The center of the draft universe this weekend is San Diego, the site of the USD Tournament. The Toreros, with some help from San Diego State are hosting California, Cal Poly, Fresno State and Missouri. This afternoon, in games that start one hour apart, three potential first-round picks in June will take the mound: San Diego's Brian Matusz vs. Fresno State's Tanner Scheppers, and Missouri's Aaron Crow vs. Cal. The Bears were supposed to send another first-round candidate against Crow, but Tyson Ross will skip his start with a sore shoulder.
That's only a minor disappointment. Two of the three best prospects for the 2009 draft also will take the mound during the tournament. Missouri's Kyle Gibson pitches Sunday against Cal Poly, while San Diego State's Steve Strasburg worked last night against Cal Poly. A liner nailed Strasburg on the foot in the first inning, but he still showed a mid-90s fastball in the early innings and a hard breaking ball. Aaron Fitt, our college guru, is on hand in San Diego and will be blogging throughout the weekend.
The Blue Jays signed Type B free agent Shannon Stewart on Monday, but the Athletics don't get a supplemental first-round pick as compensation because Stewart agreed to a minor league deal. However, a source with MLB said that if Stewart makes Toronto's Opening Day roster, Oakland could get the sandwich choice.
The lone remaining compensation free agent on the market is Mike Piazza, a Type B who could net the A's a supplemental first-rounder. He's expected to determine his plans for 2008 in the next week or so. Here's how the draft order stands at the moment:
8. White Sox
17. Blue Jays
18. Mets (Tom Glavine, A, to Atl)
27. Twins (Torii Hunter, A, to LAA)
30. Red Sox
Supplemental First-Round Picks
31. Twins (Hunter)
32. Brewers (Franciso Cordero, A, to Cin)
33. Mets (Glavine)
34. Phillies (Aaron Rowand, A to SF)
35. Brewers (Scott Linebrink, A, to CWS)
36. Royals (David Riske, B, to KC)
37. Giants (Pedro Feliz, B, to Phi)
38. Astros (Trever Miller, B, to TB)
xx. Athletics (possible choice for Mike Piazza or Shannon Stewart)
39. Cardinals (Troy Percival, B, to TB)
40. Braves (Ron Mahay, B, to KC)
41. Cubs (Jason Kendall, B, to Mil)
42. Padres (Doug Brocail, B, to Hou)
43. Diamondbacks (Livan Hernandez, B, to Min)
44. Yankees (Luis Vizcaino, B, to Col)
45. Red Sox (Eric Gagne, B, to Mil)
xx. Athletics (possible choice if both Piazza and Stewart yield compensation)
46. Padres (Mike Cameron, B, to Mil)
51. Phillies (Rowand to SF)
52. Braves (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Joshua Fields)
54. Brewers (Cordero to Cin)
55. Brewers (Linebrink to CWS)
68. Red Sox (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris)
Supplemental Third-Round Picks
109. Phillies (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Brandon Workman)
110. Astros (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Derek Dietrich)
111. Padres (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Tommy Toledo)
112. Angels (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Matt Harvey)
Jake has a personal interest in this question, as he runs Bucco Blog and the team he focuses on owns the second overall pick in June.
The Commodores haven't released many details about Alvarez, other than to say that he'll be out at least six weeks after breaking the bone in his first at-bat of the season. Aaron Fitt says the buzz around the USD Tournament is that Alvarez may have a broken hamate bone, an injury that often leads to an extended decrease in power.
Whatever the injury, it should have zero effect on Alvarez' draft status. It won't affect his long-term production and he has shown more than enough in two years with Vanderbilt and Team USA. His situation is very similar to what happened with Mark Teixeira in his draft year in 2001. Teixeira missed almost three months at Georgia Tech after breaking his ankle in a collision with an outfielder. He still went No. 5 overall in the draft, dropping that far only because of signability, and landed a guaranteed $9.5 million major league contract from the Rangers.
Teixeira's status as college baseball's best hitter didn't diminish because he was sidelined, and neither will Alvarez'. And while some teams do wonder if Alvarez will wind up at first base rather than third base, it's a minor concern. Whichever team gives him millions of dollars to sign will be betting on his bat, assuming that he'll be a future No. 3 hitter in the big league lineup. If he's a third baseman, that's all the better.
Furthermore, while Alvarez ranked as the 2008 draft's No. 1 prospect entering the season , that never meant that the Rays were a lock to take him with the first pick. They already have a stud third-base prospect in Evan Longoria, not to mention a first baseman coming off a 46-homer season in Carlos Pena.
Taking another corner infielder might not have been the best idea to begin with. Alvarez is No. 1, but he's not worlds better than the other top prospects. Even before the injury, I thought the Rays were just as likely to take Matusz, Missouri righthander Aaron Crow or Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham than to pick Alvarez.
The short answer is that the lists are complements to one another, and that the order of one doesn't necessarily determine the order of the other. Co-editor in chief John Manuel did our Yankees list, and it was his opinion that Jackson is better than Tabata. I oversee all the Top 10s, and while I like Tabata more, I respect John's prospect acumen and deferred to him.
When we do the overall Top 100, four of us rate the prospects individually, combine those rankings into a spreadsheet and then start arguing. Two of us preferred Tabata, while two liked Jackson, and Tabata finished narrowly ahead. To give you an idea of how close John thought they were, he ranked Jackson as the 20th-best prospect in baseball and Tabata as the 25th-best.
There's no definitive right answer as to which is better. I like Tabata more because he's 18 months younger, and until he injured his wrist last year, he clearly had outplayed Jackson. Jackson had to repeat low Class A for the first half of 2007, but then he hit .345/.398/.566 after a second-half promotion to high Class A, which obviously caught John's eye.
You can debate which guy will be the better hitter in the long run. Tabata makes more consistent hard contact, and I think he'll hit for more average and more power than Jackson. Jackson is definitely the better defender, as he has superior range and arm strength. He can play center field, while Tabata projects as a right fielder.
Those guys are all pretty close, and all project as offensive second basemen. Though his résumé isn't as extensive as the others', I think Noonan is going to be the best player of the group. The 32nd overall pick last June, he's a gifted hitter and the best athlete of the bunch. He has drawn some comparisons to Chase Utley, though he has less power and more speed and athleticism than Utley.
After Noonan, I'd give Thomas the edge over Coghlan. Coghlan has advanced further than any of them, but his struggles in high Class A at the end of 2007 bothered me. Thomas is the weakest defender of the three, though he has the most pop in his bat.