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Who's No. 1?
Not even the Phils agree on who they'll pick
Posted: Monday June 1, 1998 9:43 AM
NEW YORK (CNN/SI) -- The baseball draft has a new name but the same sticky questions it did a year ago: What team will select J.D. Drew, and will that club be able and willing to sign him?
The Philadelphia Phillies will have the first pick in the selection process, which has been renamed the "first-year player" draft instead of the "amateur" draft, a change made at least in part due to the legal battle generated by Drew and agent Scott Boras.
Whatever the formal name, representatives of the 30 teams will gather Tuesday via conference call with Major League Baseball officials in New York and begin the process of predicting who will be the next Kerry Wood or Darin Erstad, two recent selections that made rapid rises to the majors.
The lack of a consensus No. 1 pick further complicates an already unusual draft. The top prospects include former Florida State outfielder Drew, Miami of Florida third baseman Pat Burrell, high school infielder Sean Burroughs and pitchers Mark Mulder of Michigan State, Ryan Mills of Arizona State and Chad Hutchinson and Jeff Austin of Stanford.
"There is no clear-cut favorite," said Phillies general manager Ed Wade.
Ask four scouting directors, and there likely will be four different opinions on who should be selected first.
The Phillies thought they had the next star in Drew and selected him with the second pick in the 1997 draft. But Drew and Boras demanded a contract in the $11-12 million range and were unable to reach a deal by the May 25 deadline, making Drew eligible for the draft once again.
Drew has played in the independent Northern League in each of the last two years in an attempt to revoke his amateur status. Baseball then changed the name of the draft and altered other rules in order to keep players such as Drew eligible for the process. An arbitrator recently ruled in baseball's favor, a move that in effect preserved the draft.
Predicting future success for a baseball player is often more difficult than it is for basketball and football, but no team is disputing the potential for Drew, who tore up pitching at the collegiate level, hitting .472 with 28 homers, 94 RBI and 30 stolen bases for Florida State.
The Phillies offered Drew a package worth a guaranteed $3 million over four years, but he and Boras turned that down and will start the process all over again with another team.
While the Phillies have the first selection this year, they can not draft Drew without his permission. The Oakland Athletics have the second pick and will be followed by the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals.
The Athletics, a team with serious financial concerns, may not have the resources or the willingness to meet the demands of Boras and Drew.
Signability again will play a role in deciding who is selected. One of the reasons Detroit took pitcher Matt Anderson with the first pick last season was the well-founded belief it would be easier to sign him rather than Drew.
The 6-foot-4 Burrell led the nation in batting in 1996 and was the College World Series Most Valuable Player that year. There are concerns, however, over Burrell's lingering back injury.
Scouts like Mulder because of his control. He walked only 19 batters and struck out 113 over 84 2-3 innings.
Burroughs, the top high school prospect, is the son of former major leaguer Jeff Burroughs. The third baseman from Wilson HS in Long Beach, California gained national attention with an outstanding performance in the 1993 Little League World Series.
Because players rarely advance directly to the major leagues, teams usually draft according to potential talent rather than immediate needs. The last player to move directly from the draft to the majors was Washington State's John Olerud to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989.
The order is determined by the club's reverse order of finish in their respective leagues at the close of the previous season. The National League selects first in even-numbered years.
Minnesota will draft sixth and will be followed by Cincinnati, Toronto, San Diego and Texas.
Expansion Tampa Bay and Arizona are among the teams that surrendered their first-round picks due to free-agent signings. San Francisco, which lost Roberto Hernandez, has the Devil Rays' choice (29th overall) and Kansas City will select 30th after losing Jay Bell to the Diamondbacks.
While the draft had unlimited selections in previous years -- Mike Piazza was a 62nd-round pick in 1988 -- this draft will end after 50 rounds.
Only first-round selections are announced Tuesday. There is no television coverage of the draft and the remainder of the picks are released in alphabetical order approximately one week later. In that fashion, the order of selection remains a mystery and prevents agents from asking for more money and colleges from offering scholarships to highly drafted high school players.
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