With new general manager Doug Melvin now at the helm, it's hard to know what to expect for next year for pretty much everything including the draft itself. As fans, we were just getting used to Dean Taylor's & Jack Zduriencik's style in regards to drafting preferences. No surprise, the previous regime put a preference on high school players, but still drafted plenty of college athletes to show that they didn't simply ignore the collegiate level. Plus, at this point in time, it is not certain whether or not Melvin will let Jack Zduriencik & the scouting staff go & replace them with people more to his preference. As a former GM in Texas, you know he has a list of people he would like to surround himself with. If Melvin does decide to replace Jack Zduriencik, don't be surprised to see him go knocking on the Braves door with interest in Chuck McMichael, a special assistant to GM John Schuerholz who served as Melvin's scouting director for a large part of his tenure with the Rangers.
One good thing about Melvin that separates him from Dean Taylor is the fact that Melvin himself is not only a former player, but a former scout, scouting director & director of player personnel. So, he has had his taste at every level of the scouting world, so you know he has some kind of taste for player/talent evaluation.
How good is that talent evaluation? That's the part only time will tell. While Dean Taylor has seemed to improve the farm system with the draft, we really won't know how good of a job he did in doing so until a couple of years down the road. First of all, let's take a peak at his first round draft picks from his last 5 years as GM with the Rangers:
1997: Jason Romano-2B/3B/OF-Hillsborough HS, Tampa-Was playing at the major league level as a versatile bench player, once considered Texas' leadoff man of the future.
1998: Carlos Pena-1B-Northeastern University-Traded to Oakland for a prospect package, and then traded to Detroit for Ted Lilly & more prospects. Expected to be a productive all-around 1B as the Tigers 1B of the future.
1999: Colby Lewis-RHP-Bakersfield JC, California-Good sized pitcher with good stuff that is really starting to come into his own. Recently called up to the major league level.
2000: Scott Heard-C-Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego-Good athletic catcher with good overall skills. Was once expected to go #1 overall in the 2000 draft, but ended up falling to the Rangers with questions about his ability to hit with a wood bat.
2001: Mark Teixeira-3B-Georgia Tech-Absolute stud of a prospect that should be quite the offensive force at the major league level.
Some of the other players that Melvin added to the Rangers system as GM include highly touted 3B prospect Hank Blalock, OF Kevin Mench, rising OF prospect Layce Nix, 1B Travis Hafner, 3B Mike Lamb and pitchers Doug Davis, Ryan Dittfurth, Travis Hughes & C.J. Wilson. I can't give Melvin too much credit for taking Mark Teixeira with the 5th overall pick in the 2001 draft, other than the fact that he was lucky to have the opportunity to do so. These players don't really show a strong drafting preference whether it be towards college or high school, as there is a pretty healthy mix of both. However, new team President Ulice Payne has noted that he would like the team to draft & build with more college players since they are less likely to flame out than high school prospects. Additionally, the Rangers have always put a strong emphasis on scouting Latin America, with Ruben Mateo, Joaquin Benoit & Jovanny Cedeno showing their efforts there with Melvin at the helm.
Melvin's biggest knock in Texas was his inability to develop pitching prospects, which seemed to be Dean Taylor's specialty coming from the Atlanta Braves. One encouraging name to keep in mind is Barry Zito, whom Melvin drafted in the 3rd round in 1998, but was unable to sign him given budget restraints due to signing free agents to remain competetive at the major league level. Basically, no more encouraging than the fact that the Brewers at one point in time had drafted Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra & Matt Morris.
Now onto the Brewers looking ahead to the 2003 draft...
If you're looking for any good news after such a bad season, the Brewers have the worst record in the National League, which will give them the 2nd overall pick in next June's draft. Draft selection has typically alternated between leagues, with the worst National League team picking first in every even-numbered years and the worst American League team picking first in odd-numbered years. Therefore, even if the Brewers had the worst overall record this season, they would still be awarded the 2nd overall pick, regardless of where the Devil Rays & Tigers finished. There has been some talk that would get rid of this seemingly odd structure in which draft picks would be awarded to teams in reverse order of standings, regardless of league. The Devil Rays & Tigers both finished with identical records of 55-106. The D-Rays will get the first overall pick as the tie-breaker is awarded to the team that had the worse record the previous season. Because of alternating picks between leagues, the Tigers will have the 3rd overall pick even though they finished with a worse overall record than our Brewers (56-106). Here is the projected draft order for the top 10 picks in next year's draft:
1. Tampa Bay
4. San Diego
5. Kansas City
6. Chicago (Cubs)
The new collective bargaining agreement almost ensures some unique changes to the structure of the June Amateur Free Agent Draft, although none of these changes are set in stone. First of all, the players & the owners want to get rid of free agent compensatory picks, as teams won't be "penalized" for signing free agents that were offered salary arbitration from their previous ballclub. Originally thought to basically remove the player's association from any decisions leading into any future draft changes, apparently a provision was made so that wouldn't happen, as the player's want to make sure they still have a say in such matters.
One big change may be the institution of pre-determined salary bonus caps relative to draft position, at least in the early rounds. You may see more & more players stuck with what is offered to them, as their bargaining powers will basically be stripped away from them & their respective agents, as slot value will now determine how much money a player will receive. This seems like a long shot, but it has been discussed.
What may work more as a negotiating advantage for the owners could be the inclusion of a new compensation process for unsigned high draft picks. If a team does not end up signing a first round draft pick, that team will receive a pick immediately after the slot in which it picked the previous year. For example, if the Brewers are unable to sign their pick next year, expected to be the 2nd pick overall, they will receive a compensatory pick in the 2004 draft right after the 2nd overall pick. This rule isn't expected to be instituted until next year's draft, meaning teams with any unsigned first rounders from this past year will still be awarded a compensatory pick in a supplemental round after round 1 (such as the Pirates' Bryan Bullington if he doesn't sign before the end of the year). Teams that are unable to sign their 2nd round picks will receive a compensatory pick between the 2nd & 3rd rounds. In the past, compensatory picks were only awarded to teams unable to sign their first-round selections.
The removal of free agent compensatory picks would basically do away with the lengthy supplemental draft rounds, and means that teams with a high draft pick won't have to wait as long & should have more talent to pick from with their 2nd & 3rd & other subsequent draft picks. Some of the more well-known names as far as prospects are concerned that have gone in the 1st round supplemental round of the draft in the past couple of years include: Luke Hagerty & Matt Whitney this past year; Michael Woods, Jeff Mathis, J.D. Martin, David Wright & Todd Linden in 2001; Dustin Moseley & Kelly Johnson in 2000; Colby Lewis, Jerome Williams, Jimmy Gobble & Jeff Heaverlo in 1999; and Brad Wilkerson, Nate Cornejo, Aaron Rowand & Mark Prior (yes, THE Mark Prior) in 1998.
The committee also plans on instituting a world-wide draft, in which any & all players overseas will now be included in the drafting process. No more large bonuses handed out from the large market teams to lure in the best foreign talent while leaving the little guys in the dust. If you want any of those players, you now have to draft them & go through the signing process along with the domestic high school & college players. International players may be considered a cheaper route in the draft vs. high school players considering most to all of them won't have the advantage of using a potential college career as a negotiating tactic.
The draft itself also is expected to be reduced from 50 rounds probably to right around 30 rounds. With the inclusion of foreign talent, this may in affect do away with the draft & follow process, as teams have less rounds to pick & a larger pool of players to select.
With these changes, a 0-2-4 rule may also be used. This rule will basically dictate that amateur players either have to sign directly out of high school (waiting zero years to play pro ball), spend 2 years at a community or junior college, or attend the full 4 years if you attend a full 4-year graduate institution before you are elgibile to enter or re-enter the draft. This proposed rule may also help to do away with the ever-interesting DFE process, as players either aren't elgible to sign, or have to re-enter the draft after a couple of years of school. I haven't heard as much talk about this rule recently as I have in the past, but it has been discussed.
One last proposed rule change that has been discussed for several years now: The ability to trade draft picks. Whether a team wants to move down not looking forward to spending a lot of money on a high bonus, or another team wants to move up to be able to pick the player they really want, trading draft picks seems to be agreed upon by all sides. Owners reportedly only want to trade draft picks before the draft itself, while players would like unsigned drafted players & signed players within their first year of their professional contract to be able to be traded. Currently, players cannot be traded from it's parent club until one full year after they have signed their professional contract.
With these thoughts, let's look ahead to some of the top prospects available for the 2003 draft as it stands right now. Latin American & all other prospects from overseas have not been included, as information on these players isn't published in any & all scouting publications.
5 high schoolers to watch:
Lastings Milledge-OF-6'1" 180-R/R
Milledge has been considered the top prospect for the '03 draft for a few years now. Exceptional bat speed with great speed & overall power. A true 5-tool prospect that has drawn comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones & even Hall of Famer Willie Mays. A seemingly can't miss superstar in the making, the type that only come along once in every 5-10 years.
Delmon Young-OF-6'2" 210-R/R
Little brother of the Detroit Tigers' Dmitri Young. Overall, more athletic than his big brother, and shouldn't be an embarassment in the field. An advanced hitter with a good knowledge of the strike zone & great power potential. Projected to be a future RF, but has played CF in high school. Also accomplished as a RHP, which also tells you something about his arm in the OF.
Jeff Allison-RHP-6'2" 195
Massachusetts native that highlights an impressive '03 draft class out of that state. Incredibly tough competitor that has flashed a mid-90s fastball, consistently working in the low 90s with a good, sharp curveball. Some concerns about his mechanics, which is common for HS pitchers.
Ryan Harvey-OF-6'5" 195-R/R
Yet another promising high school 5-tool OF prospect. Good power, good bat speed, good speed, and throws 90 off the mound. Has been called a right-handed version of promising Devil Rays prospect Josh Hamilton. A player on the rise as he continues to grow into his body & add strength. Could be considered a RHP prospect, but would prefer to hit everyday.
Chris Lubanski-OF-6'2" 180-L/L
Noted for his power/speed combo. Played with Milledge & Young on the USA Junior National Team this past summer. Good overall ballplayer that likely will be a first rounder next June.
Other notables: RHP Jared Hughes, LHP James Houser, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Chad Billingsley, 3B Ian Stewart, RHP Blair Erickson, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP/OF Xavier Paul, OF/LHP Ryan Sweeney, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C/3B David Winfree, SS Robert Valido, SS/OF Sean Rodriguez.
5 college players to watch:
Rickie Weeks-2B/OF-5'11" 180-Southern
Rare 5-tool college prospect that does everything on offense extremely well. Can hit for average, power and run with the best of them. Shows soft hands on defense & strong hands & wrists with a quick bat. Future position in question, but played well this summer at 2B with good instincts & overall athleticism.
Kyle Sleeth-RHP-6'5" 195-Wake Forest
Went 14-0 during his sophomore season, and 7-1 over the summer with Team USA. Great frame & delivery that shows a mid-90s fastball and regularly works in the low 90s. Shows great touch on both a slider & a changeup, and could be the next ace to come out of the college ranks. Has been compared former Clemson pitcher & first round pick Kris Benson, and shows a lot of similarities to the #1 overall pick from '02, Bryan Bullington.
Brad Sullivan-RHP-6'0", 205-Houston
Named the College summer player of the year after an impressive campaign with Team USA going 7-0. Shorter pitcher compared to guys like Ben Sheets, Bobby Brownlie & even David Cone. May be more like short A's ace Tim Hudson with his low 90s fastball & nasty slider. Size will likely always be in question, but his production will not.
Michael Aubrey-1B/OF/LHP-6'0" 200-Tulane
Best pure hitting prospect available in next year's draft, but best defensive position may be 1B. Could play LF, but should hit enough to play either position. Considered more of a positional prospect than a pitcher, although has been quite effective on the mound.
Tim Stauffer-RHP-6'2" 190-Richmond
Great competitor. Ranked as Baseball America's #2 prospect in the Cape Cod League this past summer. Slight build but challenges hitters with low 90s fastball with movement, plus a good curveball & changeup, all of which he effectively pitches for strikes.
Others: OF Matt Murton, 3B Connor Jackson, SS Matt Macri, OF Carlos Quentin, IF Aaron Hill, 3B Jamie D'Antona, LHP Paul Maholm, LHP Daniel Moore, C Tony Richie, C Javi Herrera, OF Sam Fuld, C Landon Powell.
With the 2nd overall pick, regardless of who the Devil Rays take with the first overall pick, the Brewers should be in great shape to select an incredibly promising player. Take a look at the 2nd overall picks from the past 5 years:
2002: B.J. Upton
2001: Mark Prior
2000: Adam Johnson
1999: Josh Beckett
1998: Mark Mulder
I'll extend it one year & add that J.D. Drew was the 2nd overall pick in 1997.
The expected elimination of free agent compensatory picks will for the most part do away with the supplemental round, which should mean even better prospects for the Brewers not only with their first round selection, but also their 2nd & 3rd round picks. Here are the players that were taken with the 2nd pick in the 2nd round the past 5 years:
2002: Jason Pridie (named the #4 prospect by Baseball America in the Appalachian League)
2001: Andy Sisco (named the #1 prospect by Baseball America in the Northwest League)
2000: Taggert Bozied (did not sign, drafted the following year by the Padres)
1999: Terence Byron
1998: Gerald Laird (signed a year later as a DFE candidate, traded as part of Carlos Pena deal to Texas)
The depth of next year's draft without a doubt is high school outfielders, with Milledge, Young, Harvey & Lubanski leading the way. All 4 of these guys could be gone within the top 10 picks. As always, expect a few high school pitchers to step up next spring & make a name for themselves similar to Zach Greinke & Chris Gruler this past year. RHPs Jared Hughes & Blair Erickson along with LHPs James Houser & Andrew Miller are current high school pitchers on the rise with strong showings during some of the best summer showcases.
As noted above, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will own the first overall pick, and speculation has been made that they may not want to take an OF like Milledge given their glut of OF prospects which includes recently named minor league player of the year by Baseball America, Rocco Baldelli. However, the Devil Rays have shown a strong preference towards drafting talented multi-dimensional players using the best player available theory. If they continue to do so, which should be expected, and if Milledge continues to be regarded as the #1 overall prospect available for next June's draft, expect the D-Rays to nab him, regardless of what is already in their system.
Even if Milledge isn't available, Kyle Sleeth, Rickie Weeks, Delmon Young or Ryan Harvey could all be nice picks, with Delmon Young currently listed as the #2 amateur prospect. Given the Brewers need for a true corner OF prospect, Delmon Young might be a good match, and could move quickly through the system given his refined hitting prowess.
But don't rule out a college arm. As noted above, we don't know what to expect with new GM Doug Melvin taking over, but it's expected that both Melvin & Ulice Payne will focus more on the available collegiate prospects as Dean Taylor & Jack Zdureincik showed an obvious preference towards selecting prep talent early in the draft. The Brewers, regardless of who is in charge, will not shy away from the opportunity to add an advanced arm to the system with the ability to make an impact at the major-league level sooner than most to all prep players. RHP Kyle Sleeth could turn into one of the top 1 or 2 prospects for next June's draft with another strong showing next spring. He has the size, stuff & overall makeup scouts love, and might make the Brewers big-league club after only a year or two of minor league experience.
And how about a college positional player, something we're not accustomed to seeing in the first round since Antone Williamson, Geoff Jenkins & Chad Green from '94-'96? Rickie Weeks might be an incredibly rare find from the college ranks as a true 5-tool prospect that usually only hail from the high school ranks. The only thing in question with Weeks is his future position, but his athleticism should allow him to either play 2B or the OF. His offensive potential is good enough where you would draft him & worry about the rest later.
To make matters more interesting, the unsigned Adam Loewen may decide to re-enter the draft should the Orioles not offer him a contract closer to his liking. The talented Loewen has been compared to Mark Mulder as a LHP, and Larry Walker as a RF. Should he be available, assuming he has a good season at Chipola Community College, he could surpass Milledge as the top available amateur prospect for the 2003 draft. It has been speculated that Loewen will be allowed to both pitch & hit once he enters the professional ranks, and his future as a ballplayer will be determined later down the road.
And Loewen isn't the only one. Other first-rounders that have not signed yet that could be eligible for next year's draft if they do not sign include previously mentioned Ball State RHP Bryan Bullington (1st overall-Pirates) & Rutgers RHP Bobby Brownlie (21-Cubs). Stanford RHP Jeremy Guthrie (22) has recently signed with the Indians.
And of course, so much can & will happen between now & then. While it's impossible to project, it sure is fun doing so.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.