May 21, 2009
Way Too Early Mock Draft
Doing a mock draft nearly three weeks before the real thing is an exercise that combines gathering intelligence with making a lot of dart throws-especially in this draft, where clarity ends after the first pick. Here are reactions from various agents, scouts, scouting directors, and front office officials when I contacted them in reference to this article.
"You're doing what? Good god, I don't envy you."
"I look forward to mocking you."
"Do you know who #2 is even, yet? Because we sure don't."
Thus the problem. Still, it's a good exercise to talk about players, figure out some basic ranges for the top talents, and get some pre-draft indications of which teams are thinking about what. So grab your grain of salt (make it a sizable one) and come along for the ride.
The good news here is that anyone doing a mock draft, whether they have contacts or are just making guesses, is going to start the night one-for-one. This pick is a total no-brainer, and the Nationals are making no secret of their intention of doing the right thing. As one veteran insider said, "I'm not sure he's the best draft prospect in history, but I will say that there has never been a larger gap between the top talent and whoever you think is number two." The Major League Baseball scouting bureau gave Strasburg a massive OFP (Overall Future Potential) score of 72, leaving one agent to joke, "Why 72? Just give him an 80 and be done with it."
Selection: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State University
And now the guessing begins. The Mariners could go in many directions, and while there are plenty of good pitchers on the board, some feel that none of the arms after Strasburg are truly worthy of the number two overall pick. High school stud Donavan Tate has the most upside of any position player, but North Carolina's Dustin Ackley has the best tools of any college player, and offers a little more assurance. A sound hitter with patience, solid power, and plenty of speed, he could end up being the best bet here.
Selection: Dustin Ackley, OF, University of North Carolina
This could be one of the more interesting picks in the draft. History tells us that the Padres will play it safe and take someone like Missouri's Kyle Gibson, but there are whispers that the team is feeling the pressure from some recent boring drafts and a system that lacks elite talent. Add in the fact that VP of Scouting and Player Development Grady Fuson is rumored to be in love with Tate, the toolsiest player in the draft, and San Diego could be ready to make a big splash. The son of a former NFL running back, Tate has incredible athleticism, with tremendous raw power, plus-plus speed, and an outstanding arm. The Boras factor could play big here, but the ability to stretch out his bonus payments in a two-sport deal (Tate has committed to North Carolina in both sports) could play in San Diego's favor.
Selection: Donavan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS (GA)
Would the Pirates stay away from Tate if he drops? It's a good question, as the new administration is definitely in "best available upside" mode, but at the same time, after dealing with Scott Boras during last year's Pedro Alvarez shenanigans, they may shy away. San Diego selecting Tate makes their job much easier, and while Pittsburgh has had incredibly bad luck with the college arms they've taken at the top of the draft, there aren't a lot of other options here worthy of the pick. Gibson's 6-foot-6 frame and plus fastball/slider combination makes this pick an easy one if the first three fall as noted above.
Selection: Kyle Gibson, RHP, University of Missouri
The Orioles are focusing on pitchers and athletes for this pick, but there are many of the former to choose from, and precious few of the latter. Unsigned by the Pirates last year, Tanner Scheppers is the subject of a great deal of buzz lately by showing mid-90s heat in independent league action, but some teams are still leery of him because of last year's shoulder problems, the details of which are still a bit cloudy for many. There are scouting directors who think he's the best arm on the board after Strasburg, and there are scouting directors who have crossed him off as a surgery waiting to happen. His upside should still be enough to make him a single-digit pick.
Selection: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints
'High school' and 'upside' are the two key concepts attached to San Francisco's pick, though college shortstop Grant Green could be tempting here. Their top talent hounds have been turning up at all of the recent outings of the top prep arms, but their attendance, in terms of both numbers and prominence within the organization, has been most noticeable at Jacob Turner's games. A pure power righty who combines what is already low-90s heat with sky-high projection, Turner has gone from one of the best to the best high school arm in the country.
Selection: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Academy (MO)
If the first six fall this way, the Braves pick almost becomes too easy, as they're not going to take a college player; one of the best high school arms available is in their back yard, and Atlanta loves hometown kids they're familiar with. A 6-foot-4 right-hander with plus velocity and command, Zach Wheeler is also under consideration to go sixth to the Giants, which could confuse things. They'd likely stay away from high school arms like Turner and Matt Purke because of perceived bonus demands, leaving more reasonable buys like Matt Hobgood and Tyler Matzek in their mix.
Selection: Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (GA)
With the eighth overall pick in 2006 and the seventh overall pick last year, the Reds focused on top college position players with Drew Stubbs and Yonder Alonso, respectively. With Grant Green still on the board, that trend would continue, though the Reds' brass has been awfully busy this spring, having been seen scouting all of the top college arms and a few of the top prep pitchers as well.
Selection: Grant Green, SS, University of Southern California
Tiger scouting director David Chadd's player preferences can be summed up in four words: "big guy, throws hard." The Tigers have been hot and heavy in their scoping out a few high school arms of late, especially Turner, but with his going off the board to the Giants in this exercise, that leaves Alex White as a great find at ninth overall. He's not huge, but at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's hardly small, and his fastball ranks with any non-Strasburg arm around.
Selection: Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina
10. Washington Nationals
No matter what anyone tells you, the Nationals will have some budgetary concerns with this pick, considering that even the lowest predicted bonus for Strasburg will still shatter the existing record. They'll be looking for a lower first-round talent that will be happy to sign quickly for slot, with most rumors involving fireballers from smaller colleges like Chad Jenkins and Rex Brothers, or toolsy outfielders like Tim Wheeler. Cal's Brett Jackson has the athleticism and upside to fit in nicely here, but he remains raw with numerous questions about his contact issues.
Selection: Brett Jackson, OF, University of California
11. Colorado Rockies
Aaron Crow is the second unsigned pick from last year who is hard to nail down. He's been very good in the indy leagues in terms of performance, including six shutout innings in his last start, but his velocity is two or three ticks below last year's showing at Missouri, and his slider has only been average. He's still an impressive talent who could go higher than this, but his power arm with sink would fit in well at Colorado.
Selection: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
There are rumors that the Royals would like an up-the-middle college player, but there may not be one who fits their profile if polish is part of the equation. A draft this heavy on high school arms will certainly see some excellent talents dropping into the teens in terms of overall picks; if Tyler Matzek, one of the top lefties, is still on the board he might just be too good to pass up here. He's got size, velocity, a good breaking ball, and is signable.
Selection: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)
As far as their drafts, the A's have gone from highly predictable to hard to figure out over the past few years. While college players are still the definite preference, they are said to be high on both toolsy/high-risk types and safer, lower-upside selections. While he might be something of a risk, no college player in the draft offers more upside than LSU outfielder Jared Mitchell, a two-sport player for the Tigers with plus-plus speed and plenty of raw power, but who would require more patience and development time than most first-round college picks.
Selection: Jared Mitchell, OF, Louisiana State University
14. Texas Rangers
The Rangers like home-state players, especially when it comes to pitching, and as one of the top hotbeds of talent, the Lone Star state usually responds with a player worthy of the selection. This year's version is Shelby Miller, your classic big, athletic, broad-shouldered righty from Texas whose fastball has been sitting at 92-94 mph all spring while touching 97.
Selection: Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS (TX)
The Indians need up-the-middle athletes, and high school players like New Jersey's human toolshed, Mike Minor, are good, but maybe not good enough for this high of a selection. That would likely leave the Tribe evaluating the group of top high school arms, like Matt Hobgood and Chad James. James has far more buzz of late as a long, loose left-hander who seemed to be gaining velocity throughout the spring; what was once a solid 89-92 mph fastball suddenly is touching 95.
Selection: Chad James, LHP, Yukon HS (OK)
With back-to-back picks, the Diamondbacks could have an obvious selection in local product Mike Leake. He's a little undersized, but he makes up for it with impressive athleticism and outstanding command and control of a solid three-pitch mix. Other than Strasburg, no college pitcher has been consistently as good every Friday as Leake, who goes into the postseason with a 1.35 ERA in 106
Selection: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State University
17. Arizona Diamondbacks
After emptying out the system via trades (especially with the Dan Haren deal), the Diamondbacks need positional talent, and Trout is certainly the most dynamic player still on the board. There are some scouts out there who saw him as being worthy of selection in the early teens, while others see him going in the late first round at best. It's hard to deny his plus-plus speed and intriguing power potential, but playing in a small southern New Jersey town against lesser competition has left him with undeveloped baseball skills.
Selection: Mike Trout, OF, Millville HS (NJ)
18. Florida Marlins
The Marlins are in on a plethora of high school arms, but it might be too hard to pass up one of the better high school bats in the country, especially when he's from the other side of the state. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds (and still growing), Bobby Borchering might outgrow the hot corner and be forced to move to first base, but his bat should play there, as one scout classified the switch-hitter as having, "right-now power from both sides of the plate, while also showing a good nose for contact."
Selection: Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot HS (FL)
The Cardinals are notoriously difficult to project as far as who they pick in June, but they do have a tendency to favor the spreadsheets more than most. Sacramento State's Tim Wheeler lacks any real star-quality tools, but he's at least average across the board, and his .385/.494/.765 line that included more walks than strikeouts, 18 home runs, and 15 stolen bases in 54 games could catch St. Louis' attention.
Selection: Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento State University
Vanderbilt southpaw Mike Minor is quickly becoming the hardest player to project in this year's draft. While he's hardly a soft-tosser, his stuff doesn't exactly blow you away, but his polish and pitchability rank with any pitcher available. That kind of assuredness could become very attractive in a murky field such as this one, and teams picking in the 15-25 range have expressed surprise that teams with single-digit picks like San Diego, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Atlanta have had major representation at Minor's recent outings. His talent belongs here, but he could go much higher.
Selection: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt University
21. Houston Astros
Coming from the Milwaukee system, scouting director Bobby Heck shares Jack Zduriencik's affinity for power bats and power arms. With the bats not really showing up this year, 250-pound high schooler Mat Hobgood could be a nice find. He may be slipping due to some shaky recent outings, but those that saw him early, when he was touching 96 mph and flashing a curveball with plenty of potential, will find it hard to pass on him.
Selection: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco HS (CA)
22. Minnesota Twins
The Twins tend to pull off first-round surprises every year, and Ben Revere (2007) and Carlos Gutierrez (2008) both have Minnesota looking much smarter than the experts. Without much heat to be found among the college closers, Stanford's Drew Storen could end up as a good option here. A sophomore-eligible who is willing to sign, Storen gets labeled as a control specialist due to his 58:8 K/BB rate, but he's been up to 96 mph this year as well.
Selection: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford University
With the positional talent in the system suddenly looking much stronger than expected, the White Sox could be focused on pitching this year. After compiling a poor track record in their quest to draft and develop command/control types, they had much more success when they followed the radar guns with lefty Aaron Poreda in 2007. While Andy Oliver can't match Poreda's velocity, his fastball is still borderline plus-plus for a southpaw, and his slider is even further ahead as a quality offering. The White Sox tend to stay away from Boras clients, but after his legal battles with the NCAA Oliver might be more signable than most, and looking to escape from the college game.
Selection: Andy Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State University
24. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels had only one true first-round pick in the past four years, but they make up for it with consecutive picks this year toward the end of the first round. Their top pick in four of the last five years has been from California, and that's not a coincidence. The system lacks up-the-middle talent, and Max Stassi could be a good fit here. While he's a sound hitter, there is debate over his power potential, and his short, stocky body had one scouting director comparing him to Barney Rubble. At the same time, the scouting director called him, "Possibly the best high school defensive catcher I've ever seen."
Selection: Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS (CA)
25. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A more traditional up-the-middle type might work; Jiovanni Mier is the only high school shortstop worthy of a first-round selection, and being from southern California doesn't hurt. He's an outstanding athlete with the range, instincts, and arm to stay at the position, and while he'll never hit for much power, his fluid, line-drive swing and plus speed could end up fitting at the top of the order.
Selection: Jiovanni Mier, Bonita HS (CA)
James Paxton provides a scouting conundrum. He's a 6-foot-4 power left-hander who has been clocked as high as 97 mph with his fastball, and that combination has generated 115 strikeouts over just 78
Selection: James Paxton, LHP, University of Kentucky
27. Seattle Mariners
Kennesaw State actually features two potential first-round picks in righties Chad Jenkins and Kyle Heckathorn, but while Heckathorn is larger with more velocity, Jenkins has out-pitched him this year and offers a more wide-ranging set of skills. Hardly small himself at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Jenkins is known mostly for his low- to mid-90s power sinker, but he backs it up with good command and a rapidly developing slider. Zduriencik likes power arms, and either Jenkins or Heckathorn could go here.
Selection: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State University
28. Boston Red Sox
This is almost a layup; when you're at the end of the first round with nearly three weeks to go, there's a lot of guesswork involved. The Red Sox obviously need catching, and Tony Sanchez is a local product who offers good defense and a power bat. That said, the Red Sox also love tools, and it should be noted that general manager Theo Epstein was recently seen checking out Texas prep outfielder Everett Williams.
Selection: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
29. New York Yankees
This is admittedly a fun pick, because in doing the draft I really couldn't find a good home for Matt Purke, who is the best high school left-hander available, but rumors have him also carrying the baggage of a $5 million price tag. Teams like Purke plenty as a hard-throwing lefty with 94 mph velocity and a long, projectable frame, but not at that price, which could make him the one guy in this draft who drops on bonus demands, thus making him perfect for the Yankees.
Selection: Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS (TX)
30. Tampa Bay Rays
After picking in the top eight in each of the last ten years, including four number ones, this is foreign territory for the Rays, but I'm sure they're not complaining. Of any virtue, athleticism tends to rate highest in St. Petersburg, which could lead them to Everett Williams. At 5-foot-10, he doesn't have the size of your classic five-tool talent, but he's a compact, explosive athlete with a tremendous ceiling.
Selection: Everett Williams, OF, McCallum HS (TX)
31. Chicago Cubs
Another easy guess here, since the Cubs like Notre Dame guys, and this time, there's actually a guy worth the bonus, unlike Jeff Samardzija and Grant Johnson. With very good speed, center-field skills afield, and a smooth swing, outfielder A.J. Pollock has moved up from a second-round projection by showing a little power this year as well.
Selection: A.J. Pollock, OF, University of Notre Dame
32. Colorado Rockies
Recently awarded honors as the Big 10's co-pitcher of the year, Indiana righty Eric Arnett has been generating plenty of late-season buzz to get himself into the end of the first round. After two mediocre (at best) campaigns for the Hoosiers, Arnett finally seems to have harnessed his plus fastball with excellent late life, while showing a solid slider and changeup to go with a beefy 6-foot-5 frame that provides plenty of stamina.
Selection: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana University