Someone commented to me yesterday, after yet another gem by Tim Lincecum, that former Mariners’ scouting director Bob Fontaine is doomed to be remembered as the guy that bypassed Lincecum in the 2006 draft.
That’s not completely fair, because Fontaine presided over some good drafts, and Brandon Morrow still has a high upside. But if Lincecum remains as good as he is now — Cy Young caliber, with Hall of Fame potential — that legacy will never go away.
But I’m not here to talk about the 2006 draft. We’ve gone over that, ad nauseum. No, I’m going to lament the 2005 draft, which isn’t looking so hot for Seattle, either — at least not the top of it.
The ’05 draft is generally regarded as the best in baseball history. Here is the first round,, topped by Justin Upton and Alex Gordon (the latter a disappointment so far for the Royals).
They haven’t all hit it big, but as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated points out in a recent piece (check out item No. 3), it’s an amazing array of talent, and it just keeps blossoming. Now outfielder Colby Rasmus, picked No. 28 overall by St. Louis, and Andrew McCutchen, No. 11 by Pittsburgh, are emerging as productive big leaguers.
The most prominent miss so far, it appears, is Jeff Clement by the Mariners at No. 3. I’m not prepared to write off Clement, mind you. Players develop at different speeds, and he has put up some very encouraging minor-league numbers. This year, for instance, Clement is hitting .282 with a .361 on-base percentage and .495 slugging percentage.
Those are good numbers for a catcher — but he doesn’t catch any more because of knee problems. Whether he’ll catch again in the future seems to be an open question. As a left-handed hitting catcher with the potential for those kind of numbers in the majors, Clement had tremendous value. As a first baseman/DH, not so much. And so far, in an admittedly small sample size — 75 games and 219 at-bats over the 2007-08 season, the bulk of them last year — he has not sustained that. Clement was outstanding in a brief stint in September of ’07, but given 203 at-bats last year, hit .227 with a .655 OPS.
Clement turns 26 in August, still young enough to make his mark. But when guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, along with Rasmus and McCutchen — all taken after Clement — are making All-Star teams and helping lead their clubs into the postseason, it makes Clement’s slow path to the majors more glaring.