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2009 Draft: A Look Back at 2008

Gordon BeckhamI have been taking a look back at the previous college baseball watchlists I have comprised, and today I look at the previous year's, 2008. It was a college-heavy draft in general, and so not too surprisingly this watchlist has several high draft picks. As a result, a number of players are on the fast track to the major leagues. Even one year in, it is interesting to see how different prospects are at very different stages of development. Here is a look back at the 2008 class as they all embark on their first full year of professional baseball:

25. Nate Freiman, 1B, - (SD) - Freiman went back to college for his senior year, and was picked in the 8th round of this year's draft by the Padres. He is yet to sign, and be assigned to a minor league team.

24. Scott Gorgan, RHP - I've been unable to track down Gorgan so far, either in the pro or college ranks. I am guessing an injury might be involved.

23. Collin Cowgill, OF, Visalia (ARI, A) - .277 AVG, .373 OBP, .445 SLG - Most thought at 5'9" Cowgill would not hit for much power, and that may ultimately be the case. The California league is very hitter-friendly. However, between the speed Cowgill possesses and the pop he is flashing in his bat, he is getting his fair share of extra base hits.

22. Shooter Hunt, RHP, Beloit (MIN, A-) - 10.70 ERA, 17.2 IP, 15 H, 33 BB, 18 K, 1 HR - One statistic jumps off the page with hunt: the walks. He could not throw strikes before getting hurt (he has not pitched since May 15). Control was the biggest concern with Hunt coming out of college, but this is worse than I ever thought it would be. Perhaps some time on the DL will be good for him, or the injury was part of the control problem.

21. Jacob Thompson, RHP, Myrtle Beach (ATL, A) - 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 6 H, 8 BB, 5 K, 1 HR - Thompson was just promoted, hence the limited innings. In low A he pitched 64 innings and frankly looked quite hittable, though he kept the ball on the ground pretty well. I am surprised he got promoted for at least a few starts.

20. Michael Schwimer, RHP, Clearwater (PHI, A) - 2.48 ERA, 29 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 35 K, 1 HR - Schwimer might be in line for a promotion as he wraps up an excellent first half in A-ball out of the bullpen. He looked fantastic in rookie ball last year too. Schwimer was one of the later selections off the watchlist last year, but looks real good so far.

19. Eric Thames, OF - Despite being drafted as a junior, I could not find Thames in the pro or college ranks this past year. He had a shoulder injury last year, but played through it. I have a hard time believing a player with college eligibility left quit baseball.

18. Reese Havens, SS, St. Lucie (NYM, A) - .228 AVG, .343 OBP, .413 SLG - Despite a low batting average, Havens has been decent at the plate thanks to some patience and power. He is yet to play in June due to an injury, and the odds are that he will start getting base hits a little more frequently once he gets back on the diamond.

17. Scott Bittle, RHP, - (STL) - Bittle, like Freiman, went back to college for his senior year and just got drafted by the Cardinals. He is yet to throw a professional pitch, but after back-to-back huge years in a somewhat awkward relief role for Ole Miss, I am looking forward to see what he does as a professional. I hope the Cardinals try him as a starter first.

16. Clayton Shunick, RHP, - (CIN) - Clayton looked pretty bad in rookie ball last year, and is yet to appear in a pro game in 2009. My best guess is that he was in extended spring training, and will repeat rookie ball once it starts up.

15. Conor Gillaspie, 3B, San Jose (SF, A) - .274 AVG, .368 OBP, .361 SLG - Gillaspie was the first player from the 2008 draft class to reach the majors when the Giants decided to purchase his contract in September. I'll never understand why he was called up, because it was not in the contract he signed, and the Giants actually had to clear a 40-man roster spot for him just to do it. So far, his lack of power is alarming, even though he never projected to hit for a ton of power.

14. Sawyer Carroll, OF, Fort Wayne (SD, A-) - .311 AVG, .407 OBP, .450 SLG - Carroll is putting together a real nice year. He already has 14 steals, which is a little surprising coming from a player listed at 6'4". He only has four home runs on the year, but is hitting plenty of doubles, and that speed on the basepaths is nice too.

13. Blake Tekotte, OF, Fort Wayne (SD, A-) - .236 AVG, .321 OBP, .339 SLG - Meanwhile, Carroll's teammate Blake Tekotte is struggling. Surprisingly, he has more home runs than Carroll, but he would likely benefit from a shortened stroke. Tekotte has even better speed, as evidenced by 15 stolen bases despite being on base less often than Carroll. Tekotte is striking out too much, and he did last year too in rookie ball. The good news is that Tekotte may have made an adjustment, because his June totals are leaps and bounds above April and May. His strikeout rate has dropped drastically, and not surprisingly his numbers across the board have gone up. Time will tell whether this is just a hot streak or a positive trend.

12. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Stockton (OAK, A) - .403 AVG, .494 OBP, .694 SLG - Weeks was injured to start the year, so this is only 18 games worth of stats, but he certainly looks like he is making up for lost time. He looked pretty good in low A last year, and may be in AA by the end of the year. Weeks defense, especially at second base, should already be close to ready for the majors, so it is only a question of his bat, and he is leaving no questions about that right now.

11. David Cooper, 1B, New Hampshire (TOR, AA) - .239 AVG, .319 OBP, .347 SLG - Cooper played at a total of three levels last year and looked good in all of them, so the Blue Jays started him at the next level up, AA. For now, he has met his match. He looked to good in the half season he played in last year for me to be too worried about the first half of this year. The Blue Jays have pushed him pretty hard to this point.

10. Aaron Weatherford, RHP, Asheville (COL, A-) - 4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 1 HR - Weatherford got hurt early in the season, but that ERA was likely to come down in a hurry with the season he was beginning to put together. It looks like he will be in rookie ball as he comes back from the injury, but whether thr Rockies keep him there or move him back up a few levels remains to be seen.

9. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Lynchburg (PIT, A) - .237 AVG, .332 OBP, .483 SLG - Alvarez made life difficult from the beginning by being a real tough player to sign, so now in Pirates fans eyes he better be worth it. So far, the jury is still out. He has prodigous power, and that is showing through. However, he is striking out a ton at a pretty low level. Alvarez will never have to hit for much average to be a good hitter with the power he has, but he either needs to become more selective or learn how to shorten his stroke at times.

8. Ike Davis, 1B, St. Lucie (NYM, A) - .289 AVG, .376 OBP, .491 SLG - Davis is listed as a first baseman, but I still think he should be tried in the outfield. He pitched in college, so he should have a good arm. Regardless, it is nice to see him putting together a fine season, especially after a poor showing in rookie ball to start his professional career. His strikeout rate still worries me, but the first half of this season is leaps and bounds better than last year.

7. Aaron Crow, RHP, - (KC) - Crow was picked ninth overall by the Nationals in the 2008 draft, but held out for way too much money and never signed. He played in an independent league waiting for the 2009 draft, because he was out of college eligibility, and the gamble did not pay off at all. He slipped into the second round, where the Royals grabbed him. Talent-wise, he might be a steal, but who knows how much money he wants this time. My view of Crow has definitely soured after watching his contract negotiations last year.

6. Allan Dykstra, 1B, Fort Wayne (SD, A-) - .209 AVG, .389 OBP, .358 SLG - This has to be one of the more interesting stat lines in all the minor leagues right now. Dykstra really has not shown much of an ability to hit, between his low batting average, minimal power, and high strikeout rate. However, he still walks at an absurd rate! He struck out at a pretty high rate in college, but he may need to be a little more aggressive. He has more talent with the stick than he has shown so far.

5. Gordon Beckham, 3B, CHW - .132 AVG, .214 OBP, .184 SLG - This is unfair to Beckham because he has only been in the majors for about a week and a half now. He started the year in AA, where he posted an .862 OPS, and then played 7 games in AAA before getting called up to the majors. Beckham was in the mix to make the team out of spring training as a second baseman, so the White Sox are clearly in love with him already. I think they are rushing him badly, though his success in AA shows that he is not very far away from being ready.

4. Justin Smoak, 1B, Frisco (TEX, AA) - .325 AVG, .444 OBP, .503 SLG - Smoak has been out since the end of May with an injury, but his first two months in AA were fantastic. He will probably hit for even more power than he has shown so far, though he might not be able to keep up such a good batting average.

3. Brett Wallace, 3B, Memphis (STL, AAA) - .241 AVG, .291 OBP, .319 SLG - Wallace also spent the first month of the season in AA, where he posted an .840 OPS. I probably would not have promoted him, but he has certainly met his match for now. It is only a matter of time before Wallace starts hitting though. The bigger question is still if he can remain at third base.

2. Buster Posey, C, San Jose (SF, A) - .335 AVG, .433 OBP, .545 SLG - I applaud the Giants for taking things slow with Posey, especially compared to a number of the prospects we have already looked at on this list. However, I think he is out of things to prove in A ball. He got off to a torrid start, slowed down a bunch in May, but is now batting .469 in June. I think he is in line for a promotion to AA midseason.

1. Yonder Alonso, 1B, CAR (CIN, AA) - .226 AVG, .300 OBP, .377 SLG - Alonso has only been in AA for a couple weeks now. In high A he had an .881 OPS that was climbing fast after a slow start. The Reds seem to be pushing him somewhat hard right now, which is a little surprising with Joey Votto at first base at the major league level.

This has been the most interesting list to look at one year in. There are several injuries, a couple enigmas that seem to have disappeared, a couple players close or in the majors, and a couple others already in the higher levels of the minors. This draft class as a whole is on the fast track to the majors.