Posted by: bhyman | June 13, 2008

NL Central wrap-up

St. Louis Cardinals

First-rounders: After Gordon Beckham and Justin Smoak, Brett Wallace (1, 13) is the best college hitter in the country. He is a great pure hitter who sprays balls to all fields and has great plate discipline. He finished his final season at Arizona State with big numbers: he hit .410/.526/.753 with 22 home runs. Although he’s a big guy, he’s surprisingly agile and has good enough hands to start his pro career at third base. Lance Lynn (1, 39) throws four decent pitches which could make him a No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher in a big league rotation. He has a low 90s fastball, a slider, a changeup and a curve. He has good command but gave up too many home runs (11 home runs in 89 2/3 innings).

Late round gem: Chris Swauger (26, 785) has enjoyed an outstanding four-year career at The Citadel and is a senior sign for the Cards. He showed good defensive skills at first base as a freshman, but was moved to left-field in 2006. He hits no matter where he plays, however. In a tough pitchers’ park, Swauger hit .360/.485/.603 in 56 games in 2008. He led the Coastal Plains League in home runs in the summer of 2007 and smacked another 10 in 2008. He’s not particularly big (6-foot, 195 pounds), but he can really hit and should tear up minor league pitchers.

Hometown heroes: Matt Frevert (28, 845), a pitcher from Missouri State, is the only Missouri amateur who the Cardinals selected.

Tough sign: Mitch Harris (13, 395) is a steal in the thirteenth round on talent, but he pitches at the Naval Academy. Midshipmen are required to spend five years on active duty, but the Cardinals and Navy might reach an agreement to shorten the service time. Harris is the best prospect from a military academy in years.

Top 100 talents: Wallace, Swauger, Blake Murphy (42, 1265), Aaron Luna (9, 275), Shane Peterson (2, 59)

Summary/Grade: A. This Cardinals draft is rich in college talent. Wallace is a great value pick in the middle of the first round and St. Louis picked up sleepers in nearly every round of the draft. Swauger will fly through the low minor leagues and watch out for Blake Murphy. He’s a sound defensive catcher who has put up big offensive numbers at Western Carolina.

Milwaukee Brewers

First-rounders: Brett Lawrie (1, 16) is a pure masher. A high schooler from British Columbia, he is as good of a high school hitter as Eric Hosmer if not better. Although he has above average speed and athleticism, he is defensively challenged. He has good arm strength and the Brewers intend to try him at catcher. Jake Odorizzi (1, 32) is a polished high school pitcher with a smooth delivery and a low 90s fastball with life. He needs to improve his slider.

Late round gem: Erik Komatsu (8, 248) is a professional hitter who sprays line drives and can hit an occasional home run. He also has decent supplementary tools. He played left field for Cal State Fullerton.

Hometown heroes: The Brewers did not draft a single Wisconsin amateur, but Odorizzi and Cody Adams (2, 62) are from neighboring Illinois.

Tough sign: Kyle Winkler (37, 1118), a high school pitcher from Texas, has two plus pitches in a low 90s fastball and nasty curve. He has a strong commitment to Texas Christian.

Top 100 talents: Lawrie, Josh Romanski (4, 128), Odorizzi and Komatsu.

Summary/Grade: B+. The Brewers got a nice mix of high school talent (Lawrie, Odorizzi) and college prospects (Romanski, Komatsu). Lawrie is a nice pick in the first round because he can really hit and could move quickly through the minor leagues.

Pittsburgh Pirates

First-rounders: Pedro Alvarez (1, 2) would have been the first overall pick had he not broke the hammate bone in his hand in late February. He came back six weeks later for Vanderbilt, but didn’t show as much power as he had in previous seasons. When he’s on, he displays plus power and hits with an advanced approach. He is athletic enough to stay at third base for now and has a strong arm. It’s possible he’ll have to move to first base as he advances through the minor leagues.

Late round gem: Ryan Hinson (31, 924) has solid stuff and an impressive track record at Clemson. The junior lefthander has a 90 mph fastball, a solid-average curve and history of dominance in the ACC. He struck out nearly three times as many batters as he walked in ’08 while pitching in a ballpark that favors hitters.

Hometown heroes: Scott McGough (46, 1371), a high school infielder, has an opportunity to play for his hometown team. So does Zachary Foster (49, 1452).

Tough sign: Alvarez is a Scott Boras client. Zach Wilson (26, 774), a high school third baseman, is also a Boras client who is committed to Arizona State.

Top 100 talents: Alvarez, Hinson, Tanner Scheppers (2, 55), Robbie Grossman (6, 174)

Summary/Grade: B+. The Pirates made the sensible choice in the first round by ponying up for Alvarez and picked up a first-round talent in Scheppers in the second round. The Bucs also scored big in the later rounds with Grossman and Hinson.

Chicago Cubs

First-rounders: Andrew Cashner (1, 19) is another college reliever drafted in the first round. The TCU right-hander has the size and arsenal to make scouts drool. He’s 6-foot-6 and consistently throws his fastball in the upper 90s and mixes in a plus slider. Ryan Flaherty (1, 41) is a lefthanded hitting shortstop who has doubles power and can pop an occasional home run. He’s got good hands but might not have enough range to stay at shortstop as he progresses through the system.

Late round gem: David Macias (19, 581) may be short in stature, but he’s big on tools and performance. Playing in a pitcher’s park in Nashville, the Commodores centerfielder hit .356/.424/.519 with nine home runs as a senior. He’s a plus runner and defensive outfielder and he is a pesky leadoff hitter.

Hometown heroes: The Cubs selected three Prairie Staters: Toby Matchulat (11, 341), David Cales (24, 731) and Tony Zych (46, 1386).

Tough sign: Sonny Gray (27, 821) is a first-round talent who fell to the middle of the draft because he sprained his ankle during the season and because he has a strong commitment to Vanderbilt.

Top 100 talents: Flaherty, Aaron Shafer (2, 65) and Cashner.

Summary/Grade: B. The Cubs did well in the first two rounds with Cashner, Flaherty and Shafer. The North Siders did okay later in the draft, too, with Macias, Ryan Keedy (16, 491) and others. They didn’t pick up as many quality sleepers as others, however.

Cincinnati Reds

First-rounders: In a deep class of college first basemen, it was Yonder Alonso (1, 7) who was drafted first among them. Alonso hits for average and power and has a great approach. He can hit home runs to all fields and does a good job of squaring the ball on the barrel of the bat. He isn’t agile enough to move to third base or the outfield, but he can be a solid defensive first baseman.

Late round gem: David Cappelt (9, 269) is a power-speed threat who has been a steady performer for Coastal Carolina. The centerfielder was Big South player of the year in 2007 and has played even better in ’08, hitting .349/.415/.636 with 18 home runs. He is a fast baserunner and an above-average centerfielder.

Hometown heroes: Matt Stiffler (27, 809) patrolled center field for Ohio University.

Tough sign: Eric Pfisterer (15, 449), a lefthanded pitcher from New Jersey, is 6-foot-4 and has an advanced feel for pitching. He will likely enroll at Duke.

Top 100 talents: Alonso and Clayton Shunick (5, 149)

Summary/Grade: C. The draft started on the wrong foot when the Reds reached on Alonso and continued with poor choices in the middle rounds. Shunick and Cappelt are the lone bright spots in the first 10 rounds.

Houston Astros

First-rounders: Jason Castro (1, 10) came into his own in 2008, putting up a big year for the Stanford Cardinal.  He has a fundamental swing and hit .379/.431/.617 with 17 home runs in 2008, a vast improvement over 2007 when he hit .167.  He’s an average catcher at best and is a major reach in the top 10 because he struggled entering the 2008 season.

Late round gem: Phil Disher (15, 452) had a solid four year career at South Carolina.  He has enough defensive skills to catch in pro ball and he hit .297/.378/.581 with 19 home runs.  He had plenty of protection in a lineup that also featured high draft picks such as Justin Smoak, Reese Havens and James Darnell.

Hometown heroes: Ross Seaton (3, 109) is a high school pitcher from Houston.  He is projectable (6-foot-4) and throws in the mid 90s with control.

Tough sign: The Astros don’t like to spend money on the draft, so they drafted fewer players who will command above-slot bonuses. Grayson Garvin (45, 1351) is committed to Vanderbilt.

Top 100 talents: Seaton

Summary/Grade: C-. Owner Drayton McLane refuses to spend money on the draft.  The result is another poor effort.  Castro wouldn’t have been drafted until the end of the first round had the Astros passed him up and his inconsistent performances didn’t even merit a selection there.  Houston didn’t make any good picks in the later rounds, either, which makes this the worst draft of any team with a first round pick.

We’ll break out our 2008 draft team tomorrow.

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