Wednesday Dish: Catching Up With ’09 First Rounders

It’s been a little over a month since the 2009 draft went into the books. While the world waits to see how the negotiations between the Nationals and No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg pan out, 12 first rounders have already signed and 10 have made their pro debuts, and we thought we’d give a quick update on how those players are faring in their first tastes of pro ball.

No. 4. Tony Sanchez, c, Pirates: Probably the most debated pick of the first round (especially after the Pirates gave him a full-slot signing bonus of $2.5 million) Sanchez is the highest drafted player to have signed and made his pro debut so far, having signed just a few days after the draft. He made his pro debut with short-season State College on June 20, but his time with the Spikes turned out to be little more than a pit stop. Sanchez moved up to low Class A West Virginia before the end of June and has made 10 starts there.

Sanchez’s bat is his biggest question mark, and the reason he was considered a reach at fourth overall, but he’s handled himself well so far, hitting .380/.483/.560 (19-for-50) combined between his two stops. He clocked his first pro home run July 10 against Delmarva, a three-run shot as part of a night in which he went 3-for-4 with five RBIs. Defensively, Sanchez has impressed with his physical abilities, moving well behind the plate, blocking balls and framing pitches. He’s making the transition to having to call pitches, something he didn’t do at Boston College and few college catchers do, developing game plans and learning the strengths and weaknesses of his pitchers.

"We’ve been really excited," West Virginia pitching coach Jeff Johnson said. "He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got a great arm, good feet, his ball-glove exchange is really good. He’s sub-two (seconds) on every throw to second base. All the qualities that you need behind the plate are there. It’s just a matter of getting him in the fold and getting him used to what we’re doing."

No. 10. Drew Storen, rhp, Nationals: With their compensation pick received for not signing Aaron Crow last year, the Nationals needed to find someone they knew they could sign without much trouble. That led them to Storen, the Stanford product whom they signed before the draft was even over for $1.6 million. Storen was dispatched straight to low Class A Hagerstown, where he debuted on June 18 and has gone 0-1, 4.26 in nine appearances covering 12 2/3 innings.

Storen’s career got off to a slow start. He allowed runs in four of his first six appearances out of the Suns’ bullpen, pumping his ERA up to 6.75 in the process. He’s started settling in since, though. Over his last three appearances (4 2/3 innings), Storen has fanned 10 without allowing a hit or a run. His fastball was sitting 92-93 mph and touching 94 last Friday in a two inning stint in Greensboro, and that velocity combined with his plus slider is more than enough to overwhelm most low Class A hitters.

No. 17. A.J. Pollock, of, Diamondbacks: The former Notre Dame standout didn’t have to go far for his first assignment in pro ball. The Diamondbacks signed Pollock for $1.4 million and basically had him stay put, having him join low Class A South Bend, where he debuted June 30. Pollock has held his own in 13 games with the Silver Hawks, hitting .283/.316/.321 through 53 at-bats, though he has only two extra-base hits so far and is still looking for his first pro home run. His approach has been more aggressive than it was during the college season, when Pollock drew 30 walks in 59 games and struck out only 24 times (which was a career high itself), as he’s drawn only two walks while fanning nine times in his time with South Bend.

No. 21. Jiovanni Mier, ss, Astros: The top prep shortstop taken in the draft, Mier has gotten off to probably the hottest start of any of the ’09 first rounders. The Astros dispatched him to Rookie-level Greeneville of the Appalachian League afer signing him for $1,358,000, and Mier, whose bat was his biggest question mark, has handled the transition to pro ball nicely, hitting .323/.425/.516 through 62 at-bats. His four triples are tied for the league lead, while his 13 RBIs are good for the team lead. Mier has already had seven multi-hit games in 15 starts and is currently riding a five-game hitting streak.

No. 24. Randal Grichuk, of, Angels: With back-to-back picks at Nos. 24 and 25, the Angels took a pair of prep outfielders in Grichuck, a heavy-hitting Texan, and New Jersey product Mike Trout. Both signed for similar bonuses—$1.242 million for Grichuk, $1.215 million for Trout—and were sent to the Rookie-level Arizona League for their pro debuts.

Grichuk, who projects as a left fielder down the line, has seen time both in center and left field through his first 16 games as a pro. Power is Grichuk’s calling card, but he’s gone homerless in 73 pro at-bats in the AZL and has had trouble making contact, striking out 25 times while drawing only three walks. Still, he’s been able to hit .292/.321/.431 with 12 RBIs. Included is a monster game in which Grichuk went 6-for-7 with three doubles and four RBIs against Rangers on July 5.

No. 25. Mike Trout, of, Angels: The only draftee to actually attend the televised event, Trout got off to a promising start in the AZL, going 8-for-14 through his first four games, but hasn’t played since July 8.

No. 26. Eric Arnett, rhp, Brewers: Arnett has gotten off to a slow start since joining Rookie-level Helena of the Pioneer League after signing for $1,197,000 out of Indiana. The 6-foot-5 Arnett, who suited up for the Hoosiers basketball team but never played, has made four appearances for Helena, giving up eight runs (six earned) on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. BA subscribers can read more about Arnett here.

No. 28. Reymond Fuentes, of, Red Sox: The Red Sox loved Fuentes’ athleticism while being encouraged by how much his bat developed during his final year of high school. Boston sent Fuentes to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing him for $1.134 million. He made his pro debut July 4 and opened his career on a six-game hitting streak that included four multi-hit efforts. Through nine games, the speedy Fuentes is hitting .419/.457/.484 (13-for-31) with two doubles and six RBIs.

No. 31. Brett Jackson, of, Cubs: A California product, Jackson made his pro debut July 1 after inking for a $972,000 bonus with the Cubs. Chicago opened him up in the Arizona League, but quickly shuttled him up to short-season Boise of the Northwest League after only three games. A plus defender in center field, most of the doubts about Jackson surround his hitting, where his all-out swing gives him average power but leads to high strikeout totals. Jackson has hit two home runs so far as a pro, but has already fanned 14 times in 13 games while hitting .319/.431/.468 (15-for-47).

No. 32. Tim Wheeler, of, Rockies: After taking prep lefthander Tyler Matzek, who will be a challenge to sign, with their first pick, the Rockies opted for the Sacramento State product Wheeler with their second pick of the first round. Wheeler signed for $900,000 and made his pro debut for short-season Tri-City on June 24. Coming off an outstanding college season in which he hit .385/.494/.765, Wheeler went on a 10-game hitting streak starting with his second game with the Dust Devils, and hit his first pro home run June 28 in Spokane, though he hasn’t homered since. Overall, Wheeler is hitting .286/.364/.390 (22-for-77) through 19 games.

Two more first rounders, righthander Matt Hobgood (fifth overall, Orioles) and outfielder Jared Mitchell (23rd overall, White Sox), have signed but have yet to make their pro debuts. Hobgood is expected to start with Rookie-level Bluefield in the Appalachian League, while Mitchell is ticketed for low Class A Kannapolis.

Posey, Flowers To Triple-A

Two of the minors’ best catching prospects are heading to Triple-A. The Giants are sending Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, straight from high Class A San Jose to Triple-A Fresno. Posey was hitting .326/.428/.540 with 13 home runs in 291 at-bats. Flowers, who was with Double-A Birmingham and is fresh off a trip to the Futures Game, was hitting .305/.449/.556 with 13 home runs as well.

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