MLB Draft: Day One Steals And Surprises

Day 1 of the 2011 MLB Draft was an eventful one to say the least. Seattle shocked the world by taking Danny Hultzen, and from that point forward it was a day full of surprises. While it's unfair to grade teams as winners and losers at this point, what we can do is take a look at which teams got steals and which teams landed potential sleepers. We'll also examine some of the biggest surprises.


Matt Barnes, RHP, UConn | Picked By: Boston Red Sox

The bottom line here is you just don't get talents like Matt Barnes at 19th overall. It takes a very deep draft class and a lot of luck for this type of thing to happen and Boston had both going for them in this case. Barnes is a potential front of the rotation starter that could also move up the ladder relatively quickly. He works at 92-95 mph with the fastball with two quality secondary pitches and has a chance to have average command of three pitches. He does have some mechanical tweaks he'll need to make and he's not as advanced as come of the other college arms out there, but this is the steal of the draft so far, regardless.

Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland H.S. (N.M.) | Picked By: Boston Red Sox

Switch hitting catchers that can stick at the position don't come along often. But, take away the valuable position from Swihart's game and you could make the case that he was the top high school hitter in this draft class. Getting that type of talent is very fortunate for Boston. It's important to keep in mind that Swihart will be an incredibly difficult sign, but having multiple picks as Boston does, it's a worthy gamble on their part. Swihart is advanced from both sides of the plate, and has the potential for 30 home run power at the big league level. Put that type of offensive upside behind the plate and you have the makings of an elite big leaguer.

Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU | Picked By: Tampa Bay Rays

Just about no one, including the Tampa Bay Rays, had any notion of Mahtook being on the board at 31. But, give credit to the Rays for taking the gamble here, fully knowing he will be a difficult sign at this low point in the first round. Mahtook was a clear cut top 20 talent entering the day, and you rarely get a chance at a polished college bat this late. Mahtook could be a hitter capable of moving up the minor league ladder to the big league level in a couple years. The LSU star also has a professional, hard nosed mentality that should bode well for him at the professional level. And, even if he doesn't stick in center field, he has the arm and power potential to profile in right.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt | Picked By: Oakland Athletics

Clearly there were teams that had their doubts about Sonny Gray, his height, and his ability to remain a starter for the long haul. Billy Beane and the A's were not among the clubs that had doubts about Gray. Oakland was thrilled, and for good reason, to even have a shot at the Vanderbilt-right-hander. Gray is the owner of a 93-95 mph fastball, a plus curveball, and a quality changeup. That's an arsenal of a front end big league starter, especially given his plus command. If he can prove that he can stay durable and his 5-foot-11 frame won't hamper him, this is clearly a steal for Oakland.


Joe Panik, SS, St. John's | Picked By: San Francisco Giants

Joe Panik has a lot of things going for him, and there's no denying that he's a quality draft talent. But, he was a player most clubs had pegged for somewhere in the second round or perhaps even the third. Every team has their reasons for these types of picks, but this is absolutely a pick that goes against the grain. Panik showed solid tools across the board last summer in the Cape Cod League, and quite often impressions made in the prestigious wood bat league can be lasting ones. And, that might be one of the big reasons we're talking about Panik as the 29th overall pick in the country right now. The lefty swinging Panik has the tools to stick at shortstop, and figures to make a lot of contact and advance up the minor league ladder quickly. There's nothing about Joe Panik that says future star, but what the Giants may have done here is played it safe on a player they feel is a sure bet to be a serviceable everyday player.

Jose Fernandez, RHP, Alonso H.S. (Fla.) | Picked By: Florida Marlins

There's no denying Jose Fernandez' power arm and it's one of the better ones in the high school class. He works at 93-95 mph and is physically mature. But, for a 14th overall pick in a deep draft class, he's quite crude. His secondary pitches remain inconsistent and his fastball command is far from refined at this point. You can't knock taking upside, but it was somewhat surprising that Florida went this route over one of the safer college bats.

Chris Reed, LHP, Stanford | Picked By: Los Angeles Dodgers

Actually, to be fair, this isn't much of a real huge surprise. The Dodgers made this pick at 16th overall because of their financial situation. They had to be certain anyone they picked could be signed for slot or below and the Stanford lefty likely gives them that guarantee. There were better talents on the board, but if you're looking for the upside, he does have a low 90s fastball and the potential for two quality secondary offerings from the left side.


Jacob Anderson, OF, Chino H.S. (Calif.) | Picked By: Toronto Blue Jays

Anderson was a player I've thought very highly of since last summer, but the consensus seemed to have him somewhere later in the draft. But, it turned out there were other clubs, particularly the Toronto Blue Jays, that valued what he brings to the table. Anderson is a picture of projection, standing at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. His right-handed swing produces massive raw power and he's capable of driving the ball out to the middle of the park. He creates outstanding leverage and has plus bat speed. Toronto clearly is drafting with upside in mind, and they are on the right track picking a player like Anderson at 35th overall. This is potential 30 home run, above average athlete at the big league level.

Kevin Matthews, LHP, Richmond Hill H.S. (Ga.) | Picked By: Texas Rangers

Most in the industry were surprised when Texas called Kevin Matthews' name at 33rd overall. But, most of the initial reaction was very positive to the selection. Matthews has a smallish 5-foot-11 frame and is not overpowering, as he sat 88-90 mph with his fastball last summer, but it's the advanced feel for pitching and his secondary pitches that leaves scouts impressed. Reports from scouts in the area have said that Matthews has shown more velocity this spring, and with that velocity coming around he has a chance to be a unique high school lefty with a combination of stuff and feel.

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