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John Sickels' Column: 2009 First Round Analysis

John Sickels

John Sickels writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

2009 First Round Analysis

In the hours before the draft began, several players (particularly at the high school level. increased their bonus demands beyond what many clubs, struggling with a down economy, are willing or able to pay. As a result, the first round ended up looking differently than people anticipated even 24 hours ago.

1. Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State

Strasburg's numbers for San Diego State this year were crazy: 13-1, 1.32 with a 195/19 K/BB in 109 innings, just 65 hits allowed. His fastball can hit 100, he's got a terrific curveball, and his command is very sharp. He'll cost a bundle to sign, but since he's the best pitching prospect to come along in 30 years, the Nationals will move heaven and earth to get the deal done.

2. Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B-OF, North Carolina

Scouts rate Ackley as the best overall position player in college ball this year. Hitting .412/.513/.776 with 22 homers and 13 steals for North Carolina, he offers power, a high batting average, and good plate discipline. Although a first baseman in college, he'll move to the outfield as a pro, likely in center field. He won't need much minor league seasoning, and should advance rapidly through the Seattle system.

3. Padres: Donavan Tate, OF, Georgia HS

Tate wants a reported $6 million to sign. His tools are undeniable, but some scouts question how his swing will work against advanced pitching, adding a bit of risk to his package. Scott Boras ties, and a dual football/baseball offer from North Carolina give him plenty of leverage. The Padres made this pick with eyes-open, knowing he won't be cheap, but banking on his tools to boost a farm system that needs more athletes.

4. Pirates: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College

Pirates fans may not be too happy about this, given the organization's history of overdrafts in past classes. Sanchez is a very good defensive catcher and hit .346/.443/.614 with 14 homers for Boston College. Most experts saw him fitting at the bottom of the first round talent-wise, but the sudden escalation of asking price by other players moved him up the list. He's a solid prospect in his own right, and hopefully the money saved here will be used on the international market, or to sign other players in later rounds.

5. Orioles: Matt Hobgood, RHP, California HS

Hobgood vaulted up the draft lists at the last second because he was considered more signable than the other elite talents. Talentwise, there's nothing wrong with him: he can hit the mid-90s and has a plus curveball, but his mature 6-4, 245 pound body has less projection remaining than some of the other prep pitchers. Nevertheless, his power arm is among the best available, and several teams lower in the draft are unhappy he went this high.

6. Giants: Zack Wheeler, RHP, Georgia HS

Wheeler is athletic and projectable, and already works in the low-90s with his fastball. His breaking ball is also good (considering his age., but he'll need to improve his changeup. The Giants have had good luck helping other high school pitchers develop, so he fits well into their system, giving them another live arm behind Bumgarner and Alderson. He should be signable.

7. Braves: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt

Extremely polished, the Vanderbilt lefty went 6-6, 3.90 ERA with 114/37 K/BB in 111 innings, 109 hits allowed this spring. Although his fastball is average and he has limited remaining projection, his excellent feel for pitching should get him to the majors very quickly. And he was affordable, no small consideration this year. Although the Braves usually prefer high school pitchers, Minor's polish and price was too much to pass up.

8. Reds: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State.

Exceptionally polished, Leake had video game numbers this year for the Sun Devils: 1.36 ERA, 16-1, 150/21 K/BB in 133 innings, 79 hits. His stuff is above average across the board, but his command and control are off-the-charts, and scouts love his personality. He is undersized compared to some of the other early choices, but he won't need much minor league time and is very athletic.

9. Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP, Missouri HS

The Tigers took a signability chance with Rick Porcello, and will take a similar one with Turner. He has an excellent fastball and shows promise with his secondary pitches, but he won't be cheap to sign, and like all pitchers his age he has to prove he can stay healthy. On talent alone, this is an excellent choice; we'll have to see how the money works out.

10. Nationals: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford

Storen is a fire-balling college closer with good command, posting a 3.80 ERA with 66/8 K/BB in 43 inning, 34 hits, and seven saves this year. His command is very good, and there has been talk of him becoming a starter if his changeup can improve a bit. Nevertheless, he could come very quickly in the bullpen assuming he continues to throw strikes like this.

11. Rockies: Tyler Matzek, LHP, California HS

Matzek priced himself out of the top 10, and it will be very interesting to see how the negotiations go. Matzek has a 90-94 MPH fastball and a good breaking ball, and scouts love his delivery and athleticism. The Rockies clearly went with the best player left on their board. Can they sign him? And does he want to pitch in Colorado? He could easily take the college route.

12. Royals: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats

Crow is a local guy from a small town in Kansas and the University of Missouri. He shouldn't be too difficult to sign in this spot, and supposedly grew up a Royals fan. On talent, he is a fine value in this slot, with a 90-94 MPH fastball and a good measure of polish and command.

13. Athletics: Grant Green, SS, Southern Cal

Green had a somewhat disappointing spring for USC, hitting .374/.435/.569 with 16 steals in 24 attempts, but just four homers. He should be able to remain at shortstop, but needs to refine his swing and his plate discipline. Nevertheless, he was likely the best remaining position player left on the board, at least in the college ranks, and is good value here.

14. Rangers: Matthew Purke, LHP, Texas HS

Purke's arm is tremendous, but he priced himself out of the first ten picks. He already gets his fastball into the 90s, and could have additional velocity nascent in his projectable frame. He's a good fit for the home-state Rangers, given their renewed emphasis on bringing power arms into the system. If the price is remotely affordable, he is a prime pick in this spot.

15. Indians: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina

White's most recent post-season college outing raised his stock again after an erratic spring campaign. His overall numbers: 4.13 ERA with 109/41 K/BB in 98 innings, 86 hits for North Carolina. He has an excellent fastball, but his secondary pitches and command can still be inconsistent. Nevertheless, he has the physical ceiling of a number one starter if the command comes around. This could be a bargain for the Indians.

16. Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B, Florida HS

He was linked to the Diamondbacks for several weeks, so this pick isn't really a surprise. His switch-hitting power is very intriguing, and if he can remain at third base (perhaps an open question. he has All-Star potential. His bat will also play at first, but obviously he would have more value if he remains at the hot corner.

17. Diamondbacks: A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame

Pollock was expected to go later in the round or in the supplemental round, so this might be a money-saving pick for Arizona. Nevertheless, he's a legitimate talent, hitting .365/.443/.610 with 10 homers, 21 steals in 25 attempts for the Irish this year. He also was MVP of the wooden bat Cape Cod League last summer. He should reach the majors before Borchering, but his ceiling isn't as high.

18. Marlins: Chad James, LHP, Oklahoma HS

James hits the low-90s with his heater and can spin a curveball. He needs the standard things young pitchers need: experience, polish, better command. He will need to be bought away from Oklahoma State, but is said to be signable in this spot, and fits well into the Marlins organizational philosophy that emphasizes youth and power arms.

19. Cardinals: Shelby Miller, RHP, Texas HS

Miller is a big hard-throwing right-hander with a fastball that touches 95-96 MPH. He also shows promise with his breaking ball and changeup, though both need additional polish, and he sometimes overthrows. His overall athleticism is excellent, which should help him stay healthy (in theory) and improve his mechanical consistency.

20. Blue Jays: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State

Jenkins went 8-1, 2.54 with a 98/15 K/BB ratio in 92 innings for Kennesaw State this year, with 80 hits allowed. He moved ahead of teammate Kyle Heckathorn in the estimation of scouts, thanks to excellent command of his 90-93 MPH sinker. His breaking ball and changeup are also major league quality, and he's a solid pick here for the Jays.

21. Astros: Jiovanni Mier, SS, California HS

Mier is quite athletic and well-regarded defensively, and scouts love his makeup and work ethic. Not everyone thinks he will hit particularly well, especially for power, but others point to strong contact skills and project at least gap power. The Astros made an outside-consensus pick last year with Jason Castro in the first round, and Mier is another choice sure to raise some eyebrows.

22. Twins: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri

Gibson had a fine year for the Tigers, going 11-3, 3.21 with a 131/19 K/BB in 107 innings, with 95 hits allowed. He was a lock for the Top 10 and probably the Top 5, until his velocity dropped to just 84-85 MPH in his last start, a result of a stress fracture in his forearm. The Twins love pitchers who throw strikes, and Gibson, if healthy, he fits their mold very well.

23. White Sox: Jared Mitchell, OF, Louisiana State

The best athlete in the draft not named Donavan Tate, Mitchell has blazing speed and some power potential. He hit .325/.471/.557 with 9 homers, 35 steals in 44 attempts, 52 walks, 61 strikeouts in 203 at-bats for LSU this year. He needs to cut back on his strikeouts, but is aware of the importance of strike zone judgment. His makeup is also highly regarded, but his football background makes him less refined than most college players.

24. Angels: Randal Grichuk, OF, Texas HS

Grichuk's best tool is power, and he has that in droves. He made a late charge up draft boards, due to his relative signability as much as his talent. His tools besides power are considered average, but the bat will play in left field and the Angels were looking for impact offense.

25. Angels: Michael Trout, OF, New Jersey HS

Trout is toolsier than fellow Angels draftee Grichuk, but is from a cold-weather state and is somewhat raw. Scouts rate both his power and his speed highly, and they also love his attitude and work ethic. His speed and arm are good enough for him to play center field at the pro level.

26. Brewers: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana

Arnett had a terrific season for Indiana, posting a 2.50 ERA with 109/39 K/BB in 108 innings, 82 hits allowed. He did it with solid stuff: 90-95 MPH fastball and a hard slider. His changeup needs some work, but fits Milwaukee's need for pitching very nicely and is a good value at this spot in the draft.

27. Mariners: Nick Franklin, SS, Florida HS

Franklin is a good-field, good-speed, might-not-hit shortstop. He makes contact and is very athletic, but isn't expected to develop a lot of punch at the plate. On the other hand, his defense is well-regarded, as are his work ethic and makeup, and some teams (including the Mariners apparently. do think he'll hit sufficiently at higher levels once he matures physically. Players with the ability to remain at shortstop are rare in this draft, which increased Franklin's stock in the end.

28. Red Sox: Reymond Fuentes, OF, Puerto Rico HS

A cousin of Carlos Beltran, Fuentes is a tremendous athlete with excellent speed. He also has some power potential, and is more refined than the average player from Puerto Rico. He still needs to fill out physically, but has shown at least a theoretical understanding of the importance of getting on base to make the most out of his speed. This could be a very astute pick.

29. Yankees: Slade Heathcott, OF, Texas HS

Heathcott has an LSU scholarship and some makeup problems, both signability factors knocking him to the bottom of the first round. Physically, he has outstanding tools, and the Yankees will be patient with his development. His power is probably his best tool, but he runs well and also has a strong arm.

30. Rays: LeVon Washington, 2B-OF, Florida HS

Washington played outfield in high school, but the Rays called his name as a second baseman. He has a horrible arm, but is probably the fastest player in the draft. We'll have to see how his other offensive skills develop, particularly his on-base ability. On first blush, this looks like an overdraft in the first round.

31. Cubs: Brett Jackson, OF, University of California

Jackson is an excellent athlete, but he never quite lived up to expectations in college. He hit .321/.407/.564, 8 homers, 11 steals, 61 strikeouts in 218 at-bats for California. The strikeout rate is very high and scouts quibble about his swing mechanics, but he did draw 29 walks. His makeup is rated highly.

32. Rockies: Tim Wheeler, OF, Sacramento State

Wheeler hit .385/.494/.765 with 18 homers, 15 steals in 17 attempts for Sac State this year, tapping into his natural power more fully for the first time. He's regarded as a solid all-around player who does everything well, though nothing outstandingly.

Article first appeared 6/10/09