Draft Mailbag #5: Stocks Rising and Falling

Our resident draft expert Todd Morgan returns to answer some draft questions and update us on a few top prospects.

Greetings to all you draft devotees. After one of the most academically stressful days of my life I am very excited to have some time to sit down and answer draft questions. Let's get to it.

My midseason projection is almost done, so keep an eye out. Until then I'll leave you with a few miscellaneous draft notes:

- Blake Beaven's draft stock continues to soar. To date Beaven is 7-0 with a 0.15 ERA for the Irving High Tigers. His component numbers are particularly eye-popping: In 46 IP, he has allowed 17 hits, two walks and one earned run while piling up 95 strikeouts. That's a K rate of 18.6 per nine innings. Right now he's getting serious consideration from draft's top-10 teams.

- Florida prep product Hunter Ovens and his family have made it known that he intends to play baseball if he is taken in the top three rounds this June. The 6'2, 220-pound outfielder, who plays for Sarasota's Cardinal Mooney High School, is slated to attend Virginia Tech on a football scholarship as one of the nation's top linebacker recruits. However, it sounds like he'll stick with baseball full-time if a team thinks highly enough to invest both a pick and signing bonus in the top three rounds. After 18 games, Ovens was hitting .516/.563/.629 in 62 ABs, with 21 runs scored, four doubles, one homer, 18 RBI and 15 steals in 16 attempts.

- North Carolina State righty Andrew Brackman is sliding a bit, though if the draft happened today he'd still be a top-10 pick. So far he is 6-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 54 1/3 IP, allowing 52 hits to go with a 48/21 K/BB ratio. These are solid numbers but not spectacular. After a hot start, Brackman has faded a little bit, laboring with his command and mechanics despite consistent 92-97 MPH heat. In his first start against an elite program, Brackman worked seven innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on seven hits, two walks and three strikeouts to earn a win at home against Florida State. Again, solid but not anywhere near the numbers David Price and even Ross Detwiler are putting up this year. Brackman's stuff will keep scouts interested, but his lack of polish and his agent (Scott Boras) will keep him from being taken with one of the draft's first few picks.

Now to your questions.

The Tigers have a bit of depth at pitching and outfielders in the system. Do you think they try to draft infielders and catching prospects early in the draft? Or continue to go for the big hard throwers, or best player available? Do you know who they are looking to draft in the first and second rounds?
Thanks, Ron

In my preseason projection, I had the Tigers taking Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia with their first pick (27th overall). Right now it looks like Arencibia will be gone by the time the Tigers pick, and there are still doubts he will remain behind the plate as a pro anyway.

Other catcher options include Oregon State's Mitch Canham, who is learning on the job after being converted to catcher two years ago, and a couple of prep backstops in Yasmani Grandal (Florida) and Mike Moustakas (California). Moustakas is tearing the cover off the ball for Chatsworth High, but is spending more time at third base than behind the plate.

While catching is a need for the Tigers, they certainly won't take a catcher over a more talented guy who plays a different position.

If you've ever listened to a draft conference call, you'll know that the picks are rapid-fire (no more than 15-20 seconds between picks). This leads me to believe that teams rank players in order of talent and expect to choose the highest guy left on their list when their turn comes. A team might give a bit more weight to a certain position when crafting its lists, but ultimately there's no time to adjust on the fly according to position and team need.

The 2007 draft will be a bit different due to MLB's plan to broadcast the first and supplemental rounds (giving teams more time for those selections), but the process won't be much different. Thus, I see the Tigers giving extra consideration to catchers and middle infielders throughout the amateur scouting process, but their earlier picks will be dictated by talent more than position. If they don't come up with catchers and shortstops early then they'll probably make an effort to draft a few in the middle rounds.

What about the junior righty from Francis Marion, Dylan Owen?

Owen is a 6'0, 195-pound righthander who pitches for Francis Marion University (South Carolina) in the Peach Belt Conference. To date he is 7-1 with a 1.13 ERA and one save in 79 2/3 IP over 13 appearances (10 starts). He has allowed only 60 hits and owns a stellar 90/14 K/BB.

Unfortunately I cannot find velocity or pitch information on Owen, which makes it difficult to predict where he might be taken in the draft. I haven't heard his name in conversations with scouts or player development officials, but I will say that if he's throwing in the low 90s and has an adequate secondary offering he will likely be off the board by the 20th round and could go as high as the 9th or 10th. That's a pretty big range, but he isn't pitching against great competition so stuff and projection will make or break his draft stock.

How does Nick Hagadone from the University of Washington look to you in terms of draft projection?
Thanks, Alex

Hagadone is an interesting pitcher with a big, projectible frame and solid numbers this season. The 6'5, 230-pound lefty has compiled a line of 3-1, 2.00 ERA, six saves, 37/10 K/BB in 37 IP so far. He was taken by the in the 36th round of the 2004 draft by the Seattle Mariners but decided to become a Huskie rather than sign out of high school. His draft stock has improved since then and he figures to go somewhere in the 8-10 round range this year.

Where do you see Stanford juniors RHP Nolan Gallagher, RF Michael Taylor, and C Brian Juhl going in the draft, and will Stanford's overall team performance affect their draft positioning?

Team performance has virtually no bearing on where a player is drafted. There may be an isolated occasion where two seemingly equal players are separated by a team's scouting department based on the strength of the program they attend, but that has more to do with strength of competition than team performance.

As for the three players you mention, each has taken a bit different path than preseason scouting reports predicted. Gallagher has struggled all season at 2-4, 7.03 ERA with 48 hits allowed in 39 2/3 IP and a 29/16 K/BB. With those numbers he figures to be drafted somewhere between rounds 10 and 15, which would make him a good candidate to return to school for his senior season in hopes of improving his draft stock.

Taylor has been so-so, but without the obvious problems Gallagher has experienced. To date Taylor is hitting .284/.358/.505 with five homers and ten walks in 109 ABs. Those numbers won't get him into the top three rounds on their own, but his physical upside might convince a scout to push for him to be taken that high. I'd say between rounds three and five, with my money on round three.

Juhl is a solid defensive catcher with above-average catch-and-throw skills and a deficient bat (.276/.367/.434 in 83 ABs). He doesn't hit for average or power even with metal bats, so I don't see him being taken until late on the draft's second day.

What round do you project Travis Howell (JR - Long Beach State) to go? He is a 6'3, 225, catcher.
Thanks, Andrew

Travis Howell is another solid defensive catcher whose bat really hurts his draft chances. As he has only gotten 31 ABs this year, I can't see him being taken this year unless a team takes a flyer on his defense in one of the last few rounds. He'll probably be better served returning to school for his senior season and trying to figure things out at the plate.

Have questions for Todd? Click here to send him an email.

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