2008 Draft Preview: Damaged Goods

Yanks: Joba to start this summer
Gardner drawing Spring Training attention

Did you know that more than one in every 100 American adults is in prison? That’s kinda scary. Every year over 1,500 players hope to kick start a potential big league career come the June amateur draft, and it’s inevitable that a few bad apples end up in the crop. Lastings Milledge was a first round pick despite being expelled from high school because he allegedly raped a classmate. Clay Buchholz was a sandwich pick after … well, you know what happened there. Elijah Dukes is in a class all by himself. Heck, even Tyler Clippard was booted off his high school team because of a DUI. Boys will be boys, except sometimes those boys are really good at playing baseball.

Major league teams have shown that they’re willing to take a chance on a player with makeup issues if the talent is there. While it’s not ideal to build your franchise around guys with less than colorful backgrounds, remember that prospects generally serve two purposes: feed talent to the major league roster, and serve as trade fodder. There will always be someone out there ready to take a chance on a talented kid if you’re sick of dealing with him. And people do change; life isn’t about what they do or what they’ve been through, it’s about the type of person they become afterwards. Everyone needs a second chance now and then.

This draft class is no different, with a handful of guys bringing more than just baseball ability to the table. I’ve decided to highlight the best of the worst because sometimes the talent is just too good to pass up. Fun starts after the jump.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Pitt CC (NC)
Rated the top freshman in the country heading in the 2007 college season by BA, Chisenhall and a teammate were dismissed from the University of South Carolina after stealing $9,600 worth of cash and property from the school, including $3,100 in cash from then assistant coach Jim Toman’s office. Chisenhall faced one charge each of burglary, grand larceny and theft from a door room, but all of the charges were later dropped. The sweet swinging lefty headed to the junior college ranks in 2008, which is why he’s eligible for this year’s draft.

Capable of playing third and the corner outfield spots (he can pitch too), Chisenhall has a great approach and is a devastating pure hitter, having batted third in front of uber-prospect Justin Smoak as a freshman in his short time at SC. A player with his ability should overwhelm pitching at the juco level, and that’s exactly what he’s done, batting .493-.570-.970 with 14 doubles, 3 triples, 14 homers, 43 RBI, 2 SB and only 4 strikeouts in the Bulldogs’ first 21 games. If he was at SC, and you knocked 150 points off his line across the board, he’d still be in the conversation for the first overall pick in 2009 (he’d only be a sophomore this year). Where will he get drafted in ’08? I have no idea, because who knows how much weight teams will place on his past. One thing is clear: he’s a first round talent.

Nick Fuller, RHP, Walters State (TN)
nick-fuller.jpgRemember how I said that Chisenhall and a teammate were arrested for stealing a bunch of stuff from SC? Fuller’s the teammate. He faced three charges each of burglary and grand larceny, but like Chisenhall he got off scot free after the charges were dropped. Draft eligible because he’s with a 2-year institution, Fuller was the Devil Rays’ third round pick out of high school in 2006, but he choose not to sign and headed to SC, where he was the 4th best incoming freshman according to BA.

Fuller’s been the unofficial ace of the Senator’s staff, sporting a 46.1 IP, 41 H, 25 R, 23 ER, 21 BB, 48 K line that would look even sexier if he hadn’t been left out there to bite the bullet a few times this year. He has electric stuff, including a mid-90’s fastball and a lethal slider that he’s still working to gain consistency with. His biggest physical drawback is a violent, max effort delivery that already shelved him with a minor arm injury in high school. Fuller may have to move to bullpen because of his motion, and he’s drawn Brad Lidge comps in the past. Again, I have absolutely no idea where he’s likely to get drafted, but he has top three rounds ability.

Jason Jarvis, RHP, Lincoln (Indy)
BA rated Jarvis as the best high school pitching prospect in the state of Arizona prior to the 2006 draft, and the second best pitching prospect in the state overall behind Mark Melancon. Jarvis scared away potential employers with lofty bonus demands (the Angels took a 25th round shot-in-the-dark), and he headed to Chandler-Gilbert CC after decommitting from San Diego. Jarvis then transferred to Arizona State midway through his freshman season, and immediately became the best arm on the Sun Devils’ staff. He took over closer duties as soon as he arrived in Tempe, putting up a 27 IP, 29 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 19 K line while setting a school record with 11 saves. Jarvis blew a four run 9th inning league against UC Irvine in the College World Series, and the Anteaters went on to eliminate ASU in extra innings.

Jarvis was off to an inauspicious start to his sophomore year, allowing 6 hits and 1 run against a 5-0 K/BB ratio in 3.2 IP over his first 6 appearances. He was ruled academically ineligible on March 13th after cheating on an assignment in an online music course. He cheated on an assignment in an online music course. He cheated. On an assignment. In an online music course. Like every good student he blamed it on a learning disability and ridiculed the school’s administration, only he did it through a press release on his website (check it out, it’s good stuff). Jarvis dropped out of school and petitioned MLB for entry into the 2008 draft, which was granted to him on March 20th. He signed on with the Lincoln Salt Dogs of the independent American Associate to gain exposure, and has yet to appear in a game for them.

Jarvis typically operates with a low-90’s fastball, a hard slider and a good changeup. He’s a durable workhorse and holds his stuff into the later innings when he starts (he pitched out of ASU’s bullpen to fill a need). There have been maturity questions about Jarvis dating back to high school, and his college experience only reinforces those questions. Jarvis has a good arm and is a solid top five rounds talent, but he’s a classic case of a guy with a million dollar arm and a two cent head. Well, that might be a bit extreme; perhaps a five hundred thousand dollar arm and a two cent head is more accurate. At least he isn’t a criminal.

Yanks: Joba to start this summer
Gardner drawing Spring Training attention
  • Rick in Boston

    Mike – Great post. It’s also good to note that one of the less “sexy” parts of a scout’s role is to investigate everything. The two kids from SC got off because (iirc) they paid back the money they stole – now the scouts have to go through and decide if it was a once in a while thing, or not.

    And the kid from ASU – how many times a year do we hear about athletes in every sport cheating on online music classes? Seriously folks. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the heat for some of his teammates, too.

    Great work, though. I could see the Yankees taking a flyer on one of these guys. All three will drop heavily. In the wake of the Elijah Dukes stuff, teams are being even more careful about backgrounds. Especially if the payoff is playing in the city that never sleeps.

  • Tripp

    “So, rather than continue to struggle through the academic bureaucracy at ASU”

    Screw this, I don’t need an education with an arm like mine.

  • http://yankeesfuture.wordpress.com Pablo Zevallos

    Can Chisenhall play 1B? That’s the question with every new Yankee nowadays…

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=56352514 Jamal G.

    How do you cheat on an online course, jeez. Are you really that much of a dick?

  • http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=56352514 Jamal G.

    I dont care where can/can’t play. A bat like Chisenhall, you get. Then again Ive always called BS on that character issue crap, especially the way the NFL puts just as much stock in it as they do talent.

  • It’sMeSNITCHES!!!

    Jason Jarvis sounds like Roger Clemens in his press release.

  • matt

    Mike this work once again proves that you are the premiere minor league author when it comes to minor league blogs. Chisenhall seems like a very interesting prospect. And since we have 4 picks in the top 110 picks I say he seems like a good risk.

  • barry

    how the fuck do you get caught cheating on an online course?

  • inyk

    Agreed. Awesome work.

    Would it be possible to do one of these previews on players that are injured that might drop (like Chris Carpenter last year)

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      My original plan was to include those guys in this post, but right now there’s just not many of them out there. Matt Montgomery (UC Irvine) is the best of the bunch (TJ in January) but he’s nothing special. Of course Pedro Alvarez is hurting now, but that’s been covered to death.

      Maybe in a month or so there’ll be more injured guys to talk about.

  • Joe

    What Buchh0olz do?

    • dan

      Stole 29 laptops from his HS and sold them.

  • Lanny

    Character counts. Ask the Bengals and the Trailblazers and the Rays if they want good talent plus good character.

  • dan

    What kind of sick and twisted fuck starts a draft preview with “Did you know that more than one in every 100 American adults is in prison?” I thought I was reading a new opening for Law and Order.

  • Pingback: yankeesdaily.com » Blog Archive » Top 50 Prospects for 2008

  • J

    Yeah I was wondering what buccholz did as well?

  • Jeterismyhomeboy

    Just pointing out that we’ve all raved about the stable mentalities of Phil, Joba and Ian, and for good reason. There are high expectations in the media capital of the USA, and one of the most baseball-obsessed media markets in the country. With shakier makeup, imagine how nervous we would be watching them shoulder the pressures of a playoff-streak in peril, the best pitcher in baseball throwing K’s crosstown, and the whole baseball world waiting for them to fail. Imagine if they had Billy Beane’s mental demons, rather than something as extreme as Dukes’s. They could be consumed by the stardom, the fear, or the failure.

    I think makeup is something that has to carry special weight when you’re talking about the New York Yankees. This market can destroy ordinary people, let alone public people like baseball players. There’s a lot more opportunity for trouble, distraction and bad influence in New York than in Cincy, for example.