Forecasting the MLB Draft Part 1
The last time the Houston Astros had the first overall pick in the draft was back in 1992 when they selected Cal State Fullerton third baseman Phil Nevin, who would go on to have an All-Star twelve year career. Among the players the Astros passed on was a skinny high school shortstop from Michigan by the name of Derek Jeter.
Where we are today isn’t a reflection of the Astros making a bad choice, it just points to the volatility of the draft itself. At the time the Astros probably felt a power hitting third baseman who was closer to the majors than a high schooler would be made sense for them.
In 1966, the second year of the draft, the consensus top two players available were a high school catcher from California and an All-American outfielder from Arizona State University. There were sixteen major league franchises at the time, and when surveyed after the draft, eleven of them preferred the high school kid, who did end up going first overall to the New York Mets. Subsequent shoulder and knee injuries prevented him from ever reaching the major leagues, while the second pick not only reached the majors but made it all the way to Cooperstown.
Injuries, poor performance or a failure to develop can’t be predicted, in retrospect the Mets can’t be criticised for selecting Steve Chilcott any more than they can for passing on Reggie Jackson.
This year’s draft has a chance to be a volatile one as well, what with rule changes implemented in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the lack of an overwhelming selection at the top.
One National League scout called this years collection of college talent “the worst I’ve seen in a decade”, while another scout called the college players “the lowest I’ve seen in my twenty-five year career”.
Even the high school talent isn’t top notch, although overall it is deeper than the college crop. Outfielder Byron Buxton, considered the top prep talent in the draft, isn’t the “obvious slam dunk” Bryce Harper was in 2010.
In scanning through forty-five or so mock drafts and in reading and listening to the people who put them together, there seems to be an almost unanimous agreement there are ten names who are almost unanimously mentioned, then everything starts to muddle together.
Those players are college righthanders Mark Appel (Stanford), Kevin Gausman (LSU), Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco) and Michael Wacha (Texas A&M). University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino is the top college position player available, and he is joined on the list by high school lefthander Max Fried, Buxton, and Puerto Rico Baseball Academy shortstop Carlos Correa.
As we get closer to the draft, it’s my intent to get into these guys a little bit and hopefully track down some videos on them as well. The draft is a giant dice game as we all know, and with the draft changes coming up scouting will play a bigger role, as teams can’t afford to lose a pick or draft someone they know won’t sign.
As a side note, there is somewhat of a personal connection to this year’s draft that I’ll be watching. My friend Lou Klimchock, the former major league infielder and long-time president of the Arizona Chapter of the MLB Alumni Association, has a grandson who is expected to go sometime during the second round or so.
His name is Mitch Nay , and he’s a senior third baseman at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. Good luck to him and the family, and if that’s the only reason you watch or pay attention to the proceedings, I know I would consider it worthwhile.
Thanks for reading.