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2005 MLB Draft: First Round Projection

By Allan Simpson
May 20, 2005

The 2004 draft was one of the most volatile in recent years, and the three players who helped make it so could disrupt this year’s proceedings as well.

Shortstop Stephen Drew and righthander Jered Weaver, both represented by Scott Boras, were the two most talented players last year, but neither went in the first 10 picks amid concerns over signability. Weaver was selected 12th overall by the Angels while Drew went 15th to the Diamondbacks. Neither player had signed—or was likely to, according to Boras—and both would go back into this year’s draft if they don’t sign before June 1, the start of the closed period.

Boras is also representing a number of other premium prospects this year, and teams are perplexed about how to deal with most of them.

“The Boras factor is everything in this draft,” a National League scouting director said. “Everything could turn upside down after the closed period starts.”

Righthander Wade Townsend is the third wild card. He also didn’t sign in 2004 after being chosen by the Orioles with the eighth pick, but at least everyone knows he’s back in this year’s pool. Like Weaver, he hasn’t pitched competitively in almost a year, and teams are uncertain about his status. Drew was playing in the independent Atlantic League.

“There are a lot of variables, a lot of wild cards involved,” an American League scouting director said. “You’ve got the two Boras guys, Townsend, all the new Boras guys, teams looking to cut deals, a lot of things.”

With that in mind, here’s how Baseball America sees the first round unfolding. And we're assuming Weaver and Drew sign beforehand, as many in the industry expect them to do.

Arizona faces two scenarios—one where Drew signs, the other where he doesn’t. There have been rumors all spring that a Drew signing will prompt the Diamondbacks to take another Boras client with the No. 1 pick, either St. John’s righthander Craig Hansen or Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey—or even Weaver, if he doesn’t sign with the Angels. Scouting director Mike Rizzo insists the pick will not be linked to the Drew signing, though with three weeks remaining he had Pelfrey, Hansen and Tennessee righthander Luke Hochever—all Boras clients—on a short list of potential picks, along with Virginia high school shortstop Justin Upton, the consensus best talent in the draft. If Rizzo has his way, the pick will be Upton. But a new ownership group has been pushing for one of the pitchers, thinking he could help a revived big league team in a potential pennant push this year.
Justin Upton.

This is Kansas City's highest pick ever, and it represents the most important in this once-proud franchise’s history—even more important than the selection of Bo Jackson in 1986. The Royals need immediate help in the form of a premium college player like Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon, yet there are rumblings they'll try to cut a predraft deal for a more affordable player, as they did in 2003 and 2004. At least three Kansas City officials, including GM Allard Baird, deny those rumors and say the team will pay to sign the best available player. They’ve aggressively scouted Gordon and North Carolina prep outfielder Cameron Maybin, with Gordon being the more prudent pick because he is signable and could be in the big leagues by next year. But if the Royals have just $2 million to $2.2 million to sign the pick, as rumored, they would consider Arizona outfielder Trevor Crowe, San Diego high school outfielder John Drennen, Oregon State outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington. All are potential first-rounders, but none is worthy of the second pick. No matter who they pick, the Royals will have an agreement in place with the player before the draft.

The Mariners will take the best player available, and have a pecking order of Gordon, Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Upton. Former general manager Pat Gillick has sat on Gordon and Upton most of the spring, while national crosschecker Rick Ingalls has been a regular at Tulowitzki’s games. The Mariners recognize this as a golden opportunity to get a marquee domestic talent--they haven’t drafted and signed a first-round pick since 1999. They need to get it right because they don't draft again until the fourth round.
PROJECTED PICK: Troy Tulowitzki.

They have a new name, but the Nationals are still owned by Major League Baseball and will toe the line on signing bonuses. With former Reds GM Jim Bowden calling the shots, the pick could be unconventional, but signs point to Virginia third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the best defensive player in the country. The Nats could try to cut a predraft deal with him. A delegation of Nationals officials made the junket to nearby Charlottesville, Va., for a recent series against Miami and saw Zimmerman launch a tape-measure home run—dispelling notions that he doesn’t hit for power. They also saw Miami third baseman Ryan Braun put on a strong show, sparking interest in him. They would also consider Upton, another Virginia product, in the unlikely event he is still available. The team won’t pick again until the fourth round, but they have made up for that shortcoming by being aggressive on the international market over the last several months.
PROJECTED PICK: Ryan Zimmerman.

The Brewers pick fifth for the second year in a row. Jack Zduriencik has an enviable track record in his five-year tenure as scouting director and probably will take the best player available again—unless new ownership or GM Doug Melvin dictates a college player who will provide a more immediate return. If they’re available, Gordon or Zimmerman would fill a need at third base, as would Southern California catcher Jeff Clement behind the plate. Zduriencik rarely tips his hand, but Maybin and Texas outfielder Jay Bruce are thought to be in his high school mix, as are Braun and Cal State Fullerton lefthander Ricky Romero.
PROJECTED PICK: Cameron Maybin.

Toronto will stick with its college-heavy approach, but would make an exception for Upton. Gordon, Tulowitzki and Zimmerman also are on a short list of six prospects, along with Romero and Townsend. The Blue Jays seem resigned that the four hitters will be gone and have focused on Romero, making it the second year in a row they would take a college lefthander with their first pick.

While they have shown a lot of interest in Braun and three high school outfielders—Maybin, Bruce and Florida’s Andrew McCutchen—the Rockies are not afraid to take a Boras client, especially if they feel the player’s talent warrants the potential risk of a lengthy signing process. Hochevar has that kind of ability and he has local appeal, as he grew up in Colorado.
PROJECTED PICK: Luke Hochevar.

Tampa Bay’s baseball people traditionally prefer high-ceiling, high school talent and like Bruce, Maybin, McCutchen and Alabama outfielder Colby Rasmus. There also has been interest in Braun and Clement. But a year after taking Rice righthander Jeff Niemann with the fourth overall pick, the Rays are intrigued with the idea of adding Townsend, Niemann’s former college roommate. Townsend, who coincidentally was the eighth pick a year ago, worked out at the Devil Rays minor league complex in St. Petersburg before a throng of scouts in mid-May and was scheduled to do so again a week later. With a fastball in the 86-90 mph range, he wasn’t in midseason form, but he’s the player the Devil Rays have targeted.
PROJECTED PICK: Wade Townsend.

Mets GM Omar Minaya has personally scouted St. John’s righthander Craig Hansen and isn’t averse to sticking his neck out on a Boras client—particularly someone with local appeal who could be in the big league bullpen by September. Braun and Bruce have also generated interest from new scouting director Russ Bove, who prefers high-ceiling prospects. The Mets proved in the offseason they are willing to spend money to attract talent, and they want to make a splash with this pick because they forfeited their second- and third-round selections to sign Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. If Drew is back in the draft, the Mets would be one of the teams that would seriously consider taking him--they came very close to selecting him a year ago.

New Tigers scouting director David Chadd has Wichita roots, and knows Pelfrey personally. That would be a natural match in this spot, though the Tigers have also eyed Braun and Clement.

The Pirates returned to their more traditional draft approach in 2004 by drafting a high school player, after seeing little immediate payback from going the college route for three years. Clement, Romero and Stanford first baseman John Mayberry or North Carolina State closer Joey Devine might still be considered better fits in the club’s quest to reverse a 12-year drought of winning seasons at the big league level, but there are stronger indications they prefer a young, athletic outfielder like Bruce or McCutchen.
PROJECTED PICK: Andrew McCutchen.

12. REDS
The Reds have been hot on the trail of Florida righthander Chris Volstad, the best high school arm in the draft. But they have a more pressing need for a catcher or third baseman, with Clement and Braun the most likely players still on the board who could fill those holes.

New scouting director Joe Jordan is a product of the Marlins organization and is expected to follow his former club’s attraction to high school talent. The Orioles have shown the most interest in Bruce, Volstad and Oklahoma outfielder C.J. Henry among players likely to still be on the board. Baltimore GM Jim Beattie has personally been in to see Ellsbury, so he can’t be ruled out.

Cleveland has made it known it wants a college bat. Clement is an option if he’s available, as is Braun, who is on a lot of teams’ lists but doesn’t appear to be anyone’s first choice. Maybin and McCutchen are the only high school players the Indians would consider, though high school outfielder Drennen is a fallback.

The White Sox would prefer a college pitcher, but they have made it clear they won’t have any dealings with Boras. Miami righthander Cesar Carrillo and Tulane lefthander Brian Bogusevic, who both grew up near Chicago, are on the club’s short list.
PROJECTED PICK: Cesar Carrillo.

16/22/29. MARLINS
With three first-round picks and five of the first 44, the Marlins are in a position to stockpile talent. But there’s the matter of paying for it, and they may have little choice than to pay less than slot money for one or two of the picks—or burn one of the picks on an unsignable player. The Marlins will likely play it straight with the first two selections. The two players they were considering most seriously for the 16th selection are Volstad, a local product, and Ellsbury. If they go for Volstad, they’d prefer a premium high school bat after that, with Drennen, Henry and Rasmus the prime options.
PROJECTED PICKS: Chris Volstad/Jacoby Ellsbury/Colby Rasmus.

The Yankees have not drafted well for a decade, and there’s growing pressure to replenish a depleted farm system—even if it means overpaying. If Drew or Weaver were to re-enter the draft, the Yankees might be a prime suitor. There is a split opinion in the Yankees hierarchy, with some favoring a college player like Bogusevic or fast-rising UMass righthander Matt Torra, and others preferring a high school talent like Volstad, Bruce, Henry or Virginia catcher Brandon Snyder. Henry reportedly has a high price tag, but as a dual-sport athlete his bonus could be spread out over several years.

San Diego initially showed an interest in three college hitters: Ellsbury, Crowe and Stanford second baseman Jed Lowrie. Then it swung to Bogusevic and another college lefthander, Long Beach State’s Cesar Ramos. The Padres also have been linked to local products Drennen and Henry Sanchez, two of the premier high school hitters in the draft, but they probably wouldn’t consider either seriously until the sandwich round. The only demographic that the Padres almost assuredly will not consider is a high school pitcher, especially with former A’s GM Sandy Alderson and scouting director Grady Fuson now part of the management team. The pick is expected to come down to the two college lefthanders, with Bogusevic likely to get the nod because he has a higher ceiling than Ramos, who is possibly the most polished pitcher in the draft.
PROJECTED PICK: Brian Bogusevic.

New farm director Dom Chiti, a former pitcher, has been actively scouting players for the Rangers this spring with his sights set on a power arm. He’s checked out Volstad, Torra and Fresno State righthander Matt Garza, but there may be no greater power pitcher available than Baylor righthander Mark McCormick--a Boras client and a Texan.

20. CUBS
The Cubs will take the best player available in this position, with Utah high school lefthander Mark Pawelek a prime candidate. They’ll have to think about the pick, though, because Pawelek is represented by Boras—and it’s been five years since the last Boras high school player signed. If the Cubs get cold feet, two players they would turn to are Snyder and fellow Virginian Justin Bristow, who has generated much two-way debate this spring.

While the A’s may stray from their “Moneyball” approach and grab a high school player or two, it’s unlikely it would be with this pick—though Drennen is intriguing because he fits the A’s style. Crowe or Ellsbury, top-of-the-order college hitters with high on-base percentages, or Arizona State hitting machine Travis Buck, are more likely fits. A polished starting pitcher like Torra or a closer like Devine, who should move quickly to the big leagues, also are considerations.

23/26. RED SOX
The reigning World Series champions have six picks before the start of the second round. They will concentrate on college players, but are certain to slip in a high school player or two like Sanchez, the best power-hitting prospect in the draft, or South Carolina shortstop Reese Havens. If he’s still on the board at 23, Torra would get picked in a heartbeat. He’s one of New England’s own, a strike-thrower and one of the fastest-rising pitchers in the draft. Ellsbury, a Johnny Damon clone, is in demand as well, but it’s looking more doubtful that he will be available. Other players the Red Sox have paid close attention to are Bogusevic, Devine, Lowrie and Winthrop outfielder Daniel Carte. With the potential for a $7 million-$8 million payout to sign their first six picks, the Red Sox may look to cut a deal with one of the selections and were exploring the possibility of drafting slick-fielding Cuban shortstop Yuniel Escobar, 21, who defected to the U.S. in the fall and is subject to the draft.
PROJECTED PICKS: Matt Torra/Henry Sanchez.

The Astros have made drafting Texans a high priority and Townsend, Pennington and supposedly unsignable high school outfielder Jordan Danks would be made to order. Houston also has shown a strong interest in McNeese State righthander Jacob Marceaux.
PROJECTED PICK: Cliff Pennington.

Virginia has always been a favored scouting ground for the Twins, more than ever this spring with the richest crop of talent in the state’s history. The Twins have concentrated on Snyder and Bristow—a former high school teammate of Matt Moses, the Twins’ 2003 first-rounder. They’ve also looked at power arms like Garza and Kentucky high school righthander Chaz Roe, as well as the athletic Henry.
PROJECTED PICK: Brandon Snyder.

The Braves are the most high school-oriented organization in the draft and will consider all the premium arms in the Southeast like Roe, Texas’ Craig Italiano, Tennessee’s Bryan Morris, Mississippi’s Cory Satterwhite and Louisiana’s Josh Wall. Italiano has the best fastball in the prep ranks, Morris the best breaking ball. If Torra slipped through, he would be a rare college arm they would consider.

St. Louis has the weakest farm system in the game and is looking at this draft as a golden opportunity to replenish. It has four extra picks this year. The Cardinals didn’t sign a single high school player a year ago and have concentrated their efforts on collegians like Buck, Carte, Devine, Garza, Mayberry, Georgia Tech shortstop Tyler Greene, Mississippi first baseman Stephen Head, Stanford first baseman John Mayberry and St. John’s righthander Anthony Varvaro. The Cardinals have never shied away from Boras clients, so could take a stab at McCormick or Texas catcher Taylor Teagarden, or even Georgia Tech righthander Jason Neighborgall, one of the hardest-throwing but wildest pitchers in the draft.
PROJECTED PICKS: John Mayberry/Taylor Teagarden.

Four teams do not have first-round picks this year. Here’s how they may be approaching their first selection:

The Angels haven’t signed Weaver and don't have a first-round pick after signing free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera. They’ll need to find more of the creative scouting that highlighted their 2004 draft to make up for the shortfall, beginning with this pick. The Angels have a preference for Southern California arms and high school righthanders Trevor Bell, Sean O’Sullivan and Ryan Tucker all are candidates for this spot. O’Sullivan's velocity fell off 4-5 mph this spring, but the Angels know him better than most teams because he played on one of their scout teams in the past, and they’re confident he can return to his previous form. Drennen is also a possibility, as is Pawelek—the player scouting director Eddie Bane drove 500 miles each way to see in one day this spring.
PROJECTED PICK: Sean O’Sullivan.

With “Moneyball” teams like the Athletics, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Red Sox gobbling up the top college players in front of them, the Dodgers should end up with a premium high school talent, possibly one who slides for signability reasons. Scouting director Logan White has an enviable track record with high school players and should have his pick from among Florida righthander Tyler Herron, Morris, Tucker and Louisiana pitchers Josh Wall and Sean West.

The Phillies forfeited their first-round pick for signing Jon Lieber, but may be in position to take a run at tough signs like Havens, Arizona righthander Brett Jacobson, Georgia righthander Buster Posey and Texas outfielders Danks and Kyle Russell—all of whom won’t be drafted in the first round but might consider signing if offered first-round money.
PROJECTED PICK: Brett Jacobson.

This is the latest first selection in draft history as the Giants won’t pick until the fourth round after signing Armando Benitez, Mike Matheny and Omar Vizquel as free agents. It’s difficult to know who will still be on the board by then, but players like Loyola Marymount righthander Stephen Kahn, Tulane righthander Micah Owings and Texas A&M righthander Kevin Whelan were all potential first-round picks at the start of the year and could provide good value.

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