May 28, 2009
2008 Draft Review: AL
When trying to evaluate any recent draft, you're always working with a moving target. Sometimes even five years isn't enough to fully gauge what a team accomplished in return for all of the time and money they spent scouting and signing players. So let's not call this a report card-let's simply call it an update on last year's draft, with some very early returns on the top selections, as well as who has upped their stock and who has gone backwards since last year's pick-fest.
We'll begin today with the American League. The 2008 National League Draft Review is here.
Top Pick: Seen by most as the top college pitcher in the draft, fourth overall selection Brian Matusz started off doing good but not great work at High-A Frederick, but he has recently moved into the great category, striking out 33 in 26 2/3 innings over his last four starts while allowing just 18 hits.
Movin' On Up: Sixth-rounder Rich Zagone is a command-and-control lefty who doesn't light up the radar gun, but his ability to add and subtract velocity from his pitches while locating his fastball has generated a 1.92 ERA at Single-A Delmarva.
Disappointing: Third-round pick L.J. Hoes has been crushed by an over-aggressive approach in the Sally League, batting just .239/.262/.290 with only four walks in 37 games, while leading the Shorebirds with 10 errors at second base.
Boston Red Sox
Top Pick: While the plan was for first-rounder Casey Kelly to spend the first half of the season on the mound before moving to shortstop, his 1.12 ERA in nine starts while limiting Sally League hitters to a .184 batting average could help convince him to just stay on the mound, where scouts believe most of his potential lies.
Movin' On Up: Supplemental first-round pick Bryan Price has made a successful conversion from college closer to a minor league rotation with a 2.45 ERA at Single-A Greenville and nearly a strikeout per inning. He's a touch old for the level due to the new job requirements, but he should move up to High-A this year.
Disappointing: Given $1 million as a fourth-round pick, outfielder Peter Hissey has shown a good approach at the plate, but is rarely making hard contact at Greenville, with a .238/.326/.278 line that includes just five extra-base hits in 35 games, all of them doubles.
Chicago White Sox
Top Pick: After creating an enormous amount of buzz during spring training while earning real consideration for a big-league job, shortstop Gordon Beckham has settled in nicely at Double-A Birmingham, with a .303/.363/.503 line in 37 games.
Movin' On Up: Slipping to the seventh round due to signability issues, outfielder Jordan Danks is looking like he's worth that $525,000 bonus, with a .346/.431/.527 line split between High- and Double-A. With gap power, a good approach, above-average speed, and plus defensive skills, scouts are having a hard time finding a weakness in his game.
Disappointing: Despite coming out of a major college program (Wichita State), sixth-round pick (and son of the general manager) Kenneth Williams looked completely overmatched at Single-A Kannapolis, batting .222 with 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats before hitting the disabled list earlier this month.
Top Pick: While many saw him as more of a sandwich-round talent, Lonnie Chisenhall is looking even better than the 29th overall choice with which he was selected, batting .317/.404/.537 in 42 games for Single-A Kinston, while one scout called his swing one of the best he's seen all season.
Movin' On Up: A late-rising talent last spring while at Arizona, eighth-round pick Eric Berger has shown surprising velocity and a solid breaking ball while compiling a 2.44 ERA at High-A Kinston. Control issues that come and go still need to be overcome.
Disappointing: Sixth-round pick Jeremie Tice put up some huge numbers in college, especially in the power category, but he's batting .240 with just two home runs at Single-A Lake County.
Top Pick: When you draft a college reliever, the expectations are that he'll move quickly, and Ryan Perry did just that, breaking camp with the big-leaguers after just 13 2/3 innings of pro experience. His upper-90s fastball has been missing a lot of bats, but trouble staying ahead in the count is leading to too many baserunners overall.
Movin' On Up: An outfielder at Rice who rarely took the mound, 13th-round selection Jared Gayhart has had a very encouraging switch to full-time reliever, showcasing a plus fastball/slider combination and allowing just 13 hits in 29 1/3 innings at Single-A West Michigan while striking out 33.
Disappointing: Vanderbilt's closer last year, righty Brett Jacobson has been hit hard at High-A Lakeland, with the Florida State League teeing off on him for a .333 batting average, including a .440 mark by left-handers.
Kansas City Royals
Top Pick: The third overall pick in the draft and top high school bat available, first baseman Eric Hosmer got off to a brutal start at Single-A Burlington. Much like their 2007 first-round selection, Mike Moustakas, Hosmer struggled to adjust to Midwest League weather and more consistent quality pitching, but he's made adjustments and is batting a healthy .269/.402/.418 in May.
Movin' On Up: The Royals have a number of very young high-round draftees who were held back in extended spring and will likely not play until short-season leagues begin. Supplemental first-round pick Mike Montgomery and fourth-rounder Tim Melville have been impressive at times at Burlington.
Disappointing: Seen as a low-ceiling but move-quickly type, second-round pick Johnny Giavotella is struggling just to get out of A-ball, hitting .211/.345/.345 in the High-A Carolina League.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Top Pick: Second-rounder Tyler Chatwood is a little fellow with a very big arm, and he's allowed just 20 hits over 36 innings at Single-A Cedar Rapids, though his control (issuing 20 walks already) has been an issue.
Movin' On Up: A 13th-rounder out of the College of Charleston who had injury problems during his college years, righty Michael Kohn has been one of the most dominant reliever in the Midwest League this season, flashing mid-90s heat while striking out 34 in 23 2/3 innings and allowing just 10 hits.
Disappointing: Seventh-round selection Will Smith looked like a great find last year when he struck out 76 while walking just six over 73 innings in the Pioneer League, but full-season ball has proven to be much more of a struggle, and the Midwest League is batting .297 against the tall left-hander.
Top Pick: The 14th overall pick last June, outfielder Aaron Hicks is a tremendous five-tool talent, but the notoriously conservative Twins are holding him back in extended spring, and he'll probably be assigned to their Appy League affiliate next month.
Movin' On Up: The Twins surprised many when they took University of Miami reliever Carlos Gutierrez with their second first-round pick (27th overall), but he's been one of the talks of the Florida State League during the first half of the year, moving to a starting role and putting up a 0.98 ERA in his first 46 innings with a ridiculous ground-ball rate of over 4.5 to one.
Disappointing: Supplemental first-rounder Shooter Hunt was seen as a possible top 15 pick early last spring, but he slid from there and now the wheels have totally come off; the former Tulane star has walked 33 in 17 2/3 innings for Single-A Beloit while his velocity has dipped to the mid- to upper 80s.
New York Yankees
Top Pick: The Yankees were unable to sign righty Gerrit Cole, who struck out 104 over 85 innings at UCLA while moving into the Friday starter role as a freshman. He's looking very much like an easy top five pick in 2011.
Movin' On Up: Right-hander D.J. Mitchell received a lot of late-spring buzz at Clemson and earned a $500,000 bonus as a tenth-round selection. His sinker/slider combination and outstanding athleticism drew plenty of praise from scouts as he kept his ERA under two at Single-A Charleston before moving on to the High-A Florida State League.
Disappointing: The Yankees gave $850,000 to sixth-rounder Brett Marshall, but he's been inconsistent in terms of both his mechanics and velocity at Charleston, with an ERA of 4.93 and a disappointingly low strikeout total of 25 in 42 innings.
Top Pick: Second baseman Jemile Weeks has spent all spring rehabbing a hip injury that cut short his 2008 debut. He reported to High-A Stockton yesterday, where he'll begin his 2009 season.
Movin' On Up: A sophomore-eligible who many teams saw as unsignable, Oakland gave shortstop Dusty Coleman $675,000 as a 28th-round pick, and he's responded with a .293/.376/.561 line at Single-A Kane County while leading the squad in hits, home runs, and RBI.
Disappointing: Pepperdine right-hander Brett Hunter was a risky $1.1 million sign (seventh round) as a first-round talent with a checkered injury history. He's been a mess mechanically at Kane County, while sitting at just 88-92 mph and walking 33 in 29 innings with a 6.52 ERA.
Top Pick: After finally signing in February, first-round pick Josh Fields had mixed results closing at Double-A West Tenn, striking out 15 in just nine innings, but also walking nine and allowing 11 runs. He was shut down three weeks ago with a sore arm, which isn't a big surprise; he had some of the best stuff in the draft, but he also had one of the most violent deliveries.
Movin' On Up: A 6-foot-7 right-hander, fifth-round pick Brett Lorin has been torturing Midwest League hitters with a 90-93 mph fastball and a surprisingly good breaking ball, as evidenced by a 1.79 ERA in nine starts and just 28 hits allowed in 55 1/3 innings.
Disappointing: After an outstanding pro debut, second-round outfielder Dennis Raben has been slow to recover from minor knee surgery, and there is fear that he might need another procedure.
Tampa Bay Rays
Top Pick: After an ugly pro debut, shortstop Tim Beckham has been showing why he was the top pick in last year's draft, batting .305/.353/.422 at Single-A Bowling Green, an impressive line when considering that scouts who've seen him tend to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Movin' On Up: Looking like a nice find in the 16th round, former University of California closer Matt Gorgen has had no trouble translating his skills to pro ball, utilizing a heavy fastball and solid slider to allow only one run over his first 20 innings at High-A Charlotte, while going a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities.
Disappointing: A stathead favorite who put up huge numbers at William & Mary, fifth-rounder Mike Sheridan has hit only for power at Bowling Green, with a .245/.270/.432 line in 36 games.
Top Pick: It was more than a little shocking that Justin Smoak fell into the Rangers' lap at 11th overall, and he's been just as good as advertised, showing no issues with an aggressive assignment to Double-A for his full-season debut, batting .324/.443/.500 in 40 contests.
Movin' On Up: An eighth-round pick out of Auburn with solid tools across the board, outfielder Mike Bianucci is hitting .329/.393/.582 in his first 40 games at Single-A Hickory, and he could move up a level soon.
Disappointing: A third-round pick out of UCLA, lefty Tim Murphy was drafted on his reputation as a pitchability/grinder type, but a lack of pure stuff has already caught up to him at High-A Bakersfield, where he sports an ugly 9.46 ERA in eight games; the league is hitting .336 against him.
Toronto Blue Jays
Top Pick: After a huge junior campaign at Cal, first baseman David Cooper is looking a little overmatched at Double-A New Hampshire, batting .241/.302/.339 in 46 games. With just two home runs in 174 at-bats, he's doing little to quiet the debate over his power potential.
Movin' On Up: Seventh-round pick Eric Thames was impressing scouts with a .340/.418/.462 line at High-A Dunedin before a quad injury, the kind that had hampered him throughout his college career, flared up again.
Disappointing: Only 18 years old and as raw as they come, sixth-round outfielder Marcus Brisker is simply not ready for full-season baseball, hitting a miserable .102/.183/.112 at Single-A Lansing and currently in the midst of a 3-for-43 slump.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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