MLB 2008 Draft: First Round Analysis

Ben ShetleyCorrespondent IJune 5, 2008

Thanks to ESPN2 televising the first round of the MLB draft for the second straight year, hardcore baseball fans everywhere had a chance to follow the draft process that is so highly publicized for the NFL and NBA.

The first overall pick went to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.  They chose a SS out of high school in Georgia.  Tim Beckham is a five-tool player and touted as the only player in the draft with pure "superstar" potential. 

Of course that is ridiculous with history showing that most of the superstars do not come out of the first round.

However, the first round is supposed to represent the best of the best in the country, but unlike in football and basketball it will take years to see the benefits of firstst round draft picks at the major league level. 

That is why the MLB draft has traditionally not been as popular for the average fan due to the fact that you will not see the impact of your team of their choice immediately. 

Instead, the players spend years in the strange and magical place called minor league baseball.  Some make it, some don't, some make careers out of the minors.

College players were drafted over high school players this year in the first round at a rate of more than two to one (20 college, one community college, nine high school). 

Position players were also drafted over pitchers in the first round at a rate of two to one.  This hasn't occured in the first round in the past five drafts. 

The second and third overall picks went to Pittsburgh and Kansas City who chose third baseman Pedro Alvarez and first baseman Eric Hosmer respectively.  Two small market clubs that both opted to draft players represented by super-agent Scott Boras. 

Boras is rumored to be seeking up to a 9.5 million dollar signing bonus for Pedro Alvarez, third baseman out of Vanderbilt, and up to seven million dollars in bonus money for Hosmer, first basemen out of high school in Florida.

Signability will be an issue with these two players.  The advantage Boras has is that these two teams have struggled for years must sign them to prove to their fan base that they are seriously dedicated to improving their club.

The irony in Pittsburgh's pick of Alvarez is the presence of Frank Connelly in the Pirate's front office.  Prior to this year he had been a senior VP for Major League Baseball and had fought to keep bonuses down leading to many confrontations with Scott Boras.

Arguably the best pitcher in the draft, Brian Matusz, LHP out of San Diego University went to Baltimore with the fourth overall pick.  This is a great pick for the Orioles who will get a front of the rotation pitcher in a few years out of Matusz.

Fifth overall pick went to San Francisco in Buster Posey, catcher out of Florida State.  He is an athletic player being a former shortstop and can hit to all fields.

Sixth overall pick by Florida was Kyle Skipworth, another catcher, but Kyle is out of high school in California.  Kyle has power to all fields, but also hits for average. 

At one point he had 18 straight hits in his senior season, which shows he has good plate discipline and can consistently put the ball in play.  He also hits from the left side of the plate, a common theme of most hitters taken in the first round.

Seventh overall pick of Cincinatti was Yonder Alonso, first baseman out of Miami.  The first of SEVEN first baseball to be drafted in the first round.  And like most of others, Alonso hits left handed.  Six of the seven 1st round 1st basemen drafted hit from the left side with one being a switch hitter.

Eighth overall pick of the Chicago White Sox was Gordon Beckham, SS out of Georgia.  He hits well to all fields and shows promise of more power to come.

Ninth overall pick of Washington was Aaron Crow, RHP out of Missouri.  Crow had an incredible junoir season for the Tigers and at one point in the season had a 40+ inning scoreless streak.  Crow will be pitching in the majors within two years.

Tenth overall pick of Houston was Jason Castro, catcher out of Stanford.  Castro is probably the best defensive catcher in the draft, bats left, and has power in his bat.  Houston wanted a catcher and after seeing Posey and Skipworth drafted Castro was a no-doubter.

11th overall pick of Texas was Justin Smoak, first baseman out of South Carolina.  He is heraled for his defense, but is a switch-hitter with power than can also hit for average who compares to Chipper Jones.

12th overall pick of Oakland was Jemile Weeks, second baseman out of Miami.  Jemile is the younger brother of Milwaukee Brewer Rickie Weeks.  Jemile is a lead-off type hitter who puts the ball in play and can make things happen with his legs. 

He was drafted in the eighth round last year and made a good choice to stay at Miami for another year raising his draft status for a much larger signing bonus.  In this case, the hard work of Jemile and college really will pay off.

13th overall pick of St. Louis was Brett Wallace, 3B/1B out of Arizona State.  Now this pick perplexed me, my article yesterday centered around the Cards using their first pick on pitching.  I was proven wrong by this choice that seems to be more of an American League type pick. 

Wallace might have been the best player left on the board at this point, but that doesn't mean he is best for the organization.  He has power to all fields and great plate discipline.  Another lefty at the plate, Wallace fills out that batter's box with a big frame and weighing over 250 pounds. 

I wish nothing but the best for Wallace, but would have rather seen a pitcher taken here or Aaron Hicks, a potential five-tool player.

14th overall pick of Minnesota was Aaron Hicks, OF out of high school in California.  Hicks is a five-tool player who can also blow upper 90s off the mound.  The sky is the limit for this young man.  Great pick for the Twins at 14.

15th overall pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers was Ethan Martin, RHP/3B out of high school in Georgia.  I do not know much about Martin, but he is another young player who has potential at several positions makes him a valuable pick.

16th overall pick of Milwaukee was Brett Lawrie, IF/C out of high school in Canada.  This north-of-the-border pick is most known for his quick bat speed and ability to generate power. 

He is a very unfinished player, however, like most high schoolers are, but the potential is there and Milwaukee has been cranking out the young talent in recent years.

17th overall pick of Toronto was David Cooper, first baseman out of Cali.  Another left-handed hitting firstst baseman that hits for power.  This is a guy who was drafted solely for his bat and makes sense as an American League pick.

18th overall pick of the New York Mets was Ike David, 1B/OF out of Arizona State.  He is yet another left-handed hitting first baseman, but can also play the corner outfield positions.  He is a power hitter who is projected to be a 25-30 homerun guy in the majors in a few years.

19th overall pick of the Chicago Cubs was Andrew Cashner, RHP out of TCU.  I was very surprised to see Cashner still on the table at pick 19 and am glad someone finally snatched him up.  Cashner is a guy who can hit upper 90s and has experience as a closer.

20th overall pick of Seattle was Josh Fields, RHP out of Georgia.  Fields is another Boras client who was drafted in the second round last year by Atlanta.  I have little reguard for holdout Boras clients, especially for a relief pitcher.  Not the greatest pick for a team who is already completely falling apart this season.

21st overall pick of Detroit was Ryan Perry, RHP out of Arizona.  He can blow the fastball up to 98 mph, but that's usually when pitching in relief.  As a starter he is still in the mid-90s, and has an above average changeup and a decent slider.  Solid pick by Detroit.

22nd overall pick of the New York Mets was Reese Havens, SS out of South Carolina.  Havens bats left and is an all around good hitter.  SS might not be his home however, since the Mets have a decent little SS named Jose Reyes.  He is very versatile and can play catcher, second base, and outfield. 

As a catcher he is so athletic he could be the next Russel Martin.

23rd overall pick of San Diego was ALan Dykstra, first baseman out of Wake Forrest.  Another Boras client and another left-handed hitting first baseman.

24th overall pick of Philadelphia was Anthony Hewitt, OF/SS out of high school.  He has power and can run but is committed to Vanderbilt University and could pose signing problems for the Phillies.

25th overall pick of Colorado was Christian Friedrich, LHP out of Eastern Kentucky.  This was the steal pick of the first round.  Friedrich is a polished starting pitcher who has a plus fastball and curve with an above average change and slider.  He can be a front of the rotation guy in several years. 

Great pick for late in the first round by the Rockies.

26th overall pick of Arizona was Daniel Schlereth, LHP out of Arizona.  He has three plus pitches but struggles with command at times.  Being a lefty reliever however, we could see him in a major league uniform sooner than every player drafter above him.  He has however, already had Tommy John surgery.

27th overall pick of Minnesota was Carlos Gutierrez, RHP out of Miami.  Gutierrez is currently Miami's closer and has had great success with his sinker.  He needs to develop another pitch and refine his slider, but has ability to make it to the majors quickly. 

He has also had Tommy John surgery already, but doesn't seem to hold him back at all.  ESPN charged this pick being the most out of place for the first round, but quality closers are rare and that is evidently what Minnesota sees in his future.

28th overall pick of the New York Yankees was Gerrit Cole, RHP out of high school.  Another Boras client but shouldn't be difficult to sign by the free-spending Yankees.

29th overall pick of Cleveland was Lonnie Chisenhall, SS out of Pitt Community College.  Surprise!  A position player who bats from the left.  He has been in trouble with the law in his past, but Cleveland believes he is a changed man.

30th overall pick of Boston was Casey Kelley, SS out of high school in Florida.  The intrigue with Kelley is that he is also a pitcher that has three plus pitches in the making. 

The intrigue continues when you learn he is committed to Tennessee not just to play baseball, but also play Quarterback for a major SEC school.  Signing might be interesting for this final pick of the first round.

Looking over these 30 picks, I am very surprised at the large amount of position players and the lack of high school pitching talent that was drafted.  The small market teams drafting Boras clients will be something to keep an eye on.

The number of these first baseman who make it to the majors will be interesting to see in the future.  A true first baseman has to be a special hitter to make it to the big leagues.  As a former first baseman myself, I hate to admit that it is not the most athletically challenging position. 

This means that almost anyone on the field can handle first base if someone comes up tearing the cover off the ball there is always another position a player can play.  If you only play first base the versatility is not there.

A very exciting afternoon for baseball fans.  I hope the popularity of the draft continues and the television coverage is extended in the years to come.

Congratulations to all the young men who can soon call themselves professional baseball players.


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