Corner IFs offer temptation, danger
Positions have talent, but some fear one-dimensionality
There are pros and cons to the fact that the single biggest strength in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft is first basemen.
If you're looking for a good bat, particularly one with some power coming out of college, chances are there's one you can take. The flip side is that having all those players limited to one position leaves a smaller margin for error.
"That's the consensus opinion, [that first basemen are a strength]," one scouting director said. "There are a lot of guys who have a bat. Essentially, though, you're saying, 'You better hit or else.' These aren't full-package guys. If [a first baseman] doesn't hit, that's it. That's the down side. But there are a whole bunch of guys who might have a chance to hit at third or first."
There aren't nearly as many of those options at the hot corner. It would be easy to fill this breakdown with only first basemen. In the interest of variety and equity, a few more third basemen are sprinkled in, though some won't necessarily be among the top 10 corner infielders taken in the Draft, to be held June 5-6 in Orlando, Fla.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, University of Miami: He came into the year as a terrific pure hitter with plenty of power from the left side. He's done nothing to change that perception as one of the NCAA leaders in OPS, among other offensive categories. Not considered to be terribly athletic, he's worked hard at tightening up his body and will be an OK defensive first baseman with a good arm. Don't expect him to last past the first half or so of the first round.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt: Perhaps the most polished bat in the Draft class, Alvarez should hit for both average and power and it shouldn't take him too long to get to the big leagues to do it. Defensively, most feel he'll be just fine at third, though some feel he'll be a first baseman long-term. Either way, the left-handed bat will play just fine and that's the reason why Alvarez is hearing his name among the first few picks of the Draft.
David Cooper, 1B, University of California: With a quick swing, a good approach at the plate and plus power from the left side, Cooper has moved himself into first-round consideration with the year he's had at Cal. He doesn't run well and that's what will limit him to first base as a pro. Chances are, though, the Dick Howser Award semifinalist will provide more than enough production for the position and with his approach, he could move pretty quickly through someone's system.
Zack Cox, 3B, Pleasure Ridge Park HS, Louisville, Ky.: There aren't too many high school third basemen of note in this Draft class, but Cox is one of them, coming from a really good pool of talent from the state of Kentucky. A left-handed hitter, scouts like his bat speed and ability to make consistent, hard contact. He used to be a pitcher, too, but he developed offensively to the point where pro scouts are only interested in him as a position player. He's shown power in the past, but not as much this year, so how high he goes may depend on what teams believe his power ceiling is.
James Darnell, 3B, University of South Carolina: Not as good a pure hitter as some on this list -- including college teammate Justin Smoak -- Darnell does have some pretty serious raw power and has been among the college leaders in RBIs during his junior year. There's some concern over his ability to play third base long-term, so a move to a corner outfield spot may be in the offing. He may never hit for average, but if a team thinks the power will translate, Darnell should do just fine on Draft day.
Allan Dykstra, 1B, Wake Forest: Hurt a little by the depth at the position, Dykstra is still a pretty advanced college bat with some pop from the left side of the plate. Playing on a subpar Wake club, he's clearly been pitched around quite a bit and has piled up the walks. They tried him out at third, but he's really limited to first. He won't be the first guy taken from this list, but he won't be the last, either.
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Wichita State: Gillaspie had decent seasons as a freshman and sophomore at Wichita State, but interest piqued when he excelled in Cape Cod last summer. He's kept right on hitting and has been over .400 all season. He's a terrific hitter with a great approach, but the one thing he doesn't really have is power. That's what's kept him from creeping into the conversation with some of the other probable first-rounders in this group, but there's sure to be a team that likes what he can do and the fact that it shouldn't take him too long to do it at the big league level.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.: From a pure bat perspective, there may not be many better than Hosmer in this class, particularly from the high school ranks. He's got a good approach at the plate, advanced particularly for a prepster, with decent power that should develop even further as he matures. He's an above-average defender as well, though that's not why most people will draft him. He's a top-10 talent, but the Scott Boras advisee reportedly has pretty high bonus demands that could force him down further in the first round.
Justin Smoak, 1B, University of South Carolina: With a smooth and easy swing, a good approach and plenty of pop from both sides of the plate, Smoak could end up being the first first baseman to go off the board. He'll be OK defensively, but any takers will be buying the bat. He's hit for average and power and there's no reason to think the Dick Howser Award semifinalist won't continue to do that as a pro.
Brett Wallace, 1B/3B, Arizona State: Another Dick Howser Award semifinalist, Wallace is the prototypical "good bat in a bad body" college player. The lefty-hitting Wallace can flat out rake, putting up gaudy average and power numbers. There's little question that he'll hit at the next level; the issue is where he'll fit defensively. Most believe he'll be a first baseman only, but there might be some teams willing to at least give him a shot to prove he can stick at third.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.