Morning After: Going Deep
There is more than one way to eat a Reese's, and more than one way to analyze a draft. In the coming days, I will do my best to provide as many options as I can.
In the coming days I will have a general review at SI.com, and next week, we'll start to go through the draft lists team-by-team. Today, however, I wanted to look at some of the players that were overshadowed by the big names and dramatic stories.
The top of the draft went down in crazy fashion yesterday, with the Rockies and Mariners making a pair of pretty silly choices to mix things up early. The round provided so much intrigue, but all the players were familiar names, just arranged in a different fashion. An organization's ability to go deep in a draft, to make value choices as the days go on, determines who had the best draft.
In that light, I want to spend today looking at my favorite value pick from each round. With guys dropping and reaches happening all over the place, these are twelve names I found refreshing when perusing the draft lists. We'll start our way at the top, with the familiar Eddie Bane, and end with the Yankees fantastic middle round drafting, led by Damon Oppenheimer. More to come...
Round One: Hank Conger, c, Los Angeles Angels
In most mock drafts, Conger was off the board at this choice. While I gave both Bryan Morris and Daniel Bard consideration for this space, Eddie Bane picked Conger over the two pitchers. Oh, to have been in the war room for that argument! Anyway, in a recent chat, Baseball America's John Manuel predicted Conger would be the draft's best player in five years. Conger plays the game's most premium position, and offers serious power and the ability to switch hit. The Angels didn't splash often in this draft, drawing my interest just one more time, so this was a big pick.
Supplemental First: Dave Huff, lhp, Cleveland Indians
It was important for the Indians to get a good player in this spot, their first pick of the draft. In the end, Huff got the nod over Joba Chamberlain, due to the Huskers' injury concerns. Huff's pitch count suggests he also might have future injuries, but this late in the draft, he is worth the risk. Everyone has now heard the Barry Zito comparisons, while Huff offers a plus change instead of that knee-buckling curve. He'll rise quickly in a system with a lot of southpaws (Sabathia, Lee, Sowers, Lofgren). My only concern is the inconsistency shown in the hits allowed column this spring.
Round Two: Justin Masterson, rhp, Boston Red Sox
I have spent the last two weeks on board the Masterson train, going as far to write up a capsule on him in preparation for his spot in the first round. It didn't happen, as the Sox got a steal late in the second. Here's my write-up:
A Midwest boy, Masterson was a late bloomer, leaving the prep Ohio scene for Bethel College. Dominated in his second season there, named a NAIA All-American. After committing to San Diego State, Masterson dominated in the Cape Cod League, allowing just four earned runs in 31.1 innings, striking out 39 in the process.
Before yielding big results in his junior season as an Aztec, the majority of Masterson's attention resulted from his developed body. Masterson is 6-6, 245, offering one of the larger pitching frames in the 2006 draft. He has good tilt on a mid 90s fastball, yielding some of round one's top ground ball rates. Like many players in his class, scouts believe Masterson has a good back-up career in relief, where his developed two-pitch arsenal could rise quickly.
However, in the past few weeks, Masterson has become a favorite of mine. For his frame and stuff, few pitchers could boast his type of walk rates allowed: just 26 in 116 innings. In Kent Bonham's recent college stat study on this site, he found Masterson to be as unlucky as they come. Remove defense, park and schedule from the equation, and Masterson's 4.54 ERA drops to 2.67.
The Aztecs rode Masterson hard in the middle of the season; Tony Gwynn kept his Friday starter on the mound for four complete games. But when postseason play became an unrealistic goal, the workload decreased, and Masterson has thrown just 18.1 innings since May 1.
While Bard is a lock to be shut down before pitching again in 2006, Masterson could reasonably spend the year on a limited pitch count, getting in a little more competitive baseball. He's in the perfect organization to be monitored closely.
Supplemental Second: Mark Hamilton, 1b, St. Louis Cardinals
Unfortunately for Hamilton, being drafted here means he enters an organization for which he has no future. Fortunately, he immediately becomes the system's best power hitter, and profiles to move quickly. Hamilton would have led the nation in home runs if not for Hurricane Katrina, which kept Hamilton playing in a pitcher-friendly "home" ballpark. Earlier in the year we read about Hamilton's big power showing on Friday nights, indicating he should transfer to the next level better than power collegiate competitors Aaron Bates and Matt LaPorta. Finally, Hamilton was solid in the Cape last summer, so wood bats won't be a problem, either. Expect Hamilton to get more respect in the trade market in 2008, when he is ready for the show.
Round Three: Stephen King, ss, Washington Nationals
Guilty confession: I love, love, love the Nats draft. I know this now excludes me from future admission to any school of sabermetrics, but I'll live. Kudos to Dana Brown for a job well done, grabbing the likes of Chris Marrero, Jordan Walden, Sean Black and King. The last of the group to be drafted, Jim Callis had predicted earlier on Tuesday that he would end up going 13th overall to the Cubs. And let me tell you, if Tim Wilken likes a guy... Anwyay, King is agile and is fine at short despite a big frame that bodes well for future power. The current market inefficiencies supports high school selections, and Washington capitalized in 2006. This won't pay off right away, but on Tuesday, Jim Bowden laid a foundation.
Round Four: Ben Snyder, lhp, San Francisco Giants
Following his study for this site last week, Kent Bonham sent me a list of all pitchers he used, all of whom appeared on a Baseball America prospect list during the year. I quickly adjusted his spreadsheet, looking for the pitchers with the largest difference between ERA and AdjDERA. This should tell us which hurlers were the most lucky and unlucky this year. A couple of really interesting names showed up, and in the top 10 for most unlucky we find fourth rounders Ben Snyder and Craig Baker, taken eight picks earlier to the Rockies. Snyder gets the nod here because he throws from the left side, has four pitches, and had a very good regional weekend. His status as a draft-eligible sophomore is the only knock against him - he has most of the signability leverage.
Round Five: John Shelby, 2b, Chicago White Sox
My least favorite round of the draft today, and not only because my favorite team spent their pick on the draft's most overrated player (Samardzija). It just seems as the round was chock full of mediocre talents, with Shelby getting the nod over Chris Errecart and Kevin Gunderson thanks to his position. Bonham's analysis ranked Shelby as the draft's third-best collegiate second baseman, so the Sox had good value in this round. Choices like Shelby and Chris Getz, made a year ago, aren't sexy, and don't offer a lot of upside. But in this round, getting potential average Major Leaguers at important positions is a plus.
Round Six: Harold Mozingo, rhp, Kansas City Royals
While Ottavino was always the better pro prospect, thanks to a bigger fastball and better size, the difference between the two is not 147 picks. Mozingo was the better pitcher for most of this season, and enters the Royals system far more polished than Ottavino. Given great command and a good enough curveball to be called an out pitch, Mozingo should rise quickly. 2008 is not an unreasonable ETA. The second option for this spot was Jordan Newton, the beginning of a great middle round run by David Chadd and Dave Dambrowski, to be continued...
Round Seven: Jonah Nickerson, rhp, Detroit Tigers
Tim Norton was almost the guy here, but I wanted to give the Tigers some love. The team went really college-heavy this year, and while reaching with Bourquin and Strieby, the club had quite a few very solid picks. Nickerson fell late in this draft because he doesn't have Buck's upside or Gunderson's arm angle, but Nickerson was the most consistent of the three. The Tigers have oodles of starting pitching as a young organization right now, but Jonah could move quickly as a future member of the back end. The Tigers got Chris Cody in the next run, the Manhattan pitcher that led the Jaspers to an upset this past weekend. Good drafting.
Round Eight: Dellin Betances, rhp, New York Yankees
Round Nine: Mark Melancon, rhp, New York Yankees
I passed on Norton as my seventh round choice because I knew the Yankees had nailed the 8th and 9th rounds. Betances has been telling people its Yankees or bust for quite some time, a theory New York plans to test. If Betances doesn't sign right away, he may go to St. Petursburg JC, and could end up a prime draft-and-follow candidate. Melancon would have been a first rounder if not for injury, and while mildly serious, he's too good to last much longer.
Bonham also tipped me off on another awesome ninth round pick, Nate Boman by the Angels. Labrum victim, yes, but Boman was TheMan last year. These are the types of risks teams should be taking in these late rounds.
Round Ten: Emeel Salem, of, Baltimore Orioles
What? He fell this far? In Bonham's sheet of all the hitters used in his study, Salem is seventh when ranking by Bill James' speed score. The athletic Alabama outfielder stole 32 bases this season, and plays very good defense in center. He is also a very good contact hitter, striking out less than 10% of the time during his junior season with the Tide. With Salem and Emmanuel Burriss, the Orioles landed two of the most athletic collegiate players in the draft. Final tenth round pick Blair Erickson drew consideration for this spot, as did talented football player Jared Mithcell, a high school outfielder taken by the Twins.