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2008 BASEBALL DRAFT - Vol I

May 26, 2008
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Hi! Dennis Nosco here. Thanks to Tony for letting me blog to his site. As this is my first time blogging bear with me. As Tony told you I write for the same website he writes for and I cover the draft (among other niche baseball areas) for that website. As Tony promised I will be blogging here sporadically before the draft and, hopefully, a lot more on draft days June 5th and 6th. Any comments will be appreciated. Thanks again to Tony for having me and here goes.

2008 BASEBALL DRAFT - May 25, 2008

We are less than two weeks from the 2008 baseball draft. Things have changed somewhat since I wrote about the
draft earlier this spring. Most of what has happened is pretty typical and revolves around players moving up or down draft boards due to extraordinary performance, poor performance or injury. Let’s take another look at a number of players who I have mentioned as profiling as potential Indians’ draft choices. As the above article says the 29th slot in the first round has, in the last 12 years, only produced one major leaguer of significance, Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, and the Braves were so unsure of his ability that they traded him to the Cardinals before he made it big. So, with this first round draft slot being such a wasteland, I focus on with my potential first round guys on ones who I think could be there when the Indians draft and who I think are maybe not as high reward as some prospects but who are very likely to make the majors and be contributors. Also, in later round guys I look for highly-rated guys who fall for one reason or another in the draft.

First round:

Conor Gillaspie 3B – Wichita State - He has been solid all year. Baseball America has him right now as the #23 prospect in the country and this was before he went 8-12 with 3 HRs in his conference tournament and, after watching him hit on Saturday, he reminds me a lot of Michael Aubrey when he came out of college. The two downsides to his game is that he has below average power as a corner infielder and that he is only an average fielder at 3B. I talked to one of his college coaches last week and I asked where else he thought Gillaspie might play other than third. His thought was to move him to second base and that he would be adequate defensively there. While I despise the idea of drafting a guy in the first round when your intent is to change his position (see Trevor Crowe a few years ago), I really like this kid’s hitting ability and his sneaky fast ability on the bases. As far as the 23rd ranked prospect being there when the Indians draft at 29, guys like Gillaspie are just not sexy enough for some teams. While he is rated pretty highly on draft boards I can see him falling to the Indians.

Lance Lynn 6’6”, 250’ - RHP – Mississippi – He has been up and down the 6 weeks. His velocity is down a little and he has been hit around pretty well in conference play. Right now Baseball America has him as its 83rd best prospect so he profiles more toward their second round pick at the moment, which would work for me as he is a solid starting pitcher who had some overuse problems in high school but appears not to be abused in college.

Ike Davis OF/1B – Arizona State – Ike was having a player-of-the-year season in the PAC 10 conference and was, for the first time, showing the HR power he had failed to show as a freshman and sophomore. He missed about 3 weeks with a rib cage injury and has just come back to play recently. He is still a possibility for the Indians although they would have to have faith that his HR barrage earlier this season was the real deal AND that he could stay in RF. He has the arm but I don’t know if he has the OF instincts.

Tyson Ross RHP – California – This guy is a typical innings eater. One of his college coaches said that he pitches usually at 92-93 mph and can peak at 96 mph. He, like Lynn, has great size at 6’6”, 230’. He also has average-to-plus breaking stuff with a good changeup and curve. However, I don’t like the fact that he throws a lot of pitches, going over 130 more than once this season. They ride him hard and, although college pitchers pitch in games usually only once a week, that could take its toll.

David Cooper 1B – Caifornia – Two things I don’t like are overdrafts (drafting a player significantly higher than what their talent would appear to be) and helium drafts (drafting players early in the draft who have shot up the draft boards during the spring before the draft). David Cooper was about the 100th best draft prospect at the beginning of the spring and now he has moved up to 31st. I talked to one of his college coaches who said he put on a lot of strength over the winter and that added to his power which the coach said was for real. He classified Cooper as a professional hitter. He profiles to be able to stay at 1B in the pros but has no positional flexibility. It is 1B or DH.

Brett DeVall – 6’4”, 205’ LHP, Niceville (FL) HS – This kid is one of the most polished HS pitchers in the country. I had a chance to talk to his HS coach, Kevin Berry, who says that last fall he was pitching at 87-88 mph and now he sits at 90-92 and peaks at 94 mph. He compares his focus and competitiveness to Curt Leskanic who the Indians drafted a number of years ago and who Berry played with in college. Berry said that, until last off-season, DeVall had never really conditioned hard so, although he is physically really mature, he probably still has some room to put on a couple of mph with his fastball as his conditioning and strength improves. Lefties who throw like this, have the potential to put on multiple mph in the future and who have had this kind of success in HS are intriguing when you are drafting 29th.

Jake Odorizzi – 6’2”, 175’ – RHP, Highland (IL) HS – Remember how I said I hate helium drafts. Well, here is one kid I come out of that prejudice for. Odorizzi started the spring as the 70th ranked high school prospect or about 140th overall. He is throwing mid-90s and has touched 96 mph with great command. Check out the
scouting report on this kid but especially look at the video of him pitching in the upper right hand corner. His curveball is a hammer. Mid-90s fastball, hammer curve, great command. Works for me. Talked to his HS coach last week and he said that he has a very loose delivery. He said his command is off the charts and in one 5 inning start this year they had him at 46/5 strikes/balls. For a HS kid who throws that hard that is amazing. He is also finishing strong as he threw a one hit shutout in the state playoffs on Saturday. Hard to believe he could still be around when the Indians draft but currently Baseball America has him as the 32nd best prospect in the country.

First round summary: My choices, in order, are Gillaspie, Odorizzi, DeVall, Davis, Cooper, Ross. Lynn is really not an option here as he is too big a question mark.

Later rounds:

Second round (76th overall pick)

Lynn is the guy I target here and if he doesn’t pitch well in the NCAA tournament we could get him. For a guy who was ranked about the 35th best prospect in the country at the beginning of the year, getting a big horse like this at 76 would be good value in my opinion.

Third round: (106th overall)

Bryan Shaw – 6’1” 172” – RHP – Long Beach State - The closer for his team, he throws mid-90s and has a great slider although his slider command could use a little work. The Wichita State coach I talked to said he definitely thinks Shaw has enough stuff for the pros and threw out a
chad cordero comparison. Shaw is currently ranked as the 147th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.

Brandon Crawford – 6’2”,200’ – SS – UCLA – He started the year as the 35th best prospect in the country according to Baseball America. I would have never touched him with my first round pick as he had a questionable bat and is the classic fool’s gamble that early in the draft. However, the worst for him (maybe the best for us) happened….he stopped hitting. At last glance he was hitting .296 with a .390 OBP and .454 slugging percentage. He has struck out 56 times in 216 ABs and is 11-17 in steals. Baseball America ranked him as the 134th best prospect in the country right now.

3rd round summary: If I had to make a choice between Shaw and Crawford it would be difficult. Shaw would probably sign for 3rd round money and so signability would not be an issue and he would be almost a sure-thing major leaguer but Crawford’s upside in the 3rd round would be hard to beat when you realize if you don’t sign him you get almost the identical draft pick next year as compensation. Nevertheless, I take the bird in the hand this time and pick Shaw.

Fourth round: (141st overall)

If Crawford is there I grab him. He is too good to let pass again. If he isn’t here are two other names that deserve consideration:

Charlie Lowell – 6’4” - LHP – Winfield (MO) HS – He touches 94 mph and his HS coach says that scouts are calling him the best LH pitching prospect in the Midwest, college or pro. His coach said he is ready to go pro. Here is a
link to some of his accomplishments this year.

Harold Martinez – 6’3”, 195’- SS – Braddock HS – Miami – This kid was the 7th best HS prospect (15th best prospect overall) in the country at the beginning of the year as rated by Baseball America. Then, suddenly, he forgot how to hit. He has dropped so far that he is now the 160th best prospect by Baseball America.

4th round summary: Crawford, Martinez and Lowell, in that order, assuming I think I can sign any of them. Lowell is going to Wichita State if he doesn’t sign and another Wichita State pitcher from outside of St. Louis, Aaron Shafer, was drafted by the Indians 3 years ago and did not sign and went on to pitch at Wichita State and will be a top-5 round draft choice this time around so it would not be a sure thing to sign Lowell. However, for a reasonable amount over slot I think we could get him and, to me, he profiles like Chuck Lofgren with equal or greater upside.

More the next time I post.

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