2007 Draft: Picks and Pans
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.
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.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 6/9/07, 8:25 a.m. PT
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.
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.
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/9/07, 5:25 p.m. ET
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.
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.
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 7:45 a.m. PT
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.
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).
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 11:15 a.m. PT
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.
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.
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/10/07, 4:05 p.m. ET
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.
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.
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 6:00 p.m. PT
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