As part of our annual College Preview, which subscribers should get next week, I usually take a look at what the All-America team could have been if baseball were like football and players had to spend three years in college before entering the draft. My editors asked me to go in a different direction this year, so I'll unveil the All-America team here.
In the three years I did this in the College Preview, just one of my 45 selections (North Carolina lefty Andrew Miller in 2006) was a college player rather than a pro prospect. This year, a full one-third of my team comes from the college ranks.
C—Matt Weiters, Georgia Tech.
Power from both sides gets him the nod over Southern California's Hank Conger (Angels) and Clemson's Neil Walker (Pirates).
1B—Justin Smoak, South Carolina.
Weiters' high school teammate is better than the top pro candidate, Arizona State's Travis Snider (Blue Jays).
2B—Jemile Weeks, Miami.
Rickie's little brother wins out over Alabama's Eric Campbell (Braves), who's more of a third baseman.
3B—Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt.
He and Smoak are the leading candidates to go No. 1 in 2008 draft; Alabama's Billy Rowell (Orioles) is the best of the pro group.
SS—Reid Brignac, Louisiana State (Devil Rays).
Rebuilding Tigers could really use his bat and steady defense.
OF—Jay Bruce, Tulane (Reds).
Beat out outfieldmates Maybin, Upton for top-prospect billing in the Midwest League last summer.
OF—Cameron Maybin, Southern (Tigers).
Could he break Rickie Weeks' NCAA batting records while following in his footsteps with the Jaguars?
OF—Justin Upton, North Carolina State (Diamondbacks).
Toyed with attending Louisburg (N.C.) JC during negotiations, but initially committed to the Wolfpack.
DH—Andrew McCutchen, Florida (Pirates).
Couldn't crack crowded outfield but he's a stud; No. 2 choice is another former Gators recruit, Billy Butler (Pirates).
UT—Yovani Gallardo, Texas Christian (Brewers).
The 2006 minor league strikeout leader would have pulled double duty for the Horned Frogs.
P—Nick Adenhart, North Carolina (Angels).
Tar Heels fell just one game short of a national title without him a year ago.
P—Homer Bailey, Texas (Reds).
Would the Longhorns have been able to repeat in 2006 if Bailey had been their ace?
P—Scott Elbert, Missouri (Dodgers).
The Tigers would have had a formidable 2006 rotation with Elbert, Max Schrezer and Nathan Culp.
P—Philip Hughes, Santa Clara (Yankees).
Coming out of college, there's no way he'd last until the 23rd overall pick, like he did out of high school.
P—David Price, Vanderbilt.
The possible No. 1 pick in 2007 beats out Nevada-Las Vegas' Jacob McGee (Devil Rays) and Texas A&M's Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers).
Type B free agent Scott Schoeneweis has reached a deal with the Mets, which increases the numbers of first-round compensation picks to 33. Another potential compensation choice went by the wayside when Type B Mark Mulder re-upped with the Cardinals. The updated draft order is below.
|1. Devil Rays|
|16. Blue Jays (Frank Catalanotto, A, to Tex)|
|17. Rangers (Carlos Lee, A, to Hou)|
|20. Dodgers (Julio Lugo, A, to Bos)|
|21. Blue Jays|
|22. Giants (Jason Schmidt, A, to LAD)|
|24. Rangers (Gary Matthews Jr., A, to LAA)|
|25. White Sox|
|29. Giants (Moises Alou, A, to NYM)|
|Supplemental First-Round Picks|
|31. Cubs (Juan Pierre, B, to LAD)|
|32. Nationals (Alfonso Soriano, A, to ChC)|
|33. Diamondbacks (Craig Counsell, B, to Mil)|
|34. Giants (Alou)|
|35. Mariners (Gil Meche, B, to KC)|
|36. Braves (Danys Baez, A, to Bal)|
|37. Reds (Rich Aurilia, A, to SF)|
|38. Rangers (Lee)|
|39. Cardinals (Jeff Suppan, A, to Mil)|
|40. Phillies (David Dellucci, A, to Cle)|
|41. Red Sox (Alex Gonzalez, B, to Cin)|
|42. Blue Jays (Justin Speier, A, to LAA)|
|43. Dodgers (Lugo)|
|44. Padres (Woody Williams, A, to Hou)|
|45. Angels (Adam Kennedy, B, to StL)|
|46. Athletics (Barry Zito, A, to SF)|
|47. Tigers (Jamie Walker, B, to Bal)|
|48. Mets (Roberto Hernandez, A, to Cle)|
|49. Nationals (Jose Guillen, B, to Sea)|
|50. Diamondbacks (Miguel Batista, B, to Sea)|
|51. Giants (Schmidt)|
|52. Reds (Scott Schoeneweis, B, to NYM)|
|53. Rangers (Matthews)|
|54. Red Sox (Keith Foulke, B, to Cle)|
|55. Blue Jays (Catalanotto)|
|56. Padres (Dave Roberts, A, to SF)|
|57. Athletics (Frank Thomas, B, to Tor)|
|58. Mets (Chad Bradford, A, to Bal)|
|59. Giants (Mike Stanton, B, to Cin)|
|60. Rangers (Mark DeRosa, B, to ChC)|
|61. Blue Jays (Ted Lilly, B, to ChC)|
|62. Padres (Alan Embree, B, to Oak)|
|63. Padres (Ryan Klesko, B, to SF)|
|64. Diamondbacks (have yet to sign 2006 first-rounder Max Scherzer)|
|67. Nationals (Soriano to ChC)|
|69. Braves (Baez to Bal)|
|71. Cardinals (Suppan to Mil)|
|74. Athletics (Zito to SF)|
|77. Mets (Hernandez to Cle)|
|81. Padres (Williams to Hou)|
|88. Blue Jays (Speier to LAA)|
|99. Mets (Bradford to Bal)|
|104. Reds (Aurilia to SF)|
|107. Phillies (Dellucci to Cle)|
|134. Padres (Roberts to SF)|
|Remaining Compensation Free Agents|
|NYY: Ron Villone (B).|
|SD: Chan Ho Park (B), David Wells (B).|
I certainly won't have to consult the 2007 Prospect Handbook this time. Let's go five deep with hitters and pitchers:
|1. Jim Thome, dh, White Sox|
|2. Barry Bonds, of, Giants|
|3. Jason Giambi, dh/1b, Yankees|
|4. Moises Alou, of, Mets|
|5. Frank Thomas, dh, Blue Jays|
|1. John Smoltz, rhp, Braves|
|2. Roger Clemens, rhp, unsigned|
|3. Mariano Rivera, rhp, Yankees|
|4. Curt Schilling, rhp, Red Sox|
|5. Mike Mussina, rhp, Yankees|
The hitters were pretty straightforward. They're all sluggers, as even the two non-DHs are below-average defenders in the lineup for their bats only. If Gary Sheffield hadn't gotten hurt last year, he'd probably rank third on my list.
The pitchers were more difficult to rank. Clemens is the most dominant over-35 pitcher on a per-game basis, but he's only going to give you half a season. Smoltz has held up surprisingly well over two full seasons since returning to the rotation. Just missing the cut were Randy Johnson and Takashi Saito, who had one of the great unsung seasons in 2006. In his first year after coming over from the Dodgers, Saito went 6-2, 2.07 with 24 saves and a 107-23 K-BB ratio in 78 innings. No one saw that coming.
The caliber of play in the winter leagues ranks somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A. From a talent standpoint, players run the gamut from big leaguers to Class A minor leaguers. But I'd caution against reading too much into the statistics.
While players (especially those performing in their native countries) take the games seriously, during the winter pitchers often are tired from the long regular season and/or not in peak shape. The seasons run from 42 (Venezuela) to 68 (Mexico) games, so the sample sizes aren't the biggest.
Last year, our annual Winter All-Star Team included the likes of Esteban German, Mike Napoli and Luke Scott, who all used winter ball as the springboard to strong major league seasons. But our Winter Player of the Year was Pirates outfielder Yurendell DeCaster, whose prospect status dimmed significantly in 2007, as did that of two of his strongest competitors for that honor, Mets infielder Anderson Hernandez and White Sox outfielder Jerry Owens.
Ruben Rivera leads all players with 21 homers this winter, and his Mexican Pacific League performance may earn him a longer look from the White Sox in spring training. But it's certainly no guarantee that he'll even make the club, let alone have success if he does.
Sleeth and Stauffer were the top pitching prospects in the 2003 draft, with Sleeth going third overall and Stauffer fourth. Unfortunately for them, injuries have derailed their careers and neither looks like he'll reach the promise they once showed.
Sleeth got rocked once he reached Double-A in the second half of his 2004 pro debut, and the Tigers decided to modify his delivery afterward. He threw across his body and had been strong enough to get away with it, but he blew out his elbow shortly after modifying his mechanics. He worked just 37 innings this year and is still trying to regain the mid-90s fastball and quality breaking stuff he had at Wake Forest.
Shortly after getting drafted, Stauffer had an MRI that revealed weakness in his shoulder. The Padres had known nothing about it, but he was honest and told them about the condition. As a result, San Diego reduced its bonus offer from $2.6 million to $750,000. He hasn't had the same velocity or life on his pitches in pro ball that he had at Richmond, greatly reducing his effectiveness. Stauffer went 7-12, 5.53 at Triple-A Portland this year and has gone 4-6, 5.07 in parts of two big league seasons.