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Hochevar doesn't get past No. 17 in our draft
by Jim Callis
CHICAGO--With 30 scouting directors putting their opinions on the line in the first-year player draft, it's time for me to do the same.
I've put together my own 10-round mock drafts since 2003, based on BA's scouting reports and signability information. This year, I randomly drew the 17th slot in each round. Because the supplemental first round lasts 18 picks this year, I decided I should get in on that action with the No. 35 selection.
Tennessee righthander Luke Hochevar's fall to the Dodgers at No. 40 was one of the biggest stories on draft day. The second-best pitching prospect in the draft, he has a plus fastball and slider, an average curveball and changeup, good command and a great build (6-foot-5, 205 pounds).
In his last few starts before the draft, Hochevar didn't dominate as he had in the past, but the main reason he dropped was concern about his bonus demands. Advised by Scott Boras, Hochevar turned down offers of slot money early in the draft and asked to be treated in "the top pitchers class."
The top three pitchers selected in last year's draft--Justin Verlander, Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann--signed big league contracts worth between $4.2 million and $5.2 million, including bonuses from $3 million to $3.2 million. Throw in Boras, and teams perceived that Hochevar wanted in the neighborhood of $5 million.
While I don't relish the prospect of a long holdout, I'm taking Hochevar at No. 17. In terms of his talent, that's a great value for my pick. I'd rather have him than Verlander or Humber, so I'm willing to pay a premium price.
Can't Resist High School Arms
After opening with a frontline starter, I hoped to grab a strong bat at No. 35. When high school outfielders Colby Rasmus and John Drennen went 28th to the Cardinals and 33rd to the Indians, I had to switch gears.
That's fine, however, because I'm excited about Illinois prep righthander Michael Bowden (who actually went 47th overall to the Red Sox). He threw 90-92 mph and showed a plus curveball almost every time out this spring. He's strong and athletic, and his makeup is off the charts.
I came right back with another high school righty: Tennessee's Bryan Morris (third round, Devil Rays), who has a power fastball/curveball combination. While he has talked about spending a year playing for his dad Ricky, the pitching coach at Motlow (Tenn.) CC, I think he's signable. If not, I'll just draft-and-follow him.
Unable to ignore bats any longer, I spent my third-round choice on Florida high school outfielder Jordan Schafer (third, Braves). Some clubs liked him more as a pitcher, but he's a budding Mark Kotsay with similar makeup.
Looking to save a few dollars after taking Hochevar, I went for a college senior in the fourth round: Texas shortstop Seth Johnston (fifth, Padres). Scouts have compared him to Jeff Kent with less power. The only downside with taking Johnston was that it cost me my gut-feel guy, Houston righthander Kevin Roberts, and Johnston would have been available to me at pick No. 157.
Juco Bats Look Attractive
I didn't select a junior college player in my first two drafts, but I took a pair this year, starting with Everett (Wash.) CC outfielder Aaron Cunningham (sixth, White Sox) in the fifth. Undrafted out of high school a year ago, he has well above-average bat speed, foot speed and arm strength to go with good power potential.
Georgia Tech outfielder Jeremy Slayden (eighth, Phillies) looked like a first-round pick in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2003, but he hurt his shoulder last year and has had ankle and foot problems in 2005. His other tools have slipped, but I'll still bet on his lefthanded power in the sixth round.
My next two choices are a pair of college starters who profile better as pro relievers. Oakland righthander Paul Phillips (ninth, Blue Jays), an eminently signable sophomore-eligible, has a 90-93 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider on his best days. Oklahoma State righty Daniel McCutchen (12th, Cardinals) can dial his heater up to 95-96 mph, but pitches better when he spots his 90-91 mph sinker.
UC Irvine's Mark Wagner (ninth, Red Sox), my ninth-rounder, gives me a catcher who can hit line drives and play solid defense. I wrap things up with Grayson County (Texas) CC third baseman Mike Bell, who has a tempting bat and drew Aaron Hill comparisons during a brief Cape Cod League stint last summer.
It's going to take a lot of time and money to sign Hochevar, but it should be worth it. This draft looks more promising than my previous efforts--for a complete list of my 2003-04 picks, please visit www.baseballamerica.com/today/columnists/askba.html#mockdraft--though I'll probably say that every year.
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