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2005 Draft Report Cards: Arizona-Chicago
By Jim Callis
2005 Draft Report Cards:
Best Pro Debut: RHP Micah Owings (1) went straight to Lancaster, a launching pad in a high Class A hitter's league, and went 1-1, 2.45 with a 30-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 22 innings. LHP Greg Smith (6) was named Rookie-level Pioneer League pitcher of the year after going 8-5, 4.15 and leading the league in wins, innings (82) and strikeouts (100). A plus curveball is his best pitch. C Josh Ford (9) made the short-season Northwest League all-star team with .282-0-25 numbers.
Best Athlete: No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton (1), who remains unsigned but is expected to eventually come to terms, can do it all. He's a superstar hitter with 80 speed and a 70 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale. Among the players under contract, it's OF Chris Rahl (5). His worst tool is his power, which is average.
Best Pure Hitter: Upton, with Rahl the best among the current signees.
Best Raw Power: Upton has more power than his brother B.J., the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, had at the same stage of his career. Among the players who've signed, it's Rahl, though Owings had excellent power as a two-way player at Tulane.
Fastest Runner: Once again, Upton and Rahl. Rahl is an above-average runner.
Best Defensive Player: Like his brother, Upton is prone to errors at shortstop because inconsistent footwork leads to bad throws. Though many clubs said they'd immediately move him to center field to expedite getting his bat to the majors, Arizona insists he can stay at short and just needs more repetitions in the field. If he does move to center, Upton still would be the best defender in this group. Rahl and 3B Rusty Ryal (14) stand out most among those who already have signed.
Best Fastball: RHP Jason Neighborgall (3) has had major control difficulties for two years, but he can put triple digits on a radar gun and pitch at 96-97 mph. Owings pitched at 94-97 mph working out of the bullpen. RHP Matt Torra (1) has a 92-95 mph heater, while RHP Matt Green (2) has a lively 91-93 mph sinker.
Best Breaking Ball: Arizona grades Owings' mid-80s slider and Torra's 12-to-6 curveball as plus-plus pitches.
Most Intriguing Background: Upton and his brother became the highest-drafted siblings since the draft started in 1965. Cuban defector Maels Rodriguez (22) was clocked at 100 mph during the 2000 Olympics, but injuries have sapped him of velocity; the Diamondbacks will try to build him back up in spring training. Smith manages an irregular heartbeat caused by a tiny hole in his heart, but his conditioning isn't life-threatening. Owings' brother Jon Mark is an outfielder in the Braves system. Unsigned C J.B. Paxson (33) turned down a Purdue football scholarship as a defensive end to play baseball at Walters State (Tenn.) CC.
Closest To The Majors: Owings, who was tired after pulling two-way duty for Tulane's College World Series team, will move back to the rotation next year. That shouldn't slow him down much, but Upton still should beat him to Arizona.
Best Late-Round Pick: Rodriguez, if his arm bounces back. If not, Ryal has decent all-around tools.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Brett Jacobson (11) was a first-rounder until his velocity dropped this spring. It didn't bounce back over the summer, making it easier for Arizona to let him become part of a banner Vanderbilt recruiting class.
Assessment: After the Diamondbacks spent $5.5 million in May to sign 2004 first-rounder Stephen Drew, most clubs expected them to go cheap after taking Upton to kick off the 2005 draft. Instead, Arizona grabbed a number of quality college arms.
Best Pro Debut: SS Yunel Escobar (2), a Cuban defector, was a fairly unknown commodity when he entered the draft in mid-May. Yet he was able to go to low Class A Rome and hit .313-4-19. RHP Joey Devine (1) went 1-1, 2.77 with six saves and 36 strikeouts in 28 innings with the Braves' three highest affiliates, mostly in Double-A, en route to the majors. RHP David Williams (37) was an all-star in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he had seven saves and a 0.47 ERA.
Best Athlete: Some teams liked OF Jordan Schafer (3) more as a lefthanded pitcher, but Atlanta will develop him as a center fielder. His tools are at least average across the board and he has the potential to become another Mark Kotsay.
Best Pure Hitter: Escobar. The Braves had more information on him than most teams because minor league catcher Brayan Pena grew up with him in Cuba.
Best Raw Power: Atlanta signed just six hitters out of the draft, and none is a true masher. Escobar has the bat speed to possibly hit 20 homers per season.
Fastest Runner: OF Quentin Davis (13) has 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, a step ahead of Schafer, who rates a 60.
Best Defensive Player: The Braves say Escobar's hands and arm are as good as they've seen in an amateur shortstop in recent years. He made just six errors in 48 games at Rome.
Best Fastball: Atlanta signed five pitchers who can reach the mid-90s. Devine leads the way with a fastball that tops out at 97, followed by RHP Jeff Lyman (2), who gets up to 96. LHP Beau Jones (1) and RHPs Mike Broadway (4) and Tyler Bullock (6) all can touch 95. Broadway’s fastball has the best life among that group.
Best Breaking Ball: Righthanded hitters have a tough time dealing with Devine's Frisbee slider, which he throws from a low three-quarters angle. Jones has the best curveball, and RHP Kyle Cofield (8) has a good one as well.
Most Intriguing Background: Bullock is a converted catcher who didn't become a full-time pitcher until this year. When he was in high school, he played on the U.S. junior national team with Braves catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia. RHP Michael Nix' (11) uncle Paul is a former head baseball coach at Auburn.
Closest To The Majors: Atlanta's need for bullpen help made Devine the first 2005 draftee to reach the majors. Devine became the first player ever to surrender grand slams in both of his first two big league appearances, and he also gave up the season-ending homer to Chris Burke in the National League Division Series. Escobar could start 2006 in Double-A, and his development will be accelerated if Rafael Furcal leaves as a free agent.
Best Late-Round Pick: The Braves like Davis' athleticism and liked what they saw out of RHP Rudy Quinonez (12) and Williams out of the bullpen. Quinonez has a 90-92 mph fastball and a tight slider. Williams throws harder than most sidearmers, possessing a 90-91 mph heater with good life.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Louis Coleman (28) could win right away at Louisiana State. He has a good feel for pitching and changing speeds. RHP Tommy Hanson (22) remains under the Braves’ control and should be a premium draft-and-follow next spring after a big summer in the new West Coast Collegiate League.
Assessment: When the Braves' first pick came up at No. 26, the top three players on their board were Devine, Jones and Escobar. They never imagined they'd be able to get all three.
Best Pro Debut: The Orioles' top four picks all enjoyed strong debuts. C Brandon Snyder (1) was the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he hit .271-8-35. OF Nolan Reimold (2) earned the same distinction in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he batted .294-9-30. Reimold added six more homers at high Class A Frederick, where he and LHP Garrett Olson (1) helped the Keys win the Carolina League title. Olson went 2-1, 1.99 with 59 strikeouts in 54 innings between the NY-P and CL. RHP Brandon Erbe (3) was the most spectacular, striking out 48 of the 78 batters he faced in the Appy League, where he was the top pitching prospect. SS Stuart Musslewhite (24) made the Appy all-star team by hitting .300-8-36.
Best Athlete: Reimold not only has all five tools, but he may have five plus tools. Snyder, who also played shortstop in high school, is more athletic than most catchers. OF Kieron Pope (4) already has a big league body.
Best Pure Hitter: Some clubs talked about moving Snyder out from behind the plate in order to expedite the development of his bat. He has a line-drive stroke with an advanced approach and the ability to pull pitches for power.
Best Raw Power: Reimold, who led NCAA Division I with a .770 slugging percentage at Bowling Green State during the spring, has more present power than Pope. But Pope, who isn't nearly as refined at the plate, could catch up to him.
Fastest Runner: OF Danny Figueroa (43) barely played the last two seasons at Miami because of Tommy John and shoulder surgeries, but he's still a well above-average runner. Reimold proved to be faster than Baltimore thought.
Best Defensive Player: Figueroa has excellent instincts in center field. 2B Paco Figueroa (9), his twin, is also a savvy defender who can play just about anywhere.
Best Fastball: Though Erbe, a Baltimore high school product, had a mediocre spring, area scout Dean Albany stayed on him and determined he was signable despite a commitment to Miami. Erbe's velocity rose once the weather heated up, and he was throwing 94-98 mph in pro ball. RHP Chorye Spoone (8), another homestate pitcher, was still throwing 94-96 mph in instructional league.
Best Breaking Ball: Olson's out pitch is his 12-to-6 curveball. It breaks away from lefthanders while his 88-92 mph fastball runs in on them, making him more difficult to deal with.
Most Intriguing Background: With the Figueroas, Baltimore was the only team to take two brothers in the 2005 draft. Snyder's father Brian pitched in the majors. RHP Ryan Stadanlick (10) was primarily an outfielder at St. Joseph's, where his conversion to the mound was delayed when he was declared academically ineligible last spring. But the Orioles had a good read on him because Hawks coach Shawn Pender used to crosscheck for Baltimore. Stadanlick has a 92-94 mph fastball with Mike Timlinesque sink.
Closest To The Majors: As a lefthander with three pitches, Olson is the prime candidate. Reimold will have a more difficult time leapfrogging Orioles outfield prospects such as Nick Markakis, Jeff Fiorentino and Val Majewski.
Best Late-Round Pick: Baltimore planned on tracking RHP David Hernandez (16) as a draft-and-follow. But area scout James Keller determined he was signable, so the Orioles came away with a pitcher who shows a 90-93 mph fastball and a plus slider at times.
The One Who Got Away: The Orioles inked their first 12 picks and hoped OF Brandon Kendricks (15) would attend a junior college, but they lost his rights when he went to Prairie View A&M.
Assessment: First-year scouting director Joe Jordan made finding athletes a priority and was successful. On the pitching front, Olson and Erbe already are two of Baltimore's top mound prospects.
BOSTON RED SOX
Best Pro Debut: SS/2B Jed Lowrie (1) hit .328-4-32 and led the short-season New York-Penn League with a .429 on-base percentage. RHP Craig Hansen (1) used 10 scoreless minor league appearances, including eight in Double-A, as a springboard to Fenway Park. OF Jeff Corsaletti (6) and 2B Jeff Natale (32) both excelled at low Class A Greenville. Corsaletti hit .357-4-26, while Natale batted .338-2-35 with a .463 on-base percentage.
Best Athlete: OF Jacoby Ellsbury (1) did nothing to dispel Johnny Damon comparisons, batting .317-1-19 with 23 steals in 35 NY-P games before a hamstring injury sidelined him. OF Reid Engel (5) isn't nearly as refined, but he has similar speed and more power. RHP Clay Buchholz (1) was drafted for his electric arm, but he was a two-way star at Angelina (Texas) JC who offered lefthanded power and speed as an outfielder. Natale spent three years as a hockey forward at Trinity (Conn.).
Best Pure Hitter: Lowrie, who ended questions about his ability to hit with wood. A switch-hitter, he shortened his stroke from the right side after turning pro.
Best Raw Power: C Jon Egan (2), though he was a tentative hitter in his pro debut and was more of a pleasant surprise with his catching ability. Egan's status took a hit during the offseason, when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and police also found traces of cocaine in his wallet.
Fastest Runner: When the short-season Lowell staff was timing players in the 40-yard dash, Buchholz (1) asked if he could participate and proceeded to run a 4.25 and a 4.27. Among the position players, Ellsbury's speed rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, while Engel merits a 65.
Best Defensive Player: Ellsbury has excellent range and instincts in center field.
Best Fastball: Hansen has a wicked 93-95 mph sinker that can reach 97. RHP Michael Bowden (1) also has heavy life on a consistent 92-93 mph fastball. Buchholz usually pitched at 93-94 mph in the late innings at Angelina, though he worked more at 88-92 during the summer.
Best Breaking Ball: Hansen's slider is a swing-and-miss pitch but wasn't at its best in his first pro summer. Bowden has a legitimate power curveball, while Buchholz throws both a hard slider and a good curve.
Most Intriguing Background: Unsigned 1B Allan Dykstra's (34) father Lenny was a Red Sox nemesis in the 1986 World Series. Unsigned RHP Kirby Yates' (26) brother Tyler pitched for the Mets in 2004. LHP Jason Determann (35) had a promising future as a reliever, but turned down the opportunity to play pro ball in order to attend medical school.
Closest To The Majors: Hansen made three appearances for the Red Sox in September and should factor into their beleaguered bullpen in 2006. Ellsbury, Buchholz and Corsaletti are also on the fast track.
Best Late-Round Pick: Natale has uncanny hand-eye coordination and never hit less than .412 in four years at Trinity. RHP Chris Jones (29), who has the chance to have a plus fastball and curve, is healthy again after shoulder and heel injuries ruined his last two years at Indiana State.
The One Who Got Away: SS Pedro Alvarez (14), one of the best hitter to come out of New York City since Manny Ramirez, couldn't be lured away from Vanderbilt. The Red Sox signed all 16 picks before him.
Assessment: In his first draft as scouting director, Jason McLeod had five choices before the second round and made good use of them. A Red Sox system on the rise got even stronger as a result.
Best Pro Debut: LHP Mark Pawelek (1) didn't win a game because he was on tight pitch counts, but he was rated the top prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he had a 2.72 ERA and 56 whiffs in 43 innings. OF Davy Gregg (27) hit .280-1-19 and led the short-season Northwest League with 36 steals.
Best Athlete: SS Dylan Johnston (4) has the tools to excel both offensively and defensively but needs to add some polish to his game. C/OF Yusuf Carter (12) has the athleticism one might expect from the nephew of five-time all-star Joe Carter.
Best Pure Hitter: Johnston. OF Johnny Defendis (29), who batted .327-2-20 in the NWL, doesn't have a standout tool but makes consistent line-drive contact.
Best Raw Power: Carter has a strong 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. His 13 homers last spring set an El Paso (Texas) CC record.
Fastest Runner: Gregg has plus-plus speed. His 36 steals were six more than he totaled in three seasons at South Carolina.
Best Defensive Player: C Jake Muyco (8) has outstanding catch-and-throw skills. His defense is well ahead of his offense at this point.
Best Fastball: The ball comes out of Pawelek's hand easy, yet he's able to pitch at 94-95 mph and touch 97. RHP Scott Taylor (5) can hit 93-94 mph, and LHP Donald Veal (2) and RHP Mike Billek (3) did the same during the spring.
Best Breaking Ball: Billek, Pawelek and RHP Mark Holliman (3) all have good curveballs.
Most Intriguing Background: The Cubs selected Carter 24 years after making his uncle the No. 2 overall pick in the June 1981 draft. Unsigned C Michael Brenly's (43) father Bob was an all-star catcher and a manager in the majors, and he currently serves as a Cubs television broadcaster. INF Kyle Reynolds' (6) dad Craig is another former all-star. Pawelek's brother Dennis was a White Sox draft pick in 2002 and a backup kicker on Utah's undefeated football team in 2004. In April, then-Brigham Young 3B Brandon Taylor (17) became just the third NCAA player to hit for the cycle twice in one season.
Closest To The Majors: Billek or Holliman, the latter of whom signed late and has yet to make his debut. Muyco is a candidate if his bat comes along. Because he has a special left arm, Pawelek could pass them all.
Best Late-Round Pick: RHP Michael Phelps (11) and LHP Jayson Ruhlman (23) are potential steals. Phelps could develop three plus pitches, but he slid in the draft because of signability questions. A sophomore-eligible who sustained a fractured skull when his catcher hit him in the head with a throw in Central Missouri State's season opener, he could have been an early pick had he re-entered the 2006 draft. Ruhlman has deceptive offspeed stuff, and he showed a 90-93 mph fastball in the Cape Cod League in 2004.
The One Who Got Away: After the Cubs selected speedy Oregon State OF Tyler Graham (14), he learned he could take an injury redshirt season for 2003, allowing him to re-enter the 2006 draft while remaining a junior. Overall, the Cubs signed 28 of their first 30 picks.
Assessment: The Cubs grabbed two of the draft's most dynamic lefthanders in Pawelek and Veal. They took pitchers with their first four picks, while most of the hitters they selected will need time to make adjustments.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Best Pro Debut: 2B/SS Chris Getz (4) batted .304-1-28 with 11 steals at low Class A Kannapolis. OF Aaron Cunningham (6) was a Rookie-level Appalachian League all-star, hitting .315-5-25.
Best Athlete: Cunningham had little fanfare before 2005, when scouts discovered him while scouting Everett (Wash.) CC pitchers Zach Simons and J.T. Zink. Cunningham has plus power and slightly above-average speed and arm strength, a package that has some projecting him as a possible Brian Giles. LHP Clayton Richard (8) was a backup quarterback on Michigan's football team. RHP Lance Broadway (1) is a very good athlete for a pitcher.
Best Pure Hitter: Getz controls the strike zone and has a gift for making contact. He drew 36 walks and struck out just 12 times in 238 pro at-bats. Cunningham hits the ball with more authority.
Best Raw Power: 3B Chris Carter (15) is a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder whom scouts considered raw. Yet he managed to hit .283 with 10 homers in the Appy League. Power is Cunningham's best tool.
Fastest Runner: Getz has plus speed and is an even better baserunner because he has excellent instincts. He should fit nicely into the No. 1 or 2 hole in a lineup.
Best Defensive Player: Getz has the hands and range to play shortstop, but lacks the arm strength to make plays from the hole. He'll probably wind up at second base.
Best Fastball: RHP Ryan Rote (5) has a 94-95 mph fastball but got tagged for a 7.33 ERA in his pro debut because he's still working on his secondary pitches. Richard and RHPs Daniel Cortes (7) and Derek Rodriguez (13) all top out at 94.
Best Breaking Ball: Broadway had one of the best curveballs in the draft and commands it exceptionally well.
Most Intriguing Background: Getz and RHP Ricky Brooks (3) were Chicago's highest unsigned picks from the 2002 and 2003 drafts, respectively. Rote's grandfather Tobin quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to the 1957 NFL championship and the San Diego Chargers to the 1963 AFL title. RHP Stephen Squires' (49) father Mike was a Gold Glove first baseman for the White Sox and currently scouts for the Cardinals. Unsigned OF Jordan Danks' (19) brother John was the Rangers' first-round pick in 2003. LHP Brian Flores (37), a draft-and-follow candidate for next spring, was named most outstanding pitcher at the 2005 Junior College World Series and led national juco pitchers with 147 strikeouts in 110 innings. Chicago also took Flores in the 21st round the previous year.
Closest To The Majors: Broadway was the hottest pitcher in college baseball down the stretch and could ride a similar roll to Chicago. The White Sox aren't hurting for starters, but he can locate his average fastball and his curve wherever he wants. Brooks has similar polish, though he lacks the plus pitch Broadway has with his bender.
Best Late-Round Pick: Carter.
The One Who Got Away: One of the top power bats available in the draft, Danks would have gone by the end of the supplemental first round. But he wrote teams a letter asking them not to select him because he wanted to play at Texas, and he remained true to his word. The White Sox negotiated with him all summer but couldn't quite get a deal done. The Sox did sign their first 11 picks.
Assessment: Broadway and Brooks both play to the strengths of the big league club, throwing strikes and letting their defense make plays. Cunningham, Richard and Carter offer interesting upside for late-round choices.