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The Amateur Draft: Buying in Bulk

Three teams are set to dominate the first day of the 2011 amateur draft. The Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, and Toronto Blue Jays will all make multiple picks during the first and supplemental round during the evening of Monday, June 6.

The picks, which will feature 60 names called in total on Day 1, will break down like this for the three clubs:
TB – 24, 31, 32, 38, 41, 42, 52, 56, 59, 60
SD – 10, 25, 48, 54, 58
TOR – 21, 35, 46, 53, 57

The supplemental first round will consist of 27 picks. Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Toronto will account for more than half of that total with 14 selections combined. The end of the day will be pretty boring for the other 27 clubs; eight of the final nine picks will be made by the Rays, the Padres, or the Jays – (picks 52-60 with Minnesota being the only other club to get in on the fun).

All three organizations clearly have an excellent opportunity to infuse talent into their ranks – assuming the organizations don’t cheap out on some of their picks. However, history will tell us that a bountiful draft does not always mean you’re in for future riches. The 2007 draft is an excellent lesson in not counting your chickens before they’re hatched. Four clubs had multiple picks in the first and supplemental round, including Texas, San Francisco, as well as our good friends in San Diego and Toronto.

The Texas Rangers

First Round
17 – Blake Beavan, RHP
24 – Michael Main, RHP

The top two picks have not panned out as hoped for the club with both players now in different uniforms. Beavan saw his high school velocity dip in pro ball and he’s become more of a control pitcher. The 6’7” right-hander was dealt from Texas to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade that also brought sophomore first baseman Justin Smoak to the Mariners. Beavan, still just 22, is currently pitching at triple-A and has a FIP of 4.11 in 55.0 innings. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter. Main was traded to San Francisco for veteran catcher Bengie Molina. The young pitcher has battled injuries and illness throughout his career and he’s made just two starts this season at the high-A level. He has solid stuff but he needs to find a way to stay on the mound.

Supplemental First Round
35 – Julio Borbon, OF
44 – Neil Ramirez, RHP
54 – Tommy Hunter, RHP

Borbon, 25, is currently playing in his second full season in the Majors but he’s been a bit of a disappointment thanks to inconsistent defense and a modest offensive attack, which is mainly hindered by his lack of on-base skill (4.1 BB% in ’10, 3.1 BB% in ’11). Borbon also does not utilize his speed on the base paths as much as he should with just 15 steals in 137 games in ’10 and six so far in 32 games in ’11.

Ramirez is interesting. The former high school pick spent all of 2010 in low-A ball. He then made one start in high-A ball in 2011 before he was jumped over double-A to triple-A. At the senior level, he has a 3.04 FIP in 43.1 innings. His strikeout rate sits at an impressive 9.97 K/9 but he has struggled a bit with inconsistent control (3.95 BB/9). He’s recently turned 22 and has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter. Hunter, who turns 25 in July, has been a solid contributor for the Rangers club. Over the past two seasons, he’s made 42 appearances (41 starts) for the big league club and has a career FIP of 4.83. He’s a big, strong workhorse pitcher who tops out as a No. 3 or 4 starter but he has yet to pitch in the Majors this season due to injury.

Best Pick So Far: Tommy Hunter
Most Disappointing: Michael Main
Don’t Give Up On: Blake Beavan

San Diego Padres

First Round
23 – Nick Schmidt, LHP

I know they say that high school pitchers are risky, but I tend to think top college starters are also risky as so many fall prey to injury after heavy workloads during their amateur days. Schmidt pretty much blew out his arm from Day 1 when he turned pro. The 25-year-old hurler has yet to appear in a Major League game – or even pitch above A-ball for that matter. The southpaw pitched a career high 97.1 innings in 2010 but has yet to throw in ’11 due to injury. He’s a long shot at this point to be a significant MLB contributor.

Supplemental First Round
40 – Kellen Kulbacki, OF
46 – Drew Cumberland, SS
57 – Mitch Canham, C
63 – Cory Luebke, LHP
64 – Danny Payne, OF

The college-heavy approach in this draft did not work out well at all for the organization. Outfielders Kulbacki and Payne will likely top out as quad-A sluggers – at best. Canham was an all-bat catcher who never learned to catch any better in pro ball than he did in college and he forgot how to hit. He was let go by the organization and resurfaced in Oakland where he’s serving as a part-time catcher in double-A. Luebke is the lone bright spot. The 26-year-old southpaw has made 19 appearances out of the Padres’ big league bullpen in 2011 and sports a 2.48 FIP. He could eventually find his way back to the starting rotation depending on the club’s needs. Cumberland, the only prep pick at the top of the draft, had a bit of a breakout in 2010, thanks in part to a potent hitting environment. However, like so many San Diego top prospects, he’s been bit by the injury bug and has yet to appear in a minor league game this season.

Best Pick So Far: Cory Luebke
Most Disappointing: Nick Schmidt
Don’t Give Up On: Drew Cumberland

San Francisco Giants

First Round
10 – Madison Bumgarner, LHP
22 – Tim Alderson, RHP
29 – Wendell Fairley, OF

According to Baseball America’s pre-2007-draft rankings, Bumgarner was the 14th best prospect (Beavan was No. 13), while Alderson was the 33rd. The club made a very wise choice with the selection of Bumgarner. Now 21, he’s in his second big league season in the Giants rotation after posting a 3.66 FIP in 111.0 2010 innings and showing poise in the playoffs for the eventual world champions. Alderson is a different story. Like Beavan, he’s seen his stuff regress in pro ball, in part due to the Giants’ player development staff mucking with his unique delivery. Traded to the Pirates for veteran second baseman Freddy Sanchez (I’ll admit that I though SF was stupid for doing it at the time), Alderson has never recovered and is currently pitching out of the Pirates’ double-A bullpen. Fairley was an over-draft from the get-go. He’s not a terrible ball player, but he lacks a standout tool and will probably top out in double-A or triple-A.

Supplemental First Round
32 – Nick Noonan, 2B
43 – Jackson Williams, C
51 – Charlie Culberson, 2B

Noonan was considered to be an advanced prep bat but he’s had a pretty steady climb through the system and hasn’t seen his wOBA surpass .340 since his first pro season in rookie ball. If he can show some versatility he might carve out a big league career as a bench player (He still has to figure out double-A, though). Williams was another stretch pick as a college catcher with a plus bat but a huge question mark over his ability to hit above .200 in pro ball. He’ll probably eventually see some time in the Majors as a third-string catcher based solely on his glove. Like Cumberland in San Diego, Culberson is another former prep middle infield prospect who used the potent California League as a spring board to bigger and better things. He’s performing well in double-A and could eventually become a big league starter but is probably better suited for a utility role.

Best Pick So Far: Madison Bumgarner
Most Disappointing: Wendell Fairley
Don’t Give Up On: Charlie Culberson

Toronto Blue Jays

First Round
16 – Kevin Ahrens, 3B
21 – J.P. Arencibia, C

I wasn’t thrilled with the Ahrens pick back in ’07 and he’s struggled to solve high-A ball so far in his career (He’s currently on his third attempt). Once likened to a young Chipper Jones for his ability to switch hit, Ahrens has now given up swinging from the left side. Still just 22, all hope is not lost. Arencibia, a teammate of Borbon’s at U of Tennessee, was known in college as a bat-only catcher. He’s since become an almost-average defender (who’s still getting better) but he also leads all MLB rookies with eight home runs (He’s tied with LAA’s Mark Trumbo but the Jays rookie wins out on ISO rate with .252 vs .198). He’ll probably never hit for average or take a lot of walks but plus power, decent defensive skills and solid clubhouse presence make Arencibia a valuable player at a shallow position.

Supplemental First Round
38 – Brett Cecil, LHP
45 – Justin Jackson, SS
56 – Trystan Magnuson, RHP

Cecil’s sophomore season in 2010 resulted in a 2.5 WAR season but diminished velocity and command in 2011 sent him to the minor leagues after four starts. Jackson’s career has been waylaid by inconsistency and injuries but he appears to be back on track in high-A ball while playing multiple positions (He was also hitting well in high-A in 2010 before he got hurt). Magnuson, a Canadian, was an over-draft at 56 as a fifth-year senior reliever from Louisville, but he was used to help acquire veteran outfielder Rajai Davis from Oakland and recently made his MLB debut. He has the ceiling of a middle reliever.

Best Pick So Far: J.P. Arencibia or Brett Cecil
Most Disappointing: Kevin Ahrens
Don’t Give Up On: Justin Jackson

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement likely to receive a facelift by this time next year, we may see free agent compensation become a thing of the past so this might be the last time that teams draft in bulk.