Monday, June 7, 2010

MLB Draft Day 1: Preview with a Slight Mock

Last season I went great lengths to post (yet another) MLB Amatuer Mock Draft.  Looking over those picks I realized I failed to factor in team strategy in regards to the frequency of picks a certain team has in the early rounds to players being established as those able to sign for "slot money" (last season, C Tony Sanchez and RHP Mike Minor come to mind) to those willing to gamble on other options in hopes of a bigger bonus (LHP Tyler Matzek and RHP Jacob Turner, to name a few).

If one wants to correctly pick what each team will do, it's very important to know how each team approaches the amatuer draft: for example, a big market teams like the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees all differ in how they select amateur talent.  On one side, the Mets are notorious for placing a small emphasis on the yearly draft while the Yankees have directed a higher share of their revenue in targeting more of the higher profile and expensive talent.

It's also important to understand that smaller market teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers view the draft as an important step in their team-building process as a larger percentage of their revenue is placed on the draft.

Some teams like the Dodgers and White Sox can be easily predicted; the Dodgers tend to grab up high upside high school talent (usually pitchers) while the White Sox tend to lean towards the more polished and conservative college route.  While other teams with new management like the Blue Jays and Padres can only lead to speculation.  Below, I will attempt to quickly summarize each team in the first few rounds and offer their expected strategy along with the player or players I feel are the best fit.

1. Washington Nationals (Mike Rizzo, General Manager; Kris Kline, Scouting Director): Last season was no surprise as the Nationals stayed true to their word and selected the "best available" in RHP Stephen Strasburg and later opted for the more cost-effective selection in RHP Drew Storen at #10.  Today, a very revealing article by the Washington Post came out revealing that the Nationals do intend to select C/OF Bryce Harper with the first pick.  I expect them to follow a strategy similar to last season: best available at the top followed by more cost-effective undervalued players later.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (Neal Huntington, General Manager; Greg Smith, Scouting Director): since this regime came took over in 2008, the Pirates have been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on what you choose to root for) in having early picks.  A couple of seasons ago, the Pirates took, arguably, the best available bat in 3B Pedro Alvarez.  Last season, they were conservative early taking C Tony Sanchez at #4 and later utilizing more of their draft dollars by landing a few high-upside players in later rounds.  Some early reports had the Pirates doing a repeat and selecting "slot" player LHP Drew Pomeranz at #2.  However, recent reports have come out about Pirate management not looking to pass on one of the two high-upside high schoolers (RHP Jameson Taillon and SS Manny Machado).  Buster Olney of ESPN, and an insider I have no buisness disputing, claims the Pirates will select Taillon at #2.

3. Baltimore Orioles (Andy MacPhail, General Manager; Joe Jordan, Scouting Director): Jordan is seen as one of the better talent evaluators in the game and with no other selections in the supplemental and second rounds (they don't select again until the third round at #85) I expect them to go big and take SS Manny Machado at #3.

4. Kansas City Royals (Dayton Moore, General Manager; J.J. Picollo, Scouting Director): last season was Picollo's first run as draft day decision maker.  Historically, this team has never been afraid to select high profile and raw projects but at #4 it makes sense for the Royals to grab LHP Drew Pomeranz. However, reports have this team high on LHP Chris Sale, another high-risk/high-reward player but one scouts see as only the second best lefty available behind Pomeranz.  We'll see.

5. Cleveland Indians (Mark Shapiro, General Manager; Brad Grant, Scouting Director): at this spot, Cleveland should have their pick of LHP Chris Sale or OF Michael Choice.  If Sale does go to the Royals then I have a hard time believing they will pay premium money for LHP Drew Pomeranz.  Regardless of not selecting again until the second round (#55), I expect them to go the safe route and select Choice at #5.

6. Arizona Diamondbacks (Josh Byrnes, General Manager; Tom Allison, Scouting Director): it's no secret that this season the D-Backs will be favoring college pitching.  This team doesn't assign a lot of money to their budget but Drew Pomeranz will be too tough pass by.

7. New York Mets (Omar Minaya, General Manager; Rudy Terrasas, Scouting Director): despite their highly publicized indifference to draft day, history still says to expect the Mets to target a polished college bat.  3B Zach Cox is about as polished as they come although some do project him as a future 1B or DH due to lacking defense. Despite their limited budget, the Mets don't select again until #89 and should make the most of their early opportunity.

8. Houston Astros (Ed Wade, General Manager; Bobby Heck, Scouting Director): this group is quietly putting together a collection of young talent, especially among their pitching corp.  Reports have them linked to a pair of high school OF's in Josh Sale and Delino DeShields.  Sale has more of an upside in terms of power and should go before DeShields.  With another pick at #19, I expect the Astros to grab Sale here.

9. San Diego Padres (Jed Hoyer, General Manager; Jeron Madison, Scouting Director): another new team with a first time scouting director in Madison.  I expect the Padres to target high upside athletes and may look towards the prep ranks similar to their pick last year in OF Donavan Tate.  It's been reported that the Padres covet OF Michael Choice, 2B Kolbrin Vitek and HS RHP Karsten Whitson.  I get the feeling the Pdres will grab an arm early and go with Whitson.

10. Oakland Athletics (Billy Beane, General Manager; Eric Kubota, Scouting Director): here is a team that has worked well together for a number of seasons.  I expect their draft startegy to be similar to previous years as they target polished college arms and bats early.  With Michael Choice projected to be gone I think the A's will target SS Christian Colon from Cal-State with expectations that he will move to 2B as a pro.

11. Toronto Blue Jays (Alex Anthopolous, General Manager; Andrew Tinnish, Scouting Director): another new team that has talked openly about how they have expanded their scouting department with a new focus on both the international market and amateur draft.  In the past, the Blue Jays were strict in only targeting college talent.  This year they seem to covet prep athlethes and reports have linked them to OF Delino DeShields.

12. Cincinnati Reds (Walt Jocketty, General Manager; Chris Buckley, Scouting Director): the Reds are never afraid from taking a high profile/upside talent and tend to grab the best available regardless of position. However, they tend to go slot with their picks and I would expect them to be considerate of a player's demands.  At this position I expect their decision to come down between RHP Barret Loux from Texas and RHP Alex Wimmers from Ohio State.  Wimmers does struggle with his command and tends to have a low ceiling due to his lack of stuff.  Here, it wouldn't be bad for the Reds to go with a little more upside and select Loux.

13. Chicago White Sox (Ken Williams, General Manager; Doug Laumann, Scouting Director): the White Sox have never really approached the draft with any kind of excitment.  It's expected they will target a college pitcher here and probably go safe by selecting RHP Deck McGuire.

14. Milwaukee Brewers (Doug Melvin, General Manager; Bruce Seid, Scouting Director): Seid ran his first draft last year after being former Brewers Scouting Director, and current Mariners GM, Jack Zduriencik's national crosschecker.  It's no secret the Brewers lack arms and having no other picks until the middle of the second round, RHP Matt Harvey would be very tough to pass on.

15. Texas Rangers (Jon Daniels, General Manager; Kip Fagg, Scouting Director): another first time scouting director but with the Rangers new focus on amateur and international talent, I expect them to pool a lot of resources this year.  The Rangers do have a lot of early picks (another first round pick at #22 and two more in the sandwich round) so I would expect them to pace themselves and not reach for expensive talent early.  In terms of slot, RHP Alex Wimmers should still be available but rumors have them targeting high school OF Jake Skole at this position.

16. Chicago Cubs (Jim Hendry, General Manager; Tim Wilken, Scouting Director): the Cubs history of drafting has been a mixed bag.  They tend to go safe early and some reports have them liking some of the college talent.  RHP Aex Wimmers is still available but a part of me thinks they'll grab a positional player in 2B Kolbrin Vitek.

17. Tampa Bay Rays (Andrew Friedman, General Manager; R.J. Harrison, Scouting Director): just about every mock draft has the Rays taking C Yasmani Grandal and according to this situation, why not.  The Rays do have another pick (unprotected) later this round - so I would expect them to be conservative then.

18. Los Angeles Angels (Tony Reagins, General Manager; Bob Fontaine, Scouting Director): their strategy has always been simple: go after high ceiling prep talent.  This draft they seem to be heavily scouting the California high school pitchers and one they covet, RHP Dylan Covey, should be available.

19. Houston Astros: with their second pick in the first round and Delino DeShields off the board, I could see the Astros taking a flier out on SS Yordi Cabrera.  As a pro, Cabrera profiles as a 3B or corner outfielder as his power from the right side seems perfect for Houston's stadium.

20. Boston Red Sox (Theo Epstein, General Manager; Amiel Sawdaye, Scouting Director): Sawdaye will be overlooking his first draft this season and I'm expecting them to stick to the same playbook: don't go over slot in the first round and look to take chances after that.  The Red Sox do have a couple of picks in the sandwich round so here I expect them to be a bit conservative and grab RHP Brandon Workman from Texas.

21. Minnesota Twins (Bill Smith, General Manager; Deron Johnson, Scouting Director): according to insiders, RHP Alex Wimmers is their top target but since I have him gone I think they may go polished and pursue OF Bryce Brentz.

22. Texas Rangers: after being conservative with their first pick, I wouldn't be surprised if they go a little high risk/reward here and pursue athletic power hitting SS/3B Nick Castellanos.

23. Florida Marlins (Michael Hill, General Manager; Stan Meek, Scouting Director): Meek is respected as a great talent evaluator but with a limited budget, I expect them to pursue one of the available slot college pitchers.  RHP Alex Wimmers would probably be a likely pick here.

24. San Francisco Giants (Brian Sabean, General Manager; John Barr, Scouting Director): one thing the Giants do well is talent evaluation and John Barr is one of the best SD's in the game.  With a workable budget and no other picks until late in the second round, I expect them to grab a high profile power bat that's available.  SS/3B Derek Dietrich would be available but scouts argue on his ability to show future power.  1B Christian Yelich has the higher ceiling, power-wise, and would fit in this team's future profile.

25. St. Louis Cardinals (John Mozeliak, General Manager; Jeff Luhnow, Scouting Director): the return on amateur picks has been down in recent years for the Cardinals.  This team usually sticks to slot and tends to go after safer, lower ceiling talent.  Justin O'Conner has a lot of tools although his power doesn't project to be very high.  He profiles as a future MLB catcher but also has slight upside as a RHP.  Pure project.

26. Colorado Rockies (Dan O'Dowd, General Manager; Bill Schmidt, Scouting Director): Schmidt, in my opinion, is one of the top 3 scouting directors in baseball.  Rockies do pick again in the sandwich round but I expect them to pursue a high upside pitcher.  Prep RHP Kyle Parker will be expensive to pull away from Clemson (he is set to be their QB next season) but I think he'll be too attractive to pass up here.

27. Philadelphia Phillies (Rueben Amaro, General Manager; Marti Wolever, Scouting Director): they tend to draft based on their minor league depth.  They do tend to go after risky players with high ceilings and they can never pass up on a raw athlete.  OF Austin Wilson has the tools and power profile to surely get this team excited.

28. Los Angeles Dodgers (Ned Colletti, General Manager; Tim Hallgren, Scouting Director): they tend to pursue high upside prep arms early and often.  However, the franchise is going through a financial upheaval and many say this year's draft will be under a tight budget.  RHP AJ Cole should be an easy sign and his projection and scouting report could be enough to snag them a future front-end starter.

29. Los Angeles Angels: at this position the Angels could grab RHP Aaron Sanchez, a projectable prep pitcher from Barstow, Ca.  The Angels have been heavily scouting Sanchez and his mid-90's sinker would fit well in their organization.

30. Los Angeles Angels: sources close to the Angels say they aren't afraid to grab three prep pitchers in the first round.  I still have RHP Stetson Allie and his 99 mph fastball still on the board and I'd be surprised if he were passed up.

31. Tampa Bay Rays: as an unprotected compensation pick, expect the Rays to be conservative and pursue a player they can easily sign.  Georgia prep OF Chevez Clarke does have a verbal commitment to University of Georgia but the late buzz makes this athletic and future plus power OF easier to sign than others.

32. New York Yankees (Brian Cashman, General Manager; Damon Oppenheimer, Scouting Director): if history tells us anything about the Yankees in terms of first round picks, it tells us that this team isn't afraid to pursue high upside "unsignable" talent.  Of course in 2008 the Yankees failed to sign RHP Gerrit Cole so money can't buy everything but if RHP Zach Lee is still around - his stuff (plus fastball, slider and changeup) will be impossible to pass on.

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