2005 MLB Draft Board

The baseball draft is picking up steam, so Jason A. Churchill went poking around in the scouting departments to get the goods on what the brains of baseball are thinking. After each and every opinion and all the information was sifted through, Jason put together the first-round draft board.Below are the top 30 players in the draft, according to the result of several hundred minutes of cell phone usage.

1. Justin Upton, SS/CF, Great Bridge HS (Va.) – R/R - 6-2/188
The Skinny:
Upton is widely regarded as the top overall talent in the draft and many scouts have the five-tooler graded as the top high school athlete since Alex Rodriguez in 1993. With Arizona holding the top pick, Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo insists that the status of 2004 first round selection Stephen Drew will not have any bearing on who they pick in this year's draft. Expect the snakes to take Upton with the draft's initial pick.

Upton has plus speed, advanced plate skills, and the athletic ability to play a demanding defensive position, including center field, where most clubs believe he will end up. Upton's plus arm and power potential, could allow him to easily surpass his older brother, B.J., on his way to stardom. Thirty+ homers, 30+ steals and gold glove defense could very well be in the younger Upton's future.

One American League Scouting Director is of the impression that Upton is far and away the best talent, and that the Virginia phenom will almost certainly be the top choice.

"He's got something that nobody else in this draft has – everything," said the executive. "If we had the top pick, we'd likely take this kid and never look back."

2. Alex Gordon, 3B, U. Nebraska – L/R - 6-1/215
The Skinny:
Gordon is the best offensive prospect in college baseball and at times appeared bored and unchallenged throughout his junior season at Nebraska. Nevertheless, Gordon is a lock to go in the top three of the draft and most likely in the top two. Rumors that the Royals will go on the cheap and take Craig Hansen or Ryan Zimmerman with the second pick are unfounded, according to the Royals front office. Kansas City will not likely pass up a future all-star third sacker with advanced plate skills, unless the financial issues look to be ridiculous. Gordon likely goes to the Royals at No. 2. If for some reason KC owner David Glass does go cheap, Gordon will go third to Seattle.

Gordon could be less than two years from the big leagues and should have no problem handling major league pitching. The left-handed hitting third baseman is athletic enough to make the transition to the outfield if necessary, but is capable of hanging on at the hot corner. With power that plays at any position, Gordon's defensive place on the field is almost moot in his evaluation. His great strikezone judgement and plate discipline could make Gordon an all-star for years to come.

"I like him better than I liked Pat Burell (Phillies) at the time of that draft," said a National League scout. "Third (base) is a possibility, too, and he has better plate discipline, which is something many amateurs don't have at this stage of their careers."

3. Cameron Maybin, OF, T.C. Roberson HS (N.C.) – B/R - 6-3/200
The Skinny:
Maybin's numbers in high school are mind boggling (.646, 14 HR in 65 AB) but the level of competition is thought to be below average for prep baseball and that could hurt the power-hitting outfielder. If the Mariners are willing to be patient with a high school kid, Maybin would be the pick at No. 3. If Seattle passes, the switch-hitter could slide to No. 5 to the Brewers or to No. 7 to the Rockies.

Maybin could ultimately produce 35 to 40 home run power and is an asset in the outfield with good speed and a plus throwing arm. While he may need to slide from center field to right, he'll remain a solid glove while he develops offensively and makes the transition to the wood bat. Maybin is likely to scrap the idea of switch hitting altogether and instead bat strictly from the right side as a pro, but it won't hurt his draft status.

"I think I saw him a half-dozen times," said an American League scout. "And each time, it seemed like he got better, or did something new. I started to expect him to hit one out every at-bat. He's going to be an impact type."

4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Long Beach State – R/R – 6-3/200
The Skinny:
Often compared to former Dirtbag Bobby Crosby, Tulowitzki is the top true shortstop in the draft and has every necessary tool to warrant a high pick. Should Seattle look for a quicker return on the third choice, and assuming Upton and Gordon are the first two picks, the Long Beach State star is the likely choice at No. 3. The Nationals at No. 4 and Milwaukee at Toronto at No. 6 are also possibilities if Tulowitzki is still on the board.

Tulowitzki may have more power than Crosby and is likely to display better plate skills than his friend and fellow alumn, and he already grades out as a better pure hitter. Defensively, "T2" has solid range and great hands to go with his natural instincts at the position that allow for great footwork around the bag at second.

"He might be ready to go pretty quick," said the scouting director. "I think that's what teams like most about him. He has the tools and the polish and even as a bigger player, he'll handle short. Those types of middle men (infielders) aren't easy to find and he's the real thing, a Nomar-type offensive ceiling. He won't last very long in this draft."

5. Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State – R/R – 6-7/215
The Skinny:
Pelfrey is the top pitcher in the draft and even though he is Scott Boras client, the Shockers ace shouldn't drop too far, likely staying in the top 10. Milwaukee holds the No. 5 pick and could pass on the possibility of having trouble signing Pelfrey, but Toronto would gladly take the 6-foot-7 right-hander at No. 6.
br> Pelfrey's 93-96 mph fastball, power curve ball and plus change are what make him a top-of-the-rotation candidate for any club. With better-than-average command of all three of his plus pitches, Pelfrey could settle in as a strong No. 2 starter after a few years of seasoning.

"If we had a top 10 pick and had the chance to get him," said an NL scout, "we'd be hoping he fell to us. His size is so intriguing and he's as polished as all of the starters that came out a year ago, except maybe (Jeff) Niemann. I think the differende between Mike and (Luke) Hochevar (Tennesee) is that Pelfrey is more projectable, physically and might have slightly better stuff."

6. Stephen Drew, SS/CF, Florida State ('04) – L/R – 6-0/186
The Skinny:
Arizona has until May 31 to sign Drew or the former Seminole goes back into the draft where the process starts all over again. Currently hitting .387 for the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League, Drew's leverage with the Diamondbacks has never been stronger. As a 2005 draft-eligible player, Drew could go as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 17 where the Yankees would have no qualms about giving a Boras client the money he wants.

Drew is a natural shortstop with plus athletic skills that could result in a move to either second base or center field. Offensively, the left-handed hitter has power potential that could reach the low-20s and plate discipline much like that of his older brother. J.D., the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder.

"Not sure he'll make it to the draft but if he does, he'll still go fairly high," said the scouting director. "His agent scares some people, though we aren't one of them, but he's such a top talent. Someone will take the risk in the lower half of the top 10-15 picks. On talent alone, he might be the second best player out there."

"Personally, I'm tired of the agent stuff," said an AL scout. "It's going to start hurting players and clubs if this keeps up. But I'll tell ya, Stephen has a shot to be better than his older brother (J.D.) and that's saying something."

UPDATE: Drew agreed to a five-year major league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 30, effectively removing him from the 2005 draft. Drew will receive a $4 million bonus and likely start his pro career at either Advanced-A Lancaster in the California League or Double-A Tennesse of the Southern League.

7. Luke Hochevar, RHP, Tennessee – R/R – 6-4/200
The Skinny:
Hochevar is neck and neck with Pelfrey as the top starter in the draft, and his numbers back it up. Named to the first team All-American team this week, over Pelfrey, Hochevar has the stuff, makeup and long-term physical tools to be a top starter in the big leagues.

If he made it out of the top 10, it would surprise most, even with Pelfrey grading out so closely. Hochevar could overtake Pelfrey but it won't be because of agent choices. Both pitchers employ Scott Boras.

"All year it's been half and half," said the AL scout on the comparison of Hochevar and Pelfrey. They are somewhat different stylistically, but the results are the same. A lot of quality in both guys. We like Pelfrey, but not by much. He (Hochevar) could be another Brad Penny or Matt Clement."

8. Jered Weaver, RHP, Long Beach State ('04) – R/R – 6-7/212
The Skinny:
Weaver's status is still up in the air as well, with just days left to get a deal done with the Angels. If he doesn't sign, his stock in this draft is that of an unknown commodity on Wall Street. He probably won't go before the top two starters and could slide down with the signability issues, though a second year in the draft strips some leverage from he and Boras.

Weaver isn't a No. 1 type, but the younger brother of Dodgers' righty Jeff Weaver, has frontline stuff and could be an innings eater in the middle of a rotation. His talent probably slots him in as a No. 2 if it all comes together for him. He's a top 10 talent that could be drafted in the second half of the first round, or as high as 7th or 8th.

UPDATE: Weaver agreed to terms with the Angels on May 30, receiving a $4 million bonus and eliminating his eligibility for the 2005 draft. Weaver is expected to begin his professional career at Rancho Cucamonga in the Advanced-A California League.

9. Jeff Clement, C, USC – L/R – 6-1/205
The Skinny:
Clement is thought to be the best hitting college catcher in quite a few years and his defense is improving. If there's one surprise jump that could be made, it could be Clement leapfrogging one of the starting pitchers and getting into the top six or seven. As a left-handed batter, Clement gets comparisons to Jason Varitek but he probably projects to be more like a southpaw version of Pudge Rodriguez - if he reaches his ceiling.

Clement's catching skills need work and any team drafting him will have to be willing to show pateince with his development, but his offense should carry him the rest of the way. In time, the USC product is expected to be an average backstop with a plus bat, including a power stroke that could reach the mid-20's or higher.

10. Craig Hansen, RHP, St. John's – R/R – 6-5/196
The Skinny:
Hansen is the draft's top relief prospect, reminding some of Huston Street in both talent and timetable. The 6-foot-5 St. John's product entered this week with a 1.09 ERA and 66 strikeouts to just 13 walks in 50 innings.

Whichever club nabs Hansen is going to get some immediate help in the bullpen and their closer of the future. With the bullpen becoming so much more critical in baseball the past several years, Hansen will continue the trend of relievers getting high praise and attracting teams to major league-ready bullpen candidates.

11. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Virginia – R/R – 6-2/210
The Skinny:
Zimmerman is widely considered the top defensive player in the draft, at any position, and his work at third base remind some of Scott Rolen. The Cavaliers star lacks the classic power possessed by most at the hot corner but his plate skills are solid and some scouts think he will hit enough to stay where his defense can be best used.

If Zimmerman is taken by a club with a young third baseman already entrenched at the position, such as the New York Mets who have future all-star David Wright manning third base, Zim is capable of moving to second base, or even the outfield, if necessary. A move to shortstop is also not out of the question, though clearly a tougher step to take.

12. Wade Townsend, RHP, Rice ('04) – R/R – 6-4/230
The Skinny:
After the Baltimore Orioles failed to sign Townsend after making him their first rounder a year ago, the Rice product is back in the draft this season and could be taken anywhere from No. 10 to the last few picks in the 1st round. Townsend is a frontline starter and would be a great value to any club looking for a low-risk selection.

13. Ryan Braun, 3B, Miami – R/R – 6-2/192
The Skinny:
Braun could turn out to be the best pure third baseman in the draft, if Gordon switches positions and Zimmerman's bat ultimately plays out better in left field or at second base. Braun's play has brought comparisons to Chicago White Sox third sacker, Joe Crede.

14. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Fort Meade HS (Fla.) – R/R – 5-11/170
The Skinny:
McCutchen has five-tool talent, and even at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, could develop into a Milton Bradley type talent and play center field regularly.

15. Ricky Romero, LHP, Cal State Fullertson – R/L – 6-2/173
The Skinny:
Romero has been talked about in the top 10, but his somewhat inconsistent velocity worries me, personally. Clocked anywhere from the 85-88 range to the low-90s, Romero is an intriguing prospect, but could turn out to be another in a long line of left-handers with average stuff. If he can keep the heater around the 90-mph mark, he's a surefire top 15 pick.

16. Chris Volstad, RHP, PB Hardens HS (Fla.) – R/R – 6-7/195
17. C.J. Henry, SS, Putnam City HS (Okla.) – R/R – 6-3/200
18. John Mayberry, 1B/OF, Stanford – R/R – 6-5/215
19. Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A & M - B/R – 5-11/170
20. Jay Bruce, OF, West Brook HS (Texas) – L/L – 6-2/200
21. Mark Pawelek, LHP, Springville HS (Utah) – L/L – 6-2/180
22. Matt Torra, RHP, Massachusetts – R/R – 6-3/225
23. Trevor Crowe, OF, Arizona – B/R – 5-10/185
24. Cesar Carillo, RHP, Miami – R/R – 6-2/160
25. Brian Bogusevic, LHP, Tulane – L/L – 6-3/200
26. Colby Rasmus, OF, Russell County HS (Ala.) – L/L - 6-2/183
27. Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Oregon State – L/L – 6-1/175
28. Cesar Ramos, LHP, Long Beach State – L/L – 6-1/175
29. Mark McCormick, RHP, Baylor – R/R – 6-2/190
30. Joey Devine, RHP, North Carolina State – R/R – 6-1/197

Jason A. Churchill is a senior writer for InsideThePark.com, featuring coverage of the Seattle Mariners and their minor league affiliates.

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