, sixth-round pick Jordan Newton could be a steal. He can hit, and while his defensive skills are lacking, his plus athleticism gives reason for optimism.

Kansas City Royals
Luke Hochevar, rhp, Tennessee ('05) - 1st overall
Jason Taylor, of, Kellam HS (Virginia) - 45th overall
Blake Wood, rhp, Georgia Tech - 77th overall
Derrick Robinson, of, Yonge HS (Florida) - 107th overall
Jason Godin, rhp, Old Dominion (Virginia) - 137th overall

Hochevar is the big prize here, and again, the Royals had so many different ways to screw this up and they didn't, and they should be praised for it. Neither Taylor or Wood belong where they went, but like Detroit, the Royals need to manage their budget with the expected Hochevar signing. Robinson is a nice find in the fourth round. He's the fastest player in the draft, but he's more than just a Joey Gathright-type. While he needs to refine his approach and refine his swing, he at least has gap power and wiry strength. He's a top-level running back committed to Florida, but expected to sign. Godin put up some big strikeout numbers at Virginia but he did it with control and a four-pitch mix as opposed to blowing hitters away.

Best pick after these five: Seventh-round pick Brett Bigler is a classic leadoff man who hit .356 and drew a ton of walks (.456 OBP) at UC Riverside, but his lack of power will have him seeing far more strikes as a pro.

Los Angeles Angels
Hank Conger, c, Huntington Beach HS (California) - 25th overall
Russ Moldenhauer, of, Boerne HS (Texas) - 102nd overall
Clay Fuller, of, Smithson Valley HS (Texas) - 132nd overall
Kenny Herndon, rhp, Gulf Coast CC (Florida) - 162nd overall
Robert Fish, lhp, Miller HS (California) - 192nd overall

As I stated before, I still don't understand why Conger wasn't more in the 15-20 range, and I think a lot of teams who went with a high school position player before him are going to regret it. With no second round pick, the Angels had to sit around for a while before selecting again, and scouting director Eddie Bane stuck with high school players until taking a chance on UCLA outfielder Jarrad Page, who was also selected in the NFL Draft, in the 7th round. Moldenhauer was announced as an outfielder, which means the Angels are betting on his bat. He played mostly infield or catcher in high school, and could move back behind the plate if the Angels think it will help him get to the majors. Fuller is a burner and a lefty bat that the Angels are betting will come around while Herndon is a projectable righty who can touch 95 mph and do little else well. Fish is a nice sixth-round find as an aggressive lefthander with an average fastball, good breaking ball, and potential for an improvement in velocity. Bane favors ceilings over safeness in his picks, and nothing changed this year.

Best pick after these five: Tenth-round pick Leonardo Calderon has little idea of what he's doing out there, but lefties who can get it into the 93-94 mph range don't grow on trees, and the Angels are betting on his ability to transform from thrower to pitcher.

Minnesota Twins
Chris Parmelee, of, Chino Hills HS (California) - 20th overall
Joe Benson, of, Joliet Catholic HS (Illinois) - 64th overall
Tyler Robertson, lhp, Bella Vista HS (California) - 96th overall
Whit Robbins, 1b, Georgia Tech - 119th overall
Garrett Olson, 3b, Franklin Pierce College - 126th overall

Parmelee disappointed a lot of scouts this year, but his stock skyrocketed in the final week as he impressed every team that he worked out for. Benson was a surprise pick in the second round--scouts are universal in their acclaim for his tools, but he's a little too raw at the plate to be taking that high unless you are the Twins, who like pure athletes. Robertson is a long-armed lefthander with average velocity, a good curve, and a good understanding of the pro game, as he's the son of Jay Robertson, who works in the Rangers front office. Robbins was Georgia Tech's best hitter this year, but his all-or-nothing style turns off some scouts. Olson's bat is his only plus tool, but if you are only going to be good at one thing in baseball, hitting is a pretty smart choice.

Best pick after these five: Like Benson, tenth-round selection Jared Mitchell has big time athleticism but is still a bit of a project when it comes to being a baseball player. He could be an absolute steal if the Twins can sway him away from football.

New York Yankees
Ian Kennedy, rhp, Southern California - 21st overall
Joba Chamberlain, rhp, Nebraska - 41st
Zach McAllister, rhp, Illinois Valley Central HS - 104th overall
Colin Curtis, of, Arizona State - 134th overall
George Kontos, rhp, Northwestern - 164th overall

After singing the praises of scouting director Damon Oppenheimer in the past, I find little to be enthused about here. After heavily criticizing the Kennedy pick yesterday in print and on radio, I still feel it's a mistake after sleeping on it. His numbers this year pale in comparison to his freshman and sophomore seasons, and college pitchers who pitch well for two years and then get drafted high despite disappointing junior years have a pretty ugly track record. Chamberlain's track record resembles Kennedy's, but his disappointing junior year is more of a result of injury than ineffectiveness. Medical reports that showed some concerns about his knee didn't help as Balky Knee + History Of Weight Problems + Short Track Record = Out Of The First Round. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, McAllister is a power righty who needs to learn how to pitch but has a nice ceiling. Like the two pitchers at the top, Curtis had a disappointing season, but a larger concern than the mediocre stats is the fact that his tools took a step backwards as well. Kontos is big and throws hard, but I don't understand how a team can have faith in a Big-10 pitcher who went 3-10, 5.29 this year while allowing 107 hits in 95.1 innings.

Best pick after these five: Ninth-round pick Mark Melancon was one of the top college relievers available before missing the last two months of the season with a strained elbow ligament. Doctors don't think he'll need surgery, and once he's healthy, he'll move quickly.

Oakland Athletics
Trevor Cahill, rhp, Vista HS (California) - 66th overall
Matt Sulentic, of, Hillcrest HS (Texas) - 98th overall
Chad Lee, rhp, Barton County CC (Kansas) - 128th overall
Jermaine Mitchell, of, UNC Greensboro - 158th overall
Andrew Bailey, rhp, Wagner College - 188th overall

The A's had to be patient in this draft, and their first pick, Cahill, was a bit of a surprise. He's not especially big, and he doesn't have much more than an average fastball, but his curve is a true out pitch, and his makeup--like most Oakland top draftees--is outstanding. Like Cahill, everyone raves about Sulentic's intangibles. He's almost like a high school version of an old school A's draftee, where the tools (other than the bat) are average at best. His numbers bordered on historic in the Dallis Metroplex this year, possibly the most competitive high school conference in the nation. Lee shot up charts early in the season when he pitched at 94-95, but he hurt his arm in the second half and only pitched out of the bullpen, where he struggled mightily. If the A's believe in his health, it's a great pick. While the first three picks alone is enough to make the few still out there who think Moneyball is about drafting college players more than a bit nauseated, add in the fact that Mitchell, the first four-year college player they took, is a pure tools guy. Bailey isn't pretty and has already undergone Tommy John surgery, but he has two plus pitches with a 95 mph fastball and a downer curve, the kind of stuff that isn't easy to find in the sixth round.

Best pick after these five: Eighth-rounder Angel Sierra was the toolsiest player in Puerto Rico with plus-plus speed and a good idea at the plate.

Seattle Mariners
Brandon Morrow, rhp, California - 5th overall
Chris Tillman, rhp, Fountain Valley HS (California) - 49th overall
Tony Butler, rhp, Oak Creek HS (Wisconsin) - 81st overall
Ricky Orta, rhp, Miami - 111st overall
Nathan Adcock, rhp, North Hardin HS (Kentucky) - 141st overall

I've made no secret of my support for Morrow. After the Hochevar/Miller pair, I think he was the best player in the draft, and I'd rather have Morrow for what he's going to cost ($2.5 million or so?) than Miller for double or even triple that. The front office had to be happy to nab Tillman in the second round. Tillman began the season as one of the top high school arms, but his performance didn't match his stuff. He nonetheless was not expected get past the sandwich round. Butler is a risky pick--he's tall, lefthanded and has a plus fastball, but that's about all he has going for him, making him a bit of a project. Orta is another raw arm strength guy who had an ERA over six at Miami. I'm not a big fan of college statistics as an indicator of pro performance, but that's an ERA over six, folks. Adcock could be an interesting sleeper. He's gained 3-4 mph in the last 12 months, and there's still room for more.

Best pick after these five: Ninth-round pick Justin Souza has plus velocity and a feel for a breaking pitch, but a small frame and a history of shoulder problems.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Evan Longoria, inf, Long Beach State - 3rd overall
Josh Butler, rhp, San Diego - 47th overall
Nick Fuller, rhp, Kell HS (Georgia) - 79th overall
Alex Cobb, rhp, Vero Beach HS (Florida) - 109th overall
Shawn O'Malley, ss, South Ridge HS (Washington) - 139th overall

Longoria was unquestionably the top position player in the draft and, while there were several pitchers who are better overall prospects, the Devil Rays felt that he was one of the few with a potentially star-level bat. It will be interesting to see where he starts defensively, as he can play second or third with big league proficiency. Butler has a first-round body and first-round stuff, but his results were too inconsistent to get him into the first 30. Fuller got into the third round on arm strength and the ability to get two-plane break on his slider but, like Butler, scouts didn't always see him at his best, and his mechanics got bad grades. The opposite of Fuller is Cobb, who throws strikes with an effective three-pitch mix, but doesn't project to blow hitters away. O'Malley is a good defender with loads of speed, but his bat doesn't leave anybody thrilled.

Best pick after these five: 11th-round pick Heath Rollins played both ways at Winthrop, and while he has plus command of marginal stuff, Tampa hopes that stuff can take a step forward once he dedicates himself to one skill.

Texas Rangers
Kasey Kiker, lhp, Russell County HS (Alabama) - 12th overall
Chad Tracy, c, Pepperdine - 88th overall
Marcus Lemon, ss, Eustis HS (Florida) - 118th overall
Chris Davis, 1b, Navarro JC (Texas) - 148th overall
Jake Brigham, rhp, Central Florida Christian Acadamy - 178th overall

For Kiker, it depends on how you feel about his size. If the fact that he's not much bigger than Tim Lincecum bothers you, it's a reach--otherwise he's got more than enough stuff to merit where he was selected. With no second-round pick, Texas used their third-round pick on Tracy, the best hitting college catcher available who dropped because of a well below-average arm. Lemon is Chet Lemon's kid, and like his dad, he's a defensive standout, only in the middle infield. He's a switch-hitter with some ability as well, and one of my favorite fourth-round picks. Davis has the always-valued left-handed power; again, as a first baseman, you better really mash if you want to make it. Brigham is a classic power righty from Florida without much of a breaking ball and a heater that lacks movement.

Best pick after these five: Ninth-round selection Brennan Garr pitched just 13 innings this year at Northern Colorado, but he whiffed 24 with a plus fastball.

Toronto Blue Jays
Travis Snider, of, Jackson HS (Washington) - 14th overall
Brandon Magee, rhp, Bradley - 120th overall
Luke Hopkins, 1b, New Mexico State - 150th overall
Brian Jeroloman, c, Florida - 180th overall
Jon Baksh, of, Florida Tech - 210th overall

Even though Rowell was taken five picks ahead of Snider, several teams considered the latter as the best pure prep bat following his pre-draft workouts, where he impressed both with his batting practice and his much improved conditioning. The Blue Jays didn't pick again until the fourth round, so much of the draft's success will depend on Snider, and Toronto did get the one player available with the best chance of being an impact bat. Magee is a solid senior sign who shouldn't cost much, but at 23 he'll need to move quickly. Hopkins put up big numbers at New Mexico State, but that came at one of the friendliest hitting parks in college baseball, and he's a bit pudgy. Jeroloman, on the other hand, could be a sixth-round steal if his bat comes around. Even if it doesn't, he'll get to the big leagues as a backup based on his top-notch defensive skills. Baksh is a left-handed hitter who put up big numbers against weak competition in Division II--and being Canadian didn't hurt, either.

Best pick after these five: Eleventh-round pick Matt Lane got plenty of eyeballs as Tim Lincecum's catcher every Friday, and scouts walked away impressed with his power potential from the left side. He still has plenty of work to do behind the plate.

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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