Still, I find the process to be very interesting and have gotten good feedback from readers. I like gauging how well the scouting literature has evaluated a) individual players eligible for the draft, b) The overall composition of the draft class and c) The strengths and weaknesses of the 30 MLB farm systems. All of these factor in to my thinking as I try to pair up players with teams.
As the season progresses I hope to publish at least two more projections to see what players are rising, what players are falling, and what it all means for the first 30 selections come June 4, 2007.
Heading into the 2007 college and prep seasons, David Price is the easiest player to project as a dominant major leaguer. He has got the size (6'5, 215 lbs.), the stuff (91-95 mph, touching 97 with a hard slider and a promising change-up) and the stats (115 K in 110 IP as a sophomore at Vanderbilt, 5-1, 0.20 ERA with 61 K in 44 IP for Team USA ). Price has a smooth delivery he repeats well and is one of the hardest workers in college baseball. At this point there really aren't any major questions about Price's future on the mound. He will need to stay away from injuries and could use some improvement on his command, but for a 21-year-old he has everything going for him.
The Devil Rays have an incredibly deep farm system, but if anything is lacking it's probably in the area of top-of-the-rotation starters (of course, what system is flush with those?). Price is a perfect fit for Tampa Bay and could earn a spot in their big league rotation by mid-2008.
Another team whose minor league talent is distributed heavily among its position players, the Royals will be looking for a bookend starter to pair with last year's number one pick, right-hander Luke Hochevar. With so many talented lefties to choose from, it makes sense for Kansas City to take advantage of the draft's biggest strength. They will consider Rice's Joe Savery and Missouri State's Ross Detwiler, but will eventually settle on Savery's teammate, Cole St. Clair.
In his first two years at Rice, St. Clair worked almost exclusively in relief thanks to a rubber arm that can go every day of every weekend. His cumulative stat line for 2005 and 2006 is outstanding: 69 appearances, 74 hits allowed, a 162/38 K/BB and a 2.37 ERA in 121 IP. His improvement from one season to the next is also striking, as he gave up 35 hits in 47 IP as a freshman, then 39 in 74 1/3 IP as a sophomore, including two starts. He followed that spectacular spring with a nearly perfect summer pitching for Team USA (4-0, 0.69 ERA with 43 K in 26 IP).
The Owls plan to give St. Clair either the Friday or Saturday starter's role in 2007, depending on the health of Joe Savery's arm. I expect St. Clair to excel as a starting pitcher, and with his sturdy frame, consistent 90-93 mph fastball that can touch 96 when he needs it, as well as a hard-breaking 10-to-4 curveball, he will shoot up watch lists and become the second best lefty option in the draft.
Matt Wieters is the kind of all-around athlete who looks like he's playing a different game than other college players. As a sophomore for the Yellow Jackets, he hit .355/.480/.606 with 15 homers. Even more impressive was the fact that he walked (56) more than he struck out (39). He also earned seven saves as the team's closer using a mid-90s fastball.
A switch-hitter, Wieters already shows big league power to all parts of the yard. He makes consistent contact, as evidenced by his low K-rate, and he can wait for a pitch to drive. Defensively, he still has a lot of work to do, and he would probably benefit from an intense agility training program to improve his footwork and mobility behind the plate. His arm strength will never be a problem, so how hard he works will determine whether his future is at catcher or first base. Either way, his bat will carry him to the bigs.
With no catchers in their system who look like sure-fire big league stars, the Cubs will jump at the chance to grab Wieters.
Projecting high school pitchers before they start their senior seasons is a dodgy proposition. Last year both Jordan Waldman and Matt Latos looked primed to be early first round picks, but their respective senior seasons brought up projection questions which led to them sliding in the draft.
Matt Harvey is this year's Jordan Waldman. He throws in the mid-90s with good consistency, touching 96 mph at times but working comfortably at 93. His curve is advanced for a prep pitcher, with a sharp, downward break, and his delivery and ability to set-up hitters make him a very polished talent. In this way, he has a better shot to maintain his draft stock through his senior season than did Walden, who seemed overwhelmed by expectations after shooting up draft boards so quickly the year before.
Pittsburgh is in the very familiar position of needing talent at all positions and all minor league levels. Their best bet is to use the fourth overall pick to take an impact talent, and Harvey will provide them with a great deal of upside.
The Orioles don't have much in the way of impact shortstop prospects in their system, but they do have a couple of guys who project as passable there. Justin Jackson will give them an heir to the Cal Ripken/Miguel Tejada legacy.
A senior at Ashville, North Carolina 's TC Roberson High School, Jackson is already a premium defender up the middle. Unlike, say, the Padres' 2004 first rounder Matt Bush, he has the physical tools to be a very good hitter, as well. His draft stock will hinge on how much he improves at the plate. It will take some adjustments to his swing, which is slow now but will improve as he fills out and improves his conditioning. A scout at the Perfect Game Nationals last June compared him to B.J. Upton in terms of build and fluidity. While he is unlikely to match Upton 's offensive stats as a senior, I expect a strong showing at the plate in 2007, which would push him into the draft's top-10.
6. Washington Nationals Ross Detwiler, LHP, R-L, 6'4, 180, Missouri State
I really, really like Detwiler. His 2007 season at Missouri State (2.81 ERA, 73 HA and 99 K in 93 IP) was solid and established him as a talent to watch. His performance for Team USA (2-0, 0.90 ERA with 22 K in 19 IP) cemented his stock in scouts' eyes, and if he continues improving in 2007, he's going to find himself among the top-10 selections.
The most impressive part of Detwiler's game is the movement he gets on his pitches. He will need to improve his mechanics, which sometimes look herky-jerky, and high level instruction will only help him in that area. Both his fastball and his curve have late life and look like they dart away from bats at the very last instant. While his heater sits in the lows 90s right now, he has a build that will help him add velocity when (and if) he adds strength.
Even with some excellent additions last year via the draft and Latin America , the Nationals have one of the worst farm systems in the majors; any help will be welcomed. Detwiler would give them a high-ceilinged lefty starter who, while not so advanced that he will rocket through the minors, will develop relatively quickly.
Porcello wows scouts with an explosive mid-90s fastball that appears to require almost no effort. His lanky build and projectable stuff reminds me of Justin Verlander, but Porcello will need to improve his breaking ball, a sharp but inconsistent curve, and his fledgling change. In short, Porcello isn't polished, but he has very real and attainable upside that could turn him into a number one starter somewhere down the line. While the Brewers are flush with right-handed pitching prospects, they won't pass up a potential number one just because he isn't a lefty. At the seventh slot, I feel that Porcello will be the best pitching prospect available and too hard for Milwaukee to pass on.
With one of the best farm systems in baseball, anything Colorado can add in the 2007 will be gravy. They have several very promising pitching prospects such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and 2006 first rounder Greg Reynolds, not to mention the recently-acquired Jason Hirsh and the big league-proven Jeff Francis. Where they lack depth is in the outfield, where only Dexter Fowler looks likely to develop into an impact bat.
With this in mind, the Rockies will pay close attention to the outfielders available in the 2007 draft. The cream of the crop in terms of upside is easily Michael Burgess. At 5'11 he isn't physically imposing, but his bat speed is so good that he can hit the ball out all over the field. He is also a very good baserunner despite not being exceptionally fast. In terms of body type, he reminds me a lot of A's prospect Richie Robnett, though Burgess is much farther along at this point in his career than was Robnett when the A's took him in 2004.
With the toolsy Fowler destined to play in centerfield, Burgess will slot into rightfield nicely. His cannon arm and above-average speed will give the Rockies a very formidable corner defender, while his offensive skills will give them a number three hitter who will hit for average and power with enough patience to post an OBP of .380 or better.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks Neil Ramirez, RHP, R-R, 6'3, 190, Kempsville High School, VA
Like Porcello, Neil Ramirez enters his senior season as one of the top-four prep pitchers in the draft. He set himself apart this summer by pitching for Team USA's junior national team and competing in the Cal Ripken Sr. College League. He performed well there and gave scouts a look at how his stuff stacks up against older, more experienced players using wood bats.
Ramirez's stuff is a click below Porcello's, Harvey's and Main's, but he's the most polished of the bunch. He commands three pitches, starting with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and can jump to the mid-90s once in awhile. His change-up is average now but flashes plus potential, while his curve is already solid pitch that is particularly effective because he throws it at three distinct speeds depending on the hitter and the count.
Arizona will prepare for the draft knowing that they have one of the best collections of prospects in the game. Ramirez will give them a guy who currently projects as a number two starter and might develop into an ace with a little luck.
For Borbon, the Johnny Damon comparisons have already begun. They're about the same size, though Borbon is probably a bit more muscular. They both play the speed game well, including aggressive baserunning and superior range in centerfield. And, unfortunately, they both have weak throwing arms that cause people sitting in the stands to look at each other in disbelief.
Still, Borbon is the type of player that seems to be increasingly rare with each passing year: a legitimate leadoff man who can create offense at the top of the lineup while offering game-changing defense up the middle. His game needs refinement, as his blazing speed has not translated to reliable baserunning due to what several scouts have called a lack of instincts. He gets picked off too often and does not read pitchers well at present, but rest assured that his pro career will include top-notch tutelage in this area.
At the plate he is working on being more selective. He only walked 19 times in 2006 but still managed to post a 366/.412/.481 line. Plate discipline will be a problem in the pros if he doesn't start addressing it now. On the plus side, he is probably the best bunter in the draft, which gives him another on-base tool that will help him generate offense.
It would be conceivable that the Giants would place a premium on outfield defense considering they play in spacious AT&T Park , but with the statue that is Barry Bonds taking up leftfield they've started every season one-third of the way toward a defensive nightmare. Adding players who are closer to collecting Social Security than to their Major League debuts doesn't help matters. Still, Borbon is a perfect fit for Brian Sabean, who is likely wondering if his organization will ever develop another premium offensive talent on his watch. Borbon is a good match who will move quickly. One caveat is that Borbon recently broke his right ankle. The recovery time is six to eight weeks. Depending on how he quickly he recovers, the injury could affect his status in the draft.
A third baseman who bats from the left side of the plate and projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter is a rarity, but that's exactly what Matt Mangini will bring to the team that selects him this June. There is some similarity to Kansas City 3B Mark Teahen, who came out of college with the physical size to be an impact hitter, but who had not yet shown it in game situations at the time of the draft.
Mangini's swing is picturesque, resulting in line drives to all corners of the ballpark. His bat speed has scouts salivating because it suggests that he will hit for more power as he gains experience and fills out. The downside here is that he is not a good defender at the third base and may wind up at first base or at a corner outfield position. He has already proven that he can hit with a wood bat by winning the Cape Cod League batting title last summer, so the biggest question mark entering 2007 centers on his glove.
If there's a team out there that thinks he can stick at 3B, Mangini will wind up going early. The Mariners third base cupboard is bare right now, and Mangini's advanced hitting ability makes for a good match with Seattle. With enough work on his defense and a year or two to grow into his power, Mangini could hit Seattle when Adrian Beltre's contract expires after 2009.
Josh Vitters, brother of A's farmhand Christian Vitters (10th round, 2006) turned a lot of heads with his impressive summer showing at various national showcase events. Using a simple, upright set-up at the plate, he tore the cover off the ball at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, earning top prospect honors from Baseball America. Later that week, Vitters absolutely raked at the AFLAC Classic, tallying three doubles, three RBI and two runs scored. In short, Vitters cemented himself as a preseason first round talent.
The Marlins are currently very deep in pitching prospects but don't have much in the way of promising position players. That they'll be looking for a premium hitter early is obvious, and the only way I can see them passing on Vitters is if a guy like Porcello or Harvey falls to them. Since I'm betting on those guys going in the top-10, I think they'll be happy to add a hitter who projects as a legitimate power-and-average third baseman.
If Vitters has a weakness, it is his lack of plate discipline. He is very aggressive, but so far it hasn't hurt him because he centers the ball so well. He's probably the best pure hitter in the draft, but taking more pitches will likely be one of the first things he is told to work on in the pros. Defensively, he has a strong, accurate arm and soft hands. He tends to make errors on routine plays, but scouts don't seem worried about it turning into a long-term problem for him.
The Indians have spent most of the 2006-2007 off-season trying to build a deep bullpen in hopes that they will improve their team's 2006 Achilles heel. Regardless of how all their recent acquisitions work out, Cleveland's eyes are open to the importance of a deep bullpen, as well as the dangers of bouncing their farmhands back and forth between starting and relieving. When they see Daniel Moskos available at 13, I think they'll jump at the chance to call his name.
Moskos enters the 2007 college season as the draft's number one relief prospect, as well as the player most likely to reach the big leagues first. His two-pitch arsenal is big league ready right now, with a 94-96 mph fastball that runs into left-handed hitters and away from righties. His slider is also a plus pitch, and Moskos has the confidence in it to throw it to both lefties and righties. He used both to great effect for Team USA last summer after posting a brilliant 2.52 ERA with 14 saves and 54 K in 54 IP at Clemson.
Most importantly, Moskos is fearless on the mound and loves taking the ball with the game on the line. He could be a September call-up in 2007, and, at worst, he will be pitching in a big league bullpen early in 2008. A young, electric lefty would have done wonders for the Tribe last year…
14. Atlanta Braves Michael Main, RHP, R-R, 6'2, 185, DeLand High School, Florida
Michael Main has dominating stuff right now and could turn out to be the highest-rated prep pitcher in the 2007 draft when June rolls around. Right now, the questions that face Main relate to his lack of experience and innings as a starting pitcher and a high-effort delivery that almost hurts to watch. If he doesn't answer these questions with consistently impressive starts, scouts will begin profiling him exclusively as a relief prospect. While he can still have a great career pitching out of a bullpen, his draft stock is linked to his ability to start because his strengths are so rare among starting pitchers.
Those strengths are nothing to scoff at. Main can dial his fastball up to 100 mph on occasion and sits comfortably in the 94-97 mph range. Unfortunately, he is always aware of radar guns in the vicinity and sometimes worries too much about lighting them up. He throws his curve hard, gaining a sharp, downward break, while his change is already an out-pitch thanks to his deceptive arm action and delivery.
There is little doubt that Main has the stuff to be a dominant starter. The Braves are always on the lookout for high-ceilinged prep pitchers, and their close proximity to Main's high school won't hurt their ability to keep tabs on him throughout his senior season. Even minor struggles, which I fully expect in this case, might not be enough for the Atlanta organization to pass on his upside.
Dominguez and fellow prep 3B Vitters followed each other around last summer, one-upping one another in one showcase event after another. Their similar size and skill sets will probably link them in scouts' minds for years to come, but when it comes down to it Vitters is a step ahead at this point. The difference isn't huge though. While Vitters has better raw power than Dominguez, the latter has better speed and is farther along defensively with a slightly better arm. Dominguez is also a tick faster on the bases.
The Reds farm system is pitching heavy right now, and as they lean toward prep players with early-round selections, Dominguez will be a good pick here. He has the ability to play third base in the majors, but also has the athleticism and arm strength to make a smooth transition to a corner outfield spot.
16. Toronto Blue Jays Joe Savery, LHP, L-L, 6'3, 215, Rice
Savery is Rice's most experienced starting pitcher heading into the 2007 season, and under normal circumstances would be a lock to be their Friday starter. Unfortunately for all involved, Savery hurt his shoulder last year and wound up sitting out the entire summer schedule. Many figured the Owls would ease him into action this year, and so far that looks like the plan considering he's slated to start the season as the team's Sunday starter.
In terms of talent, Savery is ahead of teammate St. Clair right now. He's made more starts and has proven that he can maintain his stuff deep into games, whereas St. Clair has only made two starts in college to date. Savery's shoulder problem evens things up a bit, but if he's healthy he'll be throwing his usual low- to mid-90s sinking fastball and electric, 90 mph slider that leaves hitters wide-eyed and shaking their heads. If scouts see that version of Savery, you could easily swap their positions in this draft.
What I suspect will happen is that Savery will take a handful of starts to build his arm strength to the point where he can unleash his best stuff. After that he'll need time to get back in the groove against top collegiate competition. By the end of the year, he'll be back to his nasty self, but along the way he will have fallen behind St. Clair as the most projectable starting pitcher, leaving him as a great option for the Blue Jays.
17. Texas Rangers Beau Mills, 3B, L-R, 6'3, 200, Lewis-Clark State
Right now the Texas Rangers farm system is all pitching. For the last two off-seasons they've discussed Hank Blalock with several teams, probably due to a growing concern that his offensive decline is going to continue. Without a back-up plan in the minors, the Rangers are going to need to find a replacement via trade or free agency – especially if Blalock's OPS keeps dropping toward the .700 mark. If, however, a suitable option presents itself in the draft, they could settle for a one or two-year replacement to bridge the gap between Blalock and the draft pick.
Beau Mills might be that option. He is polished lefty power-threat who probably won't hit for a high average but will definitely put up impressive on-base and slugging percentages. He takes pitches and controls the zone fairly well while showing plus power to all fields. He can also play a fair third base and could become and above average defender at the big league level.
Mills did run into some trouble last year when he was declared academically ineligible near the end of Fresno State's season. He did take responsibility for his academic issues and seems ready to avoid future difficulties now that he's transferred to Lewis-Clark for his junior season.
18. St. Louis Cardinals Jake Arrieta, RHP, R-R, 6'4, 225, Texas Christian
Arrieta offers an intriguing combination of size and stuff. While he doesn't have an overpowering fastball like some of the higher-ranked pitchers in the 2007 draft class, he does offer more consistency with his stuff than most. The fastball is always between 90 and 92 mph, and he's shown that he can maintain his velocity deep into every single start. That talent isn't as flashy as a 99 mph heater, but lots of guys who show velocity spikes like that also fall off for stretches during a long season. Whatever organization drafts Arrieta likely won't have to worry about that.
His consistency is derived from a big, sturdy pitcher's frame and a wind-up similar to that of Roger Clemens. Arrieta found it difficult to maintain his control near the end of the 2006 circuit, during which he threw a career-high 145 innings (including 111 at TCU, where he posted a 14-4, 2.35 ERA with 111 K), but control is not considered a big issue for him. His slider is turning into a big-time out pitch, and his change shows promise. The thing that keeps him from being mentioned as a top-10 candidate is his lack of eye-popping radar readings. In the end I think he'll be a fast mover in the pro ranks, with a shot at being a very solid number two starter.
The Cardinals, having no impact starting pitching prospects in their system, will probably be thinking pitcher with their first pick this June. If Arrieta can post another solid campaign at TCU, he's a good bet for this team and this slot.
Philadelphia's high end prospects are almost all pitchers, an imbalance that they'll need to address in the early rounds of the draft. They have shown over the years that they are unafraid of selecting high-ceiling high school players and waiting for them to develop. Greg Golson's lack of progress to date won't stop them from continuing this trend, and with Kentrail Davis on the board, I think the Phillies will be happy to call his name.
Davis has been compared by some scouts to Dave Roberts – fast, with a smooth lefty swing – but I see him showing more power than Roberts has ever shown. Therefore, some of the "fourth outfielder" talk I've heard and read in regard to Davis doesn't make sense to me. A guy who can hit 15-20 homers and steal 30-40 bases will find a spot in any lineup. He may not have the range to be a shutdown centerfielder, but he'll be passable at the very least. What impresses most people about Davis is that he shows great enthusiasm for competition and constantly pushes himself to get better. Sounds like someone Philly fans will embrace, doesn't it?
20. Los Angeles Dodgers Phillippe Aumont, RHP, R-R, 6'5, 210, Ecole Du Versant HS
Every year it seems like the Dodgers dip into the prep pitching ranks to extract a gem of a prospect. Last year, it was Clayton Kershaw who, when all is said and done, may be the best pitcher from the 2006 draft class. This year there are a number of high school pitchers who look like they fit the Dodger organization's specs, but I get the feeling that Quebec native Phillippe Aumont will be their guy in the first round.
Aumont's only real drawback is his relative inexperience. He needs to improve his consistency, which will come naturally as he piles up innings. Beyond that, his stuff compares to any other prep pitcher in the draft. His size is a strength, as is his 95-97 mph fastball. Each of his pitches is tough for hitters to square up because Aumont throws them from a low three-quarters arm slot, allowing him to hide the ball a bit longer than most pitchers.
As a pro Aumont will have a very good shot at being a front-of-the-rotation starter. His lack of experience may be a concern for some organizations, but the Dodgers have plenty of experience developing high school pitchers, so they will not shy away.
21. Toronto Blue Jays Jason Heyward, OF, L-L, 6'4, 220, Henry County HS, McDonough, Ga.
Having already taken a high-end college pitcher, the Blue Jays may shift their focus to a high-ceiling prep player. Years ago they traded for a young first baseman named Fred McGriff, who went on to belt almost 500 big league homers. Jason Heyward has drawn comparisons to McGriff for the last two years thanks to his size, his lefty stroke and his power potential.
The best thing about Heyward is that, unlike McGriff, he won't be limited to first base as a pro. Sporting an arm that has touched 90 mph during stints as a pitcher and above average speed, Heyward profiles as a very capable everyday rightfielder in the majors. He is also adept at working counts to get his pitch and won't shy away from walks.
At present, his power is impressive even though he sprays hits from foul pole to foul pole. Once he learns how to turn on pitches consistently he's going to be a monster power source for years to come. J.P. Ricciardi has shown that he will take a high school player in the right situation, and Heyward's skill set will provide Toronto with just that situation.
22. San Francisco Giants Josh Fields, RHP, R-R, 6'0, 170, Georgia
With three picks in the first round, the Giants have a great opportunity to stock their farm system with high-end talent. Already having taken college outfielder Julio Borbon, the Giants will look to the pitching ranks with their next pick. The signing of Barry Zito is evidence that San Francisco is trying to contend now and for the next few years, so Georgia righty Josh Fields is a good fit.
Featuring a power fastball (95-98 mph)/slider ((87-89 mph) combination, Fields racked up 15 saves for the Bulldogs last year to go along with a 1.80 ERA, 56/11 K/BB and only 36 hits allowed in 50 IP. Later in the summer he saved another 13 games in the Cape Cod League. Suffice it to say that he is a born closer, with the mentality and physical tools to do the job well at the highest level.
He may not be the first reliever taken this year, but Fields has outperformed every other college reliever out there, including Daniel Moskos. Moskos has a bit more value because he's left-handed and can be a solid reliever even if closing games doesn't work out. Fields, however, has shown even more than Moskos so far and is arguably the best bullpen arm available in 2007. He'll move fast and could be working out of the Giants' bullpen by September.
23. San Diego Padres James Adkins, LHP, R-L, 6'6, 195, Tennessee
With Sandy Alderson at the top of the organization, you can bet that the Padres will be looking to go the college route with their first round selection yet again. The organization began a trend of college first rounders following the Matt Bush debacle of 2004, selecting RHP Cesar Carillo in 2005 and 3B Matt Antonelli in 2006. San Diego also took college players in the first round in each of the three years prior to 2004 (RHP Tim Stauffer in 2003, SS Khalil Greene in 2002 and 3B Jake Gautreau in 2001). Figuring that their system needs pitching more than position players, a starter is called for; in a draft so deep with college lefties, I think James Adkins is a great bet for this pick.
Pitching alongside 2006 #1 pick Luke Hochevar as a freshman, Adkins more than held his own. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball (86-90 mph), and shoulder surgery (not structural, but to relieve and impingement) will probably keep him from adding velocity as he develops. He wound-up forgoing the Cape Cod League last summer in order to strengthen his arm. Early reports have him throwing at 90 mph, so it sounds like his plan worked. Along with the fastball, which he locates well, Adkins throws a curve, slider and change. The change needs work but reports on the curve and slider are very positive.
I see Adkins having a successful 2007 season, especially if the reports on his velocity are true. He is a smart pitcher with good mound presence who knows how to pitch to his strengths. If he's healthy, he'll provide the Padres with a nice combination of polish, performance and upside.
Brackman had his 2006 season cut short after only seven starts when a fracture was discovered in his hip. He followed up his disappointing spring with a brief but successful stint in the Cape Cod League. His ERA was an impressive 1.06 in 17 IP over six appearances (two starts), but his K/BB ratio was an ugly 11/9.
Any team that takes Brackman right now is taking him based completely on projectability. His size – 7'0 tall (though he is listed at anywhere from 6'9 to 7'0 depending on what scouting report or player bio one reads), unprecedented for a baseball player – gives him an imposing presence on the mound; even more so when he runs his fastball up to 99 MPH. If he has a strong 2007 season, he's going to be taken in the first ten picks, even with Scott Boras as his advisor. If there are signs that he hasn't recovered from last year's hip injury, or if he struggles to command his pitches again, he will probably fall to the bottom of the first round, and might drop even lower.
That being said, I expect Brackman to be healthy this year, but to have a so-so year in terms of performance. He just has too many questions to answer to convince scouts that he can reign in his body, command all three of his pitches and repeat his delivery consistent. I see him as this year's Daniel Bard – streaky, but enticing when he's on. It will be enough to get the Boras-friendly and pick-rich Rangers to call his name with the second of their two first-rounders.
Todd Frazier may have the best set of tools in his draft class. And though his size may keep him from playing shortstop as a pro, he has the athleticism and the power potential to hold up anywhere a pro team might move him defensively. At this point, third base is his most likely destination, but I wouldn't rule out a corner outfield spot.
The White Sox could go in any direction with their early selections this June because their best prospects reflect a nice balance between pitching and hitting. In my eyes, Frazier is a good match for their system because he offers a speed dimension to go along with his power and defensive flexibility. If he can stay at shortstop that will be even better, because the Sox lack a promising prospect at that position.
The knock on Frazier is that he hasn't figured out how to translate his tools into performance on a consistent basis. He has long swing mechanics which could lead to a low contact rate in the pros, but when he centers a ball on his bat it can really travel. His plate discipline is above-average, which will serve him well. He'll have adjustments to make, but I haven't heard much concern that he won't be able to make him.
26. Oakland Athletics Charlie Furbush, LHP, R-R, 6'5, 215, Louisiana State
After dominating Division III competition at St. Joseph's in Maine (10-1, 2.89, 115/22 K/BB in 75 IP), Furbush carried his run of brilliance into the Cape Cod League last summer. Pitching for the Hyannis Mets, he went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA and a 50/13 K/BB in 54 IP. His 12 K, no-hit performance against the Bourne Braves helped earn Furbush top prospect honors in the CCL.
The jump to Division I competition will be a challenge for Furbush, but he already proved he can play against top college players on the Cape. Throwing from a fastball that ranges from 89 to 91 mph and has touched 94, Furbush is not what one would consider a polished pitcher, but he does offer projectable size and a knack for finding ways to improve his game. He throws a curveball that seemed to get better and more consistent with each start last year. Several scouts already see it as a plus pitch, and with his physical upside he is a good candidate to add velocity to his fastball.
Louisiana State is in a transitional state and probably won't offer him a chance to post a great won-loss record, but I expect stellar component stats nonetheless. His draft stock will rise and fall with his fastball and the development of a changeup. If he's throwing 93 or better consistently and showing a decent change he could be a top 20 selection. If he's still 89-91 with his usual excellent command he'll be primed to begin his career in the Oakland organization.
27. Detroit Tigers J.P. Arencibia, C, R-R, 6'0, 210, Tennessee
Arencibia is a tough player to project due to his defensive liabilities. At the plate, there is little question that his power will translate to professional baseball. His catching abilities, on the other hand, have a long way to go before they'll play in the big leagues. Arencibia boasts a very strong throwing arm and thus far it has kept his problems with footwork and agility hidden. He would benefit greatly from a conditioning program that focuses on agility exercises, because better movement behind the plate would make him an incredibly valuable commodity. There aren't many catchers out there who can hit 20-30 homers and post a .300 average annually.
The Tigers will soon be entering their post-Pudge years, and at present are without an heir apparent at catcher. Arencibia would give them one, not to mention a potential middle-of-the-order hitter. In the end I see him becoming a serviceable catcher who can hit sixth in a lineup and produce above average numbers for the position. It will all depend on how hard he is willing to work in order to remain behind the plate.
Was he named after Bad News Bears shortstop Tanner Boyle? I don't know, but Robles is, in my opinion, the best prep lefty in this year's draft. He's drawn comparisons to Barry Zito due to his size, and his stuff is reminiscent of the stuff Zito had when Oakland drafted him in 1999: a big, looping curve and a fastball that sits in the 88-92 mph range. The difference is that Robles's curve isn't as strong as Zito's, while his fastball can touch 95 at times and keeps its velocity deep into games.
The Twins are always on top of the prep pitching scene, and will see the chance to draft Robles as too good to pass up. Like Mike Pawelek, the last prep lefty from Utah to be taken in the first round, Robles profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter with the physical size and talent to dominate games. He'll have a good opportunity to fulfill that promise in a Minnesota organization that has great success developing pitchers.
29. San Francisco Giants Nick Schmidt, LHP, L-L, 6'5, 220, Arkansas
After taking an outfielder and a power reliever from the college ranks, the Giants will mine the college ranks once more with the selection of Arkansas lefty Nick Schmidt. In 2006, Schmidt showed excellent talent for striking hitters out, amassing 145 K in 117 IP to go with a 9-3 record and 3.01 ERA. His performance won him recognition as the SEC's Pitcher of the Year – as a sophomore.
The future for Schmidt could be as a number two starter, but his inconsistency has some scouts worried that he won't be much more than a number four starter who can eat innings. I tend to think of him as the former. His fastball is a standard 88-92 mph, which he uses to set up a solid slider and change. He's a smart pitcher who has gained a reputation as a battler.
Like many of the pitchers in the draft, Schmidt isn't a big reach to perform well enough in 2007 to push himself into the top half of the first round. I think he'll have his ups and downs like he has in the past when his velocity dipped and he experienced control problems. It won't be enough for teams to get down on him, because a lot of this will take care of itself as he improves his conditioning and gains experience.
If Bumgarner had a breaking pitch, he'd probably be a top-10 pick this year. He doesn't, but that doesn't mean the list of things he does have going for him is anywhere near short. At the top of the list is his classic pitcher's frame, which produces a free and easy 95 mph fastball. His command of that pitch is already top-notch. Hopefully he will use his senior season at South Caldwell to work on perfecting an off-speed offering of some sort – preferably a slider and a change-up. If either one shows promise, the other will merely need to be average to push him higher up draft boards across the nation.
Until he shows that development, he's more likely to be taken late in the first round or somewhere in the sandwich round. The Yankees are pitching-rich at their upper levels, but a lefty with Bumgarner's potential is rare. If they see in him a pitcher who could one day be a number one starter with the right instruction, they'll pop him here.
Other players worth watching from the 2007 draft class:
Greg Peavey, RHP, Hudson's Bay High School, WA
Tim Alderson, RHP, Horizon High School, Scottsdale, AZ
Jack McGeary, LHP, Roxbury Latin High School, MA
John Tolisano, 2B/SS, Estero High School, FL
Sean Doolittle, LHP, Virginia
Eddie Kunz, RHP, Oregon State
Josh Smoker, LHP, Calhoun High School, GA
Mitch Canham, C, Oregon State
Josh Donaldson, C, Auburn
Nick Noonan, SS, Francis Parker High School, San Diego, CA
Jarrod Parker, RHP, Norwell High School, IN
James Simmons, RHP, UC Riverside
Erik Goeddel, RHP, Bellarmine Prep, San Jose, CA
Josh Horton, SS, North Carolina
Nolan Gallagher, RHP, Stanford
Sequoyah Stonecipher, OF, Mission Bay High School, San Diego, CA
Mike Ambort, C, Lamar
Brad Meyers, RHP, Loyola Marymount
Comments or Questions? Contact Todd directly via email.