This continues our update on how the first round of last year’s draft is
performing this season. We’re not assigning grades or drawing conclusions.
For a look at a draft from a few years out, I highly recommend
Sickels’s piece on the 1996 draft, available from ESPN.com.
- Billy Traber, Mets. Traber is a college left-hander who,
like R.A. Dickey before him, lost a ton of money in a post-draft
physical. The elbow injury cost him more than a million dollars, but doesn’t
seem to have affected his performance. He has a 3.03 ERA in 12 starts in the
Florida State League, with a 50 to 13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
- Ben Diggins, Dodgers. Tall drink of water out of Arizona
who came in as the rare draft-eligible sophomore. He didn’t pitch last year
and has made just three starts for Wilmington in 2001 as he recovers from a
pulled hamstring. In the long run, he’ll be a reliever. In the short run,
he’s not much of anything yet.
- Miguel Negron, Blue Jays. For the second straight year,
the Jays made a bizarre signability pick in the first round, selecting
another little-known high-school outfielder from Puerto Rico. He hasn’t
hit–580 OPS last season, 440 this one–and there’s not a lot of reasons to
think he will.
- Sean Burnett, Pirates. A guy like Burnett is why teams
will continue to draft high-school pitchers, even though their success rate
is lousy. Burnett’s fastball doesn’t reach 90, but he’s still put up a 2.33
ERA in 12 Sally League starts (nearly a third of his runs allowed are
unearned, though). His 60 to 14 strikeout-to-walk ratio is encouraging.
Left-handers with this profile often go through an adjustment period at
higher levels, but Burnett looks, at this point, to be the best high-school
pitcher drafted in the first round.
- Chris Bootcheck, Angels. Bootcheck signed late and didn’t
pitch in 2000, and has made just five appearances so far this year, putting
up a 6.31 ERA in the California League. Pitching at Rancho Cucamonga is no
fun, and Bootcheck does have a K/BB ratio of nearly 4 to 1, so the ERA can
- Boof Bonser, Giants. The name looks like something out of
an article in The Onion, but
Bonser is a real boy. Bonser was hammered in the Northwest League last year,
but has rebounded to pitch well for Hagerstown in the Sally League in 2001
(2.96 ERA, 60 strikeouts, 24 walks in 45 2/3 innings).
- Phil Dumatrait, Red Sox. Dumatrait was the pick the Six
made while trying to figure out how the hell Rocco Baldelli had gone in the
top ten. He’s a left-hander with velocity and not much else, and after a
decent performance in the Gulf Coast League in 2000, has not pitched yet in
- David Espinosa, Reds. The first player on this list to
appear on a 40-man roster, Espinosa was given a major-league contract by the
Reds in exchange for taking a lower bonus. His performance so far is a mixed
bag: .235/.338/.314 is unimpressive, although the 31 walks in 204 at-bats is
a good sign. He’s made 29 errors in two months at shortstop, so speculation
that his future is as an outfielder may be warranted.
- Blake Williams, Cardinals. The Cardinals are beginning to
develop pitching hand over fist, with Williams the latest arm. He doesn’t
have the blazing fastball you associate with top right-handed prospects, but
in 11 starts at Potomac he has a 56 to 19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His ERA
of 2.51 is deflated by ten unearned runs, though.
- Scott Heard, Rangers. The second of the two picks from
Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, Heard was actually ahead of his teammate
Wheatland before the season began. He had a good season in the Gulf Coast
League in 2000, but hasn’t hit in the Sally League this year:
.210/.291/.312, with 41 strikeouts in 157 at-bats.
- Corey Smith, Indians. A good sign is when a player
improves upon moving to a full-season league. Smith hit .256/.339/.372 in
the Appalachian League last year, but has bumped that to .272/.355/.490 in
the Sally League this year. His defense at third base isn’t inspiring
confidence, so Prospect’s Disease is a concern.
- Robert Stiehl, Astros. A converted catcher who apparently
can pitch a little, Stiehl is abusing the League, striking out 51 batters in
44 innings while allowing just 23 hits. A starter now, his eventual role is
- David Parrish, Yankees. Lance’s son may have been
overdrafted, and it’s shown so far in his performance, a 675 OPS in the
Florida State League. He’s a good defensive catcher, but spending a
first-round pick on Joel Skinner shouldn’t be anyone’s idea of a good
- Adam Wainwright, Braves. Quite possibly the classic
high-school pitcher, Wainwright is tall, throws 93 mph, has a good curve and
change-up…and already one injury on his resume, a strained ligament
suffered in his senior year. He’s pitched better for Macon than his ERA or
RA indicates: about a hit per inning, 5 to 1 K/BB ratio.
- Scott Thorman, Braves. Having taken a classic prospect at
29, the Braves went off the board for a Canadian infielder (high schooler
from Ontario) with this pick. Thorman didn’t embarrass himself in the Gulf
Coast League last year, but shoulder surgery over the winter had delayed his
2001 debut. He has a long way to go, making up for all the playing time his
peers in warmer climes have gotten.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by