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.)
1. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (16/16)
*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)
2. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (14/14)
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)
3. COLORADO ROCKIES (10/10)
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-
4. MONTREAL EXPOS (18/18)
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-
5. DETROIT TIGERS (18/18)
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)
6. SAN DIEGO PADRES (12/12)
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-
7. NEW YORK YANKEES (13/13)
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-
8. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (10/12)
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
9. CINCINNATI REDS (18/4)
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-
10. OAKLAND ATHLETICS (16/16)
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
11. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (11/12)
*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+
13. CLEVELAND INDIANS (16/16)
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
14. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (18/18)
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
15. MINNESOTA TWINS (10/10)
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