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June 4, 2008
  
2008 Draft Preview
by: Alex Nelson on Jun 4, 2008 1:52 AM | Filed under: Articles

This year’s amateur draft will be held tomorrow at 2:00 PM and will continue Friday at 11:30 AM. For the second straight year, ESPN will be airing the first and supplemental rounds with the remaining rounds shown on MLB.com. In preparation for the big event, I figured it would be a prime opportunity to give you guys a little primer on this year’s draft.

This could be a big draft for the Mets. The Mets’ farm system is pretty barren–even more so following the Johan Santana trade–and the Mets luckily have three picks in the first and supplemental rounds: number 18, number 22, and number 33 overall. The 18 and 33 come courtesy of the Braves, who were kind enough to sign Tom Glavine this past offseason. After the Mets’ 33rd pick, they won’t pick again until their second round selection, number 68 overall.

Mets scouting director Rudy Terrasas will be overseeing his third draft, but will be making his very first selection in the draft’s opening round, as previous picks were awarded as free agent compensation Since the Mets’ have two this year, he’ll be making up for lost time, I guess. Terrasas’s previous drafts have been much criticized, perhaps a little unfairly. After all, he didn’t have his first picks until #62 in 2006 and #42 in 2007.

Still, some of the criticism is warranted, as his drafts have been overly pitching-heavy, and his earliest picks were guys with lower ceilings who were expected to move quickly through the system. At the very least, they weren’t particularly sexy picks.

The 2008 Draft: Strengths

The draft’s biggest strength is likely corner infielders, especially in the college ranks. At least three of these guys are expected to go in the top ten: Vanderbilt’s Pedro Alvarez, South Carolina’s Justin Smoak, and Miami prep first baseman Eric Hosmer. It’s a rare occurrence for a first baseman to go so early; teams generally prefer more athletic guys capable of playing a premium position. Alvarez is a third baseman who gets mixed reports defensively, while Smoak and Hosmer have the potential to be above average or better defensive first basemen. The three probably represent the most high-impact power bats in the draft.

It doesn’t stop with those three, either. Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso could sneak into the top ten also, especially if Hosmer falls due to signability concerns. Alonso’s a polished bat and a professional hitter with a very advanced approach at the plate. He’s limited to first base, but he’s good there, and he’s considered a very safe pick to reach the big leagues.

Arizona State’s Brett Wallace, a big third baseman who can flat-out hit, figures to go in the middle of the round. Conor Gillaspie (Wichita State, third base) and Ike Davis (Arizona State, first base) could be selected at the end of the round, while David Cooper (California, first base), James Darnell (South Carolina, third base), and Allan Dykstra (Wake Forest, first base) are options in the supplemental.

College relievers are another of the draft’s strenths. Texas Christian’s Andrew Cashner has had some helium and might rise to the top ten. Josh Fields of Georgia will likely go later in the first round. Other guys who expect to go as early as the supplemental round include Arizona’s Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, Mississippi State’s Aaron Weatherford, Texas Tech’s Zach Stewart, and Rice’s Bryan Price. The next tier include Purdue’s Josh Lindblom, Notre Dame’s Kyle Weiland, Ole Miss’s Scott Bittle, and a handful of others, all of whom could find themselves among the top 100 selections.

That’s a lot of relievers.

To a lesser extent, there are a number of fine catchers available, at both levels. Buster Posey (Florida State) could go first overall, and Kyle Skipworth (California high school) figures to go in the top ten. The Mets will be looking at Stanford’s Jason Castro with the 18, and Hosmer’s high school teammate, Adrian Nieto in the supplemental round. Several others could go in the early rounds of the draft.

The 2008 Draft: Weaknesses

Prep pitchers aren’t very well represented this year. The first taken off the board will either be Tim Melville, a righty from Missuouri, or Ethan Martin, a third baseman/starting pitcher from Georgia who is the draft’s best two-way athlete. A third righty, Gerrit Cole, would be among them if signability issues (among other things) weren’t driving down his stock.

Jake Odorizzi’s (RHP, Illinois HS) stock has been rising, but he might be the only other to be taken in the first round, especially since two-way athletes Aaron Hicks (LHP, California HS) and Casey Kelly (RHP, Florida HS) are asserting themselves as position players. All the guys mentioned have their flaws, and I don’t really see a Clayton Kershaw among them.

It’s also not a great year for high school middle infielders. Georgia prep infielder Tim Beckham could be the top pick, and the aforementioned Kelly, who many scouts prefer as a pitcher, should go in middle of the round. After that, there’s a big gap. Connecticut’s Anthony Hewett, next on the pecking order, is extremely talented but might never learn to hit. And then another gap.

Will the Mets Go Slot?

One of the most angry criticisms levelled at the Mets’ recent draft policies has been the decision to adhere to the Commissioner’s Office’s recommendations for signing bonuses by slot. They’ve played the good citizen while other teams have ignored them and snapped up better talent that had priced themselves out of the grasps of poorer teams.

So will they do the same with the 18 this year? I think they will, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. When your top picks are the 42 and the 62, it might make sense to try and grab a draftee in freefall, throw gobs of money at it, and find yourselves with a first-round talent. In 2008, with the 18th pick, it just doesn’t make sense.

First, outside of the top couple of players, there’s just not a whole lot of depth at the top this year. The difference between the 18th pick and the eighth, for example, isn’t as great as it has been in other drafts.

Second, there are no Rick Porcello’s in this draft, as Kevin Goldstein mentioned the other day. Pedro Alvarez and Eric Hosmer, who are both represented by Scott Boras, just won’t drop to the Mets. They want a ton of money, but they’re both probably worth it. Alvarez will almost surely be gone by the third pick, and Hosmer would have to get past the Royals, Marlins, White Sox, Rangers, and Dodgers, all of whom either have money to burn or a strong interest in Hosmer. If he falls, it won’t be over money.

The only other player who could conceivably “drop” is Gerrit Cole. Also a Boras guy, Cole’s signability is a big factor, but, quite frankly, I’m not sure he’s even worth the 18th pick. He has a great arm, but he’s got some pretty substantial mechanical issues which throw off his command and elevate his injury risk. He’s also been called immature by several scouts due to his attitude on the mound.

In the end, the whole slotting dilemma is overblown. It won’t matter if the Mets go slot or not, because, in all likelihood, it won’t make a difference who they draft. Taking a guy just because he’s falling is stupid way to make a draft pick; instead, they’ll just take the top guy remaining on their board. Which will probably be somebody worth slot.

First Round Targets

Supposedly, the Mets think their lower-level prospects are underrated. They’re certainly welcome to that opinion, and they might even be right. I’m thinking this means that they prefer to take guys with more polish, likely college bats or arms.

Here are seven guys I expect the Mets to consider with their first two picks.

Ethan Martin: A high schooler out of Georgia, Martin probably won’t be here at 18 and is more raw than the Mets would prefer. He’s the best two-way talent available, a third baseman and a right-handed pitcher. He was originally thought of as a better position player thanks to good defense and fantastic raw power, but his stock as a pitcher shot through the roof after making Hosmer look foolish in a showcase. He offers mid-90s velocity, a great breaking pitch, and a promising changeup.

Brett Lawrie: A Canadian high school bat, who might also be gone by 18. He’s a polished hitter with plus power, born to hit. He’s athletic with decent speed, but he lacks a defined defensive position, having played all around the diamond, including catcher, in school. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wind up at second base, as he’s often compared to Dan Uggla.

Jason Castro: Perhaps the most likely guy for the Mets to take, he’s the best catcher after Posey and Skipworth (and maybe Lawrie). Defensively, he’s got an average arm, and he’s improving as a receiver; he should stick. Offensively, he could be well above average for the position, with 20-homerun power and decent contact ability.

Christian Friedrich: The best college lefty after Brian Matusz, who should go in the top five, Friedrich is a relatively polished starter out of Eastern Kentucky. He’s got 88-92 mile-per-hour heat with a deceptive delivery, plus two quality breaking pitches, and the potential for an average changeup. He’s got iffy command at times, however. Could be gone earlier than this.

Andrew Cashner: While a reliever for Texas Christian University, many teams envision him as a starter, thanks to a projectable six-foot-six frame and mid-to-high 90s velocity. He’s also got a slider which can be a plus pitch. His command needs work, and he’ll need to develop a third pitch if he wants to start. He could go anywhere in the draft between eight and 30, and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Reese Havens: South Carolina’s shortstop struggled his first two seasons but followed a strong Cape Cod performance with a great junior year. He should hit for average and good power for a middle infielder, but scouts are split as to whether he has the ability to play shortstop. It’s more likely he’ll wind up at second.

Ike Davis: A fairly polished hitter with raw power, the Arizona State first baseman also has the athleticism and arm to handle right field. He has a good eye and a nice swing and should move pretty quickly.

Other possibilities include toolsy high school outfielders Aaron Hicks and Zach Collier, high school arms Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Ross Seaton, and college arm Brad Holt.

That’s all for today, but stay tuned for my live blog and chat of the draft, along with more coverage tomorrow. I’ll shadow draft the Mets, will offer analysis of any players taken, and I’ll be around all day to discuss draft choices. All are welcome to participate.


15 Responses to “2008 Draft Preview”

  1. Comment posted by Danny on June 4, 2008 at 9:56 am (#715201)

    Great stuff, Alex. Really thoughtful and really informative.

    I hadn’t heard the bad end of stuff on Gerrit Cole. That does give me pause.

    A lot of people seem to be jumping on the Ike Davis at #18 bandwagon. I know you think he would move quickly, but is that a good pick there? Would he fall to 22?

    I can’t really see the Mets drafting a high school toolsy position player at 18 or 22 with their needs, and their feelings that the Dominican academy is developing a bunch of really good young talent.

    A high school pitcher with a ton of upside at 18, I can see that though.

    I can’t wait until tomorrow!

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  3. Comment posted by Dep on June 4, 2008 at 11:16 am (#715357)

    Awesome preview Alex!!!! woot! i’m pumped.

    I love what I’m hearing about Ike Davis, lets get him!

    I hope Castro falls to us, i’ve seen him in the top 15 picks in a bunch of mocks, to get him and Davis with our first 2 picks would please me greatly.

    HIS NAME IS BRETT LAWRIE.

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  5. Comment posted by Dep on June 4, 2008 at 11:16 am (#715358)

    and yea, Cole has gotten a ton of negative press lately, I’ve heard some teams have laughed at the money he’s asking for and there may not be a team out there that is willing to pay him. should be interesting to see how much he drops.

  6. Comment posted by sheadenizen on June 4, 2008 at 11:27 am (#715382)

    What I don’t know is how the Dominican/ Latim American academies play into all this. Do the prospects there negate the need for some of the players mentioned? Or are the kids coming out of the Dominican really too young to make any judgements on? Could someone help on this please.

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  8. Comment posted by Dep on June 4, 2008 at 11:39 am (#715414)

    Those kids are all years away. I would say a lot are too young to make judgement on.

    the one thing it may lead to is this: the mets may feel they have a ton of “young talent” and may look for college type/polished players in this draft that can help sooner.

    I think that may be the effect.

  9. Comment posted by Trent on June 4, 2008 at 11:57 am (#715453)

    I definately like davis and castro with our first two picks but how about taking someone like tanner scheppers a RHP out of fresno state who was a consensus top 15 pick before getting injured about a month ago. He could certainly fall to us at 33 and maybe even to 68. I also like this high school lefty from kentucky, Robbie Ross, who reminds me a lot of kazmir, live arm with a plus slider. He is probably a first round talent who could easily fall because of signability, he has a commitment to Kentucky, and i think he would be worth slot busting at either pick 68 or 100.

  10. Comment posted by sheadenizen on June 4, 2008 at 11:58 am (#715454)

    Thanks, Depski. Much appreciated.

  11. Comment posted by Danny on June 4, 2008 at 12:07 pm (#715464)

    That’s right, Dep. I agree with your interpretation.

    The Mets probably see this First Year Player Draft as an opportunity to improve the talent levels at the higher levels of the organization, so my strong assumption is that they will lean heavily towards college players they think will move quickly through the organization. They feel have a ton of talent in the lower levels already.

    Having said that, Omar is quoted as saying he’s taking the best player available, so if they are REALLY high on a high school talent that falls to them, they are supposedly going to pick them. We’ll see!

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  13. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on June 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm (#715574)

    A lot of people seem to be jumping on the Ike Davis at #18 bandwagon. I know you think he would move quickly, but is that a good pick there? Would he fall to 22?

    My inkling is that Davis would fall to the 22. There’s a bit of skepticism about his ability to adapt to wood bats due to poor performances in the Alaska and Cape Cod Leagues, and while he’s a fine hitter, some aren’t convinced he’ll make it as a right fielder. I’m not too worried about either count.

    I can’t really see the Mets drafting a high school toolsy position player at 18 or 22 with their needs, and their feelings that the Dominican academy is developing a bunch of really good young talent.

    I kind of a agree with you, but at a certain point, the toolsy outfielders (Hicks and Collier) do become a value pick. I expect both to be gone by 18, but one is still there (particularly with the 22), the Mets might have a decision to make.

    definately like davis and castro with our first two picks but how about taking someone like tanner scheppers a RHP out of fresno state who was a consensus top 15 pick before getting injured about a month ago. He could certainly fall to us at 33 and maybe even to 68.

    Scheppers is a tough one. I certainly wouldn’t advocate taking him in the first, because the word I hear is that the shoulder injury is pretty serious–worse than the stress fracture originally reported. Teams are really backing off of him, and I think he’s a guy who should go between 40 and 60 now. If he’s still there at 68, I’d consisder it.

    I also like this high school lefty from kentucky, Robbie Ross, who reminds me a lot of kazmir, live arm with a plus slider. He is probably a first round talent who could easily fall because of signability, he has a commitment to Kentucky, and i think he would be worth slot busting at either pick 68 or 100.

    I like Ross, too, but I wouldn’t count on him falling to the 68. He should sign for second round money, so I think he’ll get grabbed by then. He’s got a nice fastball and good command, but he has less projection than other high schoolers due to his height. He’s certainly in the mix at 33.

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  15. Comment posted by Dep on June 4, 2008 at 1:50 pm (#715606)

    you rock alex

    I’m excited for this draft!!!! go mets!

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  17. Comment posted by Jessica on June 4, 2008 at 1:53 pm (#715617)

    Goldstein’s mock draft is up on BP, and he seems to think that the Mets really really want Jemile Weeks.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7615

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  19. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on June 4, 2008 at 2:13 pm (#715659)

    Cool Jess. I’ve been waiting for that guy. Kevin’s mock last year turned out to be very accurate. Late last night I had heard that Lawrie was likely to go seven, so that doesn’t surprise me.

    He has the Mets taking Melville, who I didn’t mention above but should have. His stock’s been very up-and-down (Weeks’s too, for that matter). He’s got a good arm, a great knuckle-curve, pretty good command, good feel for pitching, but he’s had some problems. His velocity was down for a while and the curve hasn’t always been there.

    Weeks I’m just not crazy about. I’d rather have Reese Havens, I think. He’s not as good a hitter as his brother was, but he has more speed and better defense, though the latter can still be iffy at times. He will stick at second, though.

  20. Comment posted by danielj on June 4, 2008 at 2:38 pm (#715690)

    I’m glad to have 3 early picks after 2 years w/o a 1st rounder. Too bad this draft has so little depth. I keep hoping one of the top bats will drop due to bonus demands, but there doesn’t seem to be much talk of that this year. We’ll see.

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  22. Comment posted by JK47 on June 4, 2008 at 6:05 pm (#716275)

    I’d love to get a good college hitter. The Mets system is pretty sorely lacking in power bats, and it would be great to add a nice, solid college hitter to the minor league system.

    Hosmer, Alvarez and Smoak will all be off the board by the time the Mets draft but I’m holding out hope for Yonder Alonso. Alonso has some signability issues so he could possibly fall a bit. I love Brett Wallace but I don’t think he’ll last until 18.

    High school pitchers scare me but there are some good upside plays that might be available: Gerrit Cole, Jake Odirizzi and Tim Melville. Melville is my favorite of the three because he has a nice, easy motion. One way to go would be to take a solid college position player with the 18th pick and go with one of the Cole-Odirizzi-Melville trio with the 22nd.

    Jemile Weeks I do not like at all; he’s a banjo hitter who doesn’t really run that well and isn’t great defensively… pass. Weeks would be a mistake in my opinion and I really hope he isn’t one of our first two picks.

  23. Comment posted by Danny on June 4, 2008 at 6:33 pm (#716383)

    Jemile Weeks I do not like at all; he’s a banjo hitter who doesn’t really run that well and isn’t great defensively… pass. Weeks would be a mistake in my opinion and I really hope he isn’t one of our first two picks.

    So of course that’s who the Mets are reportedly hot on. haha

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