Monday, November 16, 2009

The 2008 Draft Class, One Full Year In

We're just starting figure out how good some of these players in the 2008 draft are now that they are a full year into their careers. So, let's just check in on them and see how each of them has started off their pro career.

1. (TB) Tim Beckham - Beckham was drafted more because he was a great athlete with some baseball skills than for his bat, and he had a very ordinary year in low-A. However, the most worrying thing is that scouting reports say that Beckham has lost some of his athleticism, and the once sure-fire shortstop now might not be able to handle that position long term.

2. (PIT) Pedro Alvarez - After some messy contract negotiations and showing up to camp out of shape, Alvarez had a lot of ground to make up and he did exactly that in 2009. After a sluggish start to the year he caught fire, earned a promotion to AA and simply destroyed the Eastern League. Alvarez is a real good hitter, but it seems like he's probably going to be a first baseman eventually.

3. (KC) Eric Hosmer - Hosmer was doing O.K. in low-A and then was inexplicably pushed to high-A where he struggled before being shut down with eye-issues. He apparently had lasik surgery and is ready to go for next year; he has a ton of raw power but really has not shown any ability to tap into it yet.

4. (BAL) Brian Matusz - The most polished pitcher in the draft, Matusz cruised through the minors and held his own in the big leagues to end the year. It was really a perfect year for Matusz who should probably be considered Baltimore number 2 starter already in 2010.

5. (SF) Buster Posey - Posey was almost taken first overall and in hindsight maybe he should have been. Posey had a terrific year with the bat, and is nearly ready for the majors already as a hitter. He has excellent defensive skills but still needs to iron out a few rough edges. There are a lot of great catching prospects right now, but Posey is probably the best.

6. (FLA) Kyle Skipworth - Skipworth flew up teams' boards right before the draft because of all-around potential. After a miserable season however, where he played some of the year hurt, Skipworth did not deliver on any of that potential. He is still very young so it is not quite time to panic yet, but his 2009 was terrible across the board.

7. (CIN) Yonder Alonso - A surprise pick to most, Cincinnati valued Alonso's disciplined approach at the plate. He continued to show his great batting eye, but a wrist injury and lack of power made his 2009 a bit forgettable. The Reds will probably have to trade him or Votto at one point since neither can really play anything other than first base.

8. (CWS) Gordon Beckham - Beckham had arguably the best season of anyone in the 2008 draft; he spent half the year in the majors, where he hit well and played solid defense at a new position. Beckham looks like he has the ability to hit for both average and power while handling any infield position, the type of player any team would love to have.

9. (WAS) Aaron Crow - Crow did not sign and went back into the 2009 draft.

10. (HOU) Jason Castro - Most considered this pick a reach, a cash saving move by a team that never spends money in the draft, but Castro's career is off to a fine start. He spent half the year crushing the ball in high-A and then was solid in AA. He's a sound defender and projects as a solid hitter in the majors, and he should be ready to play in Houston in 2011

11. (TEX) Justin Smoak - One of the best pure hitters in the draft, Smoak had a great spring and flew out of the gate but was slowed by injuries later in the season. He showed a much better eye than was expected and is also a great fielder. Despit the injury, Smoak really helped his stock this year.

12. (OAK) Jemile Weeks - Oakland was targeting an up-the-middle athlete and got one in Weeks. He was playing very well at high-A but struggled after a promotion to AA and then got hurt. Weeks is a great athlete but some are questioning his bat, and few expect him to have much power.

13. (STL) Brett Wallace - Wallace was the key trading chip that allowed St. Louis to get Matt Holliday. Wallace isn't much of a defender at third but looks like he could be a high average hitter with 20+ home run power and a good eye. He didn't play his best after the trade and many felt he was pressing due to the pressure of "being traded for Matt Holliday."

14. (MIN) Aaron Hicks - Hicks surprisingly started the year in rookie ball, and played well there before being moved up to high-A late in the year. He continued to show a good approach at the plate but did not drive the ball as well after the promotion. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota continues to move Hicks slowly up the ladder.

15. (LAD) Ethan Martin - Martin was considered by most to be the best prep pitcher of the draft and he struck out a ton of guys but also had some control issues in low-A. Overall it was a solid debut for Martin who will have to iron out his command issues as he moves up the ladder.

16. (MIL) Brett Lawrie - Lawrie was drafted as a catcher but has already moved to second base and there have been questions as to whether he can stay there long-term as well. He had a great year with the bat in 2009, particularly for a raw high schooler from Canada.

17. (TOR) David Cooper - Cooper spent the whole season at AA, a fairly aggressive assignment for the first baseman who held his own but did not do much more than that. Cooper does not have as much raw power as most teams would like in a first baseman, but he has a good approach and should be able to hit in the majors.

18. (NYM) Ike Davis - After a disastrous debut in 2008, Davis bounced back in a major way in 2009. He hit very well in high-A and then improved after being promoted to AA. Although his swing still gets long at times and he has issues with breaking pitches, Davis looks like he could be the future 1B of the Mets. There was also a lot of praise given out for his work in the field

19. (CHC) Andrew Cashner - Cashner has a big arm but doesn't always use it that effectively. He posted good ERAs in high-A and AA while giving up only 1 home run combined; however, Cashner's secondary pitches still need a lot of work and he did not strike out many batters. Most scouts think he is a reliever in the long term but he will remain a starter for now.

20 (SEA) Josh Fields - Fields nearly did not sign, and when he finally came to terms with Seattle he was obviously rusty. Fields' velocity and control were off all year and the bite on his curveball was rarely there. Time will tell whether the change is permanent or an aberration.

21. (DET) Ryan Perry - Taking a reliever in the first round because they should be able to move quickly rarely works, but Perry spent nearly all of 2009 in the majors and did a respectable job despite some occasionally erratic control. He's probably only some seasoning away from being Detroit's closer.

22. (NYM) Reese Havens - Havens had a solid season in 2009, showing he had good pitch recognition and enough pop to be a threat at the plate. His defense was a little below average at short and he is moving to second base for next season. He has a chance to be an above average hitter, and should be a solid defender at second as well.

23. (SD) Allan Dykstra - Dykstra had s mostly disappointing season, spending all of it in low-A, a very conservative assignment for a first rounder from college. He drew 104 walks but showed minimal ability to hit for average or power. Also not much of a fielder, Dykstra will have to prove he can be more effective with the bat soon.

24. (PHI) Anthony Hewitt - Hewitt was an incredibly raw player drafted by Philadelphia purely for his tools. However, I don't think even they thought he was this far away from the majors. Hewitt hit 223/255/395 with a 77:9 K:BB ratio in short-season ball. If not for his prodigious tools that would make him a non-prospect, as it stands the best case scenario for Hewitt is that he is 4 years away from the majors, but he is officially in the "prove it" pile of prospects now.

25. (COL) Christian Friedrich - The Rockies were conservative with Friedrich, a polished college pitcher. He over-matched both levels of A-ball in a very solid debut. Friedrich doesn't have the ceiling his numbers might suggest but he is an excellent prospect who should find a home in the middle of Colorado's rotation by 2011 at the latest.

26. (ARZ) Daniel Schlereth - Schlereth dominated the minors and spent some time with the big club in 2009. He nibbled a little too much in Arizona and has more than enough stuff to get hitters out. By any measure his first full season was a success and he should break camp next year with Arizona

27. (MIN) Carlos Gutierrez - This pick shocked me at the time, I'm not sure why anyone would want to draft a 25-year-old relief pitcher, but that's what Minnesota did. They tried converting him into a starter and he struggled mightily in AA. Normally that would not be a problem in a prospect's first full season but Gutierrez is already 27 and it is difficult to see how he could improve much.

28. (NYY) Gerrit Cole - Cole did not sign and is currently blowing batters away at UCLA

29. (CLE) Lonnie Chisenhall - Chisenhall was a bit under the radar going into the draft and it appears Cleveland found a bargain. He had an excellent year with the bat at high-A and also handled the transition to 3B well.

30. (BOS) Casey Kelly - Kelly split his time between the mound and shortstop in 2009. As a pitcher Kelly showed outstanding polish and poise for a kid drafted out of high school. As a shortstop he showed defensive aptitude but it also appears unlikely he will ever hit enough to make it to the majors. His future is on the mound and as soon as he fully commits to that path, expect him to fly through the minors.

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