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2009 Draft: Day One Recap

The MLB draft is spread over three days now, which is nice for me. This first day will only be about four hours long, and there will be fewer picks to digest. The M's have a bunch of early picks, and the success or failure of their draft this year will largely be decided today. Beyond the M's, there are a number of intriguing stories. It starts at the top with Stephen Strasburg, the phenom with the agent that knows it and will make sure the Nationals pay for it. As has become my custom, I will follow the draft and use time stamps to mark my comments. I'll highlight the more interesting stories as the pop up in the draft. All the times are Pacific (daylight saving), and PM:

3:01 - It's amazing how much the draft has developed the last couple years. Seeing it in Studio 42 is really something. It's becoming a legitimately big deal.

3:05 - Kyle Gibson has a stress fracture, and he is plummeting in the draft. The M's with all their picks could "take a chance" on him. It blows my mind how much teams get worried with some injuries. These guys are going to take multiple years to develop, and a couple months to sign, and scouts have had the whole year to see a guy healthy. With Gibson, it's literally the arm injury, not necessarily a worry that it indicates a bigger chronic arm problem. Gibson went from overrated to underrated, just like that. I wish I would have seen that before publishing my watch list. It wouldn't have changed the ratings, but it would have changed my write-up. Oh well, that's what I get for missing two weeks while in China.

3:11 - Nationals on the clock!

3:13 - Ominous reminder on MLB network that Ben McDonald was once a consensus top overall pick, and went number one overall...

3:15 - Nationals pick Stephen Strasburg, it's official. Not a surprise, but it's finally official. The #2 player on my watch list, and who I would have picked if I was the Nats GM. Now the Mariners are on the clock!

3:20 - Mariners pick Dustin Ackley! #1 player on my watch list, and the first guy the M's have EVER picked off my watch list. This is a perfect pick for the M's. Way to go, Jack Z.

3:24 - Padres pick Donovan Tate, a high school outfielder. This is an intriguing story, and a gutsy move. He has a very strong commitment to North Carolina, both for baseball and football. If I were him, I would go to college, and it sounds like he has family pressure to go to college. It's going to take the Padres some serious money to net him, and they have not exactly spent money the past few years. There is new ownership coming in, but it would still be a major change from their usual mode of operation the last few years. Three picks in, it looks like teams are not worrying about signability, which many experts think is going to be a major factor in this year's draft.

3:29 - Pirates take Tony Sanchez, catcher from Boston College. #4 on my watch list. He's way better than I realized defensively. Hearing some of the stuff I just did, I might have put him up to #3, though I like Poythress's bat. Very nice pick for Pittsburgh.

3:33 - Matt Hobgood, a high school righty, is Baltimore's pick. I don't know much about him, but I've heard signability is one reason he rose up draft boards. The Orioles have picked polished college players the last couple years (Wieters, Matusz), so to a certain extent it's a good idea for them to switch it up and diversify a little.

3:39 - Giants pick Zack Wheeler, another high school righty. He's got a big arm according to scouts. Still, don't the Giants need offense at some point? There is pitching depth in this draft, and in San Francisco's system. I would have gone offense first, unless Wheeler was way above everyone else at this point on San Fran's draft board. With how most people, including myself, have characterized this draft, I seriously wonder how far Wheeler was ahead of other guys on the Giants draft board. Questionable pick if you ask me. They can only justify it if Wheeler was clearly above all position players remaining on their draft board.

3:43 - Braves love Georgians and high schoolers, so you have to think they are bummed Wheeler just got picked.

3:43 - Braves pick Mike Minor, a college lefty out of Vanderbilt. Stayed in the south, but went the college route. MLB just said throw the numbers out, and just look at the stuff. NEVER throw the numbers out. Production is what it's all about. Projecting production is tricky, but past production should always be a factor.

3:44 - John Hart just called Minor a sleeper. At #7 overall, really? He doesn't throw hard, but his change-up is apparently his big pitch. This sounds like a bad pick, but I've been unimpressed with Frank Wren ever since he took over the Braves.

3:49 - The Reds pick Mike Leake, righty out of Arizona State, which seems to have surprised the experts a little. #9 on my watch board.

3:54 - Tigers take Jacob Turner, right-hander out high school. Detroit loves its flame-throwers, and don't pay attention to signability issues. He fits their mold perfectly.

3:55 - The Nationals are up again with the pick they got for not signing Aaron Crow last year. As I supposed when Crow didn't sign last year, he is available for the Nationals to pick again if they really want to. However, nobody projects Washington to pick him because, also as I supposed, this draft has way more pitching depth. This is why Aaron Crow really should have signed last year.

3:59 - Nats take Drew Storen, a righty from Stanford. What's funny is that I probably would take Crow over Storen, but obviously the Nationals like him more than Crow. The best move Washington made last year was staying strong and not caving in to Crow's demands. They ended up with a guy they like better than Crow anyway.

4:03 - The Rockies take Tyler Matzek, a high school southpaw. Lots of people are high on him. He may have slipped a little because of money concerns. The Rockies keep picking pitchers high (Reynolds, Weathers, Friedrich), with not much to show yet.

4:08 - Kansas City takes Aaron Crow. He slipped some from last year, but less than I anticipated. I would have picked several other pitchers in front of him. He may be able to get comparable money to what he could have accepted from Washington last year. He has some of the best stuff in the draft, but his production (outside of his Cape Cod league performance) never really matched what you would expect out of his stuff, though his production was still great. I also have major concerns with where Crow's head is at, considering he held out for so much money last year, and rumor is that he will be a tough sign again this year.

4:12 - A's take Grant Green, shortstop from USC. He was one of the better hitters in the Pac 10 this year, he plays a premium position, and I'm guessing that he fields real well because scouts say he is real athletic. However, the Pac 10 was down this year, and I think this is a reach, even though Green plays a premium position.

4:14 - Green is being compared to Bobby Crosby. Yes, if that's the best comparison, he is a reach.

4:17 - The Rangers love flame-throwers from Texas. So, their pick, Matt Purke, a hard-throwing high school lefty from Texas, fits their mold perfectly.

4:21 - Indians pick Alex White with the 15th overall selection. He was #7 on my list, and I think it's a very nice pick at this point. Everyone loves his stuff, so he could harness it and become one of the finest pitchers in this draft. Even if he doesn't take a quantum leap forward, he should become a solid pitcher, either as a starter or reliever.

4:27 - D'Backs go with Bobby Borchering at 16th overall. He's tall and a switch-hitter. Interestingly, the D'Backs are still on the clock, now with the 17th pick.

4:31 - Arizona grabs A.J. Pollack from Notre Dame with #17. They are clearly going with offense, and with back-to-back picks took a high-schooler and a college player, so in theory one more surefire pick, and one boom-or-bust type. Pollack was the Cape Cod League MVP, but wasn't very highly thought of before that. Since he wasn't on my watch list, it's not too hard to figure out what I think of him. To be honest, nobody in the Cape Cod league this year had incredible hitting seasons, though Pollack still deserves credit for the job he did. I think Cape Cod league performances are informative but overrated. Pollack's college production didn't match his Cape Cod production, and he had way more at-bats in college.

4:36 - The always cost-conscious Marlins take Chad James, a high school lefty, with their first round pick. I don't know anything about him really, but I'm assuming signability is not an issue. The Marlins also know what they are doing with player development, so I'm inclined to think this is a solid pick as far as high school pitchers go.

4:41 - At #19 overall, the Cardinals go with Shelby Miller, yet another high school arm. He throws really hard apparently. He short arms the ball a little in his delivery, but it overall looks pretty clean and easy. I like him better than some of the high school pitchers taken before him, though I definitely don't like picking high school pitchers early.

4:45 - The Blue Jays take Chad Jenkins at #20, from Kennesaw State! Our first small college guy is off the board. He was really good last year, and got very strong consideration for the 2009 watch list. He was among college baseball's best starters last year, even after adjusting for the weak competition he faced. What kept him off the list is how much he emerged this year. He wasn't on the radar at all last year, and then showed up as one of the best. It was too big of a leap for me to be comfortable with his production accurately reflecting his abilities. He is a guy I would have scouted much more if I had not been in China, to try to figure out if this year was a big leap forward, or part development and part fluke. The Blue Jays tend to have good drafts, so I'm inclined to think he might be the real deal.

4:49 - Astros take Jiovanni Mier, a high school shortstop. He looks ultra toolsy, and I'm hearing nothing about production and everything about what he could be physically. Guys described like that don't usually pan out.

4:54 - The Twins take Kyle Gibson, #14 on my watchlist. Excellent pick. His injury is not a long-term issue in my opinion. He's a huge power arm, and a safer bet to develop than lots of the high school flame-throwers getting picked. I don't usually love Twins picks, but their farm system knows how to develop talent. Their starting rotation is solid, but mostly finesse. Gibson fits in nicely for them in so many ways. Instant reaction: this is a steal at this point in this draft.

4:59 - Jared Mitchell, center fielder out of LSU, is the pick for the White Sox at #22. He is a big-time athlete, and he could develop in a hurry once he concentrates on one sport. I think it is a bit high for him, but he could develop rapidly once he focuses on one sport. Intriguing pick that fits the White Sox mold of speed and athletes.

5:03 - Angels go with Randal Grichuk, a toolsy outfielder out of high school. Experts think he is a bit of a surprise. It sounds like he is a hitter, but I'm sure he's got tools because the Angels picked him. They also have the next pick, so they are still on the clock.

5:08 - Mike Trout, a touted high school outfielder, is the next choice by the Angels. Most probably think he should have gone ahead of Grichuk, but it does not really matter now. They are both going to Los Angeles. Apparently the Angels have noticed their outfield is getting old.

5:11 - Trout's numbers are insane. I'm guessing the Angels have one good outfielder between the two they just picked, and my money would be on Trout.

5:12 - Jack Z's old team, the Brewers, pick Eric Arnett, a tall righty from Indiana. He looks great on tape apparently. The production doesn't match his video though. The Big 10 is not a terribly strong baseball conference. I think this is a reach, though the stuff and athletic ability are very nice.

5:14 - M's back on the clock!

5:17 - Mariners take Nick Franklin, a high school shortstop out of Florida, with pick 27. This is the one they got for losing Raul Ibanez.

5:18 - If you pick high schoolers, pick shortstops. They are the best athlete, so I'm happy about that. MLB Network is talking about how he is a gamer. Jack Z likes his high character guys, and hardcore ballplayers. I'm cautiously optimistic, especially with Z's track record.

5:21 - Red Sox take Ramon Fuentes at pick 28, a high schooler from Puerto Rico. He has power and speed according to MLB network. I'd hope so if he is a high schooler going in the first round.

5:26 - Do the Yankees get some pitching? No. Slade Heathcott, a high school outfielder, is the pick at 29. He has huge tools. High risk, high reward guy.

5:31 - The Rays with pick 30 take LeVon Washington, a high school second baseman out of Florida. He can run, which means he can defend. He apparently had arm surgery, so teams had a limited look at him. With the Rays recent track record, perhaps they found a bit of a hidden gem, or at least a guy they only had a chance at because of the arm injury.

5:36 - The first round is almost over with the Cubs taking Brett Jackson, a center fielder from Cal. He has great tools, but strikes out a ton. He is coming out of the Pac 10, which I've said before is down from where it usually is. I do not like this pick a whole bunch. The best outfielder in the Pac 10 was fairly clearly Jason Kipnis if you ask me, and he is still available. Jackson is a better athlete though.

5:40 - Tim Wheeler, an outfielder from Sacramento State, is the final pick of the first, 32nd overall by the Rockies. He had a great year, and the WAC was a strong conference this year. However, he really exploded on the scene this year, so I wonder if he is a bit of a flash in the pan, especially with the power numbers. He was one of the final cuts from my watch list, so I really like him. There are guys I like more available, and I think there is more risk with this pick than needed to be taken at this point, but he could be a good pick. Not the worst of the first round, but not the best either.

5:43 - There is a break between the first round and the first compensatory round now, but the picks will come fast and furious when they start up again. There will only be one minute to pick, instead of four minutes. MLB expects to be done by around 7 pm, so they think the next couple rounds will only take an hour total. They may be right too.

5:59 - The first compensation round is just about to kick off now. I'll only highlight picks here and there now. However, the M's will be up soon, so there will be interest early on.

6:00 - In fact, the M's had the first compensatory selection, and take Steven Baron, a high school catcher. He is committed to Duke, so it looks like a tough guy to sign. Jack Zduriencik has proven he knows what he is doing with drafts though, so I best trust that he knows what he is doing. My initial reaction is that it's not a great pick though. Bavasi loved his catchers, so maybe the problem is that Baron is bringing back memories of the old regime.

6:05 - Dodgers just take Aaron Miller, #17 on my watch list. However, I had him scouted as an outfielder, and LA announced him as a pitcher. Apparently they like him on the mound more than in the box, which I think is a mistake.

6:14 - I just read up on both the M's high school picks so far. Tony Franklin has no strengths, but also no weaknesses, and is a "gamer" as mentioned before. I don't know how I feel about the pick, because I prefer high school picks to be phenoms, but I also love that Franklin loves the game. I'm more impressed with Baron

6:15 - Tanner Scheppers goes to the Rangers at 43rd overall. He went slightly lower last year, so good choice by him to wait and reenter I suppose. Crow and Scheppers have been connected in this draft because they were the two high profile guys to not sign last year. Tanner's story is very different from Aaron's though. He really should have gone higher, because all that kept him from going higher both this year and last was an arm injury, albeit a serious one. It looks like he has recovered, but now must get his control back. This is a very worthwhile risk for the Rangers to take.

6:23 - M's back on the clock with their second round pick, and fourth pick of the day.

6:25 - As announced by Jay Buhner (how cool is that?), the M's take...Rich Poythress! He was third on my board. This is unbelievable. He was the best power bat coming out of college. I had him listed as a third baseman, because he has played some, but he will be a first baseman/designated hitter most likely. He was drafted for one reason: he can hit the baseball a long way. Jonathan Mayo says that his power is based more on strength than bat speed, which is the concern with him. That makes absolutely no sense to me (it takes strength to create bat speed). He hit with a wooden bat in the Cape Cod league just fine. It's so exciting to see the Mariners picking guys really high on my wish list!

7:03 - Okay, just got done with dinner. I'll be scanning what I missed for any notes of interest.

7:04 - The Indians took Jason Kipnis at pick 63. He was not on my watch list, but he is a guy I really like. An outfielder at Arizona State, I thought he might pick up where Brett Wallace left off, and be among the top hitters available in the whole draft. However, Kipnis did not fare very well in the Cape Cod league, and then regressed slightly in his senior season according to my rating formula. Part of that is due to the Pac 10 being down this year, but the lack of development was enough to keep him off the watch list. Still, he is a guy to keep track of. I thought he was clearly the best hitter coming out of the Pac 10.

7:10 - The third round is about to start. The M's final pick of the day is minutes away. I think they will finish with a pitcher.

7:12 - The Mariners take Kyle Seager, a third baseman from North Carolina. He'll obviously know Dustin Ackley quite well! I really like this pick. He was one of the final cuts from my watch list, but a guy I definitely wanted to keep tabs on. He is very patient at the plate, and when he swings he makes good contact. The reason I left him off the list is because he never hit for power in college, and should hit for even less power in the pros. I think his home will ultimately be at second base, if he is ever a starter. Seager is a real smart player, and knows what he brings to the table as a ballplayer. Though his lack of power will keep him from being a real dynamic offensive player, the tools he does have are well developed. Seager will never be a star, but he seems destined to be a solid back-up and pinch-hitter at worst. In many ways, he is similar to former Tar Heel (and 2007 watch list member) Josh Horton, who is now in AA Stockton (affiliate for the A's), though Horton was a little higher thought of defensively. Seager may work through the minors quickly, but take some time to get a legitimate shot in the majors because he is not the type of guy an organization clears space for. However, I am very happy with this pick, and extremely happy with the M's first day of the draft.

7:21 - The Orioles picked Tyler Townsend recently with the 85th overall pick. Townsend was another one of the final cuts from my watch list, and one of the toughest cuts to make. He is an outfielder from Florida International, and looks like a budding power hitter. He put together a tremendous season in an underrated conference. Ultimately what kept him off the list was just how much he improved in such a short span. It made me leery of him maybe just being wildly hot for a stretch of the season, and not being quite as good as he appeared on paper. However, with how quickly this draft plateaued and how deep it is, I was mostly splitting hairs even by the end of the list. Townsend could be a real good pick for Baltimore.

7:24 - The Rockies just took Ben Paulsen 90th overall, #12 on the watch list. He definitely could be the heir apparent at first base now, with Todd Helton getting up there in age.

7:26 - Pick 92 is Sean Marks, 19th on my watch list. He was picked by the A's, a team that seems to always grab multiple guys off of my list. That is their first from my list this year, though there are many rounds left, and many on the list still available.

7:36 - Ben Tootle, #23 on the watch list, is the 101st pick overall. The Twins took him. Between Tootle and their first round pick, Kyle Gibson, Minnesota has got a couple of the better power arms in the draft.

7:42 - The first local guy is off the board! Kyrell Hudson, a center fielder from Evergreen High School, is the Phillies pick at 106th overall.

7:47 - The last pick of the day is in. The Astros take high school third baseman Jonathan Meyer, 111th overall.

7:48 - It has been a fun day, as day one of the draft always is. Great first day for the Mariners, but there is tons of talent still available, especially with only three rounds complete. Tomorrow should be a ton of fun too.