Scouts poring over draft data
Evaluation of top prospects continues as big day nears
Think of the draft as a reality show. For the last several months -- years even -- amateur players have been handling numerous tasks, jockeying for position to be given a shot at a professional career.
Call it "The Phenom." This weekend was the penultimate episode of the show, with scouts of all levels hitting the boardroom (sorry, Mr. Trump) to figure out who the next phenom will be for their respective organizations.
At the same time, many of the participants/prospects are working on their final task before the show's big Draft Day finale today and Wednesday. There are some high school playoff games still being played here and there throughout the country, but the main events are the 16 Regionals marking the start of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship that concludes with the College World Series in Omaha.
"We're there scouting them," one NL scouting executive said. "The process continues right up until the draft. As the Regionals are going on, we're there.
"College players move up the board as we get closer to the draft."
Some of that is because of these last looks in pressure situations, some of it comes as a result of teams deciding to minimize risk to go with a player who might get to the bigs faster rather than perhaps the player with the higher ceiling. But as the updated projection of the first round shows, there seems to be more college players -- particularly on the mound -- moving into the opening-round picture.
Nowhere is the debate more intriguing than right at the top. Even with some defensive questions and a position move in high school, shortstop Justin Upton is still considered to be the top all-around talent in this year's draft class. And it seemed fairly likely that's whom the Diamondbacks would take up until a week ago.
Arizona still might go with Upton, but with the signing of Stephen Drew (Jered Weaver's signing with the Angels takes another wild card out of the draft deck as well), they may feel they have their shortstop of the future. As a result of the signing of their 2004 first-rounder just before the May 31 deadline, the D-Backs have been looking much, much closer at some options among the college pitching ranks. On the short list is St. John's closer Craig Hansen, Wichita State ace Mike Pelfrey and Tennessee's Luke Hochevar.
Obviously, the D-Backs' decision will have a tremendous trickle-down effect on the rest of the first-round landscape. But regardless of what happens up top, there are some college pitchers sneaking into the back end of the first round, with names like Matt Torra and Jacob Marceaux appearing when they weren't on this map a few weeks ago.
That's not to say these are players who were off the scouts' radars completely. The draft is a culmination of months of work, countless evaluations and too many scouting reports to describe. So while this weekend's performances in the final task of this reality show certainly have merit and could help some players move up or down, it will serve most organizations as just one more bit of information to add to the file.
"The length of the time since you identified a player, the process doesn't end until Tuesday," the scouting executive said. "We continue the discussions right up until the draft. Everything weighs in."
1. Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, SS, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
It seemed as if the Diamondbacks were narrowing their focus onto Upton, but with Drew now in the fold, they might be leaning toward going the college pitching route. The rumor that they'd take Hansen at No. 1 (perhaps to save some money after spending on Drew) won't go away, in part because the surprisingly competitive D-Backs could use some bullpen help in September, when some believe Hansen will be ready. It likely didn't hurt that Hansen took an emergency start and won in a recent regional. They're also looking at Pelfrey and Hochevar.
2. Royals: Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska
The Royals are not looking to make a budget-conscious deal, but that doesn't mean they're automatically going to take Gordon, believed to be the second-best talent in the draft. If the Diamondbacks pass on Upton, it'd be hard to imagine Kansas City passing on him as well. They could also decide to go with a college pitcher. At one point, they seemed interested in Miami's Cesar Carrillo, not only because he's not a Scott Boras client, but because the Royals think he's every bit as good as Pelfrey and Hochevar. With two losses in his last two starts, it's possible Carrillo's star has lost some of its luster.
3. Mariners: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Long Beach State
The Mariners are in a bit of a holding pattern, with a list of possibilities still sitting on their plate. A lot has to do with what happens above them. If Upton does indeed fall, that could leave Seattle with a tough decision to make. If Upton and Gordon are gone, Tulowitzki will likely be the guy they take from their short list. But if the D-Backs go pitching and the Royals then select Upton, it might be hard for the Mariners to pass up Gordon's left-handed power.
4. Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Virginia
If the Nationals had unlimited resources, they might be interested in a college arm like Hochevar. Since that's not the case, it seems almost certain they'll be taking Zimmerman, considered to be the best defensive infielder in the draft who's shown plenty with the bat as well. Even if Tulowitzki trickles down to them, it's apparent Zimmerman is their man. There were reports of a private workout with Cameron Maybin over the weekend, but Maybin might only be a Plan B.
5. Brewers: Cameron Maybin, OF, T.C. Roberson, HS, Arden, N.C.
Several names have come up in discussions about the Brewers' pick, largely because they could go in any direction and aren't a high school or college-only kind of team. They've had some success with high school hitters, and Maybin is the best of the lot after Upton. If a Zimmerman or Tulowitzki fell to them, they'd probably have a decision to make, and they may have an interest in Miami's Ryan Braun, but Maybin's tools have many scouts drooling.
6. Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, LHP, Cal State-Fullerton
Even after taking two college lefties at the top last year, the Jays have been following the Cal-State Fullerton ace very closely. He's the best college lefty on the board. They've also been watching draft re-entrant Wade Townsend, the former Rice star, in his workouts for scouts. If Tulowitzki somehow falls (if the D-Backs don't take Upton, it could happen), he won't get past this spot.
7. Rockies: Luke Hochevar, RHP, Tennessee
It's hard to tell exactly what the Rockies will do with this pick, and what happens 1-6 will largely determine which way they go. They're not afraid to deal with Boras and are constantly looking for pitchers who can succeed at Coors Field, making Hochevar a good possibility. If Romero were to slip to them, that could be a possibility. They're always on the lookout for five-tool guys (they took Chris Nelson last year) and if Maybin's off the board, they could take a look at Texas high school center fielder Jay Bruce to fit that bill.
8. Devil Rays: Jeff Clement, C, USC
There's been a lot of debate within the Devil Rays ranks in terms of what direction to go in with this pick. It came down to a quartet of college pitchers, a college bat or maybe the small possibility of a high school athlete for the Devil Rays. If Maybin slid here, that could be a good fit, with Florida high schooler Andrew McCutchen a backup, but graded behind Maybin. It's more likely that Tampa Bay will hit the college campus, and they scouted the regionals up through Monday night to try to make a decision. In the end, they'll decide to go with the bat -- Clement -- instead of Wade Townsend (who came in for a personal workout) or one of the Boras trio.
9. Mets: Craig Hansen, RHP, St. John's
The Mets have the financial resources to take anyone they wish on the board, making it a little tougher to pinpoint a selection right now. They've been following the local college closer closely -- proximity certainly helps. If that wacky scenario at No. 1 actually plays out, the Mets could be interested in Pelfrey. If the Mets decide to go in a non-pitching direction, they've shown interest in Jay Bruce, the high school outfielder from Texas.
10. Tigers: Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State
The Tigers love Zimmerman and if he somehow falls to No. 10, that's their pick. In lieu of that, they've reportedly been watching Pelfrey carefully. They've been talking to Maybin just in case he slides, and they've been watching McCutchen as well. A college bat like Braun could slot in here as well.
11. Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Fort Meade HS, Fort Mead, Fla.
The only question seems to be if the high school outfielder will be here when the Pirates are up. If he is, he's likely their guy. If not, Bruce might be next in line. If Romero somehow slid here, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield did go see him pitch this season.
12. Reds: Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A&M
The Reds want a college bat, and it looks like the more affordable Pennington may be their man. There was some talk they were interested in Bruce as well, if they changed gears and went high school.
13. Orioles: Jay Bruce, OF, West Brook H.S., Beaumont, Tex.
While the Orioles probably could use an advanced college pitcher, they may be wary of going down that path after their Townsend experience. The pickings at this point may also not be to their liking, so they could look at high school athletes, and Bruce would be the best one available at this point.
14. Indians: Ryan Braun, 3B, Miami
Braun's name has been mentioned all over the map of this first round, but he won't make it past the Tribe, who covet his power and speed combination. The Indians were also looking at Clement, had Braun not been available and had put Carrillo on their radar screen in case one of their preferred college bats was not on the board.
15. White Sox: Cesar Carrillo, RHP, Miami
Some think the Sox will take Tulane's Brian Bogusevic because of their need for left-handed pitching. But they'd love to take Clement's bat if it's there at No. 15 and, if not, like Carrillo, despite his right-handedness, better than Bogusevic.
16. Marlins: Chris Volstad, RHP, Palm Beach Gardens HS, Palm Beach Garden, Fla.
There have been some mixed reports on Volstad, with his recent outings not as strong as some of his earlier work this season. Still, the Marlins have had a lot of success with young pitching, haven't they? Were they to go in another direction, they could take a look at Brandon Snyder, a high school catcher/shortstop.
17. Yankees: Brian Bogusevic, LHP, Tulane
Obviously, financial constraints are not a problem here, so if either of the Boras-advised starters slipped down here, the Yankees wouldn't hesitate. Boras' star high school client, Utah lefty Mark Pawalek could be intriguing here. They like Volstad, too, so if the Marlins pass on him, the Yankees may not. But they've been seen at some of Tulane's games and Bogusevic, a two-way player, profiles as a first-rounder on the mound. The Yankees also really like N.C. State closer Joey Devine, who helped his value with a dominant performance in the ACC Tournament, but that might be a bit of a stretch for New York at No. 17.
18. Padres: Lance Broadway, RHP, TCU
No one has risen up the charts more than Broadway has in recent weeks. With three wins against Tulane, Southern Miss and Stanford, he's soared into the first round where the Padres might take him despite their fondness of Cesar Ramos and his left-handedness.
19. Rangers: Cesar Ramos, LHP, Long Beach State.
The Rangers would like to go college pitching, if possible, and have their sights on Ramos if the Padres don't take him. Next on their list could be Matt Garza, the ace of a sub-.500 Fresno State team. He came on late, moving him up to a position where going at No. 19 might make sense. Another lesser-known college starter with helium, Torra, could sneak in here as well.
20. Cubs: Justin Bristow, SS, Mills Godwin HS, Richmond, Va.
The Cubs have shown a willingness to draft guys who are perceived as "tough signs." As a result, Boras clients like Tyler Greene and Pawalek have been mentioned here. But the Cubs don't seem to like Greene here, and they likely will pass on Pawalek if he's there. They have no qualms taking a high schooler and if Volstad is available, and a high school bat like Bristow is definitely on their list.
21. Athletics: Jed Lowrie, 2B, Stanford
If ever there's a bankable thing in a draft, it's that the A's will go the college route in the first round (and many rounds thereafter). Lowrie possesses that combination of on-base percentage and slugging percentage the A's covet at a position it's not often easy to find both.
22. Marlins: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Oregon State
After going the high school route at No. 16, the Marlins may try to even things out with a "safer" college guy. Ellsbury might have the OBP the A's love, but he's also got a lot of speed, something that might appeal to the Marlins.
23. Red Sox: Matt Torra, RHP, Massachusetts
Chances are the Red Sox are running in the same circles as the A's, although there's been some talk that because they have so many early picks, they might actually take a high school guy sooner than they would normally. That being said, going college here makes sense and why not stay in their own backyard. Torra has as much helium as anyone in the draft right now, and the only issue is if he'll still be on the board at No. 23. If he's gone, the Red Sox could look at college bats like Mayberry Jr., Arizona State's Buck and Arizona's Trevor Crowe.
24. Astros: Wade Townsend, RHP, no school
The Astros could go high school or college, and often like to stay in their own backyard. They likely had an interest in Texas high school outfielder Jordan Danks, but since he's told teams he plans to go to UT next fall, they have to look elsewhere. Townsend may have slipped because of recent workouts, but the Astros may be willing to take a chance here. If not, Louisiana isn't so far from Houston, and they've been watching Jacob Marceaux's power arm closely. If they wanted to go with bullpen help, word is they've talked with Devine.
25. Twins: Brandon Snyder, C/SS, Westfield HS, Centreville, Va.
The Twins have been incredibly successful with going counter to the college trend, and that trend should continue here. They'll take the top high schooler on the board, and that could be Snyder. If Bristow, who attended the same high school as the Twins' 2003 first-rounder Matt Moses, is still around, he would slot in nicely here.
26. Red Sox: Travis Buck, OF/3B, Arizona State
Sorry, just can't project the Sox taking a high schooler in the first round. Instead, they may take Buck, though Crowe is still a possibility here. If they do go high school in the first, there was talk the Red Sox were following South Carolina high school shortstop Reese Havens.
27. Braves: Chaz Roe, RHP, Lafayette HS, Kentucky
The Braves like high school players, particularly pitchers, allowing them to develop slowly in their system. So it wouldn't be a shock for them to take an arm like Roe here, or perhaps Bryan Morris out of Tennessee.
28. Cardinals: John Mayberry Jr., 1B, Stanford
The Cards have definitely looked more into the performance-based, stats-oriented side of things, but they aren't beholden to it. Taking one college guy and one high schooler with their two first-round picks sounds about right. They liked Pennington, but with him going much earlier, they may not pass on Mayberry's power potential and a future ability to play a corner outfield spot.
29. Marlins: Bryan Morris, RHP, Tullahoma HS, Tullahoma, Tenn.
The Marlins may have the opportunity to get two quality high school arms in the first round, and they love the young pitchers. Morris' name has risen quickly up the charts this spring.
30. Cardinals: Craig Italiano, RHP, Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound, Tex.
And here's the high schooler for the Cardinals. Italiano is probably the best high school arm still on the board.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.