Ask BA

It’s July 4, so that means we’re celebrating Independence Day . . . and into our third day of international signings. Once July 2 arrives, teams can start signing 16-year-old foreign players, and Ben Badler has been busy detailing all of the deals at our Prospects Blog.

I’m still waiting for Bud Selig to explain why it’s OK for the Rangers to give $5 million to Nomar Romaza and $3.5 million to Ronald Guzman, both Dominican outfielders, yet it’s a capital offense for any club to exceed MLB’s ridiculously low bonus recommendations for the draft. Other than “The commissioner’s office is horribly short-sighted when it comes to the draft,” I don’t have any answers.

    When the Padres called up Josh Spence, he became the second draftee from 2010 to reach the majors. He was just a ninth-round pick last year. Is it uncommon for such a late pick to be one of the first three players from his draft class to arrive in the big leagues?

    Jeff Arkin
    El Cerrito, Calif.

Spence starred for two years at Central Arizona JC and one at Arizona State, overcoming a mid-80s fastball by confounding hitters with his offspeed stuff, before the Angels took him in the third round of the 2009 draft. He opted not to sign and returned to the Sun Devils, only to miss the entire 2010 college season with an elbow injury. Once healthy, he required just 71 minor league innings before joining the Padres bullpen.

It’s extremely rare for such a low draft pick to be one of the first three players from his draft to appear in the majors. Usually, first-round and sandwich picks are the quickest to the big leagues. The first player from the 2010 draft to get there was White Sox first-rounder Chris Sale, and all of the three fastest arrivals from each of the 2007-09 drafts were taken before the second round.

The lowest pick in the last 10 drafts who was one of the first three from his class to become a major leaguer is Cla Meredith, a Red Sox sixth-round pick in 2004. Just 13 double-digit draft choices in draft history have that distinction, only one of whom was taken after 1983: Ryan Bukvich, a Royals 11th-rounder in 2000.

The latest draftee to make it to the big leagues that fast was Dusty Baker, a Braves 26th-rounder in 1967. He starred in four sports as a California high schooler, and baseball teams feared that he might play football or basketball in college. Instead, he signed and made it to Atlanta in September 1968.

Teams have gotten more efficient at scouting and determining signability, which is why most of the double-digit picks who raced to the majors are from the early years of the draft. Besides Baker and Bukvich, the others are: Carl Willis, 23rd round (Tigers, 1983), Bill Lee, 22nd round (Red Sox, 1968), Mike Paul, 20th round (Indians, 1967), Bret Saberhagen, 19th round (Royals, 1982), Ray Burris, 17th round (Cubs, 1972), Brad Mills, 17th round (1979), Oscar Gamble, 16th round (Cubs, 1968), Jim Umbarger, 16th round (Rangers, 1974), Jim Crawford, 14th round (Astros, 1972), Rich Nye, 14th round (Cubs, 1966) and Mike Caldwell, 12th round (Padres, 1971).

Below is a list of the three quickest players to majors from each of the first 46 June drafts (draft round in parentheses):

Fastest Players To Majors, June Draft (Regular Phase Only)
Year Players/Teams (Draft Rounds)
2010 Chris Sale/CWS (1), Josh Spence/SD (9)
2009 Mike Leake/Cin (1), Drew Storen/Was (1), Stephen Strasburg/Was (1)
2008 Conor Gillaspie/SF (1s), Ryan Perry/Det (1), Daniel Schlereth/Ari (1)
2007 Ross Detwiler/Was (1), Eddie Kunz/NYM (1s), David Price/TB (1)
2006 Andrew Miller/Det (1), Joe Smith/NYM (3), Brandon Morrow/Sea (1)
2005 Joey Devine/Atl (1), Ryan Zimmerman/Was (1), Craig Hansen/Bos (1)
2004 Huston Street/Oak (1s), Cla Meredith/Bos (6), Jeff Fiorentino/Bal (3)
2003 Ryan Wagner/Cin (1), Chad Cordero/Mtl (1), Rickie Weeks/Mil (1)
2002 Kevin Correia/SF (4), Khalil Greene/SD (1), Zack Greinke/KC (1)
2001 Mark Prior/ChC (1), Dewon Brazelton/TB (1), Kirk Saarloos/Hou (3)
2000 Xavier Nady/SD (2), Ryan Bukvich/KC (11), Joe Borchard/CWS (1)
1999 Eric Munson/Det (1), Barry Zito/Oak (1), Matt Ginter/CWS (1)
1998 J.D. Drew/StL (1), Jeff Weaver/Det (1), Ryan Rupe/TB (6)
1997 Jim Parque/CWS (1s), Matt Anderson/Det (1), Troy Glaus/Cal (1)
1996 Mike Caruso/SF (2), Braden Looper/StL (1), Billy Koch/Tor (1)
1995 Ariel Prieto/Oak (1), Darin Erstad/Cal (1), Matt Morris, StL (1)
1994 Dustin Hermanson/SD (1), C.J. Nitkowski/Cin (1), Paul Wilson/NYM (1)
1993 Brian Anderson/Cal (1), Jeff Granger/KC (1), Darrin Dreifort/LAD (1)
1992 Jeffrey Hammonds/Bal (1), Chris Gomez/Det (3), Tim Davis/Sea (6)
1991 Benji Gil/Tex (1), Brent Gates/Oak (1), David McCarty/Min (1)
1990 Alex Fernandez/CWS (1), Lance Dickson/ChC (1), Chris Haney/Mtl (2)
1989 John Olerud/Tor (3), Ben McDonald/Bal (1), Scott Erickson/Min (4)
1988 Gregg Olson/Bal (1), Jim Abbott/Cal (1), Andy Benes/SD (1)
1987 Jack McDowell/CWS (1), Cris Carpenter/StL (1), Jack Armstrong/Cin (1)
1986 Mike Loynd/Tex (7), Greg Swindell/Cle (1), Bo Jackson/KC (4)
1985 Will Clark/SF (1), Pete Incaviglia/Mtl (1), Bobby Witt/Tex (1)
1984 Oddibe McDowell/Tex (1), Billy Swift/Sea (1), Scott Bankhead/KC (1)
1983 Jeff Robinson/SF (2), Roger Clemens/Bos (1), Carl Willis/Det (23)
1982 Bryan Oelkers/Min (1), Spike Owen/Sea (1), Bret Saberhagen/KC (19)
1981 Mike Moore/Sea (1), Frank Viola/Min (2), Jeff Keener/StL (7)
1980 Rich Bordi/Oak (3), Terry Francona/Mtl (1), Tom Gorman/Mtl (4)
1979 Jerry Don Gleaton/Tex (1), Steve Howe/LAD (1), Brad Mills/Mtl (17)
1978 Mike Morgan/Oak (1), Bob Horner/Atl (1), Brian Milner/Tor (7)
1977 Brian Greer/SD (1), Roger Erickson/Min (3), Paul Molitor/Mil (1), Ozzie Smith/SD (4)
1976 Bob Owchinko/SD (1), Floyd Bannister/Hou (1), Lary Sorensen/Mil (8)
1975 Rick Cerone/Cle (1), Danny Goodwin/Cal (1), Chris Knapp/CWS (1)
1974 Jack Kucek/CWS (2), Bill Almon/SD (1), Jim Umbarger/Tex (16)
1973 Dave Winfield/SD (1), David Clyde/Tex (1), Eddie Bane/Min (1)
1972 Dave Roberts/SD (1), Jim Crawford/Hou (14), Ray Burris/ChC (17)
1971 Mike Caldwell/SD (12), Jay Franklin/SD (1), Mac Scarce/Phi (8)
1970 Steve Dunning/Cle (1), Lee Richard/CWS (1), Terry Forster/CWS (2)
1969 Don Gullett/Cin (1), Larry Gura/ChC (2), Balor Moore/Mtl (1)
1968 Bill Lee/Bos (22), Thurman Munson/NYY (1), Oscar Gamble/ChC (16)
1967 Mike Paul/Cle (20), Ralph Garr/Atl (3), Dusty Baker/Atl (26), Jimmy McMath/ChC (2)
1966 Rich Nye/ChC (14), Gary Nolan/Cin (1), Reggie Jackson/Oak (1)
1965 Ken Holtzman/ChC (4), Joe Coleman/Was (1), Clyde Wright/Cal (6)
    Could someone please explain how South Carolina lefthander Michael Roth slipped all the way to the 31st round of this year's draft? I understand he lacks big-time stuff, but that far down seems a little crazy. All this kid does is win and do it on the biggest stages. I know he is a strong student, but is Roth considered unsignable or will the Indians entice him with a six-figure bonus?

    Jimmy Stokes
    Royersford, Pa.

I thought Roth should have been named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series, where he gave up three earned runs in three starts as South Carolina won its second straight national championship. Those were the only earned runs Roth surrendered in 46 2/3 postseason innings. His 1.17 ERA in Omaha over the last two years is the second-best in CWS history, and he led NCAA Division I starters this season in wins (14-3), ERA (1.06) and innings (145).

Jimmy touched on the two reasons why Roth lasted so long in the draft: He doesn’t wow anyone with his pitches, and he’s not going to give up the final year of his education to sign for a nominal bonus. The NCAA gave Roth its Elite 88 Award for Division I baseball, honoring his excellence on the diamond and in the classroom. He carries a 3.8 grade-point average while working toward a degree in international business, and he made it clear to teams he wanted to return for his senior season.

Roth’s lone plus pitch is his changeup. He succeeds by keeping hitters off balance, commanding his 82-87 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, using a sweeping slider against lefthanders and back-dooring his curveball against righties. He doesn’t have obvious big league stuff, but his savvy and moxie are off the charts.

    The Angels selected Randall Grichuk one pick ahead of fellow outfielder Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, but injuries have derailed his career. What is his current status and do you believe that he'll overcome these injuries to live up to the expectations for a No. 24 overall choice?

    Phil Koerner
    Fountain Valley, Calif.

Grichuk has hit .310/.343/.559 since signing for $1.242 million, but he has played in just 117 pro games. He missed much of last season after tearing a ligament in his right thumb in May and breaking a bone in his left wrist in August. He has yet to play this season after he fouled a ball off his knee and fractured a kneecap in spring training.

Power is Grichuk’s carrying tool. While he has hit for average at the lower levels of the minors, he’ll have to do a much better job of controlling the strike zone after posting just 21 walks against 123 strikeouts. His running and defense are no better than average, so he’ll have to produce at the plate to be worth the first-round pick the Angels invested in him.

Though missing a year’s worth of at-bats isn’t good for anyone’s career, Grichuk is still just 19, making it easier to make up for lost time. The Angels hope he’ll be able to return to low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he spent most of 2010, in the near future.

« June 20 Ask BA

Minors | #2011 #Ask BA

Add a Comment

comments powered by Disqus