What's more fun than playing scouting director? Playing scouting director 32 times. Baseball America's draft experts, Jim Callis and John Manuel, conducted a mock MLB draft in which they took turns making the picks for Tuesday's first round, factoring in the finances and needs for each team. So the player listed is the one that BA's experts think that each team should pick, not necessarily the one that they will pick. (Callis won the coin toss, so he gets first dibs on the best prospect in draft history and makes all the odd-numbered picks; Manuel has the evens.)
The pick is obviously Strasburg, and I can't come up with a single reason to hesitate. He'll smash Mark Prior's record of a $10.5 million big league contract, but he's not getting close to the $50 million that adviser Scott Boras is floating. I think he'd get it if he were on the open market, but there's no path that would take Strasburg to free agency. His options are going to be: a) sign with the Nationals and b) re-enter the 2010 draft, and he'll get offered enough to make re-entering the draft too risky. Here's a question for you -- if you get your choice between Strasburg and Sports Illustratedcover boyBryce Harper, who do you take? I'm taking Strasburg, because he has proven himself against much better competition and he's going to help me quicker, but it's not an easy decision.
If Harper were available, I'd probably grab him here. That's quite a statement considering Ackley also is available. I wrote about Ackley a couple weeks ago, and still believe he's a unique player, a future all-star. To me that's worth paying for, even is the price tag gets close to eight figures. Ackley should hit to the point where he'll be a bargain, even if he remains at first base. And if he moves to center or even second base, then all the better.
I'm with you on Ackley, I'd take him at No. 2 without hesitation. It starts to get a little more interesting at No. 3, and I'm sure we'll start disagreeing with each other soon. The Padres are leaning toward Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate, the best athlete in the draft. If I'm a San Diego fan, I'm happy my club is doing something other than looking for a lower-ceiling college guy with a track record of statistical success. But I'm not the biggest Tate fan -- I worry about his bat, and he spurned my alma mater's football program for yours, though Georgia is demonstrably better than North Carolina -- so I'd go with a different potential superstar. Matzek came into the year as the top left-hander available and his stock has only gone up. He has been spectacular in playoff starts the last two weeks, and some teams would be tempted to take him over Ackley.
Like you said, Jim, now it gets interesting. Pirates officials have told us that they don't have to go cheap at No. 4, and honestly I think the recent history of this franchise means there's no way they can avoid taking the best player available. In this year's draft, though, I think the consensus runs out at about No. 3 with Matzek. The Pirates can't go safe; they have to get some upside. At the same time, they are the Pirates, they can't take a $6-8 million guy such as Tate or Missouri prep right-hander Jacob Turner. If money were no object, I'd take Turner here as the top prep righty on the board, but I think Crow makes the most sense. He's motivated to sign as a virtual college senior, he has front-of-the-rotation upside and he commands the fastball, so he should get to the big leagues quickly.
You know who the big loser is if Crow goes at No. 4? The Nationals. Crow's probably going to get paid at least close to the $4 million he wanted last year (when the Nats drafted him), while Washington will get a lesser talent. That's no knock on who goes No. 10, just a reality. Crow might have been in the Nationals' big league rotation by now had they signed him. Now for Baltimore ... I think they're going to take Georgia high school right-hander Zack Wheeler with this pick, but I'd go with Turner. Admittedly I'm spending some extra hypothetical cash to take the guy I think is the best talent on the board here. If I wanted someone I felt I could sign before Aug. 17, I'd lean toward Wheeler.
Interesting point on Crow. I can't say I disagree, nor do I disagree that Turner is the best prep right-hander available. The Giants in the past would be all over someone like Wheeler at No. 6, and we know that general manager Brian Sabean has seen Wheeler pitch. But the Giants have become much more daring about rebuilding their franchise the last few years, particularly in terms of position players. They've paid large bonuses internationally and domestically, and shouldn't be scared off by Tate's price tag. He has a high upside as a potential premium defender, and the Giants have enough prospects to be patient with Tate's bat, which could need more time than most clubs are willing to give.
I wouldn't take Tate quite so high, though I'll acknowledge that he's a good fit for the Giants. That leaves me with a very easy pick. If the draft unfolds like this, the Braves will get the player they covet. Wheeler's also a good fit because he's a relatively easy sign compared to a lot of the other top talents, plus he's the top player remaining on my draft board at this point.
Jim, I love it when a plan comes together. There are certain players who will come up that I know I like and you don't, and I'll be taking them. Tate was one of them. I don't think you're down on White, though I'm pretty sure I was higher on him than you throughout most of this process. I don't have any problem with White using a split-finger fastball, like some scouts do. I know he's going to be an impact big leaguer, because at the least he'll pump 96-mph fastballs with life and that splitter out of a closer role. I have faith in White's athleticism and ability to spin a breaking ball. He has lost faith in his slider but the pitch is still there. He'd be a great fit with the Reds.
Here's where it gets tough, because Texas high school lefty Matthew Purke is the best player on the board. The Tigers haven't been afraid to spend big to get players such as Justin Verlander, Andrew Miller and Rick Porcello, and they're happy with how all three of those guys have turned out. But Purke's father apparently wants Porcello money ($7 million), and while Matthew is very talented, that's at least twice what I'd want to pay him. I'm not ready to pull the trigger on St. Paul Saints (American Association) right-hander Tanner Scheppers yet, either. He has thrown hard this spring, but he had serious shoulder issues a year ago, and shoulder issues scare me. I'm going to go for a little gamesmanship here, because there are a couple of players I like that I don't think you're going to pop, so I'll take Miller. He's got the best high school fastball in this draft, and that works for me.
This is one of the toughest choices, as a couple of very tempting picks are on the board and Washington has to get it right. The Nats don't get compensation if they fail to sign this player. With that in mind, I'm choosing a player that I can take with conviction, someone with upside but also someone who won't break the bank, which is how the real-life Nats are handling things. I know acting GM Mike Rizzotold you that they can spend here, but I think that means they can spend slot money. So I'll go off the board and take Franklin. Why? First, when you have to do something like this -- where money is a huge factor -- I think you stick to some scouting truisms. Take an up-the-middle player. Take a player whose bat you can believe in. Take a good-makeup guy. Scouts in Florida say Franklin fits all those parameters and he finished very well in Sebring at the Florida high school all-star games. For me, he's the top prep shortstop in the draft because his bat is better than Jiovanni Mier's. So Franklin's my guy.
I like it. Let's mix it up ... OK, you knew this was coming at some point: I'm taking Gibson, even after we broke the news on Saturday that he has a stress fracture in his forearm. You know I love Gibson as a prospect, probably more than his own parents do. The guy has starred since day one as a freshman, he has three quality pitches, command, athleticism ... and that stress fracture. But I'll explain why this makes some sense. Gibson will be able to throw by the end of July, giving the Rockies 2-3 weeks to evaluate him before the Aug. 17 signing deadline. They want a college pitcher here, and if he checks out, they get a guy they really didn't have a shot at a week ago. And here's the thing: If he doesn't look good, they can walk away and put the roughly $2 million for this pick into signing their bonus picks (for losing Brian Fuentes) at Nos. 32 and No. 34. It all makes sense to me, at least, but you knew I'd be rationalizing a way to take Gibson.
I knew, but I didn't anticipate you'd take him that early. As a guy who relies on the two-seamer, Gibson makes all kinds of sense there. Now we get to Kansas City, which has gone all-Boras Corp. the last three years. Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer... two outta three ain't bad. The buzz around the draft has the Royals going for a catcher and taking Boston College's Tony Sanchez. I can see that being a logical pick because they could use help behind the plate, and Sanchez is the best college catcher on the board. But a Boras client that's too good to pass up also is available, and Green makes more sense for me here than Sanchez. He's not as safe a pick, but he's got more upside. Usually I think the Cape Cod League is over-rated, but I'm banking that Green's rumored hand injury is the reason he didn't hit for power this spring. Get him healthy, get him back with a wood bat and get the Royals a middle-of-the-diamond talent with offensive upside.
Bravo. There's buzz that the Royals are after Green, too, and he makes all kinds of sense there. I would have done the same thing. Maybe he's not as good as he looked in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he drew some crazy Evan Longoria comps, but he has more power than he has shown this spring. As for the Athletics, I've heard them on all sorts of players, from Tate (hard for me to believe) and other high-ceiling high school athletes to proven college performers with less upside, such as Vanderbilt left-hander Mike Minor. Minor, by the way, probably is off the board to someone by this point, but not for me -- or you, apparently. Oakland needs position players more than pitchers and is more comfortable with collegians than high schoolers, so I'll grab Wheeler. He has the best bat/power combo of the athletic college outfield crop that also includes Notre Dame's A.J. Pollock, LSU's Jared Mitchell and Cal's Brett Jackson.
The Rangers would love to get a Texas prep fireballer to put into a system already deep with power arms. Shelby Miller and Matthew Purke both fit that bill. But the Rangers have plenty of young fireballers, and Purke's price tag worries me. They could use a fast-rising college pitcher who knows how to lead a pitching staff and win, while also having wicked stuff. That's Leake. I'm not too worried about the 370-plus innings that Leake has thrown in college. Maybe I should be, but he's been so efficient that it's hard to look past him at this spot.
The Indians want an experienced pitcher and there's a guy sitting right here who may have the second-best stuff in the draft after Strasburg. We're not privy to the medical reports on Scheppers, but if they're clean, this is the point where his value clearly begins to outweigh any nagging doubts about his shoulder. I couldn't take Scheppers at No. 9, but I can take him here.
Scheppers really is one of the most fascinating players in the draft, Jim. Medical information is tough for the clubs to come by, not to mention us, but that pick would make a lot of sense for the Indians, who lack true power arms in their otherwise solid system. The Diamondbacks do as well, and would love a shot at homestate hero Leake. I just messed that up for myself two picks ago by taking Leake for the Rangers, and with all their picks in this draft, I don't see the Diamondbacks being the team that goes off the reservation for Purke. I do think that as we've said, there's no way that Minor lasts this long, even if we're not as enamored of him as some clubs are. His pitchability profile isn't my cup of tea, but he makes more sense at 16 than some of the power arms remaining here, most of whom profile as relievers. I can't let Minor go by here.
I bet Minor goes in the top 10, but I agree that the Diamondbacks would snap him up if he's still available and Leake's gone. Ideally they'd get one arm and one bat here at 16-17, which they can do by taking the best reasonably signable player still on the board. Borchering's the best prep power hitter in the draft and a good fit for Arizona.
Now we're getting to the tough part, because I would think most teams in the second half of the first round were thinking, Wow, we might get Minor or Borchering or Scheppers -- and at this point, those hopes have been dashed. The Marlins love their Oklahomans, and they have had all kinds of success with prep pitching in the draft and less so with college arms. That makes me think that James makes sense here, and I'd do what it takes to get the deal done (within reason, of course).
We're agreeing way too much, John. I'm on board with the James pick, for his talent and for the reasons you suggest. I don't think he'll be that hard to sign, though like almost every first-rounder he's not just going to roll over and accept MLB's decision to cut its slot recommendations by 10 percent. The Cardinals need some left-handers and they would have thought long and hard about James. Purke is still out there and easily the best player available, but I'm not sure that St. Louis is hopping on that train. There's still an obvious choice, for both talent and need: Brothers.
Oh, we're devastated in the Toronto war room. We had Brothers' advisor on the phone telling him he'd be gone at 20 at the latest, and he didn't get to us. We have other options for power lefties in this draft, though. Two -- Andy Oliver and Canada native James Paxton -- are attractive at 20 but also have Scott Boras Corp. advising them. Then there's Purke. In the end, Jenkins is too attractive. Yes, there are college closers we could convert (and we've had success doing it), but why do that when Jenkins is on the board? He has stuff, he has pitchability and he has relatively low mileage on his arm because the Owls were never postseason-eligible while Jenkins was in college.
We keep hearing outfielders, outfielders and more outfielders for the Astros, especially those with Texas connections, such as high schoolers Williams, Slade Heathcott and Randal Grichuk. If they look out of state, Mitchell, Pollock, Jackson, New Jersey prepster Mike Trout and Puerto Rican high schooler Reymond Fuentes are also talented. We're going to see a bunch of these guys go in the bottom third of the first round. Houston, apparently, is not hot for Williams, but I am. He has the best combination of hitting ability and athleticism of that group. If A.J. Pollock is still on the board, and I don't think he will be, I could see the Astros going that route.
The Twins like all those same players that the Astros like, I think, Jim. They just have too many of them at the lower levels of their system, and they sure don't need another outfielder in the first round, even if Jared Mitchell -- whom the Twins drafted out of high school -- is staring them in the face. The Twins also are who they are, so Purke just keeps on falling. Taking a college closer isn't usually what people think of with the Twins, and even last year's first-rounder, Carlos Gutierrez, is being groomed to start. That said, the Twins need help in the bullpen in the short-term, and I think Storen, the Cardinal closer, fits here. He's a candidate to set up in the majors as soon as 2010, and Joe Nathan is closing in on 35 years old. Storen, more of a strikeout pitcher than Gutierrez, would move to the front of the line of Nathan's successors.
I'll take athletic outfielders for $200, Alex. GM Kenny Williams loves athletes, and his team really needs a center fielder of the future. Outside of Donavan Tate, Mitchell is as athletic as it gets in this draft. He also doubles as a wide receiver for the football team, and while he still has to figure things out with the bat, he made impressive and encouraging strides this year.
The Angels would seem to be a good fit for Mitchell, but he's gone. Mainly the Angels need to sign their guys in this draft, which actually runs counter to my pick. Purke is just too good for the Angels to pass up. They pick again at 25, plus 42, 44 and 48 in the supplemental round. Purke will be a tough, late sign, but with all those extra picks, scouting director Eddie Bane will hold a tough line, get everyone else signed and get something done with Purke -- around 11:58 p.m. on Deadline Day.
The Angels aren't afraid to spend, but I'm not sure they'll bypass talented and more signable California high school pitchers Matt Hobgood and Tyler Skaggs to take the ultra-expensive Purke. But since you've taken a pitcher for them, John, I'll take athletic outfielders for $300, Alex. (And I'll keep running that joke into the ground until I run out of athletic outfielders to draft and teams that are looking for them.) ND's Pollock is a more advanced hitter who would deliver a quicker return, but I see the Angels opting for Trout.
Milwaukee is still in win-now mode, a welcome change for the franchise. The last time the Brewers had to wait until No. 26 for their first pick was way, way back in 1983, when they took Dan Plesac. The Brew Crew would love to have a college reliever who could maybe even help this year, but it's just not a good year for that. I don't think an organization constantly short on pitching can pass on Arnett if he falls this far. That's good value for a college power pitcher with fairly low mileage on his arm.
I'm surprised that Arnett lasted that long, and I'm not sure he will on draft day. As tempted as I am to take another athletic outfielder, there's another pitcher who probably won't fall this far whom I can't ignore. After getting Ackley at No. 2, the Mariners can balance him with the power-armed Matt Hobgood. Everyone keeps telling me he's going in the first 20 picks, certainly the first 25, though I still can't figure out what his destination will be.
I'll take "Guys Who Won't Last This Long" for $200. Sanchez probably won't be there at 28, either. I expect a tough sign to fall to Boston -- Purke? Turner? -- but in this exercise no one fits that bill. Sanchez has drawn some Kelly Shoppach comparisons, and the Red Sox took Shoppach way back when and have seen him develop into a useful catcher with the Indians. The Red Sox could use a catcher, and I think they take the local kid (though Sanchez is actually from south Florida).
So a little local flavor for the Red Sox? If I took a catcher there, I'd go for California high schooler Max Stassi because I think he's a better bet to hit. There's no elite talent with an outlandish price tag for the Yankees to take here, and though they're linked to a possible big-money deal with Mississippi prep two-way star David Renfroe, I believe they can wait a round or two for that. Heathcott, another two-way star, has been on fire in the state playoffs and drawing lots of high-level scouts. He was very impressive in front of top Yankees officials and they're looking at a lot of outfielders, so he makes sense here.
Tampa would love to take Sanchez if he were available, and I think Stassi is also in the mix for an organization that has plenty of talent and depth but is lacking behind the plate. This draft gives them plenty of options, and there's enough depth that the Rays don't have to draft a catcher in the first round. But I will, anyway, with Myers, who has one of the better high school bats in the draft. The best thing about Myers is, if he catches, it's a big bonus. He's also athletic enough that he has value if he moves elsewhere, such as right or even center field (he's a 55 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale). That separates him from Stassi, for me. I love Stassi, but have to pass here.
The Cubs would have plenty of nice values to choose from if the draft unfolds like this. They're on Pollock, Jackson and Kansas high school right-hander Garrett Gould, and they'd have to consider California prepster Jiovanni Mier, the best shortstop in the draft if you think that Green may have to move off the position. Chicago's greatest need is in center field and they love Notre Dame, so Pollock is the choice.
Well, Colorado already has one gem in the first round with Gibson, whom you took for them at No. 11. Even with his stress fracture, he's the safer college pitcher pick, and a solid value at 11. If Stassi is still there at 32, I think Colorado has to jump on him, whether Chris Iannetta is the real deal (which I think he is) or not. You can never have too much catching, and Stassi reminds me a lot of Iannetta, with a rock-solid swing, solid tools and savvy. He's not as physical but might have a purer swing. I'm fairly confident he'll hit.
Callis: It's always easier to spend someone else's money, and I think the real first round will have more surprises that this one. I don't expect all the tough signs to go as early as we took them, and where Gibson and Scheppers wind up also remains quite uncertain.
Manuel: I only hope the actual draft is this easy. I doubt that Minor will last to the 16th pick, and I frankly don't think the Nationals will take Franklin at No. 10, even though I imagine he'll be a first-rounder. I think the best pick I made for a team might have been White at No. 8 for the Reds. After his gem on Saturday in the Super Regionals against East Carolina, I have a feeling that White won't last that long, either.