Weekend BlogJune 09, 2007
2007 Draft: Picks and Pans
By The Baseball Analysts Staff

The first televised draft in the history of baseball is now behind us. ESPN2 did a commendable job in bringing us the first round but failed miserably beyond that. The draft show basically turned into Baseball Tonight, focusing more on highlights from the early games on Thursday than providing its viewers with coverage of the supplemental round (as previously promised).

Jim Callis, Keith Law, and David Rawnsley added draft expertise that was missing inside the studio at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. While Peter Gammons always offers interesting tidbits here and there, I found myself wanting to hear from Callis, Law, and Rawnsley more than the little time that each was allotted.

ESPN analyst Steve Phillips lost all credibility with me when he compared Josh Vitters to Bobby Crosby. Vitters and Crosby both hail from nearby high schools. I've seen both of them play at the amateur level—Vitters at Cypress High School and Crosby at Long Beach State. The former is a much better hitter and the latter is a much better fielder. Vitters could never play shortstop and Crosby doesn't hit enough to man third base. Now I know why Phillips is a former GM. I'm just not sure why he is a current analyst.

Here's hoping next year's coverage is longer and that ESPN puts its vast resources to better use.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 6/9/07, 8:25 a.m. PT

  • I have to say that I am very impressed with the strategy employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on draft day. Teams theoretically are not supposed to draft for need - and I don't know if the team did or not - but things seem to have really worked out for them.

    After using their first pick (ninth overall) to take high-ceiling, prep pitcher Jarrod Parker, the club added three polished and promising college pitchers in the next four rounds: Barry Enright (Pepperdine), Sean Morgan (Tulane) and Wes Roemer (Cal State Fullerton). Any person who has followed the D-Backs even from afar knows that the team's biggest weakness has been pitching (aside from groundball machine Brandon Webb and a couple others). Those three college pitchers - if signed - should move very quickly and could be helping Arizona in a wide-open division within two or three years.

    The club also addressed an organizational weakness with the addition of college catcher Ed Easley (Mississippi State) with a pick in the supplemental round. With a few "safe picks" in the bag, Arizona then took another high ceiling player who oozes tools: shortstop Reynaldo Navarro (Puerto Rico).

    D-Back fans should be absolutely thrilled with their clubs' first six picks - and those players taken in rounds five through seven were not too shabby either. General manager Josh Byrnes and scouting director Tom Allison have this team headed in an exciting direction, especially when you consider the talent already on the field in Arizona.
    - Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/9/07, 5:25 p.m. ET

  • As always, there were several curious picks in the first round, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 4. Instead of taking Matt Wieters, who was clearly the best player available, the Bucs opted to go with Dan Moskos, a lefthanded pitcher out of Clemson. My first reaction was, "Why did Pittsburgh take another college pitcher and a southpaw at that?" Well, it gets worse than that. I learned afterwards that the Pirates want him to close even though Moskos wants to start.

    Moskos pitched superbly in the closer role for Team USA last summer. He recorded an ERA of 0.86 with six saves in 21 innings pitched over 18 relief appearances, allowing just eight hits and four walks with 35 strikeouts. A power pitcher, maybe Moskos can become a B.J. Ryan-type lefty closer. However, his last start vs. Mississippi State on Friday night left a lot to be desired.

     IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO 
    5.0   9   6   5   0   4

    You can have the relief pitcher at No. 4. Give me the big bat, especially a switch-hitting catcher with a rocket arm. Oh, and if it is all about not wanting to deal with Scott Boras and saving money, then there were still plenty of other choices out there, including Jason Heyward, a 6-4, 220-pound, power-hitting outfielder with a mature approach at the plate despite not turning 18 until August. I like his ceiling and apparently so do the Atlanta Braves.
    - Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 7:45 a.m. PT

  • I was even more shocked when the Milwaukee Brewers chose Matt LaPorta with the seventh pick in the overall draft. Maybe general manager Doug Melvin and scouting director Jack Zduriencik know something we don't. Rather than guessing, I would hope that Milwaukee worked out LaPorta in left field before the draft because most scouts are skeptical about his ability to play anywhere other than first base. There aren't many who question his bat, but his defense and foot speed leave a lot to be desired.

    Incumbent first baseman Prince Fielder is only eight months older than LaPorta. With the Prince of Milwaukee leading the league in HR (22), SLG (.645), and TB (149), and second in OPS (1.026) and OPS+ (169), the Brew Crew seems as set at 1B as can be for at least the next 4 1/2 years. Maybe LaPorta can pull a Frank Howard or Greg Luzinski or even a Pat Burrell or Carlos Lee and hit enough to overcome his weak fielding in left field. Perhaps Melvin thinks he can flip LaPorta to another team at some point. Or is it possible that Bud Selig winked and told the team that he would put them back in the AL so Fielder or LaPorta could DH?

    If Milwaukee took him for trade purposes, then count me as someone who believes management made a huge mistake in taking LaPorta. Only time will tell.
    - Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 11:15 a.m. PT

  • Most teams are known for preferring specific types of players in the draft; the Oakland Athletics favor college players, some teams like a good mix of college and prep players, while teams such as the Atlanta Braves traditionally prefer to nab high school players. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see that the Braves took only three prep players with their first 15 picks (13 rounds).

    There could be a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the Braves felt their system is beginning to thin out so they wanted some players that could move quickly, or perhaps they simply took the best players available with each pick and it is simply a coincidence. Regardless, the prep players that they took are intriguing and offer plenty of upside.

    With their first pick (14th overall), the Braves grabbed Georgia high school outfielder Jason Heyward, who simply oozes tools and is (obviously) a local boy. Baseball America stated in a recent scouting report that Heyward has more potential than almost any player in the draft, aside from a healthy Andrew Brackman. With raw plus-plus power, Heyward could be challenging another Georgia high schooler - Jeff Francoeur - for playing time in four to five years.

    Iowa high school infielder Jon Gilmore was the Braves' second choice with the 33rd pick in the supplemental round. Gilmore struggled through injuries this season, but was excellent on the showcase circuit last summer. He was expected to last until the second or third round but by popping him early, Atlanta will probably keep him away from Wichita State. One knock on Gilmore is that he spends all his energies on hitting and neglects his defense.

    The Braves third prep pick was California two-way player Freddie Freeman, who is relatively inexperienced on the mound but throws 90-93 mph with a solid slider. I'm not 100 percent sure if Atlanta plans to have him pitch or play first base. My guess is that they plan to first try him as a hitter, as he is a 6-5, left-handed batter with plus power potential. If all else fails, it is easy to convert a player back to a pitcher, rather than the other way around (unless your name is Rick Ankiel). Freeman is a Cal State Fullerton recruit.
    - Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/10/07, 4:05 p.m. ET

  • The third pick in the first round that raised my eyebrows was when the Minnesota Twins selected Ben Revere at No. 28. I had seen his name on lists but knew next to nothing about him. The more I learned, the less I liked. The 5-9, 165-pound speedster out of Lexington Catholic HS (KY) sounds as if he is in the mold of Juan Pierre or perhaps Al Bumbry, Lance Johnson, and Mickey Rivers. I don't think you build winning ball clubs taking these types of players in the first round.

    I'm not sure what scouting director Mike Radcliff's marching orders were, but I would have preferred Ryan Dent out of Long Beach Wilson HS (CA) over Revere. Although not quite as fast as Revere, Dent, who was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 62 pick in the draft, has a stronger arm and a much more advanced bat. I believe Dent, a shortstop in high school, would make a better all-round CF than Revere.

    Other than the two college seniors—Matt LaPorta (MIL/#7) and Casey Weathers (COL/#8)—with little or no leverage, if anybody taken in the first round signs for less than slot, I would imagine that it would be Revere.
    - Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 6:00 p.m. PT

  • University of Tennessee officials were likely the most excited people in baseball to see promising prep outfielder Kentrail Davis plummet from first round consideration to the 14th round, where he was scooped up by the Colorado Rockies. Davis - a Scott Boras client - is a Tennessee recruit.

    Here is the scouting report I wrote, but was not able to post, on Davis when he fell:

    Kentrail Davis, OF, Theodore High School (AL)

    Height/Weight: 5-9, 195 | DOB: 6/29/88

    Davis currently possesses a line-drive swing, but he has significant power potential, about as much as you can pack into a 5'9'' frame. He has been compared to Kirby Puckett. Davis is swift on the base paths and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He has a strong throwing arm but his defensive skills are raw. An all-around work-in-progress, Davis is attractive because of his five-tool potential. He has shown better in summer showcase, than during the school season. He is represented by Scott Boras.
    -Posted by Marc Hulet

    Interestingly, I like Davis as a No. 1 pick far better than I like the Rockies' actual first round pick... with all apologies to Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers. I just absolutely hate to waste a first round pick on a future closer or set-up man. Weathers is a great player and a great second round pick.

    Davis is extremely raw, as pointed out in the above profile, but if he reaches his ceiling he will have a much bigger impact as an everyday player than Weathers ever will pitching two or three times a week. But I rate their chances of signing him as 30/70.
    - Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/10/07, 9:33 p.m. ET

  • Comments

    Not to mention Phillips' comment on how the Tigers could have a rotation led by young guys like "Verlander, Miller and Porcello". Guess he never heard of Bonderman. Yes, dumb comparison of Vitters and Bobby Crosby. Typical ESPN. Ravech was his usual whining self. Gammons at least brought his usual enthusiasm and insightful opinion - always appreciated.

    I was watching on mlb.tv, and couldn't have been happier when it flipped over to their own coverage after ESPN bowed out.

    It is too bad that people in the media keep reporting that LaPorta is a 1st baseman, when the fact is, Milwaukee worked out LaPorta as an outfielder in Florida a week before the draft. You would think that when people are "surprised" they would seek out more information on the matter, instead they keep repeating how baffling Milwaukee's drafting of LaPorta was.

    The fact is the Milwaukee front office would likely agree with that sentiment, only no one bothered to ask them their view. People forget, this is the organization that drafted Prince Fielder into the NL, when at the time people were "surprised" because he was projected as a DH. This is also the organization that kept R Weeks at 2b, despite all of the people that insisted he play OF. This is the same organization that moved B Hall to CF and the same organization that is keeping R Braun at 3b. So far Milwaukee has been vindicated as Price has become a decent glove at 1st, Weeks has also improved to become avg, Hall is getting there and so far Braun appears not to be out of place.

    Give Milwaukee credit for being innovative with the ability to get bats on the field and seeing the potential and getting these players to improve. The track record is there.

    And what, this post Rich was on 6/10; you should have found out that the Brewers did their homework on this one by now, even if no one else did.
    Story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Zduriencik said the Brewers worked out LaPorta in the past week with their Class A Brevard County team and envision no problems converting him to the outfield.

    "We had an opportunity this past week to work him out personally in left field," Zduriencik said. "We had him in left field and he worked with our outfield instructors and this is something we talked about during the course of the spring."

    For LaPorta, the third time was the charm in the draft.

    In 2003, he was drafted in the 14th round out of Charlotte (Fla.) High School by the Chicago Cubs but did not sign. In 2006, the Boston Red Sox chose him in the 14th round, and again he did not sign.

    LaPorta expected to be selected much higher last year but suffered an oblique strain that limited his production and opted to return to Florida for his senior year after sliding to the 14th round.

    LaPorta is represented by agent Scott Boras, renowned for driving hard bargains. But as a college senior, he has little or no leverage and is expected to sign soon for the MLB-recommended signing bonus of $2 million.

    Under a new draft rule, all picks must sign by Aug. 15 or the teams lose their rights, but that wouldn't seem to be a problem with LaPorta.

    "I feel confident that this kid is going to be in uniform very shortly," Zduriencik said. "We had ongoing conversations with the Boras Corporation and I've talked twice to Matt myself. They were gracious enough to let us do that and they were also gracious enough to let him attend the workout.

    "They went out of their way to make sure he got there, and he wants to play badly. They know that. We're not going to have any problems."

    Peter, thanks for providing that article. I still say that LaPorta is a first baseman. The Brewers are just converting him to a left fielder.

    When I said that I was "shocked" by the pick, it had more to do with me than the Brewers. My immediate thought was along the line of "What could they be thinking?" With the passage of time, I realized the club probably worked him out in left before making that pick.

    Nonetheless, if LaPorta reports to rookie ball (as mentioned in the article) or even Low-A to learn how to play LF, then that would just add to my skepticism. As a college senior taken with the seventh pick in the draft, one would expect LaPorta to be assigned to High-A and get some time in Double-A before the end of the season.

    I wish LaPorta and the Brewers the best of luck in this endeavor. The bottom line is that I just think his highest and best use was at first base for another team.

    I think it is unfortunate that the focus of draft coverage, whether it is NFL, NBA or now we find MLB is no different, tends to be mostly on the differences between what the media expects, or thinks should happen, and what actually happens.

    We forget that there are 30 teams, each with 30 different opinions and it is entirely feasible, especially in baseball, for one to break from the conventional wisdom. The truly insightful pick is the one that does break from the pack and nails it. Few people seem upset that B Mills was taken by the Indians and it seems to me their DH spot is taken (Hafner) and perhaps even 1st, Garko. The difference is because the media was smoked on the Brewers pick.

    Even if LaPorta "should" have gone say, 20-30, how does that help the Brewers? They don't pick until 90-something again, I am not advocating overdrafting, but what I am suggesting is that these things don't take place in a vacuum.

    The Brewers understand they will be in the division race for the next 4-5 years, adding an advanced, power hitting; college bat to the mix is a wise move. The only one that fits this description is LaPorta of the top 25 players. I think LaPorta is also the obvious replacement to Prince, if he decides to leave in 2011.

    My thoughts on LaPorta starting in the minors. Yes he should start in high A ball, but I don't see anything to be skeptical about if he starts in Low-A ball. I would think the Brewers want him to not have to worry about the bat, as he gets comfortable in the OF. If he was in High A ball, he may not have the immediate success, which would take a little bit of his attention and focus off his D. Add to the fact that he would be in Florida and that itself may be a slight distraction for him as well.

    keep up the good work.


    Terry Ryan said that one of the reasons Revere was lower ranked by some of the media folks was that they knew less about him. The reports from the Twins are that the kid hit a 450 foot home run while he was being scouted. Juan Pierre? I don't think so.

    You may be right, TT. I don't doubt that the Twins saw something in Revere. I may have misspoke as I've never seen him play. My initial opinion was based on his height and weight as well as reading scouting reports provided by Baseball America and MLB.com.

    La Velle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune adds some additional commentary on Revere here.

    My initial opinion was based on his height and weight

    I think that may have a lot to do with why he was a surprise. This will be an interesting one to watch. If he shows some pop with the wooden bat, the Twins reputation will get another boost. If he turns out to be a light hitting speedster, then he was probably over-drafted.