The 2007 MLB First Year Player Draft is in the books and we all want to look ahead to see what the prognosis is for the highest selections.
ESPN2 televised the first round of the draft live for the first time in MLB history. That first round was one of the more predictable in recent memory but it did stand out from recent drafts. In this first round, 17 pre-college players were drafted as opposed to 13 college players. That was less indicative of a change in draft philosophy as it was a comment on the quality of this year's high school class.
The first overall pick was anything but a surprise however. Left-hander David Price went first overall to the Rays. The Vanderbilt product throws a fastball, slider, and change and the sum of his pitching parts is greater than that of any other amateur in the country.
David's fastball has that "late life"intangible. He cruises at a tick over 90 mph but can reach the mid-90s when he reaches down. His slider has bite and may score out as his best pitch. His change is very good, and fills out his collection of three plus pitches. David is a good athlete and he has crafted a solid delivery that is easily repeatable, but he can also add and subtract to all of his pitches, adding shades of gray. He commands all of his pitches and has no fear of pitching inside or elevating.
David projects as a top-half-of-the rotation starter and the Rays, of course, hope he matures into a #1. He very well could, and he may do it fairly quickly given his college experience and his time with USA Baseball's college national team. If he's newly available and you have the time to wait, David Price is certainly a worthwhile investment.
Mike Moustakas was the second pick overall, taken by the Royals, and he was the first Scott Boras player taken. Mike can throw a 97 mph fastball and played both ways at Chatsworth High School in California, but he was drafted as an infielder. Mike played SS in high school but he projects at a corner position somewhere, with his plus arm strongly suggesting RF or 3B.
Mike has a compact and silky swing that already produces plus power and most scouts agree that he should eventually be a middle-of-the-order hitter who can be competitive offensively at any corner.
There is some question whether he will be signable by the Royals however. He is committed to Southern California and could opt to play in college. It's obvious that he can't improve his draft position too much by playing college ball and there is talk that Boras and the Royals are already well on their way to a deal. The Royals had plenty of time to explore Boras' thoughts prior to the draft as Price was the consensus overall #1. Look for Mike to sign this year and begin a 2-3 season ascension to the doorstep of the majors.
Josh Vitters, from Cypress HS in California, was the third overall pick, going to the Cubs. Josh was already a prominent prospect when he charmed the scouts with a tremendous performance on Cape Cod last summer. Josh has very quick and accurate hands at the plate. He keeps his hands inside the ball when needed, and commands his bat head. He hits the ball where it is pitched with authority, and he doesn't lunge at the ball.
Josh reads pitches well, makes good adjustments quickly, and he rarely looks fooled. He can be overly aggressive because his hands and bat speed allow him occasional success on bad pitches. Right now he is considered a third baseman but he's has a lot of work to do defensively at the position. Josh could very well find himself in left field by the time he reaches AA.
Barring injury, Josh is one of the few players in every draft that seems relatively assured of a major league career.
At #4 the Pirates took starter Daniel Moskos from Clemson. Daniel has the standard fastball, slider, change package, but adds a "keep 'em honest"vertical curve. It's currently ok to show but that's about it right now.
Daniel's fastball sits in the low 90s and none of his four pitches are plus right now, but all except the curve could be within a year of pro ball. His slider will be his bread and butter as he moves up the ranks. Daniel can get his fastball into the high 90s on occasion but his command of that pitch, and the rest of his tool box, is only average.
David converted to starting role mid season after opening the year closing for the Tigers and was dominant with USA Baseball's college national team. He doesn't appear to have the stuff to dominate in the majors and he will have to hone is command to make a living there. He could end up an innings-eating and effective middle-of-the-rotation slider. So why does he rate the 4th overall pick? Well, he's left-handed for one thing and well ... effective inning-eating pitchers are good things to have around ... and oh ya ... he's lefty ..
How would you feel about a switch-hitting, 30-homer hitter who has the defensive chops to play catcher in the big leagues? Meet Matt Wieters the 5th overall choice in this year's draft, going to the Baltimore Orioles from Georgia Tech.
Matt probably should have been the third overall pick this year and could arguably have been the second if not for Scott Boras' alleged contract asking price. Matt wowed the lawn chair scouts on Cape Cod last summer and he has been a two-way player in both high school and college with the ability to crank his fastball up to 96 mph on occasion.
Nevertheless, Matt's main skill is hitting. He is typical of right-handed hitters who end up switch hitting, in that he lofts the ball and hits with more power from the left side, while drilling line drives from the right side. Again, typical of these types of switch hitters, Matt will hit the ball with authority from foul line to foul line as a right-handed hitter and he will generally pull the ball as a left-handed hitter. He has quick hands through the zone, even when he is keeping his hands inside the ball, and he is confident he can watch one more spin to read the pitch and still catch up to it.
Of course as you can imagine as a player who both pitches and catches, Matt can identify a strike very well, and he understands the value of a hitters count. He reads pitching patterns well, and he breaks down and adjusts to pitchers quickly and accurately. He is a polished and accomplished hitter who should be able to handle the adjustments he will be asked to make in pro ball. He has the physical skills, experience, and baseball IQ to adapt well.
However, the big thing here is that Matt is a terrific catcher with a plus arm and strong footwork. The only reason to think that me might not be able to survive as a catcher into the majors is that he is already borderline too big to play the position ... if you ignore the fact that despite his size he is playing the position well. You have to assume that as a pro he will add to his frame a bit and there may be a saturation point in terms of how much size his skills can absorb and still allow him do the job at a high level. We'll see ... but Matt has a big league future ahead of him as a middle-of-the-order hitter in the majors.
The Nationals finished up the selection of top-shelf left-handed starters with their selection of Missouri State's Ross Detwiler with the 6th overall pick. David Price was clearly the top pitcher, and top LHP in this years draft but there are arguments on both sides as to who might be better between Detwiler and Daniel Moskos.
Ross has a click more velocity than Moskos, cruising from 92-94 and his curve ball is much batter. Ross can also add and subtract from the curve a bit and he currently throws is from a couple of different arm angles. That curve presents 12-16 mph slower than his fastball, which adds to its effectiveness. He has punch out ability that is superior to Moskos as well. Detwiler doesn't have a very good change yet but he's in the process and will likely have it to a more usable level pretty quickly once he reaches pro ball.
The knock on Ross would be his build at 6-4, 175. That 175 pounds isn't passive either. He has tried to fill out his frame but has not been able to as of yet. His height gives him that added velocity as he catapults pitches with sling-shot engineering. The question is whether he can hold up at 175 pounds. So far at least, the answer has been yes as he backed his innings in the Cape League last year with a full healthy season at Missouri State.
Ross has a great mental make up, and has worked hard a small college program that hasn't always been good. He has refused to point fingers at teammates and he has resisted letting up at times when things did not go well for his team.
Like Moskos, Detwiler does not project as a #1 at this point.
The MLB draft may now be televised like the NFL and NBA drafts, but in fantasy terms it is still a different animal. In the last few years the #1 overall pick has produced players like Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Justin Upton, and Pat Burrell, but it has also produced the likes of Matt Anderson and Bryan Bullington. The MLB draft is much more of a crap shoot, as if the NFL and NBA teams had to select freshman in high school.
I'm guessing that in most leagues their minor league component isn't very deep, and therefore you have to spend those limited resources on players who offer the most reward. It is very difficult to project that kind of reward on most players in the draft. There will be an occasional Tim Lincecum, Mark Prior, or Alex Gordon, but for the most part it is easier to project impact players accurately once they have played a season or two of pro ball.
But that doesn't make these kids less fun to talk about!