Picking Apart the Draft 2000-2004
There is a perception among baseball fans that the first round of the June Amateur Draft is foolproof – or that it should be foolproof. In a series of upcoming articles I am going to take a look at just how successful teams have been drafting with the first 10 picks of the draft in recent years, starting in 2000 and ending in 2004.
The 2000 draft was not a great one – and everyone knew it at the time too. The following excerpt is from Baseball America’s pre-draft coverage prior to the 2000 draft:
This year, the consensus is that there’s no consensus. Scouts say that the gap in talent between the eventual top pick and a mid-first-rounder will be as small as it has ever been.
"It’s the most confusing top group in the 13 years I’ve been scouting," says Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff, who will make the second overall pick on June 5. "That’s not to say there won’t be a bounty of major leaguers down the line, but it’s a rather chaotic, confused mix of talent."
As the draft neared more and more people thought high school catcher Scott Heard might go No. 1 overall to Florida. But in the end it was a high school first baseman by the name of Adrian Gonzalez - which is good since Heard (drafted by the Rangers) never made it to the major leagues. Many at the time considered Gonzalez to be a signability pick to save a little money when there was no clear cut favorite at No. 1 anyway. The Texas organization was also considering players Dane Sardinha and David Espinosa both of whom ended up going to Cincinnati later in the draft.
The first 10 picks broke down like this:
1. Florida Adrian Gonzalez, 1B California high school
2. Minnesota Adam Johnson, RHP Cal State Fullerton
3. Chicago (NL) Luis Montanez, SS Miami high school
4. Kansas City Mike Stodolka, LHP/1B California high school
5. Montreal Justin Wayne, RHP Stanford University
6. Tampa Bay Rocco Baldelli, OF Rhode Island high school
7. Colorado Matt Harrington, RHP California high school
8. Detroit Matt Wheatland, RHP San Diego high school
9. San Diego Mark Phillips, LHP Pennsylvania high school
10. Anaheim Joe Torres, LHP Florida highs school
That is a pretty ugly list and it’s a little hard to believe all those players were considered (at least by some clubs) as some of the Top 10 talent in the nation.
The most notable players taken in the first round, but outside the Top 10, were Philadelphia’s Chase Utley, San Francisco’s Boof Bonser, Anaheim’s Chris Bootcheck, Boston’s Phil Dumatrait, Atlanta’s Adam Wainwright, and Atlanta’s Scott Thorman. Utley, obviously, is a star and Wainwright has a chance to be very good, but beyond that most of the players are average to below-average major league players.
Let's take another look at the Top 10:
Ironically this so-called signability pick ended up being the best pick before Utley was chosen 15th overall. Despite his pedigree, Gonzalez was traded twice (from Florida to Texas to San Diego) and has established himself as an excellent offensive and defensive first baseman. A lack of prototypical power was the original concern with Gonzalez but he has laid that to rest with back-to-back seasons where he slugged more than .500 and hit 30 homers in 2007.
Expected to move quickly as a college pick, Johnson started his career in High-A ball and was in the majors by the end of his first full season in 2001. However, he posted an 8.28 ERA in his first taste of the majors (seven games), had a 5.47 ERA the following year in Triple-A and received his final major league appearance in 2003 after posting a 47.25 ERA in two games. Three years and a stint in independent baseball later, Johnson was out of pro baseball.
Montanez was born in Puerto Rico but played high school baseball in Miami. He started off his pro career very well, hitting .344/.438/.531 as an 18-year-old in Rookie Ball. However, he spent the next three years in A-ball and did not hit above .270. In 2004 Montanez was sent back down to Short Season ball, which pretty much ended any hope of a significant career in the majors. With eight years in professional baseball, Montanez has yet to play a full season in Triple-A. He is, however, still only 26 years old.
Here is your poor man’s Rick Ankiel. Stodolka was a talented two-way player in high school and clubs were split on where he was best-suited. The Royals took a chance on his left-handed arm and made him a full-time pitcher. Oops. In six minor league seasons, Stodolka posted an ERA of 4.94 and spent five of those years below Double-A. When he finally did get a taste of Double-A in 2005, he posted a 5.92 ERA and a record of 4-11. The following year Stodolka stepped back into the batter’s box full-time and now sports a career line of .287/.402/.455. However, there is one caveat: his numbers in 2006 were inflated by playing in one of the best hitting parks in minor league baseball – High Desert. Even so, Stodolka, 26, has shown enough promise that he could eventually become a major league pinch hitter or platoon first baseman/designated hitter.
Wayne sported a nifty 15-4 record with 153 strikeouts in 143 innings in his final season at Stanford University and caught the eye of the Expos. Over the next two seasons, Wayne had impressive numbers and reached the majors at the age of 23. However, that was with the Marlins after he was involved in the Carl Pavano-Cliff Floyd swap of 2002. Once he joined the Fish, Wayne’s career fell apart thanks to injuries and control problems, and he ended his major league career with a 6.13 ERA in 26 games. By 2005 he was playing for Newark in the independent Atlantic League.
Three years ago Baldelli looked to be the steal of the draft. However, as we all know now, his story took a serious turn for the worse recently when he was diagnosed with a medical issue that could jeopardize his career. Baldelli began his career quietly and struggled with his batting average in his first two pro seasons but the Rays continued to move him up through the system. He exploded in 2002 and played at three minor league levels. The next year he was in the majors full-time and only saw the minors again on rehab assignments (during the plethora of injuries that plagued him).
If you haven’t heard the story of Harrington, you’ve probably been living under a rock. He had perhaps the most coveted arm in the draft with a 97 mph fastball and solid breaking ball but his contract demands scared away a lot of teams and made it impossible for Colorado to come do an agreement ($4 million was allegedly turned down along with a guaranteed MLB promotion by 2002). In an effort to gain leverage and avoid having to wait another three years to sign by going to college, Harrington headed to independent baseball which allowed him to be eligible for the 2001 draft. It didn’t work out like it did for other players, such as J.D. Drew. The next year, as Harrington’s stuff began to wane, San Diego took him in the second round but he still did not like the money being offered ($1.2 million) - or his agent didn’t. The next year it was Tampa Bay in the 13th round ($200,000 or less), then Cincinnati in the 24th round and finally the Yankees in the 36th round of 2004. Before the dust settled Harrington played six seasons in independent baseball, lost his mid-90s fastball and has yet to play in the minors for a Major League Baseball team. Because he was not drafted in 2005, Harrington became a free agent and signed with the Chicago Cubs in late 2006. However, he was released by the end of spring training in 2007 and returned to independent baseball.
There isn’t much to say about Wheatland because he didn’t have much of a career, thanks to injuries. Things started off well for the right-hander when he was assigned to the Gulf Coast League shortly after the 2000 draft. He posted a 1.25 ERA in five games and struck out 21 batters, while walking only one, in 21.2 innings. Injuries struck in 2001 though, and he missed all of 2002 and 2003. He was released by Detroit in the spring of 2004 and caught on with Houston but appeared in only 18 games before heading to independent baseball.
Phillips’ first three minor league seasons held a lot of promise as he was a left-hander who could whiff a lot of batters. In 2002 at High-A ball, Phillips struck out 156 in 148.1 innings. But there was a huge red flag as he also walked 94 batters. He was then traded to the Yankees in the spring of 2003 along with Bubba Trammell for Rondell White. Phillips’ control problems continued and he ended up getting hurt. He was never seen again in minor league baseball.
Torres was a talented left-hander who made his pro debut at the age of 17 in the Northwest League. Despite his age, Torres posted a 2.54 ERA in 11 games and struck out 52 in 46 innings. After that, though, injuries became a problem and his strikeouts dropped significantly while his control all but disappeared, including 92 walks in 56 A-ball innings in 2005. In 2006, he posted an 8.04 ERA in 43 A-ball games and his time in the Angels system was at an end. On the positive side, Torres found some success in the White Sox system in 2007 and posted a 3.58 ERA in 32.2 High-A ball innings and allowed 23 hits, 16 walks and 39 strikeouts. He is still only 25.
Check back next week when we take a look at the 2001 draft’s Top 10 picks