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2003 Draft Dish

by Josh Boyd
June 1st, 2003

Wild rumors are all part of the gamesmanship that makes the draft one of baseball's most exciting events.

Many of them--Mitch Maier cutting a deal with the Padres to go fourth overall; Omar Quintanilla to the White Sox with the 15th overall pick; the Orioles nabbing Nick Markakis as a position player--can be quickly squashed. Others--the Royals leaning to Chris Lubanksi over Ryan Harvey with the fifth pick; Vince Sinisi sliding to the Yankees, who can afford him, at No. 27--hold more weight.

Quintanilla, considered a third- to fifth-rounder by most clubs, is being floated as a possible first-rounder, which doesn't seem likely, but the Texas shortstop is likely to go higher than originally expected. One American League scouting director compared him to Fernando Vina, and a National League front-office official projected him as an offensive second baseman.

Other players getting early attention include Toledo's Maier, one of many catchers who could be overdrafted because of the scarcity of talent at the position. High school catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia should go to the Braves in the supplemental first round. And Puerto Rican third baseman Manuel Vega, who is attending a workout in Cincinnati on Sunday, is even more attractive because of his potential behind the plate. One NL scout guaranteed Michigan receiver Jake Fox would go in the second round to one of the organizations that favors college/performance picks.

Nevada high school righthander Jordan Parazz is rising into potential late first- to early second-round territory. At least four teams prefer his bat over his 98 mph fastball, though, including the Astros, who have targeted Parazz as an outfielder. The Astros are also looking at Atlanta prep outfielder Drew Stubbs with their first selection, 60th overall.

Another live-armed Nevada prospect on the rise, UNLV righthander Ryan Braun, has generated first-round attention after being thought of as sixth-rounder or later not too long ago.

Masters College outfielder Jerry Owens is a phenomenal athlete, but not many teams have the necessary background information on him to take a first-round flier on this late bloomer. The Expos are intrigued, however, and could nail him with the 20th pick.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ohio righthander Marc Cornell, who was on the Devil Rays' short list for the first overall pick less than six weeks ago. But Cornell, who has a history of arm problems, left a start in early May with shoulder tightness. He attempted to pitch through it, but after moving to the bullpen his velocity dipped and he left his final game this season after throwing just 12 pitches.

An MRI on his shoulder didn't show any serious damage, but it was deemed "instability in the shoulder" by an AL front-office executive. The AL exec said, "He might be better off going back to school." A National League crosschecker said his team would have a tough time taking him in the second round after he was a candidate for their first-round selection a month ago. "We couldn't afford to take a guy and later find out he's injured," he said.

DRAFT DOTS

  • Jeff Allison is the only high school righthander who is a first-round lock, though several others could go off the board before the sandwich round. Craig Whitaker is looking more like the Giants choice at 22; Jay Sborz has climbed his way into consideration for several teams, including the Twins and Yankees; and Jared Hughes, who is on a similar path as Cornell, has been labeled as a possible Yankees choice. His asking price, believed to be $1.5 million, is out of range for most teams at the end of the first round. Another tough sign, Daniel Bard, is an option for the Expos at 20 and the Braves in the supplemental round, though his bonus demands are beyond the price Atlanta is willing to go to this year.

  • Thanks to signing free agents Jim Thome and David Bell over the winter, the Phillies will be the last team to make a selection this year. With the 86th overall pick they have to play a waiting game, but assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle says that doesn't mean the Phillies will have to settle for a second-rate prospect. "Every year since I have been around the draft, dating back to my early days with the Braves, no matter where we've picked, one of the first 10 players on our board will invariably end up getting to us," said Arbuckle, who is stepping back to allow scouting director Marti Wolever full rein over the draft this year. Expect the Phillies to be aggressive as they look for top players sliding due to signability. "Our approach is the same this year as any year," Arbuckle said. "You can always make the case if the talent warrants the expenditure."

  • Signability doesn't figure to be a major factor this year, however--at least not as much in the first round. "A lot of teams have tight draft budgets," one front-office official said. "I think you are going to see a lot of overdrafts after the first round."

  • When asked who he would take if he had the No. 1 pick this year, one AL exec said: "I'd take (Tulane's) Michael Aubrey. The only question is will he hit 25 home runs or 40 home runs." One NL scouting director said Aubrey is the closest he's seen to a Todd Helton clone. Others question Aubrey's defensive future as a pro. "He has a 30 arm in left field, and that's generous," one scout said. Some believe he has Gold Glove potential at first base, though they're concerned about his power potential for the position.

  • Teams have been working out potential picks in the days leading up to the draft, and two of the most notable have been Ryan Harvey's with the Devil Rays and Delmon Young's with the Brewers. Both players showed good power and impressed the organizations not only with their tools but also with their makeup. Harvey, in particular, put on his BP show in front of about 15 members of Tampa Bay's front office, as well as Devil Rays players and members of the media. He hit five home runs to dead center field at Tropicana Field, well over the 404-foot marker. Still, the Rays were favoring Young or Southern's Rickie Weeks with the No. 1 pick.

Contributing: Jim Callis.


 
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