June 2007

Movement near the top

I’m at the airport waiting to go to Orlando for the big day and wanted to report on some movement near the top of the draft.

Not at No. 1 — that’s going to be David Price as expected. I’m talking at No. 2. I’ve learned the Kansas City Royals will most likely not take Rick Porcello with that selection and instead will go with a high school bat from California.

They’ve got two guys even on their board: Cypress High School’s Josh Vitters and Chatsworth High’s Mike Moustakas. It could go either way, with KC valuing both equally. The ball is in the players’ courts. Whichever player shows the Royals he wants to join their organization is likely to be the direction the Royals go in.

As for Porcello, his ability is not in question. He’s good enough to go No. 2 and there are even some scouts who’d consider taking him No. 1. But his bonus demands, especially for a high school right-handed pitcher — the biggest risk pick there is — could very well force him to slide really far…maybe even as far as the University of North Carolina…

Stay tuned as things heat up. Talk to everyone from Orlando!

A right turn at Albuquerque

With almost all high school action over and done with, the All-American Baseball Game in New Mexico yesterday (Monday) was a nice bonus. The rosters were full of top draft names from the high school ranks. Just who stood out and who didn’t? I talked to an area scout who attended the game for some details.

First off, several of the "big" names weren’t there. Rick Porcello (and his 2 Seton Hall prep teammates) wasn’t in attendance because they’re still involved in the playoffs in New Jersey. Fellow northeasteners Matt Harvey and Jack McGeary didn’t come, either. Josh Vitters was a no-show as well. Still, there were plenty of players to talk about. Tim Alderson took home MVP honors for his work on the mound and at the plate. His future is in the former as the tall right-hander was the star of the Horizon High School team that won the state title in Arizona. The stadium gun had him at 97 mph, but scouts had him comfortably at 95 and he was perfect through two innings. His name has been mentioned in the latter stages of the first round and no later than the sandwich round.

There were some "lesser lights" who certainly fared well. Cole Cook, who was at the Cape Cod High School Classic last summer, was very impressive in his stint. The 6-foot-6 Palisades High School standout hasn’t been mentioned highly at all because he’s evidently made it known he’s not going to sign and will head to Pepperdine in the fall. Another nice surprise was Miami area RHP Iden Nazario, who just blew people away when he was on the mound.

On the flip side, a couple of toolsy outfielders didn’t do anything to stand out. Kentrail Davis wasn’t bad, but didn’t really do anything to separate himself. Eric Eiland looked lost and struggled at the plate. Wendell Fairley, on the other hand, did show some impressive skills…

Less than 48 hours away now…Be sure to check out MLB.com Wednesday night/early Thursday morning for one last shot at projecting the first round.

Best rumor of the day

I had to hop on and share this one with you. Every year, there are always hot rumors that start popping up in the days prior to the draft. They usually involve a player who had not been mentioned previously as a possibility up high, but now is being attached to teams in the top half of the first round. Sometimes there is truth to these rumors as teams scramble to find backup options or first options if they feel things like signability will get in the way of their original first choices.

In this year’s draft, so much is still up in the air. Things could go haywire starting with the No. 2 pick and several players with perceived high bonus demands  could slide. Scott Boras is advising several potential top picks — Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Matt Harvey, Julio Borbon, even Andrew Brackman — and the impact of that could be huge. As a result, some teams are scrambling to make sure they have a good plan B, C, D, E…you get the idea.

So what usually happens is that teams look for one of those options to be a cheaper one, a guy who’d be an easy sign, perhaps even below slot for the pick. And if a higher up on a team goes to see one of those players, that’s how these rumors often get started. Sometimes, it seems like they get started out of thin air.

Today’s rumor of the day regarding such a "reach" player is about Virginia’s Sean Doolittle. He’s a nice player, a two-way standout who most look at as a hitter and not a left-handed pitcher. He’s got a good approach at the plate, should hit for average, but hasn’t shown much power in college — most people think of him as a Mark Grace type. Maybe he develops some more pop when he’s not worrying about pitching at the same time, but we’re not talking major home run hitter here. He’s a safe pick who should get to the big leagues and one would think that maybe he’d sneak into the end of the first round (I’ve got him at No. 26 in the most recent projections).

But suddenly his name is being mentioned much hither than that. I first heard him as a possibility at No. 11, to the Mariners. Then I heard Arizona mentioned at No. 9. I thought both of those were a bit of a reach until I heard the *******…that the Cubs were supposedly contemplating him at No. 3 overall. Here’s how it could play out, I suppose. If Josh Vitters goes No. 2 to the Royals, then the Cubs need a Plan B. If they don’t want that Plan B to be Jarrod Parker and they don’t want to/can’t pay for Rick Porcello, they need to have that backup. Could Doolittle seriously be that guy? I have a hard time believing that, but word on the street was that the Cubs had two high-ranking execs at Virginia’s regional watching the first baseman closely…

Chances are, this is what it seems — a rumor. But it sure is fun stirring the pot with it, isn’t it? More later…