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2003 First-Year Player Draft
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2003 First-Year Player Draft
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Round-the-Clock Exclusive Coverage

2002 First-round draft pick status reports

1. Pittsburgh  |  Bryan Bullington  |  RHP  |  Hickory (A)
An outstanding junior season in which Bullington led the Mid-American Conference in wins (11), ERA (2.84), innings (104.2) and strikeouts (139) earned him a second consecutive MAC Pitcher of the Year Award and allowed his draft stock to soar all the way to the top of the list. The thrill of his accomplishments was dampened somewhat by an endless negotiation process that lasted well into autumn, but Bullington eventually signed for a $4 million bonus that reportedly has both sides satisfied. To be sure, the Pirates are certainly happy to have a player of Bullington's potential under contract. His fastball -- a sinking 96-mph, bat-breaking pea -- is downright mean, and his sharp slider was ranked the best among all college players who declared for the draft last year. Furthermore, at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Bullington sports the perfect frame for a pitcher with his power arsenal. He claims that the rest he got after sitting out the entire summer might actually have been beneficial and it's hard to argue with his results so far in 2003: a 3-0 record, 0.94 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28.2 innings pitched.

2. Tampa Bay  |  B.J. Upton  |  SS  |  Charleston (A)
Negotiations also stalled with Upton, considered to be the best position player in the 2002 draft, but the Devil Rays made a stronger effort to have him signed by the start of instructional league. They succeeded, thanks to a $4.6 million bonus that was the highest awarded to any player in the draft, as well as the largest amount the Rays have ever given one of their picks. Clearly, the organization expects big things from the 19-year-old shortstop, and if he lives up to his promise then he could be joining the youth movement at the big league level in a few short years. Simply put, Upton can do it all. He has tremendous range, a cannon of an arm and can run like the wind. Though gangly, he can pop the ball out of the park and is expected to develop even more power as he grows into his 6-foot-3 frame. His results so far in the South Atlantic League are perhaps under par (.247 AVG, 1 HR, 29 K's in 85 at-bats), but he hasn't been seeing professional pitching for all that long. At the least, he's shown plenty of life on the basepaths (eight steals in 12 attempts).

3. Cincinnati  |  Chris Gruler  |  RHP  |  Dayton (A)
While it's arguable that Gruler was the second-best pitcher in the draft, there's no doubt that the pre-draft arrangements to sign for a $2.5 million bonus helped convince the Reds to take him with the third overall pick. That being said, Gruler was still considered to be the top pitching prospect from southern California, especially after the velocity on his fastball made a noticable jump between his junior and senior seasons in high school. Currently, that heater can get up to about 97 mph with riding action, and he complements that with a 12-to-6 curveball that he can throw for strikes. He's been dabbling with a changeup and splitter as well, although he'll have to fine tune both before he can regularly work them into his arsenal. In 2002, Gruler got off to a terrific start in the Pioneer League (1.08 ERA) before running into some trouble after a promotion to low-A Dayton in the Midwest League (0-1, 5.60 ERA). Although Gruler finished the season strong, weakness in his shoulder led to the discovery of a partially torn rotator cuff. The young right-hander elected not to have surgery, but after a tough start for Dayton this season (0-2, 27.00 ERA), it might turn out to be the only option he has.

4. Baltimore  |  Adam Loewen  |  LHP  |  Unsigned
When the Orioles held firm to their offer of a $2.5 million signing bonus -- the same amount that both Gruler and No. 5 pick Clint Everts received -- Loewen declined and went off to pitch and bat cleanup for Chipola (Fla.) Junior College. Soon, he'll have the option of either re-entering negotiations with the Orioles or re-entering the draft, where it's been projected that he could go as high as No. 1 this time around. Although he's just barely 19 years of age, Loewen is already something of a legend in amateur baseball circles. He's drawn attention since he was a 6-foot-4 12-year-old who pitched British Columbia into the Little League World Series, and he doubled as both outfielder and ace for the Canadian squad in the 2000 World Junior Championship. Today, Loewen stands at an imposing 6-feet-6 inches and 230 pounds. His fastball, which was clocked in the 92-94 mph range this time last year, now touches 96 on the radar gun. He's had terrific command of his 12-to-6 curveball for some time now, and he can throw his rapidly-improving changeup for strikes as well. Regardless of how well negotiations with the Orioles go, it's pretty much a given that Loewen's brief foray into college baseball is coming to an end.

5. Montreal  |  Clint Everts  |  RHP  |  Melbourne (R)
Although many expected left-hander Scott Kazmir to be taken by this point, it turned out to be his teammate from Houston's Cypress Falls High School who first heard his name called in the draft. Granted, his stats may not have been quite as flashy as Kazmir's, but it's possible that the Expos were also intrigued by his potential as an infielder (some considered him to be the second best shortstop in the draft after Upton). If Everts continues on the pitching path -- which is likely -- he's projected to be an impact, front-of-the-rotation starter. His heater comes in at about 91-94 mph with late movement, and his fall-off-the-table curve was rated as the best in the draft. Throw in a deceptive, sinking circle change, and you've got a young hurler with three quality pitches right now. Everts signed too late to play for any of the organization's low-level teams, so he'll be making his professional debut when the Gulf Coast League begins in June.

6. Kansas City  |  Zack Greinke  |  RHP  |  Wilmington (A)
Greinke was drafted as a pitcher, but even if he had never set foot on a mound, it's likely that he would have been a first round selection as a power-hitting third baseman. His outstanding two-way play earned him the 2002 Gatorade National High School Baseball Player of the Year Award, but for now, he'll have to be content with laying his bat to rest. Such are the sacrifices when you own a fastball that can touch 96 mph on the gun. Unlike most young pitchers, Greinke also has a developed arsenal that includes a sharp slider, curveball and change. The problem has been getting all of those pitches to work in the same game, and Greinke often struggled to do so (3.97 ERA in six brief appearances) despite progressing from Rookie ball to high-A Wilmington by the end of 2002. This season, Greinke seems to have things much more under control, as his 4-0 record with a 0.67 ERA would indicate.

7. Milwaukee  |  Prince Fielder  |  1B  |  Beloit (A)
Fielder was considered to have one of the top two power-hitting bats in the draft, which wasn't really much of a surprise for all those who witnessed his dad Cecil during his playing days. Unfortunately, along with inheriting pop's power, Prince also inherited his considerable bulk; in fact, he's actually shorter and heavier than his dad, which raises concerns about mobility in the field and weight control. That being said, Fielder's batting ability was simply too impressive for the Brewers to pass up. He's got a disciplined plate approach, a smooth swing from the left side and the ability to hit the ball 500 feet or more. Upon signing for a $2.4 million bonus, Fielder introduced himself to Pioneer League pitching in a hurry, batting .390 and slugging 10 home runs in 146 at-bats. He found the competition a little stiffer when he was promoted to low-A Beloit in the Midwest League to finish the season, but he's back to his usual ball-mashing self this spring. Through 27 games, the young slugger was batting .337 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.

8. Detroit  |  Scott Moore  |  SS  |  West Michigan (A)
Considered to be the top shortstop in the southern California region, Moore signed for a $2.3 million bonus and suited up for the Tigers' Gulf Coast team right away. Although he was the top offensive threat in the lineup (.293-4-25), Moore stole surprisingly few bases for an athlete with his speed (one in three attempts) and also demonstrated a lack of range at short. He's been shifted to third for now, and with his strong arm and bat, it appears to be a perfect fit. Moore finally joined the Whitecaps after spending time in extended Spring Training, and through his first seven games he was batting .286 with one home run and 10 RBIs. With his smooth left-handed swing, many feel that it's only a matter of time before he starts swatting the long ball on a regular basis.

9. Colorado  |  Jeff Francis  |  LHP  |  Visalia (A)
When the Rockies grabbed Francis five spots after the Orioles picked Adam Loewen, it marked the first time that two Canadians went in the top 10 of the amateur draft. Like his former teammate on the Canadian Junior National team, Francis is a tall left-handed pitcher with an impressive amateur background. But unlike Loewen, Francis is a finesse pitcher who relies more on changing speeds to get batters out. He also actually got to pitch for the team that drafted him, and recorded a fine rookie season (1.17 ERA) between his stints at Tri-City and Asheville. Francis' arsenal includes a low-90s fastball, a solid change and a slurve. His stuff was good enough to get him through the lower levels of A ball unscathed, but he's had a few tough outings for high-A Visalia (1-4, 7.90 ERA) and will need to fine-tune his off-speed pitches before he advances any further.

10. Texas  |  Drew Meyer  |  SS/2B  |  Stockton (A)
Meyer followed in the footsteps of Adam Everett and Brian Roberts at shortstop for South Carolina University, and actually did them one better by becoming the highest draft pick ever in the school's history. But despite hitting .387 in his final season as a Gamecock, Meyer had trouble adjusting to wood -- a problem that had reared its head before during his summers in the Cape Cod League. He's an agressive all-around player with good speed and instincts, however, and the organization was encouraged enough by his play to send him to Double-A Tulsa to finish the season. Meyer is with high-A Stockton in the California League now, where his struggles at the plate have continued (.242-2-17 in 95 at-bats). He still finds ways to contribute, though, as evidenced by his seven steals in the first month of play.

11. Florida  |  Jeremy Hermida  |  OF  |  Greensboro (A)
Although Hermida wasn't considered a top prospect as a junior in high school, he put on 20 pounds of muscle for his final year and hit his way up to the top of the draft lists. After signing for just over a $2 million bonus, Hermida struggled initially in the Gulf Coast League (.224-0-14) but finished strong following a promotion to the New York-Penn League (.319-0-7). Despite his lack of power, most feel that the left-handed hitting Hermida will develop into a home run threat. He runs well and certainly has the range to track down fly balls in the outfield, though his arm is pretty much average for a right fielder. Currently, Hermida is having his troubles at the plate again, batting only .232 in 28 South Atlantic League games. He is still waiting to crack his first professional home run.

12. Anaheim  |  Joe Saunders  |  LHP  |  Not playing
A polished college pitcher, Joe Saunders was selected by Anaheim with the 12th pick and signed for a $1.825 million bonus. He did pretty well at Rookie-level Provo (2-1, 3.62 ERA), then surprisingly dominated once he advanced to low-A Cedar Rapids (3-1, 1.88 ERA). With his makeup and stuff, Saunders has been compared to a young Jarrod Washburn. He throws a fastball that sits in the 89-91 mph range, and can get it up to around 94 when he needs some extra gas. His curveball is solid as well, but there's no question his best pitch is a diving changeup that borders on unhittable. While Saunders' success had some people guessing that he could reach the Double-A level at some point in 2003, a shoulder injury has kept him out of action and could force him to miss the enitre season.

13. San Diego  |  Khalil Greene  |  SS  |  Mobile (AA)
After winning the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player, Greene signed with the Padres for a $1.5 million bonus and quickly established himself as one of the top prospects in the organization. As his combined numbers from two levels of A ball (.309-9-38) illustrate, Greene is capable of hitting for both average and power. His bat speed and hand-eye coordiniation are top notch, and his pitch recognition is so keen that he'll certainly begin to draw more walks once he gets more experience under his belt. Greene's few flaws (if they can be called "flaws") come in the field, where scouts question his range and arm. Even if it determined that a move to second base is in order, Greene's hands and instincts should allow him to excel at that position. There has been talk of the 23-year-old making the leap to San Diego at some point this summer, but for now, he has been stalled by the pitching in the Southern League (.241-2-7).

14. Toronto  |  Russ Adams  |  SS-2B  |  Dunedin (A)
After an All-American season at the University of North Carolina, Toronto made Adams the third college shortstop selected in the draft and signed him to a $1.785 million bonus. But like the player drafted directly ahead of him, Adams may find himself being switched to second because of concern about his range and arm. Regarldless of where he plays in the field, Adams' all-round talents are enough to earn him PT anywhere. At the plate, he's as pure of a leadoff hitter as they come. He draws walks, possesses excellent speed, and has a line drive stroke that could produce 10 to 15 home runs a year with some added strength. Adams struggled after a mid-season promotion to high-A ball (.231-1-12) in 2002, but he's rebounded a bit and is on his way to a solid, if unspectacular 2003 season (.281-0-4-6 SB).

15. New York (NL)  |  Scott Kazmir  |  LHP  |  Capital City (A)
His relatively-short stature and concerns about signability caused Kazmir to drop to the 15th spot, but there's no question that Kazmir was a top-five pick based on talent alone. Hitters from the New York-Penn to the South Atlantic League would no doubt agree. His 96 mph fastball, slider and curve were already considered plus pitches when he was drafted, and now Kazmir has added a baffling changeup to give him four quality offerings. To say the least, Kazmir's rookie season in the New York-Penn League was extremely impressive. He recorded a 0.50 ERA, struck out 34 batters in 18 innings and held opponents to a .089 batting average. His follow-up performance in the South Atlantic League may not be as Earth-shattering (2.63 ERA, 22 K in 13.2 IP), but it's certainly good enough to land him another promotion before long.

16. Oakland  |  Nick Swisher  |  1B-OF  |  Modesto (A)
The A's took the Ohio State junior with the first of their four first round picks, and signed him to a $1.78 million bonus. The son of former All-Star catcher Steve, Swisher is a switch-hitter with good hands and a powerful bat. He's drawn comparisons with J.T. Snow because of his superb defensive abilities at first base, but the Athletics seem resigned to making him an outfielder. He may not quite have the range to survive as a center fielder, but many feel that he has the athleticism and work ethic to make himself into an above-average defensive player at one of the other outfield spots. Swisher's pro career got off to a relatively mediocre start (a combined .242-6-35 in 2002), but he seems to have found his stroke and is posting some excellent numbers in the California League (.333-4-26).

17. Philadelphia  |  Cole Hamels  |  RHP  |  Clearwater (R)
Like Kazmir, Hamels is another top left-hander whose mid-first round selection is hardly indicative of his talent and upside. But teams weren't worried about his signability as much as his health; as a high school sophomore he broke the humerus in his pitching arm in an off-field accident. Hamels turned out to be a difficult sign anyway, holding out until late August and missing the entire 2002 season. But all indications are that the 19-year-old is healthy, which means that the Phillies could have themselves one of the steals of the draft. Scouts love Hamels' easy delivery, which is capable of generating a lively fastball in the 93-94 mph range. He also throws a solid curve and changeup, and has demonstrated good control over all three pitches. With all of the concerns about his medical history, Hamels will be closely monitored when his professional career finally begins for Clearwater in the Gulf Coast League.

18. Chicago (AL)  |  Royce Ring  |  LHP  |  Birmingham (AA)
While many were surprised by Chicago's selection of a college closer, his solid numbers between Rookie and high-A ball (3.21 ERA, 5 SV, 31 K in 28 IP) were enough to quiet the naysayers. As you would expect from a pitcher who started saving games at such an early age, everything about Ring screams "closer." He throws a fastball that can get up to about 95 mph, and complements that with a sharp slider and an effective change. He's also a bulldog of a competitor on the mound, the kind of athlete who demands the ball with the game on the line. Ring is off to an even better start in the Southern League (0.73 ERA, 5 SV, 15 K in 12.1 IP), and appears to be on the fast track to the show despite the organization's considerable collection of relief pitchers at the big league level.

19. Los Angeles  |  James Loney  |  1B-LHP  |  Vero Beach (A)
It isn't often that an organization will pass up on the left-handed power pitching abilities of one of its draft picks, but that's exactly what the Dodgers are doing with Loney. And with the kind of season he had at the plate between Great Falls and high-A Vero Beach (.350-5-35), it's tough to argue with that decision. Loney has a beautiful swing capable of generating good power, and he doesn't cheat himself by swinging at many pitches outside of the strike zone. Loney is also an aggressive baserunner, and he sports enough quickness and athleticism at first base to man that position adequately. Despite the impressive start to his professional career, Loney's season ended on a bad note when his left wrist was broken by a pitch. The injury has had time to heal, but a slow start to his 2003 season (.235-0-8) has many wondering about its lingering effects.

20. Minnesota  |  Denard Span  |  OF  |  Fort Myers (R)
A two-sport star in high school, Span held out until the middle of August before settling for a $1.7 million bonus. He signed too late to play for any of the Twins' low level teams, however, so he'll be making his professional debut when the Gulf Coast League swings into action in a few weeks. Despite hitting well over .400 as a high school senior, Span is raw. His approach and stance at the plate are disorganized, and his great speed on the basepaths is offset by his lack of instincts. It's a different story in the field, though, as this former wide reciever has the ability to run down any fly ball hit in his general direction. With plenty of refinement, Span has the kind of tools that could make him a leadoff hitter and center fielder on the big league level.

21. Chicago (NL)  |  Bobby Brownlie  |  RHP  |  Daytona (A)
Once considered the top pitching prospect in the college ranks, Brownlie's stock plummeted after a case of biceps tendinits contributed to a mediocre junior season. He then proceeded to hold out for top-ten money, not signing until he and the Cubs agreed upon a $2.5 million bonus in the beginning of March. When healthy, Brownlie's stuff is terrific. He has excellent command of his mid-90s fastball, and mixes in a sharp curve to keep hitters off-balance. There are some legitimate concerns about his durability, but so far Brownlie is pitching like the guy who powered through college lineups in his first two seasons (1-1, 2.04 ERA, 16 K in 17.2 IP).

22. Cleveland  |  Jeremy Guthrie  |  RHP  |  Akron (AA)
Yet another pitcher who dropped in the draft because of signability concerns, the Indians stepped in and signed this top 10 talent for a $3 million bonus. It took until October to get the deal done, but with the way the right-hander is pitching in the Double-A Eastern League (4-0, 1.30 ERA), he certainly seems to be worth every penny. Guthrie's main weapons are a fastball that can touch 96 on the gun, and a hard, late-breaking slider. His curveball and change are solid as well, and they could become legitimate out pitches by the time he reaches the big league level. Then again, if Guthrie continues to dominate the upper levels of the minors in such a fashion, he could find himself in Cleveland before his arsenal is fully developed.

23. Atlanta  |  Jeff Francoeur  |  OF  |  Rome (A)
Francoeur was a good enough athlete to be offered a football scholarship to Clemson University, and his physical tools are obvious on the baseball diamond. He has the speed to play center, the arm to play right and the power to become a middle of the lineup slugger. But unlike many other two-way players who need experience to master the subtleties of baseball, Francoeur already has demonstrated keen instincts on the basepaths and in the outfield. Furthermore, he's displayed the kind of work ethic that ensures he won't let his physical gifts go to waste. Francoeur had a terrific rookie season in the Appalachian League last summer (.327-8-31), and although he's off to a more modest start in the South Atlantic League (.276-3-9-5 SB), the Braves are certainly pleased with his progress.

24. Oakland  |  Joseph Blanton  |  RHP  |  Kane County (A)
Despite an inconsistent junior year at the University of Kentucky, the A's made Blanton the second of their four first round picks in the 2002 draft. Given his effective arsenal of pitches and powerful frame, it's hard not to like Blanton's upside. His sinking fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph, and his big breaking ball is very much a quality big league pitch. His slider and changeup still need work, as does his command and some of his mechanics. Overall, Blanton is still a work in progress, and the A's plan to progress him slowly through the minors. This is best illustrated by the fact that the organization dropped him to Kane County even though he finished the 2002 season with a stint at high-A Modesto. So far, he's posted a 2-3 record with a 3.06 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.

25. San Francisco  |  Matt Cain  |  RHP  |  Hagerstown (A)
Cain topped the list of the 14 pitchers the Giants selected in the 2002 draft, and he responded by holding Arizona League batters to a .197 average and recording 20 strikeouts in 19.1 innings of work. Just 18-years-old, Cain can already bring his fastball into the 94-95 mph range and possesses an excellent curveball. He's also shown an aptitude for learning quickly, which will undoubtedly help his progression up the minor league ladder. Currently, Cain is off to a 1-3 start in the South Atlantic League, though he does have a 3.54 ERA and an excellent 34 strikeouts in 28 innings.

26. Oakland  |  John McCurdy  |  SS  |  Kane County (A)
McCurdy was the third player Oakland selected in the first round, and maybe the only one who didn't quite live up to expectations. His bat, which made him such a highly-regarded prospect in college, never came around and he struggled to a .242-3-29 season in the low-A Northwest League. He's off to another slow start in the Midwest League, batting just .226 with zero home runs and 10 RBIs through 27 games. McCurdy runs pretty well, but he's yet another shortstop who lacks the necessary footwork required to be successful on the big league level. A move to third has been projected for the 22-year-old, but he'll definitely need to revive his offense if he ends up at that position.

27. Arizona  |  Sergio Santos  |  SS  |  Lancaster (A)
Santos had been on the scouting radar since his sophomore year of high school, and inflated expectations led many to be disappointed with what was nonetheless a fine senior season (.370-8-34). One of the knocks against him was his supposed lack of power development, but Santos put that criticism to rest with nine home runs and a .520 slugging average against Pioneer League pitching. In the field, Santos has good hands and a strong arm, but is yet another shortstop headed to third thanks to his lack of pure acrobatic ability. So far in the high-A California League, he's batting .284 with one homer and 16 RBIs.

28. Seattle  |  John Mayberry Jr.  |  1B  |  Returned to school
Although the Mariners offered Mayberry a higher bonus than what most of the draft picks around him received, he spurned the offer and elected to attend Stanford University instead. The son and namesake of the former All-Star slugger, Mayberry the younger owns quite a powerful bat of his own. But unlike his dad -- who was a hefty first baseman -- Mayberry Jr. is a chiseled athlete who is fleet enough to play the outfield. His physical gifts are undoubtedly superb, but there were some questions about his ability to produce after a relatively sub-par senior season. Of course, now that Mayberry is ineligible for the draft until 2005, he has a few more years to shore up on his weaknesses and quiet the critics.

29. Houston  |  Derick Grigsby  |  RHP  |  Lexington (A)
Because of the Astros' embargo on signing any of their top draft picks, Grigsby was one of several players who signed too late to appear in any professional games in 2002. Out of Northeast Texas Community College, Grigsby can touch 95 on the gun and throws a wicked slider as well. He's considered to be small for a power pitcher, but the success of another small pitcher in the organization by the name of Roy Oswalt is likely to help his cause. Currently, Grigsby is 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14.2 Sally League innings of work.

30. Oakland  |  Ben Fritz  |  RHP  |  Modesto (A)
Fritz was an excellent two-way player in college, and many feel that he is the best catching prospect in the A's system. Though that may be the case, the organization is committed to making Fritz into a top of the line starter, and they like his potential now that he is concentrating solely on pitching. On the mound, Fritz can get his fastball up to 93 mph and he mixes in an effective sinking changeup. He was fairly successful in his time between Vancouver and Visalia (3.18 ERA, 49 K in 56.2 innings) in 2002, although he's having a bit of a rougher time in the California League (0-4, 6.59 ERA) this time around.

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