Wait 'Til Next June
According to Baseball America, it is likely the Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick, Stephen Drew, will opt to return to Florida State University. Drew was unanimously ranked as one of the draft's top two prospects, and Dave Cameron put him first in an interview Monday. While scouts disagree on whether Drew will stick at shortstop, none doubt his athleticism or his bat.
This is not the first time Drew has seen the draft shaken up, as his brother J.D. did not sign with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997. Instead, Drew spent a year in the Independent League before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Stephen has a year of eligibility left, and met FSU officials on registering for his senior season. Not only would this completely shake up the 2005 NCAA rankings, but next June's draft as well.
Baseball's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement contains changes in the amateur draft, which will be first set in place next June. The most notable is the abolishment of the alternating draft order, instead borrowing the NFL's 'worst to first' policy. While Detroit was far and away the league's worst team in 2003, San Diego held the first choice because it was the NL's season. Under the new rules, Detroit would have chosen first, likely still selecting Justin Verlander. So, who is in line for the 2005 first pick.
A look at the game's worst win percentages:
Kansas City (.355)
Ironically, the league-worst Diamondbacks will have the first stab at selecting Drew. This is highly unlikely, notably due to bad blood developed during negotiations, but rivalry between Jeff Moorad and Scott Boras as well. Moorad has just recently given up his status of 'power agent', for a new role atop the Diamondbacks. Once battling for clients with Boras, it's doubtful Moorad will venture into dollar and cents arguments with his once-rival anytime soon.
Now seems to be the perfect time to introduce Justin Upton, B.J.'s younger and talented brother. The only junior on Baseball America's All-American team, Upton was the unquestioned top amateur until these Drew developments. But with the Diamondbacks likely holding the draft's first choice, Upton should still be projected to go #1. While Arizona already has a good SS prospect in Sergio Santos, the expectations of him outgrowing the position, coupled with Upton's talent make that projection a no-brainer.
Drew's sensational junior season was not enough to win the Golden Spikes Award, the NCAA's equivalent to the MVP. Instead, the award went to Jered Weaver, Long Beach State ace and All-Baseball favorite. With a return to college ball, Drew immediately become's the 2005 favorite. Previous winners include Rickie Weeks and Khalil Greene, which convey Drew's skill well.
In my mind, the Seminole will have two or three contenders for that top spot. Two Pac-10 sluggers, USC's Jeff Clement and Stanford's John Mayberry Jr., should challenge Drew. The third is Wichita State right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Baseball America's top-rated college player, Pelfrey was interviewed at THT this past spring. Finally, I should mention that North Carolina sophomore Andrew Miller could emerge as the ACC's best talent. The 6-6 power southpaw had a great summer in the Cape Cod League, and enters this season as the 2006 top prospect.
Mayberry, who also has Major League pedigree, presents an interesting draft scenario as well. Out of high school, Mayberry had huge bonus demands, using his Stanford scholarship as leverage. Pre-draft rumors of this led the Kansas City Royals to re-think drafting him, instead selecting some pitcher named Zack Greinke. Mayberry fell to #28, where he wound up not signing with the Seattle Mariners. Curiously enough, if the regular season ended today, the Royals and Mariners would have the #2 and 3 picks in the '05 draft, respectively.
Frugal Daniel Glass, Kansas City's owner, is not known for paying up in the amateur draft. In fact, the Royals are often bound to select 'cheap' players in the first round, often at the cost of talent. So, unless Glass has a change of philosophy overnight, it's highly unlikely the Royals would draft Stephen Drew. My guess is the club will select a player from the Midwest, such as Pelfrey or Nebraska's Alex Gordon.
So, that leaves the Mariners to Stephen Drew. Seattle, who paid record third-round money for Matt Tuiasosopo, isn't likely to have dollar concerns. Despite modest depth at the shortstop position, selecting a highly athletic, versatile player like Drew still fits. In my mind, only one thing can stop Stephen from becoming a Mariner: himself. Brother J.D. has often expressed a strong preference for the South, and if Stephen agrees, it could be a snag in the signing process. But as a recent poster at U.S.S. Mariner mentioned, maybe this situation could be a selling point for J.D., guaranteeing his brother would fall in the same organization?
Next on the draft stop are Blue Jays, who have taken a terrible season to a top five finish. You know Riccardi will be thinking college here, so I wanted to mention a few possibilities. J.P. chose a college infielder with his first two first-round picks, and could be interested in Tyler Greene in 2005. The Yellow Jacket has better defense than Drew, and a bat that has begun to raise eyebrows this summer. Another possibility is Jeff Clement, though the last USC catcher drafted in the top ten was Eric Munson. Riccardi might also like versatile 1B/LHP Stephen Head, my guess is Mayberry. While GMs often stress they don't draft with the Major League club in mind, I believe solid college players change that. Months removed from Carlos Delgado's exit, I'll predict the Blue Jays select powerful slugger Mayberry.
This is all too bad for the Expos, who would have loved to start a Virginia/Washington D.C. franchise around local Upton. After a horrific season's opening this appeared to be a lock, but recent decency has ended this possibility. Now the Expos, or Senators, will be resigned to the fifth hole. This may be Pelfrey or Gordon, or if they stay the college route, Baylor right-hander Mark McCormick. If they opt for high school players, some possibilities include Richmond shortstop Justin Bristow, Texas slugger Jordan Danks (brother of John), and Florida outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
But to paraphrase Dave Cameron from my interview, let's just be happy the draft comes next June.
P.S. Another slow signing process has been the one involving Jered Weaver. For more on those negotiations, keep your eye over at RWBB. He's already had one report, and you can bet the obsession won't end just because Weaver's no longer a Dirtbag...for now.