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June 6, 2009

Future Shock

Draft Class '09 Top 50

by Kevin Goldstein

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To be clear, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected, nor is it any kind of mock draft. Instead, this is a pure ranking of talent based on a combination of ultimate ceiling and the probability of reaching it after numerous conversations with scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, and front office officials.

1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State

The Good: He's arguably the best pitching prospect in draft history, with a perfect frame and solid mechanics to go with an 80 fastball, 70 command, and a 60-65 breaking pitch.
The Bad: There's no definitive proof that he's not an android from a faraway planet bent on world destruction.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: The best pitcher in baseball. It's almost impossible to see him becoming anything less than an All-Star.

2. Dustin Ackley, OF, North Carolina

The Good: He has the best combination of tools and skills among the position players, with above-average power and speed, along with amazing hands that easily project him as a .300 hitter in the big leagues.
The Bad: His throwing arm is poor; he's unproven in center field; he struggles against lefties with good breaking balls.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An All-Star center fielder with less power than Grady Sizemore but a better batting average, but there is some chance that he'll be forced to move to left field.

3. Donavan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS (GA)

The Good: The best athlete in the draft, and the guy with the highest ceiling. His raw power, speed, and arm are all rated as plus-70 by some scouts.
The Bad: There are questions about his pure hitting ability; he doesn't always give you a lot of effort.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dynamic franchise-level power/speed center fielder, but it does require a bit of dreaming.

4. Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Academy (MO)

The Good: The top high school pitcher in the draft has gotten better throughout the spring, as he started the year touching 95 mph, and ended it sitting there while getting up to 98. He's big and projectable, with a clean delivery and a good curve.
The Bad: His command and control comes and goes at times, and he wants a ton of cash, which already has several teams passing on him.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A frontline big-league starter.

5. Grant Green, SS, Southern California

The Good: He's a big, athletic shortstop with an excellent approach at the plate, gap power, and excellent defensive fundamentals. He didn't live up to expectations this year, but he also played in a pitcher's park against toughest schedule in college baseball.
The Bad: He doesn't project as a big power threat, and his range is average.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: He won't be a game changer, but he'll be an everyday shortstop on a championship-level team, and he may be the only such player in the draft.

6. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints

The Good: An unsigned pick from last year (Pirates), he has the best fastball outside of Strasburg's, with his gas sitting in the mid-90s and touching 98 during indy league starts; he also shows off a plus power curve.
The Bad: He was hampered by shoulder issues last year that remain a bit of a mystery, as do their diagnosis and his recovery. Some teams (as well as Will Carroll) believe that picking him is simply asking for trouble.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An overpowering starter, but the risk factor is very high.

7. Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats

The Good: The best right-handed college arm in last year's draft, he's throwing as hard as ever in the indy leagues, sitting at 92-95 mph while touching 97 with his fastball, which also shows excellent sink and run. His slider is a plus offering.
The Bad: He's not really big and physical, and his command has been a little rusty this spring.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average major league starter.

8. Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State

The Good: The most consistent pitcher in college baseball had a lower ERA than Stephen Strasburg while pitching in a tougher park against much tougher competition; he throws strikes with three pitches that grade average to plus; he also has top-line pitchability.
The Bad: He's not tiny, but he's certainly undersized, and he lacks much in the way of projection.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average starter and occasional All-Star.

9. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)

The Good: He has a long, lean, projectable frame as well as a surprisingly deep arsenal for a high school arm. His fastball and slider already rate as plus, his curve is solid, and he comes to the pros with some feel for a changeup. His command is above average.
The Bad: He has some effort in his delivery, and he had some bouts of inconsistency this year, looking like the best high school pitcher on one day, and then just another good one the next.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An overpowering left-handed starter.

10. Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS (TX)

The Good: He's highly similar to Matzek in terms of size and stuff, but probably throws a bit harder, although he also isn't as polished.
The Bad: He wants a deal in the Rick Porcello range ($7 million), and nobody thinks he's that kind of talent; he faltered a bit down the stretch.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A star-level left-handed starter.
Backup Plan: He continues to throw hard, but his secondary stuff doesn't develop, leaving him better suited to late-innings relief work.

11. Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (GA)

The Good: A big, power right-hander, his fastball has been sitting at 92-95 mph all year, and he throws it with excellent command; he also has a strong frame and very good mechanics.
The Bad: The secondary stuff isn't bad, but it lags behind that of the other elite high school arms.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: If the slider comes around, he's a frontline starter.

12. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri

The Good: He's a long 6-foot-6 righty who takes advantages of his angles with an 88-92 mph fastball with excellent movement. His slider borders on outstanding, and his changeup is above average, and he pounds the zone with all three pitches.
The Bad: His secondary stuff is better than the fastball; he was only throwing 84-88 mph in his last start while suffering from "forearm tightness"; he's just not overpowering.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A good third starter.

13. Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS (TX)

The Good: He's that classic big and strong Texas-based prep right-hander, with a fastball that consistently gets up to 97 mph, and he has a nasty mound demeanor to boot. His arm action is clean, and he gets tremendous leverage from his power frame.
The Bad: He's more of a thrower than a pitcher right now, his curveball is inconsistent, and his changeup is rarely seen.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dominating power arm, but if the secondary stuff never catches up to the velocity, he could end up as a one-pitch guy.

14. Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina

The Good: A power arm who sits in the low 90s and can dial his heat up to 96 mph; he complements that with a splitter that's an outstanding offering that drops off the table; he's an excellent athlete.
The Bad: White really struggled down the stretch; his fastball can run very true; scouts aren't sure what to do with fastball/splitter types.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A good starting pitcher, but some think he's got a relief-style arsenal.

15. Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot HS (FL)

The Good: The fastest-rising high school position player now ranks as the best one on many boards; he offers plus power from both sides of the plate to go with excellent hand/eye coordination that should allow him to hit for a high average as well. His arm is a plus tool.
The Bad: He's not a great athlete, but he's good enough to make the plays at third base.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An All-Star at the hot corner, but more for his bat than his glove. If he moves to first, it will be a more difficult road.

16. Mike Trout, OF, Millville HS (NJ)

The Good: He's one of the better high school athletes in the draft, with plus speed and decent power that some project to become even more potent down the road; the kid also has outstanding makeup.
The Bad: There are some questions about the bat due to the quality of his competition; his power potential is debatable.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average center fielder who can beat you in a lot of different ways.

17. Jared Mitchell, OF, Louisiana State

The Good: The best college athlete in the draft by a mile; he's made consistent progress at LSU as far as his hitting, especially in developing a more patient approach and finding his power; he's plus-plus runner and a true weapon on the basepaths.
The Bad: He's far more raw than most players out of a major college, with lots of swings and misses in his game; he is not an instinctual outfielder.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: He has true impact potential, but comes with a fair share of risk.

18. Everett Williams, OF, McCallum HS

The Good: An excellent athlete with above-average speed and one of the quickest bats among all high school players in the draft; he also has surprising power for his size, and the wheels to stay in center field.
The Bad: As good as the tools are, his 5-foot-10 frame could limit his projection, and his overall game is a little rough around the edges.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A smaller Mike Cameron. He is a bit bulky, so could end up moving to a corner, which would make his development significantly more difficult.

19. Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb

The Good: He has the kind of power stuff rarely found in a left-hander, with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 mph, and he also has a hard, biting slider.
The Bad: For a pitcher with his arsenal at a small college, he wasn't nearly as dominant as one might expect; his inconsistent mechanics lead to control issues; the fastball straightens out when he overthrows it.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dominating power arm, but many feel that he's better suited for bullpen work.

20. Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College

The Good: He's an athletic catcher, and one that has the potential to be an absolute shutdown defender in the big leagues, with outstanding actions behind the plate and a very good arm; he offers above-average power for the position; he possesses all of the baseball intelligence and leadership qualities one looks for in a big-league catcher.
The Bad: His swing has some length and loopiness, which will likely prevent him from ever hitting for a high batting average.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An everyday catcher with Gold Glove potential and above-average offense. The defense alone should at least get him to the majors.

21. Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana

The Good: The fastest riser among college arms, he generated an enormous amunt of buzz over the last month with his massive frame, 95 mph fastball, and plus slider; he repeats his mechanics well, and he has outstanding stamina.
The Bad: He rarely throws a changeup; the slider can become inconsistent at times; there is some concern over his lack of a track record, as this was his first successful year.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A durable, above-average innings-eater.

22. Chad James, LHP, Yukon HS (OK)

The Good: A long, loose, projectable southpaw, he's moved way up on teams' boards by gaining three or four ticks on his fastball this spring, getting up to 96 mph while sitting at 91-93; he also has a clean and easy arm action.
The Bad: The secondary stuff needs work, as his curve and changeup both have potential but are currently very inconsistent; like many tall pitchers, his release point can rise and fall, leading to problems throwing strikes.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Those that like him, really like him, seeing him as a well above-average starter.

23. Mat Hobgood, RHP, Norco HS (CA)

The Good: An absolutely massive righty, he packs 250 pounds onto a 6-foot-4 frame. He cooks with gas, holding his 92-94 mph velocity deep into games while touching 96. His feel for his curve and changeup are both good for a high school arm.
The Bad: That size is both a blessing and a curse, as some fear there may be conditioning issues down the road; he faltered down the stretch while dealing with a strained oblique.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average starter.

24. Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS (CA)

The Good: With a quick, compact swing, he has an outstanding feel for contact, and a touch of power; he's also a plus-plus defender with tremendous receiving skills.
The Bad: His short, thick build (even for a catcher) bothers some; he had some shoulder problems this year, which limited his throwing ability.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An above-average everyday catcher, and his glove work should be enough for him to at least be a backup.

25. Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento State

The Good: He packs average to plus power and average speed in a big, athletic frame, and he really came alive with the bat this year, showing the ability to drive balls to all fields; a high-energy player.
The Bad: His overly aggressive approach at the plate leads to some bad swings; his tools are solid across the board, but none of them are in that 'wow' category.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A very good everyday outfielder. Many feel that he'll end up in a corner, which will require more growth offensively.

26. Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State

The Good: This sizable right-hander has one of the better sinkers around, as his 92-94 mph fastball has been up to 96 this spring while featuring significant drop to go with natural tailing action. He also has a solid slider, and his changeup really impresses scouts.
The Bad: That breaking ball needs more refinement; his body is a bit soft.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A solid everyday starter, but he'll likely always have the ability to get ground balls in either a starter or relief role.

27. Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt

The Good: He's one of the few pitchers who offers his future team significant certainty due to his command, polish, and pitchability; his best pitch is his changeup, his velocity is average, the breaking balls are solid; he pounds the strike zone and mixes pitches well.
The Bad: He offers little to no upside as a command/control southpaw, reminding some teams of Jeremy Sowers, which is not a good thing.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A decent fourth starter. He's almost assuredly a future big-leaguer, but there's very little star potential.

28. David Renfroe, SS/RHP, South Panola HS (MS)

The Good: The best two-way talent in the draft wants to be an everyday player, and scouts prefer him there as a smooth shortstop with an outstanding arm. He projects for above-average power for a middle infielder, and he runs well.
The Bad: He could grow out of the middle and be forced to third base; the tools are there for him to be a good hitter, but he remains very raw at the plate, with a long trigger in his swing that will need to be eliminated.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Teams dream on him as a Troy Tulowitzki type at short, but there's a lot of bust potential.

29. Garrett Gould, RHP, Maize HS (KS)

The Good: He has one of the best curveballs you'll find among the prep arms, but he also gained some velocity this year to help lessen concerns about how hard he'll throw; the fastball was sitting at 88-92 mph and touching 94 at times in some of his late-season starts. He's an excellent athlete.
The Bad: He doesn't have the big arm strength of the early first-round types, and has some funk in his delivery.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A solid big-league starter.

30. Jiovanni Mier, SS, Bonita HS (CA)

The Good: He has more defensive potential up the middle than any player in the draft, with pro-level instincts, hands, and actions as a shortstop to go with a 70 arm. He's a good runner, and has a quick, line-drive bat.
The Bad: There's very little power in his swing, nor any reason to think he'll develop any.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A Gold Glove shortstop who can hit for average and steal a few bases.

31. James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky

The Good: He certainly passes the scouting sniff test as a tall, muscular left-hander who can get up to 96 mph with his fastball while having it sit at 91-94 mph; his curveball flashes plus, and he throws strikes.
The Bad: He baffles scouts with his inconsistency, as he was frequently hit hard in college, leading to a strange combination of plenty of strikeouts and way too many hits allowed.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: The tools of a very good starter are there, but they come with few guarantees.

32. A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame

The Good: He does a little bit of everything; a solid defender up the middle with good speed, with a quick bat and much-improved power this year. He works the count well, and scouts love his makeup.
The Bad: Pollock's one of those guys who is good across the board but really lacks a standout tool, leaving scouts falling short of giving him a star-level projection.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Nate McLouth with less pop?

33. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP, Kennesaw State

The Good: An intimidating presence on the mound, Heckathorn has been clocked as high as 99 mph in the past, but more often he was in the 92-95 range this spring; more teams ended up liking his teammate, Chad Jenkins, as the much more complete pitcher.
The Bad: A 6-foot-6 monster with upper-90s heat should be an elite talent, but he had plenty of days with merely good velocity, he's yet to develop a secondary pitch that thrills scouts, and his mechanics are messy and inconsistent.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A durable power pitcher in a rotation, but it's hardly a slam dunk.

34. Wil Myers, C, Wesleyan Christian HS (NC)

The Good: The best hitter and athlete among the catchers in the draft, Myers has a smooth swing with strength and leverage; he's a very good athlete and an average runner with plus arm strength.
The Bad: He's still very raw behind the plate, with some projecting him as a hit-first catcher, and some thinking he has no chance to stay there in the long term.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: If he figures it out behind the plate, he could be a steal.

35. Andy Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State

The Good: One of the better power lefties in the draft, with a fastball that's sitting consistently at 92-94 mph while touching 96, and he also has a good changeup, works both sides of the plate well, and is very athletic.
The Bad: Oliver doesn't have a breaking ball of note, sticking primarily to a fastball/changeup combo to keep hitters off balance without doing much to change their eye levels.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: He has the body and stamina to start, but without a breaking pitch, he's a reliever.

36. Brett Jackson, OF, California

The Good: He's one of the better athletes in the draft, with 60 speed, 60 raw power, and a 60 arm out in center field.
The Bad: There are way too many swings and misses in his game, generating far too many questions about his bat to justify moving him into the first round.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A player with lots of potential, and plenty of risk.

37. Slade Heathcott, OF, Texas HS (TX)

The Good: An outstanding athlete with above-average power and speed, but he also has enough arm strength to touch 94 mph on the mound. There are teams out there who have him far higher on their board than this.
The Bad: He's more of an athlete than a baseball player, and has already had ACL surgery on his left knee; there are some makeup issues.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A star... or a guy who never gets past Double-A.

38. Rich Poythress, 1B, Georgia

The Good: Poythress had a big start and a big finish wrapped around a slight mid-season slump, but his numbers are still monstrous at .376/.468/.764, with 25 home runs in 237 at-bats. There's tremendous strength and leverage in his swing, and he has a good eye at the plate.
The Bad: The bat has to be his ticket to the big leagues, as he's a sluggish athlete and a poor defender at first base.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A first baseman with power, patience, and little else.

39. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Santa Monica HS (CA)

The Good: This 6-foot-5 left-hander has shown above-average velocity and an impressive curve in the past, but he didn't show as much this year as he had during his junior year.
The Bad: He has not lived up to expectations this spring, as a drop in velocity has led to an equal drop on most teams' draft charts. Some thought that he might want to go to school to try to reclaim his elite status.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: The body and projection are still there. He's a risk, one with equal amounts of steal and bust potential.

40. Billy Hamilton, SS, Taylorsville HS (MS)

The Good: One of, if not the best athlete in the draft, Hamilton might be the best baseball, football, and basketball player in the state. He's a plus-plus runner with plus arm strength who could develop power if he fills out his slight frame.
The Bad: He's very, very raw, and probably has no chance to stick at shortstop professionally, which will likely mean he'll have to move to center field.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A spectacular talent, but one who offers no guarantees that he'll ever figure it out.

41. Matt Davidson, 3B, Yucaipa HS (CA)

The Good: Davidson's a very polished high school product with good defensive skills and a feel for consistent, hard contact. He took a step forward with his power this year, and his all-around polish should allow him to hit the ground running as a pro.
The Bad: His reactions and footwork at third base are a little slow, which may necessitate a move to first base; he doesn't have the track record of other high school talents.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A middle-of-the-order run producer at third or first base.

42. Levon Washington, OF, Buchholz HS (FL)

The Good: He's an absolute burner with game-changing 80-grade speed and a tremendous first step who should steal a ton of bases; he's a quick-twitch athlete with a quick bat.
The Bad: Washington's not especially refined, either at the plate or in the field; he uses that plus speed on defense to make up for bad reads and routes; he's on the small side; the rumored bonus demands are beyond his talent.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: An exciting leadoff man.

43. Sam Dyson, RHP, South Carolina

The Good: Dyson returned from labrum troubles to show one of the best fastballs around, one that's sitting in the mid-90s and routinely touches 98 mph; he throws strikes, is very aggressive, and pitches with a lot of confidence.
The Bad: The secondary stuff lags way behind the fastball; his control is good, but his command is spotty; he has a bit more negotiating leverage than most as a draft-eligible sophomore.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A very enticing power arm.

44. Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford

The Good: Storen slowly but surely established himself as the top college reliever in the game, which should mean he ends up getting selected higher than this ranking; he lives off of a 92-94 mph sinker that he throws with effortless command and laser-like precision; he should move quickly through the minors.
The Bad: He's a reliever through and through, and his ceiling might be as a set-up man due to his lack of dominating stuff; he's a draft-eligible sophomore, but wants to sign.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A good eighth-inning reliever, and in short order.

45. Brian Goodwin, OF, Rocky Mount HS (NC)

The Good: An ultra-toolsy high school outfielder with plenty of speed and a plus arm, Goodwin also has a smooth swing with gap power; he combines great natural ability with a bulldog mentality.
The Bad: His ultimate power ceiling is debatable, and he's not especially big or in possession of a projectable frame; he comes with some signability questions due to the Boras factor.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A center fielder and leadoff man, and perhaps one with enough power to fit better in the two-hole.

46. Mychal Givens, SS, Plant HS (FL)

The Good: He's an outstanding defensive shortstop with great instincts and positioning, as well as a pure cannon for an arm; he smokes line drives to all fields and runs well.
The Bad: He's fast but hardly a burner, and will never hit for power; a sizable minority of scouts question his swing and prefers him as a pitcher.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A good defensive shortstop who hits seventh or eighth in a big-league lineup.

47. Brody Colvin, RHP, St. Thomas More HS (LA)

The Good: Owner of a projectable arm whose fastball already sits at 90-93 mph with natural heavy sink; he also throws an advanced curveball for his age; he's a fantastic athlete who would be drafted as a hitter if he had never taken to the mound.
The Bad: Colvin currently only throws those two pitches, so his changeup is all but non-existent; his mechanics are rough around the edges, and include a hard landing.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A ground-ball machine.

48. Jason Kipnis, OF, Arizona State

The Good: This undersized, scrappy outfielder had an explosive junior year, batting .387/.500/.751 with 15 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts; he works the count extremely well, has gap power, and solid center-field skills.
The Bad: His tools don't overwhelm, as the speed rates as average, as does his arm, a combination which may force him to a corner, where his bat doesn't profile as well.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A smaller (but left-handed) Eric Byrnes type of player?

49. Chris Dominguez, 3B, Louisville

The Good: A gigantic third baseman, Dominguez has two 70-plus tools in his incredible raw power to all fields and a gun for an arm that fires laser beams across the diamond; he's a surprisingly good athlete for his size.
The Bad: A power-conscious uppercut leads to high strikeout totals; he's a sloppy defender.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: Somewhere between Russell Branyan and Richie Sexson?

50. Jeff Malm, 1B, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)

The Good: One of the best pure high school hitters in the draft, Malm combines a short, quiet swing with tremendous raw pop; he projects to hit for both average and power as a pro.
The Bad: His athleticism limits him to first base at best, where his good arm is wasted; he has to turn into an impact hitter or his value will be limited.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A big-league run producer.

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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