With less than three weeks to go, the scouts are in the home stretch of their preparation for the 2007 amateur draft. Instead of just a pure ranking of talent here, let’s actually create some all-star teams and figure out who the best is where, and what kind of depth we have at each position. In addition, I’ve chosen a sleeper at each position, although the term might be a misnomer. What I’ve done there is simply select a player outside the best three at his position who just might belong to be ranked with them when all’s said and done.
Top College Prospect: Matt Wieters, Georgia Tech
Overall Quality: Very Good
While Wieters is certainly the cream of the crop on the college side, the talent doesn’t end there, at least on the offensive side of things. Oregon State’s Mitch Canham and Auburn’s Josh Donaldson are both plus hitters with questionable defensive skills, but they both could slide into the end of the first round, and will definitely be gone by pick 50. Also somewhere in there is Tennessee’s J.P. Arencibia, who began the year as a projected middle-of-the-first-round pick, but has slumped all year while dealing with a bad back. Scouts are still hoping for him to break out, but he only has a couple of remaining series to help his cause.
Sleeper: Preston Clark, Texas. Defense alone could get him into the third round, but teams are worried about his bat, and how much he’ll try to leverage his status as a sophomore-eligible.
Top College Prospect: Beau Mills, Lewis-Clark State
Overall Quality: Good
Although he’s playing third base at Lewis-Clark, Mills is clearly headed across the diamond, and as a hitter I would rate him only slightly ahead of Florida’s Matt LaPorta; defensively, both are well below average. Nevertheless, both players could be gone within the first ten picks. After that there is a significant drop-off, though a team that prefers the bat of Virginia’s two-way star, Sean Doolittle, to his arm–and most do–will nab the two-way star in the sandwich round.
Sleeper: Matt Rizzotti, Manhattan. While the MAAC isn’t exactly known as a baseball factory, Rizzoti’s powerful 6’6″ frame, plus power, and keen batting eye could get him into the fourth or fifth round to a team that values performance.
Top College Prospect: Tony Thomas, Florida State
Overall Quality: Fair
Middle infielders are the weak point in this year’s draft, as it’s hard to even find any exciting college shortstops who can project as better second baseman, as is the case in most years. Thomas is a true right-side infielder who has led one of the best offensive squads in the nation by hitting .449/.542/.773. He comes from an athletic family and has good tools, but on the downside he’s small and projects for no more than gap power with wood bats. He nonetheless should go in the second round. Arizona State’s Eric Sogard has a similar profile, but provides less production.
Sleeper: Taylor Harbin, Clemson. While he’s had a disappointing junior year, Harbin is yet another little guy who gets praise for his makeup and baseball fundamentals. He shows impressive pop for his size and is a slightly above-average runner, but scouts would like to see a more patient approach. He’ll go somewhere around the sixth to eighth rounds, and could be a tough sign that low.
Top College Prospect: Todd Frazier, Rutgers
Overall Quality: Good
I’ve already noted that Beau Mills is not really being a third baseman, and Frazier sits at the top of this pile because he’s not really a shortstop, which is where he’s playing in college. His arm strength and instincts should fit well at the hot corner. Oklahoma State’s Matt Mangini is a slightly better offensive player than Frazier, but scouts have been disappointed with his power this spring, and while he’ll surely begin his career at third base, those same scouts aren’t totally convinced he’ll stay there.
Sleeper: Justin Baum, Pacific. While he hasn’t progressed as scouts expected him to following a fantastic freshman year, Baum leads the Tigers in nearly every offensive category, and his bat should get him into rounds around the sixth through tenth. After the bat, his other tools are suspect.
Top College Prospect: Josh Horton, North Carolina
Overall Quality: Fair, borderline poor
Unlike other years, there is no Troy Tulowitzki or Stephen Drew in this draft, as it’s quite likely that while some will be announced as such, no true shortstop will be taken in the first round; Horton is likely to go somewhere in the middle-to-late sandwich round. He lacks that one big tool, but he’s solid across the board and has a knack for contact to go along with a keen understanding of the strike zone. Likely going no more than five or ten picks before or after Horton, Mississippi’s Zack Cozart has true Gold Glove potential afield, but his bat is a much bigger question mark, not that Horton’s is any great shakes. Those with a West Coast bent favor Pepperdine’s Danny Worth, who is similar to Horton on a tools level, only he bats right-handed, while Horton gets favor for hitting from the left side. The three could go in any order.
Sleeper: Brandon Hicks, Texas A&M. Hicks has been moving up strongly on many draft boards, as he has a better body and more power potential than the three players above. He’s also not as polished on either side of the ball.
Top College Prospects: Julio Borbon, Tennessee; Kyle Russell, Texas; Corey Brown, Oklahoma State
Overall Quality: Fair
It’s a fairly weak group, especially among true center fielders. Borbon is a real wild card in the first round, as he’s really the only high-ceiling leadoff man in the college class, but he’s yet to wow anyone with his performance this year when many were expecting a breakout campaign. On pure tools, nobody comes close to him, and while his stock is down, he’ll still be a first-round pick, albeit in the 16-30 range. He’s also the only college outfielder nearly guaranteed a first-round selection. Russell is currently on the fringe; he’s already obliterated the single-season home run record at one of college baseball’s most storied programs, but scouts still see multiple holes in his swing and still remember his performance in last summer’s Cape Cod League, where he struck out 64 times in 126 at-bats. While some players, like Cal Poly’s Grant Desme, James Madison’s Kellen Kulbacki, and Georgia Tech’s Danny Payne might go in front of him, I think Brown is the better bet. Currently batting .358/.512/.791 for the Cowboys, with 19 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 51 games, Brown has a little bit of Jeromy Burnitz in him, with power, speed, and unfortunately the high strikeout rate.
Sleeper: Michael Taylor, Stanford. Taylor is 6’6″, 260 pounds, has plus-plus raw power, solid speed, and a rocket of an arm. At the same time, his college performance on the field has disappointed for three years now. He’s still very raw, but some team with an eye for ceiling and a taste for gambles will take him around the third to fifth rounds.
Top College Prospects: David Price, Vanderbilt; Ross Detwiler, Missouri State; Daniel Moskos, Clemson; Andrew Brackman, North Carolina State; Matt Latos, Broward Community College
Overall Quality: Good
Price is a clear 1:1 talent, with size, stuff, and mechanics that easily put him at the top of any board. Add in that he’s a lefty and he’s the best college arm not just in this draft, but the last three. The next three hurlers could really go in any order. Detwiler and Moskos are both left-handers with solid arsenals; Moskos throws a bit harder, while Detwiler has more projection and a knockout curveball. Brackman is the top right-hander by default, and while no other righty can come anywhere close to his ceiling, nobody really comes close to his gap between that ceiling and reality, leaving him a project pick who wants to get paid like a big leaguer. Latos is admittedly a total cheat here, as he’s a junior college product, and still under control of the Padres, though negotiations with San Diego suddenly came to a screeching halt when Latos asked for a $3 million-plus bonus to sign. He’s not worth that kind of scratch, but as a 6’5″ righty whose heat can sit in the upper 90s, I’d take him over any of the high-on-polish but low-on-stuff arms that project as late first-round picks, say, guys like Nick Schmidt of Arkansas or James Simmons of UC Riverside.
Sleeper: Aaron Poreda, San Francisco. Poreda is another of those rare college arms who is still all about projection. Six-foot-five lefthanders with 95 mph fastballs and plus command are a rare thing, but inconsistent secondary stuff will keep him out of the first round.
Top College Prospect: Casey Weathers, Vanderbilt
Overall Quality: Good
Right around six feet tall, Weathers might not look the part of intimidating closer, but with a fastball that has touched 99 mph and a wipeout slider, batters are plenty scared of him, managing just 18 hits in 39.1 innings while striking out 58 times. He should go in the middle of the first round to a team hoping for a Chad Cordero– or Huston Street-like quick ascent to the big leagues. Maryland’s Brett Cecil was on pace to join Weathers in the first round, but he’s been dropping off with poor performances of late, though as a lefty with mid-90s heat, he should still go within the first 50 picks.
Sleeper: Eddie Kunz, Oregon State. One scout said Kunz almost has a bit of Lee Smith in him, with a build like a defensive lineman, and a classic fastball/slider mix.