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Since 2003, I've conducted a hypothetical 10-round draft to see how well my supposed expertise would hold up. This year's crop will be posted in an online column later this week, but as a sneak preview I'll reveal that I spent the 18th overall pick on Eastern Kentucky lefthander Christian Friedrich.

Friedrich pitched his high school ball five minutes from where I live, but I didn't take him to appease the fans on the north side of Chicago. I came away with the third-best college starter in the draft at No. 18, and that doesn't happen too often.

For posterity's sake, below are all my choices from 2003-07. I signed all but three: Myron Leslie in 2003, Luke Hochevar in 2005 and Colby Shreve in 2007. I just realized that I cheated myself out of a sandwich pick in 2006 for failing to sign Hochevar in the previous first round. Looking at my notes, I cost myself Brett Anderson—not good.

2007 Hypothetical Draft (Picking 11th Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Jason Heyward, of, HS/Georgia Atl, 1st
Supp. 1st Justin Jackson, ss, HS/North Carolina Tor, supp. 1st
2nd Nevin Griffith, rhp, HS/Florida CWS, 2nd
3rd Sam Demel, rhp, Texas Christian Oak, 3rd
4th T.J. McFarland, lhp, HS/Illinois Cle, 4th
5th Will Middlebrooks, 3b/rhp, HS/Texas Bos, 5th
6th Matt Angle, of, Ohio State Bal, 7th
7th Tim Smith, of, Arizona State Tex, 7th
8th Colby Shreve, rhp, CC of Southern Nevada Atl, 8th
9th Kade Koewen, of, Louisiana State-Eunice JC Bos, 9th
10th Dan Rohlfing, c, HS/Missouri Min, 14th
Note: Supplemental first-rounder was 41st overall choice.

2006 Hypothetical Draft (Picking 19th Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Brett Sinkbeil, rhp, Missouri State Fla, 1st
2nd Wes Hodges, 3b, Georgia Tech Cle, 2nd
3rd Matt Sulentic, of, HS/Texas Oak, 3rd
4th Ryan Morris, lhp, HS/North Carolina Cle, 4th
5th Chris Archer, rhp, HS/North Carolina Cle, 5th
6th Zach Daeges, of, Creighton Bos, 6th
7th Luke Gorsett, of, Nebraska StL, 7th
8th Kent Gerst, of, HS/Missouri CWS, 8th
9th Kyle Gibson, rhp, HS/Indiana Phi, 36th
10th Justin Woodall, lhp/of, HS/Mississippi NYM, 19th

2005 Hypothetical Draft (Picking 17th Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Luke Hochevar, rhp, Tennessee LA, supp. 1st
Supp. 1st Michael Bowden, rhp, HS/Illinois Bos, supp. 1st
2nd Bryan Morris, rhp, HS/Tennessee TB, 3rd
3rd Jordan Schafer, of, HS/Florida Atl, 3rd
4th Seth Johnston, ss, Texas SD, 5th
5th Aaron Cunningham, of, Everett (Wash.) CC CWS, 6th
6th Jeremy Slayden, of, Georgia Tech Phi, 8th
7th Paul Phillips, rhp, Oakland Tor, 9th
8th Daniel McCutchen, rhp, Oklahoma StL, 12th
9th Mark Wagner, c, UC Irvine Bos, 9th
10th Mike Bell, 3b, Grayson County (Texas) CC Mil, 15th
Note: Supplemental first-rounder was 35th overall choice.

2004 Hypothetical Draft (Picking 21st Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Jon Zeringue, of, Louisiana State Ari, 2nd
2nd Erik Cordier, rhp, HS/Wisconsin KC, 2nd
3rd Andrew Dobies, lhp, Virginia Bos, 3rd
4th Mike Butia, of, James Madison Cle, 5th
5th Brad McCann, 3b, Clemson Fla, 6th
6th Jason Quarles, rhp, Southern Pit, 7th
7th Grant Plumley, ss, Oral Roberts NYY, 9th
8th Richard Mercado, c, Arizona Ari, 12th
9th Jeff Gogal, lhp, Montclair State (N.J.) Fla, 12th
10th Micah Owings, rhp, Georgia Tech ChC, 19th

2003 Hypothetical Draft (Picking 31st Each Round)
Round Player, Pos, School Real Life Draft
1st Ryan Sweeney, of, HS/Iowa CWS, 2nd
2nd Tony Richie, c, Florida State ChC, 4th
3rd Cliff Davis, rhp, HS/Mississippi Hou, 6th
4th Justin James, rhp, Missouri Tor, 5th
5th Clark Girardeau, rhp, South Alabama SD, 7th
6th Andy D'Alessio, 1b, HS/Florida Cin, 10th
7th Matt Maniscalco, ss, Mississippi State TB, 8th
8th Chris Durbin, of, Baylor Bos, 10th
9th Michael Brown, of, William & Mary Det, 13th
10th Myron Leslie, ss, South Florida Phi, 11th

    Which players selected in the 2008 immediately take over as their organization's No. 1 prospect? It looks like lefthander David Price beats shortstop Tim Beckham with the Rays, but what about third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the Pirates? First baseman Eric Hosmer over shortstop Mike Moustakas with the Royals? Catcher Buster Posey over first baseman Angel Villalona with the Giants?

    Greg Shelley
    San Francisco

I love this question. Let's start by tackling the five organizations where there's the most debate, considering only players who haven't exceeded MLB's rookie limits for playing time and who are still in the minors.

The Rays are the first team ever to make the No. 1 overall selection in consecutive drafts. In 2007, Price was an easy pick, while this year Beckham stood out the most in a more crowded field. It's difficult to argue with either choice, but Price has proven himself against better competition and has a better chance of becoming a star, so this year's No. 1 pick is not his organization's top prospect.

The Orioles are another tough call. They just landed the best pitcher in the 2008 draft, Brian Matusz, but he's not quite as good as last year's first-rounder, catcher Matt Wieters. And while we're on the subject of switch-hitting sluggers who played at Stratford High (Goose Creek, S.C.), I'll give the edge to just-drafted first baseman Justin Smoak over first baseman Chris Davis in the Rangers system.

The Royals grabbed the most devastating high school hitter in each of the last two drafts, Moustakas in 2007 and Hosmer this June. The value of their ultimate defensive positions will narrow, and given Moustakas' struggles in low Class A this year (though he does have eight homers in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League), I'd rank Hosmer ahead of him.

With the Twins, it's easy to love the tools of No. 14 overall pick Aaron Hicks, who has a huge ceiling as both an outfielder and a righthander. But outfielder Ben Revere is off to a sizzling start in low Class A, and I'll bet on his bat and speed.

Including Hosmer and Smoak, eigth of the recent first-round picks will ascend to the top of their organization's prospect lists once they sign pro contracts. Alvarez' devastating offensive potential puts him ahead of outfielder Andrew McCutchen with the Pirates. Lefthander Madison Bumgarner has surpassed Villalona in the Giants system, but Posey's all-around excellence as a catcher gives him more value than either.

The seventh through 10th picks in the 2008 draft all will become their club's No. 1 prospect. The pure hitting of first baseman Yonder Alonso (Reds) pushes him past outfielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop Todd Frazier. The White Sox entered the season with the No. 30-ranked system in the game, so power-hitting shortstop Gordon Beckham easily jumps to the head of the class over lefthander Aaron Poreda.

The Nationals have added several talented pitchers in the last two years, none better than Aaron Crow, who leapfrogs the rest of Washington's arms as well as first baseman Chris Marrero. And while catcher Jason Castro was a surprise choice at No. 10, he's still the cream of a depleted Astros system, where righthander Bud Norris is as good as it gets.

    We all know the Mets have one of the thinnest farm systems in the game. If you had to redo their Top 10 Prospects list after the draft, how would it look? I'd imagine first-rounders Ike Davis and Reese Havens would easily rank near the top.

    Dan Troy
    Davis, Calif.

The Mets' conservatism in the draft and their willingness to include prospects in trades for veterans has depleted their farm system. Coming into the season, we rated their minor league talent the 28th-best in the game, ahead of only the Astros and White Sox.

Armed with two extra picks as compensation for the loss of free agent Tom Glavine, New York was in position to add some talent via the 2008 draft. Assuming they sign all of their top choices, I see four of their recent draftees cracking a midseason Top 10 list:

1. Fernando Martinez, of
Still young and talented, but his lack of production may mean he's overhyped.
2. Ike Davis, 1b
Hulking lefthanded slugger can handle the outfield and pitch, too.
3. Reese Havens, ss
More likely a third baseman or possibly a catcher, stands out with approach and pop.
4. Jon Niese, lhp
Quietly having success in Double-A at age 21, he owns three solid pitches.
5. Dan Murphy, 3b
Having a breakout year with a .325 average and eight homers in Double-A.
6. Mike Carp, 1b
Back on track in Double-A after slumping in 2007, he's hitting .351 with nine homers.
7. Eddie Kunz, rhp
New York's top 2007 pick has held his own in Double-A in his first full season.
8. Brad Holt, rhp
2008 supplemental first-rounder can touch 96 mph, needs a reliable second pitch.
9. Javier Rodriguez, of
2008 second-rounder is a lean athlete with speed and projectable power.
10. Nick Evans, 1b
Another Double-A masher (.295, nine homers), he destroys lefthanded pitching.

    Is there a more underrated coach than Jeff Waggoner at Marshall? He took a moribund program with no home field to the Conference USA championship game, went 30-30-1 and along the way beat NCAA tournament teams Tulane three times, Southern Miss three times and North Carolina State once.

    Tim Stephens
    Proctorville, Ohio

I turned this question straight over to our college guru, Aaron Fitt. Here's his response:

What Waggoner did in his second season in Huntington is nothing short of incredible. Actually, it's what he did away from Huntington.

Even after 102 seasons, Marshall still does not have an on-campus baseball facility or even a ballpark in town. The Thundering Herd essentially played 61 road games this year, splitting non-conference home contests between West Virginia Tech's Epling Field and high school fields in Kenova, W.Va., and Louisa, Ky. Conference USA home games were played at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, an hour away from Huntington, so the Herd stayed in hotels for home games and had virtually no home-field advantage.

Despite all that, Waggoner guided Marshall to its first 30-win season ever and its second .500 season in the last 15 years. The Herd very nearly forced its way into regionals, reaching the finals of the C-USA tournament before falling 3-2 to Houston when the Cougars scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

Waggoner is a hot name on college baseball's coaching hot stove. He truly believes he can get quality players to come to Marshall, and he has expressed affection for the school and administration. He says he's not thinking of going anywhere. However, Marshall must step up and deliver a home ballpark to have any shot at keeping such an up-and-coming talent in town for long. Right now, that looks like a longshot, because the school claims to be short on funds.

The other hot name on college coaching wish lists is New Orleans' Tom Walter. The Privateers have reached regionals in consecutive years for the first time in nearly two decades despite unimaginable adversity resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The local Times-Picayune ran a terrific story about Walter that outlines all the obstacles New Orleans has had to overcome and what the future might hold for the coach and the program. It's well worth a read.

 

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