This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
RotoWire 2009 Draft Review
Let's finish out our 2009 baseball draft coverage with a look at some winners and (potential) losers. Keep in mind that it takes at least five years to truly evaluate how good a draft class is or is not. Everything is theoretical at this point. TEAMS THAT DID WELL IN THE DRAFT
The Rockies made waves by picking Tyler Matzek with the 11th overall choice, and their subsequent picks (Tim Wheeler and Rex Brothers) are steals at 32nd and 34th overall. Matzek reportedly wants "precedent-setting money." Most baseball folks don't really believe he's worth Porcello-like funds, and the fact that the Rockies picked up Wheeler and Brothers gives them a bit of negotiating flexibility here. If Matzek turns down what the Rockies consider a fair offer, they can let him go to college, re-draft at 11 overall next year, and still have two first-round talents entering the system THIS year. If Matzek does sign, all the better. The rest of their draft class was a mixture of solid college picks with good performance records, and overall I think they handled the situation well.
Assuming that he signs, and assuming that something unfortunate doesn't happen to his arm, Steven Strasburg makes this a successful draft by himself. 10th-overall choice Drew Storen has already signed, and has the arm strength and command to get to the majors almost as rapidly as Strasburg, profiling as a future closer.
The Twins took a gamble with Kyle Gibson at 22nd overall, but if his forearm stress fracture heals properly, he's a steal in that slot. Their subsequent picks were all impressive: LHP Matt Bashore, RHP Billy Bullock, and RHP Ben Tootle are all college pitchers mentioned as possible first-round candidates at various times pre-draft. 19th round RHP John Stillson also has an excellent arm. The Twins need power arms in the farm system and this draft will certainly help.
**Kansas City Royals
RHP Aaron Crow is a strong pick at 12th overall. They lacked a second round pick, but made up for that with C Wil Myers in the third round, a first round talent who fell due to signability. Assuming he signs (probably a good bet, though it may take until August), Royals fans should be pleased with his aggressive approach. 4th round LHP Chris Dwyer out of Clemson also has a signability issue as a draft-eligible freshman, but he has an excellent arm. A group of interesting college pitchers filled out the middle rounds, adding arms to a farm system that has impact talent but needs more depth.
**San Francisco Giants
RHP Zack Wheeler in the first round is an excellent choice, but the Giants made good use of subsequent picks as well, picking up power-hitting C Tommy Joseph in the second round and University of Louisville power masher Chris Dominguez in the third. Fourth round pick Jason Stoffel is inconsistent but has first-round velocity. Joseph, Dominguez, and Stoffel were all rated as first round candidates in the months before the draft.
**Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox drafted an impressive mixture of high-ceiling players (OF Reymond Fuentes, SS David Renfroe) as well as guys with good performance records in college ball (RHP Alex Wilson, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker). They took their usual mid-round high school signability risk with RHP Madison Younginer in the seventh round, and being the Red Sox they can probably satisfy his financial demands.
Drafting Max Stassi in the fourth round is a real coup, assuming Oakland did their homework on his signability, which seems likely. Adding him to first rounder USC SS Grant Green and third round LHP Justin Marks (a solid strike-thrower) makes this draft a winner for the Athletics, along with solid selections in the middle rounds. TEAMS THAT HAD QUESTIONABLE DRAFTS
The Phillies are one of the most tool-oriented teams when it comes to the draft, valuing great athletes even if they aren't particularly good baseball players. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Second round pick Kelly Dugan and third round pick Kyrell Hudson have great tools but will need plenty of development time, especially Hudson, who is extremely raw and has makeup questions to boot. Given that the Phillies lacked a first round pick, much rides on these two players.
The Astros also took some heavy youth/tools risks early. First round SS Jiovanni Mier has a good glove and strong makeup, but there are doubts about his bat, and at 21st overall he looks like an overdraft to me. Second round RHP Tanner Bushue is an interesting projectable kid from Illinois who slots well in that round, but third round Georgia HS 1B Telvin Nash is pretty raw. INTERESTING STRATEGY IF IT WORKS
The Pirates have some explaining to do to their fan base, selecting Tony Sanchez in the first round. He's a very solid prospect, but not exactly the kind of player you look for at fourth overall. That said, if they are serious about plowing extra money into Latin America and the later rounds of the draft, it could be a defensible decision. The Bucs drafted three very impressive high school pitchers in the mid rounds: RHP Zack Von Rosenberg in the sixth, RHP Trent Stevenson in the seventh, and LHP Colton Cain in the eight. All three were rated as second round talents by scouts. If they can sign them away from college, Sanchez and three arms like this is a nice draft haul. If they don't sign them, an awful lot rides on Sanchez. DRAFTEES WHO COULD ADVANCE QUICKLY
**Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals
The No-Brainer. Barring something unforeseen, he'll be in the rotation a year from now.
**Drew Storen, RHP, Nationals
Storen has very good command of excellent stuff, and like Strasburg he could be in the majors very quickly, perhaps within a year.
**Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals
Crow is very polished, throws hard, and shouldn't need much minor league time. He should be ready for the Royals rotation by the second half of 2010.
**Dustin Ackley, OF, Mariners
There weren't many sure-thing bats available this year, but Ackley was the best available. He will probably need more time to adjust to center field than he'll need at the plate.
**Mike Leake, RHP, Reds
The Arizona State ace has exceptional command of very solid stuff, and given his pitching instincts he should not need much minor league tuneup time.
**Jason Kipnis, OF, Indians
Another Sun Devil, Kipnis doesn't have quite the excellent tools of other high draftees, but his polished approach and all-out style of play could get this second round pick to the majors rapidly. HIGH-PROFILE DRAFTEES WITH QUESTION MARKS
**Donavan Tate, OF, Padres
Tate is an exceptionally talented athlete, and is already capable of playing superb defense in a major league outfield. However, not everyone trusts his bat; he has issues with his swing, and his plate discipline may need work. It may take time to iron out these flaws, and there's a chance he may be disappointing offensively.
**Grant Green, SS, Athletics
Green was a sure-fire Top Five pick six months ago, but he disappointed scouts both offensively and defensively this year. He was still a worthy selection by Oakland in the first round, but he'll need to prove which is the aberration: this spring, or last year's Cape Cod League performance.
**The High School Pitchers
Zack Wheeler, Jacob Turner, Matt Purke, Tyler Matzek, Matt Hobgood - all excellent prospects of course, but keep in mind that high school pitchers by nature are volatile commodities. Will they stay healthy? Will they throw strikes?
Article first appeared 6/19/09