Welcome to this week’s edition of Future Rookies. I thought it would be fun today to bypass the normal routine and do something a little different. It seems like the prospect shelves have been gutted with the call-ups of Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen, and Gordon Beckham, but MLB teams are getting ready to restock the cupboard in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft, more commonly known as the First-Year Player Draft. Phenom Stephen Strasburg is expected to be selected first by the Nationals, but what transpires after that pick is anyone’s guess. Cafe users AEMRICH, mac-unit, Havok1517, thomasps3, and Steve-o rolled up their collective sleeves and put together a mock draft of this year’s amateur player draft. Read on to see their take on this year’s premier prospects and the next crop of Future Rookies.
AEMRICH: Welcome to the 2009 Fantasy Baseball Cafe 2009 Mock MLB Draft. The MLB draft is an event that is growing larger and larger as the fans are becoming increasingly interested in minor league players and even college and high school-ball athletes. This year, the greater fantasy world has already been introduced to one of the greatest, if not the greatest, college baseball pitchers ever — Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has so much attention on him that CBS Sports has added him to their database of players. The gap between Strasburg and the rest of the field is exponential! It is a lock that he will go first in this month’s draft, but the big question is who will go second, third, and so on. No other player has yet to separate himself from the rest of the field. Many have said that this year’s talent after Strasburg isn’t much to write home about, but that has been said about many other drafts that have produced exciting talents. Enjoy the ride, and allow yourself to become caught up in your teams new hopes and dreams that come with every selection.
1. Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, SDSU
AEMRICH: Mark Prior was once regarded as the best college pitcher ever, but it is time for him to move aside and give that crown to Stephen Strasburg. Stephen has blown away the competition with a fastball that can touch 102 mph. The Nationals don’t have a lot of great arms in their system behind Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and Collin Balester, and Stephen will be an ace from Day One. While some have his contract demands at possibly $50 million, it is necessary that the Nationals sign him after not getting Aaron Crow to sign last year.
2. Seattle Mariners: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
mac-unit: There is no surefire second pick in this draft, and a lot of what I’m reading has Dustin Ackley going second, but I wouldn’t want to risk that injury. I also don’t think he will make it as a first baseman, which is where the Mariners are weak in the minors. White has a fastball with movement and can reach 95 mph. He has a plus slider that he has confidence in, a curve he can throw for strikes, an average changeup that will need to improve, and a hard splitter, which is his best pitch. He has also been said to have a different type of sinker. That’s six pitches, and if he can improve his changeup fast he could be up in the majors sooner rather then later.
3. San Diego Padres: Dustin Ackley, OF/1B, North Carolina
thomasps3: I’m surprised by Seattle’s reluctance to take the sweet-swinging Ackley. He is the best pure hitter in the draft, and this past year has quelled the fears of scouts about his power, as he had hit 19 home runs at last count. He profiles as a premium defender in center field with his speed rating a 70 on the 20-80 scout scale. Ackley has the unique ability to square the ball on the barrel of the bat, and it has resulted in three straight years of .400 average. If he only ends up as a first baseman, he will still be a unique player that doesn’t have solid comparables because of his speed and his ability to make solid contact.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
mac-unit: There was a report that the Pirates have been looking closely at three pitchers and Crow was one of them. Unlike a year ago, his changeup is now a major league-type changeup, so outside of Strasburg he could have the quickest route to the majors. For that reason, I think the Pirates take him, since they need some help at starting pitching throughout their entire organization.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri
Steve-o: Bonus concerns be damned. The Orioles are not afraid to spend the money (see Wieters, Matt), and they generally take the best available prospect. Donavan Tate is considered here, but I’m reading they want another arm. Plus, I think Gibson’s age and development path make him fit better with their core of guys looking to peak in two-to-three years. Gibson has a plus slider, plus fastball in the low 90s, an average changeup, and excellent command. He is very projectable due to his size and control with a #2 starter ceiling. However, there are some scouts that see his average fastball velocity limiting him to being a #3 starter, and others who complain about his mechanics. Gibson fits in with Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta to build a formidable future rotation.
6. San Francisco Giants: Donavan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS (GA)
thomasps3: The best pure athlete in the draft. Tools? He has them coming out the wazoo. Outstanding runner, grading out as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. He also possesses a cannon for an arm that grades out as a plus tool. He also has the ability to make in-game adjustments that can only help speed his arrival to the show. He has outstanding bloodlines, with his father Lars having been a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. The purse strings will have to be opened wide, however, as Tate has been rumored to be seeking a signing bonus in the area of $6 million to sign him away from a two-sport commitment to the University of North Carolina.
7. Atlanta Braves: Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (GA)
Havok1517: Wheeler is a hometown guy the Braves just can’t help but select due to his talent and the ability for the Braves to get a small discount. He’s very projectable for a high schooler, with his 95 mph fastball, decent secondary offerings, and size. I personally don’t think he’s the best pitcher available, but he makes too much sense for the Braves. I personally believe that Tanner Scheppers, Rex Brothers, and Jacob Turner are all better pitcher selections here. The only other player that would have made sense was the already selected Donavan Tate, as the Braves are thin organizationally in premium outfielders.
8. Cincinnati Reds: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints
Havok1517: If Scheppers is still here, the Reds will be counting their lucky stars, as he’s likely one of only three college righties with ace potential in this draft, along with Strasburg and Crow. He certainly has the coolest name amongst prospects projected for the top few rounds, and the only thing keeping him from not going earlier is a past shoulder injury that is reportedly completely healed. Still, if healthy, his stuff and offerings are second only to Strasburg. If this were a larger market team, I’d probably be leaning towards USC’s Grant Green, as he’s the only elite middle infield bat in this draft, but he suffers from bonus demands.
9. Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Academy (MO)
thomasps3: Another prep power arm for the Tigers will provide them with a potent 1-2 combination for years to come with Rick Porcello. His fastball, which he carries easily into the late innings with no drop off in velocity, is usually parked at 92-95 mph, and he has touched 98 a few times this season. Additionally, his ease of motion and arm slot provide spectacular late life to the pitch. The reason I am such a fan of Turner is because he has the frame that allows for a good deal of projectability, which could bump up his velocity and the ability to break his curve off harder. Furthermore, he has had great coaching to this point, with former major leaguers Andy Benes and Todd Worrell’s sons also playing for Westminster. Signability is a factor; however, the Tigers know an ace when they see one, and he will most likely be their man.
10. Washington Nationals: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College
AEMRICH: After likely having to spend a record amount to sign Strasburg, the Nationals are going to have to go cheap and they can’t take the best player available approach. Sanchez is a solid defender with a good arm at catcher, and his bat has some power to it, but he still needs to work on his hitting abilities. This past year he really worked on his plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts from 66 to 32 at last check. This will be a similar pick as the Astros’ selection of Jason Castro last year, taking a catcher who has late-first round talent very early on. While I feel there are many better players available, the Nats need to make a pick that they can sign.
11. Colorado Rockies: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State
AEMRICH: The Rockies were in the World Series just a few short years ago and have fallen off the edge in a big way. Their rotation always seems to need help, and the Rockies have a recent history of selecting college pitchers in the first round, so I expect the trend will continue. Leake gives the Rockies a nice future rotation of Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Christan Freidrich, Jhoylus Chacin, and Leake. Leake is a smart pitcher with a fastball that can hit 94 but sits lower than that, and he has a nice arsenal that includes a changeup, cutter, and slider. Leake has #2 potential written all over him.
12. Kansas City Royals: Grant Green, SS, USC
mac-unit: If it weren’t for a slow start to the 2009 season, Green would be a lock as a top-five pick. The Royals draft plans the past few years have been to select the best player available and Green is that. They are also pretty thin at shortstop throughout the organization. He is a potential 20-20 guy in the future when his power fully develops and he gets some professional coaching.
13. Oakland Athletics: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Caistrano Valley HS (CA)
Steve-o: Oakland is not afraid to shy away from high school arms, and with Tyler Matzek, they have a good one. Regarded as one of the best left-handed pitchers in this year’s draft, he even fits an organizational need for lefties. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he has three above-average pitches. His mechanics are generally regarded as clean, or at least as clean as any high school pitcher. There may be a signability issue since he has committed to Oregon, but Oakland will get it done. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went as high as the fifth pick.
14. Texas Rangers: Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood HS (TX)
thomasps3: This stud, besides being straight out of the Rangers home state, flashes a plus-plus fastball that regularly sits at 93-95 mph, and has touched 97 a few times this year. Effortless arm action will allow him to command his pitches more than he has needed to at this point in his career, and his curve and changeup are developing nicely and will be, with a bit more refinement, considered plus pitches. Besides having great makeup, he is extremely athletic and will maintain a minimal risk for injury, at least for a prep pitcher. Signability is another thing in his favor, as their are no rumors of a holdout or a protracted negotiation, and that may end up forcing the Nationals’ hand with the tenth pick, if he is still available.
15. Cleveland Indians: Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb
AEMRICH: The Indians don’t have a great rotation in the majors, and they have a couple up-and-coming arms in the minors but will need to add some more power arms to their rotation. Brothers has a nice fastball in the 94-96 mph range and a good slider in the mid 80s to complement it. His delivery is not smooth and needs some work. A lefty who can throw 97 with a nasty slider could also become a dominant closer, and I think the Indians would be happy with that as well, as they need the bullpen help in a big way.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot HS (FL)
Havok1517: The Diamondbacks are in search of a young power bat at the hot corner and Borchering fits the bill best. Borchering is also one prospect that has been scorching up draft charts since his Cape Cod performance. He’s a tall, muscular, power hitter that will continue to get bigger and has been compared to Chipper Jones. The D-Backs should see Borchering as a cornerstone in the middle of their order in the future. If Borchering isn’t available at pick number 16, then I think Arizona takes two prep pitchers rather than overdraft on the next best third basemen, Chris Dominguez and Matt Davidson.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Santa Monica HS (CA)
Havok1517: I think the Diamondbacks will choose between two California prep arms, Skaggs or Matt Hobgood. Hobgood pretty much will come as is, since his body is unlikely to change much, but Skaggs still has the frame to grow on and increase velocity. Hobgood is likely the better pitcher right now but Skaggs appears to be the better future pick. All skills being the same, I’d still choose the rarer lefty over the righty just about every time.
18. Florida Marlins: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
mac-unit: He has improved his command, and this season it has gotten even better as the year has gone on. His fastball, slider, and changeup are all quality pitches and he has a curve that he could develop. There were rumors he had a hurt elbow when he didn’t throw in the fall after last season, but he has been healthy all year. His real weakness is that he probably won’t throw any harder than he does now, and there has been doubt he would be able to develop his secondary stuff more than it already has been.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma St
Steve-o: Although they have deviated recently from drafting from the college ranks, the Cards still have a strong history of taking college pitchers. I think they stick with that history here and fill a need in the organization for a lefty. Andy Oliver is the high upside arm they are looking for. He has velocity in the 92-97 mph range with good movement. He also has a good slider, but apparently lost his curveball this year. He’s a Boras client, but if there was ever anyone looking to leave college, it’s this guy.
20. Toronto Blue Jays: Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS (TX)
thomasps3: The Blue Jays are going to pop this elite, early first-rounder here in hopes that he can team up with Bret Cecil and Roy Halladay for a formidable 1-2-3 trio. Featuring a mid 90s plus-fastball with good late life, Purke rates a bit lower for me because he throws with a bit more effort than Tyler Matzek. However, he makes up for it with a bulldog mentality and a two-plane slider that also grades out as an average major league pitch and could eventually become a plus pitch. Additionally, his 6′3, 180-lb frame, allows for some projectability, which could bump his velocity up to the mid-to-high 90s. One risk is that he could be tough to sign away from his commitment at Texas Christian. However, with the new rules in place, the Blue Jays feel that his talent outweighs the risk that they won’t be able to sign him away from his college commitment.
21. Houston Astros: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford
Havok1517: Storen should be the pick here as he could help the Astros right now and would be the front-runner to replace Jose Valverde if he’s traded this year or when he walks away in free agency. Storen is the top relief prospect in the upcoming draft and he served as Stanford’s closer this year with great results. He’ll be gone if they wait.
22. Minnesota Twins: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State
AEMRICH: Jenkins could go much higher in the draft and I couldn’t pass him up here. He has two plus pitches and solid command. He has a big body (6′4″, 225-lb) that makes him comparable to Joe Blanton with better command. He uses a two- and four-seam fastball that sits at 90-94 mph, but he can pull back and hit 96. He has an okay changeup that needs some work, and he also has a hard slider that is an out pitch. With good command and four pitches, I think he will move quickly through the system.
23. Chicago White Sox: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana
mac-unit: In his junior year, Arnett’s fastball has constantly hit 91-93 mph and has touched 96. He has a slider that could be a great MLB pitch if he can make his delivery and release point more consistent. He currently has no changeup since the school had him add a splitter, but he has thrown a straight changeup in the past so he could go back to it. He was a late riser, so people may be weary of him, and he may take a longer route to the minors (2.5/3 years) than other college pitchers since he does have come control issues.
24. Los Angeles Angels: Matt Davidson, 3B/1B, Yucaipa HS (CA)
Steve-o: This pick makes a lot of sense for the Angels. It fills a position of need, the guy will probably sign for this slot, and it’s a guy that people have a lot of questions about (fitting the Angels bizarre drafting in years past). He’s got great power potential but will likely move over to first base because of his defensive ability. He’s an average runner with an average arm, but it’s possible he sticks at third base. Some scouts are concerned about a long swing, but he can hit the ball pretty far.
25. Los Angeles Angels: Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento St
thomasps3: The 6′4″, 185-lb Wheeler is a product of the grinder type of program Sacramento State churns out seemingly every year. His bat is his best tool, profiling as a plus tool at the MLB-level. He can probably man center field earlier in his career, but as he matures, his average arm will probably force a move to left field. He also has decent speed, and brings a drive that is infectious along with a bulldog mentality. Having seen him twice last year on the Cape, I was very, very impressed with his ability to square up the ball on the barrel, and his ability to hustle.
26. Milwaukee Brewers: Jared Mitchell, OF, LSU
Steve-o: The Brewers generally take the best player available and in this draft at this time I think that’s Jared Mitchell. The Brewers have organizational strength at center field, but that won’t stop them from making this pick if he’s available. He’s a plus-plus runner with a chance to stick at center field because of his speed, but his arm is a little weak. His power can develop and he’s got a real quick bat. He’s also considered one of the more athletic outfielders in the draft, having played wide receiver for the LSU Tigers. His baseball skills haven’t developed to the point where you would like a college outfielder to be at, but the Brewers can’t pass up his talent in this spot. I don’t think he’ll last this long in the real draft.
27. Seattle Mariners: James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky
mac-unit: I was going to go catcher but I think the person I was looking at will be there at pick number 33. Paxton has a plus fastball that has been clocked anywhere from 93 to 98 mph. His second pitch is a hard, tight slider. There are questions about how he will develop his third pitch, though he has shown a changeup a few times this year. He’s shown that he has the stamina to be a starter this season and that his previous knee issue no longer bothers him. He is a little more raw than most first-round college pitchers, but a lefty who can touch 98 while having the stamina to start does not come around often, so I think the Mariners would be fine with letting him learn in the minors and potentially getting a number-two starter by the end of the 2013 season.
28. Boston Red Sox: Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS (CA)
Havok1517: One of the few needs in the Red Sox organization is at catcher. They currently have Jason Varitek and George Kottaras but little else. Therefore, the only question remaining is who the Red Sox will select. So, lets pick the Italian. Boston College’s Tony Sanchez could also be a possibility here in the actual draft.
29. New York Yankees: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco HS (CA)
AEMRICH: After failing to sign first pick Gerrit Cole last year, the Yanks go after Hobgood, who also might be a tough sign. He has a big body (6′4″, 240 lbs). His fastball sits between 90-94 mph and can touch 95, and he has a sharp curveball. He needs to refine his command as many high school pitchers do. He has a lot of potential but is a little risky in the first round — seems like a Yanks player to me.
30. Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers, C, Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
thomasps3: Linked to several different catchers, the Rays will probably opt for a guy who has the bat to succeed, even if his catching tools don’t develop as planned. He profiles, in his peak, as a plus hitter, with a repeatable swing and strong forearms and wrists that will allow him to become a dependable hitter with more than a little pop. His arm is a plus tool that consistently provides sub 2.0 second pop times to second. Overall, one of the safer prep bats in the draft this year.
31. Chicago Cubs: Slade Heathcott, OF, Texarkana HS (TX)
mac-unit: If it weren’t for off-the-field character issues, he would be a sure first rounder in this draft. He can play all three outfield spots well, but I think he will eventually settle into a corner. He has shown plus speed and good instincts on the base paths, even with a knee brace. It looks like he could develop some solid power as well. It will take a nice signing bonus to sign him away from LSU, where they have agreed to let him be a two-way player, but the Cubs signed Samardzija so they should be able to get the job done. I should also add he is a lefty who can hit 95 mph on the mound and has a good curve, so there is an outside chance some team will draft him to develop him as a pitcher.
32. Colorado Rockies: Brett Jackson, OF, California
Steve-o: With a college arm already taken at the 11 slot, the Rockies will follow their course of sticking to college bats. They need outfielders, and Jackson is the best one on the board at this time. He’s a big fella with average power, average speed, and a plus arm. He strikes out a little too often, but he has the power and skills to develop into a number-three type hitter. I think they would consider Kentrail Davis here, but his bonus demands will keep the Rockies from taking him.
OK, I hope you enjoyed these Cafe mock drafters look at this year’s 2009 First-Year Player draft. Check back in next week with a return to the told tried-and-true format of Future Rookies. Till then, good luck!
R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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