What’s more fun than playing scouting director? Playing scouting director for 16 teams. Our draft experts, Jim Callis and John Manuel, alternate picks and let you know who they’d choose if they were running the draft for each club, staying true to their finances and needs. Jim won the coin toss, so he gets to start off by taking the best prospect in draft history.
1. NATIONALS (Jim). Gee, who am I going to pick here? It’s obviously San Diego State righthander Stephen 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 out there. 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 Illustrated cover boy Bryce Harper, who do you take? I’m taking Strasburg, because he’s proven himself against much better competition and he’s going to help me quicker, but it’s not an easy decision.
2. MARINERS (John). If Harper were available, I’d probably pop him at 2. That’s quite a statement considering North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley also is available. I wrote about Ackley about a month 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 so much, 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.
3. PADRES (Jim). I’m with you on Ackley, I’d take him 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 some, 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. Give me California high school lefthander Tyler Matzek. He came into the year as the top lefthander 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.
4. PIRATES (John). Like you said, now it gets interesting. Pirates officials have told us 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 righthander Jacob Turner. If money were no object, I’d take Turner here as the top prep righty on the Manuel board, but I think Fort Worth Cats (American Association) righthander Aaron 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.
5. ORIOLES (Jim). You know who the big loser is if Crow goes No. 4? The Nationals. Crow’s probably going to get paid at least close to the $4 million he wanted last year, 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 righthander Zack Wheeler with this pick, but I’d go with Missouri prep righty Jacob 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. 15, I’d lean toward Wheeler too.
6. GIANTS (John). Interesting point on Crow. I can’t say I disagree, nor do I disagree that Turner is the best prep righthander available. The Giants in the past would be all over someone like Wheeler at No. 6 in this situation, and we know that general manager Brian Sabean has seen Wheeler pitch himself. 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 Georgia high school outfielder Donavan 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.
7. BRAVES (Jim). 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, Georgia high school righthander Zack Wheeler. He’s also a good fit for them 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.
8. REDS (John). 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 North Carolina righthander Alex 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.
9. TIGERS (Jim). 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) for his son, 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) righthander 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 Texas high school righthander Shelby Miller. He’s got the best high school fastball in this draft, and that works for me.
10. NATIONALS (John). 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 taking 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 Rizzo told you that they can spend here, but I think that means they can spend slot. I’ll go off the board here and take Florida prep shortstop Nick Franklin at 10. 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.
11. ROCKIES (Jim). I like it. Let’s mix it up . . . OK, you knew this was coming at some point: I’m taking Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson, even after we broke the news 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. 15 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 in this pick into signing their bonus picks (for losing Brian Fuentes) at No. 32 and No. 34. It all makes sense to me, at least, but you knew I’d be rationalizing a way to take Gibson.
12. ROYALS (John). I knew, but I didn’t anticipate you’d pop 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 Southern California shortstop Grant 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.
13. ATHLETICS (Jim). 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 lefthander 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 Sacramento State outfielder Tim Wheeler. He has the best bat/power combo of the athletic college outfield crop that also includes Notre Dame’s A.J. Pollock, Louisiana State’s Jared Mitchell and California’s Brett Jackson.
14. RANGERS (John). 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 pricetag 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 Arizona State righthander Mike Leake. I’m not too worried about the 370-plus innings Leake has thrown in college. Maybe I should be, but he’s been so efficient, it’s hard to look past him at this spot.
15. INDIANS (Jim). 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 St. Paul Saints (American Association) righthander Tanner 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.
16. DIAMONDBACKS (John). Scheppers really is one of the most fascinating people in the draft. 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 with 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 Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor lasts this long, even if we’re not as enamored of him as 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.
17. DIAMONDBACKS (Jim). I bet Minor goes in the top 10 somewhere, 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: Florida high school third baseman Bobby Borchering. He’s the best prep power hitter in the draft and a good fit for Arizona.
18. MARLINS (John). 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 Oklahoma prep lefthander Chad James makes sense here, and I’d do what it takes to get the deal done (within reason, of course).
19. CARDINALS (Jim). We’re agreeing way too much. 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 lefthanders 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 St. Louis is hopping on that train. There’s still an obvious choice, for both talent and need: Lipscomb lefthander Rex Brothers.
20. BLUE JAYS (John). 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, who’s falling. In the end, Kennesaw State righthander Chad 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. Make it so.
21. ASTROS (Jim). We keep hearing outfielders, outfielders and more outfielders for the Astros, especially those with Texas connections, such as high schoolers Everett Williams, Slade Heathcott and Randal Grichuk. If they look out of state, Mitchell, Pollock, Jackson, New Jersey prepster Mike Trout and Puerto Rican high school 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 Pollock is still on the board, and I don’t think he necessarily will be, I could see the Astros going that route.
22. TWINS (John). The Twins like all those same players 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 Stanford closer Drew Storen 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.
23. WHIITE SOX (Jim). I’ll take athletic outfielders for $200, Alex. GM Kenny Williams loves athletes, loves them, and his team really needs a center fielder of the future. Outside of Donavan Tate, Louisiana State outfielder Jared 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.
24. ANGELS (John). The Angels would seem to be a good fit for Mitchell but he’s gone. Mainly, the Angels need to sign their guys this draft, which actually runs counter to my pick. Texas prep lefthander Matthew 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.
25. ANGELS (Jim). 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, 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.) Pollock is a more advanced hitter who would deliver a quicker return, but I see the Angels opting for New Jersey prep outfielder Mike Trout.
26. BREWERS (John). Milwaukee is still in win-now mode, a welcome change for the franchise. The last time Milwaukee had to wait until No. 26 for its first pick was way, way back in 1983, when they took Dan Plesac 26th overall. The Brew Crew would love to have a college reliever who could maybe even help this year at this spot, but it’s just not a good year for that. I don’t think an organization constantly short on pitching could pass on Indiana righthander Eric Arnett if he fell this far. That’s a good value for a college power pitcher with fairly low mileage on his arm.
27. MARINERS (Jim). I’m surprised Arnett lasted this long, and I’m not sure he will on Tuesday. 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 power-armed California high school righthander 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.
28. RED SOX (John). I’ll take “Guys Who Won’t Last This Long for $200 . . . Isn’t that what she said, Trebeck?” You’ll have to imagine that in Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery impersonation from Saturday Night Live’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” parody. Anyway, Boston College catcher Tony 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 gotten 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 (though Sanchez is actually from south Florida).
29. YANKEES (Jim). 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. Another two-way star, Texas high school outfielder Slade Heathcott, 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 Heathcott makes sense.
30. RAYS (John). Tampa would love to pop 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 pop a catcher in the first round; they can get one later. But I will anyway with North Carolina prepster Wil 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.
31. CUBS (Jim). 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 righthander 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 A.J. Pollock is the choice.
32. ROCKIES (John). Well, Colorado already has one gem in the first round with righthander Kyle Gibson, whom you took for them at the No. 11 pick. Even with his stress fracture, he’s the safer college pitcher pick, and a solid value at 11. If California prep catcher Max Stassi is still here at 32, I think Colorado has to jump up and get 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 as a catcher with a rock-solid swing, solid tools otherwise and savvy. He’s not as physical but might have a more pure swing. I’m fairly confident he’ll hit.
Jim: 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 Kyle Gibson and Tanner Scheppers wind up also remains quite uncertain. Now back to the draft phones (and texts, and e-mails) for me.
John: I only hope Tuesday is this easy. I doubt that Mike Minor will last to the 16th pick, and I frankly don’t think the Nationals will take Nick 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 Alex White at No. 8 for the Reds. After White dealt Saturday in the super regionals, I have a feeling White won’t last that long either.