I'm a big believer in College World Series experience mattering in Omaha, but there won't be much of it among the 2010 teams. Among the eight teams, only Arizona State (appearances in 2007, 2009) and Florida State (2008) have any players who have taken the field at Rosenblatt Stadium. In each of the last two CWS, half the field had Omaha know-how.
Since 1993, only Fresno State in 2008 has won the national title without having played in one of the three previous College World Series. I'll say that trend continues, with the Sun Devils beating UCLA in an all-Pacific-10 Conference finals.
This draft had three players who clearly stood above the rest, but only two of them will be their team's top prospect right away. JC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper (No. 1 pick, Nationals) and Florida high school shortstop Manny Macahdo (No. 3, Orioles) will ascend to the top of their organizations, but I'm not ready to put Texas prep righthander Jameson Taillon over fellow Pirates No. 2 overall choice Pedro Alvarez.
(And yes, I'm banking on Stephen Strasburg exceeding 50 major league innings and losing his prospect eligibility by the time Harper signs. He's a better prospect than Harper.)
I also can't see any other top 10 picks immediately vaulting to No. 1 in their system. I can't take Christian Colon (No. 4, Royals) over Mike Montgomery, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer; or Drew Pomeranz (No. 5, Indians) over Lonnie Chisenhall, though that one's close; or Barret Loux (No. 6, Diamondbacks) over the rehabbing Jarrod Parker; or Matt Harvey (No. 7, Mets) over Wilmer Flores; and so on.
In fact, after the top three choices, I only see two more draftees who would immediately become their organization's best prospect. I believe in Florida Gulf Coast lefthander Chris Sale's (No. 13, White Sox) durability and ability to remain a starter, so I'd take him over Tyler Flowers and Dan Hudson with the White Sox. I have no worries about Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox's (No. 25, Cardinals) power or ability to remain at the hot corner, so I'd choose him over Shelby Miller. However, both of those are close calls and there are a number of clubs that did have concerns about Sale and Cox.
For comparison's sake, seven players went from the 2009 draft to the No. 1 spot on their club's Top 30 in the 2010 Prospect Handbook: Stephen Strasburg (No. 1 choice, Nationals), Dustin Ackley (No. 2, Mariners), Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres), Jacob Turner (No. 9, Tigers), Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Rockies), Miller (No. 19, Cardinals) and Jared Mitchell (No. 23, White Sox).
My most recent column dealt with the three biggest surprises in 2010's first round, including the Cubs drafting Simpson 16th overall and the Yankees selecting New York high school shortstop Cito Culver at No. 32, 136 spots ahead of where BA ranked him.
Since we expanded our predraft rankings to a Top 200 in 2002, Simpson is the lowest-rated player to go in the first round. Besides him and Culver, the only first-rounders we didn't rank among the 100 best players in their draft were outfielders Tyler Colvin (170th in 2006, went 13th overall to the Cubs) and Ben Revere (135th in 2007, went 28th overall to the Twins).
Quite frankly, we misevaluated Colvin, who's having a fine rookie season in Chicago. We got word as the draft approached that a handful of teams were considering taking him in the first round. Revere has established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the minors, as he has reached Double-A and carries a career .331 batting average. His power and arm strength are well below average, but his bat and speed may make him a big league regular.
There have been seven sandwich picks who didn't crack our Top 200, and their track record is dismal. Jeremy Brown (Athletics, 2002) and Mark Schramek (Reds, 2002) were deep-discount picks who gave their teams exactly what they paid for. Preston Mattingly (Dodgers, 2006), Jackson Williams (Giants, 2007) and Charlie Culberson (Giants, 2007) have struggled offensively, though Culberson is showing some signs of life in the hitter-friendly California League this spring. Jeremy Bleich (Yankees, 2008) has hit the wall hard in Double-A, leaving Jordan Lyles (Astros, 2008) as the only member of the group with much promise.
The biggest reach in the first and sandwich rounds in the last decade came in 2001, when the Mariners drafted Michael Garciaparra 36th overall. Nomar's little brother was a shortstop at Don Bosco Tech High (Rosemead, Calif.) who barely played as a high school senior after blowing out a knee playing football the previous fall. Some teams didn't even bother to list Garciaparra on their draft boards, but Seattle worried that Nomar's Red Sox would draft Michael and grabbed him as a sandwich pick. Garciaparra, who signed for $2 million, is still toiling in the minors with the Astros' Triple-A affiliate but has yet to appear in the big leagues.
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is the best college bat for 2011, and he's the current frontrunner to go No. 1 overall in a draft that's considerably deeper than the 2010 crop. I'd take him over Bryce Harper. While Rendon doesn't have Harper's off-the-charts raw power, he has plenty of pop, is a better hitter, will play a more valuable defensive position, has proven himself against better competition and has better makeup.
After Rendon, it could be argued that the next five best college position players all can be found in the Southeastern Conference: South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Georgia outfielder Zach Cone, Louisiana State outfielder Mikie Mahtook, Vanderbilt shortstop Jason Esposito and Florida first baseman Preston Tucker. Non-SEC standouts include Southern Mississippi shortstop B.A. Vollmuth, Connecticut outfielder George Springer and Southern California third baseman Ricky Oropesa.