Projecting The First Round
Our first crack at forecasting the first round will go through several revisions between now and the June 7-8 draft. There’s little agreement as to how to line up the players after Vanderbilt lefthander David Price, and once signability gets factored in—agent Scott Boras represents seven potential first-rounders—the picture becomes even cloudier. Add in that most clubs like to draft college players, yet the high school crop is more talented this year, and it’s even harder to forecast. “You realize you’re just guessing, don’t you?” one scouting director said when discussing how the first round might unfold. “I don’t think any of us has any idea.”
Here’s our best guess, three weeks before the draft kicks off:1. DEVIL RAYS.
Tampa is looking at three players: Price, California prep third baseman Josh Vitters and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters. Price is No. 1 on most boards, and other clubs would be surprised if the Rays go in a different direction.• Projected Pick: David Price.
Matt Harvey, Rick Porcello
Kansas City will kick the tires on Boras clients such as New Jersey high school righthander Rick Porcello and righthander Max Scherzer, who’s following the same independent ball path as Luke Hochevar, the Royals’ No. 1 overall pick a year ago. If the Royals don’t want to exceed slot, Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler would be the best option.• Projected Pick: Rick Porcello.3. CUBS.
Chicago seems like a natural fit for one of Boras’ higher-priced guys, such as Wieters or North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman. But the Cubs have been on Vitters since April and their ardor isn’t cooling. They’re also the first team that would consider taking Clemson lefthander Daniel Moskos or Indiana high school righthander Jarrod Parker.• Projected Pick: Josh Vitters.
Pittsburgh covets Vitters, but if he’s gone a position player will still be the preference because the team has had bad luck keeping first-round pitchers healthy (John VanBenschoten, Bryan Bullington, Brad Lincoln). The Pirates prefer a collegian and won’t take a Boras client, so that could lead them to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) slugger Beau Mills. Georgia prep outfielder Jason Heyward is a more well-rounded prospect.• Projected Pick: Beau Mills.5. ORIOLES.
Baltimore wants some pitching help after taking high school hitters Brandon Snyder and Billy Rowell with its last two first-round picks. The Orioles are unlikely to do business with Boras but should get their pick of the best college lefthanders, Detwiler and Moskos.• Projected Pick: Ross Detwiler.6. NATIONALS.
Mike Rizzo, Washington’s assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations, drafted Scherzer 11th overall when he was Arizona’s scouting director last June. A healthier Scherzer would be tough to pass up for the Nationals, who also are looking at Porcello and Quebec high school righthander Phillippe Aumont.• Projected Pick: Max Scherzer.7. BREWERS.
Owner Mark Attanasio is enthused by his club’s success and is willing to pay for top talent. Milwaukee is zeroing in on California high school third baseman/catcher Mike Moustakas, who rivals Vitters as the best high school hitter in the draft. Taking a member of the deep high school pitching crop would be Plan B.• Projected Pick: Mike Moustakas.8. ROCKIES.
Colorado has some interest in another California high school third baseman, Matt Dominguez, but also has a lot of hot-corner depth in the organization. Taking a pitcher would make more sense, and teams behind the Rockies worry that Moskos won’t get past them.• Projected Pick: Daniel Moskos.9. DIAMONDBACKS.
If Arizona signs Scherzer before the draft, it could look to save some money by taking a college senior, such as Vanderbilt righthander Casey Weathers. If not, the Diamondbacks would love a college pitcher, though there’s no obvious candidate if Detwiler and Moskos are off the board. There will be plenty of quality high school arms, however, and a run on them will start here.• Projected Pick: Phillippe Aumont.10. GIANTS.
San Francisco has a pipeline from Lewis-Clark State, and Mills could get here if Pittsburgh doesn’t overdraft him. Even if he were available, San Francisco might be more tempted by North Carolina high schooler Madison Bumgarner, the top prep lefty.• Projected Pick: Madison Bumgarner.11. MARINERS.
Brackman hasn’t had a consistent season and there are fears that he may seek a deal similar to the $10 million that two-sport star Jeff Samardzija got from the Cubs in January. Seattle really needs pitching, however, and Brackman’s upside may be too high to ignore.• Projected Pick: Andrew Brackman.12. MARLINS.
Florida has used its five first-round picks in the last four years on pitchers and that streak should continue in 2007. Of the best high school arms, the Marlins would prefer Parker or Aumont. Heyward also will be in the their mix. Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon would fill a need, but he’s also represented by Boras.• Projected Pick: Jarrod Parker.13. INDIANS.
Count Cleveland in for a high school pitcher as well. The Indians would consider Mills if he makes it this far, but they’re more apt to choose between Aumont, Bumgarner, Parker, Texas prep righthander Blake Beavan or Georgia high school lefty Josh Smoker.• Projected Pick: Blake Beavan.14. BRAVES.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the top two players on Atlanta’s draft board at this point would be a pair of home-state high school products, Heyward and Smoker. Getting an athletic, power-hitting right fielder like Heyward at No. 14 would be a nice value. Bumgarner also would be a consideration if he’s still around.• Projected Pick: Jason Heyward.15. REDS.
Beavan and Heyward are probably on Cincinnati’s short list but won’t quite make it this far. If the Reds would entertain the thought of choosing a Boras guy, Borbon would be a prime candidate. They’ve shown a lot of interest in Texas high school third baseman Kevin Ahrens, who could go at No. 16 if Cincinnati doesn’t pounce on him.• Projected Pick: Kevin Ahrens.16. BLUE JAYS (from Rangers).
Toronto has focused almost solely on college picks under general J.P. Ricciardi, but went in a different direction and took prep slugger Travis Snider in the first round last year. The Blue Jays are looking for infielders and catchers, and most of the best prospects there this year are high schoolers. Matt Dominguez, Moustakas’ teammate at Chatsworth High, could be the fourth prep third baseman to go in the first 16 picks.• Projected Pick: Matt Dominguez.17. RANGERS (from Astros).
Texas desperately needs a center fielder and has never been afraid to deal with Boras, and Borbon is the best center fielder in the draft. The Rangers, as always, wouldn’t mind some college pitching, but that wouldn’t be a good value here. • Projected Pick: Julio Borbon.
Though Wieters is regarded by many as the best position player in the draft, his ties to Boras and the belief that he’ll want a hefty major league contract could cause him to plummet in the first round. St. Louis has drafted several Boras clients in recent years and loves college players with a track record of success at major programs, so the slide could stop here. Scherzer and Florida senior first baseman Matt LaPorta are two more Boras guys who would fit the Cardinals profile. If St. Louis wants a guy who will sign for slot, Arkansas lefthander Nick Schmidt (like Scherzer, a St. Louis area product) is a possibility.• Projected Pick: Matt Wieters.19. PHILLIES.
Philadelphia likes to draft upside. Heyward would be a natural choice if he somehow fell this far. The Phillies might be the first club who would take Florida high school outfielder Michael Burgess, but his inability to make consistent contact would make that a risky choice. Fast-rising Pennsylvania prep catcher Devin Mesoraco is a better bet, plus he plays a premium position.• Projected Pick: Devin Mesoraco.20. DODGERS (from Red Sox).
Los Angeles would love for one of the top high school pitchers to fall this far. If that doesn’t happen, the Dodgers have hit with first-round prep lefthanders Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw in the last three years and could go that route again. Georgia’s Josh Smoker and Nathan Vineyard, and Massachusetts’ Jack McGeary all fit the L.A. mold.• Projected Pick: Josh Smoker.21. BLUE JAYS.
Toronto will be looking for more infielders and catchers. Backstops such as Tennessee’s J.P. Arencibia and Oregon State’s Mitch Canham should be available in the supplemental round, but the middle-infield talent pool is a lot shallower. The Jays could take Oklahoma high schooler Pete Kozma if they wanted someone who can stay at shortstop, or California prepster Nick Noonan if they wanted more bat and were willing to take a second baseman.• Projected Pick: Pete Kozma.22. GIANTS (from Dodgers).
With six picks before the second round, San Francisco could take Weathers to get someone who wouldn’t be difficult to sign and could help its big league bullpen in a hurry. The Giants are also on college pitchers such as Kent State righthander Chris Carpenter, UC Riverside righty James Simmons and San Francisco lefty Aaron Poreda. If Mills somehow lasted this long, San Francisco would take him. • Projected Pick: Casey Weathers.23. PADRES.
San Diego’s scouting braintrust likes polished college pitchers, such as Schmidt and Simmons. Rice lefthander Joe Savery, who has yet to completely regain his stuff after offseason shoulder surgery, would be a consideration and possible steal if he finishes strong.• Projected Pick: James Simmons.24. RANGERS (from Angels).
Connecticut righthander Matt Harvey ranked with Porcello as the top high school pitching prospect at the beginning of the spring. He has slipped only slightly, putting him on the same level as the Parker-Beavan-Baumgarner-Aumont group. Harvey could drop behind all of them because he’s represented by Boras, and his kind of talent is hard to pass up down here if the club can afford it.• Projected Pick: Matt Harvey.25. WHITE SOX.
Chicago has reshuffled its scouting department after some lackluster drafts, and there’s a mandate to take someone with a lot more ceiling than college righthanders Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch, the team’s last two first-rounders. Florida high schooler Michael Main fits the bill as either a live-armed righthander or a five-tool outfielder.• Projected Pick: Michael Main.26. ATHLETICS.
Oakland has taken more high schoolers in the last two drafts, but its first-round targets this year appear to be college players with a track record of performance. Arencibia led Team USA in homers last summer, while Simmons, Canham and James Madison outfielder Kellen Kulbacki all played well in the Cape Cod League. Texas outfielder Kyle Russell set a strikeout record on the Cape, but he’s leading NCAA Division I in homers and has the most upside of this group.• Projected Pick: Kyle Russell.27. TIGERS.
Detroit will take the top player available, regardless of the cost. The Tigers have a need at first base, and Florida’s Matt LaPorta (a Boras client) has had arguably the best offensive season in college baseball. Other players in Detroit’s sights include Ahrens, Carpenter, Mesoraco, Vineyard and Arizona high school righthander Tim Alderson.• Projected Pick: Matt LaPorta.28. TWINS.
Minnesota will hope a talented high schooler falls down to them at No. 28, such as Kozma or Smoker, but in this scenario 13 prepsters will have gone off the board. That could leave the Twins looking at high schoolers such as Texas third baseman Will Middlebrooks, Florida shortstop Drew Cumberland, Mississippi outfielder Wendell Fairley, Noonan and Vineyard.• Projected Pick: Will Middlebrooks.29. GIANTS (from Mets).
San Francisco needs hitters more than pitchers, but it would be delighted if it came away with Bumgarner, Weathers and Carpenter in the first round. Poreda might be a bit of a money saver or a possibilty for the Giants’ next pick at No. 32.• Projected Pick: Chris Carpenter.30. YANKEES.
As usual, money will be no object for New York. LaPorta would fill the Yankees’ biggest hole in their major league lineup, though they like to draft premium athletes (such as Oklahoma State center fielder Corey Brown) and pitchers (such as McGeary, Carpenter or Maryland’s Brett Cecil) with early picks.• Projected Pick: Jack McGeary.