Looking Into the Crystal Ball
by Josh Boyd
With scouting departments shifting their focus from evaluation to salesmanship as they try to get draftees signed, we've asked a few scouting executives what to expect from this year's first-rounders.
They helped us identify a major league comparison for each player. Some are based on physical resemblance, some on mechanical similarities and some on projected results.
1. Devil Rays: Delmon Young, of, HS/California.
Comparison: Albert Belle without the attitude. "He has a chance for big power," a National League Central scouting director said, projecting Young to reach Belle's peak season averages of .295 with 40 home runs. Young likely will be limited to left field but has more arm strength than Belle did.
2. Brewers: Rickie Weeks, 2b, Southern U.
Comparison: A righthanded-hitting Joe Morgan or Lou Whitaker. "He's going to have power, he's going to run like hell and be a pretty good defender. Morgan wasn't a great defensive second baseman early in his career," an American League scouting director said. The NL scouting director predicted 25-30 home runs with 40-steal potential, while an AL assistant GM said. "He's probably the furthest behind of the top college position players, and there's a huge question of where he'll end up playing. Many scouts think it will be center field."
3. Tigers: Kyle Sleeth, rhp, Wake Forest U.
Comparison: Any big, physical durable inning-eater with a power fastball/slider combination will do. Built along the lines of Kevin Millwood. One AL scouting director mentioned former Royals starter Mark Gubicza, all the way down to the slight concern about his delivery and arm action. Likewise, Sleeth profiles as a No. 3 starter on a championship club, though scouts agree he has No. 1 potential if everything clicks, especially his command and control.
4. Padres: Tim Stauffer, rhp, U. of Richmond.
Comparison: The easy parallel is Greg Maddux, because of Stauffer's stature and stuff, but while Maddux developed into one of the best pitchers of his era, Stauffer is more likely to settle into the middle of a rotation as a No. 3 or 4 starter racking up 10-12 wins a year, according to the AL exec. "He's the kind of guy who could get to Triple-A before he's really challenged," the AL exec said. The AL scouting director suggested Reds prospect Dustin Moseley as a more apt comparison.
5. Royals: Chris Lubanski, of, HS/Pennsylvania.
Comparison: Lubanski conjured up the widest array of names, from Shawn Green to J.D. Drew to Darin Erstad and Johnny Damon. In any case, he's an athletic lefthanded hitter, probably not with Green's pop.
6. Cubs: Ryan Harvey, of, HS/Florida.
Comparison: Dale Murphy. "I think he's a cross between Dale Murphy and Godzilla," an AL scouting director said. Harvey's raw power has been likened to Mark McGwire's.
7. Orioles: Nick Markakis, lhp/of, Young Harris (Ga.) JC.
Comparison: Most scouts had better and longer looks at Markakis on the mound, but one AL scouting director says his swing reminded him of Jose Cruz Jr. "He has that real whippy swing with snap at contact and the hands start late."
8. Pirates: Paul Maholm, lhp, Mississippi State U.
Comparison: Leading up to the draft, a lot of scouts called Maholm this year's Joe Saunders. But Saunders, Anaheim's 2002 first-round pick, had more velocity and is more athletic, though he's also sidelined with shoulder problems. There are similarities between Maholm and Horacio Ramirez, and one scout said, "He might end up playing out like Kirk Rueter. Think finesse lefty."
9. Rangers: John Danks, lhp, HS/Texas.
Comparison: Al Leiter and Jeremy Affeldt were mentioned, but other comments were more telling. "He is the best high school pitcher as far as command and pitchability," the NL scouting director said. "He has a clean delivery, good body, good athlete, his fastball is 89-92 with a plus curveball and average changeup. There is not a lot of projection, but he doesn't need to because what he's got is pretty good right now."
10. Rockies: Ian Stewart, 3b, HS/California.
Comparison: Stewart evokes a young Jim Thome with his lefthanded power and his defense at the hot corner. Scouts believe Stewart eventually will have to move across the diamond to first base.
11. Indians: Michael Aubrey, 1b, Tulane U.
Comparison: Todd Helton minus the Coors Field power, "but he might not hit a lot of home runs until he's 25," the AL exec said. Aubrey is the most polished college hitter on the board, though some scouts have concerns that his body is maxed out as his speed and arm strength have declined each of the last two years.
12. Mets: Lastings Milledge, of, HS/Florida.
Comparison: Marquis Grissom (early in his career with the Expos) or a young Reggie Sanders, though he's not as far along defensively as either.
13. Blue Jays: Aaron Hill, ss, Louisiana State U.
Comparison: Rich Aurilia or Padres 2002 first-rounder Khalil Greene. "He's solid average across the board," the NL scouting director said. "He will walk more than Aurilia and his power might come late like it did with Aurilia, and he's better defensively than Greene," the AL exec said.
14. Reds: Ryan Wagner, rhp, U. of Houston.
Comparison: As a reliever, his power sinker and slider resemble Bob Wickman's repertoire, though there's no physical resemblance.
15. White Sox: Brian Anderson, of, U. of Arizona.
Comparison: The AL scouting director saw Anderson as a cross between failed first-round picks Todd Dunn and Chad Mottola, plus Adam Dunn. The White Sox obviously hope the third comparison is the charm.
16. Marlins: Jeff Allison, rhp, HS/Massachusetts.
Comparison: "A poor man's Kerry Wood," the NL scouting director said. Like Wood in high school, Allison hit 93-97 mph with his fastball, showed the best breaking ball in the country and a mean demeanor. Others saw a Bret Saberhagen clone because of Allison's athleticism and aggressiveness.
17. Red Sox: David Murphy, of, Baylor U.
Comparison: Paul O'Neill. Murphy has the tall, lean frame of a younger O'Neill, runs similar to O'Neill and might not develop power until late like the former Reds and Yankees right fielder did.
18. Indians: Brad Snyder, of, Ball State U.
Comparison: Offensively, Snyder profiles along the lines of Jim Edmonds or Shawn Green, according to an AL crosschecker. The AL exec likened Snyder's plate discipline to Jim Thome's: "A lot of walks and a lot of strikeouts--a better Russell Branyan."
19. Diamondbacks: Conor Jackson, 3b, U. of California.
Comparison: All agree Jackson will move across the field to first base because of his throwing problems, which has scouts thinking along the lines of Eric Karros and fellow Cal product Xavier Nady for their righthanded sticks. "Nady has more power but Jackson is more athletic," the AL scouting director said. "He's more flat through the zone. He doesn't have the uppercut Nady does."
20. Expos: Chad Cordero, rhp, Cal State Fullerton.
Comparison: Though he doesn't throw quite as hard, Cordero's stature and stuff remind many scouts of former Twins reliever Juan Berenguer, a.k.a. Senor Smoke.
21. Twins: Matt Moses, 3b, HS/Virginia.
Comparison: Hank Blalock. "The kid can rake," the AL scouting director said. "There's some Frank Catalanotto in him too."
22. Giants: David Aardsma, rhp, Rice U.
Comparison: While the Giants plan on using Aardsma, a closer at Rice, as a starter, most scouts project him as a reliever in the big leagues. The AL exec expects Aardsma to develop into a Cliff Politte-type reliever, while another scouting director sees a lot of similarities in Aardsma's arm action and delivery with Tigers 1995 first-rounder Mike Drumright.
23. Angels: Brandon Wood, ss, HS/Arizona.
Comparison: While Wood emerged late in the spring as a first-round candidate, scouts have set their expectations high. "Forget about the streak and he can be a poor man's Cal Ripken," a crosschecker said. "He's an oversized shortstop with the hands, feet and instincts to profile at short, second or third." Plus his makeup is compared to Derek Jeter's.
24. Dodgers: Chad Billingsley, rhp, HS/Ohio.
Comparison: With a 95-mph fastball, power breaking ball and compact frame, Billingsley is built in the mold of a Jeremy Bonderman or Jason Marquis.
25. Athletics: Brad Sullivan, rhp, U. of Houston.
Comparison: "A poor man's David Cone, because he's innovative and creative out there," the AL scouting director said. "He'll change slots, change angles and slot to his breaking ball. He uses his body to gain fastball life." Sullivan never would have made it this far had he not struggled mightily and experienced a drop in velocity at the end of the college season.
26. Athletics: Brian Snyder, 3b, Stetson U.
Comparison: "I see a lot of Troy Glaus in his bat," the AL exec said. "Not 40 home runs, probably more like 25. I love his approach. He makes a lot of contact." Others think the Glaus comparison is a bit much, and mentioned Bill Mueller and Red Sox prospect Kevin Youkilis.
27. Yankees: Eric Duncan, 3b, HS/New Jersey.
Comparison: Chipper Jones comparisons seem to be too lofty, considering Jones played shortstop and there are questions about whether Duncan can stay at third base. Still, the NL scouting director said, "There is some Chipper in the swing. He's just nowhere near the athlete."
28. Cardinals: Daric Barton, c, HS/California.
Comparison: Barton's violent uppercut stroke is reminiscent of Geoff Jenkins'. Behind the plate, he's more like a Rich Gedman or Dave Nilsson.
29. Diamondbacks: Carlos Quentin, of, Stanford U.
Comparison: The Diamondbacks drafted Quentin knowing he needs Tommy John surgery, which tells you all you need to know about his hitting potential. Scouts talked about Tim Salmon potential if Quentin's arm comes back. Otherwise, he might be relegated to left field.
30. Royals: Mitch Maier, c, U. of Toledo.
Comparison: B.J. Surhoff. "There are so many similarities," the AL crosschecker said. "Surhoff started out as a catcher and had to move. He makes quality contact, can run and doesn't strike out." Not everyone is convinced Maier will be able to stay behind the plate, but like Surhoff his athleticism will allow him to be useful in the field.