Reflections on Day One of the Draft
The first day of the MLB draft covered six rounds (plus compensation rounds between the first and second as well as the third and fourth) and produced 202 picks, starting with Tim Beckham (Tampa Bay) at No. 1 and ending with Ryan Lavarnway (Boston) at No. 202.
Beckham was the fifth high school shortstop in the past 20 years to be taken at the top of the draft. The other four? Justin Upton (Arizona, 2005), Matt Bush (San Diego, 2004), Alex Rodriguez (Seattle, 1993), and Chipper Jones (Atlanta, 1990). A-Rod and Chipper are headed to the Hall of Fame, Upton is at the beginning of what could be a highly promising career, and Bush has yet to play a game above Single-A. Interestingly, all five players have been moved off the shortstop position with Rodriguez and Jones manning third base, Upton right field, and Bush attempting a transformation to pitcher. If nothing else, it speaks to Bill James' Defensive Spectrum, which suggests that players can more easily switch from difficult positions such as shortstop to less demanding corner infield and outfield positions. Where Beckham winds up in five or ten years is anyone's guess, but there is no doubt that the Rays drafted the highly talented prep with the intention that he will be their shortstop of the future.
Of note, 21 college players (including one juco) – tying the previous record set in 1992 – were selected in the opening round. Thirteen of the collegians are position players (with five being first basemen, excluding Brett Wallace who St. Louis chose as a third baseman) and eight are pitchers (with four taken as relievers, excluding Carlos Gutierrez who Minnesota apparently believes can succeed as a starter).
Seven of the nine high school draftees are position players (including Aaron Hicks and Casey Kelly, two-way players who were chosen to hit and field rather than pitch) and only two (Ethan Martin and Gerrit Cole) are pitchers. By comparison, there were seven high school arms taken in the first round last year.
As we enter the second day of the draft, there are several highly ranked prospects who have yet to hear their names called. Alex Meyer (RHP, Greensburg HS, IN), ranked 25th by Baseball America, is reportedly asking for a ton of money and will be heading to the University of Kentucky in the fall unless a team steps up in a big way. Brett Hunter (RHP, Pepperdine University), ranked 51st, has had arm problems all spring and is a major health risk, yet is a top two-round talent. The 36th-ranked Isaac Galloway (OF, Los Osos HS, CA) and 48th-ranked Daniel Webb (RHP, Heath HS, KY) are raw talents who priced themselves out of the first day of the draft.
Jordan Danks (CF, Texas), the younger brother of Chicago White Sox LHP John, is someone who would have gone in the first round in 2005 had he not told teams he was set on attending college. A power bat as a high schooler, the lefthanded-hitting Danks won the home run derby at the 2004 Aflac All-American Classic, beating (among others) Cameron Maybin by hitting several balls completely out of the park. Four years later and his power has all but disappeared, having hit just 12 HR in three college seasons. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Danks has the size and athleticism that will attract a team on day two of the draft.
Lastly, to the credit of our good friends at Baseball America, the leading source for information on amateurs and minor league prospects, Jim Callis dialed the first four picks of the draft, then Matt Blood reported from Orlando before the proceedings began that Buster Posey would go at five, and John Manuel had Cole falling to the New York Yankees at No. 28 long before the selection took place. Nice job once again, guys.
- Posted by Rich Lederer
Well, that was fun. After an entire day of being glued to the computer, we can now look back and start to analyze exactly what happened on Day 1. As a lot of people have already mentioned, it's great to see teams actually taking the best players available to them in their slot. The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers did not walk away with some of the better players in the draft.
Fans in Kansas City, Minnesota and even Pittsburgh should be pretty gosh darn excited with the first day results, which is something most of the fans have not been able to say for a number of years (especially in Pittsburgh).
The Pirates nabbed possibly the No. 1 player in the nation with the club's first pick (second overall). Third baseman Pedro Alvarez won't come cheap but he could very well develop into the Face of the Franchise, which is something Pittsburgh has sorely lacked since... well, help me out here Pittsburgh fans... Alvarez has a potent bat and has been one of the most feared hitters in the college ranks for the past three seasons. His numbers were down a little bit due to a broken hamate bone. The Pirates also nabbed prep outfielder Robbie Grossman with the club's sixth round pick. Grossman will have to be signed away from the University of Texas after a poor senior year of high school dropped him out of first round consideration and slid him to the sixth round due to signability concerns.
Not only did the Royals get a beast with the third overall pick in prep first baseman Eric Hosmer, the club picked up two players in later rounds (third and fourth rounds) that could have been first rounders, if not for signability concerns. We even had profiles prepared for both players, in case they were chosen in the first or supplemental first rounds:
Tyler Sample, Mullen high school (Colorado)
2008 Pick: Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS (Missouri)
The Twins grabbed (surprise, surprise) a raw, toolsy prep player with Aaron Hicks and then balanced that out (I guess) with a "safe" pick of college reliever Carlos Gutierrez, a player the club probably could have gotten with its supplemental first round pick (or even its second round pick). A lot of analysts were baffled by that pick. Even so, Twins fans should be ecstatic with the club's next two selections in Shooter Hunt and Tyler Ladendorf. Hunt has a poor finish to his season, which slid him out of mid-first round consideration. Ladendorf is a junior college shortstop that can absolutely hit - something the organization could really use, if the kid can stick at shortstop... which is up in the air. A year after taking Angel Morales in the third round, the club took another top-rated Puerto Rican with its fourth round pick with outfielder Danny Ortiz.
- Posted by Marc Hulet
The Padres organization did dip into the high school pool for its second pick (supplemental first round), but Jaff Decker (yes it's with an 'A') has a "now bat" and is a short, squat power hitter in the Matt Stairs mold... or perhaps Brian Giles. Decker, though, has limited upside due to his size.
With its next two picks, the Padres took two college third basemen with Logan Forsythe and James Darnell, two players that were high on my personal draft board. Forsythe could surprise a lot of people as he was slowed this season by a stress fracture in his foot. Darnell was overshadowed a bit by his teammates at South Carolina but he has the potential to be a four or five tool player with a little more consistency.
2008 Pick: James Darnell, 3B, University of South Carolina
College center fielder Blake Tekotte is a spark plug type player with above-average speed and he has shown an aptitude for hitting with wood bats. Both first baseman Sawyer Carroll and outfielder Jason Kipnis are interesting players but have been described by scouts as "tweeners" because they lack the necessary power to play everyday at first base and the corner outfield.
Cole Figueroa, who was a draft-eligible sophomore out of Florida, is an interesting player and was drafted by the Jays out of high school. When I interviewed Matt LaPorta before last June's draft, he mentioned Figueroa as the one player on his club that would go on to have a great pro career. LaPorta said the Jays would regret not signing him, and the Padres certainly hope so.
- Posted by Marc Hulet