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On The Clock: BA Drafts Its Own Team

June 4, 2003
By Jim Callis

CHICAGO—Drafting isn't as easy as it looks.

A first-rounder is more likely to fall short of the majors (34.9 percent) than to become an established everyday player at that level (26.6 percent). Take the first 10 rounds into account, and the ratio of flops (67.1 percent) to regulars (8.0 percent) is daunting.

One of our most popular features is our annual Draft Report Cards, handed out after each team's signees have played their first pro summer. Popular with our readers, that is, because scouting directors tell us it's nearly impossible to grade a draft before five years have passed. While that's true, that doesn't stop us from trying or readers from craving that analysis.

But this year, I decided to put myself on the hot seat. I'm going to stage my own draft.

These are my ground rules: I choose at the end of each of the first 10 rounds. I can't look ahead to see where a player is actually picked. I can't load up on players with signability questions because it wouldn't be realistic to think I could land them all. So if a player on our Top 200 Prospects list falls past the 10th round in the actual draft, I can't take him until my final pick unless he's a college senior.

Before we get to my selections, let me say that I don't fancy myself as a scout. I'm a reporter who talks to a lot of scouts, but I can't detect a subtle flaw in someone's arm action or swing. That makes my job that much harder.

Sweeney Over Sinisi, Murton

Picking last in the first round really narrows my opportunity, because choices at the very top of the round generally yield three times the return of those at the end. OK, enough excuses and I'll start drafting . . .

My first choice is Iowa high school outfielder Ryan Sweeney, whom the White Sox plucked in the second round. He projected as a first-round pick but hurt his chances with a so-so workout at the Perfect Game predraft showcase in May. The same thing happened to fellow Iowans Brad Nelson and Jeff Clement the previous two years, and now both are sluggers on the rise, Nelson in the Brewers system and Clement at Southern California.

I'll take my chances that Sweeney will bounce back as well. He's comparable to Nelson, with not quite as much power but a more pure swing. He's also more athletic and has a right-field arm that also has shown promise on the mound.

I also considered Rice first baseman Vince Sinisi and Georgia Tech outfielder Matt Murton. Sinisi is the most difficult sign among the draft's first-round talents, so I passed.

Though Murton is a safer, more established bet, I'll take the risk on Sweeney's higher upside. I just hope my general manager—I guess that would be my wife—won't throw a chair through my office wall. (Note: She didn't.)

Fearing a run on college catchers, I take Florida State's Tony Richie (Cubs, fourth round) next because I think he's the best of the group. He has a rap for playing without enthusiasm, but he's an excellent receiver with a better offensive track record than most of the college backstops.

I'm hoping I can get my third-rounder, Mississippi high school righthander Cliff Davis (Astros, sixth), to give up football if I give him second-round money. An Alabama quarterback recruit, he's 6-foot-6, throws 92-95 mph and has shows a knee-buckling curveball at times. He should take off once he concentrates on baseball full-time.

Late College Emphasis

After going with two high schoolers in my first three picks, I go for a pair of college righthanders in Missouri's Justin James (Blue Jays, fifth) and South Alabama's Clark Girardeau (Padres, seventh). Both have strong frames and command of three solid pitches, and both were No. 1 starters on NCAA regional teams.

I'm rolling the dice in the sixth round on Florida high school first baseman Andy D'Alessio (Reds, 10th). Until he broke the hamate bone in his right wrist in March and returned at less than 100 percent, his lefthanded power would have put him in the first three rounds. He still wants that kind of money, and I think I can find it in my budget.

One way to do that is to find some college seniors, who cost less because they lack bargaining power. So my next three selections are Mississippi State shortstop Matthew Maniscalco (Devil Rays, eighth), Baylor center fielder Chris Durbin (Red Sox, 10th) and William & Mary right fielder Michael Brown (Tigers, 13th). Maniscalco is a glove guy who has started to hit a little, Durbin is an all-around player who showed power for the first time this spring and Brown holds most of William & Mary's offensive records.

I'll wrap up my draft with South Florida shortstop Myron Leslie (Phillies, 11th), a switch-hitting athlete who, I hope, can at least play third base as a pro. I should be able to sign my 10 picks for $3.75 million, a reasonable budget.

How'd I do? I'll check back in November, and we'll know for sure in five years.

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