Baseball America: Projected First-Round Picks
No clear-cut favorite for the top choice has emerged this
spring, making Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle's job
more difficult. Most of the speculation has centered around
three college players, third baseman Pat Burrell and left-handers
Mark Mulder and Ryan Mills. Burrell's back problems have
complicated matters, but he's the guy the Phillies have wanted
Selection: Pat Burrell.
The A's have gone heavily for college pitching under scouting
director Grady Fuson, and they feel they can't lose with two
talented college left-handers available. The big wild card is
J.D. Drew, who is widely believed to be Oakland's choice if
the A's think they can sign him.
Selection: J.D. Drew or Mark Mulder.
The Cubs have drafted heavily for pitching under scouting director
Jim Hendry, with Kerry Wood being just one example. Mills has
perhaps the highest ceiling of any college pitcher in the draft.
Outfielder Corey Patterson also has been closely pursued.
Selection: Ryan Mills.
Scouting director Terry Wetzel's instinct is to draft athletes, but
his organization's resources and talent base dictate a more conservative
approach. Stanford right-hander Jeff Austin is probably the closest to
the major leagues of any player eligible for the draft, though South
Carolina shortstop Adam Everett is a tempting choice.
Selection: Jeff Austin.
Though the Cardinals have always been known for speed and athleticism
in the big leagues, they have always drafted conservatively, concentrating
on college players in the first round. But new scouting director Ed
Creech comes from the Expos organization, where high-ceiling athletes
are the priority.
Selection: Corey Patterson.
It's no secret what the Twins need: pitching, pitching, pitching.
Scouting director Mike Radcliff and special assistant Joe McIlvaine had
the responsibility of finding as much as they could. Right-hander J.M.
Gold has been the class of the high school pitchers the past two months.
Selection: J.M. Gold.
The new blood in the scouting department gave
a boost to the Reds' beleaguered staff, but the important
decisions are probably still made by veteran scout Al Goldis and
general manager Jim Bowden's group of special assistants and
advisers. The Reds might pull a surprise and select a player
like prep corner infielder Austin Kearns, much as they selected
Brandon Larson last year.
Selection: Kip Wells.
Tim Wilken has shown a preference for players with high-ceiling
hitting potential. Given Toronto's continued offensive struggles
in the big leagues, such an approach is understandable. The choice
appears to have come down to Chip Ambres or powerful Ben Diggins.
Selection: Chip Ambres.
The Padres have focused on high school third baseman Sean Burroughs
and Stanford right-hander Chad Hutchinson most of the spring, though
both have significant signability baggage. Burroughs is the best
high school hitter in the draft, and the Phillies have even talked
about him with the top pick.
Selection: Sean Burroughs.
While the Rangers need an injection of up-the-middle talent, this
isn't the year. In Carlos Pena, the Rangers could get a rare commodity,
a young college player who has proven he can handle a wood bat.
In shortstop Felipe Lopez, they would get a defensive whiz.
Selection: Carlos Pena.
Logic says the Expos will take the approach of other small-market
teams and draft older, more polished players who can contribute
quickly. But the Expos have always lived on the raw athlete and
show no indications of changing. In 1997, 13 of their top 14
selections were high school or junior college players.
Selection: Choo Freeman.
Scouting director Wayne Britton has shown that he loves a challenge,
and Hutchinson will be one of the more challenging players in the
draft to sign and to commit to baseball year-round. Not in question
is Hutchinson's ability, which might give him a higher ceiling than
any player in the draft. Pena and third baseman Mark Teixeira also
are strong candidates.
Selection: Chad Hutchinson.
Five of the six players Ken Califano has selected in the first or
supplemental round as scouting director have been college players.
While Fresno State right-hander Jeff Weaver is in his fourth year
of college, he has shown continued improvement and pitched well in
key outings late in the spring.
Selection: Jeff Weaver.
At this point in the draft, most teams are hoping that a certain
player will slip to them. The 'best player available' philosophy
usually kicks in about this point. While shortstops such as
Everett and Lopez may still be on the board, there are few better
athletes than Diggins, who bears more than a little resemblance
to Tigers first baseman Tony Clark. Weaver also is a fit, if he
Selection: Ben Diggins.
The Pirates often make unconventional draft picks, and 1998 should
be no different. They'll probably go for a pitcher.
Selection: Chris George.
Given the team's history of success with first-round college players,
White Sox brass is said to strongly favor drafting from college in the
first round. Five of Chicago's six first-rounders in 1997 were college
or junior college players. This pick should be no different.
Selection: Brad Lidge.
Even with the Astros moving from the spacious Astrodome to a cozier home
field in 2000, the organization should continue its strong history of
picking big power pitchers in the first round. Few are bigger or pack
more power than high school right-hander Pat Strange.
Selection: Pat Strange.
The Angels' revolving door at second base this spring has put the
spotlight on a major weakness in the organization, middle infielders.
While many college middle-infield prospects were disappointing this
season, Everett has shown both polish in the field and bat potential.
The Angels would take Lidge if he gets to them.
Selection: Adam Everett.
The Giants have seven picks in the first two rounds, a strange bonanza
for a club that rarely picks high school players and has traditionally
had a limited budget for signing players. Look for a heavy diet of
college pitchers, including seniors such as Seth Etherton and Nate Bump.
Selection: Bubba Crosby.
The Indians have drafted almost exclusively for power during the
'90s, and now they need an influx of speed and athleticism, especially
in the infield. Lopez bears an uncanny resemblance to Omar Vizquel,
and he has speed to burn. If its power they still crave, outfielder
Rick Elder might be the answer.
Selection: Felipe Lopez.
The buzz this spring has the Mets looking strongly at college
pitching. Many of the top college pitchers at the beginning of
the spring have disappointed, leaving less depth than expected.
The top ones still on the board will be Etherton, Bump, Clinton
Johnston, Jeff Verplancke and Matt Burch.
Selection: Matt Burch.
The Mariners, perhaps the best organization in baseball at picking
the right player in the first round, need pitching, but this draft
is deeper in power prospects. High school third baseman Mark
Teixeira scares off many teams with his signability, but the
Mariners have shown little fear of such issues before.
Selection: Mark Teixeira
Some 135 high school prospects from California have been picked
in the first round since the draft's inception in 1965, but the
Dodgers have selected only one - and that was in 1965. That could
change this year with right-hander Nick Neugebauer, who potentially
has one of the best fastballs in the country.
Selection: Nick Neugebauer.
The Yankees' willingness to go wherever players are and spend whatever
it takes to sign them allows them to go after high-ceiling players.
Drew Henson may be the best high school athlete in the country, as
he's a premium talent in baseball and football. The Yankees have no
experience with a player who will continue to play football, which
Henson almost surely will at Michigan.
Selection: Drew Henson.
After years of being one of the most college-oriented teams in baseball,
the Orioles switched gears and nabbed high schoolers with each of their
three first-round picks in 1997. Elder, who's been compared to Braves
star Ryan Klesko, can add to that collection of young talent.
Selection: Rick Elder.
The Marlins have brought in so much young talent on their own and
through the dismemberment of their big league team that a first-round
pick will just blend into the mix. Austin Kearns entered the year as
a top high school pitching prospect, but he struggled on the hill.
He has more than made up for it with his bat.
Selection: Austin Kearns.
The Rockies have made it no secret what their priority in the draft
is: young pitchers. Coors Field dictates few alternatives. Scouting
director Pat Daugherty has also shown a distinct Midwestern flavor
with their selections.
Selection: Nate Cornejo.
Trading your first-round pick for Andres Galarraga is good business,
and the Braves surely don't regret it, especially picking 28th. The
Braves are a hardcore high school pitching organization and there
may be a unique pitcher available for them, right-hander Matt Belisle.
He battled shoulder, knee and performance problems this spring.
Selection: Matt Belisle
The Diamondbacks have been heavily pitching-oriented in their
development approach. Right-hander Brian Sager has been one of the
biggest signability questions of the draft, with agent Scott Boras
and a Stanford scholarship both involved. Sager could slide out of
the first round and go off most teams draft boards as too expensive.
Selection: Brian Sager.
The choice for scouting directors without picks in the first few
rounds is which players to go see: the top prospects they would
normally see or a lesser cut of talent they have a better chance
of getting. Both Tampa Bay and Arizona won't hesitate to pick a
signability or injury problem, so odds are that they've seen all
the high-profile players, hoping one will slide.
Selection: Matt Holliday.