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2008 Draft: A Look Back at 2006

The MLB Amateur Draft is this Thursday, and I will be covering it all week. Wednesday I will reveal the 25 college prospects I hope the Mariners are looking at this year, but today and tomorrow are all about taking a look back at previous years.

2006 was the first year that I really paid attention to the draft. Compared to the NFL and NBA drafts, there were few resources and limited buzz. To get familiar with the players, I did my own searching, to see what I could find. I set out with one simple axiom: I believed that the best college players will tend to develop into the best professional players. It sounds simple enough, and I expected to come up with a list similar to any other draft board.

Over the course of roughly six hours over one weekend, I scoured the internet for college baseball statistics and came up with a list of 15 players that intrigued me. I looked for players that dominated within their conferences, and gave preference to pitchers and first baseman, the two areas that I felt the Mariners farm system was weakest. I gave particular preference to strikeouts, favoring hitters that fanned very little, and pitchers that fanned a ton. Two years later, here is how my six-hour weekend experiment looks (all statistics are from 2008, current minor league team listed after parent organization if still in minors):

15. Whit Robbins, OF, Twins (Fort Myers, A+)
  • STATS: .257 AVG, 2 HR, 20 RBI, .401 OBP, .386 SLG, 33 BB, 24 K
  • REPORT: Robbins was in high A last year as well, and he struggled mightily before an injury ended his season. Originally a first baseman, he has been moved to the outfield this year. Robbins still lacks power and does not make contact as regularly as desired, but his great eye has returned this year. Whit's numbers across the board have improved significantly in 2008, but the fact remains that he is a 23-year-old putting up only decent numbers in high A. The high on-base percentage is encouraging, but frankly nothing else is. Still, if a hitter is going to excel in only one offensive skill, on-base percentage is the one. Robbins needs to develop more contact and/or power to become a more legitimate prospect though.
14. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
  • STATS: .241 AVG, 7 HR, 28 RBI, .314 OBP, .434 SLG, 19 BB, 46 K
  • REPORT: The consensus favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award this year, Longoria started this season in AAA, but was called up not even two weeks into the season, receiving a long-term contract along the way. While Evan's numbers are not overwhelming, they are respectable. He is swinging and missing a bunch more than he did in the minors, but the power is still there. Longoria remains a key piece to the Rays' bright future.
13. Chad Huffman, OF, Padres (San Antonio, AA)
  • STATS: .315 AVG, 6 HR, 32 RBI, .412 OBP, .482 SLG, 33 BB, 32 K
  • REPORT: I listed Huffman in 2006 as a first baseman, but he has been an outfielder as a professional. He started last year in high-A, and hit well enough to receive a promotion to AA halfway through last year. With a .793 OPS in AA last year, Huffman did not exactly struggle, but San Diego decided to start him at this level anyway. Now, Huffman's OPS is pushing .900 with a robust on-base percentage, placing him in line for a potential promotion to AAA in the near future.
12. Luke Hopkins, INF, Blue Jays
  • REPORT: I have no clue what has happened to Hopkins. He played in the summer of 2006, but has not appeared in any professional game since.
11. Ryan Strieby, 1B, Tigers (Lakeland, A+)
  • STATS: .247 AVG, 7 HR, 32 RBI, .333 OBP, .419 SLG, 23 BB, 52 K
  • REPORT: After a decent season in low A last year, Strieby is putting together a mildly disappointing season in high A to this point. He has power, but also holes in his swing, as shown by the low average and rather high number of strikeouts. It is up to Strieby's solid power and plate discipline to counteract the holes in his swing, and to this point neither side is winning the battle. It makes Strieby a borderline prospect.
10. Brad Lincoln, RHP, Pirates (Hickory, A)
  • STATS: 2-1 REC, 2.25 ERA, 16 IP, 13 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 2 HR
  • REPORT: Lincoln was very highly regarded coming out of the draft, but promptly suffered a major arm injury that caused him to miss all of last season. His comeback begins in low A, where through three starts he has looked good. He had overpowering stuff in college, so if he regains his form he could move quickly, especially in an organization that needs talent as badly as the Pirates do.
9. Steven Wright, LHP, Indians (Kinston, A+)
  • STATS: 2-3 REC, 2.38 ERA, 56.2 IP, 41 H, 13 BB, 49 K, 4 HR
  • REPORT: I liked Wright coming out of college because of his great strikeout rate, and that followed him to the pros last year...but little else did. His ERA ballooned to 7.13 in 13 starts for Kinston in 2007, but obviously 2008 has treated him much better. Wright is inducing many more ground balls, and his command has also improved noticeably. He is a prime candidate to be promoted to AA for the second half of the season.
8. Wade LeBlanc, LHP, Padres (Portland, AAA)
  • STATS: 5-4 REC, 7.28 ERA, 50.2 IP, 58 H, 23 BB, 44 K, 10 HR
  • REPORT: LeBlanc is pretty much the opposite of Steven Wright. He had such an outstanding season in 2007 that San Diego felt he was ready for AAA in just his second full professional season. Unfortunately, little has gone LeBlanc's way in 2008. He is a fly-ball pitcher, but his fly-out rate has gone up considerably this year. In addition, he is simply getting hit a bunch harder. However, for every one of LeBlanc's terrible starts he has had a good one, so there is reason for hope. In fact, he has only allowed one run in his last two starts combined, so he may be settling in and returning to the form that got him to AAA in the first place.
7. Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA)
  • STATS: .282 AVG, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .342 OBP, .422 SLG, 18 BB, 30 K
  • REPORT: Jay started in Springfield last year, but got off to a slow start and eventually got injured for a part of the season. He was demoted to high A where he hit fairly well, but found himself in Springfield again at the start of 2008. He is hitting better, but the patience he showed in college is yet to follow him to the pros. More speed on the basepaths would not hurt either. At this point, Jay is looking like a future reserve outfielder in the majors.
6. Cole Gillespie, OF, Brewers (Huntsville, AA)
  • STATS: .289 AVG, 9 HR, 38 RBI, .379 OBP, .529 SLG, 28 BB, 46 K, 6/6 SB/ATT
  • REPORT: Gillespie put together a nice season in high A last year, but clearly has gone to the next level in AA this year. His slugging has gone up over 100 points despite also moving up a level, and his batting average has increased as well. Gillespie's strikeout rate is a little high, but if he can keep up everything else it is not of much concern.
5. Max Scherzer, RHP, Diamondbacks
  • STATS: 0-2 REC, 2.17 ERA, 25.2 IP, 19 H, 11 BB, 29 K, 0 HR
  • REPORT: Arizona had no choice but to call up Scherzer thanks to his complete dominance of AAA early in the season, and the majors to this point have not been a huge challenge for Scherzer either. He has good stuff, but what makes him especially tough to hit is a deceptive delivery. Max took nearly a full year to sign, so he has only been in the D'Backs system for a little less than a year now. Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Scherzer should be a killer trio for the next several years.
4. Eddie Degerman, RHP, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+)
  • STATS: 0-0 REC, 8.38 ERA, 9.2 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 11 K, 2 HR
  • REPORT: While Degerman is certainly off to a slow start this season, he has hardly pitched enough to say much about his 2008 season. Last year, he was dominant in low A and finally was promoted to Palm Beach, where he did struggle. At times Degerman lacks control, but his stuff is pretty good. He is 24 years old at this point though, which is rather old for high A. He needs to start advancing in a hurry to become a legitimate prospect.
3. Craig Cooper, OF, Padres (San Antonio, AA)
  • STATS: .296 AVG, 4 HR, 26 RBI, .360 OBP, .438 SLG, 14 BB, 38 K
  • REPORT: After playing primarily first base last year, the Padres have moved Cooper to the outfield. He has never hit for much power, so he was never going to be a prototypical first baseman. However, Cooper continues to hit for good average, though his strikeout rate continues to climb. He is not having an outstanding year in AA, but he is having a solid one. Cooper looks more like a good bench player in the majors than a good starter at this point though.
2. Andrew Miller, LHP, Marlins
  • STATS: 4-3 REC, 5.33 ERA, 50.2 IP, 64 H, 20 BB, 44 K, 4 HR
  • REPORT: Miller was part of the mega-trade that included Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, so he is the only player on this list not in the organization that originally drafted him. Miller's stuff is as electric as ever, but he does not have great control of it. Still, it is so good that hitters have a hard time really squaring up on the ball. Miller is in the majors to stay, and his command will likely improve with time. I am not convinced he is the elite talent that most saw when he was drafted, but he still is one of the best pitchers from this draft.
1. Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants
  • STATS: 6-1 REC, 2.17 ERA, 62.1 IP, 55 H, 25 BB, 69 K, 3 HR
  • REPORT: The numbers speak for themselves. Tim Lincecum has established himself not just as one of the best pitchers from this draft class, but also as one of the best pitchers in baseball. His diminutive stature and unique delivery concerned a number of teams, but he has become one of the greatest examples for why size does not matter as much as ability. There is little doubt that Lincecum has been the best player from the 2006 draft to this point, and he has left little room for someone to surpass him.
Continue to check the blog all week as the 2008 MLB draft approaches. Tomorrow I will review how my list of 2007 prospects have done to this point.