It’s that time of year again, the time when we can start thinking about June’s amateur draft. The cool thing about this year is that I don’t have to waste two hundred words explaining why the Yanks are picking where they are. All you have to do is take a look at our 2009 Draft Tracker, and everything you need to know is right there in a (hopefully) easy to understand format.
I figured I would kick off this year’s coverage by taking a look at some of Scott Boras’ most notable clients. These players are some of the very best available in this year’s draft class, but absurd bonus demands and/or a hint of injury/disappointing performance could lead to them dropping from their rightful place atop the draft landscape. Just ask Andrew Brackman or Rick Porcello. Teams might be not be willing to put up with Boras this year given the current economic client, and in fact the Dodgers’ front office has apparently told the scouting department not to draft any Boras clients this year (we’ll have to wait and see if that holds true). Top players slide in the draft every year, it’s part of life.
Fun starts after the jump.
Dustin Ackley, 1B, UNC
The best pure hitter in the draft class, Ackley is an on-base machine with impressive gap power and surprisingly excellent speed. He was named Baseball America‘s Freshman of the Year after hitting .402-.448-.591 with 20 doubles, 10 homers (one of which came off a broken bat) and 11 steals in 73 games, then followed that up with a .417-.503-.597, 21 double, 7 homer, 19 steal campaign as a sophomore. Ackley had Tommy John surgery last summer and will be ready when the college season starts tomorrow, although he’ll begin the year playing first base to limit his throwing. He’s athletic enough to handle center field where he’d obviously have more value, and he’s expected to move there later this season once he’s far enough away from TJ. It’s unlikely Ackley could fall all the way down to 29th overall (barring a major setback with the elbow) because he’s such a dynamic talent, and should be among the first four of five players taken on draft day.
Kentrail Davis, CF, Tennessee
Davis has done the “drop in the draft” thing once already, going from being one of the top fifty draft prospects to an unsigned 14th round flier of the Rockies in 2007 Draft. He offers the best power-speed combination in the entire draft class, having developed extraordinary upper body strength by working for his father’s construction company as a child. He missed part of his freshman season last year because of a minor car accident, but he hit .330-.435-.583 with 7 doubles, 13 homers and 7 steals after returning to the lineup. Davis may have to move to left down the line because he’ll presumably fill out his 5’9″, 195 lb frame and doesn’t have the arm for right. He’ll also have to work on his plate discipline. He has the tools to be a 20-20 player with above average defense in left field, and in an absolute best case scenario he’s a 30-30 center fielder with slightly above average defense. Because he’s a draft eligible sophomore and a Boras client, that chances of Davis dropping precipitously in the draft are great if no one bites in the first two rounds.
Grant Green, SS, USC
A classic example of a guy who was best off going to school, Green went from a rail thin high schooler with interesting tools to a five tool middle infielder and the best position player in the draft class. He’s cut from a similar cloth as Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria, although he’s not quite the defender Tulo is and not quite the hitter Longoria is. Green hit .390-.438-.644 with 15 doubles, 9 homers and 10 steals in his breakout sophomore year, answering all the questions about his bat that existed as prepster. There are concerns that the 6’3″, 180 pounder might have to slide over to third as he fills out, which would obviously decrease his value, but he’d remain a valuable player. Widely considered to be the second best talent available for the draft, there’s almost zero chance he makes it past the Orioles and the fifth overall pick even with Boras backing him.
Andy Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State
You may remember that Oliver won a landmark case against the NCAA last week, a ruling that has eliminated the “no agent” rule for amateur baseball players. With his eligiblity restored, he’ll reclaim his spot atop the Cowboys rotation and head into the year with a big weight off his shoulders. A top 100 talent back in 2006, Oliver is a big lefty (6’3″, 200 lbs) with firm stuff (92-93 mph fastball, good breaking ball, decent changeup) and decent control (3.30 BBper9 before he was ruled ineligible last year). He’s a top 10-15 talent right now, and now there aren’t any concerns that he may not be allowed to take the ball this year. He dropped his previous agent for Boras and will cash in this year for sure. Landing Oliver with any of their picks would be a major coup for the Bombers.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
Strasburg is true development success story, going from an unheralded and undrafted high school pitcher in 2006 to the top talent available in the 2009 draft. A strong armed closer as a freshman, Strasburg moved into SDSU’s rotation last year and established himself as the best pitcher in the country. His status as the top talent in the draft class was cemented when he struck out 23 Utah Utes in an early April start. Not only was he the lone amateur pitcher on the USA Olympic team last summer, he was the best pitcher on the staff, flirting with a no-hitter in his first start. Standing 6’4″, 220 lbs, Strasburg has the best fastball (sits 94-96 and touches 100), the best breaking ball (mid-80’s slider) and the best command and control (180-31 K/BB ratio in 134.1 career IP) in the draft class. He’s on par with David Price in terms of talent, although Price was more polished and left handed. There are some concerns that his fast twitch delivery is an injury waiting to happen, but he does a good job of repeating it and has never missed time due to injury. Barring major injury or an extremely poor junior year, Strasburg will be the first player taken in June, and surely will not make it past his hometown Padres and the third overall pick.
Donovan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS (Georgia)
The son of former Bucs running back Lars Tate, Donovan might have the best five tool potential in the entire draft class. He’s a superb athlete with a strong arm, so much so that he was a top quarterback recruit and has a full scholarship in hand to play football (and baseball) at UNC. Tate has very good speed and oodles potential with the bat, although he needs to work on his plate discipline to avoid getting taken advantage of by more experienced pitchers. He currently plays center field, but will probably have to slide over to right when he fills out his 6’3″, 200 lb frame. The top high school hitter in the draft and arguably the top high school prospect overall, it’s tough to see the Braves letting the local boy slide past them with the seventh overall pick, Boras client or not.
Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy (St. Louis)
Turner is all about projectability because his present package doesn’t scream stud prospect. He’s got an ideal pitcher’s frame at 6’4″, 205 lbs, and the hope is that he’ll cut a foot off his 89-91 mph fastball as he fills out. Although his changeup is just rudimentary right now, Turner’s big breaking curveball is an out-pitch, and arguably the best curveball in the high school ranks. He’ll need to tighten up his command and work on little things like holding runners and fielding his position. The natural comparision is Tim Melville, last year’s St. Louis darling, but Turner isn’t nearly as polished or as athletic as Melville. The UNC recruit is a first round talent, there’s a good chance Turner will still be available when the Yanks first selection rolls around.
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Now, obviously this isn’t the full list of Boras clients. It’s just the top guys, the ones that would be a coup if they fell to the Yanks at any point because of signability. I don’t think there’s any chance Strasburg, Green or White is still available at #29, but then again I did say the Yanks had a better chance of drafting Jesus Christ than Andrew Brackman once upon a time, so what do I know. Davis has the best chance to drop into the teen rounds because of the double whammy of being a DES and a Boras client.
Keep in mind that only about half a dozen teams refused to go over slot last year, so the Yankees aren’t looking at just outmaneuvering the Red Sox and Tigers any more. If the Yanks get a shot at nabbing two or three of these guys, it’s a major win.
Photo Credits: Scott Boras via me (’08 Winter Meetings), Dustin Ackley via UNC’s official site, Kentrail Davis via ESPN, Josh Fields via Diane Cebula (OnlineAthens.com), Grant Green via CapeCodBaseball.org, Andy Oliver via CapeCodBaseball.org, Stephen Strasburg via me (screen cap of Olympic broadcast), Donovan Tate via Dilip Vishwanat (Getty Images), Jacob Turner via STLToday.com, Alex White via Eric Francis (AP) via ESPN