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June 9, 2009
The Mock Draft
This one could be a mess folks, and it's all about bonus demands at this point. Right now, you have as many as four high school pitchers-Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, and Shelby Miller-looking for big, big money, with the first three all telling teams they're looking for Rick Porcello-level deals (or more). This has the potential to blow the first round wide open, and turn it into into a very college-oriented first 30 picks, with numerous top talents falling to later picks than initially expected. One team picking in the top ten I spoke to this morning said he still had very little idea of who was going to be picked ahead of his club's choice.
Further down, signability could continue to rule the day, as players and agents are basically conducting a mini-revolt over the fact that MLB's recommended slot bonuses are 10 percent lower this year. "I'm not really upset that the top guys are asking for a lot of money, because that's every year," said one scouting director. "What's bugging me is that we called a lot of kids we'd think about in rounds two through six, and they're suddenly all asking for a million dollars as well."
With just 111 picks getting made today, one thing is certain-there is going to be plenty of top talent going to bed tonight still wondering where they will be selected.
1. Washington Nationals: Why waste time? Everyone knows what's happening. Move along, nothing to see here.
2. Seattle Mariners: This one has suddenly gotten a little strange. Two weeks ago, Dustin Ackley looked like a lock here, and he's definitely established himself as the number two talent available, but now there are suddenly rumors that he's looking for an eight-figure deal. Some further poking around makes this look like a smokescreen, but at the same time, the most significant rumor on Monday had Seattle looking elsewhere, and nobody can really pinpoint who else they're looking at. One backup plan here could be Donavan Tate, whose selection wouldn't tear apart much of the draft behind this, but don't be shocked if option two turns out to be Tanner Scheppers, which could really make things messy for the rest of the top ten. The Mariners' attendees have been surprisingly numerous at Scheppers' indy league starts, and new general manager Jack Zduriencik has an affinity for power, be it's of the bat or arm varieties. For now, let's stick to Ackley, but it's not the slam dunk that it was 72 hours ago.
3. San Diego Padres: This remains a big split between the ultimate upside pick in Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate, and the ultimate safe pick in Vanderbilt southpaw Mike Minor. Right now, there are more chips down on Tate, but it's hardly a sure thing as of this writing. If Ackley's still on the board, they'll definitely go in that direction. On the other hand, if Tate is still on the board after these two picks, he has no logical suitor and could plummet.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Rumors of the Pirates going ultra-conservative have died down considerably, but there is still some thought of their taking Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez (whom they adore) here, and then making it up with some signability picks down the road. That's looking more and more unlikely, and the Pirates will almost assuredly be simply taking the guy they like best, and while it's a surprise to some, it looks like that player will be Grant Green.
5. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles want a position player for their pitching-heavy system, but they're not especially high on Green or willing to pay the piper on Tate, should either fall. With no other bats worthy of the pick, they're all about arms right now, and it looks as if they're focusing more on the prep variety, as they seem to have several names ahead of college guys like Aaron Crow and Alex White, while they're rumored to be leery of Tanner Scheppers' medical reports. At this point, all of the top high school arms are looking for huge deals, but Baltimore will probably call the bluff on one of them. None of them has more helium of late than Tyler Matzek, but his agent is telling teams that he wants a precedent-setting deal. That might not be enough to scare the Orioles away.
6. San Francisco Giants: Similar to the Orioles, the Giants would prefer a hitter, but nobody really fits here. They've worked out a number of toolsy outfielders of late, including Cal's Brett Jackson and Sacramento State's Tim Wheeler, but neither really profiles this high. It's going to be an arm, and it's looking like they're willing to spend the kind of money it will take to land Matzek, but probably not Matt Purke or Jacob Turner. This could be a last-minute decision based on which pitcher's pre-draft money is the least unreasonable, which points to Zack Wheeler.
7. Atlanta Braves: Wheeler is the obvious choice here due to Atlanta's affinity for local talent, but don't assume the Braves will stay away from the high school route if he's gone. Alex White generates wildly varying opinions; some think he's a steal here, and some think he's an overdraft.
8. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have had this pick attached to nearly all of the elite-level high school arms all spring, but they've begun to focus their sights on Shelby Miller; they've been plenty deep in terms of attendance at his most recent starts, and he's really shined in front of them. He wants more than slot, but not one of the giant deals most of the top high school arms are looking for, which might actually work in his favor. If the Reds decide not to bust slot at all, Arizona State's Mike Leake and Vanderbilt's Mike Minor are the affordable options.
9. Detroit Tigers: Nobody values velocity more than Detroit's scouting director, David Chadd, and nobody in this draft other than Stephen Strasburg throws as hard as Scheppers does. His medical history is cause for concern, but his price should be far more reasonable than the two best high school arms still on the board at this point, Matt Purke and Jacob Turner.
10. Washington Nationals: All anyone has talked about is the Nationals going cheap (or at least reasonable) here, with possibilities including lower first-round talents like Kennesaw State righty Chad Jenkins or Cal outfielder Brett Jackson. Don't believe it. The Nats are planning on taking the guy they like here. They have a lot of hope for White to drop to them, but that's looking more and more unlikely. Aaron Crow here would be great for entertainment purposes, but that is not going to happen. Still in the mix for many teams in the top five, Mike Minor is still a slight overdraft here, but should be easily signable, with the ability to help the big-league club in short order. If he's gone, still think college and safe.
11. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are looking at plenty of arms, and are hoping one of the bigger college names could drop to them. Aaron Crow is a guy for whom it's hard to find a home, and he could make a lot of sense for Colorado. It's lower than he was drafted last year, and he still wants big money, but there are now questions about his arm action, and his slider just hasn't been as tight as it was last spring. Despite the cash issue, Colorado knows they'd have the leverage here, though that lack of leverage could move Crow up significantly if teams in the top ten decide they don't want an especially difficult negotiation.
12. Kansas City Royals: Like Crow, Kyle Gibson needs a home. A stress fracture in his forearm has him out of the single-digit selections, but many think he could end up being a great value pick in the end. He makes a lot of sense for the Royals as something of a hometown hero, that despite the fact that they've been trying all spring to find an up-the-middle player that fits in with this pick. Despite the injury, he's still considered signable, but many teams see this as too high, with one scout going as far to say, "I don't know how a guy with a stress fracture can even go in the first round."
13. Oakland Athletics: The A's have gone from somewhat predictable to all over the board. They're looking at toolsy high school types, safe and boring college types, and everything in between. There's a hot rumor from the last 24 hours that they'll look to do something sexy here with a signability guy, and teams picking in the top ten all noted how every time they went to see Donavan Tate, Oakland had representatives there (and big names at that) bearing down on him. Despite those rumors, Oakland isn't as high on Tate as many believe. For now, we'll stick to the safe route and go with the best college pitcher on the board, and in addition, a guy who gets compared quite often to a former Oakland star who was unfairly dinged for his size, Tim Hudson.
14. Texas Rangers: Attaching the Rangers to the top high school arm in Texas, Shelby Miller, is a logical thing to do, but he's likely to go much earlier than the 14th pick, and other than geographic reasons, there's not much evidence that they're especially on Miller as their must-have guy, as opposed to his simply being in their mix. They have surprising interest in Leake, who doesn't fit in with their penchant for picking pure power arms, while they're also getting attached to some of the toolsy high school outfielders in Texas, like Everett Williams and Slade Heathcott, but that seems too high for either. With a recent history of success by focusing on young pitching of late, the high school crop could be too much to pass on here; despite the cash demands, on a pure talent level Turner is a steal.
15. Cleveland Indians: The Tribe is focusing on arms --> college --> power. All signs point to Eric Arnett, one of the top advanced arms left at this point, and he has the best chance to remain in a starting role, with his local ties representing a bonus. Lefty Rex Brothers is also in the mix here.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Prep third baseman Bobby Borchering continues to move up charts based on his premium bat, and according to one source, "there is no way, no how he gets past Arizona." That's about as strong a statement as you'll get prior to the draft when everything after Strasburg is about conjecture, so he's a gimme pick at 16 or 17 if he doesn't go earlier. Some late indications are that Borchering wants "Top 10 money," but it's unlikely that will change Arizona's mind.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona wants one pitcher and one hitter with their pair of picks, meaning that after Borchering it will be an arm (or after an arm, it will be Borchering). There's some thought they'll go for a college arm here, but the drop-off after a guy like Arnett is significant, and there's still plenty of prep talent available. Still, word on the street is that they like Lipscomb's Rex Brothers, and it's hard to find left-handers who throw as hard as he does in any year.
18. Florida Marlins: The Marlins love youth and upside, so this pick could be made based solely on ceiling. They could go with a high school power arm like Chad James, but will likely focus on one of the many toolsy-but-raw prep outfielders who profile as late first-round talents. Of that group, Mike Trout has more current baseball skills than any of them.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: This is one of the more fascinating picks in the second half of the round. Jeff Luhnow and his staff play it as close to the vest as any front office in the game. Some have them looking at high school bats, some have them taking classic college performers like Tim Wheeler, and if Kyle Gibson drops this far, he'll have to be considered. That's all the stuff that makes sense, but the crazy whispers involve them acting like the big-market team they technically are and making a splash with a signability pick. Matt Purke can't drop forever... or can he?
20. Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have gone from one of the most college-focused teams in the draft to a team focused on simply taking the best player available. That could lead them in a number of directions. LSU's Jared Mitchell has the most upside of any college position player in the draft after Ackely, Tony Sanchez provides offensive and defensive value at a premium position, and Oklahoma prep lefty Chad James had one of the best starts of the year in front of the Blue Jays' top brass. That's just three names, and they could also go totally off the board. Many teams picking in the 20s mentioned specific difficulty in nailing down any direction for the Blue Jays, and there's some thought that they're even open to busting slot if a top talent falls this far.
21. Houston Astros: The Astros are not above kicking the tires on any signability types that might drop here, but without that option, they're looking to add tools and upside. Texas prep talents like Everett Williams and Heathcott entice, but Jared Mitchell comes with three years of experience at one of college baseball's top programs. Cal's Brett Jackson seems to be many team's backup plan in the 15-30 range; he will also be in the picture.
22. Minnesota Twins: The Twins are almost sure to surprise people at the end of the first round, as they're usually taking players that nobody else sees as true first-round talents. However, after landing Ben Revere and Carlos Gutierrez in the last two years, nobody is arguing with their methods as much as they are trying to recreate them. Word on the street is that they like some more traditional consensus-level talent this year, and have their eyes on wide-bodied California prep righty Matt Hobgood.
23. Chicago White Sox: The Sox have learned their lesson after wasting first-round picks on low-ceiling pitchers like Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch. They're focused solely on upside this year, with the obvious names (Williams, Jackson, Heathcott) all in play, though they're not ruling out a high school arm. From among what's left, Williams is the best talent.
24. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Nobody really has any idea what the Angels are doing with their back-to-back picks. They love Mike Trout, and will pounce on him if available, but he's gone in this scenario. Chad James needs a home, and as a tall, projectable lefty who's been clocked at speeds as high as 95 mph this year, he could go much higher. On the other hand, he could have some signability issues this low.
25. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: If there's one other pattern for the Angels, it's their affinity for young local talent, and Jiovanni Mier is the only high school shortstop on the board who looks like he can stay at the position and is worthy of a late first-round selection. Reviews are mixed on him however, as some see him as a front-line defender with a 70 arm, while others see him as a 45-50 runner with a good first step and merely solid arm strength. This is not a projection made with much intelligence, other than the fact that it just kind of makes sense.
26. Milwaukee Brewers: A new scouting group, or a new one at least as far as responsibilities go, could be prone to do something conservative here, especially as a team with a lot of early picks. Drew Storen is the best reliever in the draft, he could move up quickly, and it's not like Trevor Hoffman is any kind of long-term answer at closer, as good as he's been.
27. Seattle Mariners: Another real wild-card selection, with rumors in every direction. They might want to bookend Ackley with a pitcher here, but more likely than not they'll focus simply on what's at the top of their board. Brett Jackson isn't the best baseball player still available, but he does offer more upside than most, and Jack Z. loves him some tools.
28. Boston Red Sox: Everyone assumes that the Red Sox just take signability guys, but that's not totally accurate. They have a real logic and path for each one of those players, and don't just spend money willy nilly. They have to feel the player is worth it, and rumor has it that they don't think the premium high school arms looking for Porcello-type deals are. This will probably be a more straightforward pick, and they've been looking at catchers all year. Tony Sanchez is the easy thought here because of the local connection, but if you measure who was seeing what, they seem to prefer the top high school backstop available, as everyone in the Boston front office and his brother saw Max Stassi this spring. When they were there, he played very well, and they had him in town for an impressive private workout in the days leading up to the draft.
29. New York Yankees: Like the Red Sox, the Yankees aren't necessarily waiting for someone to fall into their lap, and they might only bust slot for Matt Purke or Shelby Miller. Miller is asking for an over-slot deal of $4 million, but that's not enough to drop him this far, while Purke certainly could. Without a big-name faller, the team is focused on the trio of Brothers, Jackson, and Heathcott. The good news? While he's the only one of the three left on the board the way it's falling on this page, they actually prefer Heathcott from among that group.
30. Tampa Bay Rays: This is new territory for the Rays, who haven't picked below eighth overall for over a decade. Even when they were picking at or toward the top, they focused on tools and upside, and that won't be any different at 30. This one is a reach, but Billy Hamilton, a Mississippi prep player who is the best player in his state in three different sports has been generating a lot of buzz with his pre-draft workouts. High school catcher Wil Myers is also in the mix, but it's still a big mix with a lot of prep possibilities.
31. Chicago Cubs: The Cubs desperately need to stock their system with talent, and they might be looking for something safe, despite Tim Wilken's tendency to think upside first. Tim Wheeler offers proven college performance and good athleticism, which should please both sides of the stats vs. scouting divide.
32. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies tend to stay away from prep talent this high, so names in their mix could include college pitchers like Kyle Heckathorn and Chad Jenkins of Kennesaw State, and they could kick the tires on a couple of Scott Boras clients in Andy Oliver of Oklahoma State and James Paxton of Kentucky, who combine lots of promise with troubling performances. Georgia's Rich Poythress is the kind of player who could put up some ridiculous numbers at Coors field, he's considered signable, and Todd Helton isn't getting any younger.
Massive Helium Watch: Reymond Fuentes, OF. The top talent in Puerto Rico has been in the US this week, and his private workouts have been nothing short of stunning. He's a 70-plus runner with impressive bat speed and some power, and the teams that like him think he could develop into a true power/speed threat in center field. He wasn't even in my Top 50 on Saturday, but in the last 24 hours he's been attached to teams as high as Detroit at #9 (where his workout for them bordered on legendary), to plenty of teams picking in the 20s. Most likely to take a shot at him? The Astros at 21, the Angels with one of their picks at 24 and 25, or the Rays at 30.