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Draft Notebook

Countdown to the Draft: Updated First-Round Handicap

By Allan Simpson

June 2, 2001

With the 2001 first-year player draft less than 48 hours away, talent rather than signability seems to be the prevailing factor as the first round takes shape, as was detailed in Baseball America's 2001 Draft Preview issue.

The biggest question marks continue to surround the Twins, who have the No. 1 pick, and the Expos, who have the sixth pick.

Minnesota has not abandoned the idea of picking Southern California righthander Mark Prior, the top-rated talent in this year's draft. Twins GM Terry Ryan was on hand Friday as Prior was overwhelming again in beating Florida International 5-1 in an NCAA super-regional game.

The stumbling block continues to be Prior's price tag, which is reported to be $10-15 million--probably a little too rich for the budget-conscious Twins.

If they pass on Prior, the Twins' fallback will be catcher Joe Mauer from nearby Cretin-Derham Hall HS in St. Paul.

The Expos are in a quandary over what to do with their top pick. Their first choice was Kent State outfielder John VanBenschoten, the NCAA home run leader with 31. But VanBenschoten reportedly never showed up in Montreal for a tryout and he has been scratched from their list. According to sources, they also tried to strike a pre-draft deal with Georgia high school lefthander Macay McBride, but that also allegedly fell through.

"It looks like they'll take a player who will shock the baseball world," says a BA scouting source who is closely following developments in the first round.

Among players the Expos reportedly are considering are Tennessee shortstop Chris Burke, Stanford lefthander Mike Gosling and Illinois high school righthander Kris Honel. All are consensus mid- to late-first-round picks.

Here's a quick overview of how things are shaping up in the first round with June 5 on the horizon:

1. Twins. RHP Mark Prior is their first priority, but the betting favorite remains C Joe Mauer.

2. Cubs. It's still Prior, unless the Twins spoil that plan. Otherwise, it's 3B Mark Teixeira.

3. Devil Rays. They are making a hard, late pitch to sign OF Roscoe Crosby to a pre-draft deal. Their fallback, and more likely choice, continues to be RHP Dewon Brazelton.

4. Phillies. If the Twins don't take Mauer, the Phillies will. Otherwise, they're still on RHP Gavin Floyd.

5. Rangers. It's Teixeira, unless the Twins go for Prior and the Cubs take Teixeira. Under that scenario, the Rangers would defer to Brazelton--if he's available.

6. Expos. No one seems to know what this club is doing, even the Expos themselves. It's doubtful they'll roll the dice on VanBenschoten, once their player of choice.

7. Orioles. The O's still crave Floyd and Teixeira, two hometown boys. But they've turned their focus to VanBenschoten and 1B Casey Kotchman, instead of a high school pitcher as earlier projected.

8. Pirates. It's Brazelton, if he falls. Otherwise, the Pirates are considering three high school arms--RHP Colt Griffin, RHP Mike Jones and LHP Jeremy Sowers. Sowers is regarded as the most unsignable pick in the draft, but reportedly can be had for the right price.

9. Royals. They remain high on Crosby, but also are looking at the same group of high school pitchers as the Pirates.

10. Astros. It's Griffin all the way. If he's gone, they'll turn to RHP Kenny Baugh. No change in their approach.

11. Tigers. Detroit has not been shy in stating its desire to get VanBenschoten, but it’s doubtful he'll slide this far. RHP Aaron Heilman and LHP Mike Gosling are the next players on their list.

12. Brewers. They want Kotchman, but would settle for 2B Michael Woods or Jones if Kotchman's off the board.

13. Angels. Kotchman is their man. If he's not there, they would consider RHP Alan Horne.

14. Padres. Heilman and RHP Kris Honel remain at the top of their list.

15. Blue Jays. All of their focus is on Woods, with OF Gabe Gross as an option.

16. White Sox. LHPs Chris Smith and Sowers remain at the top of their wish list, with RHP J.D. Martin moving up fast.

17. Indians. They have been working to strike a pre-draft deal with RHP Josh Karp, but haven't ruled out Martin, 3B Jake Gautreau or 2B Mike Fontenot.

18. Mets. High school RHPs Dan Denham and Horne reportedly head their priority list.

19. Orioles. If they get the hitter they want with the seventh pick, the Orioles would go for Denham or Gosling with this selection.

20. Reds. Cash-strapped again this year, the Reds continue to focus on their 2000 16th-rounder RHP Jason Arnold and other college seniors.

21. Giants. The Giants also pick 30th, and they've targeted Denham, Martin, RHP Jeremy Bonderman and SS Chris Burke with their two first-round picks.

22. Diamondbacks. Horne is their first choice. If he's gone, they'll hope for Baugh or another college pitcher.

23. Yankees. The Yankees fixation on football players could lead them to Crosby, if he's deemed unsignable by the Devil Rays, Royals and other clubs considering him in the top 10. They're also looking at RHP Matt Harrington, but while he was hitting 91-95 mph in his latest start in the independent Northern League, he lacked the command and could potentially slide out of the first round.

24. Braves. If he makes it past the Expos, the Braves will select McBride.

25. Athletics. GM Billy Beane wants Heilman; scouting director Grady Fuson wants Burke. With back-to-back choices, they could end up with both. OF John-Ford Griffin and RHP Jon Steitz are also on the board with these picks.

26. Athletics. See pick No. 25.

27. Indians. See pick No. 17.

28. Cardinals. OF Todd Linden remains high on the Cards' priority list. Sowers is also a possibility, if he's still available.

29. Braves. Sowers is a possibility here, as are 3B David Wright and SS Josh Burrus.

30. Giants. If all the players the Giants have targeted at No. 21 are gone, they would look to a college hitter like Fontenot, Gross or Linden.

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