This is the third in my series of articles about the First Year Player Draft since 2006.
This particular crop of teams has some interesting names and some fascinating results. The amount of money that has been spent is staggering in some instances. For example, look at the bonus paid to Pirates first-round 2011 draft choice Gerrit Cole. Double the suggested slot price. It is illustrative of the pitching situation in the Pirates system. It is the result of years of futility. It reflects a message of hope to Pirates fans, but is Cole worth that much money? Look at the other pitchers taken in Round 1 last year:
Gerrit Cole - #1 - $8M (Pittsburgh)
Danny Hultzen - #2 - $6.350M (Seattle)
Trevor Bauer - #3 - $3.4M (Arizona)
Dylan Bundy - #4 - $4M (Baltimore)
Archie Bradley - #7 - $5M (Arizona)
Taylor Jungmann - #12 - $2.525M (Milwaukee)
Jose Fernandez - #14 - $2M (Florida)
Jed Bradley - #15 - $2M (Milwaukee)
Chris Reed - #16 - $1.589M (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Sonny Gray - #18 - $1.54M (Oakland)
Matt Barnes - #19 - $1.5M (Boston)
Tyler Anderson - #20 - $1.4M (Colorado)
Tyler Beede - #21 - DID NOT SIGN (Toronto)
Alex Meyer - #23 - $2M (Washington)
Taylor Guerrieri - #24 - $1.6M (Tampa Bay)
Joe Ross - #25 - $2.750M (San Diego)
Robert Stephenson - #27 - $2M (Cincinnati)
Sean Gilmartin - #28 - $1.134M (Atlanta)
Kevin Matthews - #33 - $936,000 (Texas)
Without a doubt, Pittsburgh and Seattle need a great deal of help to remain viable. But those bonus amounts represent a staggering amount of money. Especially when there was such a deep pitching pool in which to fish.
Here are some thoughts about each team's draft history since 2006.
Remember that the number in parentheses following the actual bonus amount is the MLB suggested slot price.
2006 - Brad Lincoln #4 – RHP - $2.750M
2007 - Daniel Moskos - #4 - LHP - $2.475M ($2.475M)
2008 - Pedro Alvarez - #2 - 3B - $6M ($3.5M)
2009 - Jorge (Tony) Sanchez - #4 - C - $2.5M ($2.7M)
2010 - Jameson Taillon - #2 - RHP - $6.5M ($3.250M)
2011 - Gerrit Cole - #1 - RHP - $8M ($4M)
2006 - Andrew Miller - #6 - LHP - $3.550M
2007 - Frederick Porcello - #27 - RHP - $3.580M ($3.170M)
2008 - Ryan Perry - #21 - RHP - $1,480M ($1.480M)
2009 - Jacob Turner - #9 - RHP - $4.7M ($1.962M)
2010 - NO SELECTON
2011 - NO SELECTION
2006 - Kyle Drabek - #18 - RHP - $1.550M
2007 - Joseph Savery - #19 - LHP - $1.372.5M (1.372.5M)
2008 - Anthony Hewitt - #24 - SS $1.380M ($1.380M)
2009 - NO SELECTION
2010 - Jessie Biddle - #27 - LHP $1.160M ($1.161M)
2011 - NO SELECTION
2006 - Hyun-Choi Conger - #25 - C - $1.350M
2007 - NO SELECTION
2008 - NO SELECTION
2009 - Randal Grichuck - #24 - LF - $1.242M ($1.242M)
2009 - Michael Trout - #25 - CF - $1.215M ($1.215M)
2010 - Kaleb Cowart - #18 - RHP - $2.300M ($1.422M)
2010 - Cam Bedrosian - #29 - RHP - $1.116M ($1.116M)
2010 - Chevez Clarke - #30 - CF - $1.089M ($1.089M)
2011 - C.J. Cron - #17 - 1B - $1.467M ($1.467M)
2006 - Adam Ottavino - #30 - RHP - $950,000
2007 - Peter Kozma - #18 - SS - $1.395M ($1.395M)
2008 - Brett Wallace - #13 - 3B/1B - $1.840 (1.840M)
2009 - Shelby Miller - #19 - RHP - $2.875 - ($1.386M)
2010 - Zack Cox - #25 - 3B - $2M ($1.215M)
2011 - Kolten Wong - #22 - 2B - $1.3M ($1.287M)
Brad Lincoln had two visits to the major leagues prior to being called to the Pirates this April. He pitched in 11 games in 2010 and 12 games in 2011. He didn’t distinguish himself in either year. Overall, his ERA was well over four in both trials. He has worked both as a starter and out of the bullpen. There is still promise for him, but mostly because he works for a pitching thin organization. When I saw him in Phoenix two weeks ago he worked out of the bullpen and he was effective. He may not have enough in his repertoire to be a rotation starter.
Daniel Moskos is often spoken of in the same sentence with the aforementioned Brad Lincoln. They are on similar paths, but Moskos is a lefty. He has already repeated Triple-A and is there once again. His issue has been command and control. If he can throw his pitches for strikes, he will have a chance. Basically, however, he is seen as a situational lefty out of the bullpen.
Pedro Alvarez has been a huge disappointment, to put it mildly. I saw him hit a mammoth home run in Phoenix. However, I also saw him strike out constantly. So far this season, he has 22 strikeouts in 55 at-bats. That's Mark Reynolds territory. Aside from the fact he doesn't make contact, Alvarez still has not lost all the weight he gained last year. He cost his club $6M, and let us not forget that Pittsburgh has screamed poverty for years. In retrospect, the bonus is proving to be a bad financial decision. Only four years ago, to boot. But as I have indicated before in this series, money will dictate the team staying with a player until he is deemed hopeless. There is still hope for Alvarez. By the way, the man has a gun for an arm from third base.
Jorge (Tony) Sanchez has regressed in both his offense and defense. He was impressive behind the plate when I saw him in the 2010 Arizona Fall League. Now he will have to regroup and improve both parts of his game if he wants to see Pittsburgh - which I think he will. Here is his slash line from the 2011 season at Double-A Altoona: .241/5/44. He is repeating Double-A this season. So far, the results are not good. He remains a better defensive catcher than hitter. He is the best catching prospect in as organization that has $2.5 million invested in him. They will find a way to get him to Pittsburgh. I think his talent far exceeds his statistics at this point, but it's lots of money if he doesn't pan out. Lots.
Jameson Taillon is among the best pitching prospects in the Pirates' organization. He's a 6-foot-6 inch, 225-pound right-hander with good command of a very solid repertoire. Taillon is a flame-thrower that also has the capability of throwing a knee-buckling curve. He can touch 97 to 98 miles an hour on one pitch and then throw a 12-to-6 curve on the next. He had a good year at Low-A level West Virginia last season, and he's off to a good start at High-A Bradenton. I look for Taillon to take a rather fast track to the majors. The team needs his stuff.
Gerrit Cole is the type of pitcher that can become the ace of the Pirates staff for years to come. When I saw him in the AFL he was very much a thrower as opposed to a pitcher. In that regard, he reminded me of the Diamondbacks' Trevor Bauer. Both are very talented and both should anchor their pitching staffs in the future. He is the type of pitcher that can dominate at the lower level of the minor leagues-making him difficult to project with regard to more advanced, more highly disciplined hitters. His fastball is his bread and butter, but he also has a very good slider and an above average change-up. Cole is downright surly and not a pleasant person on the mound. A real grinder with an attitude.
Andrew Miller has taken a rather circuitous route in his career so far. He was drafted by Detroit, traded to Florida in the Miguel Cabrera, Cameron Maybin deal and then traded to Boston from Florida for Dustin Richardson. He was released by Boston and signed back with them in 2010. So, in essence, here's a guy that cost the Tigers $3.550 million in return for Cabrera. Maybin has since been dispatched to San Diego. Miller is currently pitching at Triple-A Pawtucket. He has been in eight games, all out of the bullpen where he has compiled a 7.88 ERA over eight innings pitched. He has walked 11 in those eight innings. He has struck out 17. It seems Miller is feast or famine, but until he finds control and can command his pitches, he will continue to be a major bust. Cabrera has certainly been worth the money the Tigers paid for Miller in 2006. With Boston's pitching woes, perhaps Miller can resurrect his career and return as a starter some day. However, It doesn't look promising.
Frederick (Rick) Porcello made it to Detroit at the age of 20. He had thrown 125 innings in the minors prior to his promotion. Those innings were at High-A Lakeland where he had a 2.66 ERA against young, inexperienced hitters. Now pitching out of the Tigers' rotation, Porcello is following a fairly solid 2011 season when he won 14 games and had an ERA of 4.75. This season has not been as promising. His ERA over his first four starts this year is 6.45. He has walked only four, but he's given up 29 hits in 22.1 innings pitched. Among those are four home runs. He has a solid arm and he projects to be a back of the rotation starter for years to come. He can turn this year around with a couple of good outings and some run support. Porcello's start this week was outstanding and he may be on the way to improving his season. The Tigers really need him to pitch well.
Ryan Perry had an opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen for the Tigers for three years. He arrived at the big club at age 22. This season he is pitching out of the bullpen for Syracuse after being traded to Washington. In nine innings, Perry has a 2.00 ERA giving up four walks and striking out 11. He has given up 11 hits and has a WHIP of 1.444. Once upon a time, the Tigers had $1.5 million invested in Perry, but now they have Collin Balester as the return from their trade.
Jacob Turner was to have been the No. 5 starter in the Tigers' rotation by the beginning of this season. He hasn't lived up to his billing. He has had tendonitis in his right shoulder and is currently rehabilitating at High-A Lakeland. He has started twice, has pitched 10 innings and looks to be on the mend. His starts were good, as he has given up only eight hits in those 10 innings while walking three and striking out three. Turner does not have overpowering stuff. His three trial starts with the Tigers were rather underwhelming. In those games he was hit hard, giving up three home runs and finishing the season with a 1.658 WHIP. I don't see him as anything higher than a mid-rotation starter if he makes it to Detroit. With $4.7M on his arm, it is likely we'll see him wear a big league uniform somewhere.
Kyle Drabek was long seen as an untouchable after the Phillies made him their top draft pick in 2006. He was requested in many trades in which the Phillies were involved. Not until the Blue Jays came calling with Roy Halladay did the Phils part with Drabek and very highly regarded catcher Travis d'Arnaud along with now Oakland A's prospect Michael Taylor for Halladay and cash. So this became another major deal in baseball involving a solid No. 1 pick used to fetch a top shelf player. To date, however, Drabek has not lived up to expectations. The son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, Kyle is currently in the rotation in Toronto. He is pitching better than last season, showing a sparkling 2.40 ERA to date in five starts covering 30 innings. It seems his control problems may be in the past. Not a power pitcher, per se, Drabek has enough of an arsenal to be a winner. His best pitch is a big curveball that he uses along with his low-90s fastball to go after hitters.
Joe Savery currently pitches out of the Phillies' bullpen. He is used mostly as a situational lefty. When I saw him this season he looked pretty effective, getting left-handed hitters to hit the ball on the ground as he is supposed to do. He probably won't be used in more than that role. Considering the modest investment the Phils made in Savery, he can be considered a success.
Anthony Hewitt was selected as a third baseman. He is now playing the outfield (all three positions) and may even be off the Phillies' radar screen. He finished 2011 Low-A Lakewood where he hit .281 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. He also struck out 149 times in 480 plate appearances. That is a ton in A-ball. This year Hewitt is playing at High-A at Clearwater. To date he is hitting .170 and he has struck out 15 times in 50 plate appearances. While the jury may still be out on Hewitt, it doesn't seem like he is on track to be playing in Philly in the near future. He is only 23, but it looks like he may well be an organizational depth player, at best.
Jessie Biddle is a left-hander with a chance to be a mid-rotation starter. He has shown inconsistent velocity and command in his professional career, but that is to be expected from young pitchers. He's a big guy at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. In his third season now, Biddle has made the jump to High-A and is struggling a bit this season. He has started four games and he's given up 22 hits and nine walks in 17.1 innings pitched for a WHIP of 1.788. It may be an indication that the better hitters at the higher classification are getting to him. Biddle does have the ability to miss bats, having struck out 20 hitters in his starts. A big concern is his average of lasting only a tad more than four innings in each game he started.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hyun Choi (Hank) Conger was supposed to be the Angels' starting catcher by now. He was said to have had the bat and the defensive ability to win the majority of starts in Anaheim. It seems like he has been around forever, but Conger is only 24 and there is time remaining for him to blossom. I agree with the Angel's initial assessment of Conger's bat. Ultimately, I think he will hit. So far this season his average is .357 at Triple-A Salt Lake. He's also hit two homers and has driven in eight runs. I'm not sure how far the existing Angels catching corps is taking them, but Conger may soon be an option. Don't write him off.
Randal Grichuk may be in the Angels' plans. Drafted as a power-hitting outfielder, to date he hasn't shown much power. To be fair, he was injured much of his first year as a professional player. Over parts of four seasons, he has hit only 24 home runs. If he is going to remain as a right fielder, that production will have to improve. So far this season, Grichuk has hit three homers in 100 plate appearances at High-A Inland Empire. Grichuk is a player to watch carefully, as he could very well be patrolling an outfield position for the Angels in a few years. If he can improve his power.
Mike Trout was rushed to the big league club at the age of 19. He made 135 plate appearances and hit .220. He looked lost at the plate. He has now been recalled to Anaheim after having spent the beginning of the season at Salt Lake where he hit .403 in 20 games covering 93 plate appearances. I have no doubt Mike Trout will be a star. I have seen a considerable amount of him in both spring training and over 2twoseasons of the Arizona Fall League. I don't think he will be the superstar or megastar that many have forecasted. I do think the power will increase, and I do think he'll get on base by either hitting his way on or bunting. It is his speed that sets him apart. He may be among the fastest players I have seen. He's also a very good outfielder. Do I think he needs more development time? Yes. He wore down badly in the AFL and didn't hit a lick. He had a sore shoulder, a sore side and this spring he lost about 10 pounds thanks to a virus. Trout is an amazing athlete. He can do it all, but I don't feel he's ready for an everyday job in Anaheim. And if he isn't playing every day, he should not be there. He began his career at age 17. He is now 20 years old. He isn't big and strong. He's athletic, but he's not a Bryce Harper type athletic. He's listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. Maybe. I'm just saying be careful when buying Mike Trout. He's going to be very, very good. But maybe not yet. I want to see if he can stay healthy. No shoulder issues. No weight loss.
Kaleb Cowart is currently playing third base at Cedar Rapids in Low-A. A position of weakness for the Angles at the big league level, playing third base may give Cowart an opportunity to soar through the Angels system. If he can hit. So far this season, he is holding his own, hitting .275 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 97 plate appearances. A switch-hitter, Cowart was drafted as a pitcher capable of being a solid corner infielder with a potential power bat. He is a natural right-handed hitter and he may revert to hitting only from that side of the plate in the future. Still young at age 19, he will be given every opportunity to learn how to hit in the Angels' system. It is far too early to project his future other than to say he is the top-rated Angels third baseman.
Cam Bedrosian was a very hard throwing right-handed pitcher until he had elbow surgery in May last year. Reports indicate he is at least a couple months away from returning. He has not yet been assigned to a level for 2012. There is no question that pitching is in Bedrosian's genes. He is the son of former Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian. He may be back by August or September.
Chavez (Chevy) Clarke has moved in the Angels system from Rookie ball to Low-A, where he now plays the outfield for Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League. He has never hit well as a professional player after signing with the Angels out of high school. Now 20, Chavez is struggling with a .198 batting average. His career mark after 438 plate appearances is .217/7/46. Clarke is in an organization with lots of quality young outfielders including Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Jeremy Moore the aforementioned Randal Grichuk and others, not to mention their stable of veterans. I think it will be very tough for Clarke unless he is a late bloomer.
C.J. Cron is a right-handed hitting first baseman that could have a chance to make an impact for either the Angels or another team via trade. Cron slipped a bit in his draft year, but I still think he has a chance to play. He's 6-foot-4, 235 pounds of power hitter. He had 13 homers in only 159 plate appearances in his rookie league season at Orem. This season he's been assigned to Inland Empire in the High-A California League. Cron, a former catcher, is a slow-footed base clogger. But if he can learn to be patient and offer at pitches he can drive, he'll knock some balls out of the park and drive in runs. What I like best is his ability to make contact and limit his strikeouts. He's a player to watch carefully as he works his way through the Angels system or gets traded somewhere else. He can be a real Angels steal at less than $1.5M.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Adam Ottavino, a right-handed pitcher is now a member of the Rockies organization after having been selected off waivers from the Cardinals last month. He is currently pitching at Triple-A Colorado Springs, his fourth consecutive season in Triple-A. In 2010, Ottavino pitched at the big league level for St. Louis, starting three games and working in relief in two. He registered 22.1 innings pitched, compiling an ERA of 8.46 and giving up 37 hits. His WHIP was 2.060 and it earned him a return to Triple-A. Now 26, this may be the last stop for Ottavino as he tries to resurrect his career. He has pitched in relief in eight games for Colorado Springs out of the bullpen.
Peter Kozma is playing short and second base for Triple-A Memphis, where he played most of last season. He hit .214 last season with no power to speak of. Kozma had some rough times both offensively and defensively when he first turned professional, but he seems to be improving with the glove. His on-base percentage does not bode well for a future as a hitter. In his career that statistic is .310. It will be difficult for Kozma to climb in the organization if he is an automatic out. In fact, he may have been surpassed in the organization by newcomer Ryan Jackson at shortstop and Kolten Wong (see below) at second base.
Brett Wallace has been traded like he was a Topps baseball card. He went from St. Louis to Oakland in the Matt Holiday deal and then from Oakland to Toronto for Michael Taylor. If that wasn't enough, he was moved from Toronto to Houston for Anthony Gose. And now Wallace has returned to his 2011 club, Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Wallace has struggled only when he's promoted to the major league club. He's a fine minor league hitter, posting a career .304 batting average that spans parts of five seasons, 355 games and 1464 plate appearances. His major league average is only .248 with seven home runs. He has not lived up to his press clippings or the expectations placed upon him. His lack of agility, limited speed, and poor footwork has driven clubs to play Wallace at first base. He hasn't shown enough power at that position to warrant a major league job. So, when it is all said and done, Wallace may be on life support regarding his career as a corner infielder.
Shelby Miller should be the next major pitching star of the Cardinals. He may be ready to assume a role in the rotation if needed this season. He has already completed every classification in the Cardinals organization with the exception of rookie league. He is currently at Triple-A Memphis where he has started five games and has an ERA of 5.09 over 23 innings. Miller, a 21-year-old righty has given up 30 hits and 12 walks so far this season for a WHIP of 1.826. Miller can bring his fastball at anywhere from 90 to 98 MPH. Basically, that's his best pitch but he has to gain better command to be effective. He also throws an above average curve and an above average change-up. While I like Miller, I'd like to see him cut down on the number of pitches he is throwing and gain more efficiency with his entire repertoire. He projects to be a top of the rotation starter once he gains more experience.
Zack Cox looks bigger in person than his listed 6-feet, 215 pounds. He is a stocky, powerful third-base prospect that should become a fixture at the position once his development is complete. For now, Cox is still learning to hit quality pitching. Cox is playing at Triple-A Memphis, which is a fast track for a guy drafted in 2010. The 22-year-old has huge upside, especially in the power department. I saw Cox in the Arizona Fall League right after he was drafted and he was impressive. Last year at Double-A Springfield, Cox hit .293 with 10 home runs. So far this season, he's scuffling a bit, hitting only .195 in 82 plate appearances. It is very possible the Cardinals are rushing Cox, but with David Freese available, they may want to slow things a bit.
Kolten Wong is from Hilo, Hawaii. Only 21, Wong is a very highly regarded second-base prospect. That's a position the Cardinals would like to fill on a permanent basis and Wong may move along quickly. He began his career at Low-A Quad Cities where he hit .335 over 222-plate appearances. The good beginning included five homers and nine stolen bases. He's a patient hitter and he knows what it takes to get on base. He's also a quality middle-infielder defensively. This year at Double-A Springfield, Wong is hitting .295 with two homers and four stolen bases. In short, it seems that the Cardinals are moving their key players through their system quickly. Miller, Cox and Wong have all been on a fast track. Wong is a very important component of the organization.
* Both Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin looked good recently pitching out of the rotation for the Diamondbacks. Both lefties are very smooth and poised on the mound.
* The loss of Evan Longoria couldn't have come at a worse time. The injury bug has bitten the Rays but they are still playing very well. Now we'll see if they can overcome this latest setback.
* I haven't liked what I've seen of Matt Moore's command so far.
* All it has taken is a bit of time for Yu Darvish to get accustomed to the new environment, new equipment, new umpires, new teammates, new size of baseball, etc. He has thrown some very impressive games.
* It is very possible Alexi Ogando's arm will fall off. How much more can a team ask of a guy?
* Michael Saunders has become a nice source of power.
* Brian Matusz was broken. Is he fixed? I sure hope so.
* I can't believe I'm watching the same Angels team I saw in spring training. How could they have been so good in the spring and so ordinary now? So many good players. So many guys that can't get regular playing time. Nice problem to have. They'll turn it around.
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