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2005 Early Draft Chat with Allan Simpson

Moderator: Allan will begin taking your quesitons in our first draft chat of the year at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Galen from Cedar Rapids asks:
Yesterday's First Round Projection had the Braves taking high school CSS, Brandon Snyder, with the 27th pick. But if the Braves stay true to form they will likely select a Georgia HS player. What are the chances that they have their eye on Atlanta area LHP, Miers Quigley?

Allan Simpson: Good atternoon. Let's get started. We made no effort with yesterday's first-round projections to match players with teams, so it was just coincidence that Brandon Snyder and the Braves intertwined at 27. The Braves have traditionally stayed close to home with their picks in the last few years, although they didn't take a local player in the first five rounds last year. We expect about 10 players with Georgia connections to go in the top five rounds this year, including Quigley, who has first-round potential but must address questions this spring about his makeup for him to go that high.

 Q:  Brandy from Vermont asks:
The last two years the Rockies have been able to pick up a couple of players (Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson) who probably should have been in the top 5 picks down around 9 and 10. Do you see any of the top five slipping just a few spots this year?

Allan Simpson: The Rockies get high marks for their first-round picks the last three years, if you want to add Jeff Francis (2002) to that list. It's hard to say who might slip to the Rockies at No. 7 this year, as there's not a clear consensus who the top five are (like there was in 2001), although Justin Upton is easily the best talent in the draft. I would think the Rockies hope that a couple of premium lefthanded bats like Alex Gordon (No. 3 overall on our list) or Jeff Clement (No. 7) might be available.

 Q:  Dan Novak from Houston, Pa asks:
After last years crop of amazing catchers, Who would you say is the top catchers in the Draft?? I saw Taylor Teagarden at Omaha last year and I thought he was one of the best hitters I saw last year, What do you think??

Allan Simpson: Catching is always a premium position, and fortunately there were some quality catchers to pick from last year--starting with Neil Walker (Pirates) at No. 11. The position should be relatively strong again this year, with Teagarden and Jeff Clement projected to go in the first round from the college crop. Actually, Teagarden is more highly regarded for his glove than his bat. Outside of possibly Brandon Snyder, there may not be a high school catcher in the first round, though Jon Egan, Preston Paramore and Brent Milleville should come off the board shortly thereafter.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Justin Upton: SS or CF? Sean O'Sullivan: RHP or 3B? Justin Bristow: 3B or RHP?

Allan Simpson: There's split opinion on all three. Upton would go out as a shortstop for most clubs and be given a chance to play his way off the position. He's a lot like his brother B.J., who may end up at third base or the outfield because his glovearmfootwork are so erratic. There are some clubs who would put Upton in center field immediately and have little doubt he could become a Gold Glover at the position. O'Sullivan is a legit to way player, who has a slightly higher upside on the mound although he has achieved more success to date as a hitter. Bristow is almost universally regarded as a position player. He'll play shortstop in high school, but will move to third in pro ball.

 Q:  Ben from Washington DC asks:
Thank you for these chats...it's great we have a team in DC finally!!! What do you see the Nationals doing with the 4th overall pick? From everything you guys write...it looks like Dana Brown has done a decent job with the limited financial resources. I can't wait to see what he does with a little bit more money. Your thoughts?

Allan Simpson: Dana's done a solid job with the draft, even though the Nationals system overall is a little thin. It's hard to say whether he'll have more financial resources to work with this year as it's unlikely the club will be sold to a real owner before the draft. At any rate, he'll have the fourth pick in a year where the talent at the top and through the early rounds is pretty solid. A college pitcher who can move quickly, like Mike Pelfrey or Luke Hochevar, are probably on the team's short list.

 Q:  Tommy Wilks from San Fran, CA asks:
Jed Lowrie put up great numbers last year and is off to a phenomenal start again this year, but he disappointed this summer when using the wood bats. Will he be able to make the transition to wood? and where do you see him going in the draft? late first? supplemental?

Allan Simpson: Lowrie did have a great year in 2004 and is off to a fast start this year. His summer with Team USA, however, soured some clubs on his ability to hit with wood. He's going to draw a lot of close scrutiny this spring but in the end I'd be surprised if he's not a late first round or early sandwich pick.

 Q:  Matt from Morgantown, WV asks:
Who are the top prospects in the Big East this season?

Allan Simpson: We ranked all the top draft prospects in our College Preview issue. The only clear cut candidate to go in the first round is St. John's closer Craig Hansen, who had an outstanding season in the Cape Cod League last summer. His college teammate Anthony Varvaro, a righthanded starter, probably ranks No. 2 and has been generating some third-round interest.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Does Jeff Clement have the skills necessary to stay behind the plate, and does Troy Tulowitzki have the skills to stay at SS?

Allan Simpson: If there was any doubt that Clement wasn't a catcher or Tulowitzki a shortstop, that went away last summer while both played for Team USA. Clement showed all the qualities--particularly agility and quickeness--to be an everyday catcher while Tulowitzki showed the range, hands and acrobatic ability to be a major league shortstop.

 Q:  Jose from MIami asks:
If Drew enters the draft again will he be within the top 10 picks?

Allan Simpson: I'd be really surprised if Stephen Drew re-entered the draft, although his brother was the No. 2 pick in 1997, didn't sign and was picked fifth a year later by the Cardinals. The same agent is involved. Drew graded out as one of the top 2-3 players last year (even though he was picked 15th), and even though this draft is stronger than a year ago he could go in the top five--providing a team that is prepared to draft him has a clear understanding what the money is going in.

 Q:  Ben from Virginia asks:
Thanks for the chat. A lot of talk about Ryan Zimmerman (3B) around here. He seems to be one of the top bats in the country after his summer performance. Is he a top ten pick? He would be a great hometown pick for the Nationals.

Allan Simpson: He's be an excellent pick for the Nationals and probably would be about ready to take over at third base for Vinny Castilla when his contract is up after 2006. We've got Zimmerman ranked No. 10 in the country, but he'll need to show that he can hit for the same power as what he displayed last summer with Team USA, when he tied for the team lead after hitting only one homer all last spring at Virginia.

 Q:  Seth from Maryland asks:
What's up with Justin Maxwell? Is he healthy this year? How high could he go if he returns to what he did before? Thanks.

Allan Simpson: All indications are that Maxwell is finally healthy again after two separate injuries last year knocked him out of spring and summer competition. He has the highest upside of any outfielder in this year's college crop and could surface as a first-round pick if he swings the bat like he did two summers ago in the Cape Cod League. Everything else is there--he's athletic, can run and is a quality center fielder.

 Q:  Scott from Victoria, BC, Canada asks:
With yesterday's news that the Bluejays would see an increase in payroll by 40% over the next 3 years, do you think that will affect their drafting philosphy at all?

Allan Simpson: So long as J.P. Ricciradi is the Jays GM, their approach won't change. They may have more money to spend, but they'll still look for the low-risk college players they've focused on the last couple of years. Ricciradi is a disciple of Billy Beane and a big believer in the Moneyball approach popoularied by Beane. Boston also is a believer in this approach, and money isn't an issue there.

 Q:  Dave from Fullerton asks:
Allan, what do you think of the draft prospects for some of the players in the Big West, particularly the LHP's (Romero, Ramos, Olsen) and Tulowitzki and if there might be any "sleepers" in the conference (Paulk, with solid power numbers at Northridge)?

Allan Simpson: The talent in the Big West as always is pretty strong, with Tulowitzki in the first round for sure and Ramos and Romero knocking on the door. Olsen (Cal Poly) elevated himself to the third-fourth round off his performance last summer in Alaska. Paulk led the conference in homers a year go and projects as about a fifthsixth-rounder. Count Cal State Fullerton LHP Ryan Schreppel (ranked No. 9 in the conference) as a sleeper. He projected as a possible first-rounder when he was a freshman but his control deserted him last year and scouts have largely forgotten about him.

 Q:  Joseph from Texas asks:
Are there any position players sleepers that with a strong season could project into a first-round draft choice?

Allan Simpson: Two that come to mind are Georgia Tech OF Jeremy Slayden, who missed almost all of last year with a shoulder injury, and Arizona State 3B Jeff Larish, who had a rough 2004 season because of a combination of reasons. Larish, in particular, had a great sophomore season, while Slayden excelled as a freshman. Both players could re-establish themselves as first-round talents if they revert to their previous form. A couple of college pitchers to keep an eye on are Jason Neighborgall (Georgia Tech) and catcher-turned-pitcher Kevin Whelan (Texas A&M).

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
While there's no Homer Bailey, Nick Adenhart or Mark Rogers heading into the spring, the HS pitching pool offers promising depth. Who are some of your favorite prep arms at this point in time, and who has the best shot of emerging into a premium prep pitching prospect that would be projected to go in the top 5-10 overall selections?

Allan Simpson: You're right, there aren't the high-profile high school arms in this year's draft that we saw last year--even though this year's draft is a much better draft overall. The top-ranked high school pitcher on our list is Sean O'Sullivan at No. 13, and not everyone's convinced his best position is on the mound. The other prep arms that scouts are bearing down on are Zach Putnam, who easily could surge to the top of the list, Chris Volstad and Brett Jacobson. At this point, there isn't a lefthander--college or high school--who's a lock to go in the first round.

 Q:  Greg from miami asks:
The Sunshine State Conference has been said to be better than many Division 1 conferences. After the drafting of Tampa's Eric Beattie in the second round last year, are there any guys in that conference scouts are taking note of for this years draft?

Allan Simpson: There are no really premium guys at this point. Our top prospect is Florida Southern SS Geoff Strickland, who projects as a 6th-10th rounder.

 Q:  RobTrump from Beaverton, Oregon asks:
Jed Lowrie, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Trevor Crow are all former Oregon high school players. Are they the best 3 guys to come from Oregon in sometime? Where do you see them falling in the draft?

Allan Simpson: Oregon, quietly, is developing some legitimate talent. All three of the players you mention are potential first-round picks and certainly should go no worse than the end of the second round. The best player overall from Oregon is Oregon State RHP Dallas Buck. He isn't eligible for this year's draft, but should be a top 10 pick in 2006. I can't imagine Oregon has had an era that has been this plentiful even though the state has had its share of first-round picks over the years.

 Q:  Tony from Louisiana asks:
If Andrew Miller were draft eligible this year, do you think he might go #1?

Allan Simpson: Possibly, but he's not a better talent that Justin Upton and we'd need to see a little more from Miller this spring. He needs to command his breaking stuff more consistently. Right now, he projects as the top guy for 2006.

 Q:  Ben from Arizona asks:
How would you rate the top college bats? Gordan, Mayberry, Clement, Zimmerman, Tulowitski, Greene? Your thoughts. Thank you for these chats.

Allan Simpson: I'd rate Gordon's bat No. 1 and Zimmerman's No. 2. Clement is more of a power hitter. Mayberry has a lot of upside as a hitter but isn't as polished as the others yet. Greene and Tulowitzki are good hitters--for shortstops.

 Q:  Joe from Miami asks:
Thanks for taking our questions. Is Miami's Ryan Braun one of the top hitters in the draft?

Allan Simpson: He's one of the better hitters in the country but hasn't gotten as much attention as some of the top college infielders because he's had trouble identifying a position. He played mostly shortstop (and DH) his first two years at Miami, but will play third this year. That's where his tools profile best from what I've seen.

 Q:  Bill Dictus from Madison, WI asks:
Is Neighborgall has a breakout year for Tech like Hansen did in the cape could he be the possible #1 pick?

Allan Simpson: Jason Neighborgall may have the best pure stuff in the country but his inability to throw strikes and have any success in college or summer competition has scouts scratching their heads where to draft him. He had a good fall at Georgia Tech and could easily zoom into the first round if his performance this spring comes anywhere close to matching his stuff. It might be a stretch to talk about him as the No. 1 pick but the Diamondbacks, who have the top pick, were the one team that came closest to drafting him in the first round out of high school.

 Q:  Mark from alabama asks:
Do you predict an increase in the amount of HS players picked on the first round? If so, who besides Upton, Maybin, O'Sullivan, Bistrow & Danks.

Allan Simpson: We're sorry we didn't get to all the draft questions today, but we'll make make this our last one. Our early projections have 13 high school picks in the first round--but only two among the first 12. Clearly, it's a college-oriented draft at this point, but players like Zach Putnam, Chris Volstad, Brandon Snyder, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson could change that with big senior seasons.

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