With day one of a surprising 2011 MLB Draft coming to a close, baseball fans have plenty to be excited–and to gripe– about. Fans of the Washington Nationals will be plenty happy with their club a the front office had a banner day– grabbing top-tier talents in Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin. On the other hand, Yankees, Tigers, White Sox and Blue Jays fans have plenty to complain about.
The first fifteen picks also held some pleasant and some not-so-pleasant surprises. Even though they passed over some big names in Rendon and Bubba Starling, the Diamondbacks might have been the club that made the most intelligent choices. Arizona likely built a future powerhouse rotation with savvy picks of Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin. With the drat’s second pick, The Seattle Mariners also surprised many — shocked may be a better word– when they passed on Rendon, Starling, Bauer, Archie Bradley and other electrifying prospects for a solid-yet-unexciting lefty in Danny Hultzen. Day one had some clear-cut winners and losers, and in the following article we discuss each of them.
While the Nationals already have an established star playing third base for them in Ryan Zimmerman, general manager Mike Rizzo couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sign the draft’s top hitter, Anthony Rendon. Many projected the Rice third baseman to get selected first or second overall and when he fell into Rizzo’s hands at 6th slot, it was obviously too good of an opportunity to pass up . Rendon, who would have fit the Mariner’s punchless offense and dire need of an infielder like a glove, gives the Nationals a premium defensive infielder with the bat to hit .300 and belt 20+ homers annually. If Zimmerman ends up staying in Washington long-term, the Nats could use Rendon’s glove and athletic defense at second or first base, or they could convert him into a corner outfielder in the mold of a young J.D. Drew.
The Nationals’ success didn’t end with the sixth pick; Rizzo also secured tall (6’9″) power righthander and A.J. Burnett clone Alex Meyer out of the 23rd slot. Five-tool centerfielder Brian Goodwin has the athletic ability to be one of the draft’s bigger steals at 34th. Out of Kentucky, Meyer has an electric fastball-slider combo and an ideal build for a power pitcher. Goodwin has the potential to be the Nats’ version of a young Shannon Stewart or Devon White and fill their pressing need for an everyday centerfielder. Overall, Rizzo and the Nationals were the biggest winners of the draft’s first two rounds.
No club did a better of addressing their needs while still drafting for value than (GM) Kevin Towers’ Diamondbacks. The pitching starved D’Backs took a slam-dunk number-two starter with ace potential in UCLA’s Trevor Bauer with the third overall pick, then grabbed a polished, high-ceiling power high school arm in Archie Bradley at number-seven and rounded out day one with a good value pick when they selected Kent State lefty Andrew Chafin.
Bauer is only a year or so way from being an invaluable rotation piece and his Lincecum-esc delivery and repertoire paired with his immense work ethic and durability give him ace potential. He’s put up better numbers than UCLA teammate and top pick Gerrit Cole throughout his college career and he’s lauded as a hard-nosed, super-durable power arm with a grueling work ethic.
Towers found agreat complement to Bauer in Archie Bradley. Out of Broken Arrow high school, Bradley is a big (6’4″/225 pound), athletic multi-sport prospect with a committment to play quarterback at Oklahoma. Despite his age, Bradley isn’t nearly as far from the big leagues as other high school pitchers, and his easy delivery is among this draft classes’ best. He already generates consistent 90-95 mph velocity on his hard fastball and he should develop consistent mid-90s heat with a few more years of development. He also throws a future-plus curveball and a solid changeup. Bradley should turn out to be a pitcher similar to a young Brad Penny with the potential to be Kevin Millwood.
Towers nabbed a great value-pick with Andrew Chafin out of the 43rd slot. Chafin is a polished southpaw with a repertoire that includes four pitches with a chance to be Major League-average or better. While he doesn’t have the arm of Bradley or Bauer, Chafin, another or Tommy John surgery success story, can run his four-seamer up to the 93-94 mph range and he could be a Paul Maholm-type lefty offering stability in the four or five-spot in D’Backs rotation.
Though the Brewers didn’t knock their fans’ socks off with their picks of Jungmann and Bradley, Doug Melvin made intelligent picks and his ballclub quietly had an efficient, successful day. Trading away young talents Brett Lawrie, Jake Odorizzi and Alcides Escobar for Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the Brewers haven’t hid the fact that they’re making an honest push for the playoffs. Jungmann and Bradley are two of the Draft’s closest pitchers to the Major Leagues and are both polished arms who should be ready to slot into the Brewer’s rotation sooner rather than later.
Texas’s Taylor Jungmann was one of college baseball’s top arm’s this past season and was also one of the most durable and consistent. Jungmann totalled more than 122 innings pitched and led all Division I starting pitchers in ERA (1.40) and ranked in the top 20 in numerous other pitching categories. Dating back to his high school career, Jungmann hasn’t ever posted an ERA above 2.03 and he’s a workhorse who consistently puts up quality innings. With a Mike Pelfrey build, good pose and three above-average pitches, Jungmann should be a valuable mid-rotation starter for the Brewcrew like Aaron Harang or Jon Garland.
With Theo Epstein at the helm– a GM known for his ability to make savvy acquisitions– the Red Sox were able to collect four of the top forty picks in the ’11 Draft despite their signing of superstar Type A free agent Carl Crawford. While their first two picks weren’t particularly early at 19 and 26, the Sox managed to grab two top-tier talents in University of Connecticut ace Matt Barnes and in this classes’ top catching prospect, Blake Swihart. Epstein also found great value with the 36th and 40th picks, drafting projectable high school lefty Henry Owens and South Carolina GameCocks star outfielder Jackie Bradley. Recent trades of depleted Boston’s crop of prospects and Epstein did a fine job of using this draft to replenish the organization’s young talent.
Pitching for the Big East Champion UConn Huskies, Matt Barnes is a very polished righthander with a 89-94 mph riding 2-seamer, a deep repertoire and a clean loose arm. His easy, repeatable mechanics afford him above average command and control, and he can dial up his heater to the mid 90s when needed. His ceiling rates just below that of the draft’s top pitchers but he’s a very safe bet to be a very dependable number-three starter for the Red Sox like young Carl Pavano.
While Jarrod Saltalamacchia is (finally) showing signs of life/getting his career together the Red Sox were in dire need of catching and they were able to get this classes’ top young catcher in Swihart. While Swihart’s commitment to the University of Texas– a baseball powerhouse– makes his already gaudy price tag even more expensive, the Red Sox would be wise to meet his demands and start developing his talent. While his defense is a bit raw, Swihart has the swing and power to develop into a valuable offense-first catcher. He has a strong arm to go with good athletic ability behind the plate and as long as he can sure-up his receiving, he has a bright future.
Henry Owens is a prototypical, tall, projectable high school lefty with not-so-typical present stuff while Jackie Bradley– as a prospect who was formerly ranked among the draft’s top 20 prior a wrist injury– out of the 40-slot could be one of the draft’s steals.
Because the Yankees signed Pedro Feliciano and Type A Free Agent Rafael Soriano this past offseason, the club was forced to hand over their first round draft pick to the Tampa Bay and watch as the Rays along with the Blue Jays and Red Sox– the bombers’ AL East competition– made 19 selections (combined) before they could finally select Dante Bichette with the 51st overall pick. With the picks that the Yankees forfeited, the Rays took one of the nation’s top college outfielders in Mikie Mahtook and the Mets selected Mike Fulmer, an exciting, young Oklahoma high school pitcher. Miss out on arguably the most talent-filled and deepest classes in draft history is more than enough to make the Yankees day one’s biggest loser.
With their first five picks in the books, The Blue Jays look like one of (or the) this draft’s biggest disappointments. Outside of Dwight Smith at 53 (who isn’t a great fit for the club anyway), their picks were all stretches. Making matters worse, the Blue Jays don’t seem to be simply passing on a stocked draft class in order to save money. Tyler Beede and Jacob Anderson have commitments to Vanderbilt and Pepperdine and both will be difficult signs with expensive price tags. Despite their unexciting profiles, Musgrove, Smith and Comer all have plenty of negotiating leverage as well, and each will demand big money.
While Beede is a solid high school righty out of Massachusetts with good command and a nice delivery, he doesn’t offer the upside that Meyer, Stephensen, Purke, Ross, Owens and a handful of other pitchers available at the time do. Even if the Blue Jays do drop the signing bonus to lure him away fro his commitment to Vanderbilt’s lauded program, it would be a stretch to call this pick a good one.
Musgrove and Comer could be future bullpen guys or backend starters but probably nothing more, while Dwight Smith is a bat-only prospect. Anderson has plenty of upside, but he wasn’t even the best first baseman left on the board.
Because they signed the Type A free agent, All-Star catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez, the Detroit Tigers had to forfeit the 19th overall pick to the Boston Red Sox. While the Red Sox ended up selecting one of the draft’s top rigthhanders, Matt Barnes, with the Tigers’ pick, Detroit’s side of the deal wasn’t so sweet. While they did end up with Martinez, Detroit had to pay a hefty price as the only club without a draft pick on day one of one of the most exciting classes in history.
Chicago White Sox (Lost #23 for Signing Adam Dunn, Keenyn Walker (47)): Like the Tigers, the White Sox were forced to take a pass on a crop heavy on premium talent in favor of a short-term fix through free agency. For signing Adam Dunn, the Sox handed the Nationals the 23rd overall pick– a slot Washington would use to grab Alex Meyer, one of the draft’s highest ceiling pitchers. The White Sox waited until the 47th overall slot to make their first selection where they took speed-only prospect Keenyn Walker. While Walker does have plenty of wheels– he’s capable of running a 6.55 60 yard dash– he’s a slap hitter and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll develop into anything more valuable than a pinch runner/fourth outfielder in the big leagues.