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January 10, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Ten-Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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While interest in baseball's draft has grown exponentially over the last few years, the overwhelmingly majority of that attention is given to the first round, or in the case of last year's television coverage, the first day of picks, which included a total of 50 selections including the supplemental round. There were 1,475 selections after that, and here are ten who will be a lot more well-known 12 months from now.

Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers

While the Rangers system has weakened significantly of late, it's still rich in young shortstops and young pitchers. While many teams stay away from undersized pitchers, the Rangers have a history of seeing them as an undervalued commodity, and that's the case with Buckel, their second-round pick in June. Just six-foot but highly athletic, Buckel nonetheless has an impressive arsenal with a low-90s fastball that consistently gets up to 93 mph as well as secondary pitches and command that are highly advanced for a teenager. He whiffed nine of the 17 batters he faced during a very brief pro debut in rookie ball, and is expected to strike out far more during his full-season debut.

Garin Cecchini, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

Cecchini went into the spring with the chance to become a first-round pick, but he blew out his knee in March, which sent his draft stock down, without any reciprocal drop in his price tag. The Red Sox are always one of the most aggressive players in the draft, and they signed Cecchini for $1.31 million later as a fourth-rounder. A shortstop in high school, Cecchini profiled better as a third baseman even before the knee troubles, and he's an outstanding hitter with enough power from the left side for the bat to play just fine there.

Sam Dyson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

The A's failed to sign Dyson out of the 2009 draft as a sophomore-eligible, but his combination of price and medical history prevented a deal from getting done. He stayed healthy throughout his junior year, and pitched well down the stretch, but there where still concerns about his potential bonus demands, which dropped him to the fourth round, where he signed for $600,000. At 91-95 mph, Dyson has plenty of velocity to go with a quality curve/changeup combination, and while it's a very big if due to a past shoulder surgery and some elbow soreness, if he stays healthy, he's potentially a steal.

Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City Royals

A two-way star at Arkansas, Eibner was always seen by scouts as a better pitcher than hitter, but he complicated matters by having a breakout season at the plate while telling all interested teams that he wanted to sign as an outfielder. While he's a bit buried in baseball's best system, his tools are certainly impressive. He has above-average power and speed, and as he consistently touched 96 mph off the mound, his arm in the outfield is a true weapon. Given a $1.25 million bonus as a second-round pick, Eibner's considerable ceiling is mitigated by a tendency to swing and miss, and his ability on the mound will be in the Royals' back pocket if things don't work out.

Eric Goeddel, RHP, New York Mets

Goeddel was one of the top college relievers at UCLA this spring, but major elbow problems (including a Tommy John procedure) in the past and an inability to nail down a price sent him plummeting to the 722nd overall pick in the 22nd-round, where he quickly signed for $350,000. After pitching in 36 of the Bruins' 68 games, the Mets shut him down for the year, but he was pumping 93-96 mph fastballs to go with a plus slider while helping UCLA reach the College World Series. He doesn't have true star potential, but he could move quickly.

Reggie Golden, OF, Chicago Cubs

A week ago, the Cubs had a relatively deep system than was lacking in stars, but even that's not the case after general manager Jim Hendry gutted the system to acquire Matt Garza from the Rays. Finding players with a high upside is difficult on the North Side, but Golden has the potential to fill that hole. A hamstring problem left scouts unable to see him as much as they wanted to last spring at Wetumpka (Ala.) High, but he signed quickly in the second round for a slightly over-slot bonus of $720,000. He's very raw, and not the big, rangy player one expects from a five-tool talent, but he has speed, power, and plenty of arm strength. He's a high-risk, high-reward type who has little exposure to real pitching, but he's one of the few players in the depleted Cubs system with the chance to become a true star.

Jedd Gyorko, 3B, San Diego Padres

In the case of Gyorko, amateur scouts might have spent too much time focusing on what he can't do. Horribly miscast as a shortstop on a bad West Virginia team, the short, stocky, slow Gyorko can't play up the middle as a pro, but what he can do is hit, including a .381/.472/.750 line for the Mountaineers and a track record of hitting with wood as well in the Cape Cod League. With a .302/.372/.444 line in his pro debut at two levels of Class A, all pro scouts could talk about is how well he hit, as at third base his athletic shortcomings were hidden and his defensive fundamentals shined. He could put up some huge numbers in 2011 in the high-octane environment of the California League.

Alex Lavisky, C, Cleveland Indians

While Lavisky signed for an even $1 million as an eighth-round pick, he wasn't even the highest paid or drafted player from St. Edward's High in suburban Cleveland. That honor went to Stetson Allie of the Pirates, but with scouts following the power righty for years, that gave Lavisky plenty of exposure. A former quarterback, Lavisky has impressive raw power and a strong arm, and after spending much of his high school career catching the hard-throwing, and at times wild, Allie, he's developed advanced receiving skills the hard way. He'll begin 2011 close to home at low Class A Lake County, but with young, burgeoning superstar Carlos Santana in the big leagues, his long-term future is a bit more cloudy.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Washington Nationals

Despite drafting and signing Bryce Harper with the first overall pick last June, the Nationals spent plenty of cash elsewhere in the draft, including a $2 million bonus for fourth-round righty A.J. Cole and just under $800,000 for Ray, a lefty taken in the 12th round. Scouts had high expectations for Ray heading into the spring, but he was unpredictable all year at Brentwood (Tenn.) High, with one scout describing his velocity as ranging from 86-94 mph, and the evaluation of his curveball and changeup being just as varied. Long and lanky at 6-foot-3 and a generously listed 175 pounds, Ray is full of projection. When he was on, he looked like a first-round talent.

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves

Originally from Curacao, Simmons played his college ball at a small Oklahoma junior college, but scouts saw enough of him to project him as a top-100 pick as both a pitcher and a position player. The Braves preferred him as a shortstop, and he signed for more than half a million as the 70th overall pick. There is little question about Simmons' defensive ability, as he became one of the prospect world's better shortstops the second he signed, with well above-average instincts, range, actions, and arm strength. The question all along was just how much he'd hit, but he surprised even the Braves during his pro debut with a .276/.340/.356 line in the Appalachian League. Simmons could begin 2011 at advanced Class A Lynchburg, and even if he doesn't hit, he could reach the big leagues on his glove alone.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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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