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Draft Winds Are Weirding Up

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 31, 2006

Trust me.

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.

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45 Responses to “Draft Winds Are Weirding Up”

  1. 1996Coug said

    Stop! You’re getting me jazzed for the MLB draft. The MLB draft?! God, I hope this all blows up and we get Miller.

  2. 1996Coug said

    Luke or Brandon at #5?? Why?

  3. Are you asking me why those are the two most likely option for the M’s at 5?

  4. 1996Coug said

    Yes.

  5. Well, Miller is likely to go No. 1, if KC passes and takes Lincecum, then Miller will go second to Colorado.

    That would leave Lincoln to Tampa and Pitt would choose between Drabek, Longoria, Morrow, Scherzer, even Bard…

    If Miller goes first, Colorado likely goes for Lincoln and Tampa and Pitt will take Lincecum and one of the group above, in any order.

    The most likely to fall to five are Bard, Longoria, Scherzer, Hochevar, Morrow — in that order of likelihood.

  6. 1996Coug said

    Someone else to watch out for and could be a real get in rounds 5-10 is Steve Marquardt, formally WA POY and HS All-American. He recently won the MVP of his wood bat summer league, is 6’3″-210, big feet, hits the ball a mile, and throws it 95. He projects as a 3B or corner outfielder. He had his heart set on going to UA, but UW started spreading rumors he was set on the draft and wouldn’t sign. By the time the draft came up, he’d been labeled as someone who was sketchy and was going to go in the 6th to the Rangers or A’s, but the low balled him. He’d be a SOLID pick up in the early rounds and he wants to sign real bad. Currently, slotted to go to Oregon State, if he doesn’t go high enough. He has offense written all over him. Something we’re a little thin in.

  7. Eh, there will be tons of talent available in rounds 2-5. Tons.

    They may be able to get a 1st round talent in round 2.

  8. 1996Coug said

    Just giving a local kid some love. Nothing would be better than to grab a first-round talent in rounds 5-10. I doubt there would be that many around then. He’s legit, just fallen off the radar.

  9. SM is not a 1st round talent. If he was, being so eager to sign, he’d get taken in round 1.

  10. 1996Coug said

    He was 1R-material in 2004 and he hasn’t done anything to suggest he’s fallen off. Someone at BA said he’s heard about attitude issues. That isn’t the case, I know him personally. We’ll see…

  11. Knuckles said

    Speaking of drafts, every time I see Conor Jackson hit the crap out of the ball, I wonder where Bob Melvin is so I can punch him in the mouth for wanting Greg Colbrunn so goddam bad…

  12. MatthewCarruth said

    Anyone else get the nagging feeling we’ll be watching in horror as the Ms pass up something good for something not good in this draft?

    Maybe it’s still the bitter taste in my mouth from 2001 when the Ms passed on David Wright for little Garciaparra.

  13. StanCorbit said

    What is the likelihood that Brad Lincoln falls to us at 5? If Tampa Bay and Colorado both pass would Pittsburgh draft him?

  14. Jerry said

    Jason,

    I am keeping my fingers crossed on Kiker in round 2 as well. Matt Latos or Colton Willems could be possibilities as well.

    After the first pick, I hope that the M’s look seriously at the prep players. That is where the talent should be.

  15. Edman said

    Matthew…..there is no worry of that as long as Fontaine is running the draft.

    I really get to hate the “poor us” attitude…..as if there is always failure, dispite the blooms of roses that surround.

  16. dnc said

    I agree with Edman. With this regime, I’m very confident heading into the draft.

  17. MatthewCarruth said

    I’m as confident about the draft as I am anything else Ms related. It’s just damning with faint praise. I have no qualms about Fontaine, I just worry that someone higher up will do something to screw it up. It is the Ms.

  18. Honestly – I disagree Jerry

    At this point, the M’s need to play Moneyball A’s style in the draft. Go for proven College guys who product results at all the levels they’ve played at and project well. They need to get this slide untracked and the way to do that is to get guys who are a percentage play to either make it to the bigs and perform in 2 years, or to be tradable assets.

    The M’s have very little to show for drafting high school kids right now and the A’s have been routinely kicking our asses for years now on half the payroll. We should learn something from this.

    I’d still like to see us pick up Beane or Epstein after we can Bavasi at years end. The current approach is busted – fix it and in a hurry.

  19. Coug, if JM was indeed a 1st round talent, he’d be drafted there. He’s as signable as anyone in the draft.

    I don’t see any scenario where LINCOLN falls to five.

    re: draft style

    That moneyball draft was TERRIBLE. Screw moneyball. Take the best players available, college or pro. You can’t afford to mess this up and the best way to do that is to pick players based on unfounded philosophies.

    Ruling out any portion of the talent is ridiculous.

  20. Jason,

    Haven’t the M’s been doing this to an extent anyway with shifting to a more college heavy draft last year ?

    I am amazed each year when Beane has the prospects- or at least what some other GM sees as a can’t miss prospect that he can deal to get better at the deadline. Meanwhile, we sit on ours, or have none that are worth anything that we are actually willing to part with.

    Granted, I am absolutely not willing to deal prospects this year as we need to build up from within and we aren’t a real contender anyway.

    The A’s seem to be way better at kicking old, or over valued guys out the door as well – they don’t get attached to a name – they move a guy when he gets too expensive and get young, almost or ML ready talent in return, plug them in, then go again. If they can keep a guy reasonably, and he fits into the scheme, they do .

    I realize we don’t have the same constraints as they do salary wise, but their approach just strikes me as smarter based on the results it turns.

  21. But yes – if Beckett is there in high school – we’d be fools not to take him.

  22. StandinPat said

    One major downside with the way the A’s do business, is that they only have a handful of players that are A’s year in and year out. When you are trying to create a true home team for your fan base you can only have so much turnover. I agree they do something very well, that most other clubs could learn from, but I absolutely hate how almost all their good players matriculate and move off somewhere else. They only have about 8 of their 25 that are guaranteed to be back in 07, thats kinda weak.

  23. I agree you don’t want total turnover to build your fanbase. Like I said – we don’t have all the constraints they do and we could definitely choose to keep more around than they do if it makes sense.

    What I admire in them is the productivity of their system to create guys who can either make the majors fast for them, or for someone else to get pieces they need without having to take on terrible contracts.

  24. marc w. said

    18 – interesting to see just how far from ‘Moneyball’ the A’s are now. What’d they take, 3 HS pitchers last year? I really enjoyed that book, but so much of it has been ‘overtaken by events’ as the saying goes. First, there was BP’s draft study that showed a lot of the HS-is-worse-than-college thing was overblown, *especially* for pitchers, which is the exact opposite of received wisdom. Really fascinating study, btw.

    20 – the A’s have done really well in putting their prospects in a position to succeed – that increases their trade value and boosts org records and all, but the jury’s out on their actual talent evaluation skills. I mean, their best prospect, Daric Barton, wasn’t drafted by Oakland. I’m not saying they’re not good at developing talent – they have to be. But I am saying that the specific methods outlined in Moneyball haven’t led to a great deal of success. They’re just about out of quality hitting prospects, and that was the entire point of the book. What the A’s seem to do well, and it was unconscionable that lewis didn’t talk about this, is keep their pitchers healthy. Some of that may be taking college pitchers, but the M’s have gone both ways and there’s no real ‘right’ answer. What’s undeniable is that the A’s seem to be able to get their guys to the majors without a lot of trouble (Italiano just broke down, true, and maybe there are more that flame out in the low minors, but from an M’s fan point of view, THIS IS THE STORY – how do they do this, and how do we copy it?).
    The A’s are good at dumping higher-priced vets because they have to. I’m sure they’d really love to have Miggy Tejada right now, or, looking at their 1B stats, Jason Giambi.

    To sum up: I would lovelovelove to see the M’s get a top-notch HS pitcher at 49. They’re going to get a great college guy at #5. You’ve got a sort of injury hedge right there. Use #49 to go for maximum upside – the cost of being wrong is minimized in this draft.

  25. I would love to see us adopt their screening and training program for pitchers.

    Don’t they have someone break down video on the pitching motions and fix potentially dangerous portions of the motion to cut risk of injury ?

    I know they have a different scheme for having the pitchers throw in the minors to build their arm strength.

    We sure seem to shred promising pitchers.
    Jason, how about an entry on this stuff ?

  26. Andrew said

    Everyone completly misses the point of moneyball. It wasn’t saying that college = good, h.s. = bad. It wasn’t saying that OBP is the only important thing. What the A’s were doing was trying to find things that were undervalued. OBP was being undervalued by teams. College performance was being undervalued by teams. So the A’s focused in those areas trying to maximize their returns. They were looking at economic inefficiencies. As more teams caught on, OBP is no longer undervalued so the A’s started looking at defense. They also realized HS pitchers were being undervalued and drafted those.

    Since the mariners don’t have to deal with the economic constraints that the A’s due, they shouldn’t focus on finding the market inefficiencies, they should just take the best players they can get.

  27. Still, that draft style failed, so why should anyone adopt that philosophy?

    The M’s aren’t EVER going to basically rule out certain types of talent, and that is what moneyball did.

    The toolsy guys were ignored.

    This is why the A’s are stuck with Jason Kendal catching because Jeremy Brown sucks.

  28. StandinPat said

    As far as the A’s being able to evaluate pitching talent better than the M’s, Havent they put like 3 former M’s draft picks in their rotation over the past couple of years?

  29. marc w. said

    “What the A’s were doing was trying to find things that were undervalued. ”
    Well, yes, strictly speaking that’s true, but it just so happens that what the A’s thought (in that draft) was undervalued was a certain type of high OBP guy: the anti-tools player. Hey – it was a testable hypothesis, and it happened to fail. I don’t blame them for that, but let’s not let them off the hook here. EVERYONE trys to find players/talents that are undervalued. The A’s did so in a very targeted fashion, and it’s okay to view their targets a few years down the line and see how it turned out.
    The A’s had monetary issues that forced signability further up the list than most teams, but even that doesn’t let them off the hook. And yes, the inefficiencies change every year, but there’s no reliable data that shows that the A’s have been *right* about what and, more critically, when those inefficiencies appear. Further, their ability to get MLB-quality talents in these undervalued areas hasn’t been proven. I don’t mean to knock the A’s unnecessarily, because they’re a flat-out great franchise. Moneyball does not mean tools/HS players = bad, but it certainly meant that in 2003 or whenever, and the jury’s out as to whether this uberfocused draft strategy means anything in terms of results, unless what you want are NWL pennants.

    28 – yeah, I’d have loved it if the M’s got Harden signed out of HS, but I don’t blame the M’s too much if a 20s-30s rounder decides to go to college. Would’ve been nice to see them follow up with an ‘overdraft’ when they were eligible again, but that seems like a hindsight’s 20-20 thing. Everyone, now, would’ve taken Harden in the first round.

  30. Jerry said

    Wade,

    I think that the M’s should be picking the best talent.

    Right now, there are lots of clubs that will be adopting the same outlook that you advocate, focusing on more advanced college players and more sure-thing guys.

    I don’t want the M’s to draft highschool players over college players. I want them to get high-ceiling players who could develop into stars. Based on the crop of players entering this draft, and the way that other clubs are likely to proceed, I think that the best value in rounds 2-10 or so will be prep players.

    Its all about getting the best value with your picks. As Jason and others have proposed, sticking to an all-or-nothing doctrine is pointless. Why limit the possibilities that you consider.

    I would be happy if some really good college player dropped to the M’s in the second or later rounds. But, from reading scouting reports and looking at who is available, it seems more likely that the most interesting players who will be available will be highschool guys. This is especially true if the M’s are willing to throw down some money. A lot of times, good prep players slide all the way down to the later rounds because clubs don’t want to pay six or seven figure bonuses to sign them away from college. If the M’s are willing to throw some cash around, they could pick up some really talented players – 1st or 2nd round talents – with later picks. They just have to go the extra mile to get them inked.

    While I don’t think that you should limit your scope to one type of player, all things being equal, I lean towards high-ceiling guys. Star players are really difficult to get via trades or in free agency. If given the choice between picking up 6 guys who are safe bets but have limited upside, versus picking up 6 players who have a ton of talent but are raw, I say go for the latter. In the first group, you might end up with 4 ML players, but they will likely be one good player, one mediocre player, and two bench/bullpen guys. In the second group, you might only have two of them reach the big leagues, but one of them could be a franchise player. That franchise player is worth it.

  31. Jerry said

    As a side note:

    I think that a big part of the A’s success in developing players was due to stockpiling draft picks and trading for prospects.

    Whenever the A’s lost a big name player, they stockpiled picks. Because they weren’t that active in free agency, they didn’t lose that many picks.

    Even if your scouting is aweful and your scouting director is an idiot, having more picks increases the likelihood of developing talent. The M’s and the A’s couldn’t be more different in this respect. While the M’s made some questionable draft choices, their biggest failure was in pissing away picks. While the A’s were acquiring extra picks, the M’s were giving them away.

    I don’t think that it is any more complicated than that.

  32. DIQ said

    Nicely put Jerry!

  33. Seth said

    Jason,

    I am really interested in where Jeff Samardzija is gonna end up in the draft. From what I’ve read (on ND’s website) he’s rated No.37 overall by Baseball America. This would put him in the 2nd round area.

    However, he isn’t about to give up football. This will probably drop him many rounds due to injury concerns, time to work, ect. But players have played MLB and NFL at the same time.

    Getting to the point…where do you think Samardzija will go? And do you think the Mariners could possibly pick him?

  34. Alex said

    It seems that Matt LaPorta’s stock has fallen, what are the chances that he is still around when the M’s pick in the 2nd round?

  35. Drew said

    Doesn’t Samardzija pitch? Sure, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were successful two-way players, but they were outfielders. I can’t imagine Samardzija will enjoy the same success.

    Not to mention he’s an incredible wideout who has potential to go in the first round next year in football.

  36. MatthewCarruth said

    With the Dayton Moore hiring as GM in KC apparently with the caveat that he has complete control over baseball ops, does that pretty much guarentee Andrew Miller at #1 now?

  37. JH said

    The “moneyball draft” was terrible? Looks to me like they got an All-Star caliber OF, a quality innings-eating SP, a guy they were able to trade for a top closer (didn’t work out well for them, but a valuable return for a draft pick), and a guy who’s still a decent SP prospect in AAA (Komine).

    A good enough draft to warrant a book? Maybe not, but that wasn’t the point of the book. The point was that the A’s couldn’t afford to draft 5 “conventional wisdom” first-round talents so they had to get creative.

    If a “terrible” draft nets me an all-star corner-outfielder, a dependable starter, and a valuable trading chip within 4 years, I’ll take terrible anyday.

  38. MatthewCarruth said

    They had 7(!!) picks in the first and compA round. They basically got Nick Swisher out of that.

  39. Samardzija is a much better NFL prospect… i don’t think he goes in the first eight rounds unless he agrees to a deal pre-draft, which isn’t likely to happen.

    LaPorta won’t drop that far.

  40. MatthewCarruth said

    FWIW, JAC, you still have Asher on the Tacoma listing. I believe he’s in Wisconsin now.

  41. Yeah, thanks Matt. It’s impossible to keep those up, so i do them once a month. Funny… tomorrow was that day.

  42. JH said

    You’re right. Brain fart. They had 7. For a small budget team, going the conventional wisdom route wasn’t financially viable.

    And Joe Blanton and Mark Teahen might not be something worth salivating over, but they’re at least worth mentioning. Blanton’s an above-average starter, and Teahen performed well enough in the minors to net Octavio Dotel in a trade.

    If the Red Sox, Yankees, or even Mariners had 7 first-round talents, they might have done better with more money, but the A’s chose a lot of guys who would sign below slot to fit their budget. They chose players other teams thought of as 2-4th round talents, and used a particular strategy to do so. Call me crazy, but I don’t think every player they drafted had to pan out to carry the point of the book.

    The 2002 A’s draft is held to an impossible standard. Jason’s crack at Jeremy Brown above is perfect evidence of this. Show me another team where a draft can be declared awful based on the failure of one pick, regardless of how many major-leaguers come out of it.

  43. MatthewCarruth said

    Where are you getting Blanton as above average? He’s had one year of success and it was a highly lucky year as evidenced by his FIP and xFIP. He’s a league average pitcher at best.

  44. JH said

    Blanton projects to a higher strikeout rate than we’ve seen so far. He gives up too many flyball outs and will never be more than an innings eater, but he’s already well ahead of the curve for a return on a 24th overall pick.

    FIP and xFIP are great stats for projection, but you look to conventional stats to describe past production. Going forward, yes, he falls in the adequate range, but so far his return has been far above average for a late-1st round pick.

    The Ms haven’t gotten a return on a 1st round pick that competes with Blanton in 10 years, when they got a league-average LF and a year and a half of Mike Timlin for Jose Cruz. It’s arguable whether any of the Ms’ first round picks since Cruz have even resulted in as much value as Teahen brought the As.

    Again, a fringe star corner outfielder, a solid rotation contributor, and a valuable trading chip, for below market value for their slots. If the Ms got that out of any draft, I’d be damn happy.

  45. DIQ said

    The talent will be available. Hopefully the M’s don’t make a mistake with their picks, but I have confidence in Fontaine and company. He has excellent scouts working around him and he trusts their judgement.

    As long as Bavasi and the higher FO people don’t meddle with decisions I’m very hopeful that we will have a successful draft.

    Money is not an issue right?

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