The economy already has wreaked havoc on the free-agent market this offseason, and it may affect the signing of draft picks this summer. Last year, clubs shattered the record for draft spending by shelling out $188.3 million in bonuses, up $34.7 million from 2007. Teams were very aggressive going after players whose high price tags exceeded MLB's bonus recommendations, but scouts already are speculating that clubs will be more conservative in the midst of a recession.
An assistant GM I spoke to brought up another area where teams may cut back—the international market. Teams handed out more than 100 six-figure bonuses to Latin American and Pacific Rim prospects in 2008, including the three largest bonuses ever given to foreign amateurs: $4.25 million for Dominican righthander Michael Inoa (Athletics), $2.55 million for Dominican outfielder Rafael Rodriguez (Giants) and $2.5 million for Venezuelan outfielder Yorman Rodriguez (Reds). The assistant GM noted that the players and money involved internationally are less known than those involved with the draft, and could be slashed without much backlash from fans.
The record for MLB draft spending just rose by $1.75 million, as the Mariners signed first-round pick Joshua Fields on Monday. Seattle won't get a compensation pick for failing to sign Fields, and the draft order currently stands as follows:
10. Nationals (for failure to sign 2008 first-rounder Aaron Crow)
20. Blue Jays
23. White Sox
24. Angels (from Mets for Francisco Rodriguez, A)
25. Angels (from Yankees for Mark Teixeira, A)
27. Mariners (from Phillies for Raul Ibanez, A)
28. Red Sox
29. Yankees (for failure to sign 2008 first-rounder Gerrit Cole)
32. Rockies (from Angels for Brian Fuentes, A)
Supplemental First-Round Picks
33. Mariners (Ibanez)
34. Rockies (Fuentes)
35. Dodgers (Derek Lowe, A, to Braves)
36. Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, A, to Yankees)
37. Brewers (C.C. Sabathia, A, to Yankees)
38. Angels (Teixeira)
39. Angels (Rodriguez)
40. Reds (Jeremy Affeldt, B, to Giants)
41. Rangers (Milton Bradley, B, to Cubs)
42. Diamondbacks (Brandon Lyon, B, to Tigers)
43. Brewers (Brian Shouse, B, to Rays)
44. Angels (Jon Garland, B, to Diamondbacks)
49. Pirates (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Tanner Scheppers)
52. Dodgers (from Braves for Lowe)
69. Brewers (from Yankees for Sabathia)
76. Yankees (for failure to sign 2008 second-rounder Scott Bittle)
100. Blue Jays (from Yankees for Burnett)
Supplemental Third-Round Picks
107. Astros (for failure to sign 2008 third-rounder Chase Davidson)
Remaining Compensation Free Agents
Ari: Juan Cruz (A), Orlando Hudson (A).
Bos: Paul Byrd (B).
CWS: Orlando Cabrera (A).
KC: Mark Grudzielanek (B).
LAD: Manny Ramirez (A).
Mil: Ben Sheets (A).
Min: Dennys Reyes (B).
I'll answer your question in the form of a chart, then weigh in with a few thoughts:
|No. 1 Picks, Prospects & Players From The 2000-08 Drafts|
|Year||No. 1 Pick||No. 1 Prospect Then||No. 1 Player Now|
|2000||Adrian Gonzalez||Matt Harrington||Chase Utley|
|2001||Joe Mauer||Mark Prior||Joe Mauer|
|2002||Bryan Bullington||B.J. Upton||Cole Hamels|
|2003||Delmon Young||Young||Jonathan Papelbon|
|2004||Matt Bush||Jered Weaver||Dustin Pedroia|
|2005||Justin Upton||Upton||Ryan Braun|
|2006||Luke Hochevar||Andrew Miller||Tim Lincecum|
|2007||David Price||Price||to be determined|
|2008||Tim Beckham||Pedro Alvarez||to be determined|
• In a decade where signability often trumped ability, only three of the nine top prospects actually went No. 1 overall: Delmon Young, Justin Upton and David Price. High price tags contributed to Matt Harrington, Mark Prior and Jered Weaver slipping. Pirates ownership insisted on a college player (Bryan Bullington) over a high schooler (B.J. Upton) in 2002, while the Royals (Luke Hochevar over Andrew Miller in 2006) and Rays (Tim Beckham over Pedro Alvarez in 2008) preferred someone other than the consensus highest-rated player.
• Only one No. 1 pick stands as the best player from his draft: Joe Mauer, who had to beat out David Wright, Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard, among others, in a deep 2001 crop. The only other No. 1 choice who could make a run at being the best player in his draft right now is Adrian Gonzalez, though Justin Upton, David Price and Tim Beckham may do so in the future.
• None of the top prospects has become the best player in his draft, though the Upton brothers, Price and Pedro Alvarez could do so down the road.
• All of the best players were first-rounders except for Jonathan Papelbon (fourth round) and Dustin Pedroia (second round). How amazing is it that the Red Sox got the top players in consecutive drafts with the 114th and 65th overall choices?
BA editor-in-chief John Manuel challenged me to come up with a junior college team as well, so I've included that below. I considered Canadian high school draftees for the international team. Here's what I came up with, based on my personal rankings (as opposed to BA's soon-to-be-released Top 100 Prospects list):
|Prospect All-Star Teams|
|Pos||College||High School||International||Junior College|
|C||Buster Posey||Kyle Skipworth||Carlos Santana||Tyler Flowers|
|1B||Justin Smoak||Eric Hosmer||Angel Villalona||Logan Morrison|
|2B||Jason Donald||Adrian Cardenas||Elvis Andrus||Lonnie Chisenhall|
|3B||Pedro Alvarez||Mike Moustakas||Brett Lawrie||Mat Gamel|
|SS||Gordon Beckham||Tim Beckham||Alcides Escobar||Devaris Gordon|
|LF||Matt LaPorta||Travis Snider||Fernando Martinez||Lorenzo Cain|
|CF||Drew Stubbs||Colby Rasmus||Michael Saunders||Desmond Jennings|
|RF||Todd Frazier||Jason Heyward||Jose Tabata||Josh Reddick|
|DH||Matt Wieters||Lars Anderson||Jesus Montero||Aaron Cunningham|
|SP||David Price||Madison Bumgarner||Neftali Feliz||Tommy Hanson|
|SP||Brian Matusz||Brett Anderson||Jhoulys Chacin||Derek Holland|
|SP||Jordan Zimmermann||Trevor Cahill||Michael Inoa||Jordan Walden|
|SP||Jake Arrieta||Jarrod Parker||Phillippe Aumont||James McDonald|
|SP||Brett Cecil||Rick Porcello||Carlos Carrasco||Cole Rohrbough|
|RP||Chris Perez||Wade Davis||Jose Ceda||Mat Latos|
I'd take the high school team, which doesn't have an obvious weakness. It has easily the best outfield (I couldn't find room for Dexter Fowler or Cameron Maybin) and pitching staff, and its infield matches up well against the college group. Kyle Skipworth may not be on the same level of college catchers Matt Wieters and Buster Posey, but he's a fine prospect in his own right.
You could argue that the college team would offer more certainty because there's less projection involved, and also that its players would get to the majors quicker. But elite high school players move quickly as well, and the difference in talent between the prepsters and collegians outweighs the extra projection needed.
The international team's strength would be its infield, while the junior college squad was stronger than I expected. The juco team's defense would be shaky, but it would score some runs and have a solid rotation.
We're working on our annual Top 100 Prospects issue right now, and our list and a slew of accompanying features should be posted online next week. You'll have to wait to find out who gets our endorsement, but I will tell you that I've spent the last week surveying baseball officials as to whom they'd choose between Price and Wieters.
We started doing the Top 100 in 1990, and Mauer is the only catcher ever to rank No. 1. He jumped to the top of the list in 2004, and after missing most of that season with a knee injury, repeated in 2005.
BA founder Allan Simpson wrote a fun story in 2002, where he speculated on what the top of the Top 100 lists would have looked like all the way back to 1951. He listed three catchers as No. 1 prospects:
• Ted Simmons, Cardinals (1969). Simmons was the 10th overall pick in the 1967 draft, though he was only the third backstop selected. In 1968, his first full pro season, he led the high Class A California League with a .331 average and 117 RBIs, launching a career in which he would make eight all-star teams. He fell of the Hall of Fame ballot after garnering just 4 percent of the vote in his only year on the ballot (1994), but he's arguably the best eligible catcher not enshrined in Cooperstown.
• Johnny Bench, Reds (1968). Simmons spent much of his career overshadowed by Bench, the best catcher ever. A second-round pick in 1965, he was the first drafted player selected for the Hall of Fame. He hit .259 with 23 homers in 98 games at Triple-A Buffalo in 1967, got called up that August and never looked back.
• Bob "Hawk" Taylor, Braves (1958). Taylor established a new bonus record in 1957, signing for $108,000. At the time, any player signed for more than $4,000 had to spend his first two years in the major leagues or else be exposed to waivers, so Taylor spent that summer sitting on eventual World Series champion Milwaukee's bench as an 18-year-old, going 2-for-7. Baseball changed the bonus rule after the season, allowing Taylor to go to the minors, but he never delivered on his promise. He spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors, hitting .218/.258/.319 in 394 games.
Roland Hemond, then the Braves' assistant farm director, said Taylor never recovered from hurting his arm in his first workout with the team.
"As a catcher, he had all the tools," Hemond said. "He had a great arm, could run and could really swing the bat. But after he hurt his arm and was forced to move to the outfield, he was just never the same player. His bat played much better when he was a catcher."