This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
2008 Draft Preview
Here is a look at some premium players expected to go early in the 2008 baseball draft. Players are listed alphabetically.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, Miami-Florida
Miami first baseman is renowned for a polished hitting approach with excellent strike zone judgment and strong power production. His bat is very advanced and he would likely rise up a farm system ladder quite quickly. Expected to go somewhere in the 10-15 range, at worst, depending on how other players slot.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
A wrist injury has held back Alvarez's production this year for Vanderbilt, but scouts still believe in his bat despite mediocre performances this spring. Alvarez is reportedly still the number one or number two player on most draft boards, and probably won't get past the first five picks. Persistent rumors link him with the Pirates at number two.
Gordon Beckham, SS, Georgia
Beckham has had a tremendous college season offensively and will be able to play shortstop at the major league level, making him a "safe" choice who should reach the majors quickly. Where he slots depends on what happens with players ahead of him, but he'd make sense for several teams that need hitting and he won't get past the top ten.
Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS, Griffin, Georgia
No relation to Gordon, Tim Beckham is the consensus best overall high school player in the draft, thanks to a good combination of tools and skills. He'll stay at shortstop, will hit for average, and is expected to develop at least average power. Current buzz about the industry has him going to Tampa Bay with the number one pick. He's not as good as B.J. or Justin Upton, but he's a solid talent and will make an impact.
Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills HS, Chino Hills, California
A toolsy left-handed hitting outfielder with speed and power potential, Collier has been rising up draft boards after showing more polish than scouts expected before the season began. While he won't advance as rapidly as the college hitters on the board, his physical ceiling is impressive and he's a solid pick in the middle or later part of the first round. A corrected heart condition might worry a few people but doesn't seem to harm his stock enough to make a big difference.
Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri
Although Crow has been passed by San Diego's Brian Matusz on many draft boards, he's still the consensus top right-hander available, on the basis of his 93-96 MPH fastball, excellent slider, and strong command. He was unhittable early in the season before a mid-campaign rough patch, but he hasn't lost much stock. He would seem a logical fit for the home-town Royals at number three, but Kansas City may be more interested in hitting and Crow may slide down another slot or two. He won't get out of the top 10.
Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia
Fields' blistering fastball, success as a college closer, and lack of draft leverage as a senior should make him attractive to numerous clubs around the middle of the first round, especially anyone looking for a pitcher who could contribute quickly. His command is still an issue, but the consistency problems that hampered him in 2007 and hurt his draft stock last year have eased.
Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
Friedrich blew away the competition pitching for a weak team at Eastern Kentucky, thanks to a 90 mph fastball and a top-notch curve that generates Barry Zito comparisons. While he doesn't have the pure ceiling of some of the other top college arms, he is another "safe" pick who should reach the majors quickly and is the second-best southpaw available behind Matusz. Spring rumors have linked him to the White Sox at eight, St. Louis at 13, and the Twins at 14.
Aaron Hicks, RHP-OF, Wilson HS, Long Beach, California
Hicks came into the season as a top-rated outfielder due to his athleticism and tools, but in recent weeks he's emerged as a top pitching prospect due to a fastball clocked as high as 97 MPH and a better-than-anticipated curveball. Some teams still prefer him as a hitter, but he's a legitimate first round pick either way, probably somewhere in the 12-18 range. He would make a nice fit for the Dodgers at 15.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Florida
Many scouts believe that Hosmer has the best bat in the draft and will reach the majors almost as quickly as the most advanced college players. His main problem draft-wise is advisor Scott Boras and the leverage of a scholarship to Arizona State. If Hosmer goes to college, he'd very likely be a top five pick again in the 2011 draft. As it stands he could go anywhere from three to 30 in this draft, depending on his financial demands.
Ethan Martin, RHP-3B, Stephens County HS, Toocoa, Georgia
Like Hicks, Martin is a two-way player who is probably a better bet on the mound, though not everyone agrees with that. He hits the mid-90s and isn't just a pure thrower, showing some polish for a guy relatively new to pitching. His bat is excellent, too, and scouts love his work ethic. It is unlikely he'll get past pick 20.
Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego
The best lefty in the draft and probably the best pitcher overall, Matusz has a 90-93 MPH fastball, and major league quality secondary pitches in his curveball, changeup, and slider. His command is also a strength and he's among the most polished pitchers in the draft. He should advance quickly and isn't likely to get past the top five.
Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS, Wentzville, Missouri
Melville's stock has been up and down a bit this spring, but has stabilized back at a strong level in the last two weeks. Hicks and Martin now challenge him for the title of best prep right-hander, but Melville remains in play due to his strong fastball/curveball combination. A North Carolina scholarship gives him leverage, but he will go in the first round and probably in the top 20. Like Hicks, he is the type of strong young pitcher who would interest the Dodgers at 15.
Buster Posey, C, Florida State
Posey has dominated college ball offensively this spring, while playing excellent defense behind the plate. Like Gordon Beckham, he's a "safe" pick who has a strong bat and plays a premium position well. Rumors have linked him to both Tampa at one and Kansas City at three, and there is no way he gets past the top ten.
Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS, Riverside, California
Many clubs covet Skipworth, who has excellent power from the left side, a strong arm, and a fine track record against strong competition. While a few still wonder about his future position, most scouts seem sold on his ability to remain behind the plate. Where he slots exactly depends on what happens in the top five.
Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina
Smoak's booming bat should get him to the majors quickly due to switch-hitting power with good plate discipline, and he's a fine defender as well. I get email from Giants fans clamoring for their club, in need of young hitting, to take Smoak. Whoever gets him should be very happy.
Brett Wallace, 3B, Arizona State
Wallace is a terrific hitter with power and discipline, and only questions about his body and defense keep him out of the top ten. He has a strong arm, has worked hard on his glove at third base, and has excellent makeup. He will slot in somewhere in the middle of the first round, perhaps to a team that likes college hitters (Oakland? Toronto?) and trusts their ability to fit him into the lineup.
Jemile Weeks, 2B, Miami-Florida
Rickie's younger brother has had a stellar season, showing surprising pop and improved defense to go with his speed and athleticism. He fits towards the end of the first round and could be a safe "fall-back" pick for numerous clubs if they have their favorites snatched up unexpectedly.
Other Potential First Round Picks
Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU; Jason Castro, C, Stanford; Gerritt Cole, RHP, Lutheran HS, Orange, California; David Cooper, 1B, California; Ike Davis, OF, Arizona State; Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville Florida HS; Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Wichita State; Reese Havens, SS, South Carolina; Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane; Casey Kelly, SS, Sarasota HS, Sarasota, Florida; Tyler Ladendorf, SS, Howard JC (Texas); Brett Lawrie, 3B, Brookwood SS, Langley, British Columbia; Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland HS, Illinois; Ryan Perry, RHP, Arizona; Ross Seaton, RHP, Second Baptist HS, Houston, Texas; Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State (depends on health status).
Article first appeared 6/1/08