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Baseball America's Projected First Round
By David Rawnsley , Baseball America
Handicapping the draft in 1999 is more difficult than ever. Just trying to figure out which team is picking where is hard enough. A total of 46 picks have been added as compensation or have changed hands due to free-agent signings. Six teams have to wait until after the first round to make their first pick.
1. Devil Rays
To use a legal term, the Devil Rays have put in their due diligence on the three candidates for the top pick: right-hander Josh Beckett, outfielder Josh Hamilton and catcher Eric Munson. Hamilton has been the favorite all along and has not wavered under the pressure of being the potential No. 1 pick. Selection: Josh Hamilton.
Florida also covets Hamilton and will grab him if Tampa Bay passes. The Marlins have flirted with the idea of a high school position player such as catcher Ryan Christianson or outfielder B.J. Garbe, but instead they will add a bookend to their top minor league prospect, right-hander A.J. Burnett. Selection: Josh Beckett.
The Tigers' last three first-round picks have been polished college products who quickly matured into big leaguers: right-handers Seth Greisinger (1996), Matt Anderson (1997) and Jeff Weaver (1998). If it ain't broke don't fix it, and Munson's swing needs few minor league repetitions. Selection: Eric Munson.
The Diamondbacks covet Beckett to join their imposing minor league pitching lineup, but stand little chance to get the draft's top-rated high school pitcher. In this pitching-oriented organization, the best college pitcher available will make a good fallback choice. Selection: Ben Sheets.
Pitching is at a premium in the Twins organization, and Sheets is the player scouting director Mike Radcliff really wants. After him, there is a noticeable gap to the next level of pitching prospects, such as prep right-handers Bobby Bradley and Jason Stumm and college right-handers Mike MacDougal and Kyle Snyder. The Twins will take the best athlete available. Selection: B.J. Garbe.
The Expos are a wild card, having worked a predraft deal last year to save money. There has been speculation about the same thing in 1999, with lefthander Josh Girdley's name being frequently mentioned. Just about anything could happen with this pick. Selection: Bobby Bradley.
Scouting director Terry Wetzel has been listening all spring to speculation that the draft's two top catchers, Christianson and Munson, will be gone. Munson will be, but Christianson should still be available. With four more picks in the top 54, look for the Royals to address their middle-infield needs. Selection: Ryan Christianson.
The Pirates have a long history of surprises in the first round, to the point where it's no longer a surprise. Their focus this year has been on three multi-tooled outfielders, Providence's Keith Reed and high schoolers Carl Crawford and Vince Faison, who are also football stars. Selection: Keith Reed.
It's not quite this simple, but scouting director Grady Fuson appears to acknowledge only high school hitters and college pitchers. With this draft being considerably short on high school hitters, that leaves one option. The pitcher they want, Snyder, has had a roller-coaster season, so MacDougal could be an option. Selection: Kyle Snyder.
The Brewers have boosted their talent base with strong-armed pitchers and find themselves in position to do so again. High school right-hander Brett Myers is a tempting choice, but a more mature college arm probably fits better. Selection: Mike MacDougal.
The Pacific Northwest has a historic number of prospects, with Stumm and lefthander Ty Howington fitting on most teams' boards at this point. But Seattle's 1998 draft has turned out to be a disaster so far, so it may go for a quick return on investment with college right-handers Ben Christensen or Jeff Heaverlo. Selection: Jason Stumm.
After taking J.D. Drew and Pat Burrell the past two years with the No. 2 and No. 1 picks, scouting director Mike Arbuckle can focus on what he really covets, high school pitching. He may not decide between Myers and Howington until he's actually on the clock. Selection: Brett Myers.
First-year scouting director Tony DeMacio learned the trade from the Braves' Paul Snyder, which should translate into an emphasis on young pitching and multi-tooled athletes with Baltimore's bonanza of picks. Look for players such as Crawford, Faison and Howington; lefthander Richard Stahl; and right-handers Jim Barnett, Christensen, Matt Ginter and Seth McClung to become future Orioles. Selection: Ty Howington.
The Reds have been focusing on high school pitching this spring, especially Stahl and right-hander Brian West. College right-hander Omar Ortiz also has been mentioned in this range. Selection: Richard Stahl.
15/22. White Sox
It has become an annual event for the White Sox to collect a couple of extra selections. They've used almost all those picks on young pitchers with plus fastballs. Few throw harder than West. Look for college arms and college hitters with the balance of the extra picks. Selection: Brian West.
The Rockies have a history of drafting for organizational need, and no area in the organization is in more need of upgrading than the middle infield. Two multitalented college shortstops, Miami's Bobby Hill and South Carolina's Brian Roberts, stand out. Selection: Bobby Hill.
17. Red Sox
The Red Sox operate in a reactionary baseball environment, which should mean power and athletic outfielders. The word is they'll pick college pitching, though. Clemson right-hander Mike Paradis, who prepped in Massachusetts, and high school outfielder Rick Asadoorian are New England products who would fill needs. Selection: Mike Paradis.
19. Blue Jays
The only thing predictable about scouting director Tim Wilkin is that he picks the right player. It's never clear which one it will be. At No. 19 there is less room for a big surprise, but the Blue Jays still might pass on all the available pitching and select the best position player available. Selection: Rick Asadoorian.
To say the Padres are fired up about having six picks in the first 51 would be an understatement. A high school athlete like Faison fits the Padres' needs, as do a number of pitchers, including prep right-hander Gerik Baxter; and college right-handers Chance Capel, Christensen, Jim Journell and Nick Stocks. Selection: Vince Faison.
The Giants love mature college pitching, and they're perfectly positioned to take their pick from several good ones. Right-handers Heaverlo, Jason Jennings and David Walling, and lefthander Barry Zito are the prototypes in 1999. Selection: Jason Jennings.
The Cubs and Cardinals, who pick four spots later, are looking at the same needs, and the same pool of college pitchers to fill them. Each will watch what the Orioles and Padres do immediately ahead. They'll be rooting for those two teams to pick high school pitchers or overdraft position players, leaving players such as Capel, Walling and Zito for them. Selection: Chance Capel.
The Yankees have struggled to bring lefthanders into their system since finding Andy Pettitte. The scout who signed Pettitte, Joe Robison, lives down the road from Girdley and was one of the first scouts on the east Texas lefthander. Selection: Josh Girdley.
Like the Cubs, the Cardinals need as much pitching as possible and will have two more compensation picks to look for it. Heaverlo had been considered by teams in the upper half of the first round, but has fallen of late. Selection: Jeff Heaverlo.
The Dodgers' need list is long, but their picks are few and far between. They won't look for the quick fix under scouting director Ed Creech, who pulled off 1998's best draft with the Cardinals. Instead, they will start building with young arms and strong athletes, such as Ball State outfielder Larry Bigbie. Selection: Larry Bigbie.
The Rangers picked up several selections, all at the wrong end of later rounds. The high-ceiling pitcher the Rangers need won't be found at No. 38 unless they get lucky with a college pitcher such as Richmond right-hander Casey Burns. Selection: Casey Burns.
The Astros lost Randy Johnson, signed Ken Caminiti and lost 13 slots in the draft, which doesn't seem fair. They brought in a lot of pitching the past few years at the cost of position depth. They can address this shortage by focusing on college outfielders Matt Cepicky, Ryan Ludwick and Mike Rosamond. Rosamond has the best tools. Selection: Mike Rosamond.
The Angels have made their mark by identifying one key player in each draft (Troy Glaus, for example), but they might have a hard time finding that player at this point. Angels scouts talk about young power hitters they like, but the organizational need seems to be pitching. If a high school bat isn't available, look for a college pitcher. Selection: Jason Cooper.
73. Mets and 74. Indians
Picking this low, the Mets and Indians will be happy with whatever they can get. Both will be content that Robin Ventura and Roberto Alomar were sufficient compensation for losing their first-round picks. This is part of the draft that is rich with projectable high school pitchers, a favorite of both organizations. Possibilities include lefthanders Josh Cenate, Jimmy Gobble and Neal Musser; and right-handers Chad Clark, Ryan Kibler, David Mead and Phil Wilson. Mets Selection: Jimmy Gobble. Indians Selection: David Mead.
It's not easy keeping your scouting staff focused when your first pick isn't until the end of the second round. The Braves will ignore signability if the right player is available, but they might not find premium talent slipping this far this year. High school catcher J.R. House and outfielder Alec Zumwalt are possibilities. Selection: Alec Zumwalt.
(For additional draft preview information and analysis, pick up the latest edition of Baseball America and check out Baseball America's website at www.baseballamerica.com)
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