WTNYNovember 15, 2004
By Bryan Smith

When prospect mavens look back at the big selections from the first round of the 2003 draft, they will surely look at Delmon Young and Lastings Milledge. What they might overlook is the fact that chosen between the two stars were three outfielders that lack the hype and big debut numbers.

While Young and Milledge came greatly polished from their California and Florida high schools, the meat of this outfield sandwich was drafted extremely raw. Sure, Nick Markakis was the junior college player of the year, but that was as a pitcher. Doc Rodgers, once the director of the farm system, preferred Markakis bat. And sure, Ryan Harvey was from a Florida school too, but he had missed a lot of time his senior season from surgery. Chris Lubanski? He was just some Pennsylvania speedster with low bonus demands.

Both Milledge and Harvey were scouted as better prospects than Lubanski by most before the draft, but the Royals ability to sign a pre-draft deal made the latter the fifth overall pick. He was the first player signed from the draft, and as a result, had 221 at-bats in the Arizona League. Neither of the other two posed signability issues, as the Cubs always get their player, and Baltimore ownership was fond of the Greek Markakis.

A year ago today, it looked like the Royals had outscouted everyone, as Lubanskis debut led the trio. In his 53 games, the left-handed swinger hit .326, with an .834 OPS. His defense and basestealing capabilities (9/19 SB) were extremely raw, though his outstanding speed was evident. He struck out just about every game, and walked every three, hardly outstanding ratios.

Who was second last year is a toss-up, Markakis showed more polish while Harvey displayed a higher ceiling. The former hit .283 in 205 games in the New York-Penn League, though his .112 ISO made some question Rodgers decision. Most intriguing was his 30/33 strikeout-walk ratio, and thirteen stolen bases in eighteen attempts on the basepaths.

Harvey was the last to sign, only playing in fourteen games during the 2003 season. Depressingly for Cubs brass, the man some named Sosas successor before playing a professional game struck out 21 times in those fourteen games, in all of 51 at-bats. What looked good was the fact that of his twelve hits, half went for extra bases, which led to a .196 ISO.

So, just three months after becoming top ten selections, it looked as if the seventh overall pick (Markakis) had jumped above the sixth (Harvey) in prospect terms. Some would even place the Greek two-way star tops of the three.

A year later, the story remains true on the top: Markakis Reigns. While Young, Stewart and Milledge were the first-rounders to star in the Sally League, few noticed that Markakis put a very solid Sophomore campaign together. The big leftie hit .299, with a .171 ISO and .072 IsoP (OBP-BA). His power bat looks to be coming around, and his arm is obviously good enough for right field. Oriole fans can now commence dreaming about Val Majewski and Nick Markakis living on their outfield corners.

Unfortunately, it doesnt look like Lubanski and Harvey offer such safe bets as Markakis does. Lubanski suffered the largest flop of the three, hitting just .276/.340/.419 in 439 at-bats in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. His stolen base completion percentage was over 50%, and his K/G was farther below 1.00 than it was in season 1. But, Lubanski does not look like he will hit with enough power to be in the middle of an order, or walk enough to be on the top. Hes simply the baseball version of a tweener.

Ryan Harvey, on the other hand, is either going to be power hitter or bust. The Cubs, like they were with Brian Dopirak, are showing reluctance to move their hitting prospects at even a decent pace. So Harvey repeated short-season ball, this time moving from the Arizona League, to the Northwest League. He hit just .264 in 231 at-bats, striking out in more than 33% of AB. But his ISO was .217, showing that there is the power in his bat that leads some to believe hell be a great power prospect.

If I was constructing a top 50 which I am currently working on Markakis would undoubtedly factor in the plans. Harvey and Lubanski will not garner any attention for the top 50, and would be stretches for the top 100 in my eyes. Expect Baseball America to view things differentvery different.