Draft Winds Are Weirding Up
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 31, 2006
I was making some notes this afternoon after today's Radio Show and it hit me.
This is going to be a strange draft.
The top players are rarely taken in the consensus order of their long-term abilities, but usually the top 15 talents are always taken somewhere near where their talent's suggest they should land.
There are exceptions, such as Scott Boras clients looking for top dollar. But other than that, even when players drop with outside concerns, they typically disappear from the availability board in the appropriate selection range.
Not this year.
It's possible that as many as 10 first-round talents will be passed up for various reasons, falling to the second round. This vaults 10 second-round graded players into the top 30 of the draft.
I thought I was over-thinking things a bit until a friend of mine that works for a big-league club said the same thing to me tonight, completely unsolicited.
This draft is about money. Period. And it starts right at the very top.
The Kansas City Royals are toying with the idea of selecting Washington right-hander Tim Lincecum with the first overall pick. No, the Royals aren't that inept at recognizing talent, they have North Carolina's Andrew Miller at the top of their draft board, and have for 51 weeks.
Lincecum is cheaper. He's not dangling the idea of a major league contract and a $6 million signing bonus, though he may end up getting a major league deal and as much as $4 million in bonus money.
The Royals may be looking to save a buck, or two… million.
If they truly believe Lincecum is that close to Miller in talent, than it makes sense. Most disagree with that notion, but if the Royals see it that way, then fine.
But they don't. It's all about money.
I believe KC is posturing for more leverage with Miller. If he sees them working toward Lincecum at No. 1, Miller's camp will either have to call their bluff, lower the demands, or settle for No. 2 pick money in Colorado.
Miller has very little leverage with whatever team drafts him. He's not going to go back to school after being a top 5 pick. He's not going to earn more money by pitching his senior year in the ACC and jumping back into a better draft in 2007.
But I also think Kansas City would be making a mistake by passing up on Miller.
At No. 2, Colorado has three names they are strongly considering. Miller, in case KC loses their mind, Houston's Brad Lincoln (top, right) and Long Beach State's Evan Longoria.
Drafting Longoria that high would be a tragic error by Colorado. That organization needs pitching like Seattle needs pitching and Lincoln is a perfect fit for them.
So why are they so hot and heavy after Longoria?
You guessed it, the benjamins.
Longoria would be ecstatic if he were picked No. 2 overall and would likely be a quicker sign.
This sort of trend is happening all the way up and down the draft from top to bottom.
Many clubs are expected to draft whichever player in their top four or five they can sign for the cheapest and/or come to an agreement with before the draft even begins. This assures clubs of having their pick sealed and delivered without the headache of negotiations and the potential of bonus money going over the range in which they feel comfortable.
There's a little bit of these types of issues hanging over every draft. But it's running rampant in this year's edition.
M's fans should be really excited for the draft. Not just this year, but every year. It's a chance to add an exciting talent to the organization and make up ground on other clubs in the American League. The M's can do this because they have one of the stronger draft crews in the circuit.
No, Bob Fontaine is no miracle worker and he doesn't necessarily know more than many other scouting directors. But he's good at what he does, trusts his scouts, trusts his instincts, the ownership allows him to draft who he believes is the best player available without financial considerations, and Bill Bavasi stays out of his way.
Personally, I'm more excited for pick No. 49 than I am for No. 5. Partially because I'll already know who the No. 5 pick is going to be after the third pick is made and before Pittsburgh makes their choice, but partially because the club is going to add a really good player.
While this draft isn't all that good at the top, the strengths lie between picks 40 and 90. There is a lot of quality to be had in rounds 2 and 3.
It's conceivable that the M's could add their pitcher at five, whether it be Luke Hochevar, Brandon Morrow, Lincecum or Max Scherzer, and then add a talent such as prep lefty Kasey Kiker, RHP Bryan Morris, San Diego RHP Josh Butler, and prep outfielder Kyler Burke (left), who is among the more exciting high school stars in the draft.
Any of them would immediately step in as a top 10 prospect in the farm system, perhaps as high as No. 4.
Mock Draft 2.0 coming tomorrow and it's as different from 1.0 as Pac-Man is to Monopoly.