MLB Draft: The Morning After
Everybody always wants to know who had the best draft. Well, this year, it's a no brainer. Jim Callis of Baseball America, in his Final First-Round Projection (which he released prior to the draft yesterday), called the first 18 selections in the draft in the exact order that they were taken. Yes, he got the first, second, third, etc. all correct. Each and every one of 'em, from Justin Upton at #1 to Cesar Carrillo at #18. Nobody else was even close. Congratulations, Jim. That was awesome. I promise to pay more attention to what you have to say about Jered Weaver in the future. Cross my heart.
Our goal on Day Two is to provide a general overview of Day One and recap the stories that occurred beyond pick number 48 or what is also referred to as the end of the supplemental round. We will also have updates on today's activities to the extent warranted although it is not our intention to stay abreast of every selection. If you have any particular interest in sleepers, those who surprisingly fell, or perhaps unknowns, please do not hesitate to ask questions or make remarks in the comments section below.
With the foregoing in mind, let's analyze the results of Day One. Of interest to those who complain about the west coast teams not getting their due in the NCAA pairings, the University of Arizona and Long Beach State had more players selected on the first day of the draft than any other school in the country. Baylor and Auburn both had seven players drafted in the first 18 rounds.
Arizona saw juniors Trevor Crowe (1st round), Nick Hundley (2nd), Jordan Brown (4th), John Meloan (5th), Kevin Guyette (10th), Chris Frey (11th), and Brad Boyer (14th) plus senior Jeff Van Houten (13th) all get the call on Tuesday. Crowe, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, was the 14th overall pick. No Wildcat had been drafted that high since Eddie Leon went ninth overall to the Minnesota Twins in 1965.
Long Beach had two juniors taken in the first round. Troy Tulowitzki (7th pick overall) and Cesar Ramos (35th overall, 5th in the supplemental round) went early, followed by Marco Estrada, Steven Hammond, and Neil Jamison (6th round), Cody Evans (10th round), Chris Jones (11th round), and Brian Anderson (14th round).
Of the 560 players chosen, 392 were from college, 165 were from high school, and three didn't attend any school according to MLB.com. (We're unsure if their parents know this fact so the names of these players are being withheld to protect the truant.) The trend toward taking older, more advanced players was maintained as 70% of the players selected were from the college ranks. Only 29% of those chosen were from high school vs. 46% in 1995. The percentage of high school draftees, in fact, was the lowest since 1985 (25%).
Not surprisingly, Billy Beane's first two choices were college players. However, he then spent Oakland's next three picks on high school players--and pitchers at that! The lesson of Moneyball, if there was any at all, wasn't that on-base percentage was the be all and end all to player evaluation. Instead, it was about value. It just so happens that OBP was undervalued as recently as a few years ago but is now fairly valued in the marketplace. Beane, being a contrarian investor, is focusing on high school pitchers just about the time when most of the other teams are shying away from them.
Our advice, generally speaking, would be to take the best player available, irrespective of schooling. However, for our money, we would argue that there is something to be said about balancing your portfolio, if you will, with both college and high school players. We are also proponents of not putting all of your eggs in one basket and would be inclined to take a mixture of hitters and pitchers.
In the meantime, Arizona's selection of Justin Upton marked the third straight year and sixth time in the last seven that the number-one pick had been a high school player. Justin and B.J. Upton are now the highest-drafted siblings in history, nudging Dmitri and Delmon Young, the fourth (1991) and first (2003) picks, respectively, out of their previous fame.
Also of note, this year's draft marked the first time in history that no pitcher was taken among the top five. Cesar Romero of Cal State Fullerton (6th, Toronto Blue Jays) was the first hurler chosen. Twenty-six of the next 45 selections were pitchers. In all, 17 of the first 27 pitchers came from the NCAA and juco ranks and 10 from high school. The Florida Marlins took the first HS arm (Chris Volstad) at #16.
MLB.com reports that Division II Central Missouri had five pitchers chosen in the first 10 rounds and Flower Mound High in Texas had consecutive players picked in the second round. Right-handed pitcher Thomas Italiano, thought by some to be the hardest-throwing high schooler, went to the A's with the 53rd pick, while the Twins chose shortstop Paul Kelly at 54.
SCOUTING STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: Yesterday in reviewing Cliff Pennington's resume from Texas A&M, I mentioned the help I received from Ryan Levy's website. Levy, the blogger and expert on the Aggies, offered Baseball Analysts some insight on the next A&M choice, Kevin Whelan, who went in the third round to the Tigers. For those uninterested, I have heard some claim that Whelan will become a better reliever than Brent Cox, the Yankees second round pick. Here is Levy's take on Whelan:
Kevin Whelan, as with a lot of guys, has a somewhat interesting story. Kevin came to A&M as a catcher and played there his freshman season (along with a little bit of OF) and it wasn't until the summer of 2003 when he was up in the Jayhawk league that he took the hill in a game and was allegedly clocked in the upper-90s, at which point our coaching staff asked him to stay off the bump until he got back home so they could monitor him and watch his mechanics. He threw in 10 games in 2004 with mixed results: a 4.15 ERA but an 11.42 K/9 in 8.2 innings. In the summer of '04 Kevin went off to the Cape Cod where he completely dominated the league with a 0.42 ERA, 31 strikeouts and only 6 walks in 21.2 innings enroute to leading the league in saves with 11 and being named the leagues "Outstanding Relief Pitcher".
Great stuff from Ryan, who also kept game-by-game logs for all the A&M staff, as well as AB-by-AB logs for Whelan and the other Aggie draftee, Robert Ray. So be sure to go check that out.
BETTER AGGIE PENNS A DEAL: Just one day after being selected 21st overall in the MLB Draft, Cliff Pennington has signed a professional contract with the Oakland Athletics. The contract -- which calls for a $1.45M bonus -- comes as no surprise to many people that foresaw two like-minded parties. On one side it was the A's, a team known to draft with their budget in my mind, always doing their homework to make sure the player they picked is "signable." Opposite Billy Beane was Cliff Pennington, the hard-nosed, blue collar shortstop from Texas A&M that has always been known to leave everything on the field. "I'm ready to get out there and start working my way up," the Aggie told Mychael Urban of mlb.com shortly after being drafted. The expectation, based on past Oakland philosophy, is that Pennington will begin shortly in the Northwest League, and likely end the year in the California League. Yesterday I wrote extensively about Cliff's merits as a player, which in review, profile to be similar to current Blue Jays shortstop Russ Adams.
NICK HUNDLEY DRAFTED 76TH OVERALL TO SAN DIEGO: The second collegiate catcher taken in the draft, from the University of Arizona. Hundley's scouting report is somewhat reminiscent of another 2005 draftee: big power, average to above average contact, and questionable skills behind the plate. Ring a bell?
If not, it should sound awful familiar to the report that Dave Cameron gave on U.S.S. Mariner about the third overall choice, Jeff Clement from USC. Here are the pair's numbers from their junior seasons:
Name AVE ISO W K AB NH 0.352 0.318 42 43 227 JC 0.347 0.259 44 41 216
While Hundley's numbers look better on the surface, they should mean nothing without a bit of context. According to Boyd Nation, the man to talk to on such issues, USC had the hardest schedule in the NCAA this year, while Arizona's ranked 24th. Furthermore, from 2001-2004, Arizona's home field had a park factor of 133, compared to the 105 that USC boasts. The Wildcat's raw numbers are a shade better, sure, but adjusted we see why Clement was drafted 73 spots earlier.
The knock on both players is a defensive one, as Clement's ability to stick behind the plate has always been questioned. It appears that Clement has improved enough to calm those concerns, and in the process may have passed Hundley. Both players (unofficially) had 65 attempted baserunners this past year; Clement threw out 29 of them, Hundley just 26.
In conclusion, this is a great pick by the Padres, but Hundley's potential should not be blown out of proportion. His defensive skills will always be in question, so he'll need to retain the offensive prowess he had this season to rise in a system that already boasts sabermetric favorite, George Kottaras.
Instead, Larish hit *just* .308/.396/.468 in '04, and did not get John Mayberry Jr. pity with a first round selection. He actually dropped to the 13th round, picked by the Dodgers, who attempted to get value for their low selection by offering the Sun Devil $650,000 to leave college. Jeff elected to return to ASU for his final season, gambling that his numbers would head north. They did, as Larish hit a very solid .320/.452/.653 as a senior.
While this was enough to move Jeff's stock to the fourth round, where he was selected by the Tigers, Larish is not likely to get offered the money he turned down. Suddenly Larish has lost all the leverage that he had a year ago, handing it over to the front offices. Expect the Tigers to low ball Larish, for him to sign, and for the Tigers to land a second round-caliber talent.
SABERMETRICS IN THE SIXTIES: Somewhere between the power conferences and the nation's second best college pitcher, not a lot was written before the draft about two sabermetric picks -- Mike Costanzo and Chase Headly -- that ended up getting drafted 65th (PHI) and 66th (SD), respectively.
Costanzo, of the quiet Big South conference, was first chronicled in a detailed fashion by Craig Burley, who put him on the Hardball Times Preseason All-America team at first base:
The 2004 MVP of the Big South conference, Costanzo finished at #8 in last year's THT Hitters Rankings after hitting .359/.459/.740 for the Chanticleers. One of the leading power hitters in the nation, Costanzo didn't just fill up on creampuffs; Coastal Carolina play a pretty tough schedule in a pretty tough park, but Costanzo's 21 homers put him in the top five in the NCAA. Costanzo is also a third baseman and a prominent pitcher for Coastal Carolina, going 7-4 and striking out 57 in 66.2 innings. He continued to show power in the Cape Cod League, finishing fourth in the league in home runs and turning it up in the playoffs. Costanzo's nearest competition for the nomination was Stanford's John Mayberry, Jr., who is a well-regarded prospect but has not outperformed Costanzo to date.
Costanzo did not let down this season, either, hitting .379/.525/.658 in his final campaign. I'm not quite sure where Costanzo fits into a system that may be forced to trade Ryan Howard soon, but they must have chosen the player they felt was highest on the board. In my mind, that player should have been Headly.
Whether the presence of Luke Hochevar gave Chase Headly notice or shielded him from the spotlight will never be known, but the third baseman surely rose up draft charts considerably this season. After transferring to Tennessee this year, Chase hit .387/.534/.694, and went on to gain notice from Boyd Nation in his College Hitters to Watch column at Baseball Prospectus:
Headley, on the other hand, walks a lot. Defense is somewhat hard to measure at any level, but observationally he can probably stick at third for a while. The potential catch is that, while all of the guys on this list are going through their best season to date (that's part of being 20 instead of 18), Headley's previous season numbers have not shown nearly this much power.
Both of these players will likely be kept on close watch in the upcoming years, as we see how statistics that are as good as these players have -- from poor schedules though, mind you -- stack up at the minor and (hopefully) Major League level.
Update: Baseball America's John Manuel is reporting that while announcing their first pick of the day, the Phillies also announced the signing of Costanzo. Also, Philadelphia plans to use Costanzo at third base, which is very exciting for a kid that grew up idolizing Mike Schmidt.
AND THEY'RE OFF!: Day Two of the MLB Draft is officially under way, as five of the first seven picks come from the college ranks. The best known of the early choices is USC pitcher Brett Bannister, who also boasts a little bit of pedigree.
HOCHEVAR REVISITED: The contract negotiations between the Dodgers and the Tennessee right-hander should prove interesting, if for no other reason than the fact that his reported asking price and the so-called slot money for the spot at which he was drafted are as wide in percentage terms as the Jered Weaver situation last year. One source indicated that Hochevar is looking for a $5 million contract, while another made reference to a four-year major league contract.
Huston Street was drafted 40th last year (the same pick that the Dodgers used to select Hochevar this year), and the former Texas Longhorn signed an $800,000 contract with the Oakland A's. Given that the only reason Hochevar was even available in the supplemental round was owing to signability concerns, it stands to reason that the staff ace of last summer's Team USA ballclub has a good shot at getting a substantially better deal than Street. On the other hand, the fact that Hochevar was passed over by every team in the first round and fell to the ninth pick in the supplemental phase, one could easily argue that his original asking price is way too high.
Steve Henson of the L.A. Times reports that "the Dodger front office is optimistic he can be signed this summer."
"Every situation is different," scouting director Logan White said. "We certainly weren't caught off-guard. I think he's going to be a really good big league pitcher."
Paul DePodesta, who is expected to head the negotiations with Hochevar because of his past dealings with agent Scott Boras, seemed unaware of Hochevar's demands. Tony Jackson of the Long Beach Press-Telegram included the following quote in his Dodger Notes:
"That certainly hasn't been told to us. . .We really haven't gotten to the details on that yet."
Negotiations cannot officially begin until Tennessee concludes its season. The Volunteers face Georgia Tech, the #2 national seed, this weekend in the Super Regionals.
FIELD OF DREAMS: Boy, what a difference a day can make. Troy Tulowitzki goes from arguably the most difficult college home ballpark (Blair Field in Long Beach) for hitters to the most friendly in the majors (Coors Field in Colorado). Tulowitzki: "I guess it's the baseball gods working in a mysterious way."
Tulowitzki is anxious to begin his professional career. "I'm a guy who wants to play," he told Bob Keisser of the P-T. "I think it will happen pretty quick." The 7th pick in the draft is expected to be assigned to Modesto, the Rockies' High-A farm team in the California League, which isn't far from his hometown of Sunnyvale.
FINISHED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE: The MLB Draft has ended. 1501 players were drafted. For all you college seniors out there who weren't drafted, "Have a nice life."
YOU ARE NOW FREE TO MOVE ABOUT THE COUNTRY: J.J. Cooper of Baseball America just reported that Matt Harrington was not taken in this year's draft after having been selected in each of the past five years. Harrington is a free agent and can now sign with any team.
ECHO CHAMBER: Jim Molony of MLB.com has published an article about the pros and cons of trading draft picks, an idea I proposed (along with four others) just prior to the Weaver signing. I'm not suggesting that all five recommendations should be implemented, but I believe teams should--at a minimum--have the right to trade draft picks.
Question of the Day: On the heels of Luke Hochevar and Mark Pawelek, we ask, is Scott Boras a net positive or negative for his clients? Should he still be viewed as the most influential man in the draft?
Please check back as the day goes on, as we will have updates throughout today on the draft's best stories.