Note: Picks marked with ** are the ones I can only see with my advanced Scouting Department (budget of 6, which is basically my 8 year-old nephew in Florida reading "HBD America" a couple of times a month), so take my comments with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, I try to render an opinion on all picks if for no other value than entertainment.
1. Detroit Retro Gangstaz - Tomas Park, SP: The main thing you want to do with a #1 pick is NOT SCREW IT UP, so mission accomplished for the Gangstaz. In Park, they get a future ace, although it looks like it will be at least 3 seasons before his ML debut. Park features very good control along with excellent splits versus both righties and lefties. No dominant pitch, but 3 that are decent-to-good. Keeps it down pretty well. Good health and makeup predict he'll get close to projections. Bonus: eventually becomes a big innings-eater capable of complete games. GRADE A.
2. Toledo Mud Hens - Alexander Browning**, SP/RP: At bare minimum, he'll be among the most unique pitchers in Belle; when he matures, he looks like he'll be able to throw 50-55 pitches every other day, and perhaps as many as 100 every third day. More importantly, they'll be GOOD pitches. His right split looks like it may be a bit lower than you'd like for a 2nd pick, but a superior first pitch and good 2nd pitch should make up for that. High health and makeup give him a good chance to reach projections. GRADE: B+
3. San Diego Surf Babies - Willis Atkins**, SP: Atkins is a soft-toss junkballer with an arsenal of 4 good pitches, all of which dart downward. His control and splits aren't that great, and he looks like he's going to be better against lefties than righties. Overall, a rather strange player. Although I don't think he'll be great - yes, there were much better picks available here - I do think he'll be the kind of player who has some quite good seasons (mixed with some really bad ones). GRADE C
4. Baltimore Orioles - Amp Faulk, SS: The first position player taken looks like he'll develop into a Gold Glove 3B with superb contact skills, but it's not clear he'll become a great hitter. His batting eye is s0-so, and his splits are really going to have to go to get to the level you want in a #4 pick. Fortunately his makeup will contribute to that development...lavish a lot of expensive minor-league coaching on him and he just might reach All-Star status. Grade B
5. Little Rock Pebbles - Wade Charles**, SP: Interesting combination of extreme control and extreme velocity. Combine that with 3 pretty good pitches and a vR that could conceivably reach the low 80's, and you just might have something special here. Lefties will certainly give him some trouble, but he should be at least adequate against them. Also keeps the ball down fairly well...I think the Pebbles hit a homer with this one. GRADE A
6. Columbus Criminals - Gil Schofield**, SP: The locker-room scene after this guy's pro debut could be right out of Bull Durham (except for the part about walking 18 and hitting the bull mascot twice):
Larry Hockett: (while deflating the big plastic Oscar Meyer Wiener prop) "But Joe...this kid has some serious shit."
Joe Riggins: "Yeah (nodding and grinning while sipping a Miller)...serious shit."
Once again, my nephew in Florida isn't the most accurate advance scouting department, but he's telling me this could be the first guy I've seen in HBD to reach ratings of 100 on both control and vR. Serious shit indeed. His pitches are just OK and not projected to get a lot better, but I don't think that will matter if that control and vR come through. And there's the catch...42 health. No doubt a team or 2 passed on him for that reason. I think $20MM training and medical budgets just became mandatory for Columbus for the next 15 seasons. Still, you play big, you win big. GRADE A+
7. Mexico City Red Hot - Armando Franco, CF: Despite paltry splits, the Red Hots take a shot at a power-hitting CF with the 7th pick. Franco's range will eventually get to true CF territory, although I doubt his glove will. At the plate, he'll make good contact and draw his share of free passes, and the power will be superior. I worry about those splits, though - my college scouts show that projected vR at 41 - awfully low for a major league hitter. If you can get away with it anywhere, though, it's for a power-hitting CF or SS. GRADE B.
8. New York Necromancers - Jerry Strong, SP: The Necromancers add some much-needed pitching to their position-rich farm system. Should develop into a solid #2 or #3 starter with a decent 4-pitch assortment and good splits. His control has a long way to go to reach projections, but should get to a respectable low-to-mid 70's level. He won't get a lot of punchouts and occasionally "misses high" (= home runs). When his DUR and STA top out, he'll be able to notch 225+ innings. GRADE B+
9. Rochester Replacements - Francis Heredia**, RF: Probably the best hitter in this draft class, he projects to 80's contact and power, mid-70's eye and low 70's splits. Righty pitchers give him the most trouble - the key to his value is how much he improves there. Health and makeup are grade A, and he'll be a very good fielder with a plus arm in right. Solid speed and baserunning ratings are a nice bonus...this is the best all-around position player in this year's class. GRADE A+ - BARGAIN PICK
10. Helena Associates - Yuniesky Jiminez**, RP: Helena nabs a big-innings reliever. Like a lot of pitchers in this draft, has a long way to go and won't approach some of his projected ratings. Control should eventually top 80, and his fastball/sinker pitch duo will be very good. Already keeps the ball down well. If there's a flaw here, it's with his effectiveness against righties. With good development, though, it should be good enough. Future 120-inning setup guy. GRADE A.
11. Nashville Music City Ramblers - Rudy Moss, 2B: Gangstaz scouts had Moss all the way down at #35, citing less-than-inspiring splits (especially against lefties). Perhaps Ramblers' scouts were a little seduced by an OVR projection of 80 (or therabouts)? Still, a guy who gets to 80 range and low 70's for glove and contact should find steady work as a ML 2B. Offerman (#12) though, would have been a much better choice if available. Don't hate the pick, just guessing that much better choices were available here. GRADE C
12. San Juan Senators - Buddy Offerman, 3B: Pretty big steal to get this guy here (I had Offerman #2 on my board...probably a bit high but I didn't see 6 of the top 10). Switch-hitter is already well-advanced; with splits at 60, they should have no trouble reaching mid-to-upper-70's. Excellent power for an infielder, and a decent batting eye. Defensively, he should be at least a better-than-average 3B - great glove but a slightly underpowered arm - a Gold Glove or 2 is not out of the question. Bonus points: he'll be an ironman, possibly getting to 90+ DUR, and extremely good health and makeup point to max development. GRADE A+ BARGAIN PICK
13. Cincinnati Waste Managers - Fu-Te Cheng, SS: First true SS taken, and looks to be a good one. His defensive ratings, with the exception of Glove, should easily get to or surpass the recommended 85 for a SS, and the Glove might. The development concern here is that 38 makeup rating. On offense, he'll be better than most SS's against righties but barely adequate against LHP - he may end up in a platoon. In a weak draft, though, a solid pick at #13. Grade B+
14. Burlington Lake Monsters - Travis Riley, 2B: Somewhat like the Moss pick at 11, although I think Riley will end up being a much better hitter - he might get to 70 on both splits. He'll be a pretty good ML 2B, hit .250-.270, maybe have a .290 season or 2. DUR will make him a little short of a full time player, but that's a minor gripe. Makeup in the 60's may knock a point or 2 off projections. GRADE B-
15. Jacksonville Jinxed - Juan Gonzalez**, SP: This one has me confused. You take a guy with a vR of 35 with the 15th pick? With good development (and luck on the injury front), that vR maybe reaches 60. On the upside, his pitches could offset that...IF they develop completely (but pitches don't). Then there's the 45 health. So, this guy needs really big development to be a good ML pitcher, and his development is a big risk. The first Red Herring of the Draft.
16. Vancouver Victory - Albert Dominguez**, P: Another big-innings reliever...like 35-pitches-every-day big. Unlike many of the pitchers in this draft, he has ratings that are starting at high enough levels that he could reach projections. If that happens (and with his high health and makeup I'd say he has a good shot), he could be very, very good - high 80's control, low 80's splits, 3 pitches ranging from very good to decent. If he has a weakness, it's that he's a flyball pitcher, although he should be able to improve that in time. Minor flaw compared to all the positives. GRADE A+
17. Portland Bar & Grillers - Kyle Adams, SS: Would've liked this pick a lot better if his Glove was starting at 56 instead of 46, but it could still get to adequate ML 3B territory. Certainly will get there on the range and arm ratings. Would like to see better potential batting splits, but contact and eye could reach pretty nice levels. I could see this guy becoming an everyday 3B who hits .270...not much power, though. At this point in this draft, a safe pick. GRADE B
18. Augusta Polar Bears - Enrique Sojo, C: Very nice pick at this point. I know his right split is too low...it probably won't reach 50. So he might end up being just a versus-lefty platooner. But he doesn't have to be. He'll be good enough defensively that the Bears could give up some offense against RHP. And he'll handle lefties just fine. Bonus: he'll be the rare high-DUR catcher...he might be able to go out and catch 162 games at some point, depending on how his development advances. GRADE A
19. Jackson Holes - Britt Price, RP: Lefty RP features pinpoint control and a 4-seamer that's particularly tough on lefties. As with many southpaws, the question is how well he'll learn to handle righty batters. Given that his vR is starting at a respectable 53, he should be OK. My scouts suggest he'll top out at 61, which wouldn't be bad. If he gets to 65-67, he'll end up being at least a minor steal here. High makeup and health always help, and he has both. GRADE B+
20. San Juan Senators - Hugh Hearn, SS: Projects to be a very good defensive SS who can hit lefties...not too shabby for this draft. His glove and arm accuracy won't reach the lofty levels my scouts project (90's), but should be plenty good for a ML SS. Right handed pitchers totally befuddle him, but he should be better than average...maybe even pretty good...against lefties. This all makes him look like a vL platooner and defensive replacement. Not a bad role player pickup at 20. GRADE B+
21. Jackson Holes - Bonk Mouton, SP: The evil-twin SP version of Jackson's pick at #19, Britt Price: great control and vR's that may or may not get good enough. The difference is that Bonk isn't particularly great against lefties, and his first pitch is just good, not great. Doubtful he'll ever have good enough stuff to consistently get ML hitters out. GRADE C
22. Sioux Falls Stoned Presidents - Stu Wilkinson, RF: Already has pretty good power and batting eye - those will get to major league levels. He's so clueless against lefties, though, it's tough to see him attempting it - think Randy Johnson vs. John Kruk in the All-Star Game. He's got some work to do against righties, too, ut he could get there. His makeup will help but he'll need to avoid serious injury to make the Show. GRADE B
23. Boise Posse - Chad Lloyd**, SP: The draft is officially thinning out at this point. Lloyd has some potential, especially in the control department, but he has so far to improve that it's hard to see him getting past AAA. His splits could conceivably get to ML levels, if they were accompanied by a couple of outstanding pitches. Let's hope my advance scouts are missing on the low side for him (a decided possibility). Long shot to make the Show, but still not a bad pick here considering what's left. GRADE C
24. Memphis Mudcats - Brad Johnstone, SP: Possesses a pair of nice pitches - a 4-seamer and a slider - that look like they could reach major-league quality. And, he's pretty effective against righties...like, maybe 4-A effective. His control isn't much and lefties rip him. He'll enjoy a long and fruitful AAA career. GRADE C
25. Jackson Holes - Fred O'Connor, CF: Jackson gets a steal here. O'Connor's not going to win any MVP's, but he's good enough to be a ML centerfielder. He'll be pretty good defensively, and he'll hit righties well enough...he might be a .270 ML hitter. Lefties bother him and he doesn't have much power...probably tops out at 15 homers if he plays full time. The biggest knock on him - and the biggest threat to his ML hopes: injury-prone and looks like he always will be. Still, at this point in this draft, a major find. GRADE A+ BARGAIN PICK
26. Las Vegas 69ers - Zeus Wright, 3B: Pretty good find for this late. Zeus will have pretty good splits...maybe low 70's for both...but that's clearly his best feature. Not much power, average batting eye at best, and he'll definitely whiff more than his fair share of times. With time, he'll be an average 3B defensively. His health and makeup are both pretty high, so he could get pretty close to his projections. He could have a ML career as a utility guy. GRADE B+
27. Washington D.C. Revenge - Steven Romero, DH: Romero will be a decent major-league hitter - contact and splits in the 70's, with a batting eye that could get to the low 80's - but I'm not sure if he'll be good enough to be a major-league DH. I guess it's not impossible - he could have some .300 seasons with 15-20 homers, which isn't shabby. But certainly a little short of what you want in a DH, power-wise. Nonetheless, an excellent pick a this point. GRADE A
28. Syracuse Saltine Warriors - Bob Michalak, SP: This soft-tossing junkballer already has good command of a screwball and a slider; they'll reach big-league quality although his fastball probably won't. His control is decent and in time could be very good, although his splits (50ish to 60ish at best) will always limit his success. Thanks to pitch quality this is the kind of guy who could have some good seasons at the ML level...just don't bet on 2 in a row. GRADE A-
29. Pittburgh Alleghenys - Curtis Stein**, CF: Thanks to some pretty good power (outside chance to hit 80), a nice glove (maybe 80 again), and some blazing speed, this guy has a chance to make the majors. As what, I'm not sure...I don' think his range lets him play CF. He's not likely to hit lefties well enough to be a full time player. So,maybe a vR platooner, but more likely a defensive replacement/backup COF/pinch hitter/pinch runner type guy. Not bad at 29. GRADE B.
30. Salem Goonies - Ernest Adams**, SP: Projections don't look dreadful, but I think for most ratings he just has too far to go to make a ML pitcher. His control will be pretty decent, but those splits won't work. His cut fastball and sinker are good enough now that they could get to ML caliber, but I don't think they'll be good enough to make up for AAA splits. GRADE C.
31. Ottawa Ice - David Matos, SP/RP: With "maximum" development (and I'm saying a 25 -point improvement is "maximum"), this guy will have control/vL/vR of 76/71/70. Is that ML quality? With a couple of good pitches (which Matos will have), you bet. So he's a development task. His health and makeup are what they are (just OK), so playing time and coaching are critical. GRADE B+
32. Oakland Surenos - Derrick McFeeley**, RP: Looks to have very high potential (especially on the control and vR), but he has an awfully long way to go. These kinds of players are usually disappointing - regardless of potential, 25-28 points seems to be about the maximum improvement you ever see in ratings (and rarely that much). Still, if he improves 25 points in control and vR (to get to low 80's and low 70's), he'll be a ML pitcher. That's not a bad bet at this point in this draft. GRADE A-
33. New Orleans Privateers - Darren Weiland, RP: See previous comments on McFeeley. Weiland's vR upside is probably not quite as high as McFeeley's, although in reality they'll probably both and up in th low 70's. Weiland may be a bit more intriguing, with 2 pretty good pitches compared to McFeeley's one. Usefulness will be somewhat limited by his low STA and just-average DUR, but likely a ML pitcher nonetheless. GRADE A-
34. Cleveland Katanas - Enrique Gonzalez, 2B: The Katanas seem to have a talent for finding a bargain in the 30's every year, but this one is a real steal. Gonzalez will be a platooner, for sure, but a very good one. His contact, rR and eye ratings will make him a .280-.300 hitter, with an occasional gust up to .320. He'll be a good defensive 2B...throw in some SB's and excellent bunting skills and you've got a very nice player. I had him #7 on my board. GRADE A+ STEAL OF THE DRAFT