Scouting, evaluating make draft
Some scouts believe top high schoolers overvalue their worth
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This will be the first First-Year Player Draft with the new rules in place, courtesy of the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement. Following the draft, teams will have only until Aug. 15 to sign players or they will re-enter the pool for the following season.
There are more compensation picks than ever before. There will be a maximum total of 35 "sandwich picks" in the supplemental first round, picks awarded for lost free agents or first-round picks from 2006 who didn't sign.
The Giants, who lost Jason Schimdt, Moises Alou and Mike Stanton to free agency this past offseason, have amassed six of those first 65 picks, including three in the first 30. San Diego has just one selection in the top 30, but picked up five sandwich picks thanks to Woody Williams, Dave Roberts, Ryan Klesko, Chan Ho Park and Alan Embree. Texas and Toronto also have five picks in the first round and supplemental round.
To top it all off, draft coverage goes beyond the internet world for the first time. ESPN2 will be broadcasting the first round live from Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, June 7.
But even with all of these developments, the 2007 Draft comes down to the same thing at the center of every other draft since its inception in 1965: scouting and evaluating players.
"Every year, it's the same thing," a National League scouting director said. "About this time, people start talking about how it's not as good as we thought. Here's the bottom line: Come June 7-8, every single scouting director will go in to their general manager and tell them the draft fell just right."
While it's too soon to truly know how the draft will fall, one thing has become fairly apparent. The strength of the class definitely comes from the prep ranks.
"It's a very strong high school draft," an American League scouting director said. "There are some very good arms, some good position players, especially on the West Coast. College position players are few and far between. Impact bats at that level are not there at all."
There are some impact arms at that level, with one in particular sitting atop just about every draft list. While nothing is set in stone, the industry would be shocked if Vanderbilt left-hander David Price were not taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Devil Rays.
Beyond that are a number of question marks. The Royals would love to add arms to their organization, and if they go with a pitcher, it would be the second straight year that two pitchers were selected with the first two picks. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it would only be the third time in draft history that it occurred.
The best arms do come from the high school front, with names like Rick Porcello, Madison Bumgarner and Phillippe Aumont, among others, all being mentioned in conversations about the top of the first round. But this is where the questions start to creep up. Sure, there's talent, but early indications are that said talent is looking for compensation beyond what is suggested by Major League Baseball or what its talent level should dictate.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
"I think a lot of people have frustrations with signability, especially with these high schoolers," the AL scouting director said. "There's going to be a lot of issues with signability. Expectations from a fiscal perspective is the greatest frustration. Their expecations of how they should be compensated don't match up to their abilties. They are grossly over-exaggerated.
"These kids are built up larger than life. A lot of these things are over-exaggerated. They are built up to be bigger than sliced bread, but they're the same players each year. Let's not lose sight of what a first-round or second-round pick is. They are still good players, but their abilities dictate where they should go."
The NL scouting director takes the discussion one step further. While no one advisor/agent can control the entire tenor of the draft, it's no secret that Scott Boras is advising a great number of first-round possibilities. Porcello, for instance, is a Boras client, leaving some to wonder exactly where he'll land come draft day. Other Boras clients include fellow prep pitcher Matt Harvey, top college hitters Matt Wieters and Julio Borbon, top college pitcher Andrew Brackman, as well as high school infielder Mike Moustakas.
"The biggest thing is the Boras factor," the scouting executive said. "All of Boras' guys, put them in the mainstream, I think people would be talking a little differently. A lot of teams aren't going to mess with them. Put them back in the general population and people would be talking about how great this draft is."
Not officially entering into that discussion is this year's wild card, Max Scherzer. The former University of Missouri ace, a Boras client, is still under the control of the Diamondbacks, the team that took him with the No. 11 overall pick last year.
Scherzer recently began pitching for the independent Fort Worth Cats, much like Luke Hochevar did a year ago. Hochevar, though, re-entered the draft and ended as the No. 1 overall pick last June. Boras clients Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver went the indy route as well before signing with their teams at the 11th hour. The Diamondbacks have until a week before the draft to come to terms with Scherzer or he will be thrown back into the draft pool for all 30 teams to consider.
This will be the last year that such a tactic will be able to be utilized by a draftee and his agent/advisor. Long holdouts will be a thing of the past, as will the long-used draft-and-follow with teams funneling drafted players from high school to junior colleges to give them more time to evaluate the player before making a decision. For at least one executive, the new rule will allow teams to draw a more permanent finanical line in the sand. And that could cause more players in this deep high school crop to opt for college.
"I think it's going to be significant with 75 percent of the clubs," the AL scouting director said. "I think teams will be inclined to say, 'This is what we're paying,' and if they don't take it, go to school. I think you'll see there are more guys who don't sign this year."
There was some concern the lack of draft-and-follows would hurt the junior college scene, but the AL scout believed the opposite would be true. Several high schoolers, the argument goes, will decide they'd rather go to a two-year school because they'll be able to re-enter the draft immediately rather than wait the three years required of four-year school attendees.
"I think it will help junior college programs," the AL scouting director said. "You have two more years to get drafted. You're no longer under control. Now you're eligible for the draft again, especailly for those who are not academmically inclined."
Not everyone is thrilled with the new rules. The draft-and-follow, some may argue, was an invaluable tool for evaluating talent. Without the extra time, there will certainly be more risk involved in terms of signing high school players.
"I personally don't like the signing deadline," the NL scouting director said. "It does take away flexibiliity for us because of the draft-and-follow. It's hard to say since we've never been through it.
"There are a lot of junior college players in the big leagues that we needed the extra 5-8 months [to evaluate]. There may be a rush to judgement a little. Maybe there'll be some good decisions. Until we go through it, we don't know."
So much is unknown in every single draft, and even with all the new wrinkles, that is a constant. Each and every season, the scouting industry grumbles that the draft class doesn't live up to early expectations. That's as it should be, considering a scout's job is to evaluate every inch of a player's talent and the more you look, the more likely you are to find some holes. But no matter how much of that typical downgrading takes place, there's never been a year that a draft hasn't produced Major League talent.
"I've seen good fastballs, I've seen guys who have competed. I've seen 'plus' runners," the AL scouting director said. "I'm not disappointed. The talent is there.
"We just want big leaguers, whether it's a first-rounder, second-rounder or wherever they are."
The more things change, the more they definitely stay the same.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.