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The Morning Word: 2008 MLB Draft Recap

In last year’s MLB draft, we saw several teams shy away from top talent because of cost. The Pirates did it with Matt Wieters, and they are regretting it right now. For the 2008 draft this hasn’t been the case. Teams are going right after the talent and will probably pay the big bucks to get them playing in the minors this year. Let’s break down the first round.

1. Tampa Bay Rays, SS Tim Beckham. The Rays decided to fill a need at short, passing on catcher Buster Posey. Beckham is the most athletic player in the draft and has a lot of upside. He won’t have any trouble adjusting to the fielding side of things, but he’ll have to adjust to the lifestyle and hitting. He has a great attitude and should be able to handle the game’s mental aspect.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3B Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates’ line-up has been missing a power hitter, and Alvarez should help them soon. Although he may move to first base at some point down the road, he will play a big role in the Pirates’ push for the playoffs over the next several seasons.

3. Kansas City Royals, 1B Eric Hosmer. He will probably hit for the most power out of anyone in the draft. He has great raw power and pretty good hands at first base. The Royals are going to have to pay up for him, or else he is off to college. High schoolers usually take longer to develop, and he will probably need an extra year or so, but he will do some damage for the Royals soon.

4. Baltimore Orioles, P Brian Matusz. The best pitcher in the draft is going to a team loaded with young pitching. He has four above average pitches and mixes his pitches well. He is comfortable throwing his pitches in any count, and that makes him a candidate to lead a rotation very soon. His change-up, curveball, slider and fastball are mixed together very well, keeping the batter guessing.

5. San Francisco Giants, C Buster Posey. Posey nearly went number one to the Rays but was passed on for Tim Beckham. The Giants really got a great player with an advanced approach at the plate. He needs more experience, but he should rise fast and make for an impact with the Giants soon.

6. Florida Marlins, C Kyle Skipworth. The Marlins took the best catcher in the draft, in my opinion. Not only does he swing a good bat that should develop further with more experience, but he is great behind the plate. He shifts well and has a good arm and natural knowledge of the game. He hits for mostly average now but should find his power when he grows into his body more.

7. Cincinnati Reds, 1B Yonder Alonso. Alonso’s swing is the closest to major league ready of any in the draft. 1B is the only spot for him, but that’s currently filled by stud rookie Joey Votto. Signability is an issue – he is reportedly asking for $8M. I worry he’ll struggle against lefties, but he should move fairly quickly through the minors.

8. Chicago White Sox, SS Gordon Beckham. This is a great pick for the White Sox. He is a baseball player. He has the natural ability and the look in his eye that he can play. Beckham will likely improve his power and hit for a good average. He has power to all fields and is pretty familiar with the wood bats, so we could see him in Double-A sometime next season. He has tremendous talent and will be a superstar in a couple years.

9. Washington Nationals, P Aaron Crow. Crow has the best fastball in the draft, and he mixes it well with his slider. I talked with GM Jim Bowden who told me that he prefers to improve his pitching through the draft and trades. He and last year’s pick, Ross Detwiler, will likely be working together very soon. Crow has a lunge similar to Tim Lincecum, and that might need to be refined in the minors.

10. Houston Astros, C Jason Castro. This is a surprise. The Astros banked on JR Towles, and he has failed so far. Their minor league system is pretty weak with no real bright spots, so bringing in Castro as the future is a safe bet. Although Koby Clemens is doing well, if he makes it to the MLB they will find a way to work him in. His defense is the main reason he was taken so high, but he probably won’t hit for much of an average.

11. Texas Rangers, 1B Justin Smoak. They couldn’t pass on him. He is a switch hitting first baseman who has drawn comparisons to Mark Teixeira – a former Ranger. He has great power and should hit for a good average. He has gold glove potential and should rise fast. The Rangers were interested in taking a pitcher, but they couldn’t pass on Smoak. Smoak should hit at least 25 home runs in the majors, and probably more playing in Texas. He will play a key role in their rebuilding process.

12. Oakland Athletics, 2B Jemile Weeks. Weeks has a very good swing that will help out the A’s at the top of the order. He is the typical second baseman who should stay there long term. He has good speed and should make the plays at the plate and on the field that will help the team win.

13. St. Louis Cardinals, 3B Brett Wallace. The Cardinals are all over his bat. Wallace has great plate discipline and hits for tremendous power. He will likely move to first base, unless he slims down some. I am a little surprised by the pick because his future is definitely at first, where Albert Pujols plays. This could be a steal for the Cardinals because Wallace is such a good hitter versus lefties.

14. Minnesota Twins, OF Aaron Hicks. I talked with a Twins executive who told me directly that they were sold on Hicks. They want to let him develop in the minors, grow into his body, and find his spot in the outfield. He will hit for a good average and hold his own in the outfield. I think he’ll take some time to develop, but the Twins have developed several high school players successfully (Joe Mauer), so Hicks is in good hands.

15. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3B Ethan Martin. I’m a little surprised to see him go this early, but I am happy to see he will be a third baseman. He has a great swing that is balanced and should hit for power sometime down the road. He has drawn comparisons to power hitter Matt Williams, but I don’t seeing him reaching Matt Williams’ level.

16. Milwaukee Brewers, IF Brett Lawrie. The Brewers are ecstatic to land Lawrie. He is young, yet already experienced with wooden bats, and very versatile. He has drawn comparisons to Craig Biggio for his approach and ability to hit both righties and lefties. The one thing the Brewers will have to decide on is where he will play.

17. Toronto Blue Jays, 1B David Cooper. Cooper has gone under the radar having been behind Alonso and Smoak, but he also has great power. He is not very good defensively, so he might be a DH, but his bat is all there. He has great discipline and a balanced swing. He will likely hit around .270 or .280 with 20-25 home runs.

18. New York Mets, OF Ike Davis. Davis is a lefty with a smooth swing. He is athletic with above average speed. He projects as a decent outfielder, but he is athletic and has good instincts.

19. Chicago Cubs, P Andrew Cashner. Cashner has the hardest fastball in the draft and will likely stay as a closer down the road. He needs to work on his command, but he should be up soon helping the Cubs bullpen.

20. Seattle Mariners, P Josh Fields. I’m a little surprised by this move. The Mariners are in last place and you would have liked to see them take a starter or position player. Nonetheless, Fields is a flame throwing closer considered to be the top closer at the college level. He can throw his pitches all over the strike zone and will probably see time in the MLB next season. He is a Boras client though.

21. Detroit Tigers, P Ryan Perry. The Tigers continue to take power arms, and Perry is a good pick. He’ll likely settle in with a 94-95 mph fastball, with a hard slider to compliment it. His future is likely as a reliever, but he could make the move to starter. His delivery is similar to Chan Ho Park, but faster, and it will likely need to be refined. His fastball is fast enough that college kids aren’t catching up to it, but once professionals realize that he’s not deceptive, they will be all over him. Nonetheless, this is a good pick for the Tigers.

22. New York Mets, SS Reese Havens. Havens is a good baseball player with great instincts. His future is not at shortstop, and he will likely be moved because of poor range. He could be their second baseman or catcher of the future. One thing that has come up is his ability to read pitches, which should lead to him hitting for a decent average. He doesn’t hit for much power, but he could probably put together 10-15 home runs.

23. San Diego Padres, 1B Allan Dykstra. Dykstra probably would have been a top 10 pick last season, but being behind Smoak, Alonso and Cooper leaves him towards the end of the first round. Still, he has good power and can take the ball the other way. His true test will come at whether he can hit inside pitches at the professional level – he’s struggled at that so far.

24. Philadelphia Phillies, SS Anthony Hewitt. For awhile, I thought this kid was Vanderbilt bound. He put together a good spring, and I thought he would be passed on. He has great tools for a high school shortstop and should hit for more power down the road. I think going to Vanderbilt is best for him so he can play at a more competitive level, but he might go straight to the minors with the Phillies.

25. Colorado Rockies, P Christian Friedrich. This is a great pickup for the Rockies who land the second best lefty in the draft. Friedrich is consistent and has good, hard stuff. He projects as a middle of the rotation guy.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks, P Daniel Schlereth. Although he is wild, he projects as a lefty setup guy coming in to face the lefties. His fastball touches 95, and he has a strong curveball that is usually his strikeout pitch. He has been compared to J.C. Romero.

27. Minnesota Twins, P Carlos Gutierrez. His windup is similar to Dave Bush — slow, but then he lunges for you. His two-seamer is hard with a lot of movement, but he needs to work on it so it bites the outside corner. He has a lot of upside, but he needs to work on his command.

28. New York Yankees, P Gerrit Cole. He has top five potential in the draft, but signability issues caused him to drop. The Yankees will likely be able to keep him from going to college. He throws a hard fastball with an excellent changeup; he even mixes in an above average slider. This guy has the intangibles; he just needs some time to develop his windup.

29. Cleveland Indians, SS Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall has one of the best approaches at the plate, but disciplinary problems off the field dropped him some. He is a line drive hitter and his fielding might move him to second or third. He has the potential to be an above average corner infielder or outfielder, but nothing more than that.

30. Boston Red Sox, SS Casey Kelly. Signability issues pushed Kelly out of the top 15. He is one of the most athletic players in the draft, having played both baseball and football. If the Red Sox are serious about him, they will have to pay big money, or else he is going to Tennessee to be their quarterback and starting shortstop. I think he would be smart to go to college to develop his swing some, but we’ll see.

Other Notable pick:

48. Pittsburgh Pirates, P Tanner Scheppers. Scheppers was in the top ten before he injured his shoulder, shutting him down for at least a year. He has a plus fastball and good slider, so he should rise fast once he is healthy. The mental part of his game is solid, and he’s a true professional. Taking him here just shows how serious the Pirates are about rebuilding.