The wiser general managers began re-evaluating the process six years ago, when Matt White, Travis Lee, John Patterson and Bobby Seay used a loophole to bag more than $30 million. By now, they know it's flawed business to overpay not for performance, but for a promise of performance since that money ultimately bought a journeyman, a fifth starter and two minor-leaguers.
General managers and agents know that prices are coming down. "They went down last year, they're going down this year and it's tough to tell a kid to wait because they'll probably go down again next year," an agent said. "The way they slot bonuses by draft position makes it hard to pass up pre-draft deals in the top 10, because if a kid falls to 15 or to 30, he faces the slot number."
The GMs know statistics prove they can get a major-league right-handed starting pitcher out of the high school ranks in the 20th round as predictably as the first. One general manager predicts "in two years we'll be down to 25 rounds, there'll be a push to get the high school kids to college and maybe Major League Baseball to underwrite wooden bats for the NCAA. The savings to the industry, in terms of signings, wasted mistake dollars and the lower minor leagues, would be dramatic."
Last Tuesday's draft showed that the majority of clubs believe in the lesson taught by White, Patterson and Seay. This time, there were only three high school pitchers taken in the first round -- two right-handers. From 1998 to 2000, there were 19 high school pitchers taken in those three first rounds. Tuesday, there were 10 college hitters, seven college pitchers, one JuCo hitter (Baltimore's Nick Markakis, who led the nation in strikeouts as a pitcher and RBI as a hitter) and nine high school hitters. There were only 12 high school players taken in the first round. From 1998-2000 the average was 17.
2003 first round
1. Delmon Young, OF, T.B.
2. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milw.
3. Kyle Sleeth, RHP, Det.
4. Tim Stauffer, RHP, S.D.
5. Chris Lubanski, OF, K.C.
6. Ryan Harvey, OF, Chi. (NL)
7. Nick Markakis, LHP, Balt.
8. Paul Maholm, LHP, Pitt.
9. John Danks, LHP, Texas
10. Ian Stewart, 3B, Col.
11. Michael Aubrey, 1B, Cle.
12. Lastings Milledge, OF, N.Y. (NL)
13. Aaron Hill, SS, Tor.
14. Ryan Wagner, RHP, Cin.
15. Brian Anderson, OF, Chi. (AL)
16. Jeff Allison, RHP, Fla.
17. David Murphy, OF, Bos.
18. Brad Snyder, OF, Cle.
19. Conor Jackson, 3B, Ari.
20. Chad Cordero, RHP, Mon.
21. Matt Moses, 3B, Minn.
22. David Aardsma, RHP, S.F.
23. Rich Wood, SS, Ana.
24. Chad Billingsley, RHP, L.A.
25. Brad Sullivan, RHP, Oak.
26. Bryan Snyder, 3B, Oak.
27. Eric Duncan, 3B, N.Y. (AL)
28. Derrick Barton, C, St. L
29. Carlos Quentin, OF, Ari.
30. Mitchell Maier, C, K.C.
Deeper proof that while most in the scouting world want to hate -- but not read -- "Moneyball," (even if it's among the best sellers on the New York Times list) they're getting the idea. In the first 10 rounds, there were 188 college players drafted, 99 high school and 20 JuCo. Toronto drafted seven high school players in the entire 50 rounds. San Diego took eight. Toronto, San Diego and Oakland did not take a high school player in the first 10 rounds, while Arizona, Boston, Colorado, Kansas City, the Mets, San Francisco and Texas took one each.
"The risk and reward issues are great in the industry right now," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said. "We do not adhere to the philosophy of only drafting college players, because we've had success drafting high school players as well. But we do a great deal of research."
While Shapiro and scouting director John Mirabelli are open to high school drafts (and might have taken Round Rock, Texas HS left-hander John Danks had he not been snapped up by Texas two picks in front of them), two years in a row they have had the highest-rated player on the Oakland, Toronto and Boston boards fall to them. Last year, it was Stanford right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who is already in Triple-A (Oakland could not afford him picking six slots in front of the Indians). This year, it was Tulane 1B-OF Michael Aubrey, the consensus best bat in the draft with off-the-chart makeup as well. They got who they wanted with the 18th pick, Ball State OF Brad Snyder, then in the sandwich round selected Adam Miller of McKinley, Texas, their No. 2 high school right-hander. All that on top of two very strong drafts in 2001 and 2002.
A few notes off the draft:
Baltimore tried to get pre-draft deals with LSU infielder Aaron Hill and Peabody, Mass. HS RHP Jeff Allison, but each fell through, so they cut a $1.85 million deal with Markakis. The Pirates, Indians and Mets felt the asking price on Allison was too high, so he slid to No. 16, which sets up an interesting slot-vs.-talent argument between agent Casey Close and GM Larry Beinfest. On June 6, Allison threw 138 pitches in 7 2/3 innings, then came back in the ninth inning and threw 16 more pitches to close out the game after his steal of home put Peabody ahead. Those 154 pitches will make some teams happy they didn't draft a kid who was arguably the best pitcher in the entire draft. Dr. James Andrews' area code is 205.
The Padres drafted Clemson 1B Michael Johnson in the second round in 2002 and offered him $675,000. He turned it down, returned for his senior year and signed with the Pads last week for $500,000.
The Reds (Houston's Ryan Wagner), Expos (Cal State Fullerton's Chad Cordero) and Giants (Rice's David Aardsma) all drafted college relievers in the first round. San Francisco wants Aardsma to try starting, but the Reds and Expos believe Wagner and Cordero can help them in the big leagues this season.
The A's believe Houston's Brad Sullivan, who fell to them at No. 25, was the best college pitcher, and this is Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Matt Morris all over again. "He was the best pitcher in the country, and he's a great athlete who can play shortstop," GM Billy Beane said. Some teams had medical concerns. Not Oakland. Incidentally, by the end of this month, six members of Oakland's 2002 draft -- C Jeremy Brown, CF Steve Stanley, CF Nick Swisher, RHP Shane Komine, RHP Joe Blanton and RHP Ben Fritz -- will all be in Double-A Midland. And a couple of them will be used in trade deadline deals.
Boston selected Baylor OF David Murphy and Georgia Tech OF Matt Murton with the 17th and 32nd picks, after sweating out the knowledge that if Aubrey hadn't fell, the Indians planned on taking Murphy. "David and I have been talking every day," Murton said. "We played together for Wareham and won championships (in Cape Cod League), have already got a place to live together (in Lowell, Boston's New York-Penn League site), we both dreamed of playing for the Red Sox after our time in New England and now we're already dreaming of winning a World Series together." Talk about attitude, the Cape's best wooden bat hitter since Mark Teixeira was projected as a top 10 pick before the season, Murton went 32nd and all he cares about is getting out and playing pro ball for the team of his choice. He is Mike Sweeney II.
Padres GM Kevin Towers said first baseman Fernando Valenzuela, Jr., their 10th-round pick out of Nevada-Las Vegas, "is a legitimate hitting prospect. He may not have the best body, but he sure can hit." The Padres took 2B-OF Pete Stonard, a Mark Kotsay-type who was the Cape League MVP last summer, in the fourth round. This was considered a gamble, because while Stonard has first-round talent and tremendous on-field energy, he was booted off the teams at Alabama and San Diego State this year for personal violations of rules. "This was the most important year of his life," said one AL GM who loves Stonard's talent, "and he screwed up twice. We couldn't take the gamble."
Eric Young's son, Eric Jr., was selected by the Rockies in the 30th round, but likely is headed to Villanova.
The Yankees took Taylor Mattingly, Don's son, in the 42nd round. Hey, Don went in the 19th round.
Right before the draft, the Mariners gave $150,000 to St. Petersburg JC OF Brain Lahair, who in high school was a forward for J.P. Ricciardi's Holy Name (Worcester, Mass.) basketball team that also featured Holy Cross' 7-foot-6 center Neil Fingleton.
Cincinnati followed Wagner by taking Princeton RHP Thomas Pauly in the second round, then in the fourth took Danville, Va. OF Kenny Lewis, who in a recent workout ran a 6.05 60-yard dash for scouts. Lewis is a prime Virginia Tech running back signee, but apparently wants to play baseball and has been likened to a young Rickey Henderson.