We love Mock Drafts. We love them because they make us laugh. So called experts spend countless hours sifting through scouting reports and game film and try to match these kids with team needs. They are immensely popular in football and basketball but have recently began to gain steam in baseball and now that MLB’s entry draft is going to be televised it will only get worse.
The best part, and by “best” we mean “funny”, is that fans read these mock drafts like they are scripture and yet these experts are never right. Mel Kiper, the so-called draft guru, correctly picked 10 of the 32 first round picks this year for the NFL draft and he had one of the better marks. Peter King only got 3 correct. And this is the NFL draft which features players that fans and experts have actually seen perform and teams whose needs are usually fairly obvious. On the other hand, in the baseball draft, there is not a single player in the draft that we have ever seen play and we have no idea what other team’s minor league systems look like and whether Team X needs a catcher or a third baseman.
Still things are a bit easier if we try to predict who the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will select with the first pick of this year’s draft. The Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison even helped us out by announcing that the team has narrowed their choice down to one of three players.
So let’s take a look at the three prospects and then we will give you our first ever Mock Draft!
David Price (LHP, Vanderbilt Univ.)
[From Minor League Ball] To summarize, Price is polished, smart, throws hard, throws strikes, changes speeds well, is confident, is athletic, and has good mechanics. Sounds like a great pitching prospect to me. Frankly he has no major weakness that I can see, aside from the usual worries about workload leading to injury eventually. But there is nothing here indicating that his injury risk would be any higher than average for a pitcher in his cohort, and his athleticism and repeatable delivery may lower the risk to some extent.
Most people think that Price is the obvious choice, and that the Rays are just keeping their options open for negotiating purposes. Even we referred to the race for the #1 pick last season as “The David Price Sweepstakes.” While Friedman talks about team needs in 2-3 years, Price may be the most polished player in the draft and could be in the majors as early as the second half of 2008. There is always some risk in taking a pitcher, but the success of Evan Longoria may give the Rays front office a little bit of leeway to take a risk at the top of the draft in 2007.
Matt Wieters (C, Georgia Tech)
[From Baseball America] One national crosschecker said recently, ” I would make a case for Wieters over Price at 1. With the switch-hitting, the power and he catches so easy, I think he’s the best (amateur) catcher I’ve seen outside of Joe Mauer.”
Keep in mind that everybody assumed the Devil Rays would take a pitcher with the 3rd pick in 2006 because of the lack of pitching at the major league level. Andrew Friedman has stated, and smartly, that nobody knows what the teams needs will look like in 2-4 years when these players are ready to contribute at the major league level. Rather the team would prefer to take the best player available and there are some that believe that Wieters is that player, much like Evan Longoria proved to be that player in 2006. The other argument for Wieters is that the top position player is a safer pick than the top pitcher. In 2001, the Twins were faced with this exact dilemma when they were forced to choose between Joe Mauer and Mark Prior. In the end the Twins made the correct choice, because pitchers are fragile. Still, winning in baseball is about three things. Pitching, pitching, pitching. In order for the Rays to pick Wieters he needs to be considerably better than Price. If he is, this will be the Rays selection. If there is any doubt, then Price will be the pick.
Josh Vitters (3B, some high school in Calif.)
[From Minor League Ball] Ranked as the top high school hitter in the class this year by Baseball America…I like his size at 6-3, 195 pounds: not too small, but not so large that his strike zone gets unmanageable. He has plus power to all fields, and scouts expect he’ll be able to hit for average as well. No one questions his bat; about the only doubt is if he’s a 20 homer guy or a 30+ homer guy in the long run…Physically, his speed is just average. He has a strong arm but has to keep working on his defense at third base; it should be OK in the long run as long as his legs don’t get thick. He could end up as a right fielder if hot corner defense becomes an issue.
Ummmm…No. The last time a team picked a high school position player with the first pick of the draft, it did not turn out so well. In 2004 the Padres selected Matt Bush and three years later he is still in single-A and is no longer even considered a prospect with a career that includes a batting average of .221 and 2 home runs. And while we applaud the team for not drafting for need, third base is one position the Rays have zero need. In addition to Iwamura at the major league level, the team has several top prospects climbing the charts in the minors including last season’s #3 overall pick. So unless the Rays project Vitters as a first baseman, this is a long-shot at best.
And now we present you with the first ever Rays Index MLB Mock Draft, which we guarantee will be at least 93.3% correct…
2007 Rays Index Mock Draft:
1. David Price, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A team can never have too much pitching and the Devil Rays, despite a number of top pitching prospects, are still far from having too much pitching.
2-30. Twenty-nine other guys, including 3-4 that we will cringe about in 2-3 years when we realize the Rays could have had so-and-so.