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by Aaron Gleeman
June 08, 2005
There are tons of great places to find information on this year's draft, from Baseball America to the boys over at Baseball Analysts, and I haven't followed college baseball closely enough this season to weigh in on much of anything when it comes to the players and where they were selected. With that said—and if ever there was an introduction to an article that made you want to not read the article, that was it—there are plenty of interesting notes and tidbits of information that can be taken from yesterday's proceedings.
Baseball America's top 10 draft-eligible players were taken first, second, 10th, seventh, ninth, 40th, fourth, 26th, 11th, and 12th, respectively. That is plenty confusing (more on this in a moment), but it's worth noting that BA's top three players last year were picked 12th, fourth, and 15th. As I said last year, the key to being a high draft pick in baseball is often to be good, but not too good. Or, perhaps more accurately, to be good and not represented by Scott Boras.
Tennessee right-hander Luke Hochevar—ranked sixth by BA and considered a top-10 player by just about everyone else—fell to the Dodgers with the 40th pick in the draft, because he is represented by Boras. Now, that's fine for the Dodgers, who will get a top-10 talent they have no business getting as long as they are willing to pay the price, but it's not so great for everyone else.
I have always assumed the draft was intended to provide the worst teams with the best players, with the idea that those teams could eventually stop being the worst with the help of those players. While that certainly happens—like this year with Justin Upton and Alex Gordon—it doesn't happen nearly enough, which is to say it doesn't happen every time. The idea that the Dodgers deserve a player like Hochevar at #40 because their big budget allows them more freedom to pay Boras' ransom makes me incredibly uneasy.
Wichita State right-hander Mike Pelfrey, whose 2004 interview with THT was re-printed here yesterday, ended up going to the Mets with the ninth pick. Pelfrey was considered by many to be the top pitcher available, but was just the third pitcher taken, behind Ricky Romero (sixth, Toronto) and Wade Townsend (eighth, Tampa Bay). He is also a Boras client.
BA amazingly nailed the first 18 picks in their final "mock draft." That may not seem so impressive, but if you've ever read the millions of NBA and NFL mock drafts that come out each year, you know that getting through almost two-thirds of the first round without getting something wrong is nearly unprecedented.
Remember all that fuss caused by the debates over stats versus scouting and high school versus college? Well, Billy Beane and the Oakland A's used their first two picks on college players, as expected, but then surprised everyone by taking high school pitchers with their next three picks (and four of their next five). This turns of events was surprising to me, but perhaps it shouldn't have been. With more and more teams focusing on college players in recent drafts, the pendulum of value has swung back towards taking high school players.
In other words, with St. Louis, Toronto, Oakland, Arizona, and Texas each taking more than 80% college players in last year's draft (and five other teams taking over 70% college guys), eventually college players go from being undervalued to being overvalued. People often mistake the theme of Moneyball as Beane and the A's being obsessed with walks and on-base percentages, when that is simply not the case. They are obsessed with whatever they feel is undervalued at the time, and for a long while that was walks and on-base percentages.
Similarly, for several years the A's (and other teams) felt that college players were undervalued relative to their high school counterparts and focused on drafting them early and often. Several different studies have shown that not to be the case at this point, which I'm guessing is why the A's are suddenly much more willing to draft not only high schoolers, but high school pitchers.
Meawhile the Cardinals, who had the most college-heavy draft of any team last year at 91.5%, took a high school outfielder with their first pick this year and used six of their first 10 selections on high schoolers. The Blue Jays, who ranked second with 90.4% college picks last year, actually stuck to that strategy this time around, using each of their first five picks on college players. Interestingly, four of Toronto's first five picks were from the SEC.
The most high school-heavy draft last year belonged to Milwaukee, who drafted just 40% college players. This time around the Brewers took Ryan Braun, a third baseman from the University of Miami, with the fifth overall selection and used four of their first five picks on college players.
After the Diamondbacks took Upton, a high school shortstop, with the #1 overall pick, the next eight picks were all college players. The Tigers' drafting of high school outfielder Cameron Maybin 10th started a brief run on high schoolers that lasted four picks. In all, just 10 of the first 30 picks were high school players, but then nine of the next 20 selections were spent on preps.
While it took until the sixth pick for Romero to come off the board as the first pitcher taken, 27 of the first 50 picks were used on pitchers. Six shortstops were taken in the first round, which makes sense since many good athletes spend time at shortstop before eventually out-growing the position as they get closer to the majors.
Here's a look at where the players on Craig Burley's THT Pre-Season All-America Team ended up:
Taylor Teagarden (C, Texas): Texas Rangers, #99
Mike Costanzo (1B, Coastal Carolina): Philadelphia Phillies, #65
Jed Lowrie (2B, Stanford): Boston Red Sox, #45
Alex Gordon (3B, Nebraska): Kansas City Royals, #2
Brent Lillibridge (SS, Washington): Pittsburgh Pirates, #121
Travis Buck (OF, Arizona State): Oakland A's, #36
Brad Corley (OF, Mississippi State): Pittsburgh Pirates, #59
Chris Rahl (OF, William and Mary): Arizona Diamondbacks, #141
Stephen Head (UTIL, Mississippi): Cleveland Indians, #62
Ryan Zimmerman (3B, Virginia): Washington Nationals, #4
Ricky Romero (LHP, Cal State Fullerton): Toronto Blue Jays, #6
Sam Lecure (RHP, Texas): Cincinnati Reds, #122
Cesar Ramos (LHP, Long Beach State): San Diego Padres, #35
Mike Pelfrey (RHP, Wichita State): New York Mets, #9
The Astros used their eighth-round pick on Koby Clemens, who as you might guess from the familiar last name and the first name beginning with the letter K, is the son of Roger Clemens. Koby was a high school third baseman from—where else?—Houston.
Similarly, St. Louis took Albert Pujols' cousin, high school outfielder Will Pujols, in the sixth round, and Milwaukee drafted former #2 overall pick Rickie Weeks' brother, high school infielder Jemele Weeks, in the eighth round. No word yet on which pick the Twins will waste on manager Ron Gardenhire's son, Toby Gardenhire, who hit .248 for the University of Illinois.
Aaron Gleeman is a freelance writer whose work can also be found regularly at AaronGleeman.com, Fox Sports, Rotoworld, and Insider Baseball. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.
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