The Baseball Draft Report

First, an apology. The Angels have picks 25 and 26 from the Mets and Yankees respectively, the Mariners have pick 28 from the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the Rockies have the Angels pick at 33, the last pick of the first round. This mock took a bit longer than anticipated to complete, so it still reads as if the original draft order stands. Subsequent versions will have the updated order and picks. Please accept my apology in the form of a 6,511 word mock draft written for an event four and a half months away. Full first round mock draft after the jump…

1.1 Washington Nationals: RHSP – Steven Strasburg – San Diego State

Steven Strasburg is going first overall in this draft. Book it. One man by his lonesome may not be able to turn a baseball team’s on-field fortunes around, but it only takes one superstar to revive public interest in a moribund franchise. If nothing else, Strasburg has the kind of arm that makes every fifth day a must-see event. He’s got the oft-cited, but impossible to quantify “it”; Felix Hernandez has it, Halladay and Hamels have it, Sabathia and Santana have it, and, above all the rest, Lincecum has it.

For those unfamiliar and thus unimpressed with the mostly non-baseball, non-factual explanation of Strasburg’s greatness, well, there’s this: he has a fastball that sits between 94 and 97 MPH (and touches, on occasion, 99-100 MPH), a plus-plus slider (sitting 78-84 MPH), a raw but developing changeup, definite plus command, and plus makeup. He also has Nintendo numbers through two seasons at San Diego State with 180 strikeouts, 31 walks, and 79 hits allowed — only 18 of them for extra bases — in 134.1 collegiate innings. He’s a phenomenal prospect, by all accounts a first class citizen and teammate, and a tremendous asset to a rebuilding organization.

1.2 Seattle Mariners: SS – Grant Green – Southern Cal

Seattle may be picking second, but in this particular draft they really might as well be picking first. Steven Strasburg is such a slam dunk at pick number one that it appears the Mariners will have their pick of any eligible amateur ballplayer in the country not named Steven Strasburg. Sure, they’ll do their due diligence and scout Strasburg until they’ve had their fill, but in the end they’ll have to be satisfied with the opportunity to upgrade elsewhere – hardly the worst problem to have on draft day.

As easy as it is to project who will be the first name called, predicting who goes where in the draft gets very difficult very quickly when there is such a tightly bunched group of very good looking, but not cornerstone talents. The players slotted two through seven in this mock are the six of the top seven prospects in the country, but the order in which they come off the board is anybody’s guess. Seattle could wind up with Matthew Purke just as easily as Grant Green and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. If this draft board was organized in tiers, there would be a Strasburg tier at the top and then one with the guys going two through seven right behind.

The Grant Green as a special Troy Tulowitzki/Evan Longoria hybrid model comp that I’ve heard and read makes little to no sense to me, but that’s in no way an indictment of Green’s abilities. Just because you don’t measure up to Tulowitzki and Longoria doesn’t mean you aren’t a fine player in your own right. However, it is fair to say that Green has a long way to go to reach the level of either prospect. In fact, I believe that Grant Green has more to play for this upcoming season than any other college prospect. With a good spring, he goes second to Seattle. If he struggles -and it’s not out of the question for a guy with a less than inspiring walk rate to have a letdown season as pitchers begin to adjust their approach — then he come slip down the board. Of course, even with an off junior season he would still be the premier middle infield prospect by a large margin and a very desirable prospect.

1.3 San Diego Padres: CF – Dustin Ackley – North Carolina

The Padres have the front office leadership in place to turn things around and build themselves an economically smart, long-term winner, but a quick look at the less than stellar talent throughout the organization leaves one with the overwhelming feeling that it’s going to take a lot of patience to get there. Kevin Towers, Sandy Alderson, and Paul DePodesta are too smart to not find a way to build a self-sustaining winner.

It goes without saying that a lot can change between now and June, but Dustin Ackley and San Diego seem like a splendid match. Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, Kellen Kulbacki, Chad Huffman, Nick Hundley, Mitch Canham, Allan Dykstra, Logan Forsythe, James Darnell, Blake Tekotte, Sawyer Carroll, Beamer Weems, Danny Payne, Brad Chalk, Craig Cooper…the list goes on and on and on. Much like Hugh Hefner and blondes, it seems like the Padres have a certain type.

The list of player comps for Ackley is literally a mile long. Literally, a mile – I measured. In all honesty, for being as unique a player as he is, there sure are a lot of interesting paths his career could take. Heck, on that list of recent Padres draftees you can find a couple of players with interesting parallels to Ackley. Kulbacki, Payne, and Antonelli all offer similar power/speed combinations in a tweener outfielder package.

Antonelli went .332/.475/.509 with 57 walks to 38 strikeouts his sophomore season, Kulbacki hit a historically awesome .464/.568/.943 with 30 walks to 32 strikeouts his second year, and Payne’s sophomore line looked like .356/.455/.628 with 31 walks and 48 strikeouts. Ackley is coming off a .417/.503/.597 season with 53 walks to 27 strikeouts. These rudimentary numbers don’t even begin to tell the whole story, but they do serve as an interesting set of data points to compare and contrast players with similar skill sets. For the record, Antonelli went 17th overall, Payne went 64th, and Kulbacki went 40th.

Ackley is one of my favorite players in this or any draft because, even though there are a lot of players that you can compare him to, in the end he is still, somehow, someway, a really unique prospect. What position will he play? Where will he fit best in a lineup? Will the power develop? How’s his arm holding up post-Tommy John surgery? How much of his prospect value is tied into the answers of these questions? Maybe his skillset isn’t all that unique (there are plenty of examples of high average, good plate discipline, questionable power bats in this draft), but he certainly offers a weird blend of talents for a guy expected to go so high.

1.4 Pittsburgh Pirates: RHSP – Alex White – North Carolina

Tar Heels go back to back at three and four in the first round. Heck of a program Mike Fox is building down in Chapel Hill.

Pirates first round pitchers this decade: Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington (first overall), Paul Maholm, Brad Lincoln, and Dan Moskos. Bullington over BJ Upton and Moskos over Matt Wieters stand as two of the most egregious draft blunders in recent memory. I still believe in Lincoln as a prospect and Maholm is at least a league average starter going forward, but…yikes, that’s one awful track record of poor performances and freak injuries.

You’ve got to feel for White just a little bit and not just because there’s a chance he winds up playing in Pittsburgh. Not only is he a distant number two to Steve Strasburg in the best righthanded pitcher in the draft race, but he is also a pretty clear number two righthanded pitching prospect on his own college team. Matt Harvey, White’s studly North Carolina teammate, is considered to be the early favorite for the top spot in the 2010 draft. Alex White – baseball’s Susan Lucci.

1.5 Baltimore Orioles: LHSP – Tyler Matzek – Capistrano Valley HS (California)

If anybody has a more current (and less dorky) reference than the Susan Lucci one above, let me know.

One of the better subplots of the 2009 draft will be the battle to come off the board first between Tyler Matzek and Matthew Purke. Matzek’s above-average fastball and four-pitch mix give him the slightest of slight margins over Purke’s wipeout slider and better by a tick fastball. Plus, it would be fun to see a high school arm compared to Brian Matusz join the real version as a professional. The fact I find that fun is a sure sign I need help…

Matt Weiters, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and the fifth pick in the draft. That’s a foundation for something; I don’t know what exactly, but something.

1.6 San Francisco Giants: OF – Donovan Tate – Cartersville HS (Georgia)

The Giants organization is flush with pitching and while that isn’t reason enough to pass on whichever high upside high school lefty will fall, it does give Tate just enough of an edge to be the man called at pick number six. Tate is a special athlete with, let’s count ’em, a plus arm (clocked at 95 MPH), plus speed (6.3 60 time), plus power potential, and plus makeup. Sounds like he’s doing those lofty Carlos Beltran comps justice, at least at this point in his development…

1.7 Atlanta Braves: LHSP – Matthew Purke – Klein HS (Texas)

Atlanta curses their luck for missing out on hometown boy Tate, but only for a quick minute. The moment they realize that, hey, we are picking seventh in a draft with seven elite talents will surely take the sting off not getting the man they want. Purke is a mighty fine consolation prize and a potential top of the rotation arm with a 1-2 punch of a fastball that has hit 95 MPH and a true strikeout slider. You can swap Matzek and Purke at this point as the top prep arms in the draft

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1.8 Cincinnati Reds: RHSP – Kyle Gibson – Missouri

The Reds are an organization with an intriguing collection of young, semi-established big league talent (especially on the pitching side) and high upside, upper minor league players (especially at the plate – I have position players ranked one through seven on an overall top prospect list in the organization). If Tate falls, he could very well be their man, but, assuming he is off the board, the Reds would be wise to look at a starting pitcher from a program that produces good ones. On top of that, Gibson is a groundball pitcher with a plus slider – an enticing combination for a team that plays 81 games each year at Great American Ballpark.

1.9 Detroit Tigers: RHSP – Aaron Crow – Missouri/Fort Worth

A badly needed injection of talent into a system begging for it, Crow’s signing saga (and his scouting reports) from last draft has been hashed and rehashed and rerehashed time and time again.

With nothing particularly fresh or exciting to say about Crow at this point, I’ll pose a question – are there any recent examples of collegiate coaches, head or assistant, moving up a level and joining professional staffs in some capacity? Take a guy like Tony Vitello for example. Vitello’s title with Missouri is “Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator.” His bio indicates he has a Master’s degree in business (appealing to “new school” types), he was a former collegiate player (appealing to “old school” types), he’s an outstanding recruiter (a skill not perfectly analogous to scouting, but close), and his coaching is directly credited for a lot of the progress made with Max Scherzer. Two questions – 1) do enough of those skills translate to the pro game for him to be a worthwhile candidate for a major league job somewhere, and 2) what kind of job would be the best initial fit for him? Last question, I promise – what kind of job would it take to lure him away from his current post? You can forget about Vitello when answering these questions, he is just an example of a young coach with a solid resume. Alright, last set of questions for real this time – how different are the answers to the above questions if the example is a head coach, and not some “no-name” assistant? I couldn’t see a typical college coach at a big-time university (especially if it was his alma mater) leave for anything less than a managing job at the big league level. Conversely, I couldn’t see a big league club offering their top job to a college coach, no matter how successful. Why not? Would it work? Skillset for the jobs too different? Too risky a move? I’m genuinely curious.

1.10 Washington Nationals: RHSP – Tanner Scheppers – Fresno State/St. Paul

It’s a rare and wonderful thing to be afforded the opportunity to secure two-fifths of a future big league rotation in a span of an hour or so. Obviously it isn’t a whole lot of fun to stink so bad that you wind up with the ninth overall pick one year and the first overall pick the year after. And it’s hardly a treat to have a front office staff so inept as to not be able to sign a first round pick, but I digress. The opportunity for the Nationals to land two of the ten best amateurs in the country is one that could truly lay the groundwork for a baseball revival in DC.

This pick is obviously contingent on Scheppers health. Alternate picks that make sense include one of the top prep righties (either Shelby Miller or Jacob Turner) or, one of my personal favorites in the class, Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor. My fandom requires me to root against the Nationals 19 times a year, but even I would have to be excited if they came out of the draft with either Strasburg/Scheppers or Strasburg/Minor. Having a successful franchise in our nation’s capital would be a real positive for Major League Baseball.

1.11 Colorado Rockies: RHSP – Shelby Miller – Brownwood HS (Texas)

Here’s a guess based on the player, not the team; I have no clue which direction the Rockies are leaning at this point, but I don’t see Shelby Miller dropping past this pick. He is the top high school righthander in the draft at this point and the reasons why his stock is up are numerous. Miller has the size teams want (6-3, 195), good velocity (91-94 MPH), on what is arguably the best prep fastball this year, solid command of said fastball and offspeed stuff, a balanced and fluid delivery, and an above-average breaking ball (mid-70s MPH curve). His pitch to watch is that fastball, it’s a good one.

This falls under the category of thinking out loud, so bear with me. Shelby Miller as the righthanded equivalent to Madison Bumgardner? Is that stretching the comp game a bit too far? It’s my comp and even I think it’s outlandish, but it may not be the worst frame of reference.

1.12 Kansas City Royals: RHSP – Jacob Turner – Westminster Christian Academy (Missouri)

The most cited comp for Turner, Missouri’s top prep arm of 2008, is Tim Melville, Missouri’s top prep arm of 2008. Melville was considered one of the safest bets to go in the top few picks of last year’s draft until the deadly combination of an up and down senior year of high school and signability concerns torpedoed his stock all the way down to the 115th overall pick. While I’m sure Jacob Turner would like a better outcome on his draft day, I don’t think he’d mind the payday Melville wound up getting. ..

Turner stands 6-4, 205 with a fastball that has touched 93-94 MPH, a shade less than the reported 95 MPH peak that Melville has hit. Their offspeed repertoire is similar, but, again, Melville’s curve and change are each a touch better than Turner’s present offerings. Melville may have more raw talent than Turner, but Turner is skilled enough to warrant a high first round grade, especially if he has a big spring.

1.13 Oakland Athletics: SS – DJ LeMahieu – LSU

Either the first or second bold projection, depending on what you think of the injured Scheppers going tenth, LaMahieu going this high would definitely be considered a shock at this point. It’s probably more likely that LeMahieu winds up as a second, maybe even a third round pick, but my prediction is that he’ll wind up with Oakland, one way or another. Why? Oh boy, time to admit I’m a little bit of a nut. I’m not clairvoyant, I know that much, but sometimes, when I close my eyes I can see a particular player in a particular uniform and it just looks right.

Yeah, that’s all I have right now. LeMahieu is a nice player with a good frame, above-average power potential, and the possibility of sticking at short. Chances are high that he’ll get knocked down at least a few picks in time for the next mock…

1.14 Texas Rangers: RHSP – Kendal Volz – Baylor

How much of a factor does geography have on a given team’s drafting strategy? Are they more apt to fall in love with a guy because they see him over and over? Or does familiarity breed contempt? Is it possible that the more you see a player, the easier it is to lose sight of the big picture and focus on what he can’t do? Or is it as simple as the more a team sees a player, the better they can evaluate him? Probably that last one, right?

LeMahieu and Volz are the two most likely fallers out of my current top fifteen picks. Volz has a big-time arm, but between his numbers being more good than great and the fact some scouts think his long term home is the bullpen, he has a lot to prove in 2009. Fair or not, Volz also has a little bit of the stink of a highly touted, but so far disappointing Baylor recruiting class attached to his name. The underachiever tag is one he’ll have to fight to remove this upcoming spring.

1.15 Cleveland Indians: LHSP – Mike Minor – Vanderbilit

Minor is a more talented version of a couple of former Indian draft picks, David Huff and Jeremy Sowers. He is also the best value of the first round if he falls to Cleveland at pick fifteen. Detroit, Washington, Colorado, Kansas City, and Texas, all teams picking college arms ahead of Cleveland, would regret passing on the talented lefty from Vandy.

The Indians current front office does a lot of things right, but, surprisingly, drafting hasn’t been one of them. Mark Shapiro and his crew officially took over on November 1, 2001, but we’ll go back and take a look at the 2001 to 2005 drafts because, well, they are pitiful.

2001: Dan Denham, Alan Horne, JD Martin (Luke Scott); 2002: Jeremy Gurthrie, Matt Whitney, Micah Schilling (Guthrie); 2003: Michael Aubrey, Brad Snyder, Adam Miller (Ryan Garko/Kevin Kouzmanoff); 2004: Jeremy Sowers, Justin Hoyman, Scott Lewis; 2005: Trevor Crowe, John Drennen, Stephen Head (Nick Weglarz);

In 2001, they had 5 picks in the first 51 overall. None of those players picked have played in the big leagues. They had seven picks in the top 94 in 2002. Four in the top 48 in 2003. The sixth overall pick in 2004. And on and on and on. High volume of picks + always picking in the top half of the first round (in the five year span listed they had picks at 6th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 18th in the first round) = next to nothing.

Soooo…what am I doing wasting my time with this site anyway? Perhaps a better question is what are you doing wasting your time reading this site? Turns out the best way to attempt to rebuild a franchise isn’t though the draft; no, who has the time to go through all that trouble scouting and signing a bunch of kids? All you really have to do is haven an extra Bart Colon hanging around to trade and, poof, you’ve got a farm system to be proud of.

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1.16 Arizona Diamondbacks: C – Luke Bailey – Troup HS (Georgia)

Arizona is another one of those teams that confuses me. The most obvious trend is the selection of collegiate pitchers at the top of the past few drafts – Scherzer and Brown in 2006, Roemer in 2007, and Schlereth and Miley last draft. However, it is fair to wonder whether this has more to do with the flow of the past few particular drafts than anything else. This year’s draft could be a little bit of a test: does Arizona really target collegiate arms early or has it been a coincidence based on the overall talent breakdown of the recent years?

Strasburg, White, and Gibson will certainly be off the board, Crow, Volz, and Minor all have better than average chances of being taken in the first fifteen picks, and Scheppers and Andy Oliver could both be gone as well. If, and it’s a big big big if, all of these players are taken before Arizona picks in the first round, then their pick will offer great insight into the drafting strategy of Josh Byrnes, Tom Allison, and company. Incidentally, that would mean eight college pitchers would be taken in the top fifteen picks. Whoa. By comparison, only two went in the top seventeen last year.

As for the pick itself, Luke Bailey is a player. He is athletic — real athlete athletic (7.20ish second 60 time), not just catcher athletic — with a ML quality arm behind the plate. His pop times, though all over the place (1.7-1.95ish is the range), are consistently good. At the dish, his power potential is a definite plus and his strike zone recognition has drawn praise from coaches and scouts alike.

Bailey is a Georgia high schooler, but it would be surprising to see him raise his stock enough for the Braves to consider him at pick seven. Surprising, but not out of the question…

1.17 Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B – Matt Davidson – Yucaipa HS (California)

Opinions on Matt Davidson’s eventual draft position vary wildly, so consider this nothing more than a big-time guess on my part. The strength of the draft appears to be on the mound, so it will be interesting to see the ways teams adjust their draft boards – do they just go with the flow of the draft and attack with a pitching heavy approach? Or do they reach for the attractive bats when they can because they are confident they can get good pitching in later rounds? Draft philosophies will be revealed this spring.

Davidson’s power potential is his calling card, but there are questions about how his longish, loopy swing will translate to the pros. A team will really have to be sold on his bat to pick him in the first two rounds because there are even more questions surrounding his eventual defensive destination. To his credit, he has a strong arm and a good work ethic, but he is probably more likely to wind up at first than at third.

Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, Tyler Skaggs, and Bobby Borchering are other names that seem to fit the Dodgers typical draft plan.

1.18 Florida Marlins: RHSP – Mychal Givens – Plant HS (Florida)

The young arm with the draft’s most explosive fastball (peaking at 96-98 MPH) goes to a franchise that knows how to develop young pitching. His slider and change both need a great deal of work, and his sidearm-style mechanics need at least a little bit of tinkering, but the upside is undeniable.

There are still some scouts that prefer Givens’ high upside potential at shortstop. He’s a plus athlete and an above-average defender with a plus arm who possesses above-average speed.

1.19 St. Louis Cardinals: SS – Robbie Shields – Florida Southern

Shields would give the Cardinals a relatively close to the big league second baseman, finally giving them the team a long-term fixture at the spot. If everything goes according to plan, Shields would be the Cards best second baseman since…Fernando Vina? Second has been a revolving door since Fernando Vina lost his hold on the starting spot in the early part of the decade. Adam Kennedy, Aaron Miles, Mark Grudzielanek, Tony Womack, and Bo Hart – maybe not all bad players, but no long-term fixtures either. I only tabbed Vina as the “best” of that bunch because he was the longest tenured starter. Pretty weak criteria, I know.

Shields tore up the Cape Cod League before going down with an injury and he had some observers very quietly calling him a potential 2009 version of Gordon Beckham. Shields is also a small school guy with a lot of helium who has the potential to, oh what’s the nicest way of putting this, become exposed a bit as more scouts besiege Florida Southern to watch him play than he ever could have imagined. The exposure alone could make or break him this spring – scouts will have greater opportunity to see both his strengths and weaknesses in a much more intimate way than in his first two seasons.

So, he might go higher than this…or he might go lower. How’s that for insight? As an aside, I had no idea how difficult it was to write a mock draft and not overuse certain words. This is only pick nineteen, but I’ve used the word “potential” 326 times already.

1.20 Toronto Blue Jays: C – Josh Phegley – Indiana

After putting up a .438/.507/.756 sophomore line with more walks than strikeouts (34 to 22) and 37 extra base hits in 224 at bats, an argument can be made that Phegley is the top collegiate bat in the 2009 class. The Jays drafted JP Arencibia in the 2007 first round, but his minor league numbers thus far make him look more like a better version of Rod Barajas or Miguel Olivo (albeit a way better version, in my opinion) than an elite backstop you plan a future around. Even if you love Arencibia as a prospect, he isn’t the kind of player that would stop you from taking a player you believe in just because they share the same position.

I know there has been organizational turnover, so maybe it isn’t fair to make the blanket statement that a team can’t produce players at a certain spot. However, the Jays inability to develop a legit catcher is all the more mind boggling when you look at some of their interesting backstop prospect depth over the years. Young catcher stagnation syndrome is a funny thing. Guillermo Quiroz and Curtis Thigpen, where are they now? Josh Phelps, Jason Werth, and, I know we are going back way too far, Carlos Delgado all came up as catchers, but didn’t stick. Teaming Phegley with Arencibia would give the Blue Jays strength in numbers, if nothing else.

1.21 Houston Astros: LHSP – Andrew Oliver – Oklahoma State

Oliver slipped in this particular mock, but I’m not really sure why. Yeah, I realize I’m the one who put it together, but I’m simple minded enough to be surprised at the way my very own draft board unfolds. Scary, I know.

The twenty first pick in the draft is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still damn sad that whoever is picked at this spot will have a great argument for the top spot in the Astros system. Unless, of course, Houston screws it up. Luckily, there will be no Justin Smoak to pass on this year. Wait, how is that a good thing? Anyway, if the pick is Oliver, then, yeah, he’s instantly the best prospect in the system. He’s a low 90s arm with an arsenal that includes a change (good) and slider (getting there).

Andy Oliver was also the man commissioned to enforce the Stamp Act in 1765. True story, you can look it up.

1.22 Seattle Mariners: RHSP – Zack Wheeler – East Paulding HS (Georgia)

This pick may or may happen. Solid college reliever or high school righthander with a first round grade? Which way will Jack Zduriencik go? Plus fastball, very good breaking ball, good frame, you know the drill. I realize there is very little differentiation between the scouting reports for each high school righthanded pitcher, but that’s one of the pitfalls of doing a mock before the draft season actually begins.

The management team that Jack Zduriencik is assembling in Seattle should be the envy of every team in baseball. Top of the line scouting staff supplemented by some of the most able statistical minds in the business? Seattle is a sports city in need of hope, and there is no question that, if nothing else, Jack Z and company can provide

Wouldn’t it be great to see Seattle use the pick for an unsigned Josh Fields on Jason Stoffel, Brad Boxberger, or Ben Tootle? I’d laugh.

1.23 Minnesota Twins: LHSP – Tyler Skaggs – Santa Monica HS (California)

Great size, upper 80s fastball, slow but very fun upper 60s curve that is way, way more than a trick pitch. Skaggs is a distant third to Purke and Matzek among high school lefties, but he still has an arm that should get him into the first round.

1.24 Chicago White Sox: RHSP – Keyvius Sampson – Forest HS (Florida)

Sampson is one of my guys, so he’s higher on this mock than he’ll show up on others. I tried to keep my own personal take out of this – it’s about what I expect to happen and consensus building, not what I would do/want to see happen. That in mind, it only makes sense for my own personal opinions to flavor a mock for a draft that doesn’t happen for over six months. I like Keyvius Sampson and I think scouting directors will get wise to him in the coming months; that’s what makes it a projection, you know? Sampson is one of the most athletic pitchers in the draft with a sharp curve that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has peaked at 95 MPH.

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A pet scouting theory on mechanics of mine can be summed up like this: The most direct path to smooth, consistent, and repeatable delivery is through outstanding athleticism. Anecdotally, it seems that plus athletes tend to “figure things out” mechanically more often than other pitchers. It could be an offshoot of the great size debate – again, anecdotally it seems pitchers in the 6-0 to 6-3 range tend to be more athletic than the larger, “classic” pitcher’s frame guys (pitchers 6-4 and up). The scouting bias against short pitchers, righthanders especially, has turned them into a valued underappreciated commodity. It’s more than just that, however; these shorter pitchers, once more anecdotally, seem to have better control of their more athletic bodies, and thus smoother, easier to repeat deliveries. Smooth, easy to repeat deliveries lead not only to cleaner injury records but also increased velocity.

Just a pet theory, nothing more. Honestly, my knowledge of pitching mechanics isn’t really at the level where I should be coming up with any half-baked theories. All I look for (or, more honestly, all I really know how to look for) in a young pitcher is repeatability. Even if the motion looks weird and, in some extreme cases, painful, the question I always come back to is can he repeat it every time? If he can, sign him up. If not, back to the drawing board.

1.25 New York Mets: OF – Kentrail Davis – Tennessee

Along with Oliver, Davis plummeted down the draft board because I simply couldn’t find a fit for him any higher than here. Redshirt sophomores are hard to figure out, it’s a fact of life. Or is it? A lot of noise is made every year about the additional leverage draft-eligible sophomores have come draft day. I wonder if too much is made of that, especially for players expected to go in the first two rounds. Something to think about as draft season unfolds.

Much like I elevated Sampson higher than many mocks will have him because I like his game, Davis slipped because I think his game is overrated – I could forgive the bad body if I thought he could play a position other than leftfield. Of course, many of those teams picking in the late teens (Mariners, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Marlins) are pretty good fits for the intriguing speed/power combo that Davis possesses.

1.26 New York Yankees: C – Austin Maddox – Eagle’s View Academy (Florida)

Austin Maddox…because one catching prospect named Austin just isn’t enough! Maddox would join Austin Romine in the very exclusive Yankees Catching Prospects Called Austin Club (YCPCAC for short). The prep catchers at the top of this draft are all closely bunched, so a lot can change between now and June. For now, Maddox’s decent pop times, plus arm, and huge raw power potential grade him out a tick below Luke Bailey as the top catcher.

Most prospect evaluators turn their noses down at comps, but, clearly, I’m not one of them. However, sometimes things can get out of hand. As a general rule, I think it’s wise to avoid comparing amateur players with Hall of Famers – the Maddox as a young Mike Piazza comp doesn’t do anybody any good. The player has unreasonable expectations (read: unfair pressure) placed on him, the general public doesn’t really learn a whole lot about the player’s actual skillset, and the scout/talent evaluator/talking head will inevitably look silly for coming up with such a lofty comparison in the first place. Lose, lose, lose. I don’t really believe in absolutes, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say you should never compare a young player to a Hall of Famer – I’m sure I’ll do it before long, whether intentional or without really thinking about it. I promise to be careful.

1.27 Milwaukee Brewers: RHRP – Jason Stoffel – Arizona

The first true reliever came off the board at pick 20 last season when Seattle picked Georgia closer Josh Fields. The battle for the top reliever spot should be extremely close this year as there isn’t a whole lot that distinguishes Stoffel from Ben Tootle from Brad Boxberger from even the aforementioned Fields. Of course, this discussion could all be moot if teams see Kendal Volz as a reliever and not a starter – he has the best arm out of that group by far. Many had Milwaukee looking reliever early last year and the need remains in 2009.

Random fact: Stoffel is a former high school teammate of draft eligible USC catcher Robert Stock, so the possibility of a minor league reunion of what was once a dynamic prep battery isn’t out of the question.

1.28 Philadelphia Phillies: RHRP – Ben Tootle – Jacksonville State

What to get the team that already has everything? Alright, that might be a teeny exaggeration (fine, a gigantic exaggeration), but the World Champions have a strong big league roster in addition to a minor league system that is finally beginning to show some signs of life. The Phillies have been a difficult to figure team, but they have never been an organization to shy away from a risky prospect, especially those with health, makeup, or long development curve concerns. Organizationally, they are strong behind the plate and in the outfield, but could use an influx of talent in just about every other area. It’s also important to note that they’ll have a new scouting director and a slew of new area scouts evaluating players this season. There’s really no telling what direction they’ll go in the upcoming draft, but, let’s be honest, you really didn’t need me to spend 158 words telling you that, did you?

Tootle has already drawn a few Brad Lidge comparisons, and Lidge has worked out pretty well for Philadelphia so far, so…that’s really all I’ve got right now. A quick moving college reliever has been rumored as a Phillies target the past three or four drafts, but they’ve never pulled the trigger. There is no evidence to suggest they’ll do so now, but Tootle might have too good an arm to pass up.

Another name that you’d be wise to remember, if he’s still on the board: Mychal Givens. Just a hunch.

1.29 Boston Red Sox: C – Max Stassi – Yuba City HS (California)

Maddox vs Stassi – the next great Yankees/Red Sox debate? Probably not, but it would be an interesting subplot to this year’s first round if the AL East megapowers picked parallel prep players donning the tools of ignorance. Stassi profiles as a truly outstanding defensive catcher. He has excellent pop times, great defensive instincts, plus makeup and athleticism, and a strong arm behind the dish.

1.30 Tampa Rays: OF – Brian Goodwin – Rocky Mount HS (North Carolina)

The joke I made about what to get the team that has everything actually applies with the Tampa franchise – this is an organization in amazingly good shape going forward. They lost in their first crack at the ultimate prize, but, I assure you, there will be other chances. They really are the team that has everything. One spot that could use an organizational restocking – the outfield. The days of Dukes, Hamilton, Crawford, Baldelli, Gomes, and Young all on the organizational depth chart are long gone. True, Carl Crawford and BJ Upton make up two thirds of the reigning AL champion outfield and, yes, Desmond Jennings is a darn good prospect when healthy, but even with all that talent it unbelievably could still be considered one of the weaker parts of the team. Crazy.

Goodwin is a potentially elite defensive centerfielder with plus speed (6.5 to 6.65 second 60 times) and a plus arm. Shields, Phegley, and Davis all work as college bats who play positions of need who could be considered if they fall.

1.31 New York Yankees: RHSP – Sean Black – Seton Hall

Sometimes the fit just feels right. Highly touted recruit, spotty collegiate track record, no longer expected to go in the first round, but still talented enough to work his way back up by the end of the season. All that, and a nice geographical tie-in as well. Sold!

1.32 Chicago Cubs: SS – Jiovanni Mier – Bonita HS (California)

What’s a first round without a high school shortstop coming off the board? It’s an especially weak crop of high-end middle infield talent in the prep ranks, but Mier stands out as a potential JJ Hardy-style impact player.

1.33 Los Angeles Angels: C – Robert Stock – Southern Cal

Sometimes the fit feels right, the sequel. Highly touted recruit, spotty collegiate track record, no longer expected to go in the first round, but still talented enough to work his way back up by the end of the season. All that, plus another geographical tie-in. Sold, again!

Right this second, Stock isn’t a first round pick. His college numbers don’t inspire a lot of confidence that he’ll be picked this high, but he is a talented enough player to put forth a giant junior season. I touched on this point in the Keyvius Sampson comment, but I’ll elaborate here where nobody will read it. There are two ways to put together a mock or a prospect list and I think they can be summed up by the following lines of thought. You can think, “Hey, if Robert Stock puts up a huge junior year then he’s got a chance to go in the first.” I don’t like that approach. I prefer thinking, “Hey, if Robert Stock puts up a huge junior year, a year like I’m predicting he’ll have based on the growth he has shown since entering school and his stellar scouting reports, then he’ll go in the first.” It’s easy to say that if a player has a big year then he’ll go high in the draft; that’s common sense, right? It is way more fun to actually predict said big year and the subsequent leap up the draft board.

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