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Predicting the Draft

May 31, 2009

With the draft less than a month away, it’s time to put our thinking caps on and make an educated prediction as to which players will be taken in the very beginning of the draft.  Given that this is a Giants-oriented site, I’ll only be looking at the first six picks of the draft—if you want a more in-depth look at how the first round might shape up, I strongly suggest you check out Andy Seiler’s MLB Draft Site.

So, without further ado, your top six picks:

1.    Washington Nationals—Stephen Strasburg, RHP

Strasburg is the consensus top prospect in the draft, and he’s leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the draft class.  Armed with a high-90’s fastball that reaches triple digits, a knockout slurve and outstanding command, Strasburg has been mentioned as one of the best pitchers in Collegiate Baseball history on multiple occasions.  He’s more or less a lock to become a front-of-the-rotation starter and stands a very good chance at developing into one of the top pitchers in the game.  Washington has said they fully intend on taking him, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t.  Strasburg won’t get the 5-year, $50 million contract agent Scott Boras is asking for—Sidd Fynch or not, there’s absolutely no way Strasburg will get that much.  Look for the Nats to sign him at the deadline for $15-20 million and for him to make his debut in 2010.

2.    Seattle Mariners—Dustin Ackley, OF/1B

Ackley is the best pure hitter in the draft, with 70 speed and outstanding plate discipline and contact ability.  The only questions about him are how much power he’ll develop, as some see him as a 12-15 home run hitter and others see him reaching the 20-25 range, and what position he’ll play in the pros—while most believe he’ll be a strong center fielder, there’s still some question about his ability to play the position thanks to inexperience and an iffy arm.  But there’s no doubt that he’s the top prospect behind Strasburg and that he’ll make an impact in the Majors, no matter what position he plays.

3.    San Diego Padres—Aaron Crow, RHP
There’s no doubt that Crow offers a solid arsenal—a 92-96 MPH fastball with hard sink and impeccable command, a plus slider, and a developing changeup.  The issue with Crow are his mechanics, and this has been noted by not only internet mechanics gurus but scouts as well.  The Padres are a logical fit for Crow given that he’s polished and is a surer bet to reach his ceiling than the other available players, with the exception of perhaps Tanner Scheppers, Alex White and Kyle Gibson.  It all depends on whether or not the Padres believe in his mechanics and how they rate the other players on the board.

4.    Pittsburgh Pirates—Kyle Gibson, RHP

The Pirates have had bad luck in recent years with drafting impact pitchers high in the first round (Sean Burnett, Bryan Bullington, Paul Maholm, Brad Lincoln, and Daniel Moskos), and here they’ll land a polished collegiate starter that stands a very strong chance at becoming a front of the rotation starter.  With a frame at 6’6”, 205 pounds and a heavy fastball that generally sits from 89-91 MPH, Gibson has some size (and velocity) to add.  Gibson’s combination of polish and projectability will be enticing to Pittsburgh, and should he become more consistent with his offspeed offerings could stand a strong chance at being a true frontline starter.

5.    Baltimore Orioles—Tyler Matzek, LHP
Already armed with three top-flight pitching prospects (Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta), the Orioles are poised to bring in a young polished left-hander like Matzek.  With a 90-94 MPH fastball, plus curve, solid changeup and slider with advanced command, Matzek truly is the cream of the crop among left-handers in the draft.  While the Orioles will be enticed by Georgia High Schooler Donavan Tate, his price tag, commitment to UNC and his unrefined talent will guide them towards Matzek—who is much more of a sure bet to sign and reach his ceiling.

Now that we have the first five picks out of the way, let’s take a look at who the Giants may be looking at with the sixth pick, with a personal recommendation.

6.    San Francisco Giants
The Giants have done an outstanding job at rebuilding their farm system in only two drafts, and now boast one of the top farm systems in all of Baseball.  After having struck gold in 2007 with top picks Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, the Giants followed strong in 2008 with catcher Buster Posey and a number of polished collegiate hitters that stand a decent chance at making an impact in the Majors.

Grant Green, SS
There’s been a ton of mixed reports on Green this year, thanks to an iffy Junior campaign at USC that has left scouts wondering whether or not he’ll be able to stick at shortstop and just how good his bat truly is.  Green was originally touted as a five-tool talent in the mold of Troy Tulowitzki, and it’s hard to believe that his talent and upside disappeared in a matter of months.  It’s more plausible to diagnose Green with a case of “draftitis,” and the Giants could very well strike gold if Green regains form and proves his doubters wrong.

Shelby Miller, RHP

The 6’3”, 205-pound Miller throws a fastball in the low to mid-90’s with exceptional sink and has reached 98 MPH this Spring with a plus curve and developing changeup.  The issue with Miller, as with most High School pitchers, is that he has problems with command at times.  His deceptive delivery, good stuff, and projectability will make him an enticing option for the Giants.

Tanner Scheppers, RHP
Scheppers was slated to be selected within the top 10 picks in the 2008 draft, but wear and tear on his right shoulder dropped him down to the Pirates, where he declined to sign and instead went to pitch for the Saint Paul Saints.  An athletic 6’4”, 200-pound right-hander, Scheppers throws in the mid-90’s with ease and touches 98 MPH on occasion.  He complements this with a hard but erratic curve and an underdeveloped changeup.  With a now-clean delivery, size and velocity, Scheppers could develop quickly in San Francisco’s system.

Donavan Tate, OF
The son of running back Lars Tate, Donavan is easily the best prep position player available in the draft.  He has all the tools to become a star in the mold of Carlos Beltran—with plus raw power, outstanding speed, exceptional range, and a cannon for an arm—but he’s also extremely raw and stands just as good a chance of becoming a bust as he is to become a star.  Add in the fact that he’s a two-sport star with a strong commitment to UNC and agent Scott Boras is seeking a $6 million bonus, the Giants would have to be absolutely certain that Tate will reach his ceiling.

Jacob Turner, RHP
The 6’5”, 205-pound Turner throws a low to mid-90’s fastball (that has hit 98 MPH) from a three-quarters slot and a hard curve, with a solid developing changeup to boot.  Turner has an easy delivery, and looks to become a front-of-the-rotation starter.  While Turner has the highest upside of any prep pitcher, he also comes with a hefty price tag—a commitment to UNC and a bonus demand of $7 million could make the Giants shy away from him.

Zack Wheeler, RHP
General Manager Brian Sabean reportedly went to see Wheeler pitch firsthand, so you know the interest in Wheeler is legitimate.  Wheeler’s fastball sits in the low 90’s and reaches the mid-90’s, and he complements this pitch with a hard slurve.  Wheeler’s command is iffy, but he’s young and quite projectable with exceptional upside.

Tim Wheeler, OF
The Sacramento State center fielder projects to hit well in pro ball, but there’s not much power projected in his swing—however, one could look at his size (6’4”, 205 pounds) and imagine that he could fill out a bit more and add some pop into his bat.  He has both an average arm and speed, but he’s a plus baserunner—and he might profile best in left field.

Alex White, RHP
White offers the upside of a #2 starter, but questions about his command and mechanics may prevent him from reaching his ceiling.  Blessed with an outstanding arm, White’s mid-90’s fastball shows plus movement and his hard splitter is a plus pitch as well.  The Giants could very well be interested in taking the big right-hander, should they find his mechanics to not be an issue.

Projected Pick: Tanner Scheppers, RHP

The main question for the Giants is whether or not they 1) believe in Grant Green, and 2) want to spend a lot of money on a raw high school outfielder like Donavan Tate.  Assuming that the Giants go for a balance of polish and projectability, it seems more likely that they’ll select Scheppers with the sixth overall pick.  There’s been talk that the Giants are looking at high school pitching, but with Matzek off the board and Turner’s hefty bonus demands, it seems more likely that they’ll select a more advanced arm.  White’s mechanical and control issues push him out of the discussion, and the Giants bring Scheppers back to California.  Adding Scheppers into the mix gives the Giants three potential frontline pitchers along with Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson in their system.

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