The Devil Rays will make Vanderbilt lefthander David Price the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 draft, which begins today at 2 p.m. Eastern. That’s no big shock, as other clubs have said for weeks that they would have been surprised if Tampa Bay had gone in a different direction.
But it wasn’t until Wednesday evening that the Royals settled on the No. 2 pick. Their delay in making a decision put the planning of other teams on hold, making an already murky draft even murkier. With MLB tightening the recommendations for each bonus slot in the first five rounds and putting increased pressure on clubs to toe the lineí¯¿½in a draft in which Scott Boras advises 10 players who could go in the first or supplemental first roundsí¯¿½weighing ability against signability was as problematic as ever.
As scouting directors headed to bed for a few hours of sleep Thursday morning, here’s how we expected the first round to shake out:
1. Devil Rays. Price and No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt’s season came to a premature end when he gave up a shocking 10th-inning pinch-hit homer against Michigan, but that was the only blemish on his spring. Most clubs considered him a cut above the rest of the 2007 draft crop, and Tampa Bay made the easy decision to take him over Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and California high school third baseman Josh Vitters.
Projected Pick: David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt.
2. Royals. Kansas City tried to find a way to sign the draft’s best high school pitcher (New Jersey’s Rick Porcello) or hitter (California’s Mike Moustakas) at a palatable price, but Boras wouldn’t budge. In the end, it came down to the sweet-swinging Vitters or Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler. For the second time in three years, the Royals will spend the No. 2 overall pick on a third baseman. With Alex Gordon on hand, Vitters may move to left field.
Projected Pick: Josh Vitters, 3b, Cypress (Calif.) HS.
3. Cubs. Chicago would have taken Vitters had Kansas City passed, but there’s no shame in taking Indiana prep righthander Jarrod Parker, who showed electric stuff all spring. A rumor that the Cubs would overdraft Virginia first baseman/lefthander Sean Doolittle circulated in the final days before the draft, but he’s a target with their supplemental pick at No. 48, not at No. 3.
Projected Pick: Jarrod Parker, rhp, Norwell (Ind.) HS.
4. Pirates. Pittsburgh needs hitters more than pitchers and hoped to get Vitters. The other position players worthy of the No. 4 overall selection are advised by Boras, which likely will steer the Pirates toward college lefthanders Detwiler and Daniel Moskos (Clemson). If they overdraft a hitter, the candidates would be California high school third baseman Matt Dominguez and Pennsylvania prep catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Projected Pick: Ross Detwiler, lhp, Missouri State.
5. Orioles. Baltimore is the first team with strong interest in Wieters, though owner Peter Angelos has avoided doing business with Boras in the past. Detwiler and Canadian high school righthander Phillippe Aumont are at the top of the Orioles’ preferred list of non-Boras clients, though Angelos may not want to go with a prep pitcher. If that’s the case and Detwiler is gone, Baltimore could pop Vanderbilt righty Casey Weathers. That could start a chain reaction that would drop Aumont to the Brewers at No. 7, Mesoraco to the Phillies at No. 19 and Texas high school righty Chris Withrow to the White Sox at No. 25.
Projected Pick: Phillippe Aumont, rhp, Ecole du Versant, Gatineau, Que.
6. Nationals. Washington would like to take Moustakas and possibly Wieters, but the price tag may be too high. If the Nationals stay away from Boras clients, a college pitcher along the lines of Detwiler or Moskos is the most likely option.
Projected Pick: Mike Moustakas, 3b, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS.
7. Brewers. Milwaukee kicked the tires on Moustakas and Wieters, though few clubs expect the team formerly owned by commissioner Bud Selig to contradict his slotting edict. If the Brewers don’t exceed MLB’s recommendation, they’re likely looking at Aumont, Parker, Mesoraco and Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon (yet another Boras player).
Projected Pick: Devin Mesoraco, c, Punxsutawney (Pa.) HS.
8. Rockies. Colorado would consider Aumont, and Moustakas would be a possibility if he were available and Boras wasn’t a factor. That has the Rockies shopping for college lefties in Detwiler, Moskos and Arkansas’ Nick Schmidt, with Weathers in play if all the southpaws disappear.
Projected Pick: Daniel Moskos, lhp, Clemson.
9. Diamondbacks. After overpaying 2006 first-rounder Max Scherzer with a $4.3 million major league contract likely to reach $5.8 million with incentives, Arizona won’t risk drawing the ire of the commissioner’s office again. The Diamondbacks would love for Aumont to fall to them, but they’ll settle for the best lefty remaining.
Projected Pick: Nick Schmidt, lhp, Arkansas.
10. Giants. San Francisco has preferred to give away first-round picks in the past–and in fact will lose its second-, third- and fourth-round picks for signing free agents–but it has three first-rounders and three supplemental first-rounders in 2007. While the Giants have to find a way to save money somewhere in the draft, they’re the odds-on favorite to take Wieters, who’d immediately become their best position prospect. If San Francisco doesní¯¿½t want to tangle with Boras, it would look at Weathers and the three college lefties. All four of those arms could be gone, which would turn the Giants turning to a high school righty such as Texas’ Blake Beavan or Florida’s Michael Main.
Projected Pick: Matt Wieters, c, Georgia Tech.
11. Mariners. Seattle would consider Aumont, but a more realistic hope would be to get one of the three college lefthanders or Weathers. If the Orioles or Giants pop Weathers ahead of them, the Mariners’ fallback could be late-blooming Washington lefty Nick Hagadone.
Projected Pick: Casey Weathers, rhp, Vanderbilt.
12. Marlins. Florida hoped Parker would fall this far, but that won’t happen. The Marlins have had success with young pitchers and could go for Beavan, but targeting a position player would fill a bigger need. Borbon, Heyward, Dominguez and Mesoraco are the leading candidates.
Projected Pick: Julio Borbon, of, Tennessee.
13. Indians. Cleveland has been linked to Beavan for weeks and is headed in that direction unless Aumont, Parker, Detwiler or Moskos falls. The Indians also like North Carolina high school lefthander Madison Bumgarner and investigated the signability of Massachusetts prep lefty Jack McGeary, who’s likely headed to Stanford, but no accord could be reached.
Projected Pick: Blake Beavan, rhp, Irving (Texas) HS.
14. Braves. It’s no secret the Braves like high schoolers, athletes and Georgians, so Heyward is a perfect fit. He’d also be a good value with this pick. The natural inclination if Heyward is gone would be to give Atlanta the next-best Georgia prospect: prep lefthander Josh Smoker. But Smoker didn’t finish the season well and Main, whom some teams see as a five-tool outfielder, would make more sense in that case.
Projected Pick: Jason Heyward, of, Henry County HS, McDonough, Ga.
15. Reds. Cincinnati is focusing on a group of position players that includes Heyward, Borbon, Oklahoma high school shortstop Pete Kozma and Mesoraco. Kozma is attractive because he’s the best all-around middle infielder in the draft. Early rumors had the Reds taking Texas prep third baseman Kevin Ahrens, but he’s more of a sandwich-round target for them at No. 34.
Projected Pick: Pete Kozma, ss, Owasso (Okla.) HS.
16. Blue Jays. Toronto wants to find a pair of players at premium positions with its pair of first-rounders. The Blue Jays are locked in on Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia and know they almost certainly can get him at No. 21. So they’ll spend their top pick on a high school position player such as Kozma, Dominguez, Mesoraco or California catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Projected Pick: Matt Dominguez, 3b, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS.
17. Rangers. As usual, Texas needs pitching. The Rangers would love to nab homestate product Beavan, but he won’t make it to them. They still can get a quality arm in Main or Connecticut high school righthander Matt Harvey.
Projected Pick: Michael Main, rhp/of, Deland (Fla.) HS.
18. Cardinals. St. Louis has kept its intentions closer to the vest than any club. The Cardinals like college players with a strong track record of performance, and they haven’t shied away from Boras clients in the past. That makes Wieters an obvious choice if he gets this far, and Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta fits the profile if Wieters isn’t around. Porcello is another Boras client who would be a steal this low, but it’s uncertain the Cardinals would shell out big money for a high school pitcher. Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) third baseman/first baseman Beau Mills has some advantages over LaPorta: He hits lefthanded, has a chance to play third base and may not cost as much. St. Louis also has looked at college arms such as UC Riverside righthander James Simmons, Cal State Fullerton righty Wes Roemer, San Francisco lefty Aaron Poreda and Hagadone.
Projected Pick: Matt LaPorta, 1b, Florida.
19. Phillies. The Phillies covet Mesoraco, but he’s in the mix for several clubs ahead of them. GM Pat Gillick’s clubs usually prefer to draft players with high ceilings, making Main, Ahrens and Kozma possibilities. The Phillies are the first club associated with powerful Florida high school outfielder Michael Burgess, but his inability to make consistent contact makes him too much of a risk here. Fast-rising Texas prep righty Chris Withrow appears to be the frontrunner if Philadelphia wants a pitcher.
Projected Pick: Chris Withrow, rhp, Midland (Texas) Christian HS.
20. Dodgers. There was talk Wednesday night that Bumgarner’s agent was floating a $2.3 million price tag in an effort to drop him down to Los Angeles, which paid that amount to high school lefty Clayton Kershaw as the No. 6 overall choice last year. The Dodgers would be tempted to take Beavan, Aumont or Heyward.
Projected Pick: Madison Bumgarner, lhp, South Caldwell HS, Hudson, N.C.
21. Blue Jays. If they gamble and miss out on Arencibia, the Jays could select Mesoraco or d’Arnaud. If they don’t want to take two high schoolers in the first round, they could consider other college backstops such as Oregon State’s Mitch Canham.
Projected Pick: J.P. Arencibia, c, Tennessee.
22. Giants. The two names attached most often to San Francisco with its second first-rounder are local product Poreda and Mills, initially a favorite for the club’s choice at No. 10. The Giants probably will have to pick one because they won’t be able to sneak the other through to No. 29. They’d also take a look at Simmons and Roemer.
Projected Pick: Aaron Poreda, lhp, San Francisco.
23. Padres. San Diego’s braintrust loves polished college prospects, especially pitchers, so Simmons and Roemer are the top candidates. The Padres would prefer Schmidt, though he probably won’t get close to him even if his talent fits better here than at the top of the draft. If the Cardinals and Giants pick off Simmons and Roemer, Hagadone is a possibility. High school second baseman Nick Noonan, a native San Diegan, often gets mentioned here but is more of a target for one of the Padres’ five supplemental picks.
Projected Pick: James Simmons, rhp, UC Riverside.
24. Rangers. Porcello still hasní¯¿½t found a home by this point, and teams were buzzing Wednesday night that an unspecified club picking ahead of the Yankees at No. 30 would grab him. That club could be Texas, which never has enough pitching, and owner Tom Hicks can’t seem to get enough Boras clients. Another Boras possibility is Harvey, whose price tag is considerably lower. Other scouting directors are convinced that Porcello and Harvey will wind up together at North Carolina rather than sign. If the Rangers run out of pitching choices, Ahrens and fellow Texas high school third baseman Will Middlebrooks might be attractive.
Projected Pick: Rick Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange, N.J.
25. White Sox. Chicago general manager Kenny Williams is demanding more high-ceiling talent, and his club holds out hope for a shot at Bumgarner that won’t materialize. The White Sox’ second choice appears to be Withrow, though the Phillies could ruin that for them. Plan C could be North Carolina prep shortstop Justin Jackson, Middlebrooks or Virginia prep righthander Neil Ramirez.
Projected Pick: Justin Jackson, ss, Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
26. Athletics. Oakland is expected to jump on Mills, arguably the best college hitter in the draft, if he is available here. The Athletics also would consider Simmons and Roemer, and possibly Rice lefthander Joe Savery, Oklahoma State outfielder Corey Brown and Mississippi shortstop Zack Cozart.
Projected Pick: Beau Mills, 3b/1b, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).
27. Tigers. Detroit has exceeded slot money for first-round picks Justin Verlander, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller the last three years but will likely heed MLB’s wishes in 2007. The Tigers won’t bite on Porcello or Wieters, though the less-expensive Harvey could be appealing. They’d love for Kozma or Dominguez to somehow drop this far, but there’s little chance of that. Arizona high school righthander Tim Alderson is a more realistic bet.
Projected Pick: Tim Alderson, rhp, Horizon HS, Scottsdale, Ariz.
28. Twins. Minnesota is on several infielders, including Kozma and Iowa high school third baseman Jon Gilmore. There also are whispers the Twins could take a lefthander such as Poreda or Georgia prepster Nathan Vineyard. But the southpaw who could be a stealí¯¿½if healthyí¯¿½is Savery, a certain top 10 pick before he had minor labrum surgery last summer. He hasn’t been at his best in 2007, but he looked more like his old self in his last start in the NCAA regionals.
Projected Pick: Joe Savery, lhp, Rice.
29. Giants. If San Francisco can’t land both Poreda and Mills, it likely will pursue a high schooler after selecting collegians with its first two picks. Smoker would be a nice value because he didn’t figure to drop here until his sluggish finish. The Giants might want a prep hitter if they’ve taken two college pitchers, and Ahrens, Middlebrooks, Jackson and Gilmore could be in that mix.
Projected Pick: Josh Smoker, lhp, Calhoun (Ga.) HS.
30. Yankees. The consensus is that New York will take the best talent who slides this far because of signability. The Yankees would have no problem affording Porcello, Wieters or Moustakas, though they’ve never handed a major league contract to a draft pick. North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman, another “out of the box” Boras client, has huge upside but also so many questions that he probably can be had a little later. Harvey will come cheaper than his Boras brethren and wouldn’t command a big league pact. Catchers such as Florida high schooler Yasmani Grandal and d’Arnaud and athletes such as Brown and high school outfielders Wendell Fairley (Mississippi) and Kentrail Davis (Alabama) also would address needs. Davis is yet another Boras client.
Projected Pick: Matt Harvey, Fitch HS, Groton, Conn.