Sunday, May 29, 2011

Midseason Snapshots - NL

The NL North is the most entertaining division race to watch in the National League. A tight race from top to bottom, the Cubs have skipped past the stumbling Brewers despite not outscoring their opponents. Their secret? The Cubs are 19-9 in one-run games. The Brewers meanwhile socked 245 homeruns last year, good for fifth in the league. They have just 92 so far, well below the league average.

Surprise stat: The Brewers starting rotation has thrown seven complete games this season, more than any other team in the league.

The Pirates have a pretty good headlock on the NL North as of the All-Star break. Future Hall-of-Famer Yovani Fuentes continues to shoulder the offense, reaching base more than half the time and posting a slugging percentage just south of .800. The Phillies meanwhile, expected to contend, lost three major league starters to long-term injuries and have fallen to last place.

Surprise stat: Limiting your opponent’s offense is one-way to win. The Pirates stingy pitching staff has yielded just 85 home runs on the year. Only one other staff in the league has given up less.

The NL South is being stolen by the unsuspecting St. Louis Cardinals, due more to the stumbles of the Braves, Marlins and Astros than anything else. The Cardinals are the only team in the major leagues with more than 200 stolen bases on the season. The Atlanta Braves are the mirror of the Cardinals minus the speed: both clubs boast a top five pitching staff while ranking in the bottom five in homeruns and slugging percentage.

Surprise stat: Astros teammates Don Ramirez and Jonathan Nix each have five triples a piece, making them tied with, among others, one other pair of teammates for the league lead.

The LA Dodgers are once again a dominant force in the NL West, building a 15 game lead over the second place Padres who were 49-42 at the All-Star break. The Padres were off to an equally hot start but fell victim to a nine-game losing streak right before the break and lost ground to its division rival, which went 6-3 over that same span.

Surprise stat: The NL West is filled with pitching. The San Francisco Giants pitching staff has tossed two shutouts this year. Only one team has thrown more.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mid-Season Snapshots - AL

The AL West is the most entertaining division to watch. After leading the division early, the Rockies cooled somewhat and sit in last place, six games above .500. The Angels have a fight on their hands to repeat.

Surprise stat: the Colorado Rockies have 73 spectacular defensively plays, while making only 5 bad ones – leading the league in both categories. Congratulations to Hipolito Iglesias, who set a new MLB record with his 26-game hitting streak earlier this season.

In the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles may already have clinched a playoff spot. Behind strong pitching and an offense built around the long ball, the birds have a 21-game lead at the All-Star break.

Surprise stat: the Baltimore Orioles are one of only two American League teams in the top ten in WHIP. They lead the AL with a mark of 1.22.

The White Sox are the latest division leaders of the AL North, winning five straight to nudge their record a game over 0.500. It will be interesting to see if one of the AL North contenders makes a trade to tie up the division crown. Last season, no team with a losing record won a division.

Surprise stat: Lead by the big stick of Trevor McEnerny, who has socked 34 long balls, the White Sox are going yard often and lead the majors in home runs. Only one other player has hit more.

The Texas Rangers are walking away with the AL South division lead – literally. The team ranks second in walks and first in On-base Percentage in the major league. All those baserunners are finding the plate as well as Texas leads the league in runs scored.

Surprise stat: Texas’s Reed Hoyt’s batting average is hovering around .390 at the All-Star break. Will he have a chance to finish the season at .400? One other national league player has a shot as well.

Season 2 Draft Recap - Part 3

On to the final installment. These late round selections are characterized by franchises not willing to take a lot of risks on developing high school players to their potential. They wisely load up on the college scouting budget to obtain players that will contribute to the franchise quickly and while they lack the upside of a potential high school star, they have stronger chances to pan out.

Brian Kim, 2B – There is more to Kim than meets the eye, although his batting eye is the first thing you notice. He has great plate discipline, mediocre power and can struggle to make contact sometimes. But Kim can hustle down the line faster than a lot of players, has good base-running instincts and can lay down a beautiful bunt. He’ll play excellent defense and get to a lot of balls that others wouldn’t. He also can hold his own driving the ball against any pitcher. About his only knock is that he’ll struggle to turn the double play.

The Rangers also snap up an excellent closer in the supplemental round. Ronald Roosevelt will have his way with right-handed bats and put the fire out of any rallies. Texas signs few of their remaining picks, destined for now to leave the franchise few unexpected discoveries after the All-Star break each season.

Overall Grade: B+

Tito Mays, 1B – If only Tito hit the weight room more. The 5’10” 200lb hitter is blessed with a pure stroke. He does an excellent job looking for a good pitch to hit, connects more often than not, and he swings perfectly level and drives the ball off the bat with a sharp crack. Fielders will see few lazy fly balls or pop-ups to the infield coming off his bat. The only knock is his drives will bounce off the porch step more often than reach the porch, and most owners want more pop at first. He is a tremendous find at #29.

New Orleans proceeded to gather good pitching and a defensive catcher in the next few rounds, complimenting these two first round selections quite nicely. While my scouts did not see Norberto Tavarez, my fuzzy projections show a control pitcher with excellent stuff.

Overall Grade: A

Doug Joyce, SS – Scouts drool over Joyce’s range. College ball has proven he can get to almost any ball in the majors now. Coaches want to modify his glove work and build his arm strength, but defensively he’s a wall on the left side of the infield for any ground ball. For a guy with an eye to get to a grounder, he can’t pick one up nearly as well coming off a pitcher’s hand. He won’t walk that much and will struggle to make contact, but when he does he should drive the ball more than sufficiently and get on base. It’s nice to grab a defensive shortstop who’s not a black hole offensively.

The Royals selection of closer Scot Page in round two was a steal so late. The man throws hard and will strike out a lot of batters with his near-perfect four-seamer and slider. Batters will not enjoy seeing him out of the pen. The Royals were content to sign but four of their selections, but the four they did were the cream of the crop.

Overall Grade: B+

Monte Randall, LF – The Tigers take an above average bat with their second pick in the first round, but they choose a second left fielder in the first round. Perhaps one will play first base. Randall doesn’t have all the pop scouts like to see in the defensive spot, but there are few holes in his game. He can drive the ball well off any pitcher, and can pick up the ball and make consistent contact. Having a lefty in the lineup who can do all these things isn’t bad either.

Despite drafting a lot of talent through the first few rounds and budgeting some $20 million to prospects, Detroit interestingly has yet to sign a single draft pick or international free agent. This rookie class sits idle, collectively waiting by the phones to learn their assignments.

Overall Grade: B

Charlie Cecil, RHP – The last player selected in the first round, Cecil is a fine late pick up. The starter projects not to go deep into too many games, but will always be ready to go. He is fine action on his four-seam fastball, keeps the ball relatively down in the zone and throws with decent placement and velocity.

A team loaded with talent at catcher picks up another one with their second pick, and he projects to the majors. Despite all his talent, Felix Miyakazi has a pitch his teammates call the “kamikaze” because he unintentionally hits so many batters with it. The dude has no idea where he’s throwing it. Like the Royals, the Dodgers sign only four of their picks.

Overall Grade: B+

*J.J. Hegan, RHP – The Blue Jays make their first selection at #38 in the supplemental round. Hegan lacks the full repertoire of pitches you like to see from a starter and will issue his fair share of walks, but he projects to be pretty tough on righties and lefties. He’s a nice find late.

Second rounder Christopher Hunt lacks the glove coaches like to see at center or second and may make a few errors both fielding and throwing the ball as an infielder. He may be better suited defensively to left but lacks the bat for it. The Blue Jays go on to select a grab bag of players with mediocre bats who project to left field in the show.

Overall Grade: C+

Rudy Pavlov, CF – The Angels find good value in Pavlov with a late supplemental round selection. Pavlov projects to have decent range and glove but lacks the arm strength to make throws from deep in the hole at shortstop. He’ll be a nice defensive second basemen or even center fielder however at the big league level. Pavlov struggles against righties but will be platoonable versus lefties, where he’ll connect with pitches on a regular basis and drive them well.

They don’t find much more in the draft afterwards, collecting a mishmash of defensive utility infielders with no outstanding qualities beyond their defense. Drafting late in the first round, not much more can be expected though.

Overall Grade: C+

Bill Rivers, SS – Rivers is a defensive shortstop who has an average eye and contact but little power. He’ll be a bench player at the big league level – the ultimate utility infielder/outfielder who will play any position well. This is a value pick for the franchise who’s first pick came late.

Steve Thompson is the best of the lot of the remaining selections. If he had a stronger sense of the strike zone he would be a tougher out. He does have a lot of nice extras, including speed and the ability to lay down a good bunt to get on. Milwaukee makes the most of its late selections.

Overall Grade: B

*Fred Werth, LHP – The last franchise to make a selection, the Buccos go for a relief pitcher where a lot of quality players still reside late in the first round. Werth projects to throw hard and place the ball nicely in the zone. He has two pitches, and both aren’t far from fooling major league hitters now. He may struggle facing righties but should have his way with lefties.

The Pirates follow up Werth with pitching, pitching and more pitching. A total of eight straight were drafted. Some project to have fringe major league talent should they develop to expectations, but I see no sure-fire selections in the bunch.

Overall Grade: B-

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Season 2 Draft Recap - Part 2

There was a lot of good work done late by owners picking late in the round, and the selections here are mostly characterized by shrewed picks. A lot of midnight oil was burned by experienced owners perhaps, but there is evidence most everyone was well prepared come draft day.

My apologies for having to split part 2 into two parts - I'm running short of time as of late and I did not want to delay this further. One more part to come. And once again, I don't profess to know anymore about evaluating talent than any other owner, so my opinions are my own and meant to entertain. Without further ado...

17. NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (10/10)
Gabe Fisher, LHP – Owner of three picks in the top 40, New Orleans perhaps gambled a bit when the franchise did not stretch its scouting budget to take advantage of them. That said, most clubs would be happy to find a starting pitcher of the caliber of Gabe Fisher in the top ten picks, and the Jazz net him with the 17th. The lefty promises to rarely issue a walk, shut down left-handed hitters while being tough on right-handed ones, and throw two dazzling pitches among the five in his collection. A patient 18-year-old with a great work ethic, it’s highly likely he’ll live up to the billing with proper coaching. While one could slander his durability, this pick could be the steal of the draft.

Overall Grade: (see pick 29)

Kendry Cornejo, RHP – With their second pick in the first round, the Diamondbacks grab college standout Cornejo, and it’s a nice, safe pick because he’ll fast-track straight to making regular appearances out of the big league bullpen. The right-hander projects to have exemplary command, whip both lefties and righties and throw two pitches with a lot of movement. Extremely durable, batters will tire of facing him every night the D-backs have the lead. He should make it to the show in two years, three max, which makes his assignment to Arizona’s rookie ball somewhat suspect.

Of Arizona’s remaining picks, hard-throwing Butch Reese will end up working in the majors thanks to his effectiveness and dazzling stuff, but he will walk his fair share of batters. Just what role he’ll play remains to be seen. The Diamondbacks cornered the market on some power hitting third base-types in later rounds – it’s nice to never be short a big bat off the bench. At minimum, Arizona collects three MLB-quality pitchers which earns the franchise a high mark.

Overall Grade: A

19. CHICAGO CUBS (15/15)
*Jerome Lanier, CF – Kansas City, Missouri is not nearly as remote as Kodiak, Alaska, so how a talent as rich as Jerome Lanier slipped past the collective eyes of my scouts can boggle the mind, and yet I imagine he slipped past quite a few more given his fall to #19. Lanier appears to project to playing second base in the bigs, but he has all the tools you want out of the position: good defense, good contact, decent power and a decent eye. He has blazing speed to boot, but will need to develop his base-running savvy to make full use of it. He is an unusual talent to still be remaining on the board this late in the draft and I love this pick.

Curiously, the Cubs managed to sign only one – one – other player selected with their top 15 selections (a closer that throws hard and has excellent command) despite a bank full of cash. Is the franchise trading the known for that international star behind door number three? Debating that strategy is for another discussion. Lanier is a steal but the lack of surrounding talent pulls the draft down a full grade at least for now.

Overall Grade: B-

20. BOSTON RED SOX (16/16)
Alvin Orr, RHP – Bobby Orr is one of the greatest hockey players, and greatest Boston Bruin, of all time. It’s entirely fitting then that Alvin Orr goes to Beantown with pick #20. (Life is delicious sometimes, even in a fantasy baseball simulation game.) Orr is not merely in town because Red Sox Nation adores his surname. He is a three-pitch reliever with great command, good stuff, nice velocity and will wear down right-handed batters. He can be beaten from the left-side, but the Sox can live with that. He’s a nice selection here and will make an impact coming out of the bullpen.

In later rounds, the Red Sox continue to stock up on pitching. There’s a good chance that Cory Smith, Peter Haughian, Kendry Carrasco and Lewis Rollins could all make the big leagues some day. Even Matt Ball could find a role on the bench given his defense and speed. The Red Sox look to be in great shape if even some of these picks live up to potential.

Overall Grade: A-

Willie Donnelly, 2B – The Phillies make a solid selection at #21 with Donnelly, who projects to have an excellent eye for the strike zone and make consistent contact, driving the ball equally well against both arms. Durable and with decent speed, he’ll also play better than average defense at the position. With proper development, he may prove to have few weaknesses in his game and should stand to get on base quite a bit. There is a lot to like about this pick.

Overall Grade: (see pick 27)

Bobby Phillips, LHP – There were quite a few good left-handed starters in this draft, and the Marlins nab one with the 22nd pick. Phillips projects to have excellent control and Is already the owner of a devastating curveball that will only look more dizzying to hitters. His remaining pitches should do more than just keep hitters honest. Marlins fans should be happy with the pick.

Florida continued to corner the market on pitching, drafting seven more through pick #239. It’s possible a couple could find their way to the majors someday should they develop to their projections, with Luke Law likely having the best luck to get there. While they didn’t add much talent off the mound, it was a solid draft overall.

Overall Grade: B+

23. TAMPA BAY RAYS (2/2)
*Ricardo Flores, C – The Cardinals’ front office spent $36 million to hire as many of the shrewdest talent scouts (not to mention all the bar tabs, Cuban cigars and escort services that often come with them) just to pay these hawk-eyed wizards to infiltrate as many sweat-smelling, athlete’s foot-ridden locker rooms in high schools and colleges across the globe in a no-stone-unturned effort to find every little bean bag of talent that exists out there.

On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Rays’ front office paid to send some of their most dedicated ballpark ushers on a three-day vacation to Massachusetts, and one night while choking down some rigatoni on Boston’s North End, one of them puts down his fork long enough to spot a giant quietly making meatballs in the kitchen. A conversation ensues, and he learns from the wait staff that this guy can see baseballs coming at him like meatballs and regularly swats them out of the park in his local park-and-rec league. When he gets back home, he happens to mention it to the head-honcho while thanking him for the trip, and wallah – Flores is discovered.

If Flores lives up to half his projections, he will hit like a monster. He can practically hit better than any current Cardinal on my MLB roster now, without developing any further. It’s just too bad he has no range, no glove (likely why he was undiscovered in the kitchen) and will need to DH in the majors.

Despite the low budget numbers, Tampa Bay did manage to grab some talent with their picks at #51 and #78, with Bartolo Campos in particular being a nice find. The Rays get a long of bang for the buck with this one. For that, how can I not give them high marks.

Overall Grade: A-

Reese Glauber, LHP – Glauber is yet another southpaw selected early, and he projects to have elite command and eviscerate lefties facing him. He will be less effective against righties, but likely will hold his own due in part to a very effective first pitch. I’m uncertain what role he’ll play in the big leagues when he gets there, as his innings will be limited as a starter and he has just three tricks up his sleeve to deliver. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.

The Orioles’ go on to collect a smattering of major league talent with their next picks, including a potential starting pitcher, a defensive catcher who can hit lefties extremely well and a reliever for the pen. While I’m not entirely sold on their first pick, this is a very solid draft for the franchise and one fans should be happy with.

Overall Grade: B

25. ATLANTA BRAVES (14/14)
J.P. Maduro, LHP – An intriguing selection, as I was wondering when this starter would go. The California-native projects to rarely walk batters, strike out his fair share, keep the ball down in the strike zone and show decent movement on all four of his pitches. However he will struggle with his overall effectiveness against batters at times. The fact that he is a lefty should help. Given the elite starters were off the board at this point, he’s one of the best of the next level remaining. A nice pick here.

Too bad Atlanta does not pick up much more in the draft, as second rounder Tony Benton is not yet signed and the players selected after him have a hole or two in their game that will limit their effectiveness should they make the bigs.

Overall Grade: B-

Cliff Drew, LF – Drew projects to have an altogether rare understanding of the strike zone. He takes massive cuts at the ball, and as a result finds himself swinging from his heels at times and will strike out a lot. But when he connects, oh boy! That ball will travel. Far. Defensively he is far more suited to playing first base than left, but that will suit the Mariners fine. The club picks up a legitimate homerun threat with pick #26.

Seattle also gets a decent hitter in Omar Carrasco at pick #81, who should prove to be a versatile utility player, and picks up three straight catchers in rounds three thru five. All of them have similar profiles but may prove useful at the ML level, so I suspect one or two will be dealt in the coming years, especially from a franchise that enjoys making trades.

Overall Grade: B

Dan George, 3B – The Phillies second selection in the first round, the big attraction to George is easily his bat. He projects to have no problems driving the ball with a decent amount of power but he won’t always be consistent with his contact. He’ll likely end up patrolling a corner in the outfield in the big leagues. As with all high school players, he’ll need to live up to his lofty upside by developing first for a bit, and his suspect health may be an impediment to getting there.

The Phillies also garnered another future potential major league talent of note, Juan Julio. He is a true base-stealing threat with elite contact who could see game time against lefties, but he’s an unfortunate lefty which will likely isolate his excellent defensive skills to left field – where most power hitters dwell.

Overall Grade: A-

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Season 2 Draft Recap - Part I

This year’s draft class looked deeper to me than last season’s, which meant there was plenty of first-round talent to spread around. For the Arizona Diamondbacks in particular, owner of the 1st, 18th and 33rd picks, I’m certain that was a welcome sight. So how did each club do? Here’s my perspective:

(Note the parenthesis indicate the franchise college/high school budget numbers, respectively. An asterisk before the player’s name indicates my scouting did not include this player, so I’m relying on my advance scouting (mediocre at best…) to evaluate. In the end, each owner is the best judge of their draft and my observations are just opinions meant to entertain and nothing more.)

*Dave Lester, LHP – Arizona wastes no time by taking an 18-year-old high school southpaw pitcher with borderline MLB talent already and what could be an ace-high-ceiling. While his pitches aren’t overpowering, he looks to become extremely effective against lefties and righties and will have excellent command and good velocity. His Achilles heal: he has a tendency to keep his pitches up in the strike zone, and batters will hit a lot of fly balls when they do they connect.

Overall Grade: (see pick 18)

Gerry Petkovsek, SS – Washington gambled when they selected the best of a trio of elite shortstops in the draft because they were uncertain if he would sign. Athletically gifted, Petkovsek can hold his own defensively at shortstop while hitting more like a left fielder. He has excellent contact, a good understanding of the strike zone and can hit for power. If that weren’t enough, Petkovsek is blessed with great speed and understanding of the base paths, and can beat you with his quickness if the ball doesn’t leave the yard. But somehow the diminutive 5’9” Milwaukee native dreams of college hoops (sigh). He’s asking $8.5 million to forego that dream, fortunately a number still within the realm of sanity for Washington. He has yet to commit.

Second rounder Sadie Weston, a light-hitting speedster with good contact but defensively projects to left field, is also demanding a whopping $8.5 million some 55 picks after Petkovsek. Not surprisingly he is not signed. Of those in the fold, the Nationals netted a lot of speed and base-running, but little in the way of complementing those tools. If Petkovsek fails to sign, the Nationals could look back on this decent draft class with some regrets.

Overall Grade: C- (unless Petkovsek signs)

Raymond Harris, CF – The Rockies grab 21-year-old Harris, who developmentally is not far from playing at the ML level. He can hit for average and power and brings decent speed to the table as well. To boot, Harris is a potential Gold Glove candidate, but being a lefty he can’t bring those skills to the infield and will have to settle for either corner in the Show as his range does not project well to center.

The owner of only one more pick (5th round), the Rockies make the most of it by selecting a catcher with defensive prowess who can find spot time against lefties and clean up a game defensively in the late innings with his glove, pitch calling and ability to throw out base runners.

You could argue that given Harris’s defensive limitations, the Rockies may have been better suited getting one of the remaining shortstops or pitchers on the board, but the player they selected is solid and they did well given their limited scouting.

Overall Grade: B-

Damaso Romero, SS – Montreal scoops up the second most-talented short stop on the board with the fourth pick. Romero projects to be average defensively, but his offensive production lacks any holes. The trouble often with high school picks is that they must live up to that lofty ceiling, but if Damaso fails to, he could easily find a home at third base given that he’s blessed with nice power. This is easily a nice selection at #4 overall.

Montreal complements that first round selection by netting Jeremy Pettyjohn with the 59th pick. Pettyjohn has an excellent eye, and can hit the ball regularly and drive it well against right-handed pitching. He has decent power to go with that swing and will end up in the majors someday. Fourth-rounder Hector Mesa has good contact, speed, base-running savvy and bunting skills. He could potentially find a home on the bench at the ML level. Three potential major leaguers make for a nice draft.

Overall Grade: A-

Kane Duncan, CF – Another high school prospect that can beat you with his legs as well as his bat, Duncan's defensive prowess will likely be limited to left field when he makes it to the big leagues. The only question is can he stay healthy enough to reach those lofty projections, as he has a fair bit of developing to do. By passing on some of the better pitching and the last elite shortstop remaining, Detroit is gambling that he can.

Overall Grade: (see pick 31)

Wes Sheehan, SS – The last of the above-mentioned elite shortstops stops his fall at pick six, and it’s likely the Padres could not believe their luck. Durable and healthy, Sheehan projects to be slightly better than average defensively and can more than hold his own offensively. He is a raw talent, and will require a fair bit of polishing, but given his excellent makeup there is little not to like about this pick.

The Padres selected a quartet of pitchers with their next four picks, and it’s possible some like Louie Campbell, who has good control and a decent pair of pitches, could find time at the ML level should they develop to their potential. Anchored by Sheehan, the franchise ends up with a nice draft overall.

Overall Grade: A-

Dicky Jensen, RHP – With all the focus on the shortstops and offense, the Yankees had to be thrilled to see this right-hander drop in their lap. Jensen is blessed with elite command and is tough against righties. His five-pitch repertoire includes an excellent slider, sinker and change-up. Healthy and durable, he is a nice anchor for any starting rotation.

New York failed to back up this pick with its subsequent selections. It’s 2nd round defensive shortstop has yet to sign, and fourth-round pitcher Scott Blume has exorbitant demands given his talent. That said, New York shelled out some extra cash for starting pitcher Bob Evans, selected out of the third round, because he could make the majors someday. Had they been able to sign some additional selections, their draft grade could easily have been higher.

Overall Grade: B-

Sal Forrest, RHP – Forrest has good command, decent velocity and is a better than average against righties. He throws four different pitches including an effective slider. What’s not to like here? The answer is his stamina. With the #8 selection overall, I’m sure the franchise was hoping for more than a starting pitcher that could only work five innings, or be limited to a role out of the bullpen. That said, he will be an effective pitcher.

Of the remaining selections, none looks particularly promising to make the big leagues. Southpaw Tony Mendoza has the best shot, but will be limited by his borderline effectiveness. Second baseman Tony Nielson has health concerns and is a defensive liability at second but lacks the bat to play left. Disappointing selections given the bevy of talent available.

Overall Grade: C

Adam Bowen, RHP – The Reds select a similar pitcher to Forrest with their first selection. Bowen projects to have exemplary command, be extremely tough on lefties and righties and have an electric first pitch. His limitation will be how many innings he’s able to work. As a starter, his low stamina will limit his innings and his low durability will mean he won’t be starting on three-days rest. He will give the Reds an excellent opportunity to stake to a lead in the games he will start.

With just one more selection before the fourth round, the Reds follow up by taking a chance on pure-hitter Larry Browning. It’s unfortunate that defensively Browning is not suited to play behind the plate, but his offense is tempting enough for the Reds to contemplate the possibility. The Reds hope both picks, which come with some form of relative downside, pan out for the club.

Overall Grade: B-

Kenny Francis, LF – As far as left fielders go, Francis projects to be an excellent hitter, and the junior college prospect doesn’t need much polishing to get to the show. He projects to have elite contact and decent power. He’s a switch hitter, which complements the fact that he can drive the ball equally well against lefties and righties. He can hold his own defensively, and will likely hold down a job in Left for years to come. Francis is a great pick to land at # 10 overall.

Oakland also lands much needed bullpen help in the form of Willie Pulido, who will be able to work a fair amount of innings in the bigs someday, and potentially Sven Parrish if he develops to his potential. Landing guys with potential major league talent like free-swinger Bobby Springer and defensive catcher Julio Castilla in rounds four and five put this draft over the top for Oakland. A terrific result.

Overall Grade: A

*Alexander White, RHP – The first true relief pitcher taken, White stands to be an elite closer if he lives up to those lofty expectations. He has exemplary command of the strike zone and throws hard. He has two sizzling pitches and a decent ability to get a ground ball. The only knock against him is that his low durability will likely mean a role as a closer as opposed to an everyday set up man.

With one pick in the top 100 selections, it’s not surprising to see that the only other player taken with big league potential is starting pitcher is Jose James. James is decent against righties and has some good stuff but lacks the command or velocity to pair with it. In the end, the White Sox land a shutdown closer who could put the “White” in White Sox, but not much more everyday talent. They may look back on this draft and wish they would have.

Overall Grade: B-

12. HOUSTON ASTROS (18/18)
Rob Tipton, LHP – A southpaw with decent stamina, excellent command, above average splits and an electric split fastball, the Astros had to be thrilled to land a pitcher destined to be in their starting rotation for some time.

The club’s 47th pick John Thomas could be a steal if he decides to sign. While he stands to strike out a fair bit, he could drive the ball well with power against lefties and righties, have good command of the strike zone and already has blazing speed. Gus Wilkins (unsigned) is demanding $3.5 million for his bat, but could be a liability behind the plate. Ross Powell is a skilled defensive specialist, and could hold down the fort at second base or center field. His ability to bunt his way on coupled with his speed and base-running instincts make him a practical pick. Fourth rounder Shep Douglas could serve time in the bigs given the dearth of catching in the world. The Astros land some nice players and stand to improve if some signings pan out. A nice draft overall.

Overall Grade: B+

Ebenezer Wells, SS – Blessed with above average speed and potentially elite contact, Wells projects to drive the ball very well against lefties or righties. He has average power, and if he can’t extend his projected range he may end up better suited defensively at third base although he doesn’t carry the traditional stick for it. That’s quibbling though – with all his tools he’s a fine selection this deep into the draft and Cleveland fans should be happy with the pick.

Of their remaining picks, supplemental first rounder Babe Coggin could find a home in centerfield and not be a black hole in the lineup doing so. The lefty projects to have an above average eye for the strike zone, make decent contact and drive the ball well against right-handers. Lefty Jayson Morris has all the makings of a fine pitcher but likely lacks the effectiveness to make a dent in the bigs.

Overall Grade: B

Johan Springer, RHP – A hard-throwing right-hander, Springer projects to have excellent command, decent splits and an electric first pitch if he lives up to his expectations. Springer is a raw talent however and will need to marinate in the minors for some time before he makes the big leagues.

With four picks in the first two rounds, the Cardinals were looking to make a splash and may have succeeded. Supplemental first rounder Claudio Gray has an excellent eye for the strike zone, makes consistent contact and hits for decent power. He stands to make a few errors with his glove at first where he can play almost every day. Second round pitchers Philip Worthington and Ricardo Ramirez have the potential to make the show should they develop to expectations.

Overall Grade: B

Darwin Corcoran, CF – How do you give a kid an awkward name like Darwin Corcoran? Unfortunately, Darwin was also born left-handed. While blessed with excellent range, his glove doesn’t quite project to center and his handedness thus pushes him to a corner outfielder spot in the majors. His inability to drive the ball well against righties limits his playing time that much more. I’m certain the franchise was hoping for more than a part-time left fielder with its first round selection.

Of the Twins remaining selections, Adrian Hartman stands to struggle against lefties and righties despite projecting to good contact and power. Not much else was found in this disappointing draft for Minnesota.

Overall Grade: C-

16. NEW YORK METS (12/12)
Ken Bynum, 2B – Bynum is slightly below average defensively but should still project to second base if he makes the bigs. He’s a good contact hitter that drives the ball well against right-handed pitching.

Of their remaining selections, starting pitcher Glen Peterson could find the show if his effectiveness lives up to expectations. Everth Henriquez plays excellent defense and has blazing speed to boot. He could project to be a late-inning defensive substitute and pinch runner. Andy Duncan could also be a defensive substitute at the pro level. No true impact player was drafted, and yet this was simply a solid, unspectacular draft for the Mets.

Overall Grade: B