05/22/09 10:37 AM ET
Draft: Who's after Strasburg?
Difficult-to-define talent to be had after clear-cut No. 1
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Some will even become good big leaguers. No joke.
As much attention as Strasburg has brought to the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the Seattle Mariners will take another player approximately four minutes after the Nationals make the first overall selection. There will be 30 more first-round choices, and the Draft will continue, as always, until the final pick is made some 50 rounds later.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft. MLB Network will broadcast the first round, beginning at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, with those 32 selections also being simulcast live on MLB.com. Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. The Draft, and MLB.com's live coverage, will continue with the fourth through 30th rounds, via conference call from MLB Headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
While it does seem to be a relatively lighter class after Strasburg, there are several scouting directors who see plenty of talent to be had after the first overall pick has been announced.
It's not often that the question, "Who's Number Two?" is so intriguing and full of mystery. As of now, the picture is still not particularly clear. The phrase "You might get as good a player at No. 15 as you do at No. 2 or 3" has been uttered by more than one scout.
If the first projection of the top 10 picks is any indication -- the order is likely off, but many of the names should be on the money -- there will be many arms, particularly of the college variety, coming after Strasburg goes.
Counting re-drafts like Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers, it's not difficult to imagine as many as eight or nine college pitchers going in picks 2-20. Alex White, Kyle Gibson and Mike Minor are just who are three who are likely to go in the top half of the opening round. Add in one of the strengths of this Draft class -- power high school arms -- along with a dearth of impact bats, and it's easy to see the first round is going to be very pitching-heavy.
The big prep arms come from both sides, with right-handers like Zack Wheeler, Jacob Turner, Shelby Miller and late-riser Garrett Gould all generating a lot of buzz, while lefties such as Tyler Matzek, Matthew Purke, Chad James and Tyler Skaggs are all worthy of first-round consideration. A lot can happen between now and Draft day, but to estimate that at least 20 of the top 32 picks could end up being pitchers is not much of a leap of faith.
The lack of bats, of course, could mean the few good ones move up higher than would be expected. At least one scout has mentioned that a hitter in last year's bat-heavy Draft class, like No. 11 pick Justin Smoak, would easily be the No. 2 pick in this Draft. The beneficiary of this down year has to be UNC's Dustin Ackley. This isn't to sell him short by any means -- the guy can flat-out hit -- but he seems almost guaranteed to go in the top five picks as the top college hitter, by far, in this year's crop. Right now, he seems like a good bet to go No. 2. Last year, he likely would have been a middle-of-the-first-round choice. It's probable a few other college hitters will sneak into the first round, but only because there are so few of them to choose from.
The only other college hitter mentioned up near the top of the first round has been USC shortstop Grant Green, who's gone through what best can be termed an up-and-down junior season. He emerged from the Cape Cod League last summer as a great prospect at a premium position, but spent much of this year not living up to advanced billing. He was finishing strong -- and while in other walks of life, the first impression is the most important, the last impression in Draft season can have the most impact. In other words, there's time for Green to cement a place in the early part of the first round.
That can't be said for very many high school hitters. Only a handful are garnering first-round consideration, with toolsy infielders Donavan Tate and Michael Trout the only ones being mentioned in those first several picks. Tate's been mentioned as high as No. 3 overall, but signability concerns could also make him drop.
It's very much "the more you know, the less you understand" right now. The lack of separation has been frustrating, no doubt, for scouts. But rest assured: Picks from No. 2 on down will be made, and several team's futures will be looking up once those names are announced post-Strasburg.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.