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2011 Draft: Day 1 Recap

60 picks are in the books! Most teams only had one or two selections, but the headliners are gone (for the most part). Here are some rapid reactions:

  • Gotta start with the top. Gerrit Cole is a nice top selection. He isn't who I would have gone with first overall, but he is hard to argue against. I doubt the Pirates regret taking him. Pittsburgh is starting to collect elite power arms.
  • The Mariners made a surprising selection with Danny Hultzen, but it's not a bad one. I still thought Anthony Rendon was the obvious choice, but I am sure the Mariners got a critical piece of information I had no access to - the medical reports on his shoulder. It's worth noting that Rendon fell all the way to sixth, where the Nationals scooped him up. Others were wary of his shoulder, and the Nats are likely to move him to second base with Ryan Zimmerman safely entrenched at third. The Mariners don't really have the same luxury with Dustin Ackley as the long-term solution at second. It looks like the prevailing feeling around baseball is that Rendon's shoulder is a legitimate long-term concern, and given that, Hultzen makes a ton of sense for the Mariners. He will make even more sense if the Mariners go out and grab some bats early in day two.
  • The Diamondbacks loaded up on pitchers with their three picks, Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, and Andrew Chafin, in that order. I had them ranked 3rd, 5th, and 15th, respectively, on my big board. Bradley is a particularly bold pick, because he will cost money, and that pick is unprotected as a compensation pick from last year for not signing Barret Loux. Part of me feels like the D'Backs went too heavy on pitchers, but at the same time, there is only one other team that came away with as talented of a trio tonight...
  • ...and that team is the Washington Nationals. They were already winners when Rendon fell in their laps, and kept on winning when they grabbed Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin later on. Even though these are all college players, they all have high ceilings. These aren't typical "safe" college picks. Meyer is 6'9" with an electric arm that he just started to harness this past year. Goodwin is only sophomore aged, thanks to transferring to a community college. He already has an advanced approach at the plate, and might hit for average and power with speed when it is all said and done.
  • The Rays started off with killer picks by taking Taylor Guerrieri and Mikie Mahtook, both of whom fell more than anyone can really explain. Then, they made a run on athletic high schoolers. I expected more of a mix out of them with all the picks, but going with the a heavy dose of prep athletes makes good sense. Several of them will probably flame out, but if the Rays can sign all of them, they've pretty much guaranteed themselves some quality players at premium positions.
  • The Red Sox did their usual cash grab by selecting Blake Swihart and Henry Owens. However, Matt Barnes wasn't a guy that fell to them because of money, and he was a nice pick to start their night. Hard not to like the trio they nabbed, along with Jackie Bradley Jr. (who I'm not so high on).
  • In general, a ton of young, athletic guys went in the draft, particularly in the sandwich round. Chicks might dig the long ball, but clearly GMs and scouting department dig more athletic guys at the moment. Pitching and defense are back in vogue.
  • That last point was my lazy transition to the losers of day one. I guess no one really loses because everyone gets talent without giving anything up. Still, some capitalize more than others. The Mets made the most conflicting pick of the night for me, when they selected Brandon Nimmo. He is an amazing story, as his high school didn't even have a baseball team. Going from that to a first round pick is remarkable, and I'm rooting for the guy. However, from a team's perspective, drafts aren't about human interest stories. Nimmo was a reach where he was taken, with guys like Mike Mahtook and Brian Goodwin still available. I'm rooting for the kid, and others were happy to see the Mets take a high school guy, but that doesn't insulate the Mets from some questioning as far as I'm concerned.
  • The pick I disliked most came from the Dodgers, as if their year could get any worse. Chris Reed isn't a bad pitcher, but he went way too high. Picking him at 16 suggests that LA will convert him to a starter. While many think he has the stuff to come out of the bullpen, there were plenty of great prep and college players that have been starting and flourishing. I'm a strong believer that you pay primarily for two things early on in the draft - elite skills, and advanced polish. Reed is good, but I don't think he has an elite tool, and he definitely does not have polish as a starter, given that he has been relieving. There is way too much unnecessary risk tied up in this pick for my liking.
All in all, it was a solid draft. I was surprised that so many teams went so heavy on youth. It doesn't seem like there is much diversity in thinking among teams right now, for better or worse. It also might be a reflection of the general belief that there were lots of good prep players this year, and on top of that it was a weaker year for college players, particularly college position players.

As a rule of thumb, Division I position players are the safest picks in a baseball draft (but also often have the least upside). Only 11 of the first 60 picks were every day players from D-I schools. I anticipate many busts in this draft because of the risks taken, but that doesn't mean that there were lots of dumb picks. The reality is that greater rewards often come with greater risks.

Still, with so many higher ceiling guys going early on, there are lots of lower ceiling guys still around that are good bets to make the majors and stick around as role players, and maybe even solid starters. I'll be back with a fatty list of guys to look for in day two shortly.