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June 9, 2006
NL Draft Notebook
The system is absolutely loaded with position prospects--bordering on historically loaded--and so it's not surprising to see Arizona concentrate on pitching, and scouting director Mike Rizzo has a well known preference for physically big pitchers who throw hard as well. Many teams were scared off by Scherzer's medicals, but if he's 100%, he's right up there with the Lincoln/Morrow/Reynolds trio. Brown is another classic power pitcher who almost pitched his way into the first round with an above average fastball and curve. While Scherzer and Brown will be run through the system pretty aggressively, Anderson is a rare high school selection for the Diamondbacks. Expected to go in the 15-20 range, he was just too good to pass up. Buck is an even larger risk than Scherzer, though not on a monetary basis. His fastball went from the low 90s as a sophomore to the mid-80s this year, and he's coming in with a strained elbow ligament. If he returns to form he's a first round talent, but that's a pretty big if. Hankerd went higher than expected as a classic polished college guy without a tool that really stands out. This just in: Mike Rizzo is good at drafting.
Best pick after these five: Seventh-rounder Daniel Stange was UC Riverside's closer and he has both the stuff (mid-90s fastball, hard slider, deceptive change) and the nasty attitude one looks for in a reliever.
Hey look, the first three picks are high school guys from the Southeast. Shocking! Johnson seems like a big reach, unless Atlanta knew something we didn't (more than likely). He probably would have been there at 38 as he dropped pretty far from where he began the season. His power potential is hard to argue with, but he has some big holes in both his swing and his overall game. Rasmus is the brother of Colby, last year's first-round pick by the Cardinals and a teammate of Kasey Kiker, the Rangers' first-round pick this year. He has first-round stuff, but his 6-foot frame dropped him a little bit. Evarts is kind of a lefty version of former Atlanta first-rounder Adam Wainwright--long and lanky with a nice fastball-changeup combination. Locke is a bit of a project because of his lack of experience pitching in New England, but lefthanders with velocity are always at a premium, and scouts like his makeup and mechanics, two strong indicators for future improvement. Evans was a surprise third-rounder, as an injury-plagued junior year turned into a 6.41 ERA, but everyone liked when they saw out of him last year in the Cape Cod League.
Best pick after these five: Eighth-rounder Adam Coe is yet another Russell County product (no, they don't all come from Seale, Alabama--the school recruits like a college does) who generates surprising pop from a small frame thanks to plus bat speed.
The more I think about the way the Cubs dealt with their situation of not selecting their second player until the fifth round, the more I hate what they did. On the surface, they got a third-round talent and a lower-first round talent with the two picks. That sounds like a profit, right? But with no second-, third-, or fourth- round bonuses to pay out, why not take the 13th best player in the draft instead of Colvin and still take Samardzija, who nobody else was going to touch, and still might opt for an NFL career. It's a half-assed maneuver, but the Cubs will still sell out every game, so what's the difference? Colvin is a decent hitter, but he's going to have to take a major step forward to project as an every day left fielder, which is his logical defensive home. Samardzija is big and throws hard and has a high ceiling, but he's also one of the top wide receiver prospects in next year's NFL draft, one who Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz compares to Pittsburgh star Hines Ward. In the next three picks, we are talking about sixth, seventh and eighth round selections, so don't get too worked up. Lansford is Carney Lansford's son, and he needs to hit for average like his dad to move up, as he has even less power. Clevinger is similar to Lansford offensively, and probably can't stay at short, but Muldowney is a nice find as a safe college guy with command and a solid-but-unspectacular arsenal.
Best pick after these five: Toolsy high school outfielder Drew Rundle dropped to the 14th round, but he's a real catch if the Cubs can sign him away from playing college ball at Arizona.
Everyone--including yours truly--has consistently harped on Stubbs' inability to make contact, but even if he makes little progress, he's still a Mike Cameron-esque center fielder with power, speed and ridiculous defensive skills. If the bat does take a step forward, he's the best position player in this draft. Watson went a little lower than expected, and the Reds will have the same decision Tennessee's coaching staff had, as he was equally effective as a starter and reliever. Valaiki was a surprise in the third, but he's one of those grinders with enough tools to get there, including good power for a middle infielder. Reed does many things well, but few things outstandingly, which is better than having a player with a few weaknesses. Ravin is another one of those tall California kids who throws hard. It seems like everybody takes one in the first five rounds.
Best pick after these five: 10th-round selection Josh Roenicke is the son of Gary Roenicke. He just became a pitcher this year as a senior at UCLA, but he throws in the mid 90s, has a surprisingly effective slider, and actually moved into the closer role for the Bruins during the season.
I've made my feelings on the Reynolds pick well known. It was just bad, period. He wasn't a top five talent, and barely a top ten one, and to waste the opportunity to take a much better player here just makes no sense at all. Christensen has plus power and speed potential, but an inconsistent ability to make contact had most seeing him as a third-round pick. Weiser began the year as a potential first-round pick, but never got on track this year as a drop in velocity to the mid-80s matched his drop on most draft boards. He's a finesse/command type of lefty, and those don't mix very well with Coors Field. Baker, on the other hand, seems suited for the park, throwing a sinker, cutter and splitter while staying down in the zone. Valezquez was one of the best teenage defenders in the draft, but his bat is a huge question mark.
Best pick after these five: Pitchers with low 90s fastballs and a plus curve rarely make it to the 10th round, but David Arnold's lack of experience and lack of conditioning put him there.
As deep as the Marlins are in pitching, it was surprising to see them nab Sinkbeil with their first-round pick, but they saw him as too good to let slide any further. He's touched 96 mph with his fastball, has two quality breaking balls, and they way he bounced back from a strained oblique with a strong performance in the regionals convinced Florida that the injury was not a concern. Coughlin is one of the better pure hitters in a weak college class with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts, but his power is below average, leaving him as a bit of a misfit at third base. Most teams preferred Hickman as a lefthander on the mound, but the Marlins favored his arm in right field to go with his power bat. Langley might have the best arm of any catcher in the draft, but some teams stayed away from him because he's built like Angel Salome (5-foot-8, 170 pounds). Like Hickman, Cousins had his share of supporters as a pitcher, but his smooth stroke from the left side, good speed and decent power have the Marlins beginning his career in center field.
Best pick after these five: Taken in the fifth round, catcher Chris Hatcher (say those three words ten times fast) is a switch-hitter with nice power from the left side, but a plus-plus arm is his only defensive tool.
While I'm sure there are more, Houston is the only team I can find who preferred Sapp to Hank Conger. Not that Sapp is a dud--he has a ton of power from the left side and gets raves for his makeup, but few think he can stay behind the plate despite good arm strength. Perez is big and has a nice fastball/slider combination, but could end up in the bullpen, as he lacks a third pitch. Moresi is the opposite of the polished college hitter, he's more of a poor man's Drew Stubbs--a great defender in center with plenty of tools, but a little raw at the plate. Johnson, on the other hand, is a classic college slugger for whom power is the only tool to even grade out as average. Hudspeth is an undersized righty with serious heat but little else.
Best pick after these five: Tenth-rounder Nathan Karns is a big-bodied righthander with a good fastball/slider combination, but he expected to go higher and will require some good cash to step away from playing college ball for the Longhorns.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Scouting director Logan White was arguably the biggest beneficiary of Andrew Miller's fall. The Dodgers loved Kershaw all along, but assumed he would go one pick ahead of them to Detroit. When Detroit took Miller, Kershaw fell in their lap. The best high school prospect in the draft, Kershaw is a 6-foot-4 lefty without any flaws to indentify yet. He sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, has an effective slow curveball and a good idea of how to throw a changeup. He might have been underrated by those focusing on the big college arms, and might end up better than any of them. The Dodgers planned on taking Morris at seven, and were thrilled to still get him at 26. Tampa Bay failed to sign him as a draft-and-follow thanks to some last-minute involvement by Major League Baseball to keep bonuses down, but now he'll get the seven-figure bonus he desired and it's well deserved--as he featured a mid-90s fastball and one of the better curves in this year's class. Mattingly was a surprising pick at the time, but the more you talk to people, it looks like a number of teams were considering him in the sandwich round. He's bigger and more athletic than his dad, but he's not the pure hitter Don was (but then again, who is?). Orr was the best Canadian in the draft and went higher than expected, as his power from the left side will have to carry his lack of a true position. Smit is all about projection, but Logan White trusted it, and his track record has been pretty good in that regard.
Best pick after these five: Tenth-round pick Andy D'Alessio was also a 10th round pick by the Reds out of high school, and while he didn't help his draft status during his three years at Clemson, he had a huge second half for the Tigers, ending the season among the national leaders in home runs.
It's hard to argue with the Jeffress selection. He's only the second high school pitcher on record to touch 100 mph, and unlike the first (Colt Griffin) Jeffress is a fantastic athlete who makes it look effortless. Only the lack of a breaking ball kept him out of the single digits. Brewer is one of the best athletes in the draft by any measure, but he'll need some time to translate his gifts into baseball skills and he was not expected to go this high. Gillespie is one of those solid-across-the-board guys with little star potential, but plenty of right-now ability. You get the feeling that Anundsen is going to get pretty sick of interviewers asking about his high school if he gets to the pros, and with an average fastball but very good curve, it just might happen. A long, overly-wrought SportsCenter feature with grainy film effects and emotionally manipulative music could be in his future. Errecart was a big disappointment at Cal this year, as he began the season as a potential top 50 pick, but just never hit.
Best pick after these five: Seventh-rounder Andy Bouchie is a catcher with good defensive skills and a little power--he could become a Kelly Stinnett type.
New York Mets
The Mets thought they kind of had a first-round pick with draft-and-follow Pedro Beato, but MLB stepped in and put an end to that. Luckily, Mulvey is a pretty nice find in the second round, as few thought he'd fall this low. At times he throws four quality pitches for strikes--the fact that I have to use the phrase 'at times' is the reason he didn't go higher. Even though Smith pitches in the low 90s, I have trouble endorsing a submariner as a third round pick, and Holdzkom makes even less sense. Sure he throws in the upper 90s, but he didn't have the grades to pitch his senior year in high school, dropped out of his junior college after fighting with his coach, and his brother has had the same (or worse) makeup problems, so the writing was on the wall. How you can invest good money in that is beyond me. Holmes is a command/finesse guy, and Schafer was too raw for most teams to project as a single-digit pick. After Mulvey, who's anything but a sure thing, it's yuck with an extra side of yuck.
Best pick after these five: Ninth-round pick Jeremy Barfield went surprisingly late. The son of Jesse and brother of Josh, Jeremy is six inches taller than his brother and has more power.
The Phillies' drafts have been uninspiring of late, mostly because they've given up a number of picks via free agent compensation. But that have to be pretty happy with their first two picks. Drabek's non-baseball issues have been pretty well-documented (at least their existence has), but make no mistake, on pure talent, he's a single-digit pick. Cardenas took advantage of playing in front of scouts nearly every time out, as his partner on the left side of the infield was Washington first-rounder Chris Marrero. Statistically, he outperformed Marrero (and nearly every other player in the country), but while his stats far outstrip Marrero's, his projection does not, and he's not really a shortstop. Carpenter passed Jared Hughes as the best pitching prospect on a disappointing Long Beach State squad, but the second round seemed like a reach for a strike thrower without a real out pitch. Jason Donald is another Boras client who had a disappointing year, but he makes up for so-so tools with energy and instincts, and teams always find that profile attractive. Myers has insane tools and little idea what to do with them, so he'll either be an absolute steal or gone in three years.
Best pick after these five: Eighth-round pick T.J. Warren is built like a right-handed Darryl Strawberry, and he nearly has the tools to boot, but he's as raw as tonight's special nigri at your favorite sushi bar.
With Lincoln, the Pirates are pretty thrilled, as they preferred him over both Reynolds and Longoria, but didn't think he'd drop to four--especially late Monday night when it looked like Lincoln might go No. 1. I'm just glad he went to a National League team so he can bat, as he doubled as the Cougars' cleanup hitter this year. His size is only slightly bothersome--his stuff is as good as anyone's, and there wasn't a more consistent performer among the top picks this year. Felix is one of those college relievers that teams hope can help in a hurry--his left handedness makes him a little unique. Ford is an offensively-minded second baseman with a good approach and nice pop for an up-the-middle player, but his bat will have to carry him. Hughes is a massive (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) righthander with fringy stuff and command that disappointed scouts this year who wanted him to take a step forward. Bresnehan is another disappointment who has enough velocity and feel for offspeed pitches to turn it around.
Best pick after these five: Sixth-round pick Jim Negrych is more than just a hometown selection, as while the Pitt star doesn't have much to talk about when it comes to tools, his numbers are without fault.
St. Louis Cardinals
Whole lotta college, whole lotta polish. The Cardinals have a very safe draft that looks like it was conducted more by a management consultant (I know, cheap shot). Not that there isn't some talent here. Ottavino is tall, throws hard and has a good slider--the only concern is a very heavy workload at Northeastern. Perez is interesting in that he's a reliever who could get to the big leagues very quickly, but he'll probably never have enough velocity to close. Furnish is a power lefty with a good curveball, but he's currently a two-pitch guy who needs to work on changing speeds. Jay doesn't have any weaknesses in his game other than the fact he's a corner outfielder without power--a bad combination in the majors. Hamilton entered the year with first-round potential, but got off to an ugly start and racked up a lot of strikeouts. He had a strong second half, finishing with 20 home runs in 235 at-bats, as well as 51 walks. He could end up the best one of the lot.
Best pick after these five: Fifth-rounder Shane Robinson hit .427 as a sophomore, and while he didn't match those numbers this year, he's still an on-base machine and a pretty good center fielder who should have a nice career as a valuable bench outfielder.
San Diego Padres
Antonelli was expected to go the the Blue Jays all along at No. 14 until the last 72 hours, and the Padres got one of the top college position players available. He's a good athlete and a fundamentally sound player who can hit for average, has a little power and runs well. He might end up at second base or even center field. Burke was one of the better all-around high-school outfielders around. His tools are at least average across the board, and his power is well-above average. Huffman went surprisingly high, as he's a good hitter without a defensive position, and he's not a good enough hitter to be without a defensive position. LeBlanc is undefeated this year, but his stuff is big league fringy, while Hunter is maybe toolsier than Burke, but not as polished. As the top player in the famed East Cobb program, he was expected to go a litle higher and, of course, go to the Braves.
Best pick after these five: If the Padres sign either 11th-round pick Matt Latos or 14th-round selection Grant Green, they just got a potential first-round talent. Unfortunately, because of where they where drafted, college is the more likely choice, especially for Green.
San Francisco Giants
In the end, the Giants decided to take a pick worthy of the No. 10 position, and in reality, Lincecum could end up much better than those taken ahead of him. The million dollar question is whether he'll be groomed as a reliever, which could get him to the big leagues this year, or as a starter, which has more value but will take more time. Burris was one of the few ultra-athletic college infielders available, and is somewhat similar to current infield prospect Marcus Sanders. Tanner is lefthanded and gained 4-5 mph on his fastball this year, with the Giants thinking there is room for more. Snyder is incredibly similar to Tanner, only closer to the big leagues because he's three years older. McBryde played just three games this year because of a torn hamstring, but before that, he was a burner at the top of the order.
Best pick after these five: Sixth-round pick Ryan Rohlinger played all over the place at Oklahoma and has enough bat and versatility to make it as a utility player.
The Nationals came away from the draft with exactly what they needed: exciting young talent with plenty of upside. While taking five high-risk/high-reward picks is a risky maneuver, the system needed some ceiling and all five of these players were at one time or another seen as potential first-round picks. Marrero began the year as the top position player in the draft, and while he didn't live up to expectations and went a little higher than expected, his power, plate discipline, and arm are all elite. Willems is like a lot of high school arms, only he's a little taller and throws about 1-2 mph faster than most, and together that makes a big difference. Black shot up draft boards late in the year when he touched 95 mph and had no problems retiring Baltimore first-round pick Billy Rowell in a late-season game. His track record is anything but long, leaving him a bit risky. Englund gets some highly mixed reviews. Those who like him see a tremendous athlete with big time power potential, while his detractors see a hole-filled swing and some stiffness. King is either the total package or a total fraud--he's been injury prone in the last two years and most teams haven't gotten enough looks to decide for themselves, but area scouts rave.
Best pick after these five: Sixth-round pick Zech Zinicola is a reliever who can get it into the mid-90s, and he's either eccentric or problematic, depending on who you talk to. From the Why Does This Matter files: If Zinicola makes it, he'll be the first big leaguer with the initials Z.Z.