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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 7, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Live MLB draft blog (first round)

Here’s today’s Mariners’ minor-league report. Dustin Ackley, last year’s No. 1 by the M’s (No. 2 overall pick behind Strasburg, is on fire.

To set the scene, I’m sitting all along in the Mariners’ interview room, which they’ve set up as their media draft headquarters. The MLB Network coverage is on TV. I feel like a loner version of Mel Kiper Jr., with not as good hair. (PS, It’s 6:48 p.m. now, and I’m not alone anymore. Several more reporters have trickled in, along with M’s staffers).

The first round is now complete. I’m going to skip live-blogging the supplemental round to prepare for the M’s pick, which is now 11 selections away. With a minute in between, they’ll start to come fast and furious. I’ll start a new blog post to deal with the Mariners’ selection.

No. 32 overall: . The Yankees take Cito Culver, a high school shortstop from Rochester, NY, in the final pick of the first round. The compensation round begins next. He is also a pitcher with a 94 mph fastball but wants to be a shortstop. Some scouts believe he profiles as a utility player. He’s a switch-hitter without much power. Writes Baseball America, “Culver is an excellent athlete who plays basketball in the winter, and he could take off once he focuses on baseball.” Culver is committed to the University of Maryland.

No. 31 overall: The Rays take Justin O’Conner, a high school catcher from Muncie, Indiana. He has a great arm and great power potential.

No. 30 overall: The Angels, with their third No. 1 pick, take Chevy Clarke, a high school outfielder from Marietta, Georgia (that’s six kids from Georgia so far in the first round. It’s turned into a baseball hotbed). He’s a switch-hitter and is being compared as an offensive player to Jimmy Rollins. Baseball America writes, “Despite his tools, he hasn’t dominated high school competition, and scouts question his instincts. He lacks pitch recognition skills and swings and misses too much for someone with his swing and ability. Clarke has committed to Georgia Tech and could be a tough sign if he’s drafted lower than he was expecting.”

No. 29 overall: The Angels, with their second No. 1 pick, take RHP Cam Bedrosian, a Georgia high schooler and the son of former Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian. Steve Bedrosian was a closer but Cam is being regarded as a starter, at least for now. He’s committed to LSU. Writes Baseball America: “The only drawbacks with Bedrosian are his size (he’s a 6-foot righty but strong at 200 pounds) and the fact he has some effort in his delivery. Scouts have seen his fastball touch 96 mph, and Bedrosian sits in the 92-94 range all day. He repeats his delivery well enough to have fastball command at the amateur level, and with some smoothing out of his delivery he could have average pro command. He also throws a fringe-average curveball and changeup, as well as a power slider. He has the potential to have a plus fastball and three average secondary pitches if it all comes together.”

No. 28 overall: The Dodgers take RHP Zach Lee from McKinney High School in Texas. Great prospect, but the problem is, he’s committed to LSU to play quarterback. He’s regarded as a very tough sign because of his football future.

No. 27 overall: The Phillies take a local prospect, LHP Jesse Biddle, a high schooler from Philadelphia who is committed to the University of Oregon. I wonder if he’s related to the immortal Rocky Biddle? Biddle is 6-4, 225 pounds, and has hit 94 mph on the gun. BA says, “Scouts widely agree that his slider is more promising than his soft curveball, but he seldom deploys the slider in games, relying instead on the curve. His slider has a chance to be above-average in time. Some scouts say Biddle has shown feel for a tumbling changeup in bullpens and between innings, but he does not throw it in games.”

No. 26 overall: The Rockies take Clemson outfielder Kyle Parker, who had 19 home runs for one of the best teams in college baseball. He’ll be a signing challenge, because he’s Clemson’s starting quarterback and threw for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman. He’s the first player in Division 1 history to throw for 20 touchdowns and hit 15 homers in the same season.

No. 25 overall: St. Louis Cardinals take third baseman Zack Cox from Arkansas, described as the best pure hitter in the draft. He’s ranked the No. 6 prospect, so the Cardinals might have a steal here, if they’re willing to pay the hefty bonus. BA: “Cox has very good hands, a short, lefty stroke and nice command of the strike zone. He has an uncanny ability to hit the ball with authority to the opposite field. There’s some debate as to how much power he’ll have in the major leagues, but he has the bat speed to do damage once he adds more loft to his swing. He has plenty of strength, as evidenced by a titanic shot he blasted off the top of a 90-foot-tall scoreboard at the 2009 Southeastern Conference tournament. Six feet and 215 pounds, Cox is a decent athlete with fringy speed and range at third base.”

No. 24 overall: Cal State Fullerton provides their second No. 1 pick, outfielder Gary Brown to the Giants. Baseball America calls Brown “one of the most electrifying players seen in Southern California in years.” He’s lightning fast, time this year at 3.69 from the right side on a bunt attempt. “The rap on Brown since he failed to sign with the Athletics as a 12th-round pick out of high school in 2007 has been his hitting ability, or perceived lack thereof,” BA writes. “After slow but steady improvement in his first two seasons, he has exploded as a junior, ranking among the national leaders with a .449 average in mid-May. Brown has shown interesting pop with a slugging percentage well over .700 as well, and he projects as an above-average hitter as a pro.”

No. 23 overall: Hey, we’re now more than halfway to the M’s pick. Hang in there. The Marlins take Christian Yelich, an outfielder from Westlake (Calif.) H.S. BA says, “Tall (6-foot-3), angular and projectable and possessing a sweet lefthanded swing, Yelich is far more athletic than the usual lumbering first-base prospect, with above-average speed. He consistently runs a 6.75-second 60-yard dash in showcase events, and shows both range and a nifty glove around the bag. That kind of athleticism usually signals a position change, but Yelich has a below-average throwing arm that limits him to first.” Yelich is committed to U. of Miami, and is compared to James Loney and Casey Kotchman; ie, first basemen without power.

No. 22 overall: The Rangers, with their second pick in the first round, take a high school catcher from Langley, B.C., Kellin Deglan.He’s a member of Canada’s Junior National team. Baseball America writes: “Deglan has gotten bigger and stronger every year and has worked hard to maintain his balance and footwork behind the plate. He is an advanced receiver and has a strong arm, consistently displaying pop times around two seconds flat. Scouts do have a couple of questions regarding Deglan’s swing. He has long arms, which can lead to a long swing, and he sometimes swings around the ball and can be attacked inside. But he also has a lot of strength and when he pulls his hands inside the ball, he can use his arms for leverage, which gives him intriguing power potential.” They peg him as a second- to third-round talent, which indicates, along with their stretch earlier in the draft, that the pending sale of the time might be affecting the Rangers’ scope in this draft.

No. 21 overall: The Twins take RHP Alex Wimmers from Ohio State. They just pointed out on MLB Network that he has the highest lifetime batting average at Moeller High School in Cincinnati — alma mater of Buddy Bell , Barry Larkinand…Ken Griffey Jr. He was slowed this season by a hamstring injury. BA says, “He has the best changeup in the 2010 draft crop, and one area scout said it’s the best he has ever seen from an amateur. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94, and he could add a little more velocity if he builds arm strength by using it more in pro ball. His third pitch is a curveball that he easily throws for strikes.”

No. 20 overall: The Red Sox take second baseman Kolbrin Vitek out of Ball State University. His future in the pros could be as an outfielder. Writes BA:” In a draft short on premium college hitters, Vitek is one of the best. He ranked as the top prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, batting .400 and winning the league’s first triple crown. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthanded hitter, he’s a more physical version of former Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock, the 17th overall pick a year ago of the Diamondbacks…. With quick hands and a sound approach, he consistently barrels balls and projects as an above-average hitter with average to plus power.”

No. 19 overall: With their second pick in the first round, the Astros take RHP Mike Foltynewicz from Minook (Ill.) High School. He’s regarded as the best pitching prospect in the upper Midwest and has committed to Texas. He touches 96 with his fastball and has an advanced changeup, scouts say.

No. 18 overall: With what would have been the Mariners pick — they lost it when they signed Chone Figgins — the Angels take high school third baseman Kaleb Cowart from Cook High School in Georgia. Cowart is also a hot-shot pitcher, but he was announced as a third baseman. BA ranked him the No. 12 prospect and compared him to Georgia prep Buster Posey as a two-way talent and writes, “Like Posey, Cowart prefers to hit; he’s a switch-hitting third baseman, and while some scouts consider his defense fringy at the hot corner, he has strength in his swing and some raw power.” His signability is an issue. Cowart is committed to Florida State.

No. 17 overall: Seattle’s Josh Sale, an outfielder from Blanchet High School, goes to the Rays. Our own Mason Kelley profiled him in the Seattle Times recently. Baseball America has him ranked as their No. 10 prospect, writing: “Though he works hard, Sale isn’t a great fielder, thrower or runner, but there’s thunder in his bat. And in a year thin on impact hitters, that’s what teams will be buying with Sale in the first round. Sale’s father is Samoan and ranks among the best in the nation in drug-free powerlifting. He has inherited his father’s love for working out and has a rock-solid, 6-toot-1, 215-pound frame. With bat speed better than Travis Snider–one scout even called it the best bat speed he has ever seen from an amateur–Sale has raw power that approaches the top of the scouting scale.”

No. 16 overall: The Cubs take LHP Haden Simpson from Southern Arkansas University. Another real stretch, ranked 191st overall by Baseball America. Yes, 191st. He lives next door to the coach at S. Arkansas. Simpson has gone 35-2, 2.39 with 323 strikeouts in 271 innings in three seasons with the NCAA Division II Muleriders. Writes Baseball America, “Though he’s just 6 feet and 175 pounds, he has a strong lower half and a quick arm that delivers 91-93 mph fastballs that peak at 96. His fastball is fairly straight and he tends to pitch up in the zone, which could lead to difficulty with tougher competition. He has a pair of hard breaking pitches, an 82-83 mph slider and an 78-80 mph curve. He also has a changeup that he uses sparingly, and he commands his entire repertoire well.”

No. 15 overall: The Rangers select high school outfielder Jake Skole from Roswell, Georgia, which is a bit of a head scratcher. So much so that I’m having a hard time finding a scouting report.

No. 14 overall: The Brewers take a high school pitcher from Pasadena, Calif., Dylan Covey, a right-hander.

No. 13 overall: The White Sox take a player named Sale, but it’s not Blanchet’s Josh Sale. It’s LHP Chris Sale from Florida Gulf Coast University. Sale is ranked No. 5 by Baseball America, which writes: “As a junior, Sale consistently has delivered for scouts, leading the nation with 114 strikeouts while showing excellent fastball command (12 walks in 83 innings). Sale’s changeup grades as plus like his fastball, and his slider is a solid-average pitch that’s effective against lefthanded hitters. With his low slot, Sale can get on the side of all his pitches, especially his slider, at times leaving them up in the zone. Some scouts are concerned about his durability, due to both his frame (he lost five to seven pounds off his 6-foot-6, 180-pound listed frame due to a bout of food poisoning in May) and upside-down takeaway at the beginning of his arm stroke.”

No. 12 overall: : The Reds take the top college catcher, Yasmani Grandal out of the University of Miami. He’s a switch-hitter with power who left Cuba for Miami at age 11. Writes Baseball America: “Grandal has traded his all-pull approach for more contact and an all-fields swing in 2010, and the results have been dramatic. He has dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he was hitting nearly .500 in league games, and he ranked among the national leaders in on-base percentage (.545) and walks (43). A switch-hitter, Grandal has some length to his swing but has shortened up from the left side and has solid-average raw power. Defensively, he plays with energy and is slightly above-average as a receiver. His throwing arm is his biggest concern, as some scouts have seen more 2.1-second pop times (below-average) than would be expected of a top draft pick.”

No. 11 overall: The Blue Jays take RHP Deck McGuire out of Georgia Tech. John Hart just called him “a winner” on MLB Network. Baseball America writes, “McGuire commands a 90-92 mph fastball that hits 94, and he throws with a good downhill angle to the plate, making it tough to elevate. His fastball has a bit less life than it used to. McGuire also throws strikes with his curveball and harder slurve, and his changeup is average to fringe-average. He’s an excellent competitor who doesn’t fold up with runners on base.”

No. 10 overall: The A’s take center fielder Michael Choice out of the University of Texas-Arlington. Baseball America writes, “He has the best power among four-year college players in this draft class. He starred for Team USA’s college squad last summer, leading all players with three homers at the World Baseball Challenge, and was chasing the Southland Conference triple crown this spring. Texas-Arlington’s career leader in batting and homers (.398, with 34 homers through mid-May), Choice has a strong 6-foot, 215-pound frame.”

No. 9 overall: The Padres take RHP Karsten Whitson out of Chipley HS in Chipley, Florida, regarded as the No. 1 high school pitcher in the baseball-rich state of Florida.

No. 8 overall: The Astros take outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., from Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. A lot of mock drafts had the Astros taking local product Josh Sale from Blanchet High School. DeShields, ranked No. 55 by Baseball America, might be a stretch by the Astros, who don’t have a sterling track record in the draft. Obviously, DeShields has strong baseball genes. His dad was an excellent second baseman with the Expos.

No. 7 overall: The Mets take RHP Matt Harvey from UNC Chapel Hill. In high school, Harvey was ranked ahead of Rick Porcello as the No. 1 prospect in the country, but went unsigned as a third-rounder by the Angels. Baseball America says. “Scouts agree that Harvey’s arm action is longer now than it was in 2007 but they aren’t sure why. It affects his command, as it’s harder for him to repeat his delivery and find the same release point. When he does, Harvey has explosive stuff, and he has worked harder than ever, thanks to improved maturity, to improve his balance and tempo. As a result, Harvey has pitched like an ace, with only one clunker start (against Duke) this spring and several gems, including a 158-pitch, 15-strikeout complete game at Clemson.”

No. 6 overall: In what could be a stretch, the Diamondbacks took RHP Barret Loux of Texas A & M. He is ranked as just the No. 35 overall prospect by Baseball America, not that they are infallible. Loux was selected in the 24th round by the Tigers two years ago, but didn’t sign. Last year, he had bone chips in his elbow, but once they were removed, he has hit 95 mph on the speed gun. Baseball America says, “The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder throws with such ease that his fastball appears even harder. If he had a standout second pitch, he’d be a first-round pick, but he may have to settle for the sandwich round because his curveball and changeup are merely effective.”

No. 5 overall: The Indians select LHP Drew Pomerantz from the University of Mississippi. Pomerantz is the first college pitcher to go, reflective of the belief that college pitching is down this year. But this guy is highly regarded, despite being slowewd this year by a mild pectoral muscle strain, which lowered his velocity down to the upper 80s. At his best, he throws 90 to 94. Baseball America writes, “Coaches assert that he’s nearly unhittable at the college level when he’s throwing his hard curve for strikes, a 12-to-6 downer. His changeup is solid-average as well, as he has shown feel for using it. Control has been Pomeranz’s biggest concern.”

No. 4 overall: The Royals have taken Cal State Fullerton shortstop Cristian Colon. Look out, Yuni, he’s coming for you. Baseball America has him ranked as their No. 9 prospect, but he’s believed to be closer to the big leagues than perhaps anyone else in the draft. Baseball America says, “One of the nation’s better hitters, Colon uses a distinct upper-cut in his swing, looking to lift and drive the ball. That approach is not typical for a smaller middle infielder, but Colon shows terrific bat speed as his barrel connects with the ball. He also is patient and makes consistent contact; despite his power approach, he’s one of the toughest players to strike out in Division I thanks to excellent barrel awareness. He’s a skilled hitter who hits behind runners, bunts and executes the hit-and-runs effectively. Defensively, Colon’s range is limited, and his speed and arm are below-average for a shortstop.”

No. 3 overall: The Orioles have taken Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado, out of Hialeah. Harold Reynolds just said he would have taken Machado No. 1 — ahead of Harper! He’s being compared to Alex Rodriguez — as all talented high school shortstops from Florida inevitably are. Baseball America’s rundown: “He leapt into first-round consideration at the start of the 2009 summer showcase season and never stopped hitting or fielding, helping lead USA Baseball’s 18U team to a gold medal in Venezuela in the Pan American Junior Championship. He’s of Dominican descent and is a tall, lanky shortstop in South Florida, attracting inevitable Alex Rodriguez comparisons. Machado is skinny at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds but surprisingly strong and has a swing that produces hard contact. He’s familiar with wood bats and has shown a knack for centering the ball on the barrel. Scouts project him to hit for average future power, with a chance to be a .300 hitter. Defensively, Machado will remain at shortstop as a pro and has a chance to be an above-average defender. ”

No. 2 overall: The Pirates take a high school pitcher from Woodland, Texas, Jameson Taillon, another in a long line of Texas fireballers. He is said to throw 99 mph. The Pirates have a long, sordid history of blowing their high draft picks by going cheap, but this is a well-regarded pick by the draftniks. Baseball America has him ranked right where he was picked — as the No. 2 prospect behind Harper. Here’s what Baseball America says about him: “There’s no doubt that Taillon has more upside than any pitching prospect in the 2010 draft. The only debate is whether he’s a better pitching prospect than fellow Texas fireballer Josh Beckett was at the same stage of his career. They have similar stuff, with Taillon having a bigger frame (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) and Beckett possessing a meaner streak on the mound and turning in a more consistent high school senior season.

No. 1 overall: The Nationals take Bryce Harper. Surprise, surprise. Remember, this guy is just 17 years old. Everyone expects him to be a corner outfielder, not a catcher, as a pro. He’s represented by Scott Boras, so of course he’ll go right down to the signing deadline, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t sign, no doubt for a signing bonus that will be some sort of new record, either for a position player, or a teenager, or a JC player. That’s how Boras rolls. This guy is being bred to be a major-leaguer,and he seems impatient to get started down that road.

There has been some talk that Harper is a behavioral problem, a prima donna, but others have jumped to Harper’s defense. My two cents: When you’re put on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, you’re going to have an ego, maybe even a sense of entitlement. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll mature as he gets older. Speaking of SI, here’s the outstanding Tom Verducci article that started the whole Bryce Harper phenomenon.

Interestingly, Bud Selig just announced Harper as an outfielder from the College of Southern Nevada. That tells you volumes about the Nationals’ plans for him.

The Nationals once again have the No. 1 pick, and they have a chance to set themselves up for years to come. After getting Stephen Strasburg, the top pitching prospect of the century (to listen to the hype) last year, they will likely now get Bryce Harper, the top power prospect of the century (to listen to the hype).

And the Nationals are on the clock.

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