Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part III: Draft Notes 

Back in April I was reading a piece in Sports Illustrated about the phenomenon the NFL Draft is. It is an odd spectacle, the author notes, a few hours of the Commissioner standing in front of a microphone reading off names while Mel Kiper Jr. explains to millions of fans why such-and-such a player they’ve never heard of will be a superstar (or not) in the NFL. It should be dull and boring and yet it is riveting television. Who will forget poor Brady Quinn sitting, all alone, in the Green Room as teams passed on him and he fell all of the way from being the first pick to being the 22nd in the 2007 draft? Hundreds of fans make the trip to New York City to yell and cheer their team on. The NFL Draft has become Must-See TV.

This year the MLB will televise the Draft on ESPN2. I’m not sure that it will be the success that the MLB thinks it might be. I think the NFL Draft is popular in part because the players that are drafted have an immediate impact. Vince Young stepped into the breach the Tennessee Titans had when they shipped Steve McNair to the Ravens and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season just one year removed from playing at the University of Texas. The players that the Phillies and the rest of the MLB select today aren’t going to have an impact until 2010 or 2011. Most of the High School players are going to be sent to affiliate teams in the Pioneer League, the Appalachian League, the Arizona Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. The Pioneer and Appalachian Leagues are Advanced Rookie Leagues that have some second year players. Meanwhile the college players are off to Short-Season Single-A leagues like New York – Penn League and the Northwest League.

In the case of the Phillies, the High Schoolers are off to beautiful Clearwater, Florida, to play with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies. The college players are on their way to Williamsport to play in the New York – Penn League (NYPL).

I think there are two other reasons why the MLB Draft won’t be as big a success as the NFL Draft: For one thing, people actually know who college players are. I saw Vince Young’s spectacular performances in the 2006 and 2007 Rose Bowls and knew who he was. Reggie Bush too … I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue who 99.99% of the players up to be drafted today are. I doubt I am alone.

Another problem I have with the draft is that there are too many rounds. The NFL Draft used to be twelve rounds, then it was reduced to seven. The players that are drafted in the NFL Draft are going to find their way onto the rosters of their teams no matter what. The players that are drafted in the MLB Draft are almost certainly not going to make it. Of the fifty or so picks that the Phillies have, maybe three or four or so will make the majors. How can you get excited about guys drafted in the low rounds who will almost certainly be bagging groceries in 2010 instead of playing outfield with the Phillies.

I hope that I am wrong, however, and that the Draft is a huge success. I’ll watch it later (god bless the man who invented the DVR) and see if I liked what I saw. The process teams embark on is, in and of itself, interesting. You are trying to build your team's future with a lot of guesswork. In terms of what teams do with their draft picks it is impossible to discuss draft strategy without referencing Moneyball. The 2003 book includes an extensive discussion of the Oakland A’s 2002 Draft where the team dramatically rejected the advice of their scouts and embraced stats-based analysis of prospects. The A’s also moved aggressively to draft college players as opposed to high schoolers on the theory that high school players were nearly impossible to analyze by their stats and were too risky as prospects compared with college players, which were seen as surer bets. E.g., of the eighteen high schoolers taken in the first round of the 2000 Draft, just six are in the majors today. There is a lot of difference between someone eighteen years old who has never lived away from home and a college player who is twenty-one and has lived on his own. Add in the fact that college players have been playing a higher level of talent for two, three or four years, and that makes the college player a better bet, say the Moneyballers.

Some teams have apparently followed the A’s philosophy, but since it appears that the pendulum has shifted since the publication of Moneyball. The Phillies two first-round picks in 2006 were both High Schoolers – Kyle Drabek and Adrian Cardenas – and both appear to be on their way to stardom in Philadelphia. High Schoolers are no longer verboten in the eyes of major league teams. Keith Law, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office, believes that the 2007 MLB Draft will see between 17-19 High Schoolers go in round one. The bulk of the talent out there in 2007 lays in the realm of High School pitchers.

The Toronto Blue Jays hit the college players-only theory hard and selected a college player 93% of the time between 2004 and 2006. (See, Law's article on high school players vs. college players.) No other team was no obsessed with college talent. The Anaheim Angels, in contrast, took college players with just 8% of their picks. Most teams lay between these two extremes. The Phillies, with a 60%-40% split favoring college players, are pretty much in the middle. Even the Oakland A’s, a team legendarily allergic to high school players in the Moneyball era, spent a little over 1/3 of their picks – 35% – on high schoolers.

We’ll get to see the Phillies start selecting players when they take someone with the nineteenth overall pick. The Phillies also hold a supplemental first-round pick (37th overall) for losing David Dellucci to the Indians, along with a second-round pick (83rd overall), two third-rounders (107th and 113th, the former pick also being compensation for Dellucci's departure), a fourth-rounder (143rd) and a fifth (173rd) all on the first day of the draft. So what should we expect the Phillies to do tomorow and friday with their picks? I’ve talked about this a little in the past – the Phillies farm system right now is stocked with pitchers. Josh Outman. Carlos Carrasco. Matthew Maloney. J.A. Happ. Kyle Drabek. Andrew Carpenter. All top-flight prospects who will get a chance to pitch with the Phillies one day. The Phillies need pitchers like they need a hole in their head. This team needs position players.

After Adrian Cardenas and Jason Donald, this team has little talent in the farm system. Jeremy Slayden in Clearwater is a talent, but the team seems skeptical and Slayden has no hope to play the position the Phillies need the most help with – third base. Mike Costanzo in Reading is a third baseman, but I think his pro prospects are marginal. It seems pretty obvious that the Phillies two biggest needs in their farm system are for catcher and third base. Look for the Phillies to select a few with their picks tomorrow.

Ideally, I’d love to see the Phillies snare one of these three players:

Josh Vitters, Cypress High School (Calf.)
Matt Dominguez, Chatsworth High School (Calif.)
Mike Moustakes, Chatsworth High School (Calif.)

Vitters and Dominguez are third basemen, while Moustakes is a talented shortstop who could move over to third and play the hot corner. The Phillies have an outside shot at Dominguez falling to them at number nineteen, but it would be a surprise to see Vitters and/or Moustakes drop out of the top twelve or so.

Expect the Phillies to snare some pitchers along the way too. With so many good high school arms out there, there isn't a chance that the Phillies won't turn and select at least one or two pitchers on day one of the draft.

Tune into ESPN2 tomorrow at 2PM to see the 2007 MLB Draft. I’m insanely curious to see how it goes and what transpires. More on Friday.

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