05/20/05 2:41 PM ET
Back to the future?
Three first-rounders could be once again in '05 draft
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
There is a fair share of such players in 2005, but the distinguishing feature of this year's draft may be the three prospects who could be re-entering the draft after being picked last year.
Former college standouts Wade Townsend, Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew all could wreak havoc on draft boards across the country during the First-Year Player Draft on June 7. All have the potential of being re-drafted in the first round, though where in that round remains everyone's best guess.
Townsend is the only one who definitely will be back in the draft pool this year. The former Rice standout tried to end-around the system by re-enrolling in classes but rescinding his remaining athletic eligibility. His hope was to go back to school yet still be able to negotiate with the Baltimore Orioles, who took him eighth overall last year. It didn't work; the O's got a supplemental first-round pick for losing Townsend and the big right-hander's name has been mentioned all over the first-round landscape.
"He still possesses the good curveball. That's what's intriguing," said one American League scouting director, who has seen Townsend workouts this spring. "He's the guy with the good knuckle-curve, a la [Mike] Mussina. It's a major-league out pitch and he has it to this day. The fastball is a little straight. Straight fastballs at the Major League level don't work. He's going to have to come up with something else."
Another issue with Townsend is measuring what his workouts mean. In his most recent session, the talk was that his velocity was down from previous workouts. Will that affect his draft status?
The same question could have been asked of Weaver until he signed with the Camden Riversharks in the independent Atlantic League on May 20. Until June 7, he'll be a teammate of fellow Boras client Drew, who signed with Camden in late April to showcase his skills in case he's draft eligible again. Drew has hit .386 in 13 games with two homers and nine RBIs. Townsend could be next, but has not signed with an independent league team as of yet.
"I'm not willing to take a chance on what I saw on a side day," the AL scouting director said. "I saw him pitch last year, but he hasn't pitched in a competitve game. "I want somebody who wants to show me how much they want it. At least Drew's [in Camden] playing. If I were a kid, I'd want to show people, 'This is why I want to be a first-rounder again.'
"Show me that you want it, but that's just me."
The Arizona Diamondbacks took Drew at No. 15 last year and have until May 31 to come to terms with him. The D-Backs have the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, which lead to rampant rumors they will sign a deal and take another player represented by Boras.
Some saw Drew as a player perhaps lacking in the commitment and desire to play every day at the highest level. His willingness to risk failure has erased that doubt to some onlookers.
"At least he's been playing," the AL scouting director said. "This shows me more about his character that he wants to play. He's showing his tools again to the rest of baseball. That's a good move for anyone who wants to play."
Like Drew, Weaver has until May 31 to sign with the team that took him last year, the Angels. He and Drew share the same agent in Boras, whose impact in the draft cannot be ignored. And like Townsend, he hasn't played competitvely in over a year. "He should be out there showing these top-10 teams that he still deserves to be taken up high," the AL executive said earlier.
Weaver must have been listening and will now get a few starts in before draft day. Not being able to see these prospects previously in a competitive setting, and not knowing who will and won't sign (depending on the day, there are differing reports regarding Drew and Weaver's future) makes it even harder to clarify an already muddled first round.
Many scouting directors may just have to wait until the May 31 deadline passes, just one week before the draft, to truly have any kind of idea what impact Townsend, Weaver and Drew will have this year.
"That's a good question and I don't have an answer," one National League scouting director said. "I don't know what's going to happen yet. It's a little early to determine that.
"When [the Weaver and Drew situation] settles in, a lot of other things will fall into place."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.