Around the MinorsJuly 17, 2007
Top 10 of the 2003 Draft: Where Are They Now?
By Marc Hulet

The 2003 amateur draft was responsible for bringing a great deal of talent into the professional ranks. Leading up to the draft, the biggest question was whether the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would take high school outfielder Delmon Young or college second baseman Rickie Weeks. Although Young has yet to truly breakout, all signs indicate they made the correct decision by taking the prep star and brother of MLB player Dmitri Young.

A day before the draft, Baseball America had this to say:

Tampa Bay's discussion on California high school outfielder Delmon Young and Southern second baseman Rickie Weeks continued well into Monday evening. Weeks gathered momentum when he performed well last Friday in an NCAA regional playoff game with Rays GM Chuck LaMar on hand, and his cause was helped further when Young turned down the club's $3.75 million offer. But Weeks also decided not to work out in Tampa on Monday, and that helped swing the decision back to Young. Florida outfielder Ryan Harvey, a product of nearby Dunedin High, is a long shot third choice.

The 2003 draft had a number of solid players from both the high school and college ranks. It wasn't as deep as the 2001 draft (few have been) but the top 10 was considered rather solid at the time.

Four years later (roughly the average time it takes a star prep player to navigate the minors), let's take a look and see how those first 10 players are doing. But first, a word of warning for those who believe players chosen in the first round of the MLB amateur draft should be "can't miss" super stars. They're not.

1. Tampa Bay | Delmon Young | outfield | California high school | $3,700,000

Young is currently in his first full season in the majors but he continues to be held back from stardom by two things: his lack of power and his impatience. The power will likely come, as he did hit 25 homers in his first full minor league season, but the patience is the biggest concern. This season in the majors, Young has walked only 15 times in 360 at-bats or four percent of the time. That is not going to get it done, regardless of who you are.

Along with his play at the plate, there have been some concerns raised about Young's behavior. He was suspended for 50 games after an "incident" with an umpire last season in Triple-A and he previously criticized the Rays' organization when he felt he was not being promoted aggressively enough.

We all know you don't have to be a nice person to be a star athlete, but maturity certainly does have its advantages. Once (if?) Young reaches that level, he should be a star because all the tools, that led him to be taken No.1 overall in the nation, are still there. But many thought he'd already be at that level, including himself.

Baseball America - No. 1 overall draft pick Delmon Young took a long time to join the Devil Rays, as negotiations dragged for more than three months until he signed a five-year major league contract Tuesday worth at least $5.8 million and as much as $6.2 million.

But Young doesn't expect it to take him very long to get to the major leagues.

"Hopefully within two years," said Young, who turns 18 on Sunday. "Sometime during the 2005 season."

Rays officials wouldn't put a timetable on Young, but it's clear they expect the power-hitting outfielder to move quickly.

2. Milwaukee | Rickie Weeks | second base | Southern University | $3,600,000

Weeks made a strong push to be taken No. 1 overall in the last week leading up to the draft, but the Rays decided on Young at the last moment. Milwaukee happily jumped on Weeks, who was considered an advanced hitter with suspect defence. Fast-forward to 2007 and Weeks is still considered a better hitter than defender. However, his bat has proven to be less advanced than expected, with a career MLB line of .248/.331/.388. Those are not the types of numbers you would expect from the second overall pick out of college.

One has to look to Weeks' inability to stay healthy, especially his wrists, as the No. 1 reason for his struggles with consistency at the plate. At some point, though, Weeks has got to start producing. Although his offensive output is not indicative of his potential, his numbers are not what one would expect from the starter on a team bound for the playoffs.

3. Detroit | Kyle Sleeth | right hander | Wake Forest | $3,350,000

Why would I hesitate to take top-rated college pitchers in the first round of the amateur draft? Because they are often abused by college coaches who have no concern for the prospects' futures. Take Kyle Sleeth as a prime example of this opinion.

Where is Sleeth today, you ask? Detroit, heck, maybe even Triple-A? Nope, the 25-year-old is in Advanced A-ball with an 8.63 ERA in eight games. He is currently trying to get back into game shape after surgery that caused him to miss all of 2005 and most of 2006. The Tigers knew Sleeth had a "scary" deliver when they drafted him, and it came back to haunt.

4. San Diego | Tim Stauffer | right hander | U of Richmond | $750,000

Welcome exhibit two of our series on top college relievers with health concerns. Tim Stauffer literally cost himself millions of dollars when he shocked the Padres by confessing to a pre-existing injury prior to signing his multi-million dollar pro contract.

However, despite a shoulder injury, Stauffer has actually had more success than Sleeth. Stauffer has actually pitched in the majors, but you would certainly hope for a lot more than a 5.07 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 87 innings from the fourth overall pick. Having failed to secure a major league job after four years, Stauffer is currently in his fourth attempt to succeed at Triple-A and he has a 5.59 ERA in 83.2 innings. He has also allowed 110 hits, walked 23 and struck out only 60. Ouch. Now that hurts more than a bum shoulder.

5. Kansas City | Chris Lubanski | outfielder | Pennsylvania high school | $2,100,000

Despite an often barren system in recent years, the Royals had a tendency to take raw, but toolsy, high school players (Hello, Colt Griffin). Chris Lubanski is yet another one of those players chosen by the Royals but he may turn out to be the most successful one... but even that might be as a fourth outfielder.

Lubanski is currently stuck as a "tweener." He has good range in the outfield, but all his other fielding skills are fringe average, which relegates him to left field. The problem is, scouts are split on whether or not he will have enough bat to play everyday for a good team. Lubanski had one very solid offensive season (.301/.349/.554) but it was in one of the best hitter's parks in minor league baseball. This season, split between Double-A and Triple-A, he has 10 homers in 288 at-bats, along with a .274 average.

6. Chicago (NL) | Ryan Harvey | outfielder | Florida high school | $2,400,000

It was thought that Ryan Harvey had more raw power than any other player taken in the first round. Four years later, that power is still raw, as are all aspects of his game. Harvey has been a huge disappointment to this point and is becoming a long shot to even sniff the major leagues.

Although Harvey has yet to turn 23 yet, he has spent two years in Rookie Ball and three years in A-Ball. Injuries have caused his problems in 2007, after hitting 20 homers in each of the last two years (despite a .250-ish average), Harvey will be lucky to break 10 this season. In 25 games in 2007, Harvey is batting .208/.230/.354 with four homer. If he does manage to make the major leagues, his career could mimic that of Russell Branyan.

7. Baltimore | Nick Markakis | outfielder | Georgia junior college | $1,850,000

The Orioles shocked a good portion of baseball when they announced two-way player Nick Markakis as an outfielder, after they drafted him seventh overall.

Baseball America - A lefthander/outfielder, Markakis ranked right behind Adam Loewen among draft-and-follows from 2002. Drafted twice by the Reds, most recently in the 23rd round last year, Markakis turned down $1.5 million from the Reds before this draft. He agreed to a $1.85 million bonus from the Orioles—$450,000 less than MLB’s recommendation.

While Baltimore’s decision to take Markakis wasn’t surprising, its choice for his future was. Most teams preferred him as a pitcher and some clubs were split, but the Orioles liked his bat more and will make him a full-time outfielder.

Maybe - just maybe - Baltimore actually got something right for a change, despite turning a blind eye to the lack of quality left-handed pitching in baseball. So far, Markakis has had the best major league career of any of the 2003 top 10 draft picks, with a career line of .290/.350/.450. That said, his career numbers do not scream superstar. Right now, he is looking like a solid major leaguer with modest power for a corner outfielder.

8. Pittsburgh | Paul Maholm | left hander | Mississippi State | $2,200,000

Paul Maholm shares some similarities with the Pirates' 2007 No. 1 draft pick Daniel Moskos. Both left-handers came out of a solid college program and both were advanced pitchers, albeit with modest upside for their draft positions.

Maholm, having a four year advantage on Moskos, has established himself as a solid, but unspectacular, big league pitcher. His 4.41 career major league ERA is good but not great and the same can be said about his 16-23 record (remember, he is playing for the Pirates).

Through 336 career big league innings, Maholm has allowed 359 hits, but he does have a solid 2-1 groundball-flyball ratio. With a few more years of experience under his belt, Maholm's could develop into the next Jamie Moyer.

9. Texas | John Danks | left hander | Texas high school | $2,100,000

John Danks was considered the top prep pitcher in the draft by many, including Baseball America.

Danks has passed Florida's Andrew Miller as the top high school lefthander in the draft and could be the first southpaw drafted, unless a team prefers a college player and opts for Mississippi State's Paul Maholm.

Danks threw in the mid-80s last summer, but created a lot of buzz early this year when he kept hitting 93-94 mph and showing a picture-perfect delivery. He hasn't quite maintained that combination of velocity and mechanics, but he has sat at 88-92 and showed a power curveball at times.

Four years later, Danks is currently in his first season at the major league level, although he is now wearing a Chicago White Sox jersey, after being traded for fellow hurler Brandon McCarthy. In 16 starts, Danks has a solid start to his career with 4.62 ERA in 89.2 innings. He has allowed 97 hits, walked 36 batters and struck out 68. At the age of 22, the left-hander may have the most promising upside of any player in the 2003 top 10, depending on how Young develops.

10. Colorado | Ian Stewart | third base | California high school | $1,950,000

It's taken long than expected, but Ian Stewart is starting to show some signs of life. After his first two minor league seasons in Caspar (.317/.401/.558) and Asheville (.319/.398/.594), Stewart looked to be on the fast track. However, his next two seasons were modest and some began to wonder just how potent Stewart's bat really was.

His numbers are intriguing in 2007, but must again be taken with a grain of salt, as he is playing in Colorado Springs, which is an excellent hitter's park. After hitting only .268 with 10 homers in 462 at-bats at Double-A in 2006, Stewart has rebounded to hit .299 with 11 homers in only 324 at-bats in 2007. On the plus side, he did have 41 doubles last season, which can be an indicator at the minor league level for dormant power.

Whether Stewart develops into a corner infielder or becomes a solid role player remains to be seen. But he is not likely to become the star that he was predicted to become after the 2004 season.

* * * *

Overall, my predictions from the 2003 draft's top 10 list would be for one superstar, six solid regular Major League Baseball players and three busts. Is that acceptable? I'd certainly hope for more from my top 10 pick. There are a number of players, though, that show you don't have to be a top 10 pick to be a solid prospect of major league player.

The following players were all drafted outside the top 10 in 2003 and all 10 would likely be top 10 picks in hindsight: Lastings Milledge, Aaron Hill, Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chad Billingsley, Adam Miller, Tom Gorzelanny, Jason Hirsh and Shaun Marcum.


Young being the superstar? See Markakis being a multiple time Alll Star?

The track record of the class of '03 is why I cringe at the thought or throwing millions in bonuses to unproven kids.

Other drafts may have better results, but a large number of first-rounders from any year are washouts and flops.

Re the last sentence, with the benefit of hindsight, I believe Young would still be no worse than a top three pick and think Markakis would definitely be a top ten and probably even Weeks and Danks.