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2005 Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati - Houston

By Jim Callis
November 1, 2005


2005 Draft Report Cards:
• Monday 10/31: Arizona Diamondbacks - Chicago White Sox
• Tuesday 11/1: Cincinnati Reds - Houston Astros
• Wednesday 11/2:    Kansas City Royals - New York Mets
• Thursday 11/3: New York Yankees - San Diego Padres
• Friday 11/4: San Francisco Giants - Washington Nationals
• Friday 11/4: Overall Rankings and Draft All-Stars

CINCINNATI REDS

Best Pro Debut: LHP Travis Wood (2) was unhittable at two Rookie-level stops, going a combined 2-0, 1.29 with 67 strikeouts in 49 innings. SS Adam Rosales (12) batted .325-14-46, including .328 with nine homers in 32 games at low Class A. Some scouts questioned how he'd hit with wood bats, but area scout Rick Sellers believed in him. OF Jay Bruce (1) ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League and hit .266-9-38 for two Rookie clubs. OF Brandon Roberts (7) was an all-star in the same league, batting .318-4-36 with 32 steals.

Best Athlete: Bruce has plus tools across the board and probably will settle into right field. Area scout Steve Kring unearthed another interesting athlete in SS Michael Jones (8), who's much more raw than Bruce.

Best Pure Hitter: Bruce, who has been compared to Larry Walker and Jeremy Hermida.

Best Raw Power: Bruce's power is his best tool. When 3B Angel Colon (35) catches up to a pitch, he too can drive it a long way.

Fastest Runner: Roberts goes from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.0 seconds. Bruce might beat him in a 60-yard dash, and his speed plays better than his stopwatch time on the bases and in the outfield because of his instincts.

Best Defensive Player: Bruce or Rosales, who has well above-average arm strength. Michael Griffin (14) and Michael DeJesus (15) are good defenders at second base. Griffin had elbow surgery in August to repair a pre-existing injury.

Best Fastball: Both Wood and RHP Bo Lanier (10) reached 95 mph during the spring. Wood is lefthanded and has better command of his heater, which sat at 88-91 mph for much of the spring before taking off. RHPs Zach Ward (3), Sam LeCure (4), James Avery (5) and Carlos Fisher (11) all can get into the 93-94 mph range.

Best Breaking Ball: Ward has a hard slider. Cincinnati shut him down because he had a tired arm after working 109 innings and running up some high pitch counts at Gardner-Webb. LeCure, Avery and RHP Jeff Stevens (6) all have promising curveballs. Wood's changeup is the best offspeed pitch in this group.

Most Intriguing Background: DeJesus' brother David plays for the Royals. SS/2B Kevyn Feiner's (18) brother Korey catches in the Twins system. Unsigned OF Jake Christensen (50) is a backup quarterback at the University of Iowa and was Illinois' 2004 high school football player of the year. His father Jeff is a former NFL quarterback.

Closest To The Majors: LeCure and Avery. LeCure didn't pitch for College World Series champion Texas during the spring because he was academically ineligible, but he had little difficulty finding his good stuff.

Best Late-Round Pick: Rosales. The Reds also were delighted to get RHP Abe Woody (31) on the second day of the draft, learning he was more signable than expected. Woody has nice life on a fastball with average velocity.

The One Who Got Away: Cincinnati knew signing Christensen was a longshot but felt he was worth taking. He's a power-hitting, athletic right fielder with a 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame. The Reds signed every pick in the first 21 rounds, except ninth-round draft-and-follow Milton Loo.

Assessment: Bruce and Wood immediately become two of the better prospects in a thin Reds farm system. After that pair, Cincinnati picked up several hard-throwing righthanders.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Best Pro Debut: 1B Stephen Head (2) hit .432 with six homers in 10 games at short-season Mahoning Valley, then .286-4-36 in high Class A. RHP Joe Ness (6) went 4-2, 1.67 with 68 strikeouts in 59 innings at Mahoning Valley.

Best Athlete: The best pure athlete is OF Brent Thomas (32). He's a well above-average runner and a good defender in center field. He's not as polished as OF Trevor Crowe (1), who has all-around skills and is also a former national racquetball champion.

Best Pure Hitter: Crowe, OF John Drennen (1) and Head all have the chance to be elite hitters.

Best Raw Power: 1B Nick Weglarz (2) is the best power prospect to come out of Canada since the Braves made Scott Thorman a first-round pick in 2000. Head slipped out of the first round because of questions about his true home run potential, but the Indians believe power will be no problem. He's too pull-conscious and just needs to realize he's strong enough to hit the ball out of any part of the park.

Fastest Runner: Thomas, though he wasn't at his best this spring at Texas Tech or this summer as a pro while recovering from a severe hamstring injury.

Best Defensive Player: 3B Nick Petrucci (11) does a solid job. 2B/SS Matt Fornasiere (12) stands out with his hands, arm and instincts.

Best Fastball: RHP Mike Finocchi (14) can reach 95 mph. RHP Kevin Dixon (5) can do the same, though he was tired after playing both ways at Minnesota State-Mankato and was working at 88-90 mph in instructional league. RHP Neil Wagner (21) may have the most velocity if he can get his mechanics straightened out. His delivery broke down this spring at North Dakota State, and he pitched at 88-92 mph. Before he signed with Cleveland, he got going again in the college Northwoods League, where he his fastball hit 96 in 2004.

Best Breaking Ball: RHP Ryan Edell's (8) curveball. Edell was more advanced than the Indians expected, throwing his curveball as well as his average fastball and changeup for strikes.

Most Intriguing Background: Fornasiere played for his dad Rob, the assistant head coach at the University of Minnesota. Unsigned RHP Barry Laird (13) is a tight end on the University of Houston football team.

Closest To The Majors: Crowe and Head are advanced college hitters, and Crowe has fewer adjustments to make. RHP Jensen Lewis (3) came into pro ball with a reputation for pitching well with average stuff. When Cleveland slowed down his delivery, his fastball started to touch 94 mph.

Best Late-Round Pick: Finocchi or Wagner.

The One Who Got Away: The Indians pursued several tough signs unsuccessfully. RHP Cody Satterwhite (37, now at Mississippi) might have been a first-round pick if that decision was based solely on talent. RHP Tim Lincecum (42, returned to Washington) dominated in the Cape Cod League but wanted nearly $1 million to sign. Cleveland came closer to signing Laird and fellow projectable RHP Aaron Shafer (16, Wichita State). The Indians did sign their top 14 picks.

Assessment: Several teams coveted Crowe in the middle of the first round and Drennen in the supplemental first round, and the Indians landed them both. They also got a huge value in the second round in Head, who seemed like a lock first-rounder entering 2005 and played like one after signing.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Best Pro Debut: INF Corey Wimberly (6) led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with a .381 average and 107 hits while also stealing 36 bases. RHP Andrew Johnston (9) tied a Pioneer League record with 18 saves and had a 1.06 ERA. 1B Chris Cook (36) led the PL in homers, while RHP Chaz Roe (1) made the all-star team after going 5-2, 4.17 with 55 strikeouts in 50 innings. OF Travis Becktel (15) earned similar honors in the short-season Northwest League, where he batted .314-4-27.

Best Athlete: Not only does Troy Tulowitzki (1) have the defensive skills to play shortstop, but he also has enough offensive ability that the Brewers considered taking him fifth overall to fill their hole at third base. Tulowitzki's makeup is outstanding as well. OF Daniel Carte (2) was BA's Summer College Player of the Year in 2004, when he became the sixth player in Cape Cod League history to reach double figures in homers and steals.

Best Pure Hitter: Though Wimberly also won the NCAA Division I batting title with a .462 average at Alcorn State, Tulowitzki gets the nod.

Best Raw Power: Long Beach State's Blair Field, a pitcher's best friend, helped mask Tulowitzki's power in college. But he has the swing and strength to hit 25-30 homers annually in the majors, not to mention the boost he'll get from Coors Field. Often compared to Bobby Crosby, his predecessor as 49ers shortstop, Tulowitzki has more pop.

Fastest Runner: Wimberly is the fastest player in the Rockies system. A switch-hitter, he can go from home to first in 3.9 seconds from the left side and 4.0 from the right.

Best Defensive Player: Tulowitzki has more arm strength and range than Crosby, and proves that a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder can play a good shortstop. Chris Frey's (11) instincts in center field remind Colorado of Cory Sullivan.

Best Fastball: For sheer velocity, it's Roe, who pitches in the low 90s and tops out at 95. For movement, it's Johnston, who has a 92-93 mph sinker that's difficult to lift. He posted a 3.8 groundball/flyball ratio in his debut.

Best Breaking Ball: Longtime minor league manager Tom Kotchman compared Roe's curveball to former Angels star Mike Witt's classic bender.

Most Intriguing Background: RHP Sean Ruthven's (27, Dick), unsigned RHP Rod Scurry's (39, Rod) and unsigned 3B Jeremy Farrell's (41, John) fathers all pitched in the big leagues. The elder Ferrell is now Cleveland's farm director. Unsigned OF Jarrad Page (32) is an all-Pac 10 defensive back on the UCLA football team, and RHP Josh Sullivan (5) is a former Auburn quarterback.

Closest To The Majors: A quadriceps pull slowed Tulowitzki in his first summer as a pro, but he's not going to waste much time getting to Colorado.

Best Late-Round Pick: Becktel or SS Radhames Nazario (22), a defensive standout.

The One Who Got Away: SS Reese Havens (29) might have been a first-round pick if he didn't have a seven-figure asking price. He should make an immediate impact at South Carolina. Farrell, now at Virginia, also is a good prospect. RHP Kyle Hancock (3) left the organization almost immediately after signing, but Colorado hopes he'll return.

Assessment: The Rockies were elated to get Tulowitzki with the No. 7 pick after it looked like the Mariners were zeroing in on him at No. 3. He should form Colorado's infield of the future with Todd Helton and recent first-rounders Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson.


DETROIT TIGERS

Best Pro Debut: RHP Kevin Whelan (4) was untouchable, going 1-1, 1.48 with 15 saves between short-season Oneonta and low Class A West Michigan. He fanned 41 in 24 innings while permitting just six hits. SS Michael Hollimon (16) batted .277-13-53 and led the short-season New York-Penn League with 66 runs and 10 triples.

Best Athlete: OF Cameron Maybin (1) was one of the best athletes available in the draft. It took all summer and $2.65 million to sign him, but the Tigers think he'll be worth the wait. Hollimon is a switch-hitting shortstop with power from the left side, plus speed and a good arm. RHP P.J. Finigan (7), now a full-time pitcher, was also a solid shortstop offensively and defensively at Southern Illinois.

Best Pure Hitter: 1B Jeff Larish (5) was one of college baseball's most feared hitters in 2003 but slumped terribly in 2004, when he had a wrist injury. Larish rebounded as a senior and batted .280-6-17 with 17 walks in 24 pro games after signing late. OF Clete Thomas (6) hit .311-1-25 with 20 steals, spending the majority of his time in low Class A.

Best Raw Power: Larish tied a College World Series record with three homers in one game in June, and he went deep in each of his first three games following his promotion to the NY-P. He continued his onslaught during instructional league, when he crushed a ball out of Joker Marchant Stadium, Detroit's spring-training park. Maybin will be a home run threat as well, and he already has added 15 pounds since the draft. Six-foot-6, 240-pound 1B Ryan Roberson (30) also packs plenty of pop.

Fastest Runner: Adding strength hasn't slowed down Maybin, who was clocked in 4.1 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base during instructional league.

Best Defensive Player: Maybin can make all the plays in center. Chris Robinson (3) has a plus arm, average receiving skills and the leadership teams want in a catcher.

Best Fastball: Whelan has a 95-96 mph fastball and complements it with a nasty splitter.

Best Breaking Ball: Finigan's slider. Area scouts saw a lot of similarities between Finigan and another former Missouri Valley Conference two-way star, Southwest Missouri State's Shaun Marcum, who needed just two years to reach the majors with Toronto after focusing on pitching.

Most Intriguing Background: Maybin is the cousin of basketball star Rashad McCants, who helped North Carolina win the NCAA title before going in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft. Unsigned 3B Alex Avila's (34) father Al is an assistant general manager for the Tigers. Unsigned C Ben Petralli's (15) dad Geno caught in the big leagues.

Closest To The Majors: Whelan could wind up in Detroit's bullpen in the very near future. Larish's bat also could take him to Comerica Park quickly.

Best Late-Round Pick: Hollimon, who might have been a first-rounder out of high school if not for his $2 million asking price, had a lackluster college career at Texas and Oral Roberts. Area scout Steve Taylor pushed the Tigers to take him, and Hollimon got more out of his ability than he had in years. RHP Jeff Hahn (35) is 6-foot-5 and has an 88-89 mph fastball with late life. He went 8-2, 1.99 between two pro stops.

The One Who Got Away: SS David Adams (21) would have gone in the top three rounds if he hadn't been strongly committed to Virginia.

Assessment: The Tigers had hoped to get the chance to take RHP Mike Pelfrey with the 10th overall choice, but Maybin (BA's No. 3-rated drafted prospect) was a sweet consolation prize. At this point, Whelan and Larish look like steals for where Detroit got them.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Best Pro Debut: After sitting out the spring with a suspension at the University of Miami, 3B Gaby Sanchez (4) won the short-season New York-Penn League batting title with a .355 average. He also showed enough promise as a catcher that the Marlins will give him more time there. RHP Chris Volstad (1) ranked as the best pitching prospect in both the NY-P and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, going a combined 4-3, 2.22. OF Matt Kutler (24) made the GCL all-star team by hitting .337-1-25, then batted .448 in eight NY-P games.

Best Athlete: 3B/OF Kris Harvey's (2) most obvious tool is his power, but he also has above-average speed and arm strength. As a two-way player at Clemson, he showed a mid-90s fastball in relief. He has drawn comparisons to Jason Bay.

Best Pure Hitter: The Marlins were impressed Sanchez hit so well after his long layoff. Not only did he hit for average, he made very good contact and showed some power potential.

Best Raw Power: Harvey, whose 25 homers were one short of the NCAA Division I lead. The ball jumps off his bat.

Fastest Runner: Harvey has plus speed, though he's better underway than out of the box because he takes a big swing.

Best Defensive Player: C Brett Hayes (2) is very athletic behind the plate and delivers consistent 1.9-second pop times to second base.

Best Fastball: The Marlins had five picks before the second round and used them all on pitchers, so they landed some quality arms. RHP Ryan Tucker (1) has the best velocity, sitting at 92-95 mph and topping out at 97. Volstad can reach 94 mph and has nice sink. Six-foot-8 LHP Sean West (1) has a swing-and-miss fastball that runs from 90-94 mph. RHP Jacob Marceaux (1) has a 92-93 mph two-seamer and a 94-95 mph four-seamer. RHP Chris Leroux (7), who had Tommy John surgery before the draft, hit 96-97 mph in the Cape Cod League in 2004.

Best Breaking Ball: LHP Aaron Thompson's (1) slider is a little better than that of Marceaux, who learned his from former big leaguer Mike Henneman in the Texas Collegiate League in the summer of 2004.

Most Intriguing Background: Harvey's dad Bryan saved 45 games for Florida and was an all-star in the franchise's inaugural 1993 season. RHP Rafael Galbizo (20) is a Cuban defector.

Closest To The Majors: Though he didn't turn 19 until after the season, the Marlins believe Volstad could win their race to the big leagues. He's very mature for his age and has unusual command for a 6-foot-7 pitcher.

Best Late-Round Pick: Galbizo, who's believed to be 19, has a fastball that can reach 92-93 mph to go with a good curveball. Kutler, the Ivy League's all-time hits leader, came back from missing the entire 2004 season with a torn ligament in his thumb. Florida hopes to turn 3B Andy Jenkins (11), the co-MVP of Oregon State's College World Series team, into a catcher. OF Jeff Van Houten (14) may be just 5-foot-9, but his bat plays bigger than that and he hit .283-7-36 in the NY-P.

The One Who Got Away: The Marlins signed their first 12 picks but couldn't come to terms with North Carolina State 1B Aaron Bates (8), who won the home run derby at the Cape Cod League's 2005 all-star game.

Assessment: The Marlins didn't plan on stockpiling pitching but couldn't pass up the arms that kept falling to them. All five of their first-round pitchers have huge ceilings.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Best Pro Debut: OF Josh Flores (4) made the Rookie-level Appalachian League all-star team by batting .335-8-25 with 20 steals and a league-best 83 hits. The Astros sent OF Eli Iorg (1) to the same Greeneville club so he could nurse a foot injury close to his home in Tennessee. Old for the league at 22, Iorg hit as expected, batting .333-7-34 with 12 steals.

Best Athlete: Flores, who's making the transition from shortstop to center field, has top-of-the-line speed and some power. 3B Billy Hart (5) was a backup quarterback on Southern California's 2003 and 2004 national championship football teams.

Best Pure Hitter: Iorg is this crop's most advanced hitter at this point, but 3B Koby Clemens (8) eventually could overtake him.

Best Raw Power: Clemens has shown more hitting ability and pop than the Astros realized he had. Iorg also has plus raw power, as does switch-hitting C Ralph Henriquez (2).

Fastest Runner: Flores gets down the first-base line from the right side of the plate in 3.9 seconds, and he always runs hard.

Best Defensive Player: SS Tommy Manzella (3) has plus hands and instincts to go with average range and arm strength. Henriquez should develop into an asset behind the plate with his solid catch-and-throw skills.

Best Fastball: Though he was worn out after doubling as a starting pitcher and outfielder on Tulane's College World Series team, LHP Brian Bogusevic (1) still threw some 95 mph fastballs while working as a reliever after signing. He usually works at 89-93 mph when he's in the rotation. RHPs Ryan Mitchell (20) and Brandon Stricklen (42) both can touch 94.

Best Breaking Ball: Bogusevic's curveball can be nasty at times. It's a harder curve than LHP Cory Lapinski's (11), which helped him lead NCAA Division III with 16.0 strikeouts per nine innings for Illinois Wesleyan during the spring.

Most Intriguing Background: Signing Clemens may help the Astros persuade his father Roger to extend his career after he led the majors in ERA at age 42. OF Matt Cunningham's (36) dad Tim is an associate scout for Houston . . . and also was one of the regular bar patrons on "Cheers." Iorg's father Garth and uncle Dane played in the majors, and his younger brother Cale (a University of Alabama shortstop currently serving a two-year Mormon mission) could be an early pick in the 2007 draft. RHP Matt Hirsh's (30) brother Jason is one of the system's top pitching prospects. Henriquez' dad Ralph Sr. was his high school coach and is a roving catching instructor for the Braves. Stricklen would have taken an FBI internship had he not signed with the Astros.

Closest To The Majors: As a lefthander with a plus fastball and a slider and changeup he throws for strikes, Bogusevic should advance rapidly.

Best Late-Round Pick: The Astros planned on pursuing Mitchell as a draft-and-follow, then signed him once they realized they didn't have to wait. 2B Eric King (13), who hit .305 at short-season Tri-City, has some David Eckstein in him.

The One Who Got Away: Houston failed to sign two righthanders it wanted—Josh Lindblom (3, now at Tennessee) and Jordan Meaker (9, Dallas Baptist).

Assessment: First-year scouting director Paul Ricciarini focused on high-ceiling athletes and improved the position-player depth in the system. Losing out on Lindblom and Meaker meant the pitching haul wasn't as strong as hoped.