Time For A Re-Do
One year later, 2007 draft would look dramatically different
CHICAGO—No club has anything less than unwavering support for its 2007 first-round pick. Yet if that draft were being held 11 months later, the top 10 choices would look radically different than they did last June.
David Price clearly established himself as the best prospect in the 2007 draft—lefthanders with a plus-plus fastball/slider combination and outstanding feel and command tend to do that—and the Rays locked in on him early as the No. 1 overall pick. But as easy as that decision was at the time, he wouldn't go first if the draft was restaged.
Price strained his elbow pitching in a minor league spring-training game in mid-March, and while the injury won't require surgery, it will sideline him until at least mid-May. And no matter how impressive his ceiling and track record were, a team wouldn't spend the No. 1 choice on a pitcher who couldn't take the mound for two months before the draft.
Price cost Tampa Bay an $8.5 million big league contract with a backloaded $5.6 million bonus. Discounting for interest, MLB valued the deal at $4.8 million. Assuming the Rays would continue to spend what it would take to land the best available player, they would match the $6 million bonus the Orioles gave catcher Matt Wieters or the $7 million contract (with an MLB valuation of $6.1 million) the Tigers handed prep righthander Rick Porcello.
Tampa Bay's most glaring need is behind the plate, which may lead it to pop Buster Posey with the top pick in the 2008 draft. Looking back, the Rays would choose Wieters. His switch-hitting power and quality approach have translated quickly to high Class A, and he won't spend long in the minors.
Royals Opt For Porcello
With the No. 2 choice, the Royals explored the possibility of signing Porcello, but they ultimately deemed him too costly and handed a $4 million bonus to the best high school hitter in the draft, shortstop Mike Moustakas. No one is giving up on Moustakas yet, but he did spend the first month of the 2008 season batting .190 with one homer in low Class A and demonstrating that he'll have to find a new position sooner rather than later. His best fit would be at third base, where Kansas City already has a budding star in Alex Gordon.
Meanwhile, Porcello has been nothing short of spectacular in high Class A and could reach the majors this year as a teenager. Given a second chance, the Royals would spend the extra $2 million to sign him as their future No. 1 starter.
Moustakas' rival for the title of top prep hitter, third baseman Josh Vitters, has hit just .138 in his brief exposure to pro ball since the Cubs made him the third overall pick. As with Moustakas, it's too early to panic. But because Chicago has a contending big league club and plenty of money, it could afford a calculated gamble and take Price.
The Pirates outraged their fans by passing on Wieters' price tag last June, but they wouldn't get the opportunity to rectify that mistake. They could, however, take their pick of the best high school bats and lusted for Vitters. More tempting would be Matt LaPorta, the surprise No. 7 choice of the Brewers who has justified that pick by already proving he can hit Double-A pitching and play a passable corner outfield. LaPorta already would be on the verge of injecting some life into Pittsburgh's lineup.
Thrilled to get Wieters in the first iteration of the 2007 draft, the Orioles would have to turn to Plan B. After taking high school position players with their previous two first-round picks, a college pitcher would make the most sense, with lefty Ross Detwiler fitting the bill.
The Nationals took Detwiler sixth overall, but they had expressed a willingness to pay the freight for Mosutakas and Wieters. Moustakas would be available, and while Washington has Ryan Zimmerman at the hot corner, it could turn Moustakas into a right fielder.
Brewers Shift Gears
The Brewers, who look astute for drafting LaPorta, would have to turn elsewhere. Because high school opponents pitched around polished, athletic outfielder Jason Heyward so much last spring, teams at the top of the 2007 draft didn't believe they could get a true read on his upside and let him slide to the Braves at No. 14. Milwaukee wouldn't let that mistake happen again.
Lusting after a college southpaw, the Rockies probably would have taken Daniel Moskos at No. 8 had the Pirates not grabbed him four picks earlier. Instead, Colorado took a fast-track reliever in Casey Weathers. While Weathers already has reached Double-A, the Rockies couldn't pass on high school righthander Jarrod Parker, who had the most electric arm in the draft, a second time.
Unable to repeat their selection on Parker, the Diamondbacks would shift their focus to another high-ceiling prep righty. Phillipe Aumont, who combines power and sink and went 11th overall to the Mariners, didn't allow an earned run in April.
The Giants opted for power prep lefty Madison Bumgarner at No. 10, but they would address their putrid offense by taking Vitters, who had no chance of lasting this long last June. San Francisco since has moved its top prospect, Angel Villalona, from third base to first, which would give it two potential mashers on the infield corners.
The teams at the top of the 2007 draft have yet to express any twinges of buyer's remorse. But given the chance to do things differently, they almost assuredly would.