Looking Forward to Draft Day
The Major League Baseball amateur draft is about one month away and I am - as always - excited. There is nothing quite like the feeling of watching your favorite team infuse the farm system with a new wave of talented prospects, all of whom have clean slates and could be the next great player.
Two teams - the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays - stand to benefit more than any other team this season. The Padres have six picks in the first and supplemental first rounds. The Jays have five and then add another two in the second round, as does San Diego.
If you listen to Baseball America - and many minor league watchers do - both Toronto and San Diego desperately need good drafts as their minor league systems are ranked 25th and 29th respectively out of the 30 major league clubs.
Toronto and San Diego took different approaches to the first round last season as Toronto took the top prep hitter in Travis Snider and San Diego signed Matt Antonelli, a player with a lower ceiling but he was considered a "safe" college pick. Both Snider and Antonelli had respectable debuts in 2006 and have raked in 2007. Snider batted more than .400 in April in the Midwest League and Antonelli batted .291 with three homers and more walks than strikeouts in the California League.
Other clubs who stand to benefit from multiple picks in the first few rounds include Texas, San Francisco, Arizona, Washington, Cincinnati, Oakland and the New York Mets. San Francisco is an interesting case as the club has five picks in the first and supplemental first rounds, but lost its second, third and fourth round picks for signing free agents Barry Zito, Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts.
- Marc Hulet, 05/06/07, 10:18 a.m. EST
Staying with the theme here, I would like to point our readers to the 2007 Draft Order (courtesy of Baseball America) at the bottom of the sidebar on the left-hand side. It lists all of the first and supplemental round picks, as well as the changes in the second, third, and fourth rounds.
As Marc mentioned, the Padres have six picks (#23, 40, 46, 57, 63, and 64) and the Blue Jays five (#16, 21, 38, 45, and 56) in the first and supplemental rounds. As you can see, Toronto has two of the top 21 spots (its own plus Texas' #1 at 16 as compensation for losing Frank Catalanotto, a Type-A free agent). However, don't feel sorry for the Rangers. Although TEX lost its #1, the organization added the 17th and 24th overall choices in exchange for Carlos Lee (HOU) and Gary Matthews, Jr. (LAA).
The only other team with two first-round picks is the San Francisco Giants (#22 and 29). With the rapid-fire success of Tim Lincecum (who is making his MLB debut tonight on ESPN's Sunday Night Game of the Week), perhaps the Giants will be motivated to take a couple of college players with the potential of rising quickly through the system to help replenish baseball's oldest roster.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/07, 9:30 a.m. PST
One of the more intriguing names, if not stories, of this year's draft is Max Scherzer. The righthander out of the University of Missouri was drafted 11th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, yet remains the only player chosen in the first round who has not come to terms with his team.
Scherzer, who signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats of the American Association in April, made his first start on Friday night and threw 3 2/3 innings (54 pitches) of no-hit ball. A scout I spoke to that evening shared a direct report from within his organization: "four-seamer was 94-98, two-seamer 91-93, slider 86-87, and the changeup was in the low-80s." He said Scherzer's four-seamer was "explosive" and used words like "sink" and "bore" when discussing his two-seamer.
Working in Scherzer's favor is the fact that this year's draft is thin on college righthanders. His situation is not unlike Luke Hochevar's last year. Hochevar, who was drafted in the supplemental round (40th overall) in 2005 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, failed to ink a contract, re-entered the 2006 draft, and was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the #1 pick. He earned a bonus of $3.5 million.
Scott Boras represents both pitchers and can certainly make the case that Scherzer could be taken as high as #2 (behind Vanderbilt's David Price) in June, remaining firm in his bonus demands at or above the $3M mark rather than slot money of $2M or so (which apparently is the sum Arizona's GM Josh Byrnes has offered). Although the two sides have not spoken in a long while, the Diamondbacks have until May 31 to sign him. If they do, it wouldn't be the first time the club made a last-minute deal to acquire their #1 selection. Just two years ago, Arizona hooked up with Stephen Drew right before the deadline.
If the Royals don't select Scherzer, he could go to the Washington Nationals at #6. Mike Rizzo, the Diamondbacks' former scouting director, joined the Nats last July and may push for taking Scherzer. Just how high Scherzer goes is likely to be a function of his pitching prowess between now and then, his health, and the amount of money agent Boras will demand this time around.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/07, 10:30 a.m. PST
Draft day came a month early for the Yankees when Roger Clemens announced to the fans from the press box in the bottom of the seventh inning that he was returning to the Bronx. Clemens reportedly agreed to a $28 million contract, pro rated to about $4.5M per month (or about $18M if he is on the roster on or about June 1).
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner will be joining his buddy Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, and eventually Phil Hughes in a starting rotation that could go from decimated to one of the best in a matter of a month or two. However, one note of caution is warranted: in five seasons with the Yankees the last time around, the Rocket's ERA ranged from 3.51-4.60 with an average of 3.99. Pitching to DHs rather than pitchers and to AL East opponents instead of NL Central, the 44-year-old is unlikely to match the numbers he put up in Houston the past three seasons.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/7, 3:45 p.m. PST