Drafting Team Rankings (Part 1)
Two days, over 1500 picks, and we're still alive and breathing. We hope that you enjoyed our coverage in the last 48 hours, as we attempted to bring you all the stories from the first round and beyond. The draft will still be on our thoughts going forward, as the sidebar will soon offer updates on which players have signed, and we'll be posting various updates on draftees and negotiations as the year goes on.
With all the speculation behind us, now is as good a time as ever to take our first look at not the stories behind the players, but the teams in which they are now a part of. 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. But that has never stopped me before, and this is hardly an exception.
Today we'll review the AL organizations, while touching on their National League counterparts next week. I have attempted to put each team into various categories and have thrown in a surprise at the end. Enjoy...
The "We Lost Orlando Cabrera, Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, and All We Got Were These Stupid Draft Picks" Organization(s)
Boston Red Sox: Before the draft even started, anyone could have told you that Theo Epstein would walk away with a successful draft. That is just what happens when you combine a large budget, a well-rounded philosophy, and six of the first 47 picks. The club began the draft with collegiate players, choosing Jacoby Ellsbury and Craig Hansen, both should move through the system quickly. After those two came a junior college pitcher with a bit of polish and a lot of upside in Clay Buchholz. Next, Stanford second baseman Jed Lowrie will soon put pressure to Dustin Pedroia as Mark Bellhorn's successor. Their top six picks were rounded out by a pair of high school players; first Mike Bowden, whose frame has been likened to Roger Clemens, and catcher Jon Egan, putting a ceiling in a position the organization lacks depth at. Overall a very good draft, but a product of the number of selections more than anything else.
The Organizations that Fell Asleep by Pick 110
Cleveland Indians: Like the Red Sox, Mark Shapiro and John Mirabelli head an Indian front office that has one of the most balanced philosophies in the game. This was on display in their first three picks this year, in which two college players sandwiched a high school athlete. Trevor Crowe was, as expected, the first choice after an exceptional career at Arizona. Next came John Drennen, the smallish outfielder from California with lots of pop. Finally, project Stephen Head will begin his career in the batter's box, shifting his powerful bat between first base and left field. But after these three picks, the Indians have very few other noteworthy selections...or at least ones that will be signed. The other big names -- Tim Lincecum, Cody Satterwhite, Tim Dennehy -- will all likely go unsigned and play at Washington, Mississippi and Texas, respectively.
Oakland Athletics: Maybe Billy Beane will prove me wrong. Maybe all the high school pitchers he drafted will make him a genius. Maybe Jason Ray will be the next great Oakland relief prospect. Maybe Justin Smoak will sign after waiting until the 16th round to hear his name. But in all likelihood this will not be true, and the A's draft will be defined by the successes of Cliff Pennington, Travis Buck, and maybe, Thomas Italiano. One thing that can be said about the draft is that it was daring, and given the A's exceptional track record with pitching prospects, it might just be a calculated gamble that comes out a winner.
Texas Rangers: Amazingly, the first team to fool Jim Callis in the draft were the Rangers, who raised some eyebrows after making John Mayberry Jr. their first choice. Mayberry's numbers were down this year, but there is no denying that Jr. offers a ceiling that few other college players can top. Personally I don't think he is anything that Adrian Gonzalez isn't, but time will tell. Luckily for Texas, backstop Taylor Teagarden fell to the third round after concerns about his bat apparently grew. At worst Teagarden looks to be a back-up catcher with good throwing skills, and at best, he'll be catching in Arlington full-time by 2008 or 2009. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the best this draft class will likely do is yield few players besides the two listed above.
Monsters of the Middle (Rounds)
Detroit Tigers: When the dust clears from the draft and we can look at it for the first time legitimately -- in the offseason -- it is likely David Chadd will have made the best debut. Mind you that Chadd's name is not bolded - he is not a player, but the man behind the Tigers' picks this season. After watching Cameron Maybin slide down the top ten into his arms, I was continously impressed by the names Chadd was drafting. We have already written about Kevin Whelan and Jeff Larish, who are sandwiched by Big Ten stand-out Chris Robinson and Auburn outfielder Clete Thomas. The team also gambled on Warner Jones later in the day, giving the club six players that I had deemed top-five round talents...all without a second round pick.
New York Yankees: We usually don't associate the New York Yankees with good drafts, but this year is the exception. One player that I didn't write about the past two days that I was very impressed with in my research was C.J. Henry. The Yankees first pick was the athlete of the first round, and one that will begin his career at shortstop with the power and speed tools already in the bag. If handled correctly, Henry has the potential to be the best player of the draft, period. But after that the team went safer, choosing college players (mostly pitchers) from rounds 2-7. Brent Cox should move quickly through the system, and Zack Kroenke will bring quite a bit of polish to Tampa. The team then gambled in the eighth round with Austin Jackson, who would be the equivalent of a first round selection if the Yanks can pry him from playing basketball at Georgia Tech.
Minnesota Twins: The organizational opposite of the Yankees, one thing we can always expect from Mike Radcliffe and the Twins is a solid, well-scouted draft. This year came as no exception, as Minnesota was very solid through the first five rounds. Matt Garza was a bit of a surprise at a first, another pitcher following a year (2004) in which all they drafted was pitchers. Garza has college polish to go with very good raw stuff, and if harnessed, could meet Glen Perkins in a hurry. They also got a player in the late third round in Ryan Mullins that has potential that tops that of Perkins, with one of the better curveballs of the draft. Also in the middle rounds were high school phenoms (Henry Sanchez, Paul Kelly, Drew Thompson) and more solid college arms (Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing).
One and (Hopefully Not But Probably) Done
Kansas City Royals: Well, it can definitely be said that unlike some years, this time KC made their first round pick count. Daniel Glass held nothing back from his pocketbook with the Royals highest selection ever, allowing them to draft the consensus #2 player, Alex Gordon. There is no question that Gordon was the best college player available, and his bat should help him fly through the Kansas City farm system. In case you missed it, Rich has already thrown the Hank Blalock comparisons out there. The problem with the Royals draft was not at the top, but after Gordon, they really fell apart. I don't really see a potential solid player after Gordon, just five catchers and three shortstops in the top twenty picks that were drafted because of organizational black holes more than anything else. Still, having Gordon turn into the next Blalock might make it all just worth it.
Toronto Blue Jays: Let me begin by saying that the Jays almost did not make this section, and instead Monsters of the Middle, but I went with instincts with their inclusion. We all know that Ricky Romero was a fantastic pick. A lefty that throws a good, hard fastball in addition to a mean slider and curveball that gives hitters multiple looks throughout the game. Romero is smart, tough and talented, and could be in the Skydome by 2007. My other favorite picks are Robert Ray and Paul Phillips, though the club is definitely hoping Brian Pettway adds to the lack of sluggers in the Jays farm system.
Seattle Mariners: This is where Jim Callis was not confused, but pretty much everyone else that follows the draft was. Before Tuesday it had appeared for weeks that Troy Tulowitzki was the Mariners man, even despite the fact that he plays the position in which Seattle is strongest at. But instead Bill Bavasi pulled a fast one and went with a catcher showing power that the organization has never seen...and mind you, they drafted Jason Varitek. Jeff Clement should be a good one, and allow the team to not be starting any fortysomethings behind the plate late in the decade. The rest of the diamond was not helped very much by the draft, where the next best choice (in my mind) came from the 12th round, in Craig Hansen's teammate, Anthony Varvaro. He and John Holdzkom should add a little pitching firepower to the mix, but still leave a little to be desired in the hearts of Mariner fans.
Chicago White Sox: Well, I guess the Sox wouldn't make this list if we gave credit for the unsignable players drafted, too. Jordan Danks would give this draft class a big push forward if the Sox gave him enough money to spurn Texas, a move that is not expected to happen. Instead the White Sox will likely close negotiations with Lance Broadway soon, and add another good prospect with a plus curve and average fastball to the fray (say hi, Brandon). Chris Getz, from Michigan, could be effective, but only in the way in which smallish second baseman can be.
The First Signs of Head Scratching
Los Angeles Angels: Well, don't let me be too harsh on the Angels, they actually did a pretty nice job. They did very good in the middle rounds too, although I was not too impressed with Trevor Bell or Ryan Mount, their first two selections. Instead it was the next two -- P.J. Phillips and Sean O'Sullivan -- that really gives this draft some life. Phillips is the younger brother of Brandon with a similar skillset, and will be babied in the minors with the list of good middle infielders ahead of him. O'Sullivan is in the mold of draftee Mark Trumbo from 2004, a good two-way player from high school that Eddie Bane elected to take a chance on. O'Sullivan is better, though, and if his velocity returns to pre-spring levels, a first round talent from the mound.
ANGELS UPDATE: After doing further research on the draft today, I have decided I was too harsh on the Angels in my article this morning. In fact, so much so that I would now be willing to call Eddie Bane's draft class one of the top seven (if not 5) classes in the American League. Bane was extremely high school heavy in his selections, but it paid off, as the team ended up with an astounding 11 players that made Future Game USA's top 100 HS list.
First selection Trevor Bell will surely be the Angels top priority, as the two-way star ranked 12th on Future Game's list. Beyond that the club has many decisions to ponder in deciding which players to pursue, and which to allow to honor their college commitments. Here is a list of the ten other plans on the top 100, and their possible 2006 college:
O'Sullivan SD St.
Matusz San Diego
My guess is that the team goes hard after O'Sullivan, and also lands Phillips and Matusz. The bottom five on that list are almost guaranteed to go to college unless the club feels like setting some round bonus records again this year. The question marks will be Ryan Mount, their second round choice that has the 2004 CWS champs as leverage, and Mendoza, who could be headed to Miami. No matter what the Angels will walk away with one of the most impressive high school hauls in the draft, accelerating Bane's stock as a future GM.
Baltimore Orioles: While congratulations will likely be hurled around the office after David Chadd's debut in Detroit, I have to wonder if the same will be done with Joe Jordan in Baltimore. The first-time scouting director began his tenure off with a risky start, going with a high school riser early. I will admit that of everyone drafted in the first round, Brandon Snyder is the person I know the least about, and one I have a hard time believing is a better prospect than C.J. Henry or Chris Volstad. Still, even if he pans out, only Garrett Olsen from Cal Poly might make a huge difference after Snyder. Luckily for Jordan, expectations of good drafts and fruitful farm systems don't come with this job, but instead a guaranteed job until Peter Angelos gets angry and starts to blame people.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: If someone asked you before the draft if you'd spend seven figures on a player that was once the third starter on his college team, what would you say? What if you also learned the player hadn't pitched competitively in a year? Plain and simple, if the Devil Rays were looking for polished arms there were better options, as even Lance Broadway, Cesar Carillo and Brian Bogusevic would have made more sense, in my mind. I think their second round pick, Chris Mason, has decent potential, and everything changes if they sign Jeremy Hellickson. But expect Iowa's best prep prospect to attend LSU in the fall, pitch three very good seasons there, and go in the first round in 2008.
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I agree with many that it is too early to be seriously critiquing draft classes, so please add a grain of salt to my comments. And my rankings, for that matter, as I have simply done a quick-and-dirty estimate of how the fourteen AL teams ranked in their efforts Tuesday and Wednesday:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Cleveland Indians
4. New York Yankees
5. Minnesota Twins
6. Oakland Athletics
7. Kansas City Royals
8. Toronto Blue Jays
9. Texas Rangers
10. Seattle Mariners
11. Los Angeles Angels
12. Chicago White Sox
13. Baltimore Orioles
14. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
What are your thoughts? Am I giving the Tigers too much credit, or the Orioles not enough? Is Oakland's newfound strategy smart, and should Toronto consider a similar move? Please leave any draft recap thoughts in our comments.