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2004 Draft: First-Round Projections

 
Padres
1. Padres: Matt Bush, ss, Mission Bay HS, El Cajon, Calif.
The Padres initially narrowed their field to three players: Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, Rice righthander Jeff Niemann and Long Beach State righthander Jered Weaver. With less than a week to go, they zeroed in on Drew, only to be stopped cold when owner John Moores abruptly decided that San Diego would not exceed Major League Baseball's bonus recommendation for the No. 1 slot, believed to be in the neighborhood of $3.5 million. That took Drew out of play, as he reportedly wants a package similar to the $3.6 million bonus and $4.79 million guaranteed big league contract Rickie Weeks got as the No. 2 overall pick last year. The Padres quickly switched gears to local product Bush and signed him the day before the draft for $3.1 million.
Tigers
2. Tigers: Justin Verlander, rhp, Old Dominion
When the Tigers thought Drew was going No. 1, they focused on La Grange (Texas) HS righthander Homer Bailey, Niemann and Verlander. Though Niemann's offseason arthroscopic elbow surgery and in-season groin strain aren't long-term concerns, they prevented him from pitching at 100 percent and dropped him out of the running. Detroit did consider Drew when he suddenly became available, but ultimately decided to go for pitching. There's still a small chance the Tigers could cut a deal with Bailey, but Verlander appears to be their man.
Mets
3. Mets: Philip Humber, rhp, Rice
If Verlander gets past Detroit, the Mets will take him. With that not expected to happen, New York was locked in on Humber before Drew unexpectedly became available. Whether Mets ownership would approve the money to sign Drew remains unclear, but the consensus is they'll settle on Humber regardless.
Devil Rays
4. Devil Rays: Jeff Niemann, rhp, Rice
Though the Devil Rays already have the minors' best prospect in shortstop B.J. Upton, their scouts quickly homed in on Redan HS (Decatur, Ga.) shortstop Chris Nelson. But new owner Stuart Sternberg and manager Lou Piniella believe Tampa Bay has a greater need for pitching, and they'll get their way. Niemann pitched well in front of a Rays delegation this weekend, and will be their choice unless his bonus demands push them to Bailey.
Brewers
5. Brewers: Mark Rogers, rhp, Mount Ararat HS, Orr's Island, Maine
The Brewers have rebuilt their farm system from the worst to the best in the game in three short years, thanks mainly to high school draft picks. They'll start the 2004 draft with another, unless Humber unexpectedly falls to them. Rogers had as much helium as any of the top prospects as the draft approached, rising near the top of draft boards for several clubs.
Indians
6. Indians: Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Vanderbilt
The Indians would love to get a crack at a power righthander like Verlander, Niemann or Humber. That's unlikely to happen, so they'll go in the opposite direction with the draft's most polished college lefthander, Sowers. Before Bush went off the board, Cleveland would have considered him very seriously. Another Rice righthander, Wade Townsend, is a longshot.
Reds
7. Reds: Homer Bailey, rhp, La Grange (Texas) HS
The Reds had hoped that Bush or Rogers would get to them, but their consolation prize is a nice one. Bailey is the consensus best high school pitcher in the draft. Cincinnati drafted Sowers in 2001's first round and failed to sign him—some would say by design—and might take a second chance should Cleveland pass on him.
Orioles
8. Orioles: Chris Nelson, ss, Redan HS, Decatur, Ga.
Add the Orioles to the list of teams that wish they could get a shot at Rogers. But Baltimore has to be happy with Nelson, whom scouts consider a safer bet to hit than Bush. If they can't get Nelson, the Orioles will opt for Pine Richland HS (Gibsonia, Pa.) catcher Neil Walker. Had Williamsport (Md.) HS righthander Nick Adenhart not blown out his elbow in May, he would have been a natural pick for his homestate club.
Rockies
9. Rockies: Wade Townsend, rhp, Rice
The Rockies would love Nelson and will settle for choosing between two righthanders whom several clubs project as big league closers, Townsend and New Orleans' Thomas Diamond. There were rumors Friday that the Rockies would be the club to take Weaver, who reportedly wants Mark Prior money ($10.5 million big league contract), but those had disappeared by Sunday.
Rangers
10. Rangers: Scott Elbert, lhp, Seneca (Mo.) HS
After using 2003's ninth overall pick on high school lefthander John Danks, who looks great so far, the Rangers will tab another prep southpaw in Elbert. The feeling is that Texas would take him over Bailey, though they won't have to decide between the two. If both high school arms somehow go off the board, the Rangers would snap up one of the Rice righthanders. Late Sunday-night rumor: Texas A&M lefty Zach Jackson might be in the mix. Wolfson HS (Jacksonville) righthander Eric Hurley also has been mentioned, but he'd be a stretch at No. 10.
Pirates
11. Pirates: Neil Walker, c, Pine Richland HS, Gibsonia, Pa.
After ownership pushed the Pirates to take college players with their last two first-round picks, including the regrettable choice of Bryan Bullington over Upton with 2002's No. 1 overall choice, Pittsburgh likely will go the prep route. Among the players who possibly could get to them, the Pirates would take them in this order: Nelson, Sowers (the lone collegian), Walker and Crespi HS (Northridge, Calif.) shortstop Trevor Plouffe. Plouffe would come at a discount. Walker, their likely choice, has some extra cachet as a product of suburban Pittsburgh.
Angels
12. Angels: Philip Hughes, rhp, Foothill HS, Santa Ana, Calif.
After making this pick, the Angels won't choose again until No. 113 after surrendering their second- and third-round picks as compensation for free agents Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar. Anaheim's best-case scenario would be to nab Bailey, Rogers or Nelson, but they look like they'll be long gone. Plan B for the Angels is Hughes, Elbert or Hurley.
Expos
13. Expos: Thomas Diamond, rhp, New Orleans
The feeling early on was that the Expos would follow a similar path to 2003, when they took college reliever Chad Cordero at No. 20, signed him for below-slot money and expedited him to the big leagues. While William & Mary closer Bill Bray is a possibility, Montreal most likely will wind up with either Townsend or Diamond, depending on whom the Rockies leave them. If the Expos want to go for a super-budget pick, they could take Fresno State outfielder Richie Robnett, who should be available to them in the second round.
Royals
14. Royals: Billy Butler, 1b/3b, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
With multiple first-round picks a year ago, the Royals slightly overdrafted players and paid them below-slot bonuses. Kansas City will do the same thing in 2004, starting with agreeing to terms with Butler on Sunday for $1.45 million, $200,000 under the estimated recommendation for the pick. Before choosing the fast-rising Butler, who began drawing interest from several clubs at the bottom of the round, the Royals had been linked to Miami (Ohio) first baseman Mike Ferris and then Boston College righthander Chris Lambert.
Diamondbacks
15. Diamondbacks: Bill Bray, lhp, William & Mary
The Diamondbacks have been trying to keep their interest in Bray quiet, but now it's an open secret that he's their target unless Townsend or Diamond happen to tumble. Arizona had Bray in for a workout the weekend before the draft and could sign him very quickly. The Diamondbacks' second choice is Oklahoma lefthander David Purcey.
Blue Jays
16. Blue Jays: David Purcey, lhp, Oklahoma
The Blue Jays are looking at most of the same players as the Diamondbacks and in roughly the same order: Townsend, Diamond, Purcey and Jackson. Bray and Minnesota's Glen Perkins are the next two southpaws on their list. If Toronto opts for a position player, Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields is believed to be their target.
Dodgers
17. Dodgers: Zach Jackson, lhp, Texas A&M
The Dodgers were at the center of several rumors during the final weekend before the draft. Word spread quickly that new general manager Paul DePodesta will impose his "Moneyball" beliefs on scouting director Logan White, forcing him to concentrate on college players. However, that may also be a smokescreen designed to help players fall to Los Angeles, which has three of the top 33 picks. Those extra choices would make it easier for the Dodgers to gamble that they could sign Weaver, whose brother Jeff is in their rotation, but they have decided to go in another direction. For a while it seemed like Elbert could get to them, but now he won't. Los Angeles has kept this pick very close to the vest, but they may pick from a deep pool of college lefties and choose the polished Jackson.
White Sox
18. White Sox: Josh Fields, 3b, Oklahoma State
The White Sox are known to be interested in college catchers and lefthanders, and three days before the draft word was that they would take Long Beach State southpaw Jason Vargas. But they can probably get Vargas (or a comparable lefty) plus a backstop in the supplemental first round. Chicago likes to draft athletes and is taking a hard look at Fields, a record-setting quarterback at Oklahoma State. Clemson lefty Tyler Lumsden could be another option.
Cardinals
19. Cardinals: Stephen Drew, ss, Florida State
St. Louis has bought into the "Moneyball" approach and has been thought to be after Fields for more than a month. If the White Sox break the Cardinals' heart, they could go for broke and select Drew. St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty has a history of signing Scott Boras-advised draft picks, including Stephen's older brother J.D. If the Cardinals decide to be more fiscally conservative, they'd probably select a college lefty such as Perkins, Jackson or Lumsden.
Twins
20. Twins: Glen Perkins, lhp, Minnesota
The Twins have three of the next six picks, plus two more selections between the first and second rounds. Despite initial rumors to the contrary, Minnesota will choose players based on talent rather than their willingness to accept below-market deals. The Twins have been on homestate product Perkins for a while and have to choose him here if they don't want to risk losing him.
Phillies
21. Phillies: Jay Rainville, rhp, Bishop Hendricken HS, Pawtucket, R.I.
Unless Purcey somehow sneaks by Arizona and Toronto, the Phillies likely will go to Rocco Baldelli's alma mater and take Rainville. Other college lefties that they'd consider include Perkins and Lumsden. This probably is as high as Virginia Commonwealth righthander Justin Orenduff or John Connally HS (Austin) outfielder Greg Golson could go.
Twins
22. Twins: Trevor Plouffe, ss, Crespi HS, Northridge, Calif.
Again, the Twins will play the percentages here. The Athletics have let it be known that they're interested in Plouffe—yes, Oakland would consider a high schooler—and Minnesota might lose him if it waits until No. 25. If Trabuco Hills HS (Lake Forest, Calif.) shortstop Andrew Romine's price tag weren't so high, the Twins could take Hurley here and wait on Plouffe or Romine three picks later.
Yankees
23. Yankees: Jered Weaver, rhp, Long Beach State
If any team can afford to spend $10.5 million on Weaver, it's the Yankees. Some sources say they'd welcome the chance to draft Weaver, while others say they wouldn't touch him after his brother Jeff couldn't handle the pressure of pitching in New York. Should Weaver fall past the Yankees, he could keep dropping until he hits the Red Sox (No. 65) or Cubs (No. 66) in the late second round. If the Yankees are going to spend big money, Drew might be a better fit and would plug their hole at second base. This much is certain: New York wants athletes and power arms to restock its thin farm system. Princeton outfielder/wide receiver B.J. Szymanski was a good fit here in the first category before a tough weekend in the NCAA playoffs made it likely the Yankees could get him at the end of the supplemental first round. They're in more than anyone on Woodinville (Wash.) HS outfielder/quarterback Matt Tuiasosopo, but probably can land him with the first pick in the second round. Pitching candidates include Hurley, Lumsden and Notre Dame righthander Grant Johnson. New York also likes South Carolina catcher Landon Powell.
Athletics
24. Athletics: Danny Putnam, of, Stanford
It's "Moneyball II: The Sequel," as the A's have six of the first 67 choices. Putnam fits their offensive profile to a tee, as he's a pure hitter with some power and very good on-base ability. Oakland GM Billy Beane is said to covet Powell, of whom one club executive says, "Powell is what ("Moneyball" author) Michael Lewis thinks Jeremy Brown is." The A's can wait two more picks before they have to take Powell, however.
Twins
25. Twins: Eric Hurley, rhp, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
The Twins probably will come back with a second first-round pitcher here, with Hurley and Rainville toward the top of their list. If both high schoolers are gone, they could look to collegians Jackson and Johnson. If the pitching has started to thin out, Golson would be a possibility.
Athletics
26. Athletics: Landon Powell, c, South Carolina
If the White Sox or Yankees pop Powell, Oakland's catching target will become Cal State Fullerton's Kurt Suzuki. The A's can comfortably wait until the supplemental first round for Suzuki, so if Powell is gone they'll probably choose the top lefthander on their board. Bray (if he slides), South Carolina's Matt Campbell, Alabama's Taylor Tankersley and Texas' J.P. Howell are candidates if that happens.
Marlins
27. Marlins: Tyler Lumsden, lhp, Clemson
The Marlins have built their big league rotation around high school draft picks but figure to take a college arm to kick off their 2004 draft. Lumsden, Tampa righthander Eric Beattie and Vargas are the names mentioned most. Florida also is stronger than most clubs on Milton HS (Alpharetta, Ga.) Dexter Fowler, but perhaps not enough to take him at No. 27.
Dodgers
28. Dodgers: Mark Trumbo, rhp, Villa Park HS, Orange, Calif.
If the Dodgers are going "Moneyball," one obvious college choice would be Orenduff. But the guess here is that the rumors aren't true and Los Angeles will take a blend of college and high school picks. Local product Trumbo has some appeal to the Dodgers, even though he's a prep righthander and carries a reported $1.5 million price tag. If they choose him but can't lure him away from the University of Southern California, they'd recoup a supplemental first-rounder next year. Other high school candidates include Fowler and Monsignor Pace HS (Miami) lefthander Gio Gonzalez, but one or both should be available when Los Angeles picks again at No. 33.
Royals
29. Royals: Chris Lambert, rhp, Boston College
After appearing to decide on Lambert as the 14th overall pick as of Friday, the Royals switched to Butler over the weekend—but still may get Lambert 15 choices later. They're not as high as they used to be on Ferris, another of their early targets, and would be more likely to take Campbell or Gonzalez if Lambert is gone.
Rangers
30. Rangers: Greg Golson, of, John Connally HS
The Rangers don't figure to venture out of state for their second first-rounder. If someone beats Texas to Golson, it could turn to Tremble Tech (Fort Worth) righthander Yovani Gallardo. Central Florida righty Matt Fox could be the Rangers' guy if they adhere to their usual college approach.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST ROUND

31. Royals: Matt Campbell, lhp, South Carolina
32. Blue Jays: Eric Beattie, rhp, Tampa
33. Dodgers: Dexter Fowler, of, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
34. White Sox: Jason Vargas, lhp, Long Beach State
35. Twins: Blake DeWitt, ss, Sikeston (Mo.) HS
36. Athletics: Taylor Tankersley, lhp, Alabama
37. Yankees: Grant Johnson, rhp, Notre Dame
38. White Sox: Jason Jaramillo, c, Oklahoma State
39. Twins: Justin Hoyman, rhp, Florida
40. Athletics: Dustin Pedroia, ss, Arizona State
41. Yankees: B.J. Szymanski, of, Princeton

Contributing: Allan Simpson, John Manuel.

 
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