Sunday, August 21, 2011

Season 3 Draft Recap - The MLB

Winter numbs the pains of 31 clubs whose hopes were dashed, and the snow whitewashes the memories of even the ugliest seasons away. Come spring, hope returns and it fully blooms with the culmination of draft day.

I love how the draft is fittingly positioned in the middle of the early part of the season. The majority of us are still excited about our place in the standings, perhaps even dreaming of the prospects of a coveted playoff spot. That excitement peaks when the promise of the future arrives at our doorstep. Yet shortly after the draft ends and our attention turns back to the standings, the petals begin to fall off that new flower of the club and one by one, the heat of the long competitive summer wilts most teams away until, come fall, just a few remain.

But I’m not here to debate why baseball inspires more poetry than other sports. I’m here instead to spark debate about how each club did in the draft. Here’s my perspective. I encourage your observations in the blog:

(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 (once again, 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.)

*Jack Bush, RHP – Arizona continues to stockpile pitching talent by selecting an 18-year-old high school starter the second draft in a row. Bush has the big body necessary to become a workhorse in the rotation, and has an excellent work ethic. The latter is important, as he is an extremely raw talent that currently lacks command and will require lots of coaching to reach his lofty ceiling. As good as he could be, don’t expect to see him in the Show soon. His unusual delivery limits how hard he can throw but makes the ball extremely difficult to pick up. His four pitch arsenal is major league quality but not overpowering, and for the most part lacks a plus pitch. He’ll have trouble keeping the ball down, so batters will occasionally take advantage of his mistakes.

The Diamondbacks go on to make about as good a selection as they could with their 48th pick in the form of LF William Linton, who has few weaknesses but no overpowering strengths in his game. Shortstop Willie Benavente will need to develop to potential to have a shot at playing that position in the majors. Fourth-rounder centerfielder Edinson Goya has a nice eye for the strikezone but some holes in his defense and that right-handed glove may limit him to a corner outfield position.

If Bush develops to his potential, this is a fine draft for Arizona. I think there were safer bets in terms of development, and Arizona opts to bypass some kids on the brink of major league talent now to land a potentially extraordinary player at the most coveted spot – at the top of the rotation.

Overall Grade: A-

Henry Crosby, 2B – In contrast to Bush, Crosby has major-league talent at the tender age of 19. He is a five-tool talent at his position: he’ll hit for average, he’ll stroke the ball with occasional power, and he’ll torment pitchers with his speed. He’s not an extraordinary defender, but he’ll play slightly above average defense at a difficult position on the diamond. There are some questions surrounding the young star’s health, as he has had a number of concerns in the past, but his fall stops at #2 (right where I had him on my personal draft board). The Tigers are willing to look past that to land a rare all-around talent and land a potential big bat at a position that can be hard to find one.

The Tigers land a pair of corner infield prospects with their next two selections, as Hector Colin’s glove work and arm strength will be likely rule him out from holding down the job at short at the major league level. Fifth-rounder Bob Presley’s stuff may take him to deep into the Tigers minor league system but just shy of cracking the Show.

Overall Grade: A-

Christopher Mays, SP – Last season, there was so much rare position talent that five picks ran off the big board before another pitcher was selected. There was a return to the norm this season as the Nationals turned to Mays for their type D compensation selection at pick three. The right-hander has borderline major league command now but needs to work on his effectiveness against left-handed bats. His four-pitch repertoire includes a plus curveball and change-up, and he keeps the ball down in the zone to induce a lot of groundballs. He’s still building strength, and his fastball will punch batters out. He has all the makings of an effective starter in the Bigs.

Overall Grade: (see pick 14 and 26)

Byron Sullivan, RF – Sullivan’s bat instantly draws comparison to a player drafted two spots ahead of him: Henry Crosby. He’s a very similar hitter with a slightly better eye at the plate but makes slightly less consistent contact. He’ll make pitchers pay for mistakes, both with his bat and his speed. Sullivan is not a superb fielder however and will find likely find a home in left field at the major league level, but it won’t be long before he’s ready. One could argue that the Phillies should have been able to grab a top of the rotation guy or a skilled position player given the draft location, but given his advanced development, I’m certain his work with the bat will discredit the pundits.

Of their remaining selections, the Phillies find a diamond in the sand late in the second round with the selection of Heathcliff Haney from the town of Mcrae, Georgia. An 18-year-old with a fair bit of developing to do if he’s to find a position in the National League to play, “Double H” will do his best work at the plate. Third rounder Tom Decker also has major league potential.

Overall Grade: A-

Moises Gonzalez, C – The most-talented hitter in the draft, Gonzalez is ready to play ball in the AL right now and he only projects to grow more monstrous. He will not strike out much and he will crush mistakes. He drives the ball extremely well with enormous power. His only knock is that as a gifted athlete, he does not take his offseason work seriously and that’s a concern because the DH-less Astros are counting on him to get comfortable behind the plate. He’s well worth the risk.

Second-rounder SP Jack Jones managed to fall out of the first round somehow, and the Astros must have been pleasantly surprised to find him still lingering on the draft board. Jones is another raw high school talent that will need to be coached up to expectations, but if he manages to do so, the Astros get a decent starting pitcher with their 61st pick. Developmentally, Dennis Okajima is advanced and does not need much more work before being able to play shortstop admirably in the majors. Houston gets not just the best offensive threat in the draft but three pieces for the big league club, and therefore a good grade.

Overall Grade: A

Josias James, SS – High school players come with a certain amount of development risk, and James falls into that category. If he develops to potential, he could be an excellent shortstop. It’s also highly likely he’ll end up better suited defensively to play third given how much work needs to go into his defense. That’s fine however because James will drive the ball well with some power against both lefties and righties when he connects, which is usually what you like to see from your corner infielder. About the only thing that will drive the coaching staff crazy is his below average eye for the strike zone.

With two additional late first round supplemental selections, the Jazz select a couple of starting pitchers with major league potential and some solid talent to complement their first round find. James is a decent selection here and well worth the risk.

Overall Grade: A-

Brian Greenwood, CF – Last season, SP Dicky Jensen fell all the way to pick number 7 and into the hearts of Yankee fans. Blessed with the exact same pick this season, the Yankees turn away from the mound despite the presence of a couple good pitchers still available to select 18-year-old CF Greenwood. The high schooler will rarely swing at pitches off the plate and will make decent contact even when he does. While his glove needs a lot of work, it’s more likely that Greenwood will find a home in the majors at second base given his inability to see the ball very well coming off the bat. Even then, Greenwood will hit the ball with decent power.

New York’s second and third round selections both stand a decent chance of making the Show someday. Doug Lee plays a decent defensive game to go with an all-around bat. Louis Pride is wildly effective, fooling batters and sometimes himself with his stuff.

Overall Grade: B+

Alex Jiang – The first big reliever comes off the board at pick number eight, as the Giants take the quintessential fireman for their bullpen. Jiang has the durability to be an everyday reliever, which is frightening because the movement on his pitches are excellent and make him extremely difficult to hit from either side of the plate. His plus-plus curveball is guaranteed to bend a batter’s knees and leave him shaking his head as he walks back to the dugout. He also projects to have a plus fastball – which makes for a nice one-two punch.

The Giants fail to back up the selection. Supplemental first round shortstop Daryl Brush projects to be a below average defender at third base in the Bigs and has yet to sign, while little additional talent was gained in later rounds. That said, Jiang is a lock and a nice pick.

Overall Grade: C+

9. BOSTON RED SOX (16/16)
Scot Dickey, 2B – Dickey was not the first pick in the draft but held out for his services until he got first pick money – and the Red Sox front $6.5 million. Listed as a second baseman, there are some question marks about where he projects to play on the field in the majors. There’s little question as to where he’ll bat – the heart of the order. He projects to make solid contact with power, standing to hold his own against righties and lefties on the mound. It will be tempting to play Dickey in a corner outfield spot even though he’ll make some negative plays there.

Ismael Martin is a decent short reliever and a nice find at #65. J.D. Egan and Bill Savage’s have a lot of good qualities but their glaring lack of effectiveness will limit them to careers in the minors, unless the DITR tag comes calling some day.

Overall Grade: B

Lance Cornelius, RHP – Cornelius reminds me a lot of another pitcher taken in the draft – at number one: Rick Bush. Both 18-year-old’s have ace-high ceilings but must develop a lot to get there. Cornelius has a slight head start, but has a slightly lower ceiling. The big righty should be able to pitch deep into games, and his plus-plus knuckleball and plus slider and change-up pitches will baffle hitters. Coaches believe he’ll have pinpoint control, which is a must for a knuckleball pitcher – projecting to have a consistent delivery and release point on the pitch. He stands to strike out a ton of batters. When you’re comparing a player to the first pick of the draft, it’s safe to say he’s an excellent find with the tenth pick.

Lew Anderson has major league potential. He’s a good a defender with an average bat, and could be a nice utility player on the team someday. Murray Brower is a stolen base threat and an adequate defender – while he lacks the bat, he could find a home as a pinch runner and defensive substitute.

Overall Grade: A

Rick Smalley, LF – At the age of 22, Smalley is well-developed and his major league potential is more of a sure thing. He stands to mash left-handed pitching, driving the ball well with above average power. He’s less effective against righties, but makes good contact at the plate. Defensively his skill set will never put him in any position but left field or first base, but he’s extremely durable and will be a starter for most of the season. One would hope to land a pitcher or position player with a few more tools at this spot, but Smalley’s major league-certainty makes him hard to pass up.

Without a pick until round four, the Jays manage to grab a potential defensive shortstop but his glove may end up limiting him to third base, and he lacks some of the other tangible assets you like to see in a part time player at the Big League level. Bill Swisher is a decent find in the fifth round and defensively could play second base well.

Overall Grade: B-

12. NEW YORK METS (8/15)
Burt Scharein, SS – The Mets come up with a decent defender with the twelth pick. Scharein has pretty good defensive qualities at the age of 20, and he will need just a little polishing to take them to the next level. While his glove work will require the most coaching, he has the work ethic to get him there. If he does play shortstop in the majors, his bat will be his next greatest asset, as he will be an average hitter with some pop in his bat which is more than you can ask for from this position. Shortstops who can hit tend to be uncommon. There’s a lot of upside to this pick.

Of the Mets’ remaining selections, third rounder Matt Wall projects to be the best of the group. He is a bit like Scharein: a good defender with a little bit of a bat.

Overall Grade: B-

13. MONTREAL EXPOS (16/16)
Adam Olerud, RHP – Olerud has a lot going for him. He’s a borderline major league pitcher already but needs to work on his command. His average effectiveness will be offset by his plus sinker and plus-plus change-up. He throws hard and his control should develop well. Olerud curiously will start his training in rookie ball, but given his age and advanced development, I imagine he will be promoted quickly through the minor league system in order to develop to his full potential. Afterall, he’ll be in the starting rotation in two years.

With the 51st pick, the Expos continue to load up on skilled defensive players and nab Dexter McDowell, a shortstop who can get to grounders deep in the hole and have the strength to gun them down on the outfield grass. He’s easily platoonable against lefties. Second-rounder Dixie Wainwright could make the team in a set-up role someday. Looks like the Expos have a proven eye for talent and continue to add weapons to a fully-stocked farm system.

Overall Grade: A

Curtis Shelley, CF – With their second selection in the first round, the Nationals select a skilled position player in Shelley, who projects to have one of the better gloves in the draft. While he can’t get to every ball in the outfield, he will make the most of his diving grabs and make few mistakes. Unfortunately his handedness will not permit him to play second, where he could have been a gold glove candidate. At the plate, he has a good understanding of the strike zone and will drive the ball well against right-handed pitching. Finding a skilled position player who can hit late in the first half of the draft is as much as you can ask for with the 14th pick.

Overall Grade: (see pick 26)

Alex Guerrero, 1B – Given their limited budget, the Angels had to be pleased to see Guerrero still on the board at number 15 and quickly snapped the pure hitter up. The first baseman projects to swat the ball, making good contact with lots of power. He has the ability to drive the ball especially well against left-handed pitching. His above average eye will turn torch mistakes and solidify his OPS, which you want to see from your corner infielder.

The Angels late round selections have some holes in their games that one could quibble with. Ivy Doster has all the makings of a third baseman except the arm strength. He may end up holding down the right field corner instead but lacks the pop you’d like to see at that position. Bruce Swann has the command and gun you want to see from a Major League reliever, but he lacks anything close to resembling a plus pitch.

Overall Grade: C+

Victor Marquez, CF – Young skilled defensive players sometimes require a fair bit of developing, but Marquez doesn’t have to go far to nail down the starting job in center. That’s good news because his handedness won’t permit him to play his next natural position – second base. If Marquez develops to his potential, he should turn out to be an average centerfielder defensively. He has some good tangible assets you like to see from the position – he’ll have a good eye for balls and strikes at the plate, and he stands to steal 40 bags a season should he develop to potential.

Overall Grade: (see pick 27)

*Ben Bell, LHP – One of the few college players to slip past my scouting staff so far, the southpaw from Maryland throws hard and drives the ball down through the zone, so he gets a lot of grounders coming off the bat. His coaches will improve on this ability, and have high hopes to turn his sinker from major league quality right now to an nigh-untouchable plus-plus pitch. Bell is committed to working on it, and should deliver results. Bell is another advanced pitcher curiously tucked into rookie ball. No doubt he’ll be promoted quickly through the farm system where advanced coaching will help develop that pitch.

Of the Reds’ two remaining selections in rounds one thru five, Art Thornton has a possibility of making the Bigs as a starter, although his stuff isn’t overwhelming. Reese Girardi is a skilled defensive player who could platoon against lefties.

Overall Grade: B+

18. ATLANTA BRAVES (14/14)
Arnold Miller, 2B – While Miller lacks the range you like to see at the middle infield spot, his glovework is more than adequate and his abilities at the plate could make up for any run differentials in his game. Miller has an eagle’s eye and can pick up the ball well coming off the hand of the pitcher. He’ll rarely strike out and will drive the ball extremely well against left-handed pitching with average power. He has a hitch in his swing that he needs to work out, and will make average contact at the plate as a result despite his eye, but he has enough pop in it to turn some of those belt-high mistakes into souvenirs. While his speed is above average, he struggles to read a pitcher’s delivery and rarely gets the jump he needs to become a legitimate threat to steal a base.

Of the Braves’ remaining selections, second rounder Bill Kirwan will need to improve his effectiveness and drop that cut-fastball in order to make the Show someday. Nelson Hall could make the team as a defensive stopper at short.

Overall Grade: B

Raymond Trout, RHP – What’s a shame about Ray? The 20-year-old projects to be able to nip the corners with his pitches and expand the strike zone steadily over a game. His four-pitch arsenal includes a plus slider that right-handed batters can’t help but chase. One of the concerns scouts have over the pitcher however is his overall health, as he has pitched quite a bit in high school and college and has suffered some previous injuries to his throwing arm. If Trout can stay healthy through his development and career, he’s a bargain at pick 19.

The White Sox select a number of horseshoe players – oh so close, but not quite hitting the mark – in the remaining rounds. Johan Swann lacks the pop you normally like to see in a left fielder at the Big League level, but there’s an outside chance his speed and savvy on the base paths could one day land him there. Dustin Guerrero has borderline stuff, maybe just enough to push him over the AAA level. Vin Pena has decent pop in his bat and can back it up on the field as a potential utility player.

Overall Grade: C+

Sam Wolf, LHP – Negotiations with the head office in Denver are taking quite some time in Colorado, which is detrimental to the development of this young lefty waiting on the sidelines to start. Wolf has a high ceiling, but he’s going to require the most coaching and a lot of innings of work to achieve his dreams. Of the pitchers selected before him, Wolf is the rawest talent taken so far. Fortunately the kid has a good work ethic and will put in the time. His palmball is potentially a plus pitch, as is his slider. He’ll need to work on his mechanics a lot however to change his uneffective delivery. Don’t expect to see Wolf in the Bigs for some time.

Few of Colorado’s remaining selections project to make the club someday, but all will be fine minor leaguers. Mickey Sandberg has the best shot thanks to a devastating cuveball. His ability to induce a groundball will be a welcome asset at Coors Field.

Overall Grade: C+

Felipe Estrada, C – Ohio-native Estrada is a talented backstop and the second taken in the first round. Estrada is rarely fooled at the plate, combining a gifted eye for the strike zone with a smooth level swing that makes solid contact. He rarely pops up or hits a soft-grounder. Estrada would prove to be even more valuable if he had been blessed with some extra pop, but he’s still a rare commodity to find all the way down at pick 21, especially given the fact there will be no trade-off of defensive prowess for his bat. Estrada’s lack of work ethic is less a concern, as he’s fairly well-developed already.

The A’s continue to stockpile talent in later rounds, selecting Herbert Piper with their second pick. Piper’s defensive abilities and solid eye and contact project him to the Major League at second base or center, depending on how he develops. Rick Lane could be a solid defensive catcher with excellent pitch-calling ability and pop in his bat to boot, and given the lack of catching in the majors is a solid tradable asset at minimum.

Overall Grade: A

Carlos Amonte, RHP – Another effective sinker ball pitcher, Amonte’s first plus-pitch will induce a lot of groundballs and keep hitters contained in the yard. Like all other high school talent, he has a fair bit of developing to do and will require good coaching to reach his projections especially with regards to his command. Amonte’s limited effectiveness will be offset somewhat by another plus-pitch in the form of a forkball.

The Marlins proceed to collect pitching with their next four selections, all of which have varying levels of talent but are colored overall by their limited effectiveness against Big League hitting. There’s an outside chance that some, like Kelvim Yamaguchi, may make the club someday.

Overall Grade: B-

Murray Cintron, LHP – A durable starter, Cintron’s limited arsenal of pitches may affect his role on the Big League club. All three are above average however – he’ll toss few mistakes to batters. His command is average and he won’t overpower many batters. The fact he’s a southpaw should help elevate his value.

Overall Grade: (see pick 32)

*Adrian Barton, 2B – Another player my scouts let slip, which is a shame because he’d look so good in Cardinal-red. Barton is blazing fast, and his ability to get a good jump at first should improve over time enough to turn him into a legitimate base-stealing threat. He’ll have the speed to leg out a slow grounder or a hit deep into the hole. His decent eye and ability to drive the ball against righties should get him on base a lot. If there’s any knock against this kid, it’s that his defensive abilities may limit him to left field in the majors, which is not typically where you want to find your speed threat. My projections may not be the most accurate in the world however.

It appears that the Royals prioritized speed in their later selections, as all of the players taken have some threat to steal. They get Freddie Halton in the supplemental round, but his defense will limit his possibilities to a corner outfield spot at best, which essentially makes him a duplicate of Barton with less contact. Matt Ramsey has a short window of time to work on his defensive abilities in center to crack the big league line-ups, because his bat won’t get him there.

Overall Grade: B-

Barry Helton, LHP – Not budgeting a lot of resources to scouting coupled with picking late in the first round, it’s likely the Rays did not see much of the talent remaining on the board with the selection of Barry Helton. Helton struggles with his command, and he has a tendency to make a mistake now and then leaving a pitch over the plate, which limits his effectiveness. He throws extremely hard and has a show-stopper change-up that he uses to leave batters well out in front of the pitch. Helton will need to develop to his full potential to find a seat on the bench in the bullpen someday.

Only second rounder Todd Dickerson is in the fold so far, and he’ll only make the club as a left-handed specialist. Not much else was found in this disappointing draft for the Rays.

Overall Grade: D

*Domingo Velez, SS – It was a busy first round for the Nationals, who make their third selection of four first round picks (including the supplemental round) at number 26. They opt for a speedy infielder with an ability to draw the walk and hit with some power. While he’s listed as a shortstop, it’s likely he’ll be better suited to play second base in the majors.

Washington also walks away with a starting pitcher in the supplemental round. Doyle Hughes has adequate command and effectiveness, but the most remarkable characteristic he has going for him is his plus-plus four-seam fastball. If he develops to potential, Pinky Longoria has enough talent to crack the Majors. All of these selections provide a good foundation of talent for their farm system.

Overall Grade: A

Patrick Diggins, RHP – With their second selection in the first round, the Twins take a potential closer for their bullpen. There’s no question Diggins has electric stuff. As a high school selection, he’s going to take some time to develop to his full potential. He tires easily however, and he’s going to need to build up his in-game stamina in order to close an inning out. If he does live up to the billing, the Twins find an elite closer late.

Other notable selections include Randy Gilbert in the supplemental round. The first baseman has a solid hitter profile but lacks the pop in the bat commonly found in that position.

Overall Grade: B

Doc Holmes, RHP – The “Doctor” makes up for his lack of command by throwing hard. His plus-plus sinker drops through the zone, inducing a lot of groundballs if batters manage to connect with the pitch. His plus slider is equally devastating. He’ll walk more than his fair share of disciplined hitters, and he won’t have much time to work on his command before his turn in the Bigs arrives, so he’ll need to develop quickly.

In the supplemental round, the Cubs take a shortstop a few short picks before the Cardinals would have. Gary Easley projects to play excellent defense at short and has blazing speed to boot. He’ll have to cork his bat to have any power in his game but can get by on his speed in the right system.

Overall Grade: B

Aubrey Pavlik, RHP – With two consecutive picks in a row in the first round, we get to sneak a rare peek into how an owner ranks his players in the draft. Pavlik is equipped with four Major League quality pitches, but none of them are particularly outstanding. He’s big and strong enough to work deep into the game, and while he lacks an outstanding characteristic, he has few if any weaknesses. He won’t be a particularly overpowering pitcher, but he’ll be a capable bottom of the rotation starter.

Overall Grade: (see pick 30)

Hipolito Lima, RHP –A near identical starting pitcher, at 19 Lima is ahead of Pavlik in terms of development in nearly everything except for his stamina and durability. While the right-hander won’t recover nearly as quickly as Pavlik, he may be a more effective starter when he’s in the game. His change-up and slider have the potential to be a plus pitches, and both guys have four pitches in their arsenal. The Mariners grab two decent starters and hope one should develop into the Major League rotation in time.

What to make of the rest of the future Mariners? Of their numerous supplemental round selections, Brown is a nice pick at number 42 and should make the club as a starting catcher some day. Ruben Villalona has lights-out stuff to go with decent command. The coaches will need to make him as effective as possible against righties. Juan Perez likewise has the pitches and the make-up to set games up for the closer someday. Fonzie (“heeeeeey”) Upshaw has all the makings of a defensive shortstop with some ability to hit and could be a solid utility player in the Majors. There are a lot of guys with Big League potential in this fine crop.

Overall Grade: A

*Glendon Meluskey, LHP – Relying strictly on my advanced scouting, it looks as though the Orioles nab a starting pitcher late who has three tricks up his sleeve. All three are of major league quality and one could even pan out to be a plus pitch with some work. Meluskey throws hard and induces a lot of groundballs but driving the ball down through the zone. He’ll struggle with his command a bit and walk his fair share of hitters.

Charley Perez could find a role on the bench as a utility player someday. He has the baserunning speed and savvy to contribute as a pinch runner, and can hold down the fort at nearly any position on the field. Albert Morales has a similar make-up, and Brett Brewington has the defensive chops for the Majors as well.

Overall Grade: B+

*Quinton Valdes, RF – Another player that slipped past my scouts, Valdes is a high school talent that will need to marinate in the minors for some time to reach his potential. At the plate, Valdes has proven to have a good understanding of the strike zone and can make decent contact with the ball. He’ll need to work on his ability to drive it while working through the farm system. Defensively, he’ll have to develop to his potential to secure the right field job.

Howard Munro has the odd-combination of the stamina to start a game, but he’ll be able to pitch once a week as a starter, at best. The Dodgers have him wisely committed to bullpen currently to limit his innings.

Overall Grade: C+

*Orval Raben, LF – After seeing 23 of the first 25 picks in the draft, my scouts have missed three players in a row. Raben looks to have that decent eye and pop in the bat you look for in a power hitter at a corner outfield or first base position but not much else. While his contact may bloom, he may struggle a little against Major League pitching especially if it doesn’t. The good news is he is only 18 and has a lot of time to develop to his potential.

The Rangers only sign one more player in their top five selections, Erubiel Gomez, to their rookie league. An extremely raw talent with poor command, he’ll hit a lot of batters along the way to progressing to his future which I believe will top out at AAA.

Overall Grade: C

Bonk Stein, C – The Cardinals select a catcher late in the first round supplemental rounds. Stein is fairly well developed at the age of 22, and has good power and a good eye for the strike zone. He hits lefties far better than righties. His defensive abilities are somewhat suspect, with his glove being his greatest concern. The Cardinals are gambling that coming off the bench against left-handed pitching will keep the passed balls Stein allows to a minimum.

Overall Grade: (to be ranked by another owner)

Eugene Dixon, SS – Without a pick until number 85 overall, the Pirates take the underwhelming Dixon. His defense looks to make him a better candidate for third base, but his bat will never carry the day there. He remains unsigned as of this hour.

Norman Serra has the potential to play shortstop and finds himself in rookie ball. I like his selection a little more than Dixon. Wandy Sanchez has speed and base-running savvy, but not much more. Overall it’s a disappointing draft for Pittsburgh, but likely not unexpected given their draft position.

Overall Grade: D

*Hensley Latham – Picking at number 87, one rarely finds first round talent. Given that Latham remains unsigned and my scouts never saw him, it’s likely that he’s a trash pick. That’s unfortunate given how savvy the Brewers can be drafting. There are few owners however that could spit shine pick 85 or 87 and make them look good.

Jerome Henderson has the pop in his bat to suitably platoon at third should he not develop to his shortstop potential. None of Milwaukee’s trio of pitchers selected in rounds four thru six stand a chance at a successful career in the Bigs.

Overall Grade: C-

Monday, August 8, 2011

Top Prospects - San Diego Through Washington

San Diego Padres
Five Star: SP Phillip Lowery
Four Star: SP Ken Smith
Three Star: CF Phil Gonzales
Two Star: SS Wes Sheehan, RF Jesus Bennett
One Star: C Tim Rhodes, 1B Iago Blue, SS Bernard Townsend, SP Louie Campbell, SP Humberto Pujols, SP Pete Gil, RP Butch Black, RP Lorenzo Mondesi
Top STUD: Phillip Lowery - It's no surprise that Lowery is the class of the Padres farm system.  He's a dominating #1 starter who should have a tremendous time pitching in San Diego in a season or two.
Farm Grade: A-,The Padres have a nice and well rounded minor league system with a few elite talents and lots of ML quality players behind them.

San Francisco Giants

Five Star: None
Four Star: RF P.J. Cheney
Three Star: LF Pete Thurman,
Two Star: 2B Ivan Tejera,
One Star: 1B Asdrubal Aquino, 2B Magglio Acosta, SS Iago Dixon, CF Will Valentine, RF Felix Boone, RP John Harper.
Top STUD: P.J. Cheney - Cheney is an OBP RF with an elite defensive skillset for the position.  The only thing keeping him from being a 5 star player is his lack of power, but everything else says ML starter.
Farm Grade: B-,The Giants have some nice position players but don't have much in the way of pitching in the minors, and the overall depth is only average at best.

Seattle Mariners

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Fritz Gray
Three Star: LF Cliff Drew, RF Rich Coco
Two Star: None
One Star: 1B Joaquin Hernandez, SS Omar Carrasco, RP Artie Blackburn
Top STUD: Fritz Gray - Gray is a top notch control pitcher with high heat and great splits.  His pitch selection is above average, and he has the tools to be a #1/#2 starter in the majors depending on the situation.
Farm Grade: C-, The Mariners have three very nice prospects, but not much else in their minors. 

St. Louis Cardinals

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Johan Springer, SP Corey Griffin,
Three Star: 2B Bucky Stults
Two Star: 1B Claudio Gray, 3B Roy Ojala, SP Brook Douglass, SP Ron Garcia, SP Phillip Worthington, RP Earl King
One Star:  SP Mark Prince, SP Juan Velazquez, RP Bud Lackey
Top STUD: Corey Griffin - This could have easily been Johan Springer, who is a virtual carbon copy of Griffin, but Griffin is a lefty, so he gets the edge.  Definite top of the rotation starter.
Farm Grade: A-, The Cards don't have a lot in the way of position players in their minors, but their pitching depth is just ridiculous, enough to fill out two rotations in the majors.

Tampa Bay Rays

Five Star: None
Four Star: 1B Sam Presley
Three Star: LF Miguel Pineiro
Two Star: None
One Star: 2B Cleatus Silvestri, 3B Jayson Cowgill, CF Grant McDonald, RP Darryl Hampton
Top STUD: Sam Presley - Presley is everything you could want in an everyday 1B, a huge bat, and well, a huge bat. 
Farm Grade: C-, Presley and Pineiro are keepers, but there is virtually nothing in the way of pitching in the Rays minors, and not much depth elsewhere besides.

Texas Rangers

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Willie Parrott
Three Star: SS Andy Hume, RP Ronald Roosevelt
Two Star: 2B Brian Kim
One Star: 3B Pascual Jimenez, CF Ira Ramsay, SP Steven Harper, RP Bernie Rivers
Top STUD: Willie Parrott - Parrot is a five pitch workhorse SP with top splits vs. righties.  His control is a little weak to be a 5 star prospect, but he is a definite top of the line SP.
Farm Grade: C, The Rangers farm system has some good talent, but outside of Parrott none of it is truly top flight.  Hume shows an amazing glove however and has great potential.  The rest of the minors are kind of thin and filled with role players.

Toronto Blue JaysFive Star: None
Four Star: None
Three Star: J.J. Hegan
Two Star: SS George Wright, RP Yusmeiro Sosa
One Star: 1B Patrick McNamara, 2B Brace Thomas, SS Walt Hudson, CF Guy Phillips
Top STUD: J.J. Hegan - Hegan is a mid rotation starter who keeps the ball down.  He has above average splits, three good pitches, but does have control issues. 
Farm Grade: D, Hegan has ML starter potential, but the rest of the Blue Jays minors are filled with players who are best suited to be role players off the bench. 

Washington D.C. Nationals

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Raymond Small
Three Star: None
Two Star: RP Julio Franco
One Star: C Wayne Kipnis, 1B Einar Panaigua, SS Midre James, SS Ugueth Cordero, LF Felix Ming, Louie Camacho, SP P.T. Reynoso
Top STUD: Raymond Small - Small essentially is the Nats farm system at the moment, a five quality pitch SP with above average splits and solid control. 
Farm Grade: D-, If it weren't for Small this would have been an F, as there is little to nothing in the Nationals minor leagues.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Top Prospects - Minnesota through Pittsburgh

Minnesota Twins
Five Star: None
Four Star: None
Three Star: 3B Al Javier
Two Star: CF Darwin Corcoran, RP Carl Richard
One Star: 2B Sting Karl, SS Glenn Sweeney, CF Pedro Alcantara
Top STUD: Al Javier is the class of the Twins minors, a solid 3B prospect with above average power, a decent bat elsewhere and solid but not specatcular defensive skills.
Farm Grade: D-, Outside of Javier there aren't a whole lot of players in the Twins minor leagues who will make an impact at the ML level.

Montreal Expos

Five Star: SS Damaso Romero, SP Phillip Priddy
Four Star: SS Edinson Cruz, SS Ronnie Robinson
Three Star: CF Brett Roosevelt
Two Star: SP Brandon Stargell,
One Star: 1B Jeremy Pettyjohn, SP Jarrod Nichols, SP Ruben Nieves, SP Garrett Glynn
Top STUD: Damaso Romero - It wasn't easy to choose between Romero and Priddy, but Romero features such a rare combo of bat, glove, and speed at the SS position that he gets the edge. 
Farm Grade: A+, Minor league depth doesn't get any better then this.  The Expos farm system is so loaded with impact prospects it isn't funny.

New Orleans Jazz

Five Star:
Four Star: SP Gabe Fisher
Three Star: 2B Danny Lee, SP Nolan McGowan
Two Star: LF Davey Martin, SP Jose Guzman, SP James Cooper
One Star: DH Luis Ortiz
Top STUD: Gabe Fisher - Fisher is a control pitcher who relies more on pitch placement instead of power.  he has pinpoint control and above average splits, and good enough pitches to be a reliable #2 starter, possibly a #1 depending on the team.
Farm Grade: C-,There are some decent players here, but high quality depth is lacking in the Jazz minor leagues.

New York Mets

Five Star:
Four Star:
Three Star:
Two Star: C Del Duran, SP Glenn Peterson
One Star: 1B Fernando Gomez, 2B Ken Bynum, CF Lynn Price, SP Rafael Acevedo, SP Hersh Shumaker
Top STUD: Del Duran - Duran is a slugging catcher with a great arm.  His pitch calling is only average, but he will be useful in the majors.
Farm Grade: F, There isn't much to write home about here, the Mets best prospects are already playing on the big league team.  

New York Yankees

Five Star: SP Dickey Jensen
Four Star: LF Allan Withers
Three Star: C Jermaine Gorecki, 2B Ismael Coronado, SP Raul Megias, RP Ralph Serrano
Two Star: 2B Jerry Hayes
One Star: 3B Vicente Castro, CF Kelvin Patel, RF Juan Prieto
Top STUD: Dickey Jensen - Jensen will be a beast SP when he hits the majors, he could be a complete game machine capable of reaching 280+ IP in a season.
Farm Grade: B+, Jensen is a can't miss, and there are quite a few other useful players in the Yanks farm system.  Honorable mention goes to Yankees SP prospect Bob Evans, who is currently residing down on the farm.

Oakland Athletics

Five Star:
Four Star:
Three Star: SS Benj Fox, RF Kenny Francis
Two Star:RF J.C. Westbrook, RP David Knowles, RP Willie Pulido
One Star: CF Henry Jacquez, SP Doug Jackson, SP Ronald Cooney, C Juan Rosa
Top STUD: Benj Fox - Francis may have the more lethal bat, but Fox shows the potential to play all fielding positions well.  He has a great bat, great eye, solidly balanced glove, and can even bunt well.
Farm Grade: C+, The A's farm system is solid but not spectacular.  There are quite a few good prospects but not a lot of top tier depth.

Philadelphia Phillies

Five Star:
Four Star: 3B Dan George
Three Star: 2B Willie Donnelly
Two Star: 1B Alejandro Herrera, CF Juan Julio, SP Scooter Woolf, RP Pascual Maduro
One Star: LF Jack Goodwin, SP Andres Rosado
Top STUD: Dan George - George shows elite splits and batting eye, and should be an on base machine in the bigs.  His glove is probably better suited to RF however.
Farm Grade: B-, There is decent depth top to bottom, but not much in the way of spectacular mind blowing talent.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Five Star:
Four Star:
Three Star: SS Chad York, SP Frank Becker
Two Star: CF Javier Rodriguez, RF Ron Forbes, RP Fred Werth
One Star: 3B Duke Strittmatter, SS Trenidad Owen, SP Jackson Fields, RP Eddie Hatcher
Top STUD: Chad York - His glove is probably better suited to 3B, but his bat is probably good enough to justify the move. 
Farm Grade: D+, There is some solid depth, but mostly of role player prospects.  There aren't more then a few ML starters at best for the Pirates minor leagues though.

Top Prospects - Cleveland through Milwaukee

Cleveland Indians
Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Julian Porter
Three Star: C Randy Washington, 2B Ebenezer Wells, RP Clay Choo
Two Star: 1B Mendy Frank, CF Babe Coggin, SP Don Aoki
One Star: 2B Andres Sivilla, SS Alex Sizemore, CF Rich Martin, SP Eugene Christensen
Top STUD: Julian Porter - Porter is a workhorse SP with high control and the very rare sight of five top tier pitches.  With his skills vs. righties he has a very bright ML future.
Farm Grade: B+, While there isn't a lot of top tier depth in the Tribes farm system, it is full of quality B level players who will be solid starters at the ML level. 

Colorado Rockies

Five Star: 1B Kordell Stanley
Four Star: CF Raymond Harris, RF Yovani Rijo
Three Star:  LF Dutch Badenhop, SP Bernard Hollins
Two Star: SS Jesus Bonilla, SP Heath Tewksberry
One Star: DH/C Felipe Mesa, RF Rock Perry, RP Jason Reese, RP Al Mendoza
Top STUD: Kordell Stanley - He has a murderous bat, and when you consider the possibility of him plying his trade in Colorado, visions of MVP numbers start dancing through your head.
Farm Grade: A-, There is a lot to like about this farm system, it is loaded with quality hitters.  The pitching depth is only ok, but there is enough there to help the ML club when the time comes.

Detroit Tigers

Five Star: RP Willie Aldridge
Four Star: CF Kane Duncan, SP Andy Benjamin
Three Star: SP Pat Palmer, SP Fred Parker
Two Star: 2B Hal Sample
One Star: C Vic Shea, LF Monte Randall
Top STUD: Willie Aldridge - Aldridge has what it takes to be a shutdown closer who can pitch 2 innings per appearance.  That kind of arm in the bullpen is quite valuable, and makes him the Tigers top STUD.
Farm Grade: B-, The Tigers have several top flight prospects, but the depth after them is pretty thin.

Florida Marlins

Five Star: SP Seth Wall
Four Star: None
Three Star:  SP Bobby Phillips
Two Star: SS Carl Marte, SS Pedro Flores, SP Brendan Myatt
One Star: 1B Ozzie Caseres
Top STUD: Seth Wall - Wall is easily the best prospect in the Marlins system, it isn't close.  Future #1 SP ace with dominating stuff, and massive K/IP ratio potential.
Farm Grade: C+, Wall is awesome, and the Marlins have 3-5 other future ML starters, but after them the dropoff in talent is precipitous. 

Houston Astros

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Rob Tipton
Three Star: SP Ignacio Polanco
Two Star: SS Robinzon Bourginal, SP Davey Sosa
One Star: SS Douglas House, CF Santiago Johnson, 1B Vladimir Gutierrez
Top STUD: Rob Tipton - Tipton projects to be a #1/#2 starter with great control and splits and throws with heat.  Most teams would be happy to have him in their minor leagues.
Farm Grade: C-, Tipton and Polanco show big promise, but the rest of the Astros farm system will need some breaks to make it as ML starters.

Kansas City Royals

Five Star: None
Four Star: CF Marino Taverez
Three Star: SS Doug Joyce
Two Star: SS Nipsey Baez
One Star: 3B Santiago Gabriel
Top STUD: Marino Taverez  - Tavarez is a five tool player, and will be a sure starter in the majors.
Farm Grade: D-, After Taverez and a pair of elite defensive shortstops in Joyce and Baez, there really just isn't much in the Royals minors to speak of at all.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Five Star: None
Four Star: C Donnie McInerney, LF Humberto Posada, SP Charlie Cecil
Three Star: None
Two Star: 2B Bartolo Moreno
One Star: RP Ismail Cruz
Top STUD: Humberto Posada - Posada is a crusher at the plate, and if he fully develops his power along with the rest of his bat, he could produce 40+ HR's on a regular basis even in the pitchers haven of Chavez Ravine.
Farm Grade: B+, There is a lot to like about the Dodgers farm system, with three top tier prospects, including an elite catcher, which are very hard to come by these days.

Milwaukee Brewers

Five Star: None
Four Star: SP Adam Bowen
Three Star: 2B Albert Cruz, SP Ellie Breslow
Two Star: CF Crash Slocumb
One Star: SS Harry Costilla, RP Donatello Farrell
Top STUD: Adam Bowen - It's a shame Bowen doesn't have more stamina, if he could manage more then 5 IP per outing he would easily be a 5 star prospect.
Farm Grade: B-, There is some good pitching depth and a couple of nice role player position prospects, but outside of Bowen there isn't a show stopper in the rest of the Brew Crews minor leagues.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top Prospects - Anaheim through Cincinnati

Today I'll be looking at the top prospects for each team in MLB.  I will highlight at least one prospect per team, more if there are notable studs that need to be mentioned.  As an extra bonus, each franchise will get an overall farm system grade.  The methodology used for this highly scientific study is the Skills, Technique, and Understanding Diagnostic (STUD) Rating.  Comments and especially complaints can be referred to the editor.

Anaheim Angels
Five Star: None
Four Star: RF Howard Coghlan
Three Star: 2B Alex Dodson
Two Star: SS Rudy Pavlov, 1B Tito Mays
One Star: C Rey Sowders
Top STUD: Howard Coghlan - Coghlan shows good contact and power, but with only average splits and eye.  He has good defensive skills for the position and is quite durable. 
Farm Grade: B-, There are a few good hitting prospects here, but the pitching depth is next to nothing in the minors.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Five Star: SP Dave Lester
Four Star: SP Walter Gray
Three Star: SP Brandon Dickey, RP Kendry Cornejo
Two Star: 1B Jeff Bonds, SP Butch Reese
One Star: CF Khoury Harper, SP Chili Bang
Top STUD: Dave Lester - It's not even close, Lester is a safe bet to be a dominant all time great #1 starter barring injury, he's the class of the farm.
Farm Grade: A, The hitting depth isn't there in the Arizona minor leagues, but their pitching depth is so deep that they deserve the grade A rating.

Atlanta Braves
Five Star: None
Four Star: RP Rolando Polonia
Three Star: SP Akinori Zhang
Two Star: C Dickey Ma, LF Lou Cunningham, SP JP Maduro
One Star: 2B Felipe Rosario, CF Jhonny Mercedes, RF Ken Courtney
Top STUD: Rolando Polonia - He's a hard throwing RP with great control and splits, and can spot start if need be.  He'll be good for 140+ quality IP in the majors.
Farm Grade: C, This farm system is solid but not spectacular, and Polonia just makes a four star rating and is probably more of a 3.5 star player.  But there are some good role players waiting for their chance to help the ML club.

Baltimore Orioles
Five Star: 1B Alex Hart
Four Star: SP Rod Maurer, RP Vin Cueto
Three Star: SP Bryant Koskie, SP Reese Glauber
Two Star: None
One Star: C Harold Gross, SS Mo Brunette,
Top STUD: Hart may be five star for his position, but the top STUD in this system is SP Rod Maurer, who will be a workhorse #1 quality starter in the majors if he meets his projections.
Farm Grade: A, This is a very deep and varied farm system with one major bat and some top pitching prospects.

Boston Red Sox
Five Star: None
Four Star: SS Carlos Rivera
Three Star: 3B Travis Brownson
Two Star: C Micah Mitchell, SP Brutus Shumpert
One Star: 2B Roy Abbey, SS Thurman Gordon, CF Stevie Keppel, RP Alvin Orr, RP Cory Smith
Top STUD: Carlos Rivera - Rivera is probably better suited to 3B, but he is an on base machine with a pretty good glove.
Farm Grade: C+, there are a few top hitting prospects here, but not much in the way of top end talent otherwise.

Chicago Cubs
Five Star: None
Four Star: 2B Jerome Lanier
Three Star: SP Stan Foster, SP Fergie Romero, RP Cookie Alfonzo, LF Carlos Henriquez
Two Star: SS Wikin Calles
One Star: C Al Guzman, 2B Peter Sasser
Top STUD: Jerome Lanier - Lanier shows exceptional range and has good enough defensive skills to manage the hot corner if needed.  His bat is solid, very good vs. lefties and shows no real weakness. 
Farm Grade: B+, Outside of Lanier, there are a lot of very solid players in this farm system who will be ML starters someday. 

Chicago White Sox
Five Star: SP Omar Mercado
Four Star: RP Mac Kirkland
Three Star: SP Vicente Miranda, RP Buddy Borders, RP Alexander White, RP Don Plant
Two Star: C Daryl Hines, SS Tomas Belliard, SP Jo-Jo Poole
One Star: 2B Geovany Perez, 2B Barney McNeil, SP Cord Duffey
Top STUD: Omar Mercado - Mercado is the class of the White Sox minors, a true #1 Ace who is being eagerly looked forward to on the south side.
Farm Grade: A, There is some monster pitching depth down on the Sox farm.  If they can get a hitter or two they will be absolutely deadly in a few seasons.

Cincinnati Reds
Five Star: None
Four Star: None
Three Star: None
Two Star: DH Larry Branning, CF Tomas Rios
One Star: 2B Eugene Pulsipher, SS Timothy Randa, LF Bernie Panaigua, SP Jim Baxter, SP Matthew Dorsey
Top STUD: Larry Branning - Of all the minor leaguers in the Reds system, only Branning really has the elite skillset to make it as a starter, albeit only as a DH.  But his bat is legitmately lethal.
Farm Grade: D, There isn't much going on down on this farm, look for your square dances and sweet corn elsewhere.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Clocking In

Some talented rookies make their appearances in the big leagues this week with the potential to alter a team’s fortunes this season. These late spring call-ups are significant because they are normally impact players left to marinate in the minors at the start of the season in order to delay their service clock.

Here are the top minor league players called up in order of their impact potential:

Carlos Ordaz, LF Milwaukee Brewers
Blessed with a smooth swing, it’s almost unfair that Ordaz also has an excellent understanding of the strike zone. Unfortunately for opposing pitchers, he will drive the ball well, hitting for both average and power. Ordaz is clearly in the majors for his bat, because his defense is nothing to get excited about. While his durability likely won’t permit him to play every game, expect to see 22-year-old in left field every game they need him for years to come.

Shayne Everett, COF, Oakland Athletics
Everett has an elite understanding of the strike zone, forcing pitchers to throw the ball above the knees and below the letters in order to get his bat in motion. When they do, he will rarely strike out. He stands to drive the ball equally well against lefties and righties with a bit of power. Everett’s defensive skills are nothing to write home about, and he is better suited to hold down left field.

Sawyer Cross, SP, Montreal Expos
The Expos add a weapon to the starting rotation in Cross, a pitcher who throws hard and has decent control. His five-pitch repertoire includes four quality pitches that will keep opponents off-balanced and guessing, and he has the stamina to pitch deep into games. Cross will be relied upon heavily in the Expos push to take the division.

Elmer Kozlowski, RP, Baltimore Orioles
Kozlowski stands to play a very big role in the Orioles bullpen, either as a set-up man or a closer. The young righthander throws a fastball with excellent movement on it while keeping batters off-balanced with a decent curveball. He is tougher on righties than lefties and is durable enough to make regular appearances and shorten the game by an inning or two for the starters.

Ariel Mateo, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals top prospect gets his chance at the majors starting at first base. Blessed with good speed, Mateo’s outstanding quality is his ability to hit for nearly pure power. He will drive the ball decently against both lefties and righties but has average contact and can be fooled into swinging at pitches outside the zone at the plate.

Andy Montague, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
The Massachusetts-native has a good understanding of the strike zone and decent pop in his bat, but not the normal power you might expect to see at the hot corner. His defense leads you to believe he’s better suited in a corner outfield position, but the Cardinals pencil him in at third given they are reluctant to remove the streaking Quinton Austin from the line-up.

David Macias, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
You could quibble about Macias not having the best glove to play short, but there’s not much else not to like about this player. He will get to a lot of grounders that might normally find a hole on the left side of the infield, and he has the strength to gun the runner down. Macias will make contact a lot and drive the ball decently against right-handed pitching. He has average power and will occasionally swing at pitches he shouldn’t.