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John's Commentary On the First Round

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Impressions of the First Round
Here are my impressions of the players picked in the first round. A larger draft report will go out to newsletter subscribers late this evening. I will also write an article about "middle round draft sleepers" for Rotowire this week. Busy busy busy!

1) Royals: Luke Hochevar, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Hochevar will (apparently) sign for less than Andrew Miller, but Hochevar is supposed to be more complete than Miller at this point, in the sense that he already has a changeup and won't need as much refinement time in the minors.

2) Rockies: Greg Reynolds, RHP, Stanford
Now, I think Reynolds is a good prospect, but second overall seems like a stretch to me. I don't think he is dominant enough to go second overall. Miller, Lincoln, and Morrow all look like superior college pitchers to me.

3) Devil Rays: Evan Longoria, 3B-2B, Long Beach State
Personally I would have taken a pitcher, but Longoria was the best college bat available, so if they wanted a position player it makes sense to pick him. It will be interesting to see how the Devil Rays deploy their young offensive talent over the next two or three years.

4) Pirates: Brad Lincoln, RHP, University of Houston
I think Lincoln is a fine choice in this draft class, and is probably going to be ready for the majors before most of these other guys. It also helps getting to a National League club, where his strong bat will provide additional value.

5) Mariners: Brandon Morrow, RHP, University of California
I like Morrow better than some people do. His ceiling is as high as Hochevar's, although he isn't as refined in other ways. I would have picked him ahead of Reynolds if I had been the Rockies and perhaps ahead of Longoria too. I'm not worried about the diabetes issue, which seems controllable.

6) Tigers: Andrew Miller, LHP, University of North Carolina
If the Tigers can sign him, they should be happy. It sounds like Miller's excessive bonus demands were part of a ploy to get him to the lower part of the first round, where a richer team could pick him, but the Tigers spoiled that. I love his sinking fastball, his slider, and his extreme ground ball tendencies. I still think he was a legitimate first overall pick, so getting him at six could be a major coup for Detroit.

7) Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Highland Park HS, Dallas TX
The most complete high school pitcher in the draft, due to his combination of velocity and command. Logan White is one of the best scouting directors around, perhaps thebest, and if he likes Kershaw that carries a lot of weight with me.

8) Reds: Drew Stubbs, OF, University of Texas
Stubbs is sort of the Greg Reynolds of hitters: he has all the tools needed to succeed, and overall he's done very well in college, but there is still a tinge of doubt about how he will translate that to the pros. Stubbs has an excellent glove, speed, power. He draws walks, too. But he also strikes out once per game. This could be a great pick, but it could also blow up in the Reds' face.

9) Orioles: Bill Rowell, 3B, Eustace HS, Sewell, NJ
Rowell looks like a fine bat, although there are high school hitters I like a bit better (Snider, Parmelee, even Matt Sulentic) as hitters. The point is that Rowell has a good bat but also has the ability to play third base; he doesn't have the same possible defensive limitation as some of the other high school hitters. Looks like a solid pick at nine to me.

10) Giants: Tim Lincecum, RHP, University of Washington
I don't really know what to make of Lincecum. His strikeout rate and dominant college performances are impossible to overlook. But even though he has the "rubber arm" reputation, I still worry about his workload and burnout. Nevertheless, he is the best remaining college pitcher on the board at 10, so I don't have any problem with the Giants going for him.

11) Diamondbacks: Max Scherzer, RHP, University of Missouri
Scherzer was a number one candidate back in January, but injuries pushed him down to 11. If healthy, this could be a steal. But "if healthy" is the problem there. Medical reports on Scherzer are mixed, some teams think he will be OK, others don't. Without having specific medical reports in front of us, it's impossible to know at this stage.

12) Rangers: Kasey Kiker, LHP, Russell County HS, Phenix City, AL
Apparently the Rangers aren't worried about Kiker's rumored makeup problems. In pure scouting terms there is a lot to like here, low 90s fastball with a good breaking ball and changeup. Will the Rangers push him as aggressively as they pushed John Danks?

13) Cubs: Tyler Colvin, OF, Clemson
First real surprise of the round, as Colvin was thought to be a third round pick by most. He has some tools and was hot down the stretch for Clemson. Given the lack of college hitting available this year, he could end up being a wise choice. . .or he could end up making the Cubs look very, very bad. With no pick until the fifth round, it was critical that the Cubs get this right. They must think that Colvin will advance quickly, a good thing considering their thinning farm system. But personally I would have picked Snider, Parmelee, or Antonelli.

14) Blue Jays: Travis Snider, OF, Jackson HS, Everett, WA
The Jays eschew their recent college ways and go with a top-notch high school hitter. I like Snider better than Rowell in terms of bat, but Rowell has more defensive value. But I agree with the Blue Jays ranking Snider ahead of the remaining high school hitters at this draft slot.

15) Nationals: Chris Marrero, 3B, Pace HS, Miami, FL
I'm not sure about this one. Marrero looks great in uniform and has been a dominant high school hitter at times, but he seems to swing and miss too much for comfort. I would have preferred Parmelee or Lars Anderson (who apparently priced himself out of the first round), although Marrero likely has more defensive value. If I were the Nats, I would probably have picked up Virginia pitcher Jeremy Jeffress instead of Marrero.

16) Brewers: Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Halifax County HS, South Boston, VA
As you guys know, I love this guy. Not (just) because of the 100 MPH fastball. . .Colt Griffin taught us not to get excited about that. . .but because of his athleticism, his delivery, and strong makeup reports. He needs development time, but it looks like a good pick to me.

17) Padres: Matt Antonelli, 3B, Wake Forest
A polished college hitter with a good glove at third base, a nice safe, solid pick. Main problem is lack of huge home run power, but he has a good balance of skills and is a legitimate choice in my opinion.

18) Phillies: Kyle Drabek, RHP, The Woodlands HS, The Woodlands, TX
If not for the mysterious makeup issues, Drabek would have been in the top ten or perhaps the top five due to his athleticism and arm strength. The Phillies got Cole Hamels a few years ago after other teams passed him up due to worries about his health. Could the same thing happen with Drabek, the Phils getting a mid-first-round bargain after other teams got scared off by something that turned out not to be a big issue?

19) Marlins: Brett Sinkbeil, RHP, Missouri State University
Hampered by a strained oblique this spring, but Sinkbeil did enough to earn this spot by pounding the strike zone with his hard sinker and effective slider. I don't think he has the same ceiling as Daniel Bard, but he was the most complete remaining college pitcher on the board here.

20) Twins: Chris Parmelee, OF, Chino Hills HS, Chino Hills, CA
I like Parmelee's bat a great deal, especially the fact that he controls the strike zone well. I slightly preferred Lars Anderson in the Shadow Draft because I think he will hit for more power eventually, but Parmelee is just fine with me as a Twins fan, and he is apparently more affordable than Anderson.

21) Yankees: Ian Kennedy, RHP, USC
I think this one is a stretch. Kennedy looked like a certain first round pick before the college season began, but he didn't throw as hard this year and wasn't as able to dominate games. He throws strikes and knows how to pitch, but unless his velocity comes back I don't see him as a potential ace. I would have preferred Bard or even Ottavino if I were the Yankees.

22) Nationals: Colton Willems, RHP, Carroll HS, Fort Pierce, FL
Classic projectable righthanded high school pitcher, has a good heater but needs to refine his breaking stuff and changeup. Will need time to develop, but provides a high-ceiling boost along with Chris Marrero for the weak Nationals farm system.

23) Astros: Max Sapp, C, Moore HS, Wildemere, FL
Sapp has defensive problems behind the plate and will probably end up at first base, but his bat is very highly-regarded, with the potential to hit for both power and average. The guys below him in the draft don't stand out as exceptionally better than Sapp, except perhaps for Hank Conger.

24) Braves: Cody Johnson, 1B-OF, Moseley HS, Panama City, FL
The Braves are a lot smarter than I am, but I think I would have picked Conger or Bard. Johnson has a ton of power, but his swing is erratic and his strike zone judgment will probably need work. He is very young, just 17, which is probably a big part of the attraction here: he has lots of time to iron out his flaws.

25) Angels: Hank Conger, C, Huntington Beach HS, Huntington Beach, CA
I like Conger's bat, and his defense reportedly improved a great deal this spring. I personally had him ranked ahead of Sapp and Johnson, and he could end up being a very impressive player and more valuable than several taken ahead of him.

26) Dodgers: Bryan Morris, RHP, Motlow State CC, TN
He needs to refine his command, but his low-to-mid-90s fastball, strong curveball, and overall athleticism look just fine with the 26th pick.

27) Red Sox: Jason Place, OF, Wren HS, Easley, SC
Baseball America compares Place to Jeff Francoeur, which is both high praise and a warning: translated, that means that Place is an excellent athlete and could turn into Dale Murphy if he controls the strike zone decently, but he could also turn into Brad Komminsk if he doesn't. High risk, high reward guy.

28) Red Sox: Daniel Bard, RHP, University of North Carolina
If Bard were more consistent, he would have gone in the top ten picks. When his command is on, Bard dominates as readily as guys like Hochevar or Miller, but his mechanics aren't always in gear and he seems to pitch beneath his natural ability at times. On the other hand, he was extremely effective against wooden bats in the Cape Cod League. As 28th overall picks go, he could be quite a bargain if he develops more consistency. I'm not really sure why teams ranked Reynolds ahead of Bard.

29) White Sox: Kyle McCulloch, RHP, University of Texas
McCulloch does not have the ceiling of most of the other college guys, but he throws strikes, is efficient, and changes speeds very well. I can see him as a non-spectacular but effective inning-eating starter, but I don't see him as a potential ace unless he gains more velocity (unlikely) or improves his command from very good to outstanding.

30) Cardinals: Adam Ottavino, RHP, Northeastern University
I think most teams saw him as a supplemental or second round pick, but he was one of the better college pitchers this year despite getting less exposure than some of the others. He did very well in the Cape Cod League, he throws hard, and throws strikes. I don't think he was seriously overdrafted.

Biggest Surprise: Colvin
Biggest Overdrafts: Reynolds and Kennedy
Biggest Potential Bargain: Drabek