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Draft  | Mock Draft  | 6/3/2010

Mock Draft, V.2

David Rawnsley     

A wise and very experienced former big-league scouting director, and current front-office guru, recently shared the following insight about the 2010 baseball draft, which begins this Monday:
“The draft breaks down this way,” he said. “(Bryce) Harper is obviously the best player. (Manny) Machado and (Jameson) Taillon are obviously the next two-best players. The next group has about 10-12 players in it, and everyone pretty much agrees on the names. That takes us about halfway through the first round.
“Those last 15-17 picks in the first round will come from a group of about 80-90 players, a whole lot of them who haven’t appeared on any mock drafts. There are going to be some real surprises in the second half of the first round.”
With the recent popularity of websites dedicated to the baseball draft, there have been any number of mock first-round projections that have popped up this spring, especially in the last week or so.
Most of the same, long-established college, junior-college and high-school names continue to appeared on a majority of the lists, but a few random names have begun to pop up as the wheels have begun to churn in earnest in the draft rooms of every big-league club.
Among the potential new first-round candidates, if mock drafts stand for anything, are outfielders Todd Cunningham (Jacksonville State) and Ryan LaMarre (Michigan), and catcher Mike Kvasnicka (Minnesota) from the college ranks; outfielder Marcus Knecht (Connors State, Okla.) from the junior-college ranks; catcher Kellin Deglan (British Columbia), first baseman Christian Yelich (California), second baseman Delino DeShields (Georgia), outfielder Jake Skole (Georgia), righthanders Adam Plutko (California) and Peter Tago (California), and lefthander Jesse Biddle (Pennsylvania) from the prep ranks.
With the exception of the oft-injured but fast-charging Skole, all those players are ranked on PG CrossChecker’s mid-May list of the Top 100 prospects for this year’s draft (EDITOR’S NOTE: A revised top 250 list will be issued just before the start of Monday’s proceedings).
How do names suddenly appear on mock-draft lists, and even get attached to specific teams? Here’s one scenario.
New York Mets GM Omar Minaya showed up at a Big 10 Conference tournament game last weekend in Columbus, Ohio, to watch Kvasnicka play. I’m told that Kvasnicka didn’t swing the bat particularly well in that game, and the 6-to-8 Midwest scouts I frequently talk to have never, ever mentioned Kvasnicka as a potential first-round pick, let alone going to the Mets at No. 7 overall.
Since the Mets don’t pick again until the third round (89th overall), and it’s logical to assume a big-league GM isn’t out canvassing the country looking at potential third-rounders, the logical assumption is that Minaya was bearing down on Kvasnicka. It didn’t go unnoticed by at least one draft projection.
A handful of the players who may be getting late first-round attention, but have never really ever been slotted so high before, are noted below. Frankly, they could easily qualify among those 80-90 “surprise” picks our highly respected scouting contact referred to. In the end, it will be interesting to see how many, if any, actually do get picked among the top 32.
A quick scouting summary on some of those “late bloomers:”
Jesse Biddle, lhp, Germantown Friends HS, Philadelphia.I’ve heard him mentioned as high as the middle of the first round, but it’s not surprising for a projectable 6-foot-6 lefty who has touched 94 this spring to surface there.
Kris Bryant, 3b, Bonanza HS, Las Vegas. There are some teams that absolutely love the power-hitting Bryant, just as there are teams who have no interest in him whatsoever. If a team wants Bryant badly enough, it will pick him with a protected first-round pick as Bryant is a signability risk.
Micah Gibbs, c, Louisiana State. Gibbs was mentioned frequently as a potential first-round pick prior to the 2010 season and enjoyed a strong campaign (.392-9-55), if you don’t pin too much of LSU’s pitching woes (5.52 staff ERA) on him. Some very knowledgeable scouts have been very reticent to talk about Gibbs, as well, raising more suspicion.
Mike Kvasnicka, c/of, Minnesota. His profile as a left-handed hitting catcher, if you are convinced he can catch, is a powerful draw. Without the catching aspect to his game, I don’t think he would be considered much before the late-second to early-third round.
Kyle Parker, of, Clemson. Big-time athlete (Clemson QB), big-time power, sabermetric tools (48 BB), obvious athletic aptitude. You can spread his signing bonus out over five years, and remember, he’s really still just a sophomore, age-wise, because he entered Clemson in the spring of his normal high-school senior year to get a head start on football.
Jacob Petricka, rhp, Indiana State. Lots of scouts saw Petricka touch 98 mph and throw 94-96 deep into games this spring. You don’t find that kind of college velocity often. Think about the comparison between Petricka and new Chicago Cubs reliever Andrew Cashner, who emerged late in his college career as a first-rounder.
Chance Ruffin, rhp, Texas. Draft history in recent years says that a pitcher like Ruffin (a virtual clone of ex-Longhorns closer Huston Street) gets to the big leagues quickly, and is effective immediately. That sounds like a sound formula for a good, conservative draft. Is Ruffin any different, functionally, than Street, Chad Cordero or Drew Storen?
Taijuan Walker, rhp, Yucaipia (Calif.) HS. I personally wouldn’t pick Walker over a number of other projectable, athletic high-school righthanders I’ve seen. But virtually every California-based scout I have talked to repeats the same thing, “Don’t be surprised when Walker goes a lot higher than you might think.”
Tony Wolters, ss, Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista, Calif. Wolters doesn’t spark much national attention because of the player he essentially is, a sure-fire, future big-leaguer without the typical plus tools or plus body that get the attention of most scouts.
Christian Yelich, 1b, Westlake HS, Thousand Oaks, Calif.Yelich’s name just continues to stay on the fringe of the first round, and won’t go away. Scouts obviously love his bat and projection
Excluding those 10 players above from consideration, here is PG CrossChecker’s current take on the first round of the draft.
Bryce Harper, c, College of Southern Nevada
Nothing more needs to be said at this point. I would caution draft followers not to get too over-involved in the hype about how much money Harper eventually gets on the Aug. 16 signing deadline. That’s a game for high-powered agents and professional general managers to play. The important thing is that the 17-year-old Harper has a sound and well-managed development plan, free of stress and urgency. Just like Stephen Strasburg.
Jameson Taillon, rhp, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
The Pirates may not agree with me, but I would personally take Taillon over Machado for any number of different reasons. Aren’t young power pitchers still the most valuable currency in baseball? Ask a veteran Texas scout who they would pick between Josh Beckett (No. 2 overall in 1999) and Taillon? I think it would be a toss-up, at best.
Manny Machado, ss, Brito Private HS, Miami
I’m still more of a fan of the Orioles picking Chris Sale in this spot, as I did in my first mock draft, but I’m going to listen to the wise sages that say that Harper, Taillon and Machado are the clear top three picks.
Chris Sale, lhp, Florida Gulf Coast
I’m convinced the choice here is essentially between the two premium college lefthanders, Sale and Mississippi’s Drew Pomerenz. There are pluses and minuses related to both. Neither has a beautiful, classic delivery, but deception is in the eye of the beholder. Sale hasn’t pitched against top-level competition on a consistent basis, but has no blemishes on his record. Pomerenz has dominated the top level of college baseball, but has been dinged up over the last month, when decisions are made. Both are good, sound choices.
Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Mississippi
The irony here is that Sale might benefit more than Pomeranz from his school being narrowly passed over for an NCAA regional berth. Pomeranz might have welcomed the rest since he has not been dominant since straining an oblique several weeks ago, and is at risk for another mediocre outing before the draft. There is also the chance that Mississippi will pitch him on short rest at a critical moment, as it did in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Yasmani Grandal, c, Miami (Fla.)
Just as picks No. 4 and No. 5 came down to deciding between two similar prospects, I think the next five picks will all come from a pool of five players from relatively the same demographic: Grandal, 2B Kolbrin Vitek, 3B Zach Cox, SS Christian Colon and OF Michael Choice—all college bats. Teams in the Nos. 6-10 slots all need immediate help, and wouldn’t hesitate to go after a college bat at this point. The kicker for me on Grandal, who is clearly the least-developed hitter among the five, is that he is a top defender at a premium position. Cox and Vitek still have question marks about their eventual position, and Choice is very likely a corner outfielder. The low-ceiling, low-risk Colon doesn’t strike me as a typical Arizona-type athlete.
Christian Colon, ss, Cal State Fullerton
I put Colon in this spot on my first mock draft and I see no reason to move him out, although Cox or Vitek would certainly be comfortable picks in this slot as well. I’m curious how many of the players from this group of five position players that Minaya went out to see during the spring.
Kolbrin Vitek, 3b/of, Ball State
The more I learn about the previously unheralded Vitek, the more I like. He isn’t as strong physically as Choice, or a lefthanded hitter like Cox, but he seems to be more of a sure thing to combine both hitting ability with power at the big-league level. His combination of speed and arm strength is superior to either Choice or Cox, and scouts think he should become solid defensively, either in center field or third base. The Astros’ slot seems to be frequently associated with high-school bats like Josh Sale (Washington) or DeShields, but I struggle to find the rationale behind either of those players at this point in the draft.
Michael Choice, of, Texas-Arlington
It would not surprise me if Choice went higher than this, even No. 5 to the Diamondbacks. His strength and athleticism stand out. But I do struggle with a hitter who didn’t make contact in 130 out of 285 plate appearances this spring, playing against second-tier college pitching, and that’s the kind of red flag that can make decision-makers worry behind closed doors, leading up to the draft. I had Florida prep righthander Karsten Whitson in this slot in my first mock, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oakland A’s go in the direction of a high-school righthander at No. 10 either, with Dylan Covey (California) and Stetson Allie (Ohio) being the obvious candidates, aside from Whitson.
Karsten Whitson, rhp, Chipley (Fla.) HS
The A’s have had a great run with intelligent, polished young pitchers in recent drafts, and the draft board is starting to get very backed-up with quality high-school arms at this point. Whitson has been the most consistent of the top prep arms (throwing A.J. Cole and Aaron Sanchez, along with Covey and Allie in that mix), and is by far the most-polished, as well.
Deck McGuire, rhp, Georgia Tech
The Blue Jays are the obvious wild-card team in this year’s draft, with a completely new scouting staff and draft philosophy, and 10 picks among the first 125. They could do anything, and it wouldn’t be surprising. But the one thing I rarely hear discussed is to what extent the Blue Jays will spend money. Much speculation involves them picking multiple dual-sport athletes to spread out the bonus obligation over five years, or cutting pre-draft deals with numerous players. Having talked to a couple of their area scouts at length, I’ve gotten the impression that they are going to be pretty conservative. With so many accomplished college arms on the board now, I think that’s the direction to go. McGuire is the most polished and consistent, but another college arm like Asher Wojciechowski (The Citdael), Brandon Workman (Texas) or Alex Wimmers (Ohio State) would fit just as well.
Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Louisiana State
I liked Ranaudo here in the first mock and see no reason to change, especially since Ranaudo has thrown better in the last two weeks. The thought process applies: the Reds’ stomach for risk and the positive rewards they are getting from it, and the curious sliding of high-end college arm Kyle Gibson in the 2009 draft.
Asher Wojciechowski, rhp, The Citadel
I had Workman slotted here the first time and would still be comfortable with that, but the more I hear about Wojciechowski (and the more I look forward to commissioner Bud Selig trying to pronounce his name Monday), the more I like him. Wimmers or power-hitting outfielder Bryce Brentz could also come into play for this college-oriented scouting staff.
Justin O’Conner, c/ss, Cowan HS, Muncie, Ind.
High-school position players have been notably, but very predictably, absent thus far, and this slot is where it should change. I’ve been told that O’Conner is one of the fastest-rising players on draft boards and should go in the top half of the first round. Third baseman Nick Castellanos, a Florida high-school slugger, is also a good fit for this slot.
15. TEXAS RANGERS (for not signing Matt Purke in 2009)
Stetson Allie, rhp, St. Edward HS, Olmsted Falls, Ohio
There are two reasons for putting the hard-throwing Allie in this slot. The first is that he has improved tremendously this spring, more than I thought was possible, and he definitely belongs in this part of the draft. The second is that Nolan Ryan has taken a very active role in the building of the Rangers’ revitalized pitching staff, and nothing would fit better than one of the hardest-throwing high-school hurlers ever to fall under Ryan’s tutelage. I am still tempted to put hard-throwing Texan Zach Lee here, but it just seems as if Lee is set on playing quarterback at LSU.
Matt Harvey, rhp, North Carolina
Harvey probably belongs higher on the draft list than No. 16, but there is financial disincentive (Toronto) or negative history (White Sox) for the two teams drafting above the Cubs. Harvey is a Scott Boras client. A possible subplot will be how the new Cubs’ ownership approaches the draft.
Nick Castellanos, 3b, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Davie, Fla.
The Rays have made their mark over the years drafting high-school position players in the first round. Castellanos is an obvious fit here. Power-hitting Washington prep outfielder Josh Sale’s name is frequently mentioned well above this slot, and Canadian catcher Kellin Deglan may also fit in this part of the draft—though Northwest scouts insist Deglan will not go in the first round.
18. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (from Mariners for Chone Figgins)
Austin Wilson, of, Harvard Westlake HS, Los Angeles
Wilson seems to have dropped off most mock draft boards recently, due to major signability concerns, but I see the Angels as being the perfect storm for Wilson entering pro baseball now vs. attending Stanford. If there is anything we’ve learned about the Angels and their often-maverick scouting director Eddie Bane, it’s that they are unpredictable. Yes, they did pick two righthanded-hitting high-school outfielders in the first round last year, but with as many picks as the Angels annually have, they don’t pick on need. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other potential high-ceiling, high-school talents such as Georgia’s Kaleb Cowart, Deglan or Cole in this slot, either.
19. HOUSTON ASTROS (from Tigers for Jose Valverde)
Josh Sale, of, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle
Astros scouting director Bobby Heck was with the Brewers, when they picked Prince Fielder in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2002 draft. While their physiques are different, one can imagine that the thought process shouldn’t be too different. Sale doesn’t offer much more than left-field potential athletically, but his power potential is huge and his path to the big leagues might be very short for a high-school hitter.
20. BOSTON RED SOX (from Braves for Billy Wagner)
Kaleb Cowart, 3b/rhp, Cook County HS, Adel, Ga.
After picking (and giving big bonus money to) dual position high-school athletes like Casey Kelly and David Renfroe the past two years, this is just too perfect a selection for the Red Sox. Cowart is more highly regarded as a prospect than both Kelly and Renfroe, and no one in the Red Sox organization, which seems to have the development flexibility to deal with dual-prospect athletes, regrets those picks. Arkansas outfielder/righthander Brett Eibner would be almost a cliché as another possibility here.
Dylan Covey, rhp, Maranatha HS, Pasadena, Calif.
One of the themes of the 2010 draft could well be the slipping of high-school pitching on draft day. In this scenario, Covey, who has not thrown well late in the year, could be the one to fall the farthest. No one would have likely had him falling this far, even a month ago. The Twins may have their eyes on other players first, such as Brentz or Deglan (a natural comparison to Justin Morneau, given their upbringings as catchers from British Columbia), but may not be able to pass on Covey falling into their laps.
Alex Wimmers, rhp, Ohio State
This year’s version of Mike Leake. Wimmers has an average major-league fastball and two plus off-speed pitches, and the ability to use them efficiently. It would be easy to slot Wimmers anywhere from the 10th pick downward, and the Rangers might be surprised he ends up here.
Aaron Sanchez, rhp, Barstow (Calif.) HS
Nothing changes from the first mock draft. Sanchez should get to this position, and he is just too good a fit for the veteran Marlins’ scouting staff’s draft philosophy.
Gary Brown, of, Cal State Fullerton
There seems to be a strong case of “out of sight, out of mind” involving Brown, since he broke his finger a couple of weeks ago. The Giants need hitting and athleticism, and Brown would provide both of those at a premium position. So would Eibner, and to a lesser degree Brentz.
Brandon Workman, rhp, Texas
This would be a great value pick for the Cardinals, as Workman could go to any of the teams in the 10-20 area who are looking hardest at college pitching. Texas A&M righthander Barrett Loux shares a lot of the same attributes as Workman does, and both would move quickly through the Cardinals’ thin system.
Kevin Gausman, rhp, Grandview HS, Aurora, Colo.
The Rockies were infatuated with Gausman prior to the 2010 season, but a slow start by the hometown righthander seemed to push everyone off first-round consideration. Gausman has been back up to the mid-90s form he previously showed, and it’s a very safe bet that the Rockies sat on him all season. A sinker ball pitcher like Arizona State righthander Seth Blair or University of San Diego lefthander Sammy Solis would also fit well with the Rockies’ pitching philosophy.
Bryce Brentz, of, Middle Tennessee State
I have a firm hunch that this will be a surprise “off-the-board” pick, and it would be very easy to pop someone such as Yelich or Biddle (a local product) in this slot. Brentz offers too much power for an organization that craves power to let him fall any further.
A.J. Cole, rhp, Oviedo (Fla.) HS
The Dodgers have been consistently focused on young power arms for the last decade, and few have the power or ceiling that Cole would offer. Signability for high school pitchers, especially those who have been consistently mentioned higher than this slot as Cole has all spring, can become problematic, and the suddenly financially conscious Dodgers may have a concern with that.
29. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (from Red Sox for John Lackey)
Kellin Deglan, R.E. Mountain HS, Langley, BC.
Peter Tago, rhp, Dana Hills (Calif.) HS
Having back-to-back picks is always a luxury in the draft as it takes a lot of the worry about losing a player out of the mix. I had Deglan here in the last mock draft and still like him here, although his name certainly gets mentioned higher with some frequency. Tago continues the late first-round run on high-school pitching prospects and has improved his draft stock lately as much as any projectable Southern Californian has.
31. TAMPA BAY RAYS (for not signing LeVon Washington in 2009)
Brett Eibner, rhp/of, Arkansas
This is another pick where I can easily see the Rays going “off-the- board” for a surprise pick, especially on a prearranged deal for under slot. Eibner fits, though, because he just has too many tools on both sides of the ball not to go in the first round.
Yordy Cabrera, ss, Lakeland (Fla.) HS
The temptation is to always ascribe a big “splash” pick with the Yankees, due to the bombastic nature of the organization. But the fact is, the team’s scouting department doesn’t operate that way. In addition, there really aren’t that many wild-card picks in the 2010 draft. Cabrera has one of the highest ceilings of any player still on the board, and would fit well into the Yankees’ system. Still, one wonders considering where the Yankees pick almost every year if it wouldn’t be better business for them to look to fill the Nos. 18-25 spots on their big-league roster with high-probability prospects such as Ruffin or Gibbs, two players with a high probability of reaching the big leagues.