MLB Draft 2005: Grading The First Round

Justin Upton has yet to sign.

With the minor league playoffs nearly upon us, it seems a good time to review just what MLB's teams got for their 2005 draft budgets. It's difficult to judge a player based on his first summer of professional baseball, but it's never too early to give a progress report. Senior Writer and MLB Draft Expert Todd Morgan grades each pick.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks - Justin Upton, SS, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, VA

As of August 29th, Melvin's little brother has yet to sign a professional contract with the Diamondbacks. Arizona is believed to be offering a $4.7 million bonus, while Justin's camp is looking for upwards of $6 million. At this point there is no chance that Upton will make his professional debut this season, but the D-backs are right up against the shortstop's first day of junior college classes. Once he attends class, he will be unable to negotiate with Arizona until the week preceding the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He did not attend class on August 30, buying the D-Backs a little more time.Grade: Incomplete

2. Kansas City Royals - Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska

Gordon did not attend classes on August 22nd at the University of Nebraska, where he would have begun his senior year. By doing so, Gordon chose to extend negotiations with the Royals – a good sign for Kansas City. Though the two sides are still over $1 million apart on a signing bonus, it is now likely that they will reach an agreement at some point before the season ends. Unfortunately Gordon has missed an opportunity to get his feet wet in pro ball this year. Grade: Incomplete

3. Seattle Mariners - Jeff Clement, C, Southern California

After a short break between the end of his final college season and the beginning of his pro career, Jeff Clement got off to a slow start in the Mariners farm system. He played four games for the organization's short-season squad in Everett before moving on to Class-A Wisconsin. To date he has not disappointed, hitting .369 for the Timber Rattlers, with five homers, 17 RBI, a .449 OBP and a .582 SLG in 23 games. The Mariners might start him at Inland of the California League (high Class-A) next year, though they might give him a bit more time in the Midwest League to make sure he's ready. If I had to bet my money would be on the former. He's ready. Grade: A

4. Washington Nationals - Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Virginia

Zimmerman played four games in Class-A Savannah before jumping to AA. In 66 games for Harrisburg he's hit .323/.366/.527, with 19 doubles, nine homers and 32 RBI in 226 ABs while living up to his reputation as a Gold Glove third baseman. Zimmerman is with the Nationals now as a September call-up and, barring a catastrophe, Zimmerman will be in the mix to be with the Nationals next season. Grade: A

5. Milwaukee Brewers - Ryan Braun, 3B, Miami

The Brewers broke Braun in during a ten game stint at their Rookie League affiliate in Helena, Montana before sending him to their South Atlantic League affiliate in West Virginia. Attempting to move from shortstop, where he played in college, to third base for the Power, Braun hit .355/.396/.645 with eight homers in 152 ABs. He showed skill at 3B but needs to improve his footwork. He made 12 errors at the hot corner before succumbing to an elbow strain. The Brewers shut him down for the year, and he should start next season at High Class-A Brevard County of the Florida State League. Grade: A-

6. Toronto Blue Jays - Ricky Romero, LHP, Cal State Fullerton

Romero made one two-inning start for Toronto's New York-Penn League affiliate (Class-A short season) before moving to High Class-A Dunedin of the Florida State League. He has pitched a total of 20 2/3 innings over six starts, allowing 25 hits to go along with a 4.35 ERA and 13/5 K/BB ratio. The strikeout rate is disappointing and the Blue Jays will need to see marked improvement with his command before promoting him. It is safe to expect that he will be back in Dunedin to start 2006. Grade: C

7. Colorado Rockies - Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Long Beach State

Tulowitzki feels like a Nut. Couldn't resist. Playing for High Class-A Modesto Nuts, Tulowitzki has had a dubious summer, hitting .259/.337/.471 with four homers and 13 RBI in 85 ABs. On August 2nd he suffered a torn quadriceps that ended his season. Based on his very small sample size, Tulowitzki will be back in Modesto next spring, though a fast start could earn him an equally fast promotion to AA. Grade: C

8. Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Wade Townsend, RHP, Rice

Townsend did his best to dispel any lingering doubts about his makeup by signing only four days after the Devil Rays selected him with the 8th overall pick (it should be noted that Townsend accepted a $1.5 million bonus; $100,000 less than the initial offer from the Orioles that started their 2004 feud). He went straight to Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League and has struggled throughout the summer. In ten games (eight starts), Townsend has gone 0-3 in 27 1/3 innings, allowing 35 hits and posting a 6.26 ERA along with a 25/19 K/BB. He will probably have to repeat the level, though it is possible that he will find his way to Low Class-A early next season. Grade: D+

9. New York Mets - Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State

Pelfrey is the latest chapter in Scott Boras's book of draft holdouts. Various sources support that Pelfrey isn't close to signing, while his former Wichita State coach states flatly that Pelfrey will not be back in a Shockers uniform. He'll sign. It might come down to a last-minute Jered Weaver-type deal, but the Mets are not going to let Pelfrey slip away. Grade: Incomplete

10. Detroit Tigers - Cameron Maybin, OF, T.C. Roberson HS, Arden, NC

Maybin is another guy who seems a long way from signing. His father got involved in the negotiations early on and told the Tigers that as a top-three talent his son deserved a bonus in the $4 million range. The Tigers were only willing to pay about half that. As a high school draftee, Maybin has options if the Tigers don't pony up (or if his father doesn't back off). He has a commitment to Southern University, where he can play both baseball and basketball. This one will be interesting to watch, as someone will have to blink in the next few days. Grade: Incomplete

11. Pittsburgh Pirates - Andrew McCutchen, OF, Fort Meade HS, FL

McCutchen was promoted to short season Class-A just a few days ago. In just four games he's been red hot, going 10-19 with a double, a triple, two walks and a stolen base. Before that he played 45 games for Pittsburgh's Gulf Coast League (Rookie) affiliate, amassing 158 ABs. His performance was strong: .297/.411/.430 – about in-line with what the Pirates expect from him as a big leaguer. He'll probably move to full season Low Class-A in 2006. Grade: B

12. Cincinnati Reds - Jay Bruce, OF, West Brook HS, Beaumont, TX

Like McCutchen, Bruce made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .270/.331/.500, with nine doubles, five homers and 25 RBI in 122 ABs. Also like McCutchen, he was promoted in late August; only his promotion took him to Billings of the Pioneer League (Rookie). In eight games there he has actually improved his numbers – .306/.359/.472 – and seems to be working on making solid contact rather than trying to destroy every fastball thrown to him. It's a tiny sample size, but it may be enough to convince the Reds to start him at Low Class-A next year. Otherwise he'll be back for more pioneering. Grade: B-

13. Baltimore Orioles - Brandon Snyder, C, Westfield HS, Centreville, VA

Snyder played both catcher and shortstop as a prep, but the Orioles liked him better behind the plate. Once signed he went to Bluefield of the Appalachian League (Rookie), where he hit .271/.380/.493 with eight doubles, eight homers, 35 RBI and 28 walks in 44 games. With Bluefield's season having ended, the O's moved Snyder to Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League to play out the string. He will likely be at Low Class-A Delmarva next year based on his strong performance at Bluefield, and will have a shot at moving up to High Class-A later in the season. Grade: B+

14. Cleveland Indians - Trevor Crowe, OF, Arizona

The Indians gave Crowe 12 games of Low Class-A ball to get acclimated to the pro game, then moved him up to Lake County of the Sally League in early July. There he has been somewhat disappointing, hitting .265/.335/.329 in 42 games. He does have seven doubles, two triples and 18 walks, but he has yet to hit a homerun and that slugging percentage is cause for concern, especially considering his age relative to the league. One scout I spoke with thinks he would have been better off staying in the New York-Penn League all year, but hindsight is 20/20. It's my bet that he starts 2006 right back in Lake County. Grade: C-

15. Chicago White Sox - Lance Broadway, RHP, Texas Christian

The White Sox thought so highly of Broadway's polish that they started him out at High Class-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League. No word yet on whether he convinced Annie Savoy to come out of her Crash Davis-induced retirement to be his, ahem, mentor, but he certainly has sparkled. In nine starts, Broadway is 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA and 51/18 K/BB ratio in 47 2/3 IP. The only negative is that he is allowing over a hit per inning (51 total), but that is acceptable considering that he skipped Low Class-A altogether. He should make his AA debut sometime next season. Grade: B+

16. Florida Marlins - Chris Volstad, RHP, Palm Beach Gardens HS, FL

Volstad made six starts in the Gulf Coast League before moving on to the New York-Penn League at the end of July. He's made 12 starts in all, six at each stop. In the GCL, Volstad threw 27 innings, compiling a 2.00 ERA and 25/4 K/BB while allowing only 25 hits. He fell off only slightly at Jamestown, with a 2.45 ERA, 25/9 K/BB and 36 hits allowed in 33 IP. He looks great at times and is poised to make the jump to High Class-A next year. Grade: A-

17. New York Yankees - C.J. Henry, SS, Putnam City HS, Oklahoma City, OK

When they drafted C.J. Henry, the Yankees thought they were getting a multi-tooled prospect comparable to Vernon Wells. To date, the only tool that has played well for Henry is his speed, which has helped him total 17 steals (21 attempts) and three triples in 48 games for New York's Gulf Coast League affiliate. His other numbers (.249/.333/.381) are disappointing, but he's very young and raw. The Yankees might put him through extended spring training next year and then send him back to one of their short season clubs. Otherwise they'd have to send him to the Sally League, and he just doesn't look ready. Grade: C-

18. San Diego Padres - Cesar Carrillo, RHP, Miami

So far Carrillo has been just a touch better than Lance Broadway in the most advanced 2005 pitching draftee competition. He started out at High Class-A Lake Elsinore of the California League and was impressive in five starts, posting a 2.95 ERA and 24/3 K/BB while allowing only 18 hits in 21 1/3 IP. From there he jumped to AA Mobile and made five more starts, going 4-0, 3.23, 35/7 and giving up 23 hits in 30 2/3 IP. The fact that he is going deep enough into games to notch wins is telling, as most new draftees are on strict pitch counts and therefore rarely qualify in their starts. The Padres have been careful with him, but his ability to maintain velocity deep into games is making the kid gloves unnecessary. Carrillo is now back at Lake Elsinore to help in their postseason run. Grade: A

19. Texas Rangers - John Mayberry, 1B, Stanford

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Mayberry has spent the entire summer in short season ball at Spokane of the Northwest League. Of all the 2005 first rounders, I was most critical of Mayberry prior to the draft. He has a few years to prove me wrong, and in the crapshoot that is prospect evaluation I wouldn't be surprised at all if he did just that. Unfortunately for him, and for the Rangers, he hasn't gotten off to a very good start. In 62 games he has totaled 233 ABs, homering seven times and driving in 20 runs. He's striking out a lot (59 – almost once a game) and not walking much (22). At .236/.325/.386 he has a lot of work to do. His likely positions in the big leagues are LF or 1B, but to make it he's going to need to put up much better power numbers. A season at High Class-A next year is about the most he could hope for, but whether or not the Rangers will trust him with that move is a questionable. Grade: D+

20. Chicago Cubs - Mark Pawelek, LHP, Springville HS, UT

It's incredible that Pawelek – a Scott Boras client – signed before the first day of the draft even ended. The Cubs sent him to the Arizona Rookie League, where he has made 14 appearances (13 starts). Though he is 0-3, the rest of his numbers are strong: 2.72 ERA, 25 hits and 56 strikeouts in 43 IP. He's walked 21 batters, which isn't great, but the rest of his game is impressive. Figure him for a spot on Peoria's (Midwest League) roster next spring. Grade: B

21. Oakland Athletics - Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A&M

After signing with the A's the day after he was selected 21st overall, Cliff Pennington made his professional debut at Low Class-A Kane County on June 23rd. In 63 games with the Cougars, he has hit .280/.372/.371 with 15 doubles, three homers and 37 walks in 264 ABs. He is flashing all the tools necessary to hit leadoff, with 22 steals in 28 attempts to go along with his solid OBP. The A's see him as a second baseman but for now they have him playing shortstop, where he's committed 12 errors. According to the A's, it is still unknown where he will start the 2006 season, but it's probable that he will be in High Class-A Stockton early next summer. Grade: B-

22. Florida Marlins - Aaron Thompson, LHP, Second Baptist HS, Houston, TX

Thompson made eight starts in the Gulf Coast League before moving on to Jamestown of the New York-Penn League in mid-August. In 32 GCL innings, he posted a 4.50 ERA with a solid 41/10 K/BB. The high ERA was due to a hits-per-nine-innings rate of almost 12. His control was encouraging, but he does have an 11/6 K/BB since moving to Jamestown. His ERA is down to 3.60 in 10 IP and he's giving up fewer hits per inning (one) since the move, but cries of "small sample size" keep me from drawing any conclusions from those numbers. My guess is that he'll be in Greensboro of the Sally League early in the 2006 season. Grade: C+

23. Boston Red Sox - Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Oregon State

Ellsbury made his debut at Lowell of the New York-Penn League on July 11th and has shown excellent speed and control of the strike zone from Day One. In other words, it looks like the Red Sox got the leadoff-type they figured they were getting when they called his name on draft day. Ellsbury has played in 27 games for the Spinners, hitting .286/.402/.400 in 105 ABs. His power has been slow to show itself with only one double and one homer on the season, but his speed (4 triples, 18 steals in 20 attempts) and plate discipline (20 BB, 18 K) make up for it a bit. The Sally League is almost a lock as his early-2006 home. Grade: B-

24. Houston Astros - Brian Bogusevic, LHP, Tulane

Bogusevic's first summer of professional baseball has not gone as well as planned. In 11 games (all in relief) for Tri-Valley of the New York-Penn League, he has an ugly 6.63 ERA (14 ER in 19 IP). His K/BB is 16/7 and, despite notching three saves, he has looked completely out of sorts. The Astros are being careful with his arm after a huge workload during his final season at Tulane. He'll be lucky to get to Low Class-A Lexington next spring, though it might only take a return to starting for Bogusevic to return to form. Grade: D

25. Minnesota Twins - Matt Garza, RHP, Fresno State

Garza spent a couple of weeks at Elizabethton of the Appalachian League before moving to Beloit in the Midwest League. He was solid in four Rookie-ball starts, posting a 3.66 ERA and stellar 25/6 K/BB while allowing only 14 hits in 19 IP. In nine starts for Beloit he has been a shade better: 3.60, 57/14, 47 hits in 50 IP against better competition. Garza is a prime candidate to make the jump to High Class-A to begin the 2006 season. Grade: B

26. Boston Red Sox - Craig Hansen, RHP, St. John's

Hansen didn't sign until July 31st, but through August 30th he still hadn't given up an earned run as a professional. Splitting time between Boston's GCL affiliate and their AA team in Portland, Hansen has totaled 12 2/3 IP (all but three in AA), 14 strikeouts and one walk. He is a lock for AAA next season, with a very good chance at cracking the Red Sox bullpen sometime in 2006. I won't be at all surprised if he dazzles in March and earns a big league roster spot out of the spring training. Grade: A

27. Atlanta Braves - Joey Devine, RHP, North Carolina State

A reliever at NC State, Devine was considered very close to the Majors prior to the draft. This turned out to be correct, as Devine got the call to Atlanta on August 20th, just two months after being drafted. He sputtered, allowing seven earned runs on five hits in only two innings of work for the big league club before being sent to AAA ten days later. On his way to the bigs, he made stops in Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League (4 G, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) and Mississippi of the Southern League (18 G, 20 IP, 2.70 ERA, 19 H, 6 ER, 12 BB, 28 K). His control will need refinement and it is clear he was rushed to the majors a bit too fast. He will open 2006 in AAA barring a spectacular spring. Grade: B-

28. St. Louis Cardinals - Colby Rasmus, OF, Russell County HS, Phenix City, AL

Rasmus spent the summer in the Appalachian League, playing centerfield and either hitting at or near the top of the order for Johnson City. His skills were on full display in 62 games for the Rookie League Cards, where he hit .296/.362/.514 in 216 ABs. He showed both power (16 doubles, seven homers) and speed (5 triples, 12 steals in 15 attempts), but struck out at an alarming rate (73, or once every 3.73 plate appearances). Yuck. He just turned 19 on August 11th, so he has a lot of time to iron out his swing deficiencies. A trip to Quad Cities of the Midwest League is a good bet for next year. Grade: B+

29. Florida Marlins - Jacob Marceaux, RHP, McNeese State

Marceaux was the most disappointing of Florida's first round haul, at least in terms of performance. He got hit hard in ten starts for Jamestown (5.55 ERA, 32/13 K/BB, 56 hits allowed in 47 IP) before moving to Low Class-A Greensboro, where he was worse (4 starts, 14.11 ERA, 10/8 K/BB, 33 hits allowed in 14 2/3 IP). Yes, just in case you did a double-take, that was 33 hits allowed in 14 2/3 innings. The only real positive is the control he showed at Jamestown – 13 walks in 47 innings is healthy. Unfortunately his command wasn't there, which explains the high hit total and ERA. His age relative to the league is not in his favor (he'll play at 22 in 2006), and the Marlins face a tough decision with where to start him next year. My guess is Greensboro to see if he can handle it, with a demotion possible once short season ball starts up in late June. Grade: D

30. St. Louis Cardinals - Tyler Greene, SS, Georgia Tech

Greene has been steady, but unspectacular for the Cardinals. Another Boras client that signed quickly, Greene started his pro career for New Jersey of the New York-Penn League. He played 35 games there and hit .261/.352/.370 with disappointing power (12 doubles, one homer), but he did steal 13 bases in 14 attempts. His control of the strike zone was so-so – 15 walks in 138 ABs, which isn't bad, but 37 strikeouts, which isn't good. In mid-August the Cardinals promoted him to High Class-A Palm Beach of the FSL and hit .269/.319/.403 in 67 ABs over 16 games, including six errors at shortstop. As you can see, his power improved a bit (three doubles, two homers) but his plate discipline disappeared (three walks, 23 strikeouts). He was considered an advanced hitter entering the draft, and at 22 he's a little old for Low Class-A. The Cards will probably throw him back into the FSL and hope he keeps his head above water. Grade: C-

Next up: Sandwich round grades, plus notable performances from later rounds.

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