In some ways, the first round of Major League Baseball’s 2007 draft went exactly as scripted.
As expected, Vanderbilt lefthander David Price went No. 1 overall to the Devil Rays. He was one of a record-tying seven lefthanders drafted in first round, as the strongest position of the draft class was in full evidence.
And as predicted, the strongest high school draft class in years reversed a recent trend, as more prep players (17) were picked in the first round than collegians (13).
It all went down for the first time on TV, as the draft’s first round was shown live on ESPN2.
“It’s a great day for us and this is such an important day,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “This is a special event and we want to communicate that as best as possible to all of our fans. This is really a dramatic manifestation of how the sport has improved. This will get bigger and bigger.”
Price going first overall was no surprise, after he had dominated the Southeastern Conference this year for Vanderbilt. He led the nation with 194 strikeouts and just 31 walks in 133 innings while going 11-1, 2.63.
“I really wasn’t thinking about it, to be honest with you,” Price said of being picked by the Devil Rays. “When they called me and told me they were going to take me with the first pick in the draft I was very, very honored.”
Rays general manager Andrew Friedman added, “It’s difficult to project how long it will take (to sign Price). I think the important thing to know is that we very much want to get a deal done, and so does he. We have the benefit of a good relationship with his representative, Bo McKinnis, which I think will benefit us. We’ll start putting pen to paper on Friday and hope to resolve it as quickly as possible.”
With that drama over, the positioning of Scott Boras clients up and down the board caused the most excitement. Boras clients went in unexpected places all over the first day of the draft, and five went in the first round, starting with the No. 2 overall pick, California prep infielder Mike Moustakas.
The rumor mill said the Royals already had the parameters of a deal worked out with Moustakas, though Boras said no deal was in place. The Brewers might also have an announcement soon regarding Matt LaPorta, the seventh overall pick out of Florida. He’s also a Boras client, but as a college senior he has little leverage in bonus negotiations.
Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash went so far as to say, “We know he’s going to sign,” and Boras allowed that he expected a signing to happen “directly.”
The top college hitter on most boards, Georgia Tech switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters, went fifth overall to the Orioles. Baltimore GM Mike Flanagan said Wieters’ selection of adviser “was not a factor.”
Three bigger-name Boras clients, though, started to slide, with two landing at the end of the first round. Prep righthanders Matt Harvey and Rick Porcello entered the spring as the top-rated players at their position, and ranked 11th and fourth on BA’s Top 200 Draft Prospects list in May. The North Carolina signees fell and Porcello was the first to come off the board, going 27th to the Tigers. Harvey went 84th overall to the Angels.
“He has a position where he thought he was going to get drafted at, and we’ll have to get over some bruised egos and bruised feelings,” Angels scouting director Eddie Bane said. “But our track record is pretty good if Harvey wants to work on it. Our track record with (Nick) Adenhart and some others is pretty good. We’ll give it a shot, you never know.”
Boras said North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman, Harvey, Moustakas, Porcello and Wieters were his clients in this draft who are “out of the box,” players who would seek more than slot bonuses at the very least to sign with their organizations. Brackman’s combination of size, athleticism and pro basketball potential bring him to that level in spite of a bad end to his junior season.
Brackman went to the Yankees with the final pick of the first round. His stock slipped in May as the 6-foot-10 former basketball forward was skipped three times in the Wolfpack rotation and topped out at 87 mph in his lone start. However, at his best he has shown 99 mph velocity with a power spike curveball.
Boras declined to get into specifics about his clients’ bonus demands, but by comparing Porcello to Josh Beckett–who signed a major league contract worth $7 million in 1999–and Wieters to Mark Teixeira–who signed a major league contract worth at least $9.5 million in 2001–he clearly established the neighborhood he’s talking about.
Industry word indicated Porcello’s asking price could be close to $10 million. Boras also said that among infielders (other than first basemen), Moustakas was the best high school power hitter since Alex Rodriguez, which indicates a high price as well. Aside from the hyperbole, Boras pointed to his clients’ track records and his own company’s track record of assessing talent.
“This is my 32nd draft,” Boras said. “It’s about credibility . . . We want to have a quality business decision for the club, and we try to be selective about the players we represent, and we try to do everything we can to help the player be as good as they can be.”
The first round didn’t totally revolve around Boras clients; it just seemed that way. It also revolved around lefties, as the seven who went in the first 30 picks tied the record set in 2004. Of the lefties who went in 2004, only Jeremy Sowers has made much of a big league impact so far, so clubs are hoping for more of a return from the ’07 class.
Three college southpaws–Vanderbilt’s Price, Clemson’s Daniel Moskos (Pirates, fourth overall) and Missouri State’s Ross Detwiler (Nationals, sixth)–came off the board quickly. Three more followed in No. 19 pick Joe Savery of Rice (to the Phillies), No. 23 pick Nick Schmidt of Arkansas (to the Padres) and No. 25 pick Aaron Poreda of San Francisco (to the White Sox). One prep lefty, North Carolina’s Madison Bumgarner, came in at No. 10 to the Giants.
Bumgarner was the second high school pitcher drafted, after the Diamondbacks took Indiana righty Jarrod Parker ninth overall. The Rangers snagged a pair of prep righties in Michael Main (23) and Metroplex native Blake Beavan (17), who where teammates with USA Baseball’s junior national team.
The biggest surprises of the first round included LaPorta, whom the Brewers like as a left fielder, and Twins pick Ben Revere, the smallest first-rounder at 5-foot-9, 152 pounds. The outfielder/second baseman out of Lexington (Ky.) Catholic High ranked No. 135 on BA’s predraft list and is among the draft’s fastest players, having been timed at 6.28 seconds over 60 yards.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt, Alan Matthews.