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Bernie On The Scene: The Impact of Poor Drafts

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

This is the first in a series I will be writing that reviews the first pick in the First Year Player Draft for each major league club over the past six years. There is a great deal to learn from an organization's selections in the draft.

Professional baseball teams rely upon several methods to obtain players. Each club has rosters to fill at various levels from Low-A to their major league club. That means lots of players come and go in the course of a year. Very few players, (some put the number at less than 10%) ever get to wear a major league uniform. Nine out of every 10 players have their dreams crushed. For most it happens very soon into their professional career.

The draft is probably the preferred way for many organizations to build. They scout, draft and sign their players and have control of their contracts until free agency. They can establish the development of the player using team methods, team instructors and team policies. We have all heard of "the Dodgers way of doing things." There is truth to that. Singing out of the same hymnal puts all organizational personnel on the same track, using the same systems and the same philosophies.

In reality, most organizations have a "book" that includes their way of doing things.

The 2005 First Year Player Draft (some refer to it as the Amateur Draft) was really one for the ages. Here are the draft results from the first round that year:

1. Diamondbacks - Justin Upton, SS $6,100,000
2. Royals - Alex Gordon, 3B $4,000.000
3. Mariners - Jeff Clement, C $3,400,000
4. Nationals - Ryan Zimmerman $2,975,000
5. Brewers - Ryan Braun 3B $2,450,000
6. Blue Jays - Ricky Romero LHP $2,400,000
7. Rockies - Troy Tulowitzki, SS $2,300,000
8. Devil Rays - Wade Townsend, RHP $1,500,000
9. Mets - Mike Pelfrey, RHP $3,500,000
10. Tigers - Cameron Maybin, OF $2,650,000
11. Pirates - Andrew McCutchen $1,900,000
12. Reds - Jay Bruce, OF $1,800,000
13. Orioles - Brandon Snyder, C $1,700,000
14. Indians - Trevor Crowe, OF $1,695,000
15. White Sox - Lance Broadway, RHP $1,570,000
16. Marlins - Chris Volstad, RHP .$1,600,000
17. Yankees - C.J. Henry SS $1,575,000
18. Padres - Cesar Carrillo, RHP $1,550,000
19. Rangers - John Mayberry, OF $1,525,000
20. Cubs - Mark Pawelek, LHP $1,750,000
21. Athletics - Cliff Pennington, SS $1,475,000
22. Marlins - Aaron Thompson, RHP $1,225,000
23. Red Sox - Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, $1,400,000
24. Astros - Brian Bogusevic-LHP $1,375,000
25. Twins - Matt Garza, RHP $1,350,000
26. Red Sox - Craig Hansen, RHP $1,325,000
27. Braves - Joey Devine, RHP $1,300,000
28. Cardinals - Colby Rasmus, OF $1,000,000
29. Marlins - Jacob Marceauz, RHP $1,000,000
30. Cardinals - Tyler Greene, SS $1,100,000

To me, some of the clubs that missed (listed in bold) with their selections are teams that could not afford to be wrong. They had to get the draft correct. Some teams can overcome a bad draft, but a bad year can set a team back for two or three years, sometimes longer. Some teams are still feeling the impact of that 2005 draft, and some went on to have other clunkers along the way. They have created a tough hole from which to escape.

In 2007 MLB introduced "slots" to the bonus structure of the draft. They asked clubs to keep bonus money within a given "slot" that was based upon each draft position. Some clubs held strictly to the slots. Others did not. In many cases, players refused to sign with clubs that held to the slot.

Why don't we take a look and see how they followed up 2005 in subsequent drafts.

I have included the proposed slot figure adjacent to the player's actual signing bonus from 2007-2011:

ORIOLES

2006 - #9 Bill Rowell, 3B $2,100,000
2007 - #5 Matt Wieters, C $6,000,000 ($2,250,000)
2008 - #4 Brian Matusz, LHP $3,200,000 ($3,000,000)
2009 - #5 Matt Hobgood, RHP $2,422,000 ($2,520,000)
2010 - #3 Manny Machado, SS $5,250,000 ($3,000,000
2011 - #4 DYLAN BUNDY, RHP $4,000,000 ($2,750,000)

INDIANS

2006 - NO SELECTION
2007 - #13 Beau Mills, 1B/3B $1,575,000 ($1,575,000)
2008 - #29 Lonnie Chisenhall, SS $1,100,000 ($1,230,000)
2009 - #15 Alex White, RHP $2,250,000 ($1,557,000)
2010 - #5 Drew Pomeranz, LHP $2,650,000 ($2,520,000)
2011 - #8 Francisco Lindor, SS $2,900,000 ($2,043,000)

WHITE SOX

2006 - #29 Kyle McCulloch, RHP $1,050,000
2007 - #25 Aaron Poreda, LHP $1,200,000 ($1,215,000)
2008 - #8 Gordon Beckham, SS $2,600,000 ($2,270,000)
2009 - #23 Jared Mitchell, OF $1,200,000 ($1,260,000)
2010 - #13 Chris Sale, LHP $1,656,000 ($1,656,000)
2011 - NO SELECTION

YANKEES

2006 - #21 Ian Kennedy, RHP $2,250,000
2007 - #30 Andrew Brackman, RHP $3,500,000 ($945,000)
2008 - #28 Gerrit Cole, RHP - DID NOT SIGN
2009 - #29 Slade Heathcott, OF $2,200,000 ($1,107,000)
2010 - #30 Cito Culver, SS $954,000 ($954,000)
2011 - NO SELECTION

PADRES

2006 - #17 Matt Antonelli, 3B $1,575,000
2007 - #23 Nick Schmidt, LHP $1,260,000 ($1,260,000)
2008 - #23 Allan Dykstra, 1B $1,150,000 ($1,400,000)
2009 - #3 DONAVAN TATE, OF $6,250,000 (2,925,000)
2010 - #9 KARSTEN WHITSON, RHP - DID NOT SIGN
2011 - #10 Cory Spangenberg, 2B $1,863,000 ($1,863,000)

I am going to share my thoughts about each of the draft selections for several teams each week.

Orioles

How much money does an organization have tied up in a player?

For example, just look at Manny Machado of the Orioles. After investing over $5 million in him, don't you think he'll get every possible chance to succeed? You bet. Won't they treat him with kid gloves? Yes. Especially in an organization like Baltimore that has been careful about spending money on player development and free agency. Fantasy players can probably target Machado and know that he'll play.Will he be good? We'll find out because he'll play at the big league level at some point.

Why would the Orioles pay Matt Wieters $6 million? By the way, he received the highest bonus in the draft that year. Overall first selection David Price got $5.6M. Pittsburgh gave pitcher Daniel Moskos $2.475 the pick before Wieters. Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler (just promoted to the Nats this year) got $2.16M one pick later than Wieters. Why did the Orioles pay Wieters almost $4M over slot? Because they were desperate for catching help in the organization. He was a top prospect. And probably most importantly, they laid an egg the year before with Bill Rowell.

Wieters is a franchise catcher. He can hit, he can hit with power, he can play defense and he can throw out "would be" basestealers. He is a player the team can build around.

Bill Rowell's highest classification to date has been Double-A. He finished 2011 playing for the Gulf Coast League Orioles in the Rookie League.

When first-round picks in the draft are considered, Bill Rowell will be logged as a $2.1M mistake.

Matt Hobgood is still with the organization, but is considered a fringe player at best. He has been passed by at least a dozen right-handed starting pitchers so far. Can he improve? Yes. But a 10.46 ERA in the Rookie League last season won't help him, nor will giving up 41 hits in 21.2 innings pitched. And oh, by the way, he walked 23 and struck out 13. And he got $2.42M Oriole dollars to sign. Not good. That makes $4.52 in mistake first-round money for the Orioles. Maybe it helps explain their position in the standings.

We've seen Brian Matusz struggle this spring. He has virtually killed my AL-only team before we can turn the calendar to May. Is he a bust? We'll see. For now, he can't find the plate. He's up in the strike zone and he looks totally out of sync on the mound. He's an expensive fifth starter that may wind up in Triple-A soon. Although his last start was a bit better, he has a great amount of work to do to regain his feel for pitching. I can't give up on him because there aren't many alternatives in a 12-team AL-only league.

Both Machado and Bundy are critical component pieces of the Orioles' future. They can't miss. If they miss, the Orioles miss again for another five-to-seven years. Both are rated highly by scouts. I am not as high on Machado as some, but I like him a great deal. I think Bundy can be a solid big league pitcher. I think we'll see him in 2014 at some point. He was part of the huge 2011 draft class of star quality pitchers. Overall, my jury is out. But both give Orioles fans some hope and both should be on your keeper radar.

Indians

This is where I get sick all over again. The Indians gave up $4.9M of first-round draft selections in Drew Pomeranz and Alex White along with second rounder Matt McBride and third-rounder Joe Gardner to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez.

Teams do trade first round draft picks. We know that to be true. But a team can't pretend to be a “small market, low revenue stream” team and spend $4.9MM and not see results. Sorry. It just doesn't wash. Those were precious player development dollars almost thrown away on one pitcher with one good season. Oh, yes. The Indians liked the “cost certainty” of Jimenez contract. They control him for another year and a half.

Even though I believe the Rockies are rushing Drew Pomeranz because of their own pitching deficiencies, I think he has star quality potential. And he throws with his left hand. Hello! Pomeranz is a full repertoire pitcher with an ability to command his pitches. He's still a bit raw and needs time to develop greater continuity and consistency. When all is said and done, the Indians have a good starting pitcher (probably for a limited time) and the Rockies have four high-quality, major league capable players for years to come.

When he was drafted, the Indians thought Alex White would be working out of the bullpen. It was the right evaluation. I think that should be his future in Colorado. He has a limited, average at best repertoire and I don't trust him to throw enough strikes. He's very hittable at this stage of his career. He isn't a bust, but I'm not buying any time soon. He throws lots of mediocre breaking balls, many of which hang in the air and are waiting to be hit. He also has a tendency to lose control quickly, but he's young and he'll get better.

Beau Mills is off the 40-man roster. He's playing at Triple-A Columbus. With all the crying out loud about the need for a first baseman with the total failure of Matt LaPorta, wouldn't Mills be an option? If he can hit. Aha. That's the rub. He can't hit consistently. And for crying out loud, if he could hit, wouldn't he be playing in Cleveland? You bet he would. Especially since he was a No. 1 pick.

Lonnie Chisenhall totally flamed out this spring with swings and misses and strikeouts that became legendary. He is still the third baseman of the future, but the future was supposed to be this month - the start of the 2012 season. He's on hold. I was very disappointed in what I saw both offensively and defensively from Chisenhall this past spring and there's room for concern.

Francisco Lindor is the real deal. He isn't as good as the Rangers Jurickson Profar, but he'll be a very good shortstop (or center fielder). I like what I have seen of his athletic ability in the field and at the plate. He and Pomeranz salvage the last six drafts in my book.

White Sox

The Reds released Kyle McCulloch in January and he is currently not on an organizational roster.

Aaron Poreda was traded to San Diego in the Jake Peavy deal and he is now part of the Pirates organization, pitching in Double-A. It may be a good place for him to finally jump-start his career, but things haven't gone well. The pitching starved Padres designated him for assignment. We'll see.

The White Sox rushed Gordon Beckham to the big leagues and his career started well. He hit a wall and hasn't hit anything else since. Now he's beginning to show signs of life, but he is far from the hitter they thought he was on draft day. They should have provided more development time. He's an average hitter at the very best at this point of his career. Upside remains, so we have to see what happens. I don't blame his troubles all on Beckham.

Jared Mitchell hasn't hit the way the team expected. This time, however, they haven't rushed the issue. In 2011 he hit .222 at High A Winston-Salem. He struck out whopping 183 times and walked on 52 occasions. He has lots of work to do and I'm not sure he's a prospect. A collision with an outfield wall has set him back a year. Perhaps as much mentally as physically. I'm nowhere near convinced he has a future as a big league player.

I really like tall, slender lefty Chris Sale. He, too, was rushed to the big leagues. He has to find himself on the mound as a starting pitcher. I like his self confidence, his mound demeanor and his repertoire. He can command his pitches fairly well, then suddenly and without warning lapse into wildness with all his pitches. Fortunately, he also knows how to recover. If he is on your team, be patient. He will have great outings, good outings and awful outings. He's still inconsistent but he'll be a very good pitcher in two more years. Very good.

Yankees

Simply put, Ian Kennedy is becoming an extremely good pitcher. He is consistently around the strike zone, throws a wide repertoire of pitches from quality velocity fastballs to knee buckling change-ups. The team chose to trade him. But he was an outstanding draft choice. Kennedy is an ace.

Andrew Brackman never really blossomed, the Yankees gave up on him and he signed with the Reds. Today he is a starter for Triple-A Louisville and he has a chance to renew his career. I've always liked his stuff. He's huge at 6-foot-10 but he needs more meat on his bones. Don't give up on Brackman's career. He's a sleeper, but he could surprise.

Gerrit Cole passed up a chance to pitch for the Yankees, said no and was drafted again last season by the Pirates. He will be a fine starter in an organization that needs him. The Yankees wasted a first-round draft choice.

Slade Heathcott still has potential and upside. A bad shoulder and some other issues have stalled his career. He is currently disabled but could resume his career in the low minors soon. As you saw, the Yankees have a lot of money invested in him.

Cito Culver could become an everyday player if his hitting improves. The Yankees like his defense and he could very well fit in their plans. He's a player to watch.

Heathcott and Culver could become quality players.

Padres

A new regime has taken over in San Diego and the sins of the past are not theirs. It is little wonder the Padres find themselves in the lower echelon of the National League West. Forget the trades they made prior to this past off-season, just look at the draft history.

Matt Antonelli. It isn't pretty. San Diego, Washington and now Baltimore. San Diego and Washington both released him. He has a career .264 batting average covering seven minor league seasons. Most recently, Antonelli hit .297 for Washington with a total of eight home runs and 30 RBI. This may be his final organization.

Nick Schmidt is pitching in Double-A for Colorado. He really isn't on their radar screen, but they may give him some innings to see what he can do in their Tulsa rotation. He's a big, left-handed pitcher with a bit of upside. I think it's too soon to write him off. But the Padres wasted their draft pick and money.

Donovan Tate - Oh my goodness. Who knows? He's been injured ever since he signed that mammoth contract. He has also failed two drug tests. His career has been a mess so far, but the money dictates he will be given every chance to change the raw skills scouts saw to real production on the field. He definitely has upside but he has to stay healthy and show what he can do. He is a perfect example of the Padres' past.

Allan Dykstra is currently playing first base for Double-A Binghamton in the Mets organization. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Dykstra will have to show improvement in contact before he can be taken seriously. After all, he struck out 113 times in 390 at-bats last year at Double-A.

Cory Spangenberg is a top prospect with the ability to play both second and third base. He's a good athlete, he can hit and he knows how to play the game. He isn't fast, he won't steal bases and he won't leg out many hits, but he can hit.

BUNTS

* Justin Upton's thumb has forced him to the bench. He'll get an MRI and may be disabled. He has no RBI so far this season.

* If the Red Sox can't depend upon Jon Lester, they are in bigger trouble than we may think. He got pasted against the Rangers in his home park. And Bobby Valentine is digging a hole for himself with his players.

* Andrew McCutchen is a total player. He can do it all. Love the way he swings a nice, unhurried bat.

* The Mariners have a problem when they get Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez back from the disabled list. Too many players for too few positions. They have to play Chone Figgins if they hope to trade him.

* Chris Young banged in to the center field wall at Chase Field. He could be out for a while if MRI isn't clean. A.J. Pollock will likely take his place.

* Jeff Karstens has a shoulder issue and will be checked for extent of the problem. Look for A.J. Burnett to be back in rotation next week.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I tweet during every Diamondbacks home game. Also find me at MLB.com in the Voices section.