MLB Draft Preview
In anticipation of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, it is our intention to discuss several topics today in a blog-type format.
There are a number of talented two-way prospects from the high school ranks that could be selected as position players or pitchers in the first few rounds of the draft, including a handful likely to be taken among the top 30. Some players and clubs lean toward one or the other position but the fact that these youngsters could fall back on a second position is not only an indication of their athleticism but it reduces the risk somewhat for teams willing to remain open minded as to where a prospect might fit.
Here is an alphabetical list of ten two-way players for consideration:
Smallish righthander throws a low- to mid-90s fastball and also plays shortstop, center field, and even catcher. Could be a two-way player at UCLA if the price is not right.
Decker is what he is, a short, stocky, strong kid who can hit and throw but the fact that he is only 5-10 leaves little upside as a pitcher. As such, look for Decker to be drafted outside the first round as one of the better hitting talents from the high school ranks.
Scouts like him as a lefthanded power pitcher although Gose reportedly wants to use his plus-plus speed and strong arm in center field. Either way, he is more of a project than a polished player.
Hicks would be drafted no later than the middle of the first round as a toolsy outfielder or a power righthanded pitcher. The fact that he is equally good at both makes him one of the most intriguing picks in the entire draft.
Although Hosmer can dial it up to 95 (or higher as has been rumored) in short relief outings, no team is planning on drafting the sweet-swinging first baseman as a pitcher. Unless teams shy away from the high seven-digit signing bonus that the Boras Corporation has floated out there, he will be gone by the middle of the first round. He is one of a number of highly regarded prospects who could wind up playing for Arizona State if things don't pan out as hoped.
Kelly has indicated that he would like to play everyday – most likely as a shortstop initially and perhaps at third base longer term – yet many scouts envision him as a power pitcher with one of the best fastball/curveball combinations in the high school class of 2008. Signability is an issue for Kelly, who has committed to play quarterback and shortstop for the University of Tennessee.
Like Kelly, Martin is a top-notch QB on the football field and a pitcher-infielder on the baseball diamond. However, he has signed to play baseball only at Clemson. Could be drafted as a righthanded power arm or as a tough, power-hitting third baseman.
Scouts like the athletic Melville as a pitcher even though he was named MVP of the 2007 WWBA 18-and-under as a hitter. He has committed to North Carolina but signability isn't expected to be an issue.
A legitimate two-way player, Odorizzi is likely to be taken as a pitcher. However, his combination of size, speed, and power have left some teams scratching their heads wondering if he wouldn't be an outstanding shortstop in the pros.
Another in a long line of hard-throwing Texans, Seaton will focus on pitching only as a pro but the big, lefthanded-hitting outfielder is likely to be a two-way player if he attends Tulane.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 9:45 a.m. PT
As you probably already know by now, the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft is absolutely stacked with powerful college first basemen. Let’s take a closer look at some of their numbers:
Stats: AVG/OBP/SLG | AB | HR | RBI | BB-K
Justin Smoak, University of South Carolina
Yonder Alonso, University of Miami
Brett Wallace, Arizona State University
Allan Dykstra, Wake Forest University
David Cooper, University of California
Ike Davis, Arizona State University
I’d be pretty happy to snag just about any one of those guys with a mid-to-late first round pick. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Allan Dykstra is the most underrated of the six players and surprise a lot of people with his immediate success. I am also going to say that Ike Davis will be the biggest disappointment of the six. Of the "Big Three," I'll take Yonder Alonso over Brett Wallace and Justin Smoak. How about you? Who do you like the best from a statistical standpoint?
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 1:35 p.m. EST
Personally I am not a fan of drafting college relievers in the first round of the draft. At least if you draft a starting pitcher and he stinks the place up you can make him a reliever and hope for the best. If a reliever tanks… well, that’s pretty much all she wrote. That said, there are some cases where teams have been successful at converting relievers with deep repertoires to starters. In recent memory, the Toronto Blue Jays have had excellent success with that and converted college closers: Shaun Marcum (Southwest Missouri State University), who leads the majors with 5.95 H/9 and 0.94 WHIP, David Bush (Wake Forest University), and top pitching prospect Brett Cecil (University of Maryland).
There is certainly depth when it comes to college relievers in the 2008 amateur draft. Some of the more interesting names include senior Joshua Fields (Georgia), Andrew Cashner (Texas Christian), Ryan Perry (Arizona), Zach Stewart (Texas Tech) and Bryan Price (Rice).
Fields should remain in the bullpen as a pro, with two plus pitches, and could be the first 2008 draft pick to make it to the majors, although Craig Hansen and Joey Devine might tell you that is not such a good thing. Cashner has a little broader repertoire and has done some starting in college in the past, but his fastball loses some zip, as does his plus slider.
Perry has a slider that has been compared to Brad Lidge's and a plus-plus fastball. He also has a promising change-up, which fuels the discussion to make him a starter. Unfortunately, Perry lacks deception, which can make it easy for hitters to pick up the ball, especially over the course of three or four at-bats.
Stewart’s fastball jumps four to six miles per hour when he works as a reliever. That’s a big difference. The collection of a nasty, 92-96 mph sinker, plus-plus slider and average change-up will tempt some team to give Stewart a try as a starter but his fastball would be just average.
Price barely pitched in his first two seasons because his secondary pitches were lacking, as was his command. He has improved, but his three-pitch repertoire probably isn’t enough for him to be a dominating starter. But Price has a chance to be a lights-out reliever.
That begs the question: In this day and age where pitching is so valuable, is it better to have a lights-out reliever or an average (No. 3 or 4) starter?
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 4:20 p.m. EST