Players to watch in a draft short on huge names but long on talent
Although not everyone in baseball is sure that next month's first-year baseball draft is quite as talent-laden as the 2005 draft that included Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Jay Bruce, Clay Buchholz and several more future stars, this draft is indeed "very strong and extremely deep,'' as one scouting director said.
This year's draft, which begins on June 6, also lacks a household name at the top of the board, like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper -- who went to the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- but it is especially stocked with strong-armed pitchers and multi-talented (and in a few cases, five-tool) outfielders. "There are a helluva lot of good players,'' said one scouting director, who added that the depth is so great that "the No. 8 pick could wind up being the best player.''
For many months the top two picks were presumed to be accomplished Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon and hard-throwing UCLA right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. But Rendon has been DHing all season due to shoulder discomfort, and Cole has run into uncharacteristic struggles, throwing a bit of uncertainty into the top of the draft.
"[The draft] is stacked, but some recent injuries and performance issues have muddied the waters,'' one scout said.
Cole, who wouldn't even listen to a Yankees offer three years ago that might have exceeded $5 million after they chose him with a late first-round pick, is still seen as a likely top-two pick thanks to a high-90s fastball and a dynamic breaking ball. However, Rendon's spot at the top may be slightly less certain now. The injury to the potential cornerstone player is not thought to be serious, but scouting directors may not be apt to take even a small chance, considering the amount of money that goes to players at the top of the draft now.
"At these prices, how can you pick someone who you're not sure about?'' one scouting director said in regard to Rendon.
According to one National League scouting director, Florida high school shortstop Franscico Lindor could sneak into the top two picks, which are held by Pittsburgh and Seattle. Lindor, who has developed tremendous power, could be joined in the top five by some combination of University of Virginia left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy and Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling, according to one scouting director. Two scouts said that UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer, who pitches behind Cole in the Bruins' rotation, is "shooting up the board'' and could wind up in the top five, as well.
With just over a month remaining until the three-day draft begins, here's my top 25 list of draft-eligible young stars, followed by 10 more players of intrigue, based on interviews with a half dozen scouting directors and scouts.
• It's amazing that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt can muster so much defiance when talking about his situation. The way he talks, you'd never know that he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jamie used $100 million of Dodgers money to subsidize a lavish lifestyle while running so short on cash that they needed loans from Fox just to meet payroll. He acts as if he can't understand why commissioner Bud Selig has appointed an overseer of the operation. That's Hollywood for you.
• Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes is seeing a circulatory specialist on Monday in St. Louis to confirm that he has thoracic outlet syndrome. There is a mixed history of pitchers who had the same problem. Kenny Rogers and Matt Harrison came back from it, Noah Lowry did not and Jeremy Bonderman is still working on it. Meanwhile, the surprising success of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia meant there was no room for Kevin Millwood, who will officially opt out of his Yankees deal on Monday.
• Raul Ibanez's 0-for-34 slump should be cause for concern for the 38-year-old.
• Darwin Barney is making a difference with the Cubs. He isn't a tools guy, but "he's a winner,'' one scout said.
• Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell received a two-week suspension and an undisclosed fine for mistreatment of fans, which included a gay slur, comments that children did not belong at the ballpark and holding a bat in a threatening manner while talking to fans. That's the same penalty that former Brave pitcher John Rocker got for his idiotic comments in