Drafting Team Rankings (Part 2)
"This is stupid." "Why are you doing this?" "You are going to end up looking like an idiot." All of these things I was accused of last week, when I published my AL draft reviews and rankings. To these criticisms, all I can simply respond is that I agree. As I said last week, "With exactly zero professional at-bats in all 1,501 combined, trying to guess who succeeded and failed might just be a fool's game."
This is an extremely difficult thing to project, but I am attempting to do so anyway. First of all, in one, two, and three years this will be a very fun piece to look back at. These are literally my first impressions and my guesses, after trying to read as much as possible. So with that as your warning, continue to the NL edition.
I want to make sure and emphasize that these rankings are not representative of how the teams drafted, but who they drafted. By putting Arizona on top of my NL rankings I'm not saying Mike Rizzo necessarily drafted better than Logan White, just that his draft class has a better chance (in my opinion) of being successful. With that in mind...
A December Loss Just Means Christmas Comes in June
Arizona Diamondbacks: It isn't hard to mess things up when you are at the top, calling out the name of someone who has (supposedly) Bo Jackson athleticism and Alex Rodriguez power potential. Justin Upton simply makes this class look good by himself, he has all five tools, and -- if they put him in center immediately -- should fly through the system. He's a better prospect out of high school than Delmon Young was, and maybe the best since Josh Hamilton. But Mike Rizzo did not stop there on draft day, picking up the Northeast's pride and joy, Matt Torra in the beginning of the supplemental round. Torra had top ten rumors associated with him, and his control is good enough to make him the first 2005 starter in the Majors. The team then took risks at the beginning of the third round, choosing Wild Thing Jason Neighborall and then two-way player Micah Owings. Neighborall should be converted to relief right now, where he has the stuff to move like Ambiorix Burgos. Owings is still a little raw on the mound, but if his Sunday performance is indicative of ability, he'll shine like a first rounder. With four solid players in the bag, and two more potential players in Matt Green and Mark Romanczuk, it should turn out to be a fantastic effort by the Diamondbacks.
St. Louis Cardinals: Following a 2004 draft in which the club did not sign one high school player, the Cardinal scouting department seemed to be a little less regimented this year. That helped the draft yield considerably, as the club landed three of Future Game's top 31 prospects, and two college players once considered top ten talents. The draft began with Colby Rasmus, the Alabama high school outfielder with a bunch of power. Rasmus signed for a million dollars quickly, and was one of my favorite players in the draft. I'm also quite fond of Tyler Greene, the club's second choice from Georgia Tech, as he profiles to steal 20 bases and win Gold Gloves perenially in the Majors. Where the question with Greene will always be his bat, the club's next choice -- pitcher Mark McCormick from Baylor -- will always have control concerns. In the very least, he'll succeed Jason Isringhausen in the Cardinal closer role. Following McCormick was right-handers Tyler Herron and Josh Wilson, two accomplished pitchers from competitive programs.
Florida Marlins: Like the Red Sox last week, it's pretty hard not to like the Marlins draft. Like the Red Sox, Florida mixed and matched college and high school players throughout the draft, but early, it appears they drafted out of need. Was it a coincidence that the club's first five selections were pitchers? Or that they drafted Aaron Thompson in the 22nd spot when players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Colby Rasmus remained on the board? The club did very nice in selecting Chris Volstad, Jacob Marceaux (a personal favorite) and Sean West, all players that I am very fond of. But Thompson appears to be a reach, and Ryan Tucker may opt to attend Cal State Fullerton rather than sign. The fruits of the scouting department's labor will not be seen soon, as none of these players will move too quickly, but they undoubtedly represent the future of starting pitching in Miami.
Picking Early, Often and Effectively
San Diego Padres: One would normally be stupid in associating San Diego with conservatism. It normally just does not happen, but in 2005 Chief Gayton was the exception to the rule. The long time Padres scouting director conducted a very effective draft last week, but one that does not have a very high ceiling. The draft began with Miami right-hander Cesar Carillo, and Long Beach southpaw Cesar Ramos. Both were very good college pitchers with great control, but neither profiles to be higher than a third or fourth starter. Later in the draft they took Chase Headley (2) and Seth Johnston (5), who both profile to be solid, if unspectacular players on the left side. Ramos' teammate Neil Jamison's potential tops out in middle relief. The player with the most potential could be the club's fourth selection, Arizona catcher Nick Hundley, who I wrote about extensively last Wednesday. All in all there is a decent chance that the Padres net as many Major Leaguers from the 2005 draft as anyone. But in twenty-five years, I doubt many will be hailing this draft as the year's best.
Houston Astros: Lance Broadway's late season heroics put a big move on the draft, changing things just hours before Arizona kicked it off. Suddenly Broadway was the White Sox man, and not Cesar Carillo, as many previously had thought. This allowed the Padres to take their man at 18, instead of being 'forced' into selecting Tulane's ace, Brian Bogusevic. The chain of events also led to the Astros, who instead of taking Jacob Marceaux, ended up with Bogusevic, a far safer talent. The club also went safe at 38, albeit too safe in my opinion, taking Tennessee outfielder Eli Iorg. A reach, yes, but Iorg should move quickly through the system. The high ceiling player is Floridian catcher Ralph Henriquez, a switch-hitter with a father in the Braves organization. Henriquez profiles to have plus power and better-than-average catching skills, which could make him this draft's best talent. He'll just need to learn what consistency means first.
Colorado Rockies: Nice mix of high school and college talent, as well as grabbing hitters and pitchers. Interestingly enough, it looks like the organization prefers aged offensive players, while grabbing more raw pitchers. I wonder if that is an organizational philosophy, or just what their board decided for them this season. Anyway, Troy Tulowitzki is a great talent at the seventh spot, a player that some people would have taken with the top pick. Tulo will not only move quickly through the system, but in Coors Field, has superstar potential. The question here was Luke Hochevar or Tulo, which gets down to the basic philosophy of spending predominantly on hitters or pitchers for Coors. My personal guess would be the latter, but if this team can start building a lot of young depth in offense, look out. Besides Tulo I like the Chaz Roe, Daniel Carte, and Brandon Durden choices especially.
Atlanta Braves: After drafting surprisingly conservative with their first pick, choosing college closer Joey Devine, Roy Clark went back to normal the rest of the way. There was Beau Jones, one of Louisiana's best arms, and Yuniel Escobar, the toolsy shortstop from Cuba. Many talented arms (35 pitchers in total, the draft's high), and quite a few picks from Georgia and Florida. And of course, lots of high schoolers, as their six college choices were a draft low. It seems that the Braves have just about as much consistency in their draft styles as they do first place finishes. The exception of the year, as mentioned, was Devine. With the club facing unexpected bullpen problems that are likely not going away, hoping Devine to be the answer is a good philosophy. While some mock the idea of spending a first-round pick on relievers, for some teams I believe it is undoubtedly the right decision. And of course the best part of the current Braves draft is the fact that their first five picks have been signed.
The Macgyver Award Winners For Making Use of What They Had
Los Angeles Dodgers: I have mentioned before on this site that while Logan White still has contributed little-to-none at the Major League level, he still has to be considered one of the best five scouting directors in the game. This year was no exception, as White still managed to have one of the best NL drafts despite not choosing until pick 40. Part of his draft was because of good fortune, as consensus #2 pitcher, Luke Hochevar, fell due to bonus concerns. Hochevar should be considered one of the three best Los Angeles pitching prospects already, which is saying a lot considering the Dodgers' fantastic system. But what solidifies White as being good is that after being lucky, he came back with three great high school talents: Ivan DeJesus, Josh Wall and Josh Bell. I also like Sergio Pedroza, presumably one of DePo's boys, who should provide solid value after leaving Cal State Fullerton. White's drafting efforts might just be the best in the NL, and while his class isn't quite the caliber of some, that shouldn't prevent him from getting an interview for the next GM hole.
Pittsburgh Pirates: It isn't that the Pirates were plagued with a lack of picks, they just didn't get any advantages. This is an organization that hasn't smelled the playoffs since Sid Bream, but have still had to wait until pick 11 each of the last two years. And beyond that, they aren't losing enough good players to gain compensation either. Still, considering their position, I really like what the Pirates did, first by taking Floridian outfielder Andrew McCutchen. While their first pick was an all-tools player with high bust potential, it should be noted that the club's next twelve picks were of the college variety. Kudos to the Pirates for creating a very nice balance in their selections, and if McCutchen hits, also for creating one Hell of a class.
Future Members of the Show "Hit Me Baby One More Time"
New York Mets: To be honest, all I really see coming from this class is a future battery: Mike Pelfrey on the mound, and Drew Butera behind the plate. If that is true, Omar Minaya might not be too disappointed. That is simply how good of a talent Pelfrey is, a tall, projectable player with a developed arsenal. He certainly projects better than (gasp!) Jered Weaver, the top collegiate pitcher from 2004. Butera profiles to be his personal catcher, one of the back-up variety, as his bat even pales in comparison to Taylor Teagarden's. But the kid can catch-and-throw with the best of them, and the Mets teaming him up with Pelfrey early and often would be in their best interests. Certainly not a great draft by the Mets, but with Pelfrey and no second and third-round picks, it will be hard to frown upon it.
Washington Nationals: One of the most important things for this organization at this time, besides winning, is creating a face for themselves. Washington is such a perfect place for baseball, that I think they are just a superstar away from blending in. While winning will continue to sell itself this year, the club will no doubt find its dry spell at some point. Then what will the marketing department use? Cue Ryan Zimmerman, maybe the surest thing in this draft. Zimmerman, from nearby UVa, has potential that tops out at (ironically enough) Cal Ripken Jr. Great choice there. I also like what Washington did after Zimmerman, though they didn't pick again until the fourth, choosing only players from competitive areas or programs. As Zimmerman goes, so does this draft, but choosing a few well-tested Tar Heels, Terrapins and Dirtbags can't hurt either.
Milwaukee Brewers: Just like Mike Radcliff in Minnesota and Logan White in Los Angeles, good draft classes associated with Jake Zdurnieck were just an annual event. I'm not as confident as saying that this year, where there is simply not a lot of depth behind Ryan Braun. What is interesting is that I believe Milwaukee chose more, 19, Junior College players than any other organization. Surely if Billy Beane did this it would be associated with Moneyball, with the A's finding an underdeveloped area of the draft. With the Brewers we simply view it with skepticism, but with the new regime in place, I am not prepared to criticize. Braun looks to be Aubrey Huff 2.0 as a player, and looks to be the bat behind Fielder and Weeks. I should also mention that if the latter's brother signs, instead of going to Miami as expected, this draft could turn into a real positive.
Chicago Cubs: In the end, the question had to come down to Mark Pawelek vs. Luke Hochevar. If the question was a concern of dollars and cents, than the amicable Pawelek was surely their man. But in what universe are the Cubs that budget-conscious on draft day? And in what other ways does Pawelek have the upper hand on Hochevar. The latter blossomed like no other at Tennessee, setting records and giving Mike Pelfrey some competition for top NCAA pitcher. Maybe there is something I don't know here, but in the end drafting Pawelek ahead of Hochevar looks like it will end badly. Pawelek has two solid pitches from an area of the country with little-to-zero baseball competition. After Mark the team started to pick predominantly from the college ranks, taking very few high ceiling, high risk players. The draft was filled with pitchers, and skill position players, simply in the hopes that out of quanity comes quality. I'm not sure this is how to run a draft, but considering the Cubs past success, it's hard to quabble.
Cincinnati Reds: While many believe that Jay Bruce's stock rose enough to justify a top five selection before the draft, I just didn't see it. Talk of him being drafted before Cameron Maybin was ludicrous, in my opinion, and I was (and am) far higher on C.J. Henry. Maybe it is something that I'm not seeing, very likely of course, but Bruce's bust potential is probably the highest of the top 20 picks. But while the club may have been better off with Henry or Chris Volstad, it's very hard to argue with a player that so many believe in. So I'm not faulting the Reds too much for Bruce, but instead for a lack of depth. Their next five picks were pitchers, and of the group, Sam Lecure is really the only player I like. This system needs pitching so bad, and I'm just afraid pitchers from Gardner-Webb, Niagara and Loyola Maramount are not going to get it done.
Spurning the Scouts
Philadelphia Phillies: With Ed Wade active every winter trying to fix every Phillie hole, the club often ends up with a few less picks than many teams. A couple years ago they had to wait, and then selected Tim Moss -- an accomplished collegiate second baseman -- with their first pick. They went back to college again this year, in which they selected sabermetric fave Mike Costanzo from the Big South. It remains to be seen how Costanzo will hand playing the hot corner full-time, or how he hits better pitching, but all in all this was a good pick. I also like Matt Maloney in the third as a future swingman, and barring health problems, Jeremy Slayden could provide fantastic value in the eighth round. A valiant effort by the Phillies -- great drafting -- but this is a situation in which context prevented them from having a great class.
San Francisco Giants: Despite normally drafting very well, if unconventionally, the Giants are turning more and more against spending money on draftees. This year the club waited until pick 132 to draft athletic Ben Copeland, and then picked Daniel Griffin -- who racked up strikeouts at Niagara University -- with their first two selections. I'm not so sure this draft is ever going to yield much, but the Giants dug their own graves when they started signing free agents in November.
And finally we will end with the rankings. Please leave thoughts and comments below:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Florida Marlins
4. San Diego Padres
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Colorado Rockies
7. Houston Astros
8. Atlanta Braves
9. Washington Nationals
10. New York Mets
11. Pittsburgh Pirates
12. Milwaukee Brewers
13. Chicago Cubs
14. Philadelphia Phillies
15. Cincinnati Reds
16. San Francisco Giants