My favorite baseball event occurs every June and, no, it's not the draft. It's the College World Series, which is being documented in great detail by Aaron Fitt and John Manuel elsewhere on this website.
After attending 20 different Series, I know that anything can happen (and often does) in Omaha. The biggest surprise through the first two days of play is that just one of the higher-seeded teams has won.
Stanford, which didn't receive one of the eight national seeds, kicked things off by snapping a ninth-inning tie with 11 runs against No. 4 seed Florida State. Next, No. 1 seed Miami blew a lead after eight innings for the first time all year and lost to No. 8 seed Georgia. Fresno State followed with the biggest upset yet, crushing No. 6 seed Rice after entering the tournament as a fourth seed in regional play (the equivalent of a 13th-16th seed in the basketball tournament). No. 2 seed North Carolina is the lone favorite to win so far, knocking off No. 7 seed Louisiana State to cap the first round.
I have to issue the standard caveat that it's way too early to know with any great degree of accuracy how any club's draft will turn out. When judging drafts a week after the event, I'm looking at which teams got good value and also assuming that in most cases, any highly-rated prospects who didn't go in the first six rounds on the first day are going to be difficult to sign.
Two drafts jump out at me. The Brewers were armed with six picks in the first two rounds, and I like their haul. They couldn't have expected sweet-swinging Canadian high school Brett Lawrie (at No. 16) and athletic Illinois prep righthander Jake Odorizzi (at No. 32) to be available with their first two choices. After those two, Milwaukee landed a big, hard-throwing lefty (San Francisco's Evan Frederickson), another top high school righty (Seth Lintz from Tennesee), another advanced prep bat (outfielder Cutter Dykstra from California) and a strong-armed college righty (Southern Illinois' Cody Adams). San Diego's Josh Romanski (fourth round) is a polished lefthander, and the Brewers already have locked up Santa Clara righty Mark Willinsky, a potential closer and a steal in the 15th round.
The Royals started off by grabbing Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer at No. 3. Not only is Hosmer the most devastating prep hitter in this draft, but he's also athletic enough to possibly play the outfield. After Hosmer, Kansas City snapped up three of the very best high school pitchers available: lefthander Mike Montgomery (sandwich round, California) and righties Tyler Sample (third, Colorado) and Tim Melville (fourth, Missouri). Melville may be tough to sign but is worth the gamble in the fourth round. The Royals got two more interesting hitters in New Orleans second baseman Johnny Giovatella (second) and already-signed Nebraska prep third baseman Jake Kuebler (17th), the cousin of Kansas City third baseman Alex Gordon.
Bleich, who missed much of the spring with elbow tendinitis, was sharp against the Seminoles. He allowed one run and struck out seven in five innings, and he would have earned the victory had Stanford's bullpen not blown a three-run lead.
Some media outlets have described Bleich going in the supplemental first round as a reach, perhaps because he didn't make our our overall Top 200 Prospects list. But last summer, I ranked him as the second-best 2008 draft-eligible lefthander in the Cape Cod League , trailing only Christian Friedrich, who went in the first round to the Rockies.
I don't think Bleich would have been an early first-rounder had he been healthy all season, but he could have been regarded as a consensus sandwich-rounder. He's a lefty who knows how to pitch with an 88-91 mph fastball, a curveball and changeup, and his changeup grades as his best pitch. I wouldn't call him a steal in the supplemental first round, but he wasn't a reach either.
The A's actually selected 11 Top 200 players, including their picks in the first five rounds: Miami second baseman Jemile Weeks (No. 27 on our list), California righthander Tyson Ross (No. 35), Arizona State catcher Petey Paramore (No. 114), Wichita State lefty Anthony Capra (No. 152) and Michigan shortstop Jason Christian (No. 117). All should be signable, and Oakland already has come to terms with 16th-rounder Matt Fitts (No. 195), a Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) righty.
The other five Top 200 draftees are Pepperdine righty Brett Hunter (seventh round, No. 51), South Florida righty Daniel Thomas (13th round, No. 193), Iowa high school outfielder Brent Warren (27th round, No. 130), Wichita State shortstop Dusty Coleman (28th round, No. 185) and Kentucky prep lefty Nick Maronde (43rd round, No. 70).
The biggest coup could be Hunter, who would have gone in the upper half of the first round had he not injured his elbow in his second start of the spring. His signability is a huge question. He was looking at a seven-figure bonus when healthy, but he'll have no leverage next year if he winds up having Tommy John surgery.
Thomas is a redshirt junior, so my guess is he'll turn pro now rather than waiting until next year, when he'll be 23. The other three players will be tough to sign, however. Coleman is a draft-eligible sophomore, so he won't lose any leverage if he takes his chances again last year. Warren (Oregon State) and Maronde (Florida) are strongly committed to colleges and could develop into first-rounders in 2011.
Even if they don't sign Hunter, Thomas, Warren, Coleman and Maronde, the gambles were worthwhile. The upside of those players is significantly higher than typical picks in the rounds where they went, and if Oakland lands one or two of them, it will give its draft a nice boost.