This year, for the second straight year, I compiled a list of college players that the Mariners should consider drafting. I expanded the list from 15 players to 25, but once again none of the guys on my list were selected by the Mariners. They were all drafted though, and in my second end-of-the-year post looking at prospects, here is a look at the early returns for the 2007 25 to Watch (25 TW) list:
25. SP David Newmann (N/A), Rays (4th Round, Pick 1, 125th Overall) - Newmann did not appear at all at any level, so there is not much to say.
24. C/1B Josh Donaldson (53/85), Cubs (Compensation Round, Pick 18, 48th Overall) - Donaldson is listed as a catcher by some and a first baseman by others, so I cannot tell which place the Cubs are using him primarily. He was a catcher in college, so my guess is that he still is primarily a catcher. Regardless, Donaldson put on an offensive show in Boise, batting .346 with a .470 OBP and .605 slugging.
23. SS Dominic de la Osa (N/A), Tigers (10th Round, Pick 27, 331st Overall) - He did not sign with the Tigers, opting to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season. However, de la Osa did play in Cape Cod League over the summer, and did not fare well at all (his batting average was barely over .100). Still, he is an early candidate to make the 2008 25 to Watch.
22. SS Todd Frazier (48/79), Reds (Compensation Round, Pick 4, 34th Overall) - Frazier started out in short season A ball, and then got a brief call-up to low A for the final week of the minor league season. The only thing that kept him from being much higher than this on my list was a worrisome strikeout rate, but so far he has actually cut down on his strikeouts without losing much power. In 182 at-bats between short season A and Low A ball, Frazier batted .319 with a .405 OBP and .538 slugging, with a respectable 26 strikeouts.
21. OF Corey Brown (44/76), Athletics (Compensation Round, Pick 29, 59th Overall) - I had a very hard time figuring out where Brown went in my rankings because he excelled in all facets of the game except for one glaring hole...the incredible amount of strikeouts. I should have known he was destined for the A's. Brown batted only .260 with an alarming 77 strikeouts in 213 at-bats in short season A ball but, like any good Athletic, he got more than his fair share of walks (.379 OBP), and when he made contact, he made it count (.545 slugging). In many ways Brown looks like the next Jack Cust.
20. SP Adam Mills (44/76), Red Sox (8th Round, Pick 20, 264th Overall) - Mills pitched out of relief in short season A ball, so he only got 35.1 innings of work in 14 appearances. However, he only gave up 32 hits, 9 walks, and 3 homers while striking out 37. He was hard to rate also because he exploded his senior year at Charlotte, but to this point it looks like he might be more than a one-year wonder.
19. SP James Simmons (51/77), Athletics (1st Round, Pick 26, 26th Overall) - The A's really put the pedal to the metal with Simmons by starting him out in AA. His numbers aren't overwhelming (29.2 IP, 36 Hits, 8 walks, 23 strikeouts, 3.94 ERA), but considering they started him so high, the statistics are admirable. It seems like Oakland wants Simmons ready to take over a starting spot in the majors by opening day 2009 at the latest.
18. SP Cory Luebke (46/78), Padres (Compensation Round, Pick 33, 63rd Overall) - Luebke started in short season A, but dominated and was moved up to low A. He was impressive there as well (27 innings, 29 hits, 5 walks, 30 strikeouts, 3.33 ERA), and ending up getting two starts in high A, where he struggled. Still, three levels in three months is impressive.
17. SP Ross Detwiler (35/69), Nationals (1st Round, Pick 6, 6th Overall) - Detwiler did get to pitch one inning in the majors, but he is far from ready. Detwiler was overpowering in rookie ball, but only so-so at best once getting called up to high A.
16. SP Josh Collmenter (44/74), Diamondbacks (15th Round, Pick 9, 463rd Overall) - I did not expect Collmenter to last as long as he did in the draft, so I was curious to see if he would be as good as I thought he was heading into the draft. To this point, I would say so. Collmenter made 14 appearances (12 starts) in short season A ball and went 6-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, striking out a respectable 57 batters in 66.1 innings, and giving up only 4 home runs.
15. SP James Adkins (51/82), Dodgers (Compensation Round, Pick 9, 39th Overall) - Los Angeles was ambitious with Adkins and started him off in low A, where he pitched the remainder of the summer. He pitched in only 26 innings, but posted a 1.04 WHIP with better than a strikeout an inning. Adkins is another candidate from this class to begin next season in high A.
14. SP Nick Chigges (46/79), Yankees (13th Round, Pick 30, 424th Overall) - I figured Chigges would last because he played at a small school, but he made plenty of noise in short season A ball. In 55 innings in short season A ball, Chigges posted a 2.29 ERA on the strength of a 1.16 WHIP, 10.15 K/9 rate, and only 3 home runs allowed.
13. C Mitch Canham (41/70), Padres (Compensation Round, Pick 27, 57th Overall) - Canham did not fail, but he did not excel like many of the 25TW did. He hit a respectable .293 with a .379 OBP in short season A ball, but did not show much power, and his strikeout rate went up noticeably as well. Even with such a small sampling size, the two of those combined suggests that the switch to wooden bats has slowed his bat speed considerably. On the other hand, since it is such a small sample size, Canham could have simply had a slump. Next year should provide firmer answers.
12. 2B Tony Thomas (51/86), Cubs (3rd Round, Pick 3, 97th Overall) - Tony really exploded this past year at Florida State, and I was tempted to put him even higher on this list. His torrid hitting continued in short season A ball, where he batted .304 with a .404 OBP, .544 slugging, and added 28 stolen bases in the equivalent of about a third of a season. His strikeout rate was high, but all the positives cannot be ignored.
11. SS Josh Horton (44/72), Athletics (3rd Round, Pick 26, 90th Overall) - The A's did not push Horton as hard as Simmons, but he accumulated most of his at-bats in low A, a level higher than most play the half-season after being drafted. Horton showed very little power (.352 slugging), but he is transitioning to wooden bats, and played in a pitcher-friendly league. On a positive note, his eye was every bit as tremendous as it was in college (.279 average with a .417 OBP in low A). Horton was destined to be an Athletic with his offensive game. More power would be preferred, but that should come as he gets more comfortable with pro ball.
10. SP Travis Banwart (47/79), Athletics (4th Round, Pick 26, 126th Overall) - I went on a small tangent draft day about Banwart and Detwiler, because there was supposedly no question that Detwiler was the superior pitching prospect, even though his numbers were not as impressive as Banwart's in the same conference. It is hard to compare their pro performances thus far because Detwiler bounced all around, but in 45 innings in low A ball, Banwart struck out 41 batters, allowed only 2 home runs, and had a 1.02 WHIP. At the very least, Banwart is off to a nice start in the pros.
9. SP Will Kline (37/67), Rays (2nd Round, Pick 1, 65th Overall) - Kline got 9 starts in the and posted a 4.97 ERA in 29 innings pitched. He had good strikeout and walk rates, but quite simply he was hit significantly harder than in college. Given the ambivalent results in too small of a sampling size to make any conclusions anyway, there's not much more to say other than check back and see how he fares next season.
8. SP Tony Watson (46/78), Pirates (9th Round, Pick 4, 278th Overall) - On draft day, by the sixth round or so I was checking the results because I was sure I had missed Tony Watson getting drafted. I was that surprised to see him fall as far as he did. When the Pirates drafted him, I went as far as to say I think he'll prove to be better than their first round pick, Daniel Moskos. To this point, Tony is living up to my hype. Moskos struggled in short season A ball (1.97 WHIP), while Watson flourished to the point that he got a call-up to low A for his final three starts. Overall, in 13 starts as a pro, Watson had a 2.79 ERA, and struck out 58 while only walking 8. He does give up way more fly balls than ground balls, which may mean he'll eventually give up more than his share of home runs, but to this point he has not. I still say he was a steal at this point in the draft.
7. SP Nick Schmidt (41/72), Padres (1st Round, Pick 23, 23rd Overall) - Schmidt pitched only seven innings before developing a serious elbow injury that required reconstructive elbow surgery. He's already expected to miss all of 2008.
6. 2B Eric Sogard (41/70), Padres (2nd Round, Pick 17, 81st Overall) - Sogard was so-so at best for the month he spent in short season A ball, but got promoted to low A anyway, where he struggled to the tune of a .657 OPS. His strikeout rate did not go up much, but he clearly did not square up the ball too often. Maybe things will be different next year when he gets a chance to settle in at one level.
5. SP Bryan Henry (31/59), Diamondbacks (12th Round, Pick 9, 373rd Overall) - Like Tony Watson, I was stunned that Henry lasted so long. However, it looks like there was good reason that Henry did. In 12 starts, he posted a 5.28 ERA, allowing a whopping 13 home runs in 58 innings, as well as a .302 opponents' batting average. His strikeout to walk ratio was good, but pretty clearly he was catching too much of the plate. Of all 25 on this list, Henry is my early pick for most likely to not make it to the majors.
4. C Matt Wieters (N/A), Orioles (1st Round, Pick 5, 5th Overall) - It was challenging enough for the Orioles to sign Wieters, and he ended up not playing any baseball before the end of the regular season. He is playing in Hawai'i though (check back tomorrow for the Fall and Winter League post to see how he has done). He will be much more interesting to look at next season.
3. 2B Tyler Mach (43/74), Phillies (4th Round, Pick 19, 143rd Overall) - Mach got off to a red-hot start, but slumped by the end of the season. Overall though, his numbers were pretty good. He spent the summer in short season A ball, batting .287 with a .362 OBP and .441 slugging. Given how hot he started, it was disappointing that he did not have better numbers at the end of the season.
2. SP David Price (N/A), Rays (1st Round, Pick 1, 1st Overall) - Price was another signing that came down to the wire, and he is yet to appear in a professional game.
1. OF Matt LaPorta (47/78), Brewers (1st Round, Pick 7, 7th Overall) - LaPorta didn't get much of a chance to play, but it was feast or famine with the small opportunity he got. In 88 at-bats in short season A-Ball, LaPorta had 8 double and 10 home runs, but also 22 strikeouts! All in all, he ended up accumulating a 1.142 OPS in those 88 at-bats, so I would deem it a success. However, it's quite the statistical line to look at. LaPorta also played in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .241, but with tremendous power once again. In fact, in 227 pro at-bats, LaPorta has 18 doubles, 1 triple, and 18 home runs. However, he also has 58 strikeouts. LaPorta's strikeout rate reduced noticeably over his college career, so it is fair to believe that he can improve it as a professional. However, even it doesn't, his raw power alone is stunning.
Based on early returns, the 2007 25TW list is not much different than the 2006 version. It likely lacks a stud as good as Tim Lincecum (89/93), but few draft classes have a guy like that. Still, Thomas and Donaldson both are off to great starts, and the only player that struggled mightily on the list was Bryan Henry. At best, any player on this list played the equivalent half a season, so it is way to early to give up on anyone, or proclaim them a superstar. However, as a collective whole, the early returns are decent.
Yesterday, the list was 15 long. Today, 25. Tomorrow, I will look at 30 players who have excelled in fall and winter leagues. Some of the names will be repeats (like LaPorta and Wieters), but not many. Some will be veterans who have shown they have a little left in the tank, but most will be young guys trying to crack the big leagues for the first time. Check back tomorrow to see who makes the list.