Justified or not, many major league organizations on Monday night will feel like they’ve just added a pitching cornerstone of the future. This year’s draft is rich in arms, especially in the college ranks.
The 50-round draft is Monday through Wednesday, with the first round and the ensuing first-round supplemental picks being made on the opening night. MLB Network is televising the draft for the third straight year, with a predraft show at 6 p.m. and the picks beginning after 7.
Of course, no matter how good the pitchers appear to scouts during the run-up to the draft, they won’t all pan out. That would be true even if they were hitters and were less of an injury concern. It’s rare that there’s a draft like 2005, which already has produced all-stars Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton and Ryan Zimmerman and a cast of talented big leaguers.
In a phone interview last week, former Atlanta Braves scouting director Roy Clark said this does appear to be an above-average draft for pitching, as most of the pundits are saying. However, he also cautioned against overexcitement. Judging amateurs in baseball, after all, is tougher than it is in football, basketball and hockey.
Clark, now the Washington Nationals’ vice president of player personnel and an assistant general manager, said, “I’ve been doing this a long time, and you don’t know. I don’t care what people say. You have to see in five years.
“I used to have a prepared speech for [Braves GM John Schuerholz] and the press. I’d say, ‘It feels just right.’ But just once, I’d like to see a scouting director say he didn’t get what he wanted.”
With the Braves, Clark gained a reputation for owning the Atlanta area by bringing in players such as Jason Heyward and Brian McCann. He might not be able to do the same with D.C. on Monday because former St. Albans left-hander Danny Hultzen, now at Virginia, is projected to go before the Nationals pick at No. 6.
“There’s a few good hitters in this draft — guys we would love to add — but the strength of the draft is definitely pitching, high school and college,” Clark said. “There are a lot of power arms. We hope we get our share.”
Pittsburgh, Seattle, Arizona, Baltimore and Kansas City have the top five picks (they can’t be traded in baseball), and at least four of them may select college pitchers.
If Virginia and UCLA each win their regionals, three of the top choices would be in Charlottesville for a super regional next weekend. The Cavaliers’ Hultzen would be at the same site as a pair of Bruins aces who led their team to a runner-up finish at the College World Series last year. Right-handers Gerrit Cole, an unsigned first-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2008, and Trevor Bauer have been just as impressive this season.
Others to look out for include Georgia Tech left-hander Jed Bradley, Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray, Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer and Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann. Once the drafting’s finished, all that’s left is signing the picks by the Aug. 15 deadline and the not-so-small task of turning them into major leaguers.