National League Central Draft Impressions
Chicago: Brett Jackson in the first round offers excellent upside for a college guy, provided he can get the strikeouts under control. He might take longer to develop than the average college pick. Second rounder D.J. LeMahieu out of LSU had a disappointing spring, but the tools are still there, and even though he is a sophomore he should be signable in this spot. Third round pick Austin Kirk, a lefty from high school in Oklahoma, has a solid fastball and a decent curve. Fourth round Kentucky lefty Chris Rusin has average velocity but a strong college track record. Sixth rounder LHP Brooks Raley out of Texas A&M is a terrific two-way player, but has leverage as a sophomore and could be a tough sign. This looks like an average class to me, with a lot riding on two non-guaranteed-but-intriguing upside college guys at the top.
Cincinnati: While some might consider Arizona State RHP Mike Leake an overdraft at eighth overall, I don't; I think that's an excellent pick. He has very good stuff, and his excellent pitchability makes it all play up. USC RHP Brad Boxberger in the supplemental round needs to sharpen his control, but he is also an experienced college pitcher with good stuff, and also a legitimate pick in that spot. Second round Mississippi prep shortstop Billy Hamilton is an incredible athlete; quite raw, but with very high upside. University of Houston lefty Donnie Joseph looks like a sound choice in the third round, on the basis of his low-90s fastball, good slider, and strong college numbers. Fourth round UNC catcher Mark Fleury has decent power, a measure of patience, and should be solid with the glove. Dan Tuttle, fifth round North Carolina HS RHP, is a raw arm, but adds some youth to a college-oriented draft. Sixth round Oral Roberts RHP Mark Serrano and seventh round Cal State Fullerton OF Josh Fellhauer are steady college performers who won't be stars but should get to the majors in some capacity. I like the mixture of skill picks with some tool picks.
Houston: The Astros march to their own drummer, and this draft is a good example. Jiovanni Mier in the first round has a great glove and great makeup, but there are questions about his bat and personally I think he was an overdraft at 21st overall, granted he was one of the few true middle infielders available. Second round Illinois high schooler Tanner Bushue is a cold-weather high school pitcher with considerable upside, and I think he could end up being very good. Third round Georgia prep OF Telvin Nash and fourth round California prep 3B Jon Meyer are toolsy; Nash has plus power potential, while Meyer is solid all-around, though both are raw and will need plenty of development time. B.J. Hyatt, RHP from South Carolina Sumter JC, has a live arm but is somewhat raw. Fifth round University of Illinois shortstop Brandon Wikoff had college success and is the first guy in this class with a measure of polish. Seventh round Arkansas lefty Dallas Keuchel could also move quickly, though neither he nor Wikoff project as more than role players. 10th round San Diego State catcher/third baseman Erik Castro is underrated in my opinion and could be a sleeper. Overall, it is hard to judge this class; it's long on upside early, but we won't know how it pans out for some time.
Milwaukee: Eric Arnett in the first round out of Indiana is a very strong pick at 26, given that he could have gone up to 10 slots higher. Tennessee sophomore OF Kentrail Davis was disappointing this spring, but still has tons of tools. He won't be cheap, but I doubt they would have drafted him this soon if they thought he was unsignable. He's somewhat risky for a college pick but has lots of upside. Some goes for Kennesaw State RHP Kyle Heckathorn, who has a great arm but dropped to the supplemental round due to concerns about his mechanics. Second round New Mexico prep Max Walla has a very promising bat, promising enough that scouts overlook his lack of size. California high school catcher Cameron Garfield, drafted in the third round, is strong defensively but questionable with the bat due to problems with contact. Tulane shortstop Josh Prince looks fine to me in the third round, with strong plate discipline and at least average defense. Fourth round South Carolina prep RHP Brooks Hall is a projectable arm but raw, while Florida State OF D'Vontrey Richardson is tremendously toolsy but raw due to his college football background. Will he sign? The Brewers took some interesting chances here and I like the mixture of talent origins.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates upset a lot of fans by taking Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez fourth overall. He is a solid offensive and defensive prospect in his own right, but not really worthy of going in that slot, clearly a signability pick. The word is that the Pirates will take the money saved there and put it towards signing other players; we'll see how that pans out. Supplemental choice Victor Black out of Dallas Baptist can hit 95 MPH and improved his breaking stuff this year; there's nothing wrong with him. Second round California prep RHP Brooks Pounders throws strikes with four pitches and should be signable. Third round Hillsborough CC outfielder Evan Chambers draws Kirby Puckett comparisons with his 5-9, 210 pound powerful build from the right side. Fourth round Texas high school lefty Zach Dodson and sixth round Louisiana high school righty Zack Von Rosenberg both have strong college commitments (Baylor, LSU), but it is assumed that the Pirates will make strong offers to them using some of the money saved on the first pick. Both of them are quite interesting, Von Rosenberg in particular. Two more high school pitchers (Trent Stevenson and Billy Cain) were drafted in the seventh and eighth rounds; both will cost considerable money to sign away from college, and both throw in the low 90s with additional projection possible. If the Pirates can sign all these guys, they will add some impressive pitching to the system, but they need to make sure this is properly explained to the fans.
St. Louis: The Cardinals picked up Texas fireballing prep Shelby Miller in the first round, not a typical St. Louis pick but hard to pass up at that point in the draft. Second round USC talent Robert Stock wants to catch and the Cardinals called him that way. I think he's a much better prospect as a pitcher than as a hitter, but maybe they want to indulge him for awhile, which is fine. They kept up with their regular college ways in subsequent rounds. UC Riverside RHP Joe Kelly in the third round offers 95 MPH heat and usually throws strikes, while fourth round Mississippi RHP Scott Bittle has a spectacular performance record, but might have been burned out with heavy college usage. Miami Hurricane shortstop Ryan Jackson has a great glove but can't hit, at least he didn't this year. Sixth round Mission JC outfielder Virgil Hill has loads of power and speed but will need refinement. Seventh round Washington OF Kyle Conley and eighth round Florida State infielder Jason Stidham both have very strong performance records, typical Cardinal drafts. Conley's power stands out. If you want a VERY deep sleeper, check out 33rd round pick Devin Goodwin from Delta State University, a shortstop with excellent numbers at the Div II level.