MLB Draft First Round Recap
Major League Baseball held its annual First Year Player draft this week, so let’s take a quick look at the first round results. Many of these names are ones you’re going to be hearing a lot about from a fantasy perspective, some sooner than others. So it’s never too early to familiarize yourself with them, especially in keeper leagues.
1. Tampa Bay Rays – Timothy Beckham, SS, Griffin HS (Georgia): This five-tool player was atop pretty much every pre-draft list, so this selection shocked exactly no one. As if the Rays didn’t have enough young talent already, within two or three years, this 18-year-old will be manning shortstop for this team. Beckham is a superb athlete who was the clear cut best available high school player this year.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt U.: Alvarez is another good athlete, and his bat is his best tool. From a very young age, this kid differentiated himself with his powerhouse tendencies. Considered the best third baseman in college ball, Alvarez is a good runner, and described by his coach as a real leader. The 21-year-old New York native was drafted by Boston in the 14th round in 2005 out of high school. Obviously, opting for college did him and his draft status wonders.
3. Kansas City Royals – Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage School (Florida): This guy’s got some serious pop, even to the opposite field, and small wonder with a 6’4”, 215-pound frame that still has filling out to do at his tender age of 18. He’s blessed with a very natural left-handed swing that will probably require very little tinkering, so Hosmer has a chance to move through the Royals’ system quickly. He’s been lauded for owning a very advanced bat for a high school player.
4. Baltimore Orioles – Brian Matusz, LHP, U of San Diego: This 21-year-old southpaw, the first pitcher taken in the draft, has long been a fixture on the various pre-season college award watch lists. He’s reached 94 mph, but tends to comfortably pitch in the high 80s, low 90s. Matusz’s delivery seems fairly low-effort, so he should maintain the good health he’s experienced up until now. Matusz was a big-time high school prospect, but because of his salary demands, he slipped until the fourth round when he was first drafted, opting to go to USD when negotiations broke down with the Angels.
5. San Francisco Giants – Gerald Posey, C, Florida St. U: More commonly known as “Buster,” Posey is an All-American who has a chance to become the Giants’ starting catcher in the not-too-distant future. Certainly, there’s plenty of opportunity in this organization, still fairly barren, although on the rebound after years of being unable to produce position players. The 21-year-old not only can hit, but he has a chance to stay behind the plate, and that’s a rare commodity.
6. Florida Marlins – Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS (California): The Giants started a mini run on catchers here, with the Marlins grabbing the first high school backstop in Skipworth. This continues a trend for Florida of selecting power hitting high school prospects in the first round, something the team also did last season. This 18-year-old has a nice line-drive stroke from the left side of the plate. Skipworth will face what most young catchers – especially from the high school ranks – have to deal with, specifically, questions about his ability to hit enough while also remaining behind the plate. However, Skipworth really opened eyes at the prospect showcases in the last year, soaring up the rankings in the process. At one point this season, he set a new state record with 18 consecutive hits, reaching base in 25 straight plate appearances along the way. I guess that’ll do.
7. Cincinnati Reds – Yonder Alonso, 1B, U of Miami: Alonso arrived in the U.S. from Cuba at the age of seven. Now 21, he’s coming off a season with the Hurricanes in which he was a Louisville Slugger Pre-season Second Team All-American, bagging a couple ACC Player of the Week Awards along the way. Alonso has good bloodlines, as his father was a professional catcher and first baseman in Cuba. He’s adept at driving the ball the other way, and projects as a tremendous run producer.
8. Chicago White Sox – James Beckham, SS, U of Georgia: The second Beckham taken (no relation) is also a middle infielder, an area the Sox have lacked depth at for some time. The A’s were said to be after him, hoping to convert Beckham into a second baseman, something that’s likely to happen to him in any organization. Apparently, he isn’t the type of prospect that will jump out at you at first blush, but he does a lot of things well, including hitting with some surprising power.
9. Washington Nationals – Aaron Crow, RHP, U of Missouri Columbia: This 21-year-old righty was another pre-season All-American. Crow first gained national attention by being named the top prospect of the Cape Code Summer League in 2007. Some have questioned how durable he’ll be as a pro, but he set a Missouri school record for starts in a season in 2007. Crow is able to crank it up to 96 mph – fast enough to become the first righty taken off the draft board this year.
10. Houston Astros – Jason Castro, C, Stanford: Castro, not to be confused with the American Idol contestant, believes he’ll sign with the Astros shortly after Stanford’s season ends, and you’ve got to believe Houston will be motivated to get his name on the dotted line after failing to sign its top pick last year. The third catcher taken in the top ten picks, Castro is enjoying a breakout year for the Cardinal, leading the team in hitting. Last month, he was named a semifinalist for the 2008 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award, given to the top collegiate catcher in the game. Houston surprised some by grabbing Castro this soon, especially considering he has shown himself to be vulnerable to change-ups.
11. Texas Rangers – Justin Smoak, 1B, U of South Carolina: The Rangers have done a great job restocking their farm system with recent trades. The selection of Smoak continues that process. Another pre-season All-American, Smoak was considered the third best college prospect heading into the season, but he slipped in the rankings. Regardless, Texas may have landed itself a steal in this 21-year-old, who was the 2006 Cade Cod League MVP. He certainly excited plenty of Gamecock fans with his power. Lauded for his swing mechanics, Smoak is a powerful switch-hitter in the Mark Teixeira/Chipper Jones mold. For the Rangers, it’s the ideal acquisition after they dealt away Teixeira last season.
12. Oakland A’s – Jemile Weeks, 2B, U of Miami: Like many first rounders, Weeks was a pre-season All-American. The 21-year-old is the younger brother of Rickie, currently manning second for the Brew Crew. A prototypical lead-off man, Weeks will add a dimension to the A’s they aren’t exactly known for in recent years – blazing speed. Here’s a closer look at the kid, who gained great big game experience in this year’s College World Series. The second of three Hurricanes to hear their name called in the first round, Weeks was originally selected by Milwaukee in the eighth round of the 2005 draft. But just like it did for his older brother, going to college really helped improve Jemile’s draft stock.
13. St. Louis Cardinals – Brett Wallace, 3B, Arizona St. U: The Cards were very intrigued with the bat this 21-year-old wields. The 2007 Pac 10 Player of the Year (and Triple Crown winner), Wallace is considered among the best hitters in college ball, known for his fantastic patience. Originally drafted in the 42nd round by the Jays in 2005, Wallace opted to go to college instead as he always wanted to be a Sun Devil. Smart call, as he’s now among the top power prospects in the game. He projects as a first baseman as a pro.
14. Minnesota Twins – Aaron Hicks, OF, Woodrow Wilson HS (California): This 18-year-old is considered a premium athlete and was lauded as the best two-way star in his draft class. His future is as an outfielder, however, not on the mound. Hicks was a run machine this year, scoring 50 times in just 34 games. He’s quite small right now, but some think he projects to have five-tool potential because of his incredible athleticism. For a high school player, this pick is a tremendously safe one for the Twinkies.
15. Los Angeles Dodgers – Ethan Martin, RHP, Stephens County School (Georgia): Martin, who turned 19 Friday, is all about power. He has a fantastic arm and can smack the hell out of the ball at the plate. Originally considered a two-way possibility, Martin’s maturation on the mound has dictated that his future will be as a pitcher. He was reaching 95 mph over a year ago, and has been clocked up to 96 more recently. Martin has the athleticism and confidence to rise quickly through a Dodgers system known for developing high school pitchers.
16. Milwaukee Brewers – Brett Lawrie, C, Brookswood SS (British Columbia): The fourth catcher taken in the first 16 picks – sensing a trend yet? – was the first Canadian taken off the board. Catcher is a position the Brewers have struggled to find consistent offense from for many years. Jason Kendall is obviously on his way out, and backup Mike Rivera, at 31, isn’t much younger. The team does have a couple of catching prospects in the pipeline, but Lawrie immediately takes the mantle as the catcher of the future. The highest Canadian position player taken in the draft since 1985, Lawrie could be part of the nation’s baseball entry at the Olympics this summer. This 18-year-old has strong hands and was the MVP of the Canadian National Junior Team, attracting plenty of media attention for his efforts.
17. Toronto Blue Jays – David Cooper, 1B, UC Berkeley: The Jays were said to be interested in Lawrie, but once he was taken off the board, they opted for the best available player remaining on their list in Cooper. The 2007 All-Pac 10 selection also took home the California Student-Athlete of the Week honour on March 31 of this year. Not only did he lead the Bears in home runs, but he also paced the team in walks – a very nice combination of power and patience. Cooper is known for his quiet and easy left-handed swing, but he’s capable of making plenty of noise on the stat sheet. His advanced bat is exactly what this team needs as it struggles on offense. Cooper should be able to move very quickly — the sooner, the better as far as Toronto is concerned.
18. New York Mets – Isaac Davis, 1B, Arizona St. U: Isaac Davis, the son of former Yankee pitcher Ron Davis, became the fifth first baseman taken. Adding a blue chip prospect like Davis is huge for the Mets, who have dealt away much of their system depth in recent years. Tampa Bay picked this now 21-year-old in the 19th round in 2005, but like many youngsters taken out of high school, opting for college was a wise move for Davis. He is projected to be able to hit for more power as he matures.
19. Chicago Cubs – Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian U: For the second straight season, the Cubs selected this 6’6” right-handed hurler. Last year, they took him in the 29th round, but he opted to head back to college. The year before, the Rox picked him in the 18th round. Apparently, the Cubs don’t believe signing the 21-year-old this time around will be problematic. The reliever has come a long way in the past year, upping his velocity to the 97-98 mph range, so surely the Cubbies will be falling over themselves to get Cashner’s John Hancock on a contract. College closers have made it to the majors very quickly in recent years, with mixed results. The Cubs seem content with Kerry Wood at closer for the time being, and have Carlos Marmol at the ready should he be needed when Wood breaks down again, so there’s no reason to rush Cashner. Of course, they have to sign him first.
20. Seattle Mariners – Joshua Fields, RHP, U of Georgia: Let the run on college closers begin! Taken by the Braves in the second round last year, Fields, who had a sos-so junior season, opted to head back for his senior season. Of course, the fact that he was represented by Scott Boras and negotiations didn’t go his way didn’t help matters. Now, Fields says he hopes to be in the majors by 2009. Here’s a look at him.
21. Detroit Tigers – Ryan Perry, RHP, U of Arizona: Perry, who can bring it at up to 100 mph, marks yet another college reliever plucked in this first round. This 6’4” 21-year-old has decent sink on his fastball when he keeps it down. Perry’s classic delivery allows him to generate serious heat. The selection of Perry continues Detroit’s trend of taking pitching in the opening round – this is the fifth time in the past six years the Tigers have taken an arm over a bat to start the draft. There’s still some debate about whether Perry will wind up as a reliever or possibly a top starter. The former option would be a quicker way to get him to the Show, but if Detroit opts to make him a starter, it will take some time before it sees the fruit of that labour.
22. New York Mets – David Havens, SS, U of South Carolina Columbia: Havens, 21, has shown nice improvement at the plate thanks to his patient approach. He doesn’t project as a serious power threat, but with his bat speed, he should be a modest source of double-digit dingers. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even rank out as an average runner, speed-wise, so don’t be looking to Havens as a source of steals. Boston almost grabbed this kid as a first-rounder three years ago when he was a very productive high school prospect, but even if the Sox had wanted him again, he was long gone by the time they picked at No. 30. The fact that the Mets, with their second first round pick, grabbed him this early is a surprise, especially given that Havens is projected to have to move to third, a position the Mets have sewn up pretty nicely these days.
23. San Diego Padres – Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest U: Dykstra, who turned 21 last month, is a powerful behemoth, standing 6’5” and weighing 240. He’s an advanced hitter who was among the top power bats in college baseball this year. That the Padres – desperately in need of pop – picked him wasn’t a shock. Except, of course, for the fact that they already have a pretty darned good young first baseman in Adrian Gonzalez. And don’t think for a second that Dykstra – the sixth first baseman taken in the opening round – is capable of handling another defensive assignment with his size, unless it’s with an AL team as a DH, of course. Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering: he is not related to Lenny, despite the relative scarcity of that surname.
24. Philadelphia Phillies – Anthony Hewitt, SS, Salisbury School (New York): This Brooklyn native hit .496 for his undefeated high school team this season. Check out his sweet right-handed swing, lauded for becoming much cleaner and more efficient this season, here. The 19-year-old, expected to develop power as he matures, is currently blocked by Jimmy Rollins, but he’s got plenty of development time ahead of him either way, so I’m not immediately worried by that. I’m a bit surprised the Phils didn’t grab someone a bit more major-league ready, given their paucity of top prospects at higher levels, but Hewitt has some tremendous upside.
25. Colorado Rockies – Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky U: This 6’3” southpaw, despite some control problems in 2007, was on the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award watch list this season. I’m not overly worried about the walks, as long as he can continue to chalk up the Ks as he did in college (307 in 232 IP, including summer league play). Last summer, thanks to his tremendous curveball, Friedrich ranked fourth among Cape Cod League prospects.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks – Daniel Schlereth, LHP, U of Arizona: Schlereth, a 6’1” southpaw, is yet another college closer, one who set the Arizona record for saves in a season by a freshman back in 2006. He comes from a sports family (father Mark won three Super Bowl rings with the Broncos and Redskins). Daniel, who turned 22 last month, has been clocked as high as 97 mph with his fastball, which is complimented by a strong curve. Confidence isn’t his weakness; Schlereth thinks he can be in the majors by September; a lofty goal considering his college season hasn’t even ended yet.
27. Minnesota Twins – Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, U of Miami: Another trend has definitely emerged here with the Twins taking college closer Gutierrez, who returned this season from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that caused him to be redshirted in 2007. The third of a school-record three Miami players taken in the first round, Gutierrez was a surprise pick in this high a slot given his lack of a secondary pitch. He can bring the heat with his fastball, but doesn’t really have a second go-to pitch, and even as a reliever that’s a stretch. You certainly can’t argue with his college results, however; Gutierrez’s command at Miami was impeccable.
28. New York Yankees – Gerrit Cole, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS (California): This 17-year-old is gifted with an ideal pitcher’s frame (6’3”, 190) and an arm capable of reaching as high as 98 mph, but with a comfort zone in the 92 to 94 mph range. He has a commitment to UCLA, but given that he’s a lifetime Yankee fan, convincing him to turn pro shouldn’t be took difficult (assuming the right amount of zeros are tossed his way). Cole is considered the top right-handed pitching prospect to come out of Southern California since Phil Hughes. And now the Yankees have both of them as they continue to add young arms to the organization.
29. Cleveland Indians – Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, Pitt CC: Chisenhall comes with baggage, having been sent packing from the University of South Carolina after burglary/grand larceny charges last year. He was a high profile recruit for the Gamecocks, so the story made big news. Chisenhall wound up pleading guilty and getting six months of probation. Of course, this isn’t the first time Cleveland has brought in a player with a history. Remember Kaz Tadano and the gay porn scandal? At any rate, Chisenhall isn’t likely to stay at short, projecting at a third baseman as a pro. Let’s hope he sticks to stealing bases from this point on.
30. Boston Red Sox – Casey Kelly, SS, Sarasota HS (Florida): The son of former major leaguer Pat Kelly, Casey Kelly is a hell of an athlete, not only starring as a two-way talent in baseball, but also being a good enough quarterback to be ranked as the 31st best QB prospect by ESPN. Even as a junior at high school, the scouts were already drooling over Kelly. He enjoyed a productive senior year at the plate, and on the mound was dominating. It’s going to cost some bucks to lure him away from a football career, but assuming the Sox can do so, it will be interesting to see if they plan to use him as a shortstop or a pitcher. You can see him hit and pitch here.