Posted by: bhyman | July 25, 2008

What if: ’99 draft

The third part of our re-draft series focuses on the 1999 draft. This draft has produced more talent than either of the two previous drafts. Although many first-rounders have done well, the best player of this draft was on nobody’s radar nine years ago. With the first pick …

1. Tampa Bay Devil Rays — 3B Albert Pujols, Maple Woods Community College
Actual selection: OF Josh Hamilton, Athens Drive HS (North Carolina)

That’s right, third baseman Albert Pujols. The Cardinals drafted Pujols out of a Missouri junior college in the 13th round and bought him with a $60,000 signing bonus. He wasn’t a higher selection because of his bonus demands and because “he was much heavier and didn’t move well,” writes Baseball America. St. Louis did struggle to find him a position in his first few years, but he’s been a regular first baseman since 2004 and even won a Gold Glove at the position in ’06. There’s no debate about his hitting. Pujols dominated minor league pitching, jumping from A ball to AAA in his only season in the minor leagues. He’s arguably baseball’s best hitter, earning All-Star appearances in each of his eight big league seasons and hitting a lifetime .323/.423/.619 with a 41 home run season average. Josh Hamilton has taken a longer path to the big leagues. A five-tool prospect in high school, he showed off his off-the-charts arm strength and power in high school. However, drug abuse derailed his career for four seasons. The Chicago Cubs claimed Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft and promptly traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. He has begun to live up his potential for the Reds and Rangers in 2008.

2. Florida Marlins — LHP Barry Zito, USC
Actual selection: RHP Josh Beckett, Spring HS (Texas)

The Devil Rays considered Josh Beckett and USC catcher Eric Munson before drafting Hamilton with the first overall pick. The Marlins got the best player of the three potential first overall picks in Beckett. Scouts loved his mid-90s fastball and hammer curve. Although Beckett has excelled in the majors, Zito outpitched him in his first six big league seasons. Zito never had Beckett’s fastball but his 90 mph fastball was more than enough to set up his knee buckling, 12-6 curveball. The A’s drafted him with the ninth overall pick and he didn’t let them down. In his seven seasons in Oakland, he made three All-Star teams. His most impressive feat was his 2002 season, when he went 23-5 with a 2.72 ERA and won the American League Cy Young Award.

3. Detroit Tigers — RHP Jake Peavy, St. Pauls Episcopal HS (Alabama)
Actual selection: C Eric Munson, USC

We’re usually not the people who will argue for drafting high school pitchers, but the choice between Peavy and Munson is now looks silly. Peavy lasted until the 15th round because “he was considered frail, wild and committed to Auburn,” writes Baseball America. Frail? He’s made at least 27 starts since 2003. Wild? He’s struck out more than three batters for every one he’s walked in his major and minor league career. Peavy won the Cy Young award last year and his career ERA is 3.24. The Tigers drafted Munson for his quick bat, strike zone discipline and plus power. He displayed none of that in eight part time seasons, becoming too pull-conscious and striking out over 100 times per 162 games over his career.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks — RHP Aaron Harang, San Diego State
Actual selection: SS Corey Myers, Desert Vista HS (Arizona)

Aaron Harang has been a reliable top of the rotation starter yet he was traded twice before he recorded 200 innings in the big leagues. A sixth round draft pick from the Rangers, he was dealt with another minor leaguer to Oakland for Randy Velarde. The A’s gave up on him after barely 20 big league starts and moved him to Cincinnati for veteran Jose Guillen. Harang has never made an All-Star team and was not listed on any of Baseball America‘s Top Prospect lists, but he gets the job done. He has averaged better than 200 innings over his seven year career. In his last three full big league seasons, he has posted ERAs under 4.00 and has won at least 10 games in his last four seasons. His best season to date was 2007, when he went 16-6 with a 3.73 ERA and finished fourth in Cy Young balloting. Corey Myers has been a disaster. Originally projected as a second or third-round pick, he impressed Arizona officials with a hitting display in a pre-draft workout at Chase Field. The D-Backs selected the hometown player and signed him for $4 million. Arizona moved Myers from shortstop to third base, but his glove was shaky and he didn’t hit well enough for either position. The Diamondbacks cut him in 2005, six years after he was drafted.  He has yet to play in a big league game.

5. Minnesota Twins — LHP Chris Capuano, Duke
Actual selection: OF B.J. Garbe, Moses Lake HS (Washington)

The Diamondbacks swung and missed with their first pick, but they grabbed a steal in the eighth round in Capuano. He was a low risk prospect with his 90 mph fastball and plus curve. His minor league strikeout to walk rate was good enough to merit a big league callup in ’03. He was dealt in the off-season with five others to the Brewers for Richie Sexson, Shane Nance and a player to be named later. Capuano has been an innings-eater for Milwaukee, posting more than 200 innings since 2005. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2007, with a 11-12 record and a 4.03 ERA. His career ERA is a respectable 4.39 and he has struck out more than two batters for every one he walked in five big league seasons. Garbe was a can’t-miss, two sport prospect (in football and baseball) when he was drafted. His speed and arm strength were two, true plus tools and his range made center field a reality. He was lacking power, but his strong swing made scouts believe he could develop home run potential. His bat let him down, as he didn’t exhibit good plate discipline, chased too many balls and never showed any power. His biggest offensive performance was a nine home run display — in 2005 with his second organization in A ball. A career .235 hitter in the minors, Garbe has never played a game in the big leagues.

6. Montreal Expos — RHP Josh Beckett, Spring HS (Texas)
Actual selection: LHP Josh Girdley, Jasper HS (Texas)

The Expos would have been happy to draft Beckett, who the Devil Rays considered with the first overall pick, with the No. 6 selection. Beckett wasn’t available, so the Expos settled on another Texas high school pitcher. Girdley oozed projectability. He landed on scouts’ radar with a 29 strikeout performance and he ended up in the first round because of his willingness to sign. At 6-foot-4 and a lanky 175, the Expos expected his 90 mph fastball to gain velocity and his command to improve. The Expos were right about the velocity, but Girdley didn’t stay healthy and couldn’t find his command when he was available. Beckett has cemented his status as a top-flight pitcher thanks to his mid to upper 90s fastball and power curve. He is only the sixth best player in this draft because he hasn’t stayed healthy. He has only recorded 200+ innings twice in his eight year career, but he has shown signs of a breakout. In 2007, he went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA and led Boston to a championship. He finished second in Cy Young balloting and even earned some MVP votes.

7. Kansas City Royals — RHP John Lackey, Grayson County Junior College
Actual selection: RHP Kyle Snyder, North Carolina

The Angels sent their first round pick to the Red Sox as compensation for signing Mo Vaughn, but the loss of the pick actually aided Anaheim’s draft. While Boston wasted the pick on a high school outfielder who never reached the big leagues, the Angels scored with Lackey in the second round. A big righthander (6-foot-6, 210 pounds), his fastball and curve quickly developed into plus pitches. The biggest concern on draft day with Lackey was his command, but that was never an issue in pro ball. He made his big league in the middle of the 2002 pennant race and quickly earned the respect of Angels fans with a 3-0 record in the playoffs that led his team to a World Series championship. He has been a rock in the Angels’ rotation ever since. Kyle Snyder was drafted with higher hopes, but hasn’t been able to live up to the first round hype. The Tar Heel pitcher might have been drafted first overall had he not suffered from a bout of tendonitis before the draft. The 6-foot-8 righty breezed through the low minors thanks to his 95 mph fastball and good assortment of off-speed pitches. But tendonitis led to Tommy John surgery and Snyder never got his career on-track. He pitched parts of three seasons in Kansas City before earning his release.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates — RHP Ben Sheets, Northeast Louisiana
Actual selection: RHP Bobby Bradley, Wellington Community HS (Florida)

The Pirates likely considered drafting Sheets, who was drafted two picks later, before picking Bradley. The Brewers were surprised and pleased to draft Sheets, who had an impressive package of polish and stuff. Sheets’ mid 90s fastball, power curve and decent changeup rivaled Beckett’s arsenal and Sheets had dominated the best college hitters in the Cape Cod League in ’98. He demonstrated his poise by beating Cuba in the gold medal game of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Sheets is eight years into his big league career and the only thing that’s held him back is health. He’s won ten games in all but one season and his career ERA is 3.74. The Pirates drafted Bradley, who was a different kind of high school pitcher than Josh Beckett. Unlike Beckett who could hit the upper 90s deep into games, Bradley preferred to work at 90 mph. His calling card was his ability to throw four pitches for strikes and his refusal to walk batters. Like Kyle Snyder, Bradley’s progress was halted because of surgery. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in July 2001 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in October of that year. He only made 29 starts in his first four years of pro ball and had a hard time catching up. The Pirates released him in 2005.

9. Oakland Athletics — LHP Erik Bedard, Norwalk Tech Community College
Actual selection: LHP Barry Zito, USC

The A’s were one of the few teams who actually ended up with a better player than the one they would get in this re-draft. If Zito was off the board, the A’s would still have a plethora of pitching from which to choose. Erik Bedard’s path to success has been unusual. An Ontario native, Bedard’s high school did not a have a high school team and he walked onto his community college team. Scouts were scared off because of his limited amateur experience, his slight build (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) and his fastball velocity (only 89-90 mph). Bedard proved doubters wrong by stepping up his fastball velocity and attacking hitters with three quality pitches. He received Cy Young consideration despite pitching for a non-contender in 2007 when he went 13-5 with a career-best 3.16 ERA. The Orioles’ ace was dealt to the Mariners after the ’07 season.

10. Milwaukee Brewers — RHP Brett Myers, Englewood HS (Florida)
Actual selection: RHP Ben Sheets, Northeastern Louisiana

Like the A’s, the Brewers did well to pluck Ben Sheets in the first round. But if he wasn’t available, we’d recommend Brett Myers, a Florida high schooler who the Brewers may have considered because he was selected only two picks later. The Phillies drafted Myers and were impressed by his power stuff and mental approach. Myers deals with a mid 90s fastball, a power curve and solid change. He boxed as a kid and while some teams saw that as a strength, others saw him as an immature and overly emotional pitcher. He still has the stuff to be a frontline pitcher but hasn’t put together consistent seasons. He’s had two sub-4.00 ERA seasons, but also two seasons — including 2008 — with ERAs over 5.50.

The rest of the first round …

11. Seattle Mariners — RHP Jason Jennings, Baylor
Actual selection: C Ryan Christianson, Arlington HS (California)

12. Philadelphia Phillies — LHP Nate Robertson, Wichita State
Actual selection: RHP Brett Myers, Englewood HS (Florida)

13. Baltimore Orioles — C Justin Morneau, New Westminster HS (British Columbia)
Actual selection: RHP Mike Paradis, Clemson

14. Cincinnati Reds — RHP J.J. Putz, Michigan
Actual selection: LHP Ty Howington, Hudson’s Bay HS (Washington)

15. Chicago White Sox — OF Carl Crawford, Jefferson Davis HS (Texas)
Actual selection: RHP Jason Stumm, Centralia HS (Washington)

16. Colorado Rockies — SS Chris Sampson, Texas Tech
Actual selection: RHP Jason Jennings, Baylor

17. Boston Red Sox — C Ryan Doumit, Moses Lake HS (Washington)
Actual selection: OF Rick Asadoorian, Northbridge HS (Massachusetts)

18. Baltimore Orioles — RHP Matt Guerrier, Kent State
Actual selection: LHP Richard Stahl, Newton County HS (Georgia)

19. Toronto Blue Jays — 3B Alexis Rios, San Pedro Martin HS (Puerto Rico)
Actual selection: Rios

20. San Diego Padres — 1B Lyle Overbay, Nevada-Reno
Actual selection: OF Vince Faison, Toombs County HS (Georgia)

21. Baltimore Orioles — SS Brian Roberts, South Carolina
Actual selection: OF Larry Bigbie, Ball State

22. Chicago White Sox — OF Cody Ross, Carlsbad HS (New Mexico)
Actual selection: RHP Matt Ginter, Mississippi State

23. Baltimore Orioles — RHP Seth McClung, Greenbrier East HS (West Virginia)
Actual selection: OF Keith Reed, Providence College

24. San Francisco Giants — 1B Chris Duncan, Canyon Del Oro HS (Arizona)
Actual selection: RHP Kurt Ainsworth, LSU

25. Kansas City Royals — OF Shane Victorino, St. Anthony HS (Hawaii)
Actual selection: OF Rick Asadoorian, Northbridge HS (Massachusetts)

26. Chicago Cubs — C Mike Jacobs, Grossmont College
Actual selection: RHP Ben Christiansen, Wichita State

27. New York Yankees — SS Hank Blalock, Rancho Bernardo HS (California)
Actual selection: RHP David Walling, Arkansas

28. San Diego Padres — RHP Jon Rauch, Morehead State
Actual selection: RHP Gerik Baxter, Edmonds Woodway HS (Washington)

29. San Diego Padres — LHP Casey Fossum, Texas A&M
Actual selection: RHP Omar Ortiz, Texas-Pan American

30. St. Louis Cardinals — RHP Jason Frasor, Southern Illinois
Actual selection: RHP Chance Caple, Texas A&M

Several teams added future impact players in this draft, but nobody had a better draft than Don Mitchell, the Diamondbacks’ former scouting director. Arizona’s first round pick, Corey Myers, flopped, but the D-Backs picked up lefty Chris Capuano in the eighth round and Lyle Overbay in the 18th. The Devil Rays and Royals also picked up quality players. The Cubs check in with the worst draft; none of their 50 draft picks has made an impact in the big leagues.

After Albert Pujols, the next eleven best players to come from this draft have been pitchers. Five of the eleven were drafted in the first round (Beckett, Zito, Sheets, Myers and Jennings). Jake Peavy is the third best player in the draft, but he was drafted in the fifteenth round because of his strong commitment to Auburn.

Stay tuned for the first draft of the new millennium: the 2000 re-draft.

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