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Hochevar holdout taints mock draft

by Jim Callis
October 25, 2005

CHICAGO -- Ugh.

If it's time for me to analyze each team with Draft Report Cards, it's time for me to critique my annual mock 10-round draft (BA, July 4-17). And "ugh" is the first word that comes to mind of my first-round pick.

I do like most of my players. After all, I got the top guy on my board every time my turn came around (17th in each round, plus the fifth selection in the supplemental first round), and it's too early to write anyone off.

Except for my first-round pick. I cringe when I look back at what I wrote four months ago:

While I don't relish the prospect of a long holdout, I'm taking [Luke] Hochevar at No. 17. In terms of his talent, that's a great value for my pick, and I'd rather have him than [Justin] Verlander or [Philip] Humber, so I'm willing to pay a premium price.

Humber since has blown out his elbow, so I don't look like a complete idiot. Verlander, on the other hand, can make a case for being the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues.

Meanwhile, Hochevar's real-life negotiations have become a mess. He switched advisers from Scott Boras to Matt Sosnick on Labor Day weekend and agreed to a $2.98 million bonus, then abruptly reneged and returned to Boras. Hochevar and Boras subsequently charged the Dodgers with trying to coerce him into signing a bad deal. Though they backed off those claims, the two sides will likely never come to terms.

Regardless of that outcome, I've given up on trying to sign Hochevar. It's hard not to love his 90-95 mph fastball and hard slider, but I can't get over the makeup questions that have to surround someone that easily manipulated.

I'll rue not taking Cliff Pennington or Jacoby Ellsbury, but at least I'll get a compensation pick at the end of next year's sandwich round for not signing Hochevar. And I'll have more money in my draft budget, as my 10 signees cost around $3.5 milliončthe bare minimum I thought it would take to sign Hochevar.

On to my Draft Report Card . . .

Best Pro Debut: OF Aaron Cunningham (fifth round for me/sixth for the White Sox) was my lone all-star, batting .315-5-25 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. RHP Paul Phillips (seventh/ninth, Blue Jays) had 13 saves, a 2.29 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 39 innings in the short-season New York-Penn League. 3B Mike Bell (10th/15th, Brewers) hit .300-3-42 with nine steals in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

Best Athlete: Some scouts compare Cunningham to Brian Giles. Unknown before a breakout spring at Everett (Wash.) CC, he has plus power and slightly above-average speed and arm strength. OF Jordan Schafer (third/third, Braves) also drew interest as a lefthanded pitcher but projects better as a Mark Kotsay-esque center fielder. Schafer, who has at least average tools across the board, hit .203-3-19 with 13 steals in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Best Pure Hitter: Bell, who reminded Cape Cod League observers of Aaron Hill in his late-summer 2004 stint there, or Cunningham. SS Seth Johnston (fourth/fifth, Padres) looked like a good offensive utilityman after leading College World Series champion Texas with a .378 average, but he batted just .253-2-23 in the short-season Northwest League.

Best Raw Power: Cunningham's pop stands out most among his tools. OF Jeremy Slayden (sixth/eighth, Phillies) has plus power and looked like a possible first-round pick until shoulder, foot and ankle injuries marred his last two seasons at Georgia Tech. He hit .268-9-36 in the NY-P.

Fastest Runner: Schafer's speed rates as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while Cunningham merits a 55.

Best Defensive Player: This was supposed to be C Matt Wagner (ninth/ninth, Red Sox), but he didn't catch as well as expected and threw out just 21 percent of basestealers in the NY-P. He also hit just .203-0-6. Schafer (in center) and Cunningham (in right) should be at least solid outfield defenders.

Best Fastball: RHPs Michael Bowden (supplemental first/supplemental first, Red Sox) and Bryan Morris (second/third, Devil Rays) both work at 92-93 mph as starters, with Bowden having heavier life on his fastball. Boston was cautious with him, so he worked just six scoreless innings in the GCL. Tampa Bay's upper management couldn't close a deal with Morris, who became a draft-and-follow at Motlow State (Tenn.) CC. But I'm willing to pony up the $1.3 million Morris wanted right now, so I'll consider him signed.

Best Breaking Ball: Bowden and Morris had two of the best power curveballs in the entire draft. Phillips flashes a plus slider at times.

Most Intriguing Background: Morris' dad Ricky is an assistant coach at Motlow State. Phillips' father Arnold is an associate scout for the Devil Rays.

Closest To The Majors: My draft won't pay any quick dividends. Phillips is probably the favorite because he's a reliever and a college pick. McCutchen might pass him if he goes to the bullpen.

The One Who Got Away: Hochevar.

Assessment: Getting Bowden and Morris helps make up for the Hochevar debacle. After I used my first three picks on pitchers, my position-player talent looks a little light.

I think my best job came in demonstrating once again how hard it is to have a successful draft.

You can read Jim's mock draft at www.baseballamerica.com/today/columnists/askba.html#mockdraft.

You can contact Jim Callis by sending e-mail to jimcallis@baseballamerica.com.

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