June 3, 2008
The Top 50 Talents
To be as clear as possible, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected or any type of mock draft--you'll see that tomorrow. Instead, this is a ranking of talent in a similar vein of my off-season team-by-team rankings, based on the combination of ultimate ceiling and the chances to reach it.
1. Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS (GA)
What He Is: That up-the-middle player who offers the best combination of tools and potential in the draft.
What He's Not: A guy who grades out as well as the Upton brothers did, so let's end those comps here and now.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An All-Star shortstop who hits 20 home runs, steals 40 bases, and plays above-average defense
Backup Plan: Center field
Open Issues: Arguments remain over his ability to stay at shortstop--the athleticism is there, but his fundamentals are shaky--and ultimate power ceiling.
2. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
What He Is: The most advanced hitter in the draft in terms of approach, bat speed, and power.
What He's Not: A guy who performed especially well this year while dealing with a hand injury.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Scott Rolen without the glove work.
Backup Plan: It's pretty much middle-of-the-order hitter or bust.
Open Issues: Alvarez' first-class track record means people aren't concerned about the disappointing '08 showing, but a decent-sized minority wonders if he can stay at third.
3. Buster Posey, C, Florida State
What He Is: An incredibly athletic catcher with a patient approach, decent power, and top-notch defensive potential.
What He's Not: A true impact player.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A Gold Glove catcher who hits .270-.290 with 15-20 home runs and 75 walks.
Backup Plan: He's one of the safest picks around, so you don't really need one, but he's a pretty good infielder as well.
Open Issues: He's still new to catching, so while he has the potential to be great, he's not there yet. His ultimate power ceiling ranges from just average to well-above, depending on who you talk to.
4. Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina
What He Is: A big, power-hitting first baseman who has the defensive skills and plate coverage to avoid being cast as a one-dimensional slugger.
What He's Not: A guy who shows you a ton of effort every time out.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A switch-hitting Justin Morneau.
Backup Plan: A switch-hitting first baseman that is something less than Justin Morneau.
Open Issues: Big league attitude, or bad attitude? The power is real, but his swing will need some adjustments to wood.
5. Brian Matusz, LHP, San Diego
What He Is: The most complete pitcher in the draft, and, oh yeah, he's left-handed too.
What He's Not: A guy who is overpowering people with plus-plus offerings
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A No. 2 big league starter and frequent All-Star.
Backup Plan: A back-end rotation regular.
Open Issues: He's skinny, and some see him as more of a command guy than a power guy, which could limit his ceiling.
6. Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS (FL)
What He Is: The top high school hitter in the draft, with some potential power scores of a perfect 80.
What He's Not: Any more than a first baseman in terms of positions.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A monster lefty power bat in the majors.
Backup Plan: He doesn't really need one, but his fastball gets into the upper 90s.
Open Issues: Having Boras as his advisor makes his signability an issue; most teams think he's worth it, but some see risk in high school first basemen.
7. Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri
What He Is: The best pure power arm coming out of college ranks.
What He's Not: In possession of a clean arm action or a good changeup.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A top-tier starting pitcher.
Backup Plan: Closer.
Open Issues: He dominated at the beginning and end of the season, but had pretty big blip in the middle of year when he was very hittable; potential injury concerns?
8. Kyle Skipworth, C, Patroit HS (CA)
What He Is: The top high school catcher by a mile, one who offers more size and power than Posey.
What He's Not: A defensive stalwart behind the plate.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An All-Star backstop
Backup Plan: A big league catcher who gets a few days off every July
Open Issues: Just the usual risks associated with high school catchers in the time it takes one to develop.
9. Gordon Beckham, SS, Georgia
What He Is: A grinder with outstanding fundamentals who suddenly has some of the top statistics in college baseball.
What He's Not: Especially toolsy.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Khalil Greene, but with Jed Lowrie's glove?
Backup Plan: Offensive second baseman.
Open Issues: He nedds to tighten his approach at the plate; his range on the left side is questioned by some.
10. Aaron Hicks, RHP/OF, Woodrow Wilson HS (CA)
What He Is: An incredible athlete with first-round potential as both a pitcher and position player.
What He's Not: Refined.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A power-pitching right-handed starter.
Backup Plan: Speedy switch-hitting center fielder.
Open Issues: Is he willing to pitch? The answer used to be a resounding 'no,' but that stance has softened of late.
11. Ethan Martin, RHP/3B, Stephens County HS (GA)
What He Is: Kinda of the East Coast version of Hicks, only he's an infielder instead of an outfielder.
What He's Not: A guy who has an issues beginning his career on the mound.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Like Hicks, a star-level power righty.
Backup Plan: Closer, then third baseman--he does have a very real power bat.
Open Issues: His mechanics on the mound aren't bad, but do need refinement and repetition; if things go bad, will he want to go back to hitting before the team does?
12. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Miami
What He Is: A big first baseman with an outstanding feel for the strike zone and massive raw power.
What He's Not: Much of an athlete
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A medium-average/high-walk/huge-power first baseman.
Backup Plan: A first baseman who needs a platoon partner
Open Issues: His disturbingly bad splits against lefties this year, but
he's hit them well in the past; his defense is poor, leaving some NL teams to
wonder if he's DH-only material.
13. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
What He Is: A big, athletic lefty with a decent heater and arguably the top curveball in the draft.
What He's Not: Overpowering, or a guy with pinpoint control.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Not completely unlike Barry Zito.
Backup Plan: A back of the rotation left-hander who lives off of his breaking ball.
Open Issues: Some see him as kind of a tweener on the power/finesse continuum; his command is no better than average.
14. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS (CA)
What He Is: Maybe the most talented high school arm in the draft.
What He's Not: A guy who endears himself to teams with his attitude, on or off the field
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dominating pitcher with a lot of swagger
Backup Plan: He has closer-worthy stuff, and maybe the right mindset for it as well.
Open Issues: He might be the kind of guy who is good at baseball but doesn't especially like the game; teams tend to shy against paying big money for a player with makeup problems.
15. Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane
What He Is: One of the more consistent college righties this year, and one in possession of two plus offerings (fastball, curve).
What He's Not: A guy who fills up the strike zone.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An inning-eating mid-rotation starter
Backup Plan: A lesser starter, as he doesn't profile especially well out of the pen.
Open Issues: Control lapses, and questions about him throwing the curve for strikes as he prefers to use it as a chase pitch.
16. Brett Lawrie, SS, Brookswood HS (BC)
What He Is: A big, thick Canadian athlete with a ton of power who has been rocketing up draft boards of late following some monster showings in exhibition games in Florida and the Dominican.
What He's Not: A shortstop, not by any means, but he has the arm and reactions for third.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A power-hitting all-star at the hot corner.
Backup Plan: His arm and body have some dreaming on him as a catcher.
Open Issues: Not a ton of experience against high-level competition, but he's done well in limited exposure; no real consensus on what to do with him
17. Brett Wallace, 3B/1B, Arizona State
What He Is: An offensive machine.
What He's Not: A guy who impresses anyone with his body, athleticism, or defense.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Billy Butler?
Backup Plan: There's really no path for him other than as an everyday 1B/DH type.
Open Issues: Some scouts just can't get past the body no matter how well he hits; some have him as capable of no more than average power in the majors.
18. Casey Kelly, RHP/SS, Sarasota HS (FL)
What He Is: The son of former big leaguer Pat is an excellent two-way athlete with good bloodlines.
What He's Not: An especially adept hitter, other than the power.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A big power right-hander.
Backup Plan: Even as a shortstop, he's a first-round talent because his kind of power is rare for the position and he's a top-flight defender
Open Issues: Teams like him better as a pitcher, while he likes playing shortstop better; he has the option of pursue football at Tennessee as a quarterback.
19. Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia
What He Is: A dominating college closer and the top college senior in the country.
What He's Not: Physically big and intimidating, or capable of moving into a starting role.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A perennial 40 saves type.
Backup Plan: A set-up pitcher, I guess.
Open Issues: His remarkable season was marred by a few late-season blips, while previous years were plagued by inconsistency; the Boras factor.
20. Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian
What He Is: The fastest-rising college arm gained 5-7 mph after a move to
closing duties, and he has a nearly ideal pitching build.
What He's Not: A guy who always throws strikes.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dominating closer.
Backup Plan: Prior to this year he was a starter, where his stuff wasn't nearly as good as it what out of the bullpen, but some teams are tempted to try it again.
Open Issues: His control needs to be harnessed to be trustworthy in the ninth.
21. Tim Melville, RHP, Wentzville Holt HS (MO)
What He Is: One of the top all-around high school righties.
What He's Not: As good as he was last year.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average big league starter.
Backup Plan: It's a big league arm that could fill nearly any role
Open Issues: Is his late-season velocity spike real, or just a positive blip? Is he signable past the first 15 picks?
22. Anthony Hewitt, SS, The Salisbury School (CT)
What He Is: On a pure tools level, he's the best athlete in this year's draft, maybe the past several years.
What He's Not: A baseball player.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An absolute monster.
Backup Plan: You want fries with that? All kidding aside, he's a bright kid who'll go to a good school and end up just fine if this whole baseball thing doesn't work out.
Open Issues: His risk/reward balance is so thrown off that people have a hard time coming up with a good valuation; like many East Coast prep kids, he's a year older than most high schoolers.
23. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland HS (IL)
What He Is: An athletic, projectable, polished right-hander, the kind of which is rarely found in cold-weather states.
What He's Not: Especially big; a pitcher with a full arsenal.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average big league starter
Backup Plan: Some kind of big leaguer at least; he has college-level hitting skills, but nobody thinks of him as a pro position player.
Open Issues: Can the body hold up to a 200 inning workload? He needs a
changeup, but so do plenty of other high schoolers.
24. Ryan Perry, RHP, Arizona
What He Is: A power arm whose fastball has touched 100 mph of late, which he complements with a hard, biting slider.
What He's Not: Especially impressive statistically.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A closer.
Backup Plan: A set-up guy.
Open Issues: Can he consistently throw that hard? The lack of movement on the fastball makes him more hittable than someone with that kind of velocity should be.
25. Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills HS (CA)
What He Is: A toolsy player who rocketed from decent prospect to surefire first rounder with an outstanding spring.
What He's Not: Polished or experienced.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A player with a very good batting average and decent power.
Backup Plan: Fourth outfielder.
Open Issues: Without a ton of power or a ton of speed, is he a tweener?
26. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Miami
What He Is: A leaner, faster, less powerful version of his brother, Rickie.
What He's Not: In possession of his older brother's approach or bat speed.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A 20/40 second baseman.
Backup Plan: He certainly his the athleticism to give center field a try.
Open Issues: He gets by on athleticism right now; his defense and base running need work.
27. Ike Davis, 1B, Arizona State
What He Is: A good pitcher like his father Ron (a former big leaguer), but far more desired for his big frame and power bat.
What He's Not: Anything more than a one-dimensional slugger.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An imposing left-handed power bat.
Backup Plan: Um, a kinda imposing left-handed power bat?
Open Issues: They're all minor, but he's been pretty consistently injured; he can get pull-happy at times and lose plate coverage.
28. David Cooper, 1B, California
What He Is: Yet another bat-only college first baseman, but loaded with everyone's favorite two p's, power and plate discipline.
What He's Not: A guy who will ever be a good defender or win a foot race.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A middle-of-the-order run producer.
Backup Plan: Something less than that, but he's pretty much first base and DH only.
Open Issues: He is what he is, as his body doesn't offer a ton of projection.
29. Jason Castro, C, Stanford
What He Is: Big, a good-not-great hitter, a solid defender, and the second best college catcher in the draft.
What He's Not: Anywhere close to Buster Posey's level of talent.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A solid big league regular.
Backup Plan: Good enough to be just that, a backup.
Open Issues: Many of his home runs came early in the season against lesser opponents; only average defensively.
30. Daniel Schlereth, LHP, Arizona
What He Is: The son of an NFL lineman and a bulky lefty who's velocity is hard to match among this year's crop of southpaws.
What He's Not: Anything more than a reliever.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Randy Myers?
Backup Plan: More of a set-up type.
Open Issues: He has a long medical record, including a Tommy John surgery; his delivery has a lot of moving parts.
31. Alex Meyer, RHP, Greensburg HS (IN)
What He Is: A huge high school righty with consistent mid-90s heat and a ton of ceiling.
What He's Not: Signable.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A top 10 pick in 2011.
Backup Plan: Convince somebody to meet his price tag this year, which is unlikely.
Open Issues: He needs significant mechanical refinement, and his secondary pitches lag behind.
32. Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Wichita State
What He Is: One of the best college bats who isn't limited to first base.
What He's Not: A pure power hitter, because while strong, his level swing and contact-oriented approach limits his pop.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A guy who gives you a solid average, good OBP, decent-at-best power; Ryan Zimmerman with nowhere near the defensive chops?
Backup Plan: Lefty backup bat at both infield corners.
Open Issues: Not the most fluid defender; may want more money than he's worth.
33. Reese Havens, SS, South Carolina
What He Is: A former high school superstar who disappointed in college before a breakout junior year.
What He's Not: A guy with a ton of tools, as opposed to what he is, which is more a player with few glaring weaknesses.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Jed Lowrie.
Backup Plan: A utility type who can play anywhere.
Open Issues: Has a higher strikeout rate than most would like to see; no more than average range at short.
34. Tyson Ross, RHP, California
What He Is: Intimidating six-foot-six righty with a heavy low- to mid-90s sinker.
What He's Not: A guy who's come anywhere close to expectations this year.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A big-time power pitcher.
Backup Plan: A reliever who gets strikeouts and groundballs.
Open Issues: He has a lot of secondary pitches, but none of them are great; his mechanics are complicated, although he repeats them well.
35. Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, Pitt CC (NC)
What He Is: The best juco player in the country, with fantastic plate coverage and bat speed.
What He's Not: Especially quick defensively, or a power hitter.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A player without a ton of secondary skills, but one who makes up for it with a .300-plus batting average.
Backup Plan: A supersub who can play six positions, but none of them
Open Issues: Dismissed from South Carolina as a freshman after being involved in a burglary; some have problems projecting him to stay in the infield.
36. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Hart HS (CA)
What He Is: A tall, lanky, projectable teenage left-hander.
What He's Not: Especially overpowering at this time.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A scary good southpaw.
Backup Plan: A left-handed specialist out of the pen.
Open Issues: It's a lot of projection at this time, as right now he has no pitch that grades out more than average.
37. Josh Lindbloom, RHP, Purdue
What He Is: A college reliever who's a notch or two below the more well-known names; he's massive and throws pretty hard.
What He's Not: A guy with a good breaking ball, as his fastball and change are his two best pitches.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A late-inning big league reliever and occasional closer.
Backup Plan: A middle-inning reliever.
Open Issues: His delivery is ugly, but he repeats it well and throws strikes; velocity had some fluctuations throughout the year.
38. Brett Devall, LHP, Niceville HS (FL)
What He Is: As advanced as any high school arm in the draft, with outstanding control and a deep arsenal.
What He's Not: A power arm.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A fourth starter.
Backup Plan: Some kind of big leaguer.
Open Issues: Can the fringe-average fastball set up the secondary stuff? Does his ceiling justify his price, or is there such a thing as a safe high school arm?
39. Ross Seaton, RHP, Second Baptist HS (TX)
What He Is: An out-of-nowhere big, power righty with a unique combination of velocity and command.
What He's Not: A player with a long track record of success.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Mid-rotation starter.
Backup Plan: Power reliever.
Open Issues: Inconsistent, slurvy breaking ball; not everyone trusts the
40. Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest
What He Is: A massive first baseman with plenty of raw power to spare, and an excellent batting eye.
What He's Not: A good first baseman or a good baserunner.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Richie Sexson.
Backup Plan: Russ Branyan.
Open Issues: There are a lot of swings and misses in his power-only approach to hitting.
41. Bryan Price, RHP, Rice
Is: A disappointing career was transformed into a breakout with a move to the bullpen.
What He's Not: A control pitcher.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Many teams want to try starting him again due to his three-pitch mix.
Backup Plan: A late-inning relief role.
Open Issues: Can he repeat this success with a return to pitching on a starter's schedule?
42. Daniel Webb, RHP, Heath HS (KY)
What He Is: A powerfully-built aggressive righty with a big league fastball.
What He's Not: A refined product.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A starter with enough danger in his fastball to make up for the shortcomings.
Backup Plan: Intimidating reliever.
Open Issues: A maximum-effort delivery; at least one secondary pitch needs to develop into an average offering.
43. Tyler Ladendorf, SS, Howard CC (TX)
What He Is: An outstanding athlete who made a whole lot of money this spring by adding a bit of power to his game.
What He's Not: A shortstop or a leadoff man.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A nifty No. 2 hitter in the middle of the infield.
Backup Plan: A decent No. 7 hitter in the middle of the infield.
Open Issues: He's a free swinger who needs to tighten up his approach to profile better; although his power now at least exists, it isn't even average.
44. Wade Miley, LHP, Southeast Louisiana
What He Is: A safe, polished left-hander with few weaknesses; solid stuff, good command, and smooth arm action.
What He's Not: The type of pitcher who is going to miss a lot of bats as a pro.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A fourth starter.
Backup Plan: Situational reliever.
Open Issues: Many would like to see one of his secondary pitches improve to the point where he didn't need to pitch exclusively off his fastball.
45. Dennis Raben, OF, Miami
What He Is: A big outfielder with above-average hitting skills and power.
What He's Not: A player who's shown much at all in an injury-hampered season; afield, he's no more than a left fielder at best.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An offense-first corner outfielder.
Backup Plan: First base, if his athleticism continues to slide.
Open Issues: Back injuries always create long-term concerns; does his good showing in the Cape Cod League make up for a poor regular season?
46. Tyler Sample, RHP, Mullen HS (CO)
What He Is: An athletic six-foot-seven power arm who offers a whole lot to dream on.
What He's Not: Anything close to a finished product.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An All-Star.
Backup Plan: You'd hope being huge and throwing hard would offer some kind of career.
Open Issues: Highly inconsistent; secondary pitches need significant work.
47. James Darnell, 3B, South Carolina
What He Is: A muscular kid with a lot of juice in his bat.
What He's Not: Someone who is going to hit for a high average or play third base in the bigs.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A better version of Marcus Thames.
Backup Plan: Bench outfielder with power.
Open Issues: Some sizeable holes in his swing; he has troubles against tough righties.
48. Lance Lynn, RHP, Mississippi
What He Is: A massive right-hander (6'5", 260).
What He's Not: Massively overpowering.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An innings-eater.
Backup Plan: A middle reliever who gets groundballs.
Open Issues: Size is issue with some, as he's not just huge, he's a bit dumpy; he doesn't have a go-to big league offering and needs to change speeds and hit his spots.
49. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Kent State
What He Is: A big college righty with an even bigger arm.
What He's Not: A pitcher with a clean delivery or a clean health record.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A very good big league starter.
Backup Plan: His fastball/slider combination should be enough to have him relieve in the later innings
Open Issues: Has had two elbow surgeries already (a TJ and a cleanup), with the kind of violent delivery that could require more.
50. Brad Holt, RHP, UNC Wilmington
What He Is: A late bloomer who started throwing in the mid-90s in April, and stayed there all year.
What He's Not: Polished, or in possession of a usable breaking ball.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A durable big league starter.
Backup Plan: The body and the fastball should be at least enough to serve in some kind of big league role.
Open Issues: His arm was utterly abused during his school's late run for the postseason; his secondary stuff is lacking.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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