Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Draft Deadline Review / Update / Look Ahead to 2009

The brand-spankin' new signing deadline has come and gone, with only three first-rounders (Aaron Crow - WAS, Josh Fields - SEA, and Gerrit Cole - NYY) failing to reach deals with their respective teams. As for the Dodgers, they signed their first 9 picks and 14 of their first 15. The Dodgers came to terms with all 6 of their first round picks, so here's a brief update on how they're doing in the minors.

Round 1 - Ethan Martin, RHP

Took a while and signed for slightly more than slot. Injured his right knee during fielding drills and will miss the rest of the season. Hopefully will be ready for Instrux.

Round 2 - Josh Lindblom, RHP

Signed as a reliever, the Dodgers are apparently viewing him as a starter down the road. His pro debut with Great Lakes has been very impressive, with a 2.25 ERA and a ridiculous strikeout to walk ratio of 27 to 2.

Round 3 - Kyle Russell, OF

The former Texas Longhorn has shown what I expected in Ogden: homeruns, walks and strikeouts. He's a prototypical TTO (Three True Outcome) hitter, who will hit the ball over the fence or not touch it at all the vast majority of the time.

Round 4 - Devaris Gordon, SS

The surprise pick of the draft, Gordon has gotten off to a pretty good start with the stick in Ogden. The 20 year old son of Phillies' reliever Tom is hitting .305 with 9 steals. However, there are some rough spots to his game, as he's been caught stealing 4 times, walked only 10 times in 177 at bats and has committed 19 errors in 43 games. Granted, he didn't play Baseball in college this spring, but he has a lot of work to do.

Round 5 - Jon-Michael Redding, RHP

Another Ogden Raptor, Redding was also a surprise having come from a junior college and not being a bright spot on the scouting radar. But his 5.33 ERA belies his defense-independent statistics: 32 strikeouts, 8 walks and just 3 homeruns in 25.1 innings.

Round 6 - Tony Delmonico, 2B

After playing shortstop at Florida State, Tony has moved over to second as a pro and done more than enough offensively to compensate. He's second on the team with an OPS of 1.114, though the hitter-friendly Pioneer League has something to do with that.

Looking back at my second day review, there were a number of players I thought the Dodger should sign. Let's see how that worked out.

Round 7 - Cole St Clair, LHP

Took a little while but ended up signing. Has gotten off to a solid start in Ogden, posting a 3.60 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings. A big key to the Dodgers' second day success.

Round 8 - Nick Buss, OF

A local kid who attended USC, I was a fan of his from the moment the Dodgers drafted him. He reminds me of a Steve Finley / Eric Byrnes type, with 20/20 potential. And while he hasn't run much as a pro, the offense is there with a .973 OPS.

Round 9 - Steve Caseres, 1B

Another guy who I wasn't following until draft day and then impressed me on video, Caseres was signed for $250,000, considerably over slot. Although his .754 OPS isn't other-worldly, he's a guy I look forward to following over the next few years.

Round 10 - Chris Joyce, LHP

Did not sign. He'll be spending the next 3 years at UC Santa Barbara.

Round 11 - Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

15 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi was initially seen as a sure-fire Longhorn. But the Dodgers steered him away from Texas and signed him around the same time as Cole St Clair. Eovaldi has been dominant in his brief pro career, allowing no runs and just 5 baserunners while averaging a strikeout per inning.

Round 14 - Clay Calfee, OF/1B

Calfee signed and got off to a torid start, but has cooled since. His .998 OPS in June dropped to .715 in July when he struck out 37 times in 77 at bats. He's now at .718 in August, so he'll need to make some adjustments to get back to his slugging ways.

Round 16 - Kyle Conley, OF

A draft-eligible sophomore, Conley decided to return to school to try to improve on his draft stock. He'll be back at the University of Washington next spring.

Round 17 - Danny Coulombe, LHP

I compared him to Rob Rasmussen before. Now Danny will be headed to Rob's crosstown rival, USC.

Round 20 - Zach Cox, 3B

It was surprising to see Cox slip all the way to the 20th round, and now he slips away to Arkansas. He'll be draft-eligible in 2010, so it won't be long before we hear his name again.

Round 25 - Jerry Sands, OF

The Dodgers signed yet another athletic outfielder in Sands, who is similar to Kyle Russell with his power potential and TTO profile. Jerry has had major problems making contact, but has shown excellent raw power with 9 HR, the second most in the GCL.

Round 31 - Matt Magill, RHP

The rare projectible righty, Magill didn't light up radar guns but piqued scouts' interest because of his potential to add velocity. After signing, Magill has had a lot of success in the GCL, with a 2.14 ERA.

Round 33 - Melvin Ray, OF

The Alabama football recruit and distant relative of Jackie Robinson surprised everyone by signing a contract to play professional Baseball. Ray remains raw in most facets of the game, but his upside is astronomical.

Round 35 - Adam Westmoreland, LHP

The ginormous southpaw will head to college.

So after I said the Dodgers needed to sign half of these players, they ended up signing 9 of 13. An impressive haul, considering how they've missed out on such talents as Kyle Blair, Alex White and Luke Hochevar in previous years. But enough about this year's draft, what about next year? Here's my absurdly early Top 10.

1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP (San Diego State University)

An early favorite to go #1 overall, the 6'4 220 lbs righty was dominant this spring and has been just as impressive over the summer. In a recent start for the olympic team, Strasburg pitched 7 scoreless innings, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 11. His fastball regularly sits in the mid to high 90s and he also shows a sharp slider. I'd say he's somewhere between Mark Prior and Jered Weaver right now.

2. Alex White, RHP (University of North Carolina)

A 14th round selection in 2006 by the Dodgers, White reportedly turned down a seven figure bonus to become a Tarheel. It looks like it may have been a wise move, as he's poised to be a Top 10 pick next June. White doesn't throw quite as hard as Strasburg, as his fastball sits in the low 90s, but Alex's slider is a better pitch right now. He's similar to current Rays' pitcher Matt Garza.

3. Austin Maddox, C (Eagle's View Academy, Florida)

Yet another year with first round talent behind the plate, Maddox leads the field with his intriguing mixture of tools. The chiseled 6'3 225 righthander displays excellent raw power as well as a mature, patient approach. Behind the plate, he has plus-plus arm strength and can regularly record sub 2 second pop times. Some worry that he'll outgrow the position, but even as a first baseman his bat will be valuable. His stance reminds me of Mark McGuire and he's been compared to Mike Piazza by at least one scout.

4. Grant Green, SS (University of Southern California)

Green quietly put up a very impressive 2008 season with SC: .398/.438/.644 with 15 doubles, 5 triples, 9 homeruns and 10 stolen bases. This summer, he's put on a show in the Cape Cod league, with a line of .348/.451/.547 while hitting with wood bats. He was even named MVP of his all star team, hitting a game-tying HR in the contest. I compare him to Troy Tulowizki.

5. Tyler Matzek, LHP (Capistrano Valley High School, California)

Matzek and fellow southpaw Matt Purke are considered the best prep prospects in the 2009 draft by most, though I have Maddox as my personal number one. However, I give Matzek the second spot here because of a number of qualities: his present low 90s velocity, his big-breaking curve, his slider and change, his short arm action, clean mechanics, command and projection. He pitched a perfect inning during the AFLAC All American game, with two strikeouts and a weak popup to third being the only ball that was put in play. He compares to this year's 4th overall pick Brian Matusz.

6. Matt Purke, LHP (Klein High School, Texas)

Purke could just as easily be considered the best prep pitcher in the class, and some may like him even more than Matzek. Purke throws a little harder, touching 95 during the AFLAC game, and he too retired the side in order while striking out 2. Purke doesn't have as deep a repertoire as Matzek, though Matt's breaking ball might be a little better. I've seen it called a slider, but he calls it a curve. It registers in the low 80s and it has a good amount of break with good tilt. He's drawn comparisons to Scott Kazmir and I personally liken him to Oliver Perez, back when Ollie was touching the mid 90s.

7. Donovan Tate, OF (Cartersville High School, Georgia)

Son of former NFL'er Lars Tate, Donovan's future is very likely going to be in Baseball. The 6'3 200 pounder is a toolbox, starting with his power/speed combo that allows him to play CF and hit in the middle of the lineup. He has some work to do on his hitting approach, though he has good bat speed and plate coverage. His skillset is similar to where Matt Kemp's was in high school.

8. Mychal Givens, SS/RHP (Plant High School, Florida)

The recipient of the Jackie Robinson award during the pre-game ceremonies for the AFLAC All American game, Givens is the top two-way talent in the draft class. In the field, he shows good range and a strong arm at short. At the plate, he has a quick bat with gap power and can fly around the bases. On the mound, Givens generates mid 90s velocity from a low 3/4 arm slot. While the comparison may sound bad, he compares to Matt Bush as a first round talent both as a shortstop and pitcher, on the shorter side with mid 90s heat and good defense.

9. Kyle Gibson, RHP (University of Missouri)

Color me skeptical but I've never been a huge fan of Gibson's. His present stuff isn't too special, as his fastball sits around 90 though his slider shows promise. He's really a projection guy who would be lucky to end up as another Luke Hochevar.

10. Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF (University of North Carolina)

I'd be remiss to not include Ackley, who boasts a career .409 batting average in his first two years in college. For good measure, he hit .415 with 2 HR in 12 games in the Cape this summer. But will he hit for enough power to be a corner OF or 1B? Will he sacrifice some average for more HR? Is he Ichiro 2.0?

And in honor of Spinal Tap, I'll go to 11.

11. Robert Stock, C (University of Southern California)

Right now, it's a longshot that USC has two guys picked in the Top 10 next June, as Stock has not lived up to a tremendous amount of hype. His stats haven't been bad at all, putting up a .299/.386/.412 line as an 18 year old sophomore this spring and a .270/.354/.339 line in the Cape. But he hasn't shown the power that most expected of him. Given his age and the fact that he'll be drafted as a 19 year old with 3 years of college experience, I'm sure scouts will give him the benefit of the doubt and lean on projection even if he doesn't put it all together in 2009. Power-hitting catcher from USC? Gotta comp to Jeff Clement.

That's all for now. More to come once minor league seasons end in about two weeks.


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