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June 4, 2009

Future Shock

Draft Rumor Mill

by Kevin Goldstein

Now that we've moved into the final week before the draft, things have not really become any clearer-if anything, there's more confusion than ever, with many teams going silent as they enter all-day meetings in preparation for their picks. If there is any good news for those trying to prognosticate the selections, it's that after the slam dunk of Stephen Strasburg going first to the Nationals, the overwhelming consensus is that Seattle will take North Carolina's Dustin Ackley with the second pick. After that, it is, as they say, anybody's ballgame.

Plenty of Rumors at Three

The Padres are the first true wild card with the third overall pick, and to understand the range of rumors surrounding their selection, the two stories with the most buzz involve players who could not be on more opposite ends of the spectrum. The splashiest suggestion has the team selecting Donavan Tate, who offers as much upside as any player in the draft, but he also comes with questions about both his bat and his effort level. Making things more muddled, there is a rumored $6 million price tag that would require the blessing of those above management. On the other end is Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor; on a pure talent level, he belongs at the end of the first round at best, but teams will look to avoid a tough decision and simply take a player who could arrive quickly and provide some certainty, so Minor could get popped early.

Even More Rumors at Four

Almost more confusing than San Diego's intention is the pick that follows theirs, with the Pirates selecting fourth overall. Rumor number one involves them taking a 'budget-conscious' selection, and then spending big on Dominican uber-shortstop Miguel Sano. The second has them making a splash and taking Tate or Texas prep southpaw Matt Purke, who is looking to break the bank despite not really having the talent to merit the Rick Porcello-level deal that he's looking for (a $7 million big-league package). What might make the most sense is for them to simply take the player they like there, but there is more and more smoke coming from the first rumor, and the Pirates are said by some to have already entered into discussions with a few players seen more as late first-round picks.

Three Players Moving Up
  • Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
    Sanchez is the best catcher in this draft, though on pure talent, he's considered more of a late first-round type by consensus. But as the old draft cliché goes, it takes only one team to push a guy up, and in this case, there are several teams doing so with Sanchez, who some project as a Molina-like defender with a power bat. Kansas City has him in their mix at 12th overall, and there are wild stories of his going even higher than that. A lot of late-spring buzz is generated by who sees who and when, and San Diego brass were paying close attention to Boston College at last weekend's regional at North Carolina, but they were nowhere to be found for the Tar Heels' final game, leading to even further wild speculation.

  • Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State
    He just never stopped dominating. You can ding him a little for his size, but he's hardly tiny, and he's a fantastic athlete. Beyond all of the scouting tidbits, take in this quick statistical curiosity: Leake pitches in a very friendly hitters' park, he pitches in one of the toughest conferences in the game, and he had a brutal schedule. None of those three qualities apply to Steven Strasburg, yet Leake beats the top talent in the draft in ERA, with a 1.23 mark entering super-regional play versus Strasburg's 1.32. Teams unable to decide among the available high school arms, or turned off by their bonus demands (or both) could be turning to Leake with a single-digit selection.

  • Mike Trout, OF, Millville HS (NJ)
    Trout has been the high school player attracting the most heat in private workouts, showing plus-plus speed, surprising strength in his bat, and very good outfield skills. None of that is a big surprise to anyone, but for a guy that has a reputation for being raw, he's looking very polished in front of decision-makers. In a draft with little separation among the top 30 talents, the recent workouts and off-the-charts makeup should move Trout up.

Three Players Falling Down

  • Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina
    After looking like one of the top college pitchers on the board, White has faltered mightily down the stretch, lasting only seven innings total in his last two starts while giving up 13 runs. One scout who saw his regional game against Coastal Carolina claimed, "He really just looked like your standard arm-strength righty," while also questioning his aggressiveness. "Beyond the varying velocity at 86-94 mph and the fringy secondary stuff, I just didn't see a sense of urgency from him," said the scout. "After he gave up his second home run, he looked at the dugout like he wanted to come out of the game." There is some talk of his having hamstring and blister issues, but scouts aren't sure if those are real reasons or just excuses.

  • Kyle Gibson, RHP, University of Missouri
    One of the more consistent performers this spring, Gibson put up good numbers in his final start of the year, tossing eight shutout innings in a regional start, but that was against a non-threatening Monmouth lineup. More importantly, his fastball was suddenly sitting at just 84-87 mph, and he's been struggling with what has been classified as forearm tightness, though it has many worried that it could be, or end up being, more serious than that. "We all know what the forearm is connected to," quipped one scouting director.

  • Grant Green, SS, University of Southern California
    Or, is he? After falling out of the top ten on some boards, Green is suddenly looking very much like he'll go in the five-to-eight range, and there is some talk that he could be back in the mix with the Padres and Pirates. "It just made no sense to me," said one scout. "The guy enters the year as the consensus number two pick, and all he does is have a really good season that didn't live up to expectations that were too high in the first place," he added. "If he's suddenly a mid-first-round pick, then we're all really bad at our jobs."

Ending On a Comical Note

Late draft coverage involves time filled with a lot of phone calls, which involves a lot of story swapping, few of which are for public consumption. Here's one of the better ones from this week, with the team and player names remaining anonymous.

During one club's private workouts this week, they had three very athletic players line up for a 60-yard dash. The slowest of them was a 50-55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, the second was a 60 runner, and the third was even faster than that. The first guy runs a 7.2, which leads to confusion all around, as that would be a well below-average time. The second player runs seven flat, while the third, in true Roger Bannister style, breaks the magic seven-second barrier, which is still barely average, and it looked like he was burning. With both players and officials standing around with a combination of bewilderment and disappointment, somebody decided to check the course and realized that they were running a 70-yard dash.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Mike Leake

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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dpk12000

Why do I have a feeling the team that did that was the Nationals?

Jun 04, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 2
 
strupp

If bowden were still in charge, maybe.

If anyone knew the location of Pirates officials during this event, I'm listening.

Jun 04, 2009 10:33 AM
rating: 0
 
wonkothesane1

Is it possible that the Padres were looking at Sanchez as the 52nd overall pick? If he is climbing up the boards, maybe they didn't know that other teams already saw him as a 1st rounder.

As for the UNC games, I'm pretty sure the Padres have been to their share of TarHeel games this year. It's not like White and Ackley were a secret going into the season.

Jun 04, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

No way the Padres think Sanchez is still there at 52. They know what's going on.

Jun 04, 2009 11:59 AM
 
McNulty

Did you mean the regional last week for BC versus Texas (not UNC)?

Jun 04, 2009 11:26 AM
rating: 1
 
rposeagles

If the Mariners do take Dustin Ackley, do you think he has the arm to close or is he more of a middle reliever/set-up guy for them? It's a shame we wont get to see him hitting in the big leagues.

Jun 04, 2009 11:52 AM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Um, he's an outfielder.

Jun 04, 2009 12:31 PM
 
BP staff member Bryan Smith
BP staff

Not just that, he's an outfielder with a bad arm.

Jun 04, 2009 12:53 PM
 
Alex Canzoneri

Joke. Mariners the last three Mariner first round picks are now "closer" prospects.

Jun 04, 2009 14:25 PM
rating: 1
 
sockeye

now THAT was funny.

Jun 04, 2009 23:38 PM
rating: 1
 
Cromulent

The thing that I don't get is that if Pittsburgh goes cheap at the top of the draft to save money for Miguel Angel Sano, what happens if they don't win the bidding war?

There's three weeks between the draft and the signing day, and anything could happen. Unless the Pirates have a deal in place with Sano, which would be against the rules as I understand it. Obviously these things do happen in Latin America, but there is theoretically more scrutiny now and we're talking about the #1 prospect down there.

And how does the team address this publicly if they do go cheap? Given the freshness of the Wieters/Moskos debacle, how are Pirates fans going to be assuaged? "Trust us, we can't say anything now, nudge nudge wink wink, but you'll be happy on July 2"? And at that point, does MLB get involved?

It just seems fraught with problems.

Jun 04, 2009 12:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Against the rules and the reality of what happens in the DR are two very different thing. Many, many deal with players are likely already done. MLB can try to do anything they want down there, but it truly is the wild, wild west.

Jun 04, 2009 12:32 PM
 
Cromulent

Fair enough. I guess I also don't understand why Sano would agree to a deal beforehand since he can only benefit from letting the bidding war escalate right up until July 2, but I know that that happens as well.

Jun 04, 2009 13:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bryan Smith
BP staff

KG, I could ask you this via e-mail or something, but maybe others care about the answer: the people you talk to that are on Tony Sanchez, do you think they prefer him to where Jason Castro was a year ago?

How about you, Sanchez v. Castro?

Jun 04, 2009 12:54 PM
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Castro. Better all-around hitter. Sanchez has power, but he's probably never going to hit for much of an average.

Jun 04, 2009 15:46 PM
 
jtrichey

Mr Goldstein, wondering what you thought of Jayson Stark's draft article on ESPN.com today. I think it is asinine. Anyway, he wants a strict slotting system because the draft is "broken" because Strasburg wants a lot of money. Another writer swallowing the billionaire owners garbage?

Jun 04, 2009 13:14 PM
rating: 0
 
beatolympics

Kevin,

Any projection on where you think Leake's teammate Jason Kipnis might go?? Go Devils!

Jun 04, 2009 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Probably second round. I'm a big fan and think he might be better than that. You'll see my Top 50 talents this weekend, and I'll simply say that Kipnis is on it.

Jun 04, 2009 15:47 PM
 
Canuck

Kevin, are you hearing any draft rumors at all involving the Dodgers? Sure, neither they nor anybody else can predict who might drop to #36, but by now there is usually some idea of who is more of a sandwich-round talent than a true first rounder.

Jun 04, 2009 14:55 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Sure there's an idea of who those players are . . . and there's about 50 of 'em.

Jun 04, 2009 15:47 PM
 
Dan

Kevin, while fully admitting that I am no scout, and that I've never laid eyes on most of the players you list here... I'm looking at this and wondering how the heck Alex White can be top-10 material?

http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/stats/2008-2009/teamcume.html

I mean, based on numbers, is he even one of the top 5 pitchers on his own team?

It's hard to see how he and Mike Leake could even be talked about in the same breath. Look at the dominance of Leake's numbers:

http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/stats/2008-2009/teamcume.html

Yes, yes, I'm just a baseball-fan geek with access to the internets... but anyway, give me your thoughts on these two (and maybe on the relevance of college stats in general).

Thanks.

Jun 04, 2009 16:36 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bryan Smith
BP staff

Dan, I boast neither the contacts nor the credentials that Kevin has to answer your question, but I know a little bit about the players you mention, so let me at least give you my opinion. Please feel free to ignore...

White's numbers aren't the thing to look at this season -- if you check out his first two years, there's little doubt that he's been one of North Carolina's best aces in recent history. But White has a subset of scouts that really like him based on his size (6-3, 200), his durability (check last year's CWS) and his velocity (up to 97 in the past out of the bullpen, but should be 91-94 on good nights). In last year's College World Series, he had a real plus splitter going, but has had trouble duplicating that this spring. Spinning a breaking ball has proven difficult as of yet.

Leake, on the other hand, stands three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than White. Every year, scouts will hold size against players, like it or not -- and more often than not, by the way, the scouts bias wins out. While Leake has been dominant this season, he's never going to boast White's velocity potential -- his sinker is going to be 90-92 on most days, albeit with good movement. Leake has a better breaking ball than White, and has shown a decent change against left-handers this spring.

No doubt, some scouts value Leake over White, based on athleticism (Leake could have played SS in college) and pitchability, but in terms of potential, no one that has followed the college game much in three years doubts what White could become.

Jun 04, 2009 21:36 PM
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I do. Leake will be ahead of White on my Top 50.

Jun 04, 2009 21:53 PM
 
Dan

Very interesting.

Still seems weird that a top 10 draft pick could have a 4.42 ERA when his team cumulative ERA is 3.66, doesn't it?

Anyway, thanks a lot (to both of you) for the info! I'm a Reds fan and I think I'm pulling for Leake at #8 at this point. (At his size, does Leake ever get compared to Oswalt?)

Jun 05, 2009 07:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Madison

"On the other end is Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor; on a pure talent level, he belongs at the end of the first round at best, but teams will look to avoid a tough decision and simply take a player who could arrive quickly and provide some certainty, so Minor could get popped early."

Has this EVER worked out? Taking the "sure" thing for an expedited timeline and an easier sign? I can't recall this working out well; usually it indicates "surefire bust."

Jun 05, 2009 08:26 AM
rating: 1
 
thedoctorisin

Does the Pirates trading of McLouth change things. For my part, I think they will pull a Moskos, reach mightily for a lower talent guy, then declare all along he is the one they wanted.

What I am not sure of is with a major league roster 30-40 million below average why they couldn't take the best pitcher ( Crow or Matzek unless my prayers are answered and Ackley falls) AND sign Sano. If they can't come to terms with their first pick this year, hey... you get an early pick next year.

Of course this is the Pirates, so look for Sanchez or another of Neal Huntington's lithe singles hitting centerfield prospects.

Jun 06, 2009 09:11 AM
rating: 0
 
dack21

Look no further than the emminently replacable Nyjer Morgan to indict the Pirates front office. Career 4A player for every other organization in baseball but Neal Huntington and Dan Fox have him as the most valuable outfielder in the National League because of his defense....

With McClouth in center there is some value to Nyjer in left because of McClouth's power but with McCutchen likely taking until 2011 before his power fully blooms there are going to be a lot of 5-2 losses in our future with this front office.

Jun 06, 2009 18:03 PM
rating: 0
 
gluckschmerz

I have grown used to the 5-2 losses. And the 10-2 losses and the 8-3 losses. The occasional win just leaves me with the empty, hollow satisfaction of a so-so one night stand.

We all love to root for Nyjer Morgan who is an all-around good guy. But do Pirates fans want to root for a a bunch of Morgans, Wilsons and McClouths, good guys all? OR... do we want to root for the next Central Division winners?

That team in Cincinati sure is fun to watch. The Cards will be beatable when Pujols ages out. The Cubs have an aging core as do the Astros. Am I wishcasting to hope we can effectively tussle with the Brewers in the years to come?

I think this draft will tell us a lot about the Pirates front office.

Jun 07, 2009 05:06 AM
rating: 0
 
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