Live Blogging the MLB Draft
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton (HS SS)
2. Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon (Nebraska 3B)
The Royals got a taste of the public relation nightmare a below-slot choice would have received when rumors they had cut a deal with Cliff Pennington were made public. How could the Royals spend their highest choice ever on a consensus fringe first-rounder? Or more directly, how could they not draft Alex Gordon, top on some draft boards and a potential hometown (almost) hero.
For Arizona, enough comparisons had been thrown out there on Justin Upton to make drafting him a must. Bo Jackson athletically and Alex Rodriguez physically. B.J. Upton? Ha, he's way better. Forget the fact that Upton has no real home yet -- he's either a shortstop, third baseman or centerfielder, depending on who you ask -- because his bat will play anywhere.
I have for months claimed Alex Gordon to be tops on my draft board. Had I been Mike Rizzo today, I too would have drafted Justin Upton...and would not have blinked.
Gordon - Best college player in the draft. Projects to be a Hank Blalock type third baseman in the big leagues. Great strike-zone judgment and power.
3. Seattle Mariners: Jeff Clement (USC C)
Jeff Clement, C, USC - All-American catcher and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. Played on the U.S. National Team last two summers and was named MVP during the 33rd Annual USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series in Japan. Broke the national high school record for career home runs with 75 while prepping at Marshalltown HS (IA). Outstanding power with a short, compact stroke and good bat speed. Has shown excellent plate discipline (44 BB and 41 SO), especially for a young power hitter. Led Trojans in BA (.347), OBP (.474), and SLG (.606). Worked hard on his defensive skills after his freshman year, improving his footwork, blocking balls in the dirt, and arm quickness. Threw out 56 of 131 runners (43%) his sophomore and junior seasons.
4. Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia 3B)
As expected. Moments after the Nats drafted Zimmerman, the two sides agreed to a $2.975 million Minor League deal, with more than $800,000 up front as a signing bonus. According to this MLB.com article, "Zimmerman will report to Double-A Harrisburg and then play in the Arizona Fall League once the Minor League season is over. Zimmerman also will report to Spring Training in 2006."
Did the Nationals have territorial rights to Zimmerman? (In the early days of the NBA--when teams were trying to win over local fans--the draft included territorial picks. A team had the right to forfeit its first-round pick and select a player from its immediate area. Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley, and Gail Goodrich were four of the more famous territorial draft picks.) In any event, it is good to see a Major League team draft and sign a hometown player, especially one the caliber of Zimmerman.
5. Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun (Miami 3B)
Braun was first brought to my attention by John Sickels, who first wrote about him in late April. And then, again on May 18, when he said:
I love his bat, and I don't think he is far behind Gordon or Clement in what he could accomplish offensively. His defense may force a shift to the outfield, but even so I think he is one of the premium guys available. I would not be afraid to take him in the first ten picks, but he may last a bit longer than that.
Mind you, this is all before it was a given that Braun would be in the top ten (or even the first round). And hitting isn't new for Braun either, as his slugging percentage has been above .600 in each of his three Cane seasons. It appears that only Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels and Aubrey Huff have had better careers in Miami. That's a pretty good list to be behind, and Braun has Huff-like potential, even up to the defensive problems at third.
6. Toronto Blue Jays: Ricky Romero (Cal State Fullerton LHP)
Ricky Romero, LHP, Cal State Fullerton - Without question, the best left-hander in the draft. Ramos may have better command but Romero throws harder (low 90s) and has more upside than his Big West competitor and former Team USA teammate. Doesn't turn 21 until November. Had an outstanding junior year when he and Jason Windsor combined to lead CSUF to the College World Series title. Elevated his stature last summer by leading Team USA in ERA among starters and striking out more than one per inning. Came back this season and was the ace of a team that was number one in the country for most of the year, while boosting his strikeouts per nine from approximately 7 to 10.
7. Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki (LBSU SS)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Long Beach State - The comparisons to former 49er shortstop Bobby Crosby read like a cliche at this point but they are apt. Plus arm and plus power for a shortstop. Tulowitzki has all the tools. Big, strong (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) modern-day SS. For a RHB, runs a respectable 4.25-4.3 to first base. Has excellent range in the field. Intense player with great leadership skills. Led team in AVG (.349), OBP (.431), and SLG (.599) and finished his three-year career sixth on the career home run list despite missing 20 games this year with a broken hamate bone in his hand. Proved he can handle a wood bat by tying for the lead in HR with four last summer on Team USA. Aggressive hitter who may need to work on plate discipline.
8. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Wade Townsend (Rice RHP)
Can't help but think Tampa Bay and Townsend had a deal worked out in advance. Wink, wink. Don't see the Devil Rays taking him here otherwise.
9. New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey (Wichita St. RHP)
Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State - Big, tall right-hander with a mid-90s fastball. Think Roy Halladay. Capable of getting strikeouts and groundballs. Wichita State pitching coach calls him the "best pitching prospect" in the school's history. However, the Shockers do not have a good reputation for developing pitchers who perform even better at the pro level. Client of Scott Boras adds to the uncertainty. A great gamble if he falls below the top ten.
10. Detroit Tigers: Cameron Maybin (HS OF)
11. Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen (HS OF)
12. Cincinnati Reds: Jay Bruce (HS OF)
13. Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Snyder (HS C)
14. Cleveland Indians: Trevor Crowe (Arizona OF)
15. Chicago White Sox: Lance Broadway (TCU RHP)
The largest riser in this draft has undoubtedly been Broadway, who was a third-round pick a few weeks ago, and could have gone top ten this morning. Instead Broadway went to the White Sox, who are pleased to get someone who beat Brian Bogusevic as well as Southern Miss and Stanford in the past couple weeks. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle told me that Broadway's repertoire includes a "spiked curveball, change up and fastball." The latter is apparently usually between 88-92, and his curveball will likely be known as one of the draft's best. Schlossnagle downplays thoughts that Broadway has stepped up the past few weeks, instead claiming "it's just that more people have seen him since we were playing Tulane and in the CUSA tournament and NCAA Regional."
16. Florida Marlins: Chris Volstad (HS RHP)
First of all, drafting high school pitchers in and of themselves is regarded by many to be a fool's game. For those that do take the risk, and in doing so select one of the first couple players available, another question often comes up. On one hand, you could choose the fairly polished prep arm from a premier state, while the other is still raw (his state lacks big-time baseball) but his numbers are fantastic.
In 2003, the debate was between John Danks and Jeff Allison. The latter was ranked higher going into the draft, but the Rangers -- for budget and local concerns -- chose Danks before Allison. In 2003, Mark Rogers had a fantastic season in the northeast, but Homer Bailey had been mentioned as a top pitcher from Texas for years. Rogers went first, not by much, but now it appears that Bailey was the choice.
This season, while neither should be among the top 10 picks, the debate is between a Floridian right-hander and a southpaw from Utah. The latter has better strikeout numbers and has not registered an earned run in more than 60 innings. His stock had a rise that shamed Google, and he gained enough recognition to attract a certain power agent. Chris Volstad, from Florida, has not had so much volatility. Standing 6-7 tall and showing three plus pitches, Volstad has long been heralded a first-rounder.
Before watching them both through the video available through MLB's scouting service, I would have guessed the better pick to be Pawelek. While more risky, yes, this was a kid with a ceiling that no Major League dome could hold. Volstad would be a solid pick, yes, but why go the high school route for a kid that lacks that big ceiling?
I would have been wrong. Chris Volstad was the best high school arm this draft had to follow. The Marlins will get good value for their pick, and I would guarantee it if that damn TINSTAPP didn't stand in my way.
Volstad's huge frame is far more projectable than Pawelek's, where both throw from 91-94 now, Volstad might be consistently in the mid 90s in a couple years. Pawelek probably has the better breaking pitch right now, a sick slider that the MLB scouting service says goes from 1 to 7. Volstad throws the traditional 12-6 curve, and it is good, but he also mixes in a change as an out pitch. Pawelek has not gotten that far yet.
Of course it will be injuries that decide which player has bragging rights in the end, but right now give Volstad the leg up. And if you don't believe me, ask the Kansas City Royals whether they would prefer the all-tools player to the cerebral one.
17. New York Yankees: C.J. Henry (HS SS)
18. San Diego Padres: Cesar Carillo (Miami RHP)
19. Texas Rangers: John Mayberry Jr. (Stanford 1B)
Mayberry - Perhaps the biggest enigma in the draft. Has arguably the best body of any college athlete. Ranks among the top athletes and projects to hit with more power than he has shown in his junior season.
20. Chicago Cubs: Mark Pawelek (HS LHP)
A Scott Boras client is signed, sealed, and delivered before the end of the first day of the draft? Well, Baseball America is reporting that Pawelek just inked a contract, which includes a bonus of $1.75 million or $250,000 more than last year's 20th pick received. (For more on this signing, check out MLB's article, Cubs sign first-round pick Pawelek.)
21. Oakland Athletics: Cliff Pennington (Texas A&M SS)
PENNING A COMPARISON- Together they represent one side of the conundrum. In the all-important risk v. reward argument, they stand on the low-risk, low-reward side. They argue that spending seven figures on the next Mark Lemke is a lot better than the next Brien Taylor.
The first of them was Russ Adams, back in 2002, when J.P. Riccardi made the Tar Heel his first pick as GM. Where Adams was taken ahead of blue chippers like Scott Kazmir, Jeff Francoeur and Matt Cain, he was also ahead of Denard Span, Matt Whitney and shortly after Scott Moore. This year Adams' teammate in fighting the high reward types is Cliff Pennington, now chosen 21st overall to the A's.
While Rich would surely disagree, I would argue that no player in recent memory has invoked thoughts of another of his type like Pennington. With the help of Ryan Levy (the source for Pennington, Texas A&M and Big 12 baseball), Baseball Cube and UNC's old player bios, here is my case...
Name G AB BA ISO W SB
Pennington certainly started faster, gaining a full-time slot within the Aggies order less than five games into the season. It took Adams a little while longer to break into the order, but like Pennington, took a spot with good play throughout the year. Both players played at third base for most of the year, though Adams would shift to second towards the end. Pennington showed a better propensity for contact than Adams, who topped Cliff in the patience and baserunning categories.
Name G AB BA ISO W SB
Both players would move off the hot corner for their second seasons, as Pennington shifted to short and Adams to second. Their contact skills certainly began to look more similar, as did their patience. Pennington continued to show a bit more pop, while Adams was more of a threat on the basepaths. Where Adams gained All-ACC recognition for his season, Pennington was on the All-Big 12 second team.
Over the summers following their sophomore years, Pennington and Adams both opted for the Cape Cod League. Adams won the Robert A. McNeece Outstanding Pro Prospect Award and was named MVP of the Cape's mid-summer All-Star game where Pennington was given the #9 prospect tag from Baseball America and won the league's Manny Robello Award (10th Man). Their averages (Adams at .281, Pennington hit .277) and stolen base numbers (23 and 21) were both very similar.
Name G AB BA ISO W SB
Russ shifted to short for his final season at North Carolina, showing the versatility that the Blue Jays fell in love with. Pennington also played a little bit at second this year in College Station, showing potential at both positions. His numbers -- besides the power numbers -- all fell a bit short of Adams, though they were again very similar.
In conclusion, expect Cliff Pennington to be a good choice, and to make the Majors on a similar timetable to Adams, which would be first in mid-2007, and full-time in 2008. His defense was always much better regarded than Adams, and sticking at shortstop -- and ranking better than 10th in the AL in fielding Win Shares -- should not be a problem. Look for him to have a little less patience than Adams, but have better than .283/.393 in the AVE/SLG departments. The Royals would have been reaching at two, but expect Billy Beane to be quite happy in retrospect.
22. Florida Marlins: Aaron Thompson (HS LHP)
23. Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury (Oregon St. OF)
Not surprised by this pick at all. The prototype merging of scouting and performance analysis right here. Has the tools (speed and defense) as well as the strike zone judgment that sabermetricians like to see. He won't hit .400 in the majors like he has in college, but .300 with moderate XBH power, BB, and SB thrown in a la Johnny Damon is certainly achievable.
24. Houston Astros: Brian Bogusevic (Tulane LHP)
25. Minnesota Twins: Matt Garza (Fresno St. RHP)
26. Boston Red Sox: Craig Hansen (St. John's RHP)
I'm not a huge fan of taking relievers in the first round but when a potential number one drops to #26, you gotta step up--provided that you are willing to pay the (Boras) freight. Like in the case of Hochevar (who fell to #40), it'll be interesting to see whether the team steps up or if the player reduces his asking price. One can't minimize the potential for a long holdout in both cases.
27. Atlanta Braves: Joey Devine (NC St. RHP)
I will refute Rich, because I believe that relievers make great late first-round picks. The track records of relievers drafted the last few seasons are far better than the players usually picked between 25 and 30. For a team like Atlanta, that sees so much change over from season to season, adding a potential mainstay in their bullpen is a fantastic idea. Devine is a good one too, as his velocity improved this season, up to the mid-90s in the ACC tournament. Considering the depth of this system, and the consistent holes in Atlanta's pen, this was a very good pick.
28. St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus (HS OF)
After not signing one high school player all of last season, the Cardinals come out making a statement by picking Rasmus. A left-handed power hitting outfielder, Rasmus set the Alabama home run record this season, watching his stock go through the roof. He sounds like a very cerebral player -- the kind of high schooler college-geared teams like -- so Rasmus could be a very hot prospect next season. Also, he should be a relatively easy sign, which is more than the Cards can say for some of their picks.
29. Florida Marlins: Jacob Marceaux (McNeese St. RHP)
30. St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler Greene (G. Tech SS)
31. Arizona Diamondbacks: Matt Torra (UMass RHP)
32. Colorado Rockies: Chaz Roe (HS RHP)
33. Cleveland Indians: John Drennen (HS OF)
34. Florida Marlins: Ryan Tucker (HS LHP)
35. San Diego Padres: Cesar Ramos (LBSU LHP)
Cesar Ramos, LHP, Long Beach State - If Tulowitzki is similar to his predecessor Crosby at Long Beach State, then Ramos has to be likened to Abe Alvarez, who made it to the bigs last year in Boston and is currently pitching for Pawtucket. Both are lefthanders who rely on command and control more than raw speed or stuff. Ramos works in the high-80s with a four-seam fastball. Excellent mechanics. Arm may have tired down the stretch. Allowed 14 H, 11 ER with only 6 K in 10 IP in his final two starts vs. CSUF and USC. One of 10 semifinalists for the Roger Clemens Award, given to college's top pitcher. Pitched for Team USA last summer.
36. Oakland Athletics: Travis Buck (Az St. OF)
37. Anaheim Angels: Trevor Bell (HS RHP)
38. Houston Astros: Eli Iorg (Tenn. OF)
39. Minnesota Twins: Henry Sanchez (HS 1B)
40. Los Angeles Dodgers: Luke Hochevar (Tenn. RHP)
It came as no surprise to many that on the heels of last year -- when Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Justin Verlander all signed similar contracts -- Luke Hochevar came out of the gate asking for a bonus of about $5M. Still, this price tag and the Boras name under his representation caused Hochevar to drop far, giving the Dodgers a legit top ten selection. Hochevar would only add to a farm system chock full of pitching depth, and could quickly become one of the better names on the list. Considering that the Dodgers don't have a player above him that gets first signing preference, expect Hochevar to sign -- for less than $5M -- rather than returning to Tennessee.
I applaud the Dodgers for taking Luke Hochevar. The argument wasn't about high school or college in this case. This was a pick that Logan White and Paul DePodesta would both endorse. White obviously likes Hochevar, going back to 2002 when he drafted him out of high school. DePo is probably stunned that he even had the chance to select such a talented pitcher at #40.
Scott Boras and an asking price of $5 million scared away many teams. It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers step up well beyond the norm for a supplemental pick or if Boras and Hochevar come down. Unlike Jered Weaver last year, every team in baseball passed on Hochevar, which weakens his position considerably.
41. Atlanta Braves: Beau Jones (HS LHP)
42. Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz (HS OF)
43. St. Louis Cardinals: Mark McCormick (Baylor RHP)
McCormick - Major League-ready fastball that hits the upper 90s coupled with Rookie League command and makeup. Client of Scott Boras adds to the concerns of scouting directors and general managers.
44. Florida Marlins: Sean West (HS LHP)
45. Boston Red Sox: Jed Lowrie (Stanford 2B)
46. St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler Herron (HS RHP)
47. Boston Red Sox: Mike Bowden (HS RHP)
48. Baltimore Orioles: Garrett Olsen (Cal Poly RHP)
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the first round of the 2005 draft. We'll probably slow down our up-to-the minute coverage around here, and worry about recapping the first round. Please leave any thoughts on picks 1-48 below, and for a list of all the picks that are made today, drop by The Griddle at Baseball Toaster.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Four number one draft picks have been named MVPs. Name them.
Posted by Rich at 6:35 p.m. ET
FYI: In case you tuned in earlier in the day, and came back thinking you were reading the same things, here is a list of updates made since 5 p.m. ET: Zimmerman (4), Braun (5), Townsend (8), Pawelek (20), Ellsbury (23), Hansen (26), Devine (27) and Hochevar (40).