This is the fourth in my series of articles about the First Year Player Draft since 2006.
This week's column focuses on the Royals, Rockies, Rays, Twins and Brewers. 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 - Luke Hochevar – P - #1 - $3.5M
2007 - Mike Moustakas - 3B - #2 - $6M, ($3.150M)
2008 - Eric Hosmer - 1B - #3 - $6M, ($3.250M)
2009 - Aaron Crow-P - #12 - $1.5M, ($1.719M)
2010 - Christian Colon - SS - #4 - $2.750M, ($2.750M)
2011 - Bubba Starling - OF - #5 - $7.5M, ($2.52M)
2006 - Greg Reynolds - P - #2 - $3.250M
2007 - Casey Weathers - P - #8 - $1.8M, ($1.980M)
2008 - Christian Friedrich - P #25 - $1.350M, (1.350M)
2009 - Tyler Matzek -P - #1 - $3.9M, ($1.791M)
2009 - Tim Wheeler - OF - #32 - $900,000 ($954,000)
2010 - Kyle Parker - OF - #25 - $1.4M, ($1.197M)
2011 - Tyler Anderson - P - #20 - $1.4M, ($1.359M)
2006 - Evan Longoria - 3B - #3 - $3M
2007 - David Price - P - #1 - $5.6M ($3.6M)
2008 - Tim Beckham - SS - #1 - $6.150M, ($4M)
2009 - Levon Washington - 2B - #30 - DID NOT SIGN
2010 - Josh Sale - OF - #17 - $1.620M ($1.467M)
2011 - Taylor Guerrieri - P - #24 - $1.6M, ($1.242M)
2006 - Chirs Parmelee - OF, 1B - #20 - $1.5M
2007 - Ben Revere - OF - #28 - $750,000, ($2.080M)
2008 - Aaron Hicks - OF - #14 - $1.780M, ($1.780M)
2008 - Carlos Gutierrez - #27 - $1.290M, ($1.290M)
2009 - Kyle Gibson - P - #22 - $1.850M, ($1.287M)
2010 - Alex Wimmers - P - #21 - $1.332M, ($1.332M)
2011 - Levi Michael - SS - #30 - $1.750M, ($1.089M)
2006 - Jeremy Jeffress - P - #16 - $1.550M
2007 - Matt LaPorta - OF - #7 - $2M, ($2.070M)
2008 - Brett Lawrie - C/3B - #16 - $1.7M, ($1.680M)
2009 - Eric Arnett - P - #26 - $1.197M, ($1.197M)
2010 - Dylan Covey - P - #14 - DID NOT SIGN
2011 - Taylor Jungmann - P - #12 - $2.525M, ($1.719M)
2011 - Jed Bradley - P - #15 - $2M, ($1.557M)
Luke Hochevar got his first taste of pitching in the big leagues in 2007, the year after he was drafted. He became more a part of the rotation the following season. He hasn't had an ERA under 4.50 in any of his full seasons with Kansas City - in fact; his best was 4.68 in 2011. This year his drawback is the big inning. I have never been much of a Hochevar fan, feeling his command is shaky, requiring him to get too much of the plate on bad counts. I don't see anything overwhelming that could either warrant Hochevar's draft position or his remaining a part of their long-term rotation. I feel he is mediocre, at best. For the Royals, his presence at the top of the rotation is testament to their lack of solid starting pitching.
Mike Moustakas has begun to show a bit of life in his bat, but I would like to see him sustain his batting average over an entire season. The club spent a whopping $6M for him and he has a great deal to prove. Last year was really Moustakas' first in prime time. He is only 23 and he has a great deal of time to show he's the man to play third base for the Royals. He is hitting for average this season, which is an improvement. His task will be to add some power to the equation.
To date this season, Eric Hosmer hasn't followed up his remarkable rookie year with anything close statistically. However, patience is required. He reminds me of a younger Joey Votto. I think he has the bat speed, the swing and the hand-eye coordination required to be consistently successful. I do think we were spoiled last year and now we want more. It will come, but it may take some time. The league's pitchers have adjusted to him. He must now make adjustments of his own.
Aaron Crow was selected by the Nationals in 2008 but did not sign. He was chosen by the Royals in the first round the following year and signed with Kansas City where he now pitches out of the bullpen. There was talk of Crow moving to the rotation this year, but the injury to Joakim Soria helped return him to the bullpen. Some scouts have indicated they would like to see Crow close games. I'm not as sure. I do think he has enough arm to start. With the Royals' starting pitching problems, that may the best place for him.
Because of the presence of Alcides Escobar, there may be no room for Christian Colon as an every day shortstop or second baseman. He may project as no more than a utility infielder. When Colon was signed, Escobar was not on the club. He has an outstanding glove and he has some speed. He has no power, but he should be able to get on base and score some runs. The Royals have had their middle-infield issues, and that's where Colon's ability to play both second base and shortstop well will pay dividends. His stock is not falling, but it isn't on the rise, either.
One of the weakest elements of the Royals' system (as well as many, many others) is the lack of available power. Bubba Starling chose to join the Royals as opposed to playing college football. He is a multi-tool player with power and huge upside. He hasn't been assigned to a 2012 club as yet, but it will likely be Kane County in the Midwest League at Low-A. It is likely Starling will make a tremendous contribution to the Royals and be among the finer outfielders in baseball.
Greg Reynolds is currently working as a starting pitcher for Triple-A Round Rock (Rangers). He was traded for Chad Tracy in the offseason. Reynolds may be among the pitchers considered if, and when the Rangers reach for a starter. The problem? Reynolds is not over powering. He won't miss many bats and he'll give up plenty of hits. I'm not very bullish on Reynolds. Obviously, the pitching-starved Rockies aren't either.
Casey Weathers is now 26 and pitching for the Cubs. That means that back-to-back first-round Rockies pitchers are no longer with their club. Weathers has made it to Double-A Tennessee, and his clock is running. I saw him in the Arizona Fall League where he injured his elbow. He missed 2009 with Tommy John surgery. When I saw Weathers, he looked like he had enough strength and velocity to pitch at the end of games. He can probably be an important part of the Cubs' bullpen in the future. I have serious concerns about the command of his pitches. If he ever learns to throw strikes and stops walking people, he has possible closing potential.
Christian Friedrich is now going to be a spot starter for the Rockies. He has been pitching in Triple-A after he started 25 games at Double-A Tulsa (his second season there) last season. Friedrich went 6-10 with a high 5.00 ERA last year. So far in 2012, the big right-hander is pitching like the prospect Colorado was hoping for. He has started five games, has given up 23 hits in 30 innings and has an average of 1.2 BB/9IP. He doesn't have a deep repertoire and he may not be much more than a back end of the rotation starter. Frankly, I'm surprised the team hasn't used him in either long or middle relief. I hope he succeeds as a new Rockies starter.
Tim Wheeler is among a list of Rockies outfielders that want attention. He and players like Charlie Blackmon and Tyler Colvin have similar contact type skill sets that help provide the Rockies with some depth. He has power, speed and an ability to hit for average. His best position is in center, but he can play all three positions. I like Wheeler and I hope he gets a chance to play.
Kyle Parker is not as advanced as Wheeler or Blackmon in the Rockies' system. Parker had a tough decision to make between baseball and football, since he was a quarterback at Clemson when he was drafted. He chose baseball, but waiting to sign his first contract with Colorado cost him at least $1M because he completed his last season at Clemson (when he suffered broken ribs) and didn't sign his baseball contract until the absolute deadline. He is a capable hitter but he needs lots of work on pitch recognition and learning how to hit breaking balls. He hit .285 last season with 21 home runs at Low-A Asheville while driving in 95 runs and making quite a name for himself as a rookie. He is a player to watch as he has the power and the ability to succeed. He needs time and instruction.
Left-hander Tyler Anderson was first drafted by the Twins in 2008 but did not sign. Signed last year out of University of Oregon, he signed too late last year to be assigned to minor league club. He has begun this season by remaining in extended spring training. He projects to be a mid-rotation starter with average ability.
Evan Longoria now enjoys a reputation as one of the best hitting third baseman in baseball. He did scuffle with the bat last year as well as with staying healthy. This year he got off to a great start and is injured once again with a torn hamstring. Longoria projects to be a factor in American League home run races every year because of his outstanding power and refined swing mechanics. His ability to stay on the field is the main concern at this point.
David Price has shown signs of brilliance as one of the anchors of the Rays' rotation. However, there are times when Price loses command of his pitches and struggles to navigate through a batting order. He seems much more consistent in his starts this season, having fashioned a 2.36 ERA in his first six starts. He has thrown a shutout this year and is on pace to have a very solid season pitching for a winning club.
Tim Beckham may be one of the few mistakes the Rays scouting department has made in recent years. When I saw Beckham play extensively in the Arizona Fall League he looked totally overmatched. This season at Triple-A Durham he has been suspended 50 games for violating baseball's substance abuse program. Beckham was drafted as a shortstop but has spent time at third base as well. In my estimation, he doesn't have enough in his bat to be a corner infielder. However, he has likely been passed at shortstop by prospect Hak-Ju Lee. Beckham's suspension will certainly take his career off course, but since he is only 22 years old, he still has a chance to right the ship and get back on his schedule to become a big league player. I'm not overly optimistic.
Josh Sale had a very rough first year for average in professional baseball, hitting only .210 over 239-plate appearances in 60 games at Rookie League Princeton. He did manage to hit four homers, 11 doubles and three triples, flashing some power potential and speed. He has now been assigned to Low-A and he'll be given a chance to show that he can hit for average. In an organization that lacks depth in the outfield, Sale will be given every chance to learn and grow offensively. He's the type of hitter to keep an eye on, as he has shown the ability to hit the ball with authority.
Taylor Guerrieri has an extremely high upside as a starting pitcher for the Rays. He was drafted out of high school and was considered to be among the best starting pitchers available in the draft. He has a power arm and an arsenal of breaking balls to challenge hitters. Like most pitchers that have come through the Rays system, he will get his innings of work learning his craft in the minor leagues. He is still in extended spring training as of this writing, and there is no professional history regarding his work to date.
Chris Parmelee is becoming an important part of the Twins' offense due to the uncertainty of Justin Morneau's health and availability. Parmelee isn't going to hit mammoth flyballs that leave Target Field, but he may be able to put up some decent extra-base hit and batting average numbers. Last season when he had the chance to fill in for Morneau, he hit .355 over 88- plate appearances. Since the Twins are limited in their offensive options, Parmelee may be the first base answer for quite some time.
Ben Revere is the type of marginal player that is best suited to play center field. He doesn't have much power, but he is fast enough to play good defense and get on base occasionally. Revere plays for a club that has similar outfielders in Denard Span and Trevor Plouffe. Revere simply doesn't have enough power to play one of the corner outfield positions, a place where the Twins have the greatest unmet need. If Revere had a better overall batting average he could be viable in center. Revere has hit over .300 in the minors, but he hasn't been more than a .250/.260 hitter in his career at the big league level, making him marginal at best.
Aaron Hicks may be a late bloomer. For his sake and the sake of the Twins, I certainly hope so. I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and he struggled to get untracked. He showed signs of life late in the campaign, but not enough to cause excitement. A good athlete, Hicks has not shown an ability to hit quality pitching. Since being drafted out of high school, Hicks has not made it past his current Double-A assignment at New Britain. To date, Hicks has shown that he's a much better defender than hitter. He has a cannon for an arm. Last season, Hicks hit only .242 with five homers in over 500 plate-appearances at High-A Fort Myers. So far this season, he is hitting .278 with four homers already at the higher classification. There are signs he is coming to life and beginning to realize his untapped potential.
Carlos Gutierrez is a right-handed reliever in a system that can desperately use pitching in every phase of the game. Usually the Twins start their major prospect pitchers out of the bullpen in the minor leagues. In Gutierrez's case, he was a starter for two years. Now working out of the bullpen, he has concentrated on throwing a two-seam fastball and inducing groundballs. He is in Triple-A for a second season and if he shows any command of more than one pitch, he can be useful in the Twins big league bullpen. So far, he has been inconsistent with his command and he isn't doing himself any favors.
Some in the Twins organization have seen Kyle Gibson as a major piece of the Twins' future rotation. His progress was halted with elbow issues that resulted in Tommy John surgery at the end of last year. He will be lost to the club until next season. Gibson will have to show he is healthy enough to regain both the strength in his arm and improve his velocity, which declined as his elbow issues worsened. I have never been high on Gibson, but perhaps he was hurt more seriously and for longer periods than was made public.
Alex Wimmers has caused some consternation in the Twins organization. Apparently, he came to spring training out of shape in 2011 and eventually had hamstring issues. Currently pitching at Double-A New Britain, Wimmers is considered a back end of the rotation starter. As noted before, the Twins are almost desperate for starting pitchers and the Twins invested in the Ohio State pitcher as a part of their future. It is way too soon to predict if the investment in Wimmers will be wasted. This is a pivotal season in his career.
Levi Michael has not gotten off to the best start to his pro career. He has been assigned to High-A Fort Myers this year and is hitting .227 in 112 plate-appearances. Michael has played both middle-infield spots, and we'll have to see how his career develops. For now, he's a relative unknown.
Jeremy Jeffress can throw the ball 100 mph or more. Up until now he really hasn't had much idea where it will be going. Jeffress has a great arm, no doubt about it. When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League he began to throw some more breaking pitches. If he ever gets his command, Kansas City now has a power arm at the back end of the bullpen. I think he's too good to forget about. But if he is ever to pitch on the biggest stage, Jeffress will have to gain greater command, get movement on the ball and keep the ball out of the eyes of hitters. Only 24, he still has a chance to succeed.
Once again, Matt LaPorta is tearing up Triple-A pitching, proving once again he is one of the better Quad-A hitters. We have seen it before. Rake in the high minor leagues and hit loud pop ups in the major leagues. The difference? Basically, the quality of the breaking balls. Pitchers in the minors do not challenge the hitters the same way as higher quality big league pitchers. I don't know what it will take for LaPorta to prove he can hit. Maybe a trade would help.
Brett Lawrie marks the third first-round player in consecutive years that is no longer with the Brewers. Lawrie allegedly refused an assignment to the Arizona Fall League, and among other issues, didn't endear himself to the Brewers brass. His trade to Toronto may have been for the best. He is now firmly in place as the third baseman of the present and future with the Blue Jays. He can hit, hit for power, run and play defense. He has tremendous upside, provided he stays healthy.
Eric Arnett has played parts of four seasons in the minor leagues and he is currently in High-A ball at Brevard County. He has a career ERA of 5.72 and a WHIP of 1.550. The 6-foot-5 righty has been converted to a reliever after seeing little success in a starting role. Frankly, Arnett has literally fallen off the face of the earth as far as the Brewers pitching prospects are concerned. He has been passed by a host of right-handers in the system as well as a few lefties. I'm not sure what the team plans for his future. The problem? He is very, very hittable. He has averaged over 10 hits per nine innings in his career. Couple that with three-plus walks per game and there are always runners on base.
Taylor Jungmann is a very highly rated right-handed starter that was among the elite group of pitchers in the draft. He has a chance to be a top of the rotation starter for the Brewers once he gets some much need experience under his belt. Jungmann is already pitching at High-A because of his collegiate experience at Texas. He has started seven games to date and has a 2-3 record with a very good ERA of 2.93. Look for Jungmann to move quickly through the Brewers' system because of their need for starting pitchers. He has had some command issues, but he still has a great deal of learning to do and those should become less prominent.
Jed Bradley is the other stud starter the Brewers picked up last year in the draft. He is also at High-A and, like Jungmann, is pitching very well. Bradley is a lefty, and between Jungmann and Bradley, the club may have a dominant one-two combination for years to come. Bradley pitched for Georgia Tech where he gained national recognition for his combination of fastball and slider. I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and there wasn't any particular pitch of Bradley's that blew me away. I don't think he's as solid as Jungmann, but he's still a work in progress and he should be helpful in the rotation.
*I didn't appreciate the Cardinals until I watched them for a full series. No easy outs in the lineup. Solid starting pitching. The biggest concern may be the bullpen-but they play as a team.
*Scouts are concerned that Albert Pujols is expanding his strike zone. He certainly didn't do that in spring training.
*Would you have bet that the Dodgers would have a better record than the Angels at this point of the season?
*This is the time when the Orioles collapse. And didn't we know that Chris Davis would break out? Of course-I traded him just before the season.
*I think now is the time for fantasy owners to trade Derek Jeter.
*Adam Dunn is healthy.
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