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.