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2004 Draft Report Cards: AL East

By Jim Callis
October 29, 2004


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Best Pro Debut: LHP Dave Haehnel (8) tied for the short-season New York-Penn League lead with 16 saves while posting a 1.69 ERA and 61-11 K-BB ratio in 37 innings. His 88-93 mph fastball features good life, and he gets righthanders out with his changeup. OF Jeff Fiorentino (3) hit .311/.409/.599, including 10 homers in 48 games in low Class A.

Best Athlete: OF Clifton Turner (49) is the best pure athlete in this draft crop, but he's extremely raw. Fiorentino has the widest array of baseball skills and may be able to play catcher (he saw some action there at Florida Atlantic) or third base.

Best Pure Hitter: Fiorentino.

Best Raw Power: OF/DH Drew Moffitt (10) led NCAA Division I with 26 homers in 2004 and won three Missouri Valley Conference home run titles while at Wichita State. 1B C.J. Smith (5) also has good pop. Despite his pro production, Fiorentino is more of a gap-power guy.

Fastest Runner: Turner is a flier who can cover 60 yards in 6.4 seconds.

Best Defensive Player: SS Denver Kitch's (13) good hands, arm and range helped him earn the Gold Glove award at the 2004 NAIA World Series. C Dan Puente (12) was hurt for much of the spring but got drafted on the basis of his catch-and-throw skills.

Best Fastball: RHP Brad Bergesen (4) not only has a 90-95 mph fastball, but he also maintains it deep into games. The Orioles love his competitive makeup as much as his velocity.

Best Breaking Ball: RHP Bryce Chamberlin (6) has a hard slider. He never has had consistent success, however, with a 6.75 ERA at Washington State and a 6.29 ERA in his pro debut.

Most Intriguing Background: SS Drew Crisp (35) and OF Adam Crisp (38) are twins who led Riverside High to back-to-back South Carolina state 3-A titles and South Carolina to back-to-back Senior League World Series crowns. OF Will Venable's (15) father Max played 12 seasons in the majors. None of the three players signed.

Closest To The Majors: As a lefthanded pitcher, Haehnel should move faster than Fiorentino.

Best Late-Round Pick: RHP Kevin Hart (11) led Maryland with a .369 average during the spring, but the Orioles drafted him as a pitcher. He works with four pitches, most notably a heavy sinker and a tight slider. RHP Kyle Schmidt (14) projected as an early pick before an inconsistent junior season at South Florida, but at his best he has a plus curveball and average fastball.

The One Who Got Away: RHP Wade Townsend (1) gambled that he could return to classes at Rice and still negotiate with the Orioles via a perceived draft loophole, but Major League Baseball ruled against him. Had he signed, Townsend could have joined the big league rotation within two years. His 90-95 mph heater and nasty curveball were better than any fastball or breaking ball among Baltimore's signees.

Assessment: Scouting director Tony DeMacio wanted to draft stud shortstop Chris Nelson with the eighth overall pick, but owner Peter Angelos insisted he take a college pitcher who would sign for no more than MLB's recommended bonus, approximately $2.2 million. The Orioles infuriated Townsend by offering $1.85 million, then declined to renew DeMacio's contract when it expired in October.


BOSTON RED SOX

Best Pro Debut: SS Dustin Pedroia (2) hit .357/.435/.535 in 42 games between low and high Class A, and he didn't commit a single error. A number of lefthanders had gaudy numbers, led by Tommy Hottovy (4) and Randy Beam (18). Hottovy had a 0.89 ERA and 39-4 K-BB ratio in 30 innings at short-season Lowell. Beam put up an 0.68 ERA and 46-7 K-BB ratio in 40 innings, mostly at low Class A Augusta. Hottovy and Beam don't light up radar guns, succeeding instead with their location and offspeed pitches.

Best Athlete: LHP Mike Rozier (12) was a three-sport star in high school who turned down a scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina. Hottovy also had Division I football offers as a quarterback coming out of high school in 2000.

Best Pure Hitter: Before tearing up pro ball, Pedroia hit .384 in three years at Arizona State, including .393 to finish second in the Pacific-10 Conference batting race as a junior. The Red Sox see some Adam LaRoche in 1B Logan Sorensen (19), whose pro debut was cut short by wrist problems that required surgery.

Best Raw Power: OF Austin Easley (47) won the home run derby at the Cape Cod League all-star game this summer before signing in August.

Fastest Runner: OF Matt VanDerBosch (9) is a 5-foot-8 grinder out of the Darren Bragg mold. He runs better than Bragg, as his speed rates a 60 on the 20-80 scale.

Best Defensive Player: Other clubs have questioned whether Pedroia has enough range and arm to remain at shortstop, but the Red Sox believe he can stay there. Obviously, his hands aren't a question.

Best Fastball: After pitching at 88-92 mph and topping out at 94 during the spring, Rozier touched 95 during instructional league. There's more velocity in his projectable 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.

Best Breaking Ball: Hottovy's curveball is slightly better than similar LHP Andrew Dobies' (3) slider.

Most Intriguing Background: The Red Sox drafted but didn't sign LHP Nick Francona (40), whose father Terry is Boston's manager, and 3B Beau Mills (44), whose father Brad is the club's bench coach. Both dads played in the majors, as did Nick's grandfather Tito. VanDerBosch is the nephew of 1979 American League rookie of the year John Castino. SS Dustin Kelly's (15) uncle Pat had a brief big league career and manages Triple-A Richmond in the Braves system. Sorensen's cousin Zach reached the majors in 2003 with the Indians.

Closest To The Majors: Pedroia, Hottovy and Dobies all are on the fast track. Pedroia may start 2005 in Double-A.

Best Late-Round Pick: The Red Sox gave up their first-round pick as compensation for Keith Foulke, but they believe they landed the equivalent of a first-rounder in Rozier. He cost them $1.575 million, a record for a non-draft-and-follow selected after the third round.

The One Who Got Away: 1B Steve Pearce (10) has power and may be able to play catcher, third base or the outfield. He elected to return for his senior season at South Carolina, gambling that he can substantially elevate his draft position by succeeding first-rounder Landon Powell behind the plate for the Gamecocks.

Assessment: Signing Rozier was an aggressive move to make up for not having a first-rounder. He's a noticeable standout in an otherwise conservative draft class of advanced players who should move quickly but don't have huge ceilings.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Best Pro Debut: RHP Jesse Hoover (5) led the NAIA with 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings at Indiana Tech, then averaged 14.6 per nine while going 2-1, 1.78 at short-season Staten Island. OF Evan Tierce (17) was too old for Rookie ball at 22, but he did top the Gulf Coast League in batting (.361) and on-base percentage (.420).

Best Athlete: SS Nate Phillips (6) could have been drafted as a pitcher, and the Yankees like his arm and mobility so much that they began converting him to catcher in instructional league. RHP Philip Hughes (1) is athletic for a pitcher.

Best Pure Hitter: OF Jon Poterson (1) is a switch-hitter who can consistently center the ball on the bat. After hitting just .202 in the GCL, he looked better in instructional league. IF/OF Yosvany Almario-Cabrera (18) hit .481 to win the Florida juco batting title at Miami-Dade CC South in the spring and followed up by hitting .346 in the GCL. He's even older than Tierce, though.

Best Raw Power: Poterson, 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, finished one shy of the GCL lead with seven homers.

Fastest Runner: Speed is Tierce's best tool. He can run the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds.

Best Defensive Player: SS Grant Plumley (9) made just four errors in 61 games at Oral Roberts and tied for the short-season New York-Penn League lead with 44 double plays.

Best Fastball: Hoover has an explosive 94-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97. Hughes and RHP Christian Garcia (3), who converted from catching as a high school senior, can reach the mid-90s as well. RHP Jeff Marquez (1) throws 92-94 mph with heavy sink.

Best Breaking Ball: RHP Brett Smith's (2) slider or Garcia's curveball.

Most Intriguing Background: LHP Clint Preisendorfer's (32) father Rusty is a noted surfboard shaper and the founder of Rusty Surfboards. RHP Matt Harrington (36), the No. 7 overall pick in 2000, was drafted for the fifth straight year, one short of Mark Hendrickson's record in the single-draft era. Cabrera is a Cuban defector whose age is listed at 24 and could be as high as 27. OF Rod Allen Jr.'s (12) father is a TV broadcaster for the Tigers and played in the majors, as did RHP Jeremiah Shepherd's (27) dad Ron. RHP Ryan Rote's (37) grandfather Tobin quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to their last NFL championship in 1957. Cabrera and Allen are the only players from this group to sign.

Closest To The Majors: Smith would have been the favorite if he hadn't held out all summer. Now Hoover can pass him if he adds some pitchability to go with his sheer arm strength.

Best Late-Round Pick: 1B Ben Jones (14) has intriguing power.

The One Who Got Away: C Alex Garabedian (7), who has defensive skills and power, didn't come close to signing and is attending Miami. 3B Chris Davis (50) opted for Texas and could be the Longhorns' best two-way player since Brooks Kieschnick.

Assessment: New York had three first-round picks and used them to add much-needed depth to a flagging system. But the Yankees continued to be unusually conservative in the draft, an approach that led to scouting director Lin Garrett being reassigned.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Best Pro Debut: SS Reid Brignac (2) hit .361-1-25 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, then went 7-for-14 with five RBIs in a three-game cameo in low Class A. RHP Andrew Sonnanstine (13) went 5-1, 0.78 with a 66-10 K-BB ratio in 58 innings between the short-season New York-Penn League and low Class A. He has a sharp slider, an average fastball and an affinity for altering his arm angle on both pitches.

Best Athlete: OF Fernando Perez' (7) speed made him the highest drafted player ever from Columbia University. Brignac's all-around tools are impressive.

Best Pure Hitter: Brignac drilled 17 hits in his first seven pro games and kept hitting all summer. 1B Rhyne Hughes (8) batted .401 at Pearl River (Miss.) CC in the spring.

Best Raw Power: OF Ryan Royster (5) hit a 470-foot blast as an Oregon high schooler last spring.

Fastest Runner: Perez is a sub-4.0 runner to first base from the right side of the plate. He stole 24 bases in 28 attempts in the NY-P.

Best Defensive Player: Steady, instinctive 2B/SS Josh Asanovich (11). Tampa Bay also drafted him in the 21st round out of high school in 2001.

Best Fastball: RHP Jeff Niemann (1) not only throws 92-97 mph, but at 6-foot-9 he delivers his heat on a nasty downward plane. He may not sign until the spring, but the Devil Rays expect to get the deal done. RHP Wade Davis (3) touched 94 during the summer, while RHP Matt Walker (10) did so during the spring.

Best Breaking Ball: Niemann's slider reaches 87 mph and can be flat-out unhittable. Among the players under contract, LHP Jacob McGee's (5) slider is the best.

Most Intriguing Background: SS Cale Iorg's (16) father Garth and uncle Dane are ex-big leaguers. His brother Eli was the Cubs' 14th-round pick in June, and another brother, Issac, plays in the Braves system. The Devil Rays signed the sons of two Triple-A managersóRHP Billy Evers Jr. (35), whose dad skippers Durham in their own system; and RHP Chris Kelly (46), whose father Pat pilots Richmond for the Braves. Pat Kelly also played briefly in the majors. Offensive-minded C Matt Spring (4) was MVP of the Junior College World Series after leading Dixie State (Utah) to the championship.

Closest To The Majors: Niemann likely will begin his pro career in high Class A.

Best Late-Round Pick: Better known as a potential NCAA Division I-A quarterback last spring, Walker looked like a possible supplemental first-rounder before tiring late in the spring. He signed for $600,000, mid-second-round money.

The One Who Got Away: Iorg, who is attending Alabama, can play in the middle infield and has enough power in case he moves to third base. He's more polished than Santa Clara-bound SS Ryan Conan, who's more physical. LHP Matt Goyen (27) used a tantalizing changeup to earn the Cape Cod League's pitcher-of-the-year award and strikeout title. Goyen returned to Georgia College & State University.

Assessment: Had he not been slowed by his recovery from arthroscopic elbow surgery and a nagging groin injury, Niemann could have been the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Getting Brignac in the second round also could be a coup.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Best Pro Debut: C Curtis Thigpen (2) and OF Adam Lind (3) were short-season New York-Penn League all-stars. Thigpen batted .301-7-29, while Lind hit .312-7-50. LHP Derek Tate (34) overmatched Rookie-level Appalachian League and NY-P hitters with his changeup. He went 6-1, 1.47 with a 65-10 K-BB ratio in 49 innings.

Best Athlete: SS Ryan Klosterman (5) and OF Aaron Mathews (19) are solid if not spectacular athletes.

Best Pure Hitter: Lind has a fluid lefthanded swing, bat speed and a knowledgeable approach. Thigpen also should continue to hit as he moves up the ladder.

Best Raw Power: 1B Joey Metropolous (9) is a 6-foot-1, 230-pound masher. He led the Cape Cod League with 11 homers in 2003. OF Cory Patton (6) was the national junior college player of the year in 2002, when he topped that level with 31 homers and 119 RBIs at Seward County (Kan.) CC. He sustained a stress fracture in his left foot right before the draft and couldn't play before instructional league.

Fastest Runner: Klosterman has 55 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and his instincts make him dangerous on the bases. He stole 16 bases in 18 tries in the NY-P.

Best Defensive Player: Klosterman has very sure hands and is able to make plays at shortstop despite a slightly below-average arm. Patton has a plus arm and moves better in right field than his 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame might indicate.

Best Fastball: LHP David Purcey (1) pitches at 90-95 mph. LHP Zach Jackson (1) doesn't throw quite as hard, working at 88-93, but he maintains that velocity throughout a game and commands his fastball well. RHP Kristian Bell (11) has touched 95, though there's a fair amount of effort in his delivery.

Best Breaking Ball: RHP Danny Hill's (3) slider made him one of the most attractive senior signs in the draft. Bell and RHP Kyle Yates (12) both have 12-6 curveballs. Yates' is more reliable, and he also owns an 88-92 mph fastball.

Most Intriguing Background: RHP Joey McLaughlin Jr.'s (18) father pitched for Toronto, and his brother Jeff pitched alongside him at Oklahoma City. LHP Daryl Harang's (23) brother Aaron won 10 games for the Reds in 2004.

Closest To The Majors: Purcey and Jackson are too close to call. Purcey has better pure stuff, but Jackson has more control and consistency.

Best Late-Round Pick: The Blue Jays like what they've seen from Bell, OF Eric Nielsen (12), Yates and Mathews. Nielsen has a good chance to hit and a possible right-field arm.

The One Who Got Away: Toronto lost the rights to just three players. Sophomore-eligible RHP Derek Feldkamp (41) could go much higher in 2005 if he continues to touch 95 mph and show a feel for three pitches. He's back at Michigan.

Assessment: The first round couldn't have worked out any better for the Blue Jays. After deliberating between Purcey and Jackson with the No. 16 pick, Jackson was still on the board when they picked again at No. 32.

 
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