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2005 Major League Draft

With the amateur draft three days away, I figured it was time to make a post on the 2005 Major League Draft. The Diamondbacks have the first pick in the draft and while they have been making public overtures about their intention of taking Justin Upton with the first pick , they have been heavily scouting the top three college pitchers in the nation (Luke Hochevar, Mike Pelfrey and Craig Hansen). What direction the Mariners take is going to weigh heavily on Arizona's first pick.

Profiled below are the top seven players available in the draft (on most draft boards and ranking charts). All seven have a real possibility of being drafted by the Mariners. Following the player profiles is a breakdown and analysis of the possible direction the clubs with the first five picks in the draft may take.  

Justin Upton - (Great Bridge High School):
The best overall talent in the draft, the 18 year old shortstop should be one of the top three players selected. Justin has been in the press and on scouting reports for the past two seasons, thanks in part to his brothers (B.J. Upton) publicity and success as the second overall pick in 2002. Scouts have long proclaimed Justin the more gifted of the two brothers and that is quite the compliment.

A shortstop the majority of his high school career, Justin moved to third late in the season. There are those who believe a position switch is imminent and there are those who think that as he matures his play at short will improve. He has a strong but erratic arm. His incredible speed allows him to cover significant ground up the middle, but until he can harness his throws, it doesn't help much. Centerfield will more than likely be where he ends up, where his amazing speed and power potential will make him one of the top talents in the minor leagues once he signs.

Alex Gordon - (University of Nebraska):  
The top player on most teams draft boards and probably the best player available in the draft (right now). If Gordon's 2004 season is like Apocalypse Now, his 2005 season is like Apocalypse Now Redux. Gordon has developed into one of the best college hitters in the nation, leading the Huskers in every offensive category (including triples and stolen bases). He has illustrated a very good eye at the plate, serious power potential and has good speed and instincts on the base paths.

Gordon has gotten praise for his improved play at third this season, but there are some doubts that he will be able to stick at the position. He has a strong arm but his glove work isn't anything to get overly excited about. A move to first base is likely, although he could turn up in left field (depending on who drafts him). His offensive skill set has drawn comparisons to Mark Teixeira and scouts believe his numbers will translate into major league success.

One of the hardest transitions for prep athletes to make is the switch from aluminum to wooden bats. Yet another feather in his cap, Gordon hit .388 with 4 HR (67 AB) in the 2004 Olympic trails, using a wood bat.

Gordon and the Huskers are currently playing in the NCAA Regionals (he went 0-4 with an error yesterday) and will take on Creighton tonight at 5:05 PM PST.

Cameron Maybin - (TC Roberson High School):
Maybin is the perfect definition of a five-tool talent. Despite his athletic ability, his baseball skills are still raw. He is the type of player that teams can easily fall in love with based on potential stardom, but he will be a project for any team who drafts him.

His lanky 6'4" frame projects for some serious power potential. He has incredible speed, second only to Justin Upton in this year's draft pool. He possesses a very strong arm (making him a solid fit for center or right field) and plays a very good centerfield. He has drawn comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr., Daryl Strawberry (sans the coke habit) and Eric Davis at this point in their careers and all of which turned out to be pretty good ballplayers.

There is no questioning Maybin's maturity, as most scouts are labeling him as a player with a plus makeup. This bodes well for a player who is going to need some work. For an 18 year old poised to become a millionaire, Maybin has handled the situation incredibly.

Maybin had been submitting an online journal for over the past month and it is interesting to see inside the process from his standpoint.

Troy Tulowitzki - (Long Beach State):
The 6'3" shortstop from Long Beach State has been climbing up draft boards over the past month. Tulowitzki suffered a broken hamate bone early in the season and missed 20 games and struggled a bit after returning. Tulo has impressed scouts with his offensive and defensive ability, showing an ability to hit for power to all fields and having a plus-plus arm at short. His coaches tout his leadership ability and all-or-nothing style of play.

The analyses of his defensive abilities have been mixed, but the chances of him moving off short are next to none. His glove work is solid, but not spectacular. He ranges to his right extremely well and has shown the ability to make accurate off-balance throws across his body.

He played in one of the most favorable pitchers parks in college baseball and was able to post some respectable power numbers (.603 SLG %). His patience needs a little work and his strikeout numbers are a cause for serious concern (struck out every 4.7 AB).

He has received comparisons ranging between ex-Long Beach State shortstop Bobby Crosby and Miguel Tejada. In my opinion, his offensive ceiling isn't as high as some are suggesting, but he should be a safe pick for whoever selects him.

Ryan Zimmerman - (University of Virginia):
A spectacular defensive third baseman, who can hit well enough to stick in a line-up but doesn't project as a middle of the order guy. Zimmerman has outstanding range to both his left and his right and has a strong and accurate arm. His defensive abilities at the hot corner has drawn comparisons to Scott Rolen.

His offensive ability has some scouts worried, as he doesn't possess the traditional pure power that teams like from their corner spots. He offsets the lack of pure power with gap power (18 2B and 4 3B) and a good eye at the plate (31/14 BB/K ratio). He did increase his home run totals to six this season, after hitting just one his previous two years combined, so his power may just now be developing.

Because of his range and arm strength, some scouts believe that Zimmerman could make the transition from third to shortstop, where his offensive abilities would be better suited. Either way, he is much better with the glove than with the bat.

Mike Pelfrey - (Witchita State):
At 6'7" and 215 pounds, Pelfrey is your prototypical tall lanky power arm that teams fall in love with. The lanky right hander finished his junior season with a 12-3 mark, posting a 1.93 ERA and a 143/30 K/BB ratio in 139.2 IP.

The big right hander has three solid pitches that he can throw for strikes. His plus-fastball is his best pitch, reaching the lower 90's with regularity and late movement. Scouts believe that under the tutelage of major league instructors that he could easily add another couple of MPH to his fastball. He also possesses a plus-slider that he throws in the mid 80's. He worked on developing his changeup this year and the emergence of the pitch gives him another weapon.

His delivery and mechanics are sound and aside from some minor injuries (not to his pitching arm) in college, has been a reliable arm. He will take some developmental time, somewhere in the vicinity of one to two years, but has a future as a solid number 2 or 3 pitcher. Since Scott Boras is his agent, he could fall further in the draft than he should.

Luke Hochevar - (University of Tennessee):
Another tall right handed starting pitcher who can throw low 90's heat. Hochevar, 6'5" and 205 pounds, has had a terrific season junior season, posting a 15-2 mark, with a 2.13 ERA and a 140/46 K/BB ratio in 126.2 IP.

Probably the most polished pitcher available in the draft. His best pitches are his great curveball and slider. He typically works in the low 90's with his fastball and compliments his other pitches with his above average change-up. He struggled with command at times this season, but was able to work through the problems and still put together a solid season.

He should be one of the top two pitchers selected, but like Pelfrey, is represented by Scott Boras and could fall into the middle of the first round.

Team Analysis:

First Pick - Arizona Diamondbacks
It appears that the Diamondbacks are leaning toward taking Justin Upton with the first pick in this years draft, but scouting director Mike Rizzo has left the door open for the DBacks to take one of the top three college pitchers with the first pick. The Diamondbacks are stocked with talented young corner infield and outfield prospects, making Alex Gordon redundant (if you buy into that theory). There were rumors that Boras was seeking a sign and draft agreement as part of the Stephen Drew negotiations, where Drew would sign in exchange for the DBacks taking a Boras client with the first selection (see: Mike Pelfrey). The DBacks say no such agreement exists, but front office execs resemble ventriloquist puppets when dealing with personnel matters.

The DBacks have scouts attending all three of the top college pitchers games this weekend and all three pitched yesterday. Pelfrey allowed 2 runs, struck out 8 and walked two in a 2-1 loss. Hochevar was cruising until the seventh inning when he gave up four of his five runs. He went 8 innings, allowed 5 ER and struck out 9 and walked 4 in a 7-5 win. Craig Hansen (long rumored to be a favorite in Arizona) made a rare start yesterday, gave up 3 ER over 7 innings, walking three and striking out 8 in a 5-3 win.

Projected pick: Justin Upton
Other Possibilities - Mike Pelfrey, Luke Hochevar, Craig Hansen

The DBacks will probably take Upton with this pick, but it is not as sure a thing as a couple weeks ago. With the recent signing of Drew (who has questions surrounding his ability to play short at the ML level), and if the DBacks take Upton, they would have paid big money to two players who figure to have a position switch in their future. If Upton is drafted, the DBacks will allow both to attempt to cement themselves as the long-term solutions at the position, with the winner sticking at shortstop and the loser moving to centerfield. Either way, the DBacks would end up winners.

Just like San Diego surprised everyone by drafting Matt Bush with the first pick in the draft last season, it's possible that Arizona could surprise this year, passing on Gordon and Upton and taking one of the top pitchers.

Second Pick - Kansas City Royals
Trying to understand the direction the Royals are going to take is like trying to see your reflection in mud. More than likely, this is the case because the Royals don't have a clue as to which direction they are going to take. There have been rumors that owner Daniel Glass does not want to open up the purse strings and pay out a large signing bonus for a top talent, contradicting previous public statements that money is not a factor.

As I sit here typing this, word has the Royals leaning towards the extremely raw, yet extremely talented Cameron Maybin with the pick, although no formal decision has been made. One possible reason could be the skepticism surrounding the DBacks public proclamation that they will take Upton with the first pick (see: Boras/Drew agreement). Maybin's signability risk is much lower than Gordon and Upton, so that might play a major factor in their decision.

Another reason they may be focusing on Maybin instead of Gordon is similar to that of the DBacks. They have some depth up and down the organizational chart at the corner infield positions, with last years first round pick Billy Butler, Justin Huber, Kila Kaaihue (have you seen his Cal League performance?) in the minors and Mark Teahan, Mike Sweeney and Ken Harvey at the major league level.

There is also an off chance that the Royals may surprise and take a pitcher like Luke Hochevar or Mike Pelfrey with this pick, but that seems highly unlikely. If Upton is available, the Royals will have a difficult time passing on him.  

Projected Pick: Cameron Maybin (currently 55% in favor of Maybin, 45% in Gordon)
Other Possibilities - Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Pelfrey, Cliff Pennington, Cesar Carrillo

Expect Gordon or Maybin to be taken with this pick, with Maybin looking like the early favorite by a slim margin. Honestly, I can't fathom why Kansas City will pass on Gordon, as it will be a PR nightmare for a club who has taken some serious flak in the past couple of weeks. However, they have made some disastrous picks in the past and Baird is obsessed with toolsy high-ceiling players. There have been rumors that the Royals may have been trying to get either Cliff Pennington or Cesar Carrillo signed to a pre-draft deal, but the Royals have adamantly denied these rumors.

Third Pick - Seattle Mariners
Where do I start? The M's once promising minor league system has developed more holes than a block of swiss cheese. It's no secret that the Mariners are enamored with Alex Gordon and Justin Upton and if either one of them were to fall into their laps with the third pick, the M's war room would probably break into a scene from Riverdance. Since AZ is likely to take Upton and KC at least thinking about Maybin, let's assume for a minute that Alex Gordon falls to the M's. Logic tells us that he would more than likely shift to left field, since Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson are signed to multi-year contracts, so the team can get his bat into the line-up as soon as possible.

The M's have a secondary plan in case Gordon and Upton are off the board, with Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki the likely target. With the money the team has invested on shortstops Adam Jones (who is killing the ball this season), last years top draft choice Matt Tuiasasopo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt (to a much lesser extent) who are already in the system, drafting another shortstop seems redundant, especially with other needs that need to be addressed and Tulowitzki isn't exactly someone to get overly excited about. Yes, shortstops are valuable commodities; they can be moved around the diamond easier than other athletes and good ones are hard to find (and if you do find one, retaining them becomes a problem as we all know). But the team is going to have to address other areas of concern at some point.

If the M's are truly interested in drafting a shortstop, I hope that they have at least put some thought and consideration into the possibility of Jeff Zimmerman and see if he can't make the transition to short. But, this is the outside of the box thinking that the M's aren't exactly known for.

If the choice was squarely on my shoulders and Gordon and Upton were off the board, I would take a serious look at Mike Pelfrey. The once promising wave of young arms in the Seattle system are either injured or, well, injured. Pelfrey, a Scott Boras client, would be the ideal candidate, giving the Seattle system another hard throwing starter to compliment Felix Hernandez and Bobby Livingston in the next two years.

Projected Pick: Alex Gordon (if available)
Other Possibilities - Troy Tulowitzki, Luke Hochevar, Mike Pelfrey

The M's will take Gordon if he is available at this spot. If not, I expect them to take Tulowitzki. A high quality arm like Pelfrey would be nice, but with the organizations apparent lack of knowledge pertaining to protecting young arms and with King Felix, Bobby Livingston and the rest of the M*A*S*H unit (Nageotte, Blackley, Soriano) waiting in the wings, the M's may want to address their woeful offense first. Cameron Maybin probably isn't an option, as the club would like to draft someone who can make an impact in the next year or two.  

Fourth Pick - Washington Nationals
Will Jim Bowden draft an outfielder to go along with the rest of his collection? He might, especially if Maybin is available. Offense appears to be what the Nationals are looking for and have long been rumored to be interested in third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. For a team without a true power threat in the majors or high minors, I don't think a corner glove man is the best decision for them at this spot (unless they are considering moving him to short).

If Troy Tulowitzki is available, he seems like the perfect fit. The Nationals currently have Cristian Guzman sucking up money at short and don't have anyone in the minors close to helping. Tulowitzki could be ready in a year or two and that should make him an attractive option for the Nationals.

Projected Pick - Ryan Zimmerman
Other possibilities - Troy Tulowitzki, Cameron Maybin

Bowden is highly unpredictable, especially when it comes to talent evaluation. His infatuation with toolsy outfielders could lead him to take Maybin if available. Zimmerman or Tulowitzki appear to be the direction the Nationals will go, with Zimmerman the more likely choice.

Fifth Pick - Milwaukee Brewers
Doug Melvin is at the mercy of the first four teams as he will more than likely take the best player on the board. The Brewers need help all over the diamond and will take whoever they can, no matter the position.

Mike Pelfrey or Luke Hochevar seem like logical choices as both could contribute within a year or two. With an influx of good young talent coming up in the next three years, adding a compliment to Ben Sheets would be ideal. If Maybin falls to the fifth spot, the Brewers will probably snag him. He fits into their recent draft philosophy; young toolsy athletes with a ton of potential. They have also been rumored to be scouting third baseman Ryan Braun. Jeff Clement could poke his head into the equation here, although questions surrounding his ability to play catcher may scare the Brewers off.    

Projected Pick - Cameron Maybin
Other possibilities - Luke Hochevar, Mike Pelfrey, Ryan Braun

Depending on what Arizona does with their first pick, Milwaukee could end up with Maybin, Zimmerman, Pelfrey or Hochevar. Any of the four would make Melvin happy and would provide the Brewers with another piece to their promising future.