"Everything is a mess," I was told of the 2006 draft in the past few hours. Surprisingly, the person was not talking of my mock draft, but rather the haziness that had yet to clear, with less than twelve hours before the first name is called.
Baseball Analysts will attempt to keep you updated as the day rolls on, liveblogging the event as we did last year. Our comments will be posted as the draft unfolds, most certainly in a fashion different than we anticipated.
However, before the craziness ensures, it is time at one more preview of the draft. We'll open in the same place that most scouting departments will today: attempting to look at the morning mysteries. For me, the three biggest questions that we will soon have answers for are...
1. Kansas City, can you be serious?
For the last calendar year, at least, we have known that Andrew Miller represented the top talent in the draft. And for what appears to be that long, the Royals have remained unconvinced. Now, less than 24 hours before the draft begins, the Royals remain juggling three candidates: Miller, Brad Lincoln, Luke Hochevar.
The future health of the organization demands the Royals pick the player atop their draft board. If it isn't Miller, for whatever reason, they must explain that to their fan base. However, it would be a travesty to waste their top selection on Hochevar for financial reasons. Furthermore, the repercussions of awarding a player for holding out are damning for the future of the Major League draft.
Pick Miller, pick Lincoln, pick Hochevar. I don't care. But KC, please, don't settle for the cheapest choice.
2. How many college pitchers will it be?
The strength of this draft is no secret. There are about 3 legitimate college position players, four solid prep pitchers, and about 5 first round-caliber high school hitters. The rest? College pitchers.
We know that the top half of the first round will involve these hurlers: Miller, Lincoln, Hochevar, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Joba Chamberlain, Brandon Morrow, Greg Reynolds, Daniel Bard. All of these players are first round locks, and it could be argued the group of nine is among the top dozen best players in the draft.
The rest of the first round has another group of college arms that could be selected. Kyle McCulloch, Justin Masterson, Brett Sinkbeil, Dave Huff, Brooks Brown, and JuCo players Pedro Beato and Bryan Morris. The market is offering one commodity, and while this draft's talent base had been criticized, it is flush in polished arms.
The record for pitchers in the first round is 20. My prediction: it will be topped by one tomorrow.
3. Who will be the first to change the complexion of the draft?
Uncertainty surrounds this year's draft like few in the past, making a mock draft nearly impossible for those in the world not named Jim Callis. Not only have the Royals left many in the dark about their forthcoming selection, but so have many other teams that could determine the placement of the draft's top 30 talents.
For instance, the Pirates are in the position to change things. Greg Reynolds has been the name we've heard the most in the past two months, but few would be surprised by Bard, Morrow, Drabek, Kershaw or Stubbs. The Giants pick, drafting tenth, is one domino that could fall post-Pittsburgh. If Bard isn't available, Callis has mentioned San Francisco might go cheap with Chris Parmalee, but what do they do if he's there?
Tim Lincecum and Matt Antonelli are two names suffering right now, both are becoming options for teams that had never considered the names. Kyle Drabek is a wild card, his alcohol abuse makes a fit hard to find. And, of course, we have the deep sleeper choices, like Jeff Samardzija (as high as to the Cubs), to keep us on our toes.
The one certainty this far out is that we will be surprised on Draft Day. The big question is which domino will fall first, and in what direction will it push the rest?
* * * * *
On days like this, we all wish we were flies on the walls of war rooms. Actually, we wish we were the scouting directors at the head of the table, making the decisions. Instead of turning in my application, I have decided to sit back comfortably in my armchair and play backseat director.
As I have done all spring, I am going to stay away from presenting my high school draft board; I'll leave that to the professionals. But through talks with college coaches, a lot of reading, watching and number-crunching, I feel confident in my analysis of the college crop.
So, readers, join me in my war room. The draft is just hours away, and my final collegiate draft board, going 40 names deep, reads:
||Long Beach State
||San Diego State
||Long Beach State
||Long Beach State
And yes, I do realize there is a space between Huff and Reynolds on the big board. It represents the simple dividing line between true first round talent, and the rest.
* * * * *
So, that should get us started on a wild day in which near no-hit bids, superstar injuries and rivalry blow outs all play second fiddle to the aluminum bat. Here's to hoping that, for at least today, scouts have priority over wallets on the organizational food chain.