This has been and continues to be a big week for sports fans. The French Open. The Memorial Tournament. The Stanley Cup Finals. The NBA Championship. The NCAA Baseball Regionals. The MLB First-Year Player Draft. And the Major League debuts for Stephen Strasburg and Mike Stanton.
The main focus today is on the draft, which starts at 7 p.m. ET. It will be televised live by MLB Network and MLB.com.
Bryce Harper, the 17-year-old catcher who we highlighted two years ago, is expected to be taken by the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 pick. He hit .442/.524/.986 with 29 HR in 254 plate appearances with a wood bat for the College of Southern Nevada this year. Look for the Nats to move Harper's power bat and strong arm to right field where he can advance through the minor league system more rapidly than at catcher. Harper, who was ejected in his final junior college game last week, is lacking in maturity but not talent.
Once Washington pops for Harper, the next question will be the amount of the signing bonus. Harper is advised by Scott Boras, who will try to persuade the Nats ownership into a Strasburg-type bonus. Look for the Nats to shell out at least $10 million but not $15 million despite threats along the way of Harper playing another year at CSN and re-entering the draft in 2011.
The Los Angeles Angels, who have three first-round selections (18th, 29th and 30th overall), possess five of the first 40 picks overall. The Houston Astros (8th and 19th), the Texas Rangers (15th and 22nd), and the Tampa Bay Rays (17th and 31st) also hold multiple first-round choices.
Here are the projections of Baseball America (Jim Callis), ESPN (Keith Law), and Baseball Prospectus (Kevin Goldstein). Callis' predictions were updated within the past couple hours while Law's and Goldstein's were made a couple days ago and are subject to last-minute revisions.
We will have more analysis of the draft in the days to come. In the meantime, enjoy the festivities at MLB Network and MLB.com this evening. The draft will continue on Tuesday and conclude Wednesday.
1. Harper was indeed announced as an outfielder. ETA: June 2013 as a 20-year RF along the lines of Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton.
2. Kansas City pulls the first surprise and nabs Christian Colon, a shortstop out of Cal State Fullerton, with the fourth overall pick. Colon (.352/.439/.621 with 16 HR and 32 BB/17 SO) can handle the bat but lacks the range to play shortstop at the highest level. In a game against Long Beach State last month (in which he went 3-for-6 with a HR at Blair Field), I clocked him to first base at 4.64. While it may not have been an all-out sprint to first, I would be surprised if he can get down the line under 4.50. Look for Colon, who broke his leg last summer, to play SS in the minors but his ticket to the big leagues may be as an offensive-oriented second baseman.
3. While I've never seen Delino DeShields Jr. play in person, I'm skeptical that he merits the eighth overall selection of the draft. But nothing Houston does surprises me. Taken as a center fielder, his speed may rank as a legitimate 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. However, with a below-average arm, DeShields may be better suited for left field or second base. At 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, it will be interesting to see if he can hit for more power than his father (80 HR in 6652 plate appearances), who was leaner but stood four inches taller.
4. The only way to explain the Hayden Simpson pick is that the Cubs either have insight that nobody else had or are looking to save money with their first-round selection. Simpson (6-0, 175) is a smallish righthander from Southern Arkansas University (Division II). He posted a 13-1 record with a 1.81 ERA while striking out 131 and walking 35 in 99.1 innings. The school's website reported that "Simpson was listed by various sources as expected to be taken anywhere from the second through eighth rounds. None may have been more surprised than Simpson."
“I’m just blown away,” Simpson stated. “I had no idea I’d be picked then. A bunch of friends came over just to watch the draft. I was waiting for tomorrow’s rounds.”
5. The Angels drafted three high school players from Georgia with their first round picks. It will take a lot of money to sign this trio. Kaleb Cowart (3B/RHP, Cook County HS) has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Florida State. Cam Bedrosian (RHP, East Coweta HS), the son of the 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner, has committed to LSU. Chevez "Chevy" Clarke (CF, Marietta HS) has signed to play at Georgia Tech.