Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Sound Off Is Back

After a two-year hiatus to become CBS College Sports' master of women's college basketball - I'm going to miss you, Candace Parker - the Baltimore Orioles SoundOff is back.

Who missed me?

Well, I'm back anyway.

After reading my last couple of posts from way back when I realized one important thing. The Orioles are better off now than they were then. And how.

We're going to do things a bit differently this time around. First of all, I won't recap each game for you, you can get that from a multitude of places Online. I'd suggest the BaltimoreSun.com. The Sun's Roch Kubatko is my favorite Orioles beat writer and I think his blog, Roch Around The Clock, is fantastic.

I'm a reporter and a writer and a journalist, blah, blah, blah, but bottom line, for OriolesSoundOff purposes...I'm a big fan of the Birds. We're going to get opinionated around here. I'm going to tell you what I think the O's are doing right and, unfortunately I fear, doing wrong on a nightly basis.

I couldn't be happier with the way the Orioles have started the season. I believe, when it comes to the Orioles, that I am an optimist. Of course, like any faithful O's fan, I can get cynical, but for the most part I see a bright future - one in which Boston and Yankee hats don't dominate the Yard and the Birds contend each season.

That said, we're not winning 90 games this season. But that doesn't mean we can't be competitive. We're building for the future and many of the pieces are in Baltimore right now. Adam Jones, especially, is going to need to be given some slack. But you are looking at your starting center fielder for a long time. Jones is raw ability, but you can see some of the finer tuned portions of his game taking shape. He's got an excellent attitude and drive to succeed.

Who isn't excited about Luke Scott? The guy will just be turning 30 this summer and he's hitting .375 right now. He's mashing the ball and looks good in left field. If he keeps hitting the way he is, teams are going to be knocking down Andy McPhail's door to trade for him near the deadline. The Orioles hope Double-A Bowie's Nolan Reimold becomes the left fielder of the future for the team and so Scott doesn't really fit into their long-term plans. He could bring back some solid minor league talent in a trade.

Brian Roberts is still an Oriole and he's setting the table for the team as usual. Brian has scored seven runs, leads the league with five stolen bases and is hitting .327.

One concern for the team is what exactly happened to Melvin Mora? After a torrid spring, Mora has significantly cooled off. He's hitting just .255, though he did go 2-for-3 in last night's 4-3 win over Toronto.

Nick Markakis has been business as usual holding down right field and the No. 3 spot in the order. The Natural's batting .310 and is among the league leaders in walks with 12 in 13 games. Kevin Millar, the O's cleanup hitter, got hot last night, scorching the Blue Jays for four RBIs with a two-run homer, but before that wasn't cashing in Markakis when he got on base. Millar is batting .250 on the year.

The Orioles' pitching situation is interesting. The starters have been dismal. The bullpen has been the team's brightest spot. Who would have thought that a bullpen that was so bad last year the starters were thinking about pressing charges for stealing victories would become one of the best in the league the next season.

A complete overhaul will certainly help. Only Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford remain from last year's pen. Randor Bierd has four scoreless innings this year. Matt Albers was pitching out of the pen until picking up last night's win as the starter, Jim Johnson picked up Albers and pitched two scoreless innings in that game.

Closer George Sherrill has been lights out - except for Alex Rios' two-run dinger last night - and is 6-for-6 in save situations to lead the Major Leagues in that category.

At 8-5 the Orioles are on top of the AL East, for now. Tonight they play the second of a two-game set against the Blue Jays. Steve Trachsel goes for the Birds against Shaun Marcum. Marcum has pitched well this year with a 2.57 ERA in two starts and 16 strikeouts.

The Orioles will have to hit tonight if they want to pick up the two-game sweet of their division rivals.

Orioles SoundOff will be back for more tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


2006 First Year Player Draft Central

Draft Day 2006

It comes with the probably the least fanfare of the four major sports, but there is no draft done at such a feverish pace, and as unpredictable as the Major League Baseball entry draft. The intrigue of the draft has also become more mainstream now, after Michael Lewis' Moneyball brought us a behind the scenes look at the annual affair.We've decided to jump aboard and help create some of the predraft hoopla here on the Internet, as bloggers from around North America, representing teams from around baseball have come together to dissect their team's system, and try to highlite what you might see in the draft.

The list of contributors all run well respected baseball websites. Here's a rundown of who we have in place:

The Royals Corner will give their opinion on the Kansas City Royals
Purple Row provides the analysis for the Colorado Rockies
Tiger Tales will assess the Detroit Tigers most pressing needs.
6-4-2 does a double play and will take a gander at both Los Angeles teams.
The Cincinatti Reds blog will overlook the Reds draft needs
Orioles Sound Off is digging deep to uncover the Orioles draft strategies
D.A. Humber is providing the analysis for the Toronto Blue Jays
The Good Phight is going to dissect the Phillies plan
Aaron Gleeman will be the voice of the Twins
In George We Trust tackles the Yankees system
Talking Chop will look at the Braves draft strategy.
Let's Go Tribe is going to try to figure out what Cleveland will do without a first round pick

Before we get to each contributor's analysis, let's first take a wide overlook at what this draft has to offer.
To put it blunty, at first glance, there isn't much to offer here, especially in regards to high-end talent -- but there are some names to look out for, notably pitching. The consensous around baseball is that there are three (potentially four) big arms: Andrew Miller, Brad Lincoln and Tim Lincecum are all expected to be taken very early, the fourth wild card is Dodger holdout Luke Hochevar who may return to the draft if he's unable to sign with Los Angeles. After these, a lower tier of arms, including the likes of Brandon Morrow, Greg Reynolds or Miller's teammate Daniel Bard are bigger question marks but have a tonne of potential and ability. Other pitchers are plummeting down on team's draft lists for character reasons or signability issues. Teams could find some potential steals with late pickups in the draft, guys like Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, or Kyle Drabek, all have serious red flags on them, but still could become very quality starters in the bigs.But what about the bats? There are a few. Evan Longoria is unquestionably the premier hitter in the draft, but this doesn't mean he's a future allstar. Most scouts see Longoria as Aaron Hill with more power, and in most drafts would be a late first rounder. Due to the fact there really isn't another major league ready bat in the draft, Longoria's worth has been inflated in this draft. There are, however, other bats, with bigger question marks that could make for intruiging picks. Drew Stubbs is regarded as the best "toolsy" player in the draft but scouts remain unconvinced of whether he will posess the ability to hit against big league pitching.There are a few highschoolers that will be wildcards in the draft as well which will spice things up. The aforementioned Kyle Drabek highlites the list, but there are major questions surrounding his attitude. The same can be said of Kasey Kiker. Other highschoolers that will be tempting to some teams are Clayton Kershaw and the fomer number 1 high school prospect in the nation, Jordan Walden.You got all that? There is a bunch of information available about these guys online now, especially with the draft here, so feel free to browse.

But don't go yet, here's the analysis from our draft day team, answering the big questions:

Q : What are your team's positional needs down on the farm? This is considered to be a pitcher heavy draft, does it work in your team's favour?

The Royals Corner : Pitching, pitching, pitching. The Royals have a nice core of position player prospects with Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Justin Huber, Chris Lubanski and Mitch Maier, but the pitching depth is incredibly weak. On one hand, the availability of pitchers in this draft helps, but there are very few standouts, which particularly stinks since the Royals have the first overall pick.

Purple Row : The Rockies biggest positional weaknesses on the farm entering this year were starting pitching and the outfield, as we are strong all around the infield with standout prospects such as Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Joe Koshansky and Chris Nelson to name a few. In the outfield we only have a couple of upper tier prospects in A ball, Matt Miller and Dexter Fowler, with everybody else having too many question marks to be considered in that same class, lucky we have the young Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday already established as it could be awhile before more help arrives.Although several of our starting pitching prospects have had strong starts to the season, our history in this area has been spotty and there is still concern about a few of these, particularly in the upper levels, being better suited to roles out of the bullpen. For that reason, this year's draft strength of pitching, particularly fairly polished college pitching, plays right into one of our key positional weaknesses.

Tiger Tales : The Tigers biggest need in the minors are position players more than pitchers. If I was going to pick one position of greatest need, it might be catcher. They really don't have any top catching prospects. The Tigers like Chris Robinson's defense but he doesn't seem like a great offensive talent. Basically, they need more offense at every position.This doesn't mean that a pitcher heavy draft will hurt them though. You can never ever have too much pitching. Plus, I'm a big believer thatyou should draft the best talent available regardless of position in the early rounds.

6-4-2 : Want to know why the Angels re-signed Darin Erstad and Garret Anderson to expensive long-term contracts even though Erstad had shown scary signs of a significant downturn in production beforehand and Anderson was already on the wrong side of 30? It's the crickets chirping in the Angels' minor league outfields. No disrespect intended to Nick Gorneault, Tommy Murphy, or Reggie Willits, but none of those guys are anything more than fourth outfielders; the Angels need some power outfield bats, or possibly a centerfielder, another position the team has suddenly become deficient in. After their lone first-round pick, though, the Angels have a lot of nothing between them and the third round, so in a draft many observers have already labeled as one of the weakest in recent years, it's very likely to be a lost year for the Angels.The Dodgers, on the other hand, have started to graduate some players to the big club; probably their biggest need will be filling the hole created by the Luke Hochevar non-signing, preferably with a left-hander. But after that, I would expect them to draft a catcher; with Russ Martin up and looking like he's there to stay, the club's depth behind the dish suddenly doesn't look quite as deep. I also wouldn't be surprised if they took a look at a couple corner infield types for similar reasons. The problem for the Dodgers: if the draft is as weak as many say it is, having three first-round picks may not be the blessing you'd hope for.

Cincinatti Reds Blog : The Reds' greatest need at all levels is pitching. The crying need at the major league level is for quality starters in particular, and getting an ace is paramount in everyone's mind. Homer Bailey might be the answer, but he's in A-ball. So yes, a good crop of college pitchers is certainly a good thing for Cincinnati. The secondary need in the organization is catching, and the team will most certainly look to pick up a prospect for behind the plate.

Orioles Sound Off : The most important positions for the Orioles to build on are the corner infield positions. The current Orioles have Melvin Mora, who has a three-year contract coming to him and is getting up in age, to play third and a combination of Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine at first base.The minor leagues don’t help the O’s in those categories either. Currently on the big-league roster is Brandon Fahey who wasn’t even expected to be a big leaguer as a 6’2” 160 pound shortstop but made the club due to his ability to play multiple positions.The Orioles have no top third or first base prospects in the upper levels of their farm system and that could pose a problem in the future.Another position where the Orioles are weak is the entire outfield situation. Jay Gibbons signed a long-term deal to play right field but looks like an excellent DH-of-the-future. Nick Markakis will ultimately play right field for the Orioles, and, at only 26 years old, Corey Patterson is showing signs of being a long-term plan in center field. The minor leagues don’t give the Orioles many other options relating to the outfield so the O’s must build through the draft.

D.A. Humber : The Jays main concern the last couple of years has been beefing up the farm’s pitching, at the expense of drafting hardly any upper tier positional player prospects. Aside from Adam Lind and Ryan Patterson, the farm is dry of anything resembling a future major league hitter. With a weak draft, especially with hitters, the Jays may be forced to wait another year to address their farm’s pressing needs for some hitting. Combine this with the fact the team is without a 2nd and 3rd round pick because of their free agent signings this offseason, the Jays’ work will be cutout for them this year doing good with their 14th overall pick.

The Good Phight : Probably more than any other system I'm aware of, the Phillies are loaded with promising young pitchers-- and almost totally bereft of positional talent. Even after Cole Hamels was promoted last month, the team has four legitimate starting pitcher prospects at AA Reading, led by RHP Scott Mathieson and LHP Gio Gonzalez, and maybe a half-dozen more further down the chain. Recent positional draftees, however, are struggling: 2004 1st Round pick Greg Golson, an OF, is near the mendoza line in A Ball, '05 Second-Rounder Mike Costanzo, a 3B is batting around .230 in High-A, and other notable recent draftees like Tim Moss (2b, 2003, 3rd Round) are scuffling too.They say you can never have too much pitching, but if the Phils are drafting to need rather than best overall talent, the pick should be a third baseman or outfielder. My guess however is that they will draft a pitcher anyway.

Aaron Gleeman : The Twins basically need hitters at every spot but catcher, so a pitcher-heavy draft is definitely not in their favor. Of course, the team almost always loads up on pitchers and has a lot more success developing pitchers, so I doubt they care about the lack of college position players available.

In George We Trust : The Yanks needs quite a few things down in the minors, nothing more than depth behind the plate. Beyond Omir Santos and PJ Pilittere, there's no catchers worth mentioning, and even those 2 are backups at best. The infield needs help too, because both Eric Duncan and Marcos Vechionacci has stalled, and position changes are in the cards for both CJ Henry and Eduardo Nunez.Every team needs pitching and lots of it. The Yanks could certainly benefit from this draft which is overflowing with college arms because it'll give them both good young arms (the best currency come trade deadline time) and talent that isn't far off from the majors.

Talking Chop : I think that the Braves, like most other teams around baseball, tend to take the best available player with their draft picks rather than worry about positions. They have a track record of developing players, and should the need arise, they are willing to trade top prospects to remain contenders. Andy Marte is a prime example.That being said, the organization seems to be well stocked with middle infielders and catching prospects.Shortstop Elvis Andrus (signed as a free agent in January 2005) has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. And Cuban defector Yunel Escobar, who was drafted in the second round last year, possesses a potent bat, excellent physical tools, and very good plate discipline. Escobar may eventually change positions, but for now, the Braves are content with him playing shortstop at AA-Mississippi.Everyone knows about Jarrod Saltalamacchia (aka Salty) behind the plate. Salty is an imposing figure as a switch hitter and possesses a powerful bat. After a strong 2005 season and Arizona Fall League, Salty has struggled so far in AA-Mississippi hitting just .213 with 4 homeruns in 183 at bats. Fortunately for Jarrod, he will be given plenty of time to develop with Brian McCann handling the catching duties in Atlanta.Right now the bullpen happens to be one of Atlanta’s most glaring weaknesses. At the same time, the outfield depth down on the farm is a bit weak. Brandon Jones has shown flashes of greatness, but beyond that, there isn’t a lot of what most would consider major league talent.The Braves, again like most other teams, can always use more pitching. A pitcher heavy draft is always beneficial. The problem is…this is not a deep quality pitching draft.

Let's Go Tribe : The Indians organizational needs right now are middle infielders and catcher. Pitching is an organizational strength right now, so their needs don't mesh with the strength of this year's draft.

Q : Who do you think your club will target with their first pick? Who would you like for them to get?

The Royals Corner : I think it will be one of three guys: Andrew Miller from North Carolina, Brad Lincoln from Houston, or Luke Hochevar if the Royals can work out a pre-draft arrangement with Scott Boras (doubtful). Miller was underwhelming in his start today, although he did pick up the win, so it's really anyone's guess. My preference among those three right now would probably be Lincoln or Hochevar, but I won't be disappointed with any of them.

Purple Row : The last rumors bubbling out of the Rockies camp for the #2 overall pick had them liking Andrew Miller best, with three primary "Plan B" options should KC draft him instead. These were Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum and Brad Lincoln. However, a Luke Hochevar rumor has come up in the last few days that has some surprising wind to it, and I'm beginning to think there will be a good chance that you see his name called in the Rockies spot if they can work out a pre-draft deal. My pick? I like Miller best, and would be excited to see him in a Rockies' uniform, but Hochevar's got the local boycomes home aspect, and we had such good success with LBSU's Tulowitzki that Longoria makes an interesting option that I wouldn't be disappointed with.

Tiger Tales : The names I've heard most often are Drew Stubbs and Clayton Kershaw. Ideally, I would like to see a position player with the first pick. The two top choices would probably be Stubbs or Evan Longoria.

6-4-2 : I don't have a good feel for specific players, though we do know based on the Angels' very productive 2004 draft that they're willing to take risks; if another Boras client bonus situation a la Jered Weaver scares off other teams, we can be sure the Angels will step up to the plate if that player's available. For that reason, it's hard to predict what Eddie Bane will do. Similarly, it's hard to forecast Logan White's picks because of his "take the best player available" philosophy. Unlike some front offices, White isn't dogmatic about picking college or high school players.As far as who I would like those teams to get, as a former CSU Long Beach alumni, for sentimental reasons I wouldn't mind it if Evan Longoria fell to either of those teams, but that's just not gonna happen for the universally-acknowledged best position player in the draft.

Cincinatti Reds Blog : The Reds have announced that they will be focusing on the best available player when they pick, which is always a good strategy. That being said, with all being equal the Reds will go for a high-ceiling pitcher when a decision is to be made. Since there are a number of college pitchers of roughly equal status, it's hard to focus on any one prospect without knowing who will make it through tothe Reds at number 8.

Orioles Sound Off : The Orioles hold the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft and will most likely use that pick on a power hitting corner infielder or outfielder. As far as speculation for who the Orioles will use their pick on, a few names stand out as most teams will use their first round picks on pitchers, the O’s want to focus on the position players of the draft. Two players that are slated to go a little higher than the O’s No. 9 pick but would be highly coveted are also the two highest ranking position players in the draft.Evan Longoria is a natural third baseman out of Long Beach State University who’s stats speak for themselves: .364 batting average, .491 on base percentage, .613 slugging percentage. If Longoria is around at No. 9, fully expect the Birds to grab him. The highest rated outfielder in the draft is University of Texas centerfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs hit .337 with 11 home runs, 48 RBIs and 21 steals for the Longhorns this past year and can play any outfield position. He projects as a centerfielder in the pros but could easily slide into the Orioles vacancy in left field with a solid showing in the minors.The most likely choice for the Orioles, due in part to his impending availability, would be New Jersey high school senior shortstop Bill Rowell. Although a shortstop in high school, the 6’5” 200 lbs. Rowell translates into the prototypical third baseman in the majors. He also reminds some people of the last 6’5” shortstop the Orioles had. Although drafting high school players is always a risky proposition, the Orioles would feel comfortable using their pick on Rowell if the other two collegiate players have already been chosen.

D.A. Humber : As I touched upon, the Jays are in dire need of getting some hitters in their farm system. The team philosophy is drafting college based players, and there doesn’t appear to be any indication that they will deviate from this strategy this year. Looking at players that will probably still be around in the middle of the first round, Matt Antonelli from Wake Forest looks like the type of player that Ricciardi would be most comfortable taking. His athleticism, combined with his great plate discipline and college experience seem like a great fit to the Ricciardi drafting mould. There have been a few rumblings that the team is looking at the falling stock of Matt LaPorta, but I find that without a 2nd and 3rd round pick, I think Ricciardi will play it safe and nab Antonelli.Personally, I'd like for them to address their lack of hitting in next years draft considering this years crop is so poor, and if a guy like Joba Chamberlain falls out of the Top 10 and is available for the Jays at 14, they should take him. I would also be happy to see them take a risk on a guy like Max Scherzer if he is available.
The Good Phight : On The Good Phight, one of our posters announced the results of his participation in a mock draft. His pick was RHP Chris Tillman, a high-schooler. I've also heard the names Matt Antonelli (3B) and Kyle McCulloch (RHP). As I said, my preference would be a College hitter at a position of need -- so probably Antonelli, though I'm no draft expert.

Aaron Gleeman : I would like to see them target major league-ready hitters, which is unfortunately where this draft is particularly weak. Based almost solely on what I've read and heard about each guy, I'd say my targets would be Drew Stubbs, Matt Antonelli, Emmanuel Burriss, Wes Hodges, and Chad Tracy. With that said, I'd be shocked if the Twins ended up with any of those guys simply because of their draft history.

In George We Trust : For their first pick (21st overall), the Yanks will likely do what they've done the past 2-3 years: take the highest ranked available player on their draft board. With the way things are shaping up, they could end up with anyone from Joba Chamberlain to Dellin Betances to Ian Kennedy.Personally, I'm a big Betances fan and would love to see the Yanks go with him at number 21. It's very hard not to like a 6'9" high schooler that already touches the mid-90's. And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's a local kid.

Talking Chop : Atlanta doesn’t pick until #24, but the Braves do have 2 supplemental 1st round picks this year. Trying to determine who they will take that far down is a little tough, but if I had to take an educated guess, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Braves take pitcher Bryan Morris from Motlow State (Tenn.) CC or OF/1B Travis Snider (from Jackson HS in Everett, WA), if he were to fall from his projected mid-teens draft slot. High school pitchers Brent Anderson, Coltem Willems, and Kasey Kiker are all rumored to be favorites of the Braves scouting department as well.Realistically, if it were up to me (and it’s obviously not!), I’d look to the hard throwing North Carolina pitcher Daniel Bard. He’s a big strong kid who isn’t afraid to go after hitters. He’s the type of power pitcher the Braves could really use. I wouldn’t be upset with Bryan Morris either though, and I’d be thrilled if somehow Pedro Beato dropped to 24.

Let's Go Tribe : The Indians don't have a first round pick, but have several picks between picks between the supplemental first round and the supplemental second round. With where they're drafting, I'm fine with them drafting the best player available. All things being equal, though, I'd like to see them draft a college middle infielder in their first few picks. One guy who could be a nice fit for where they're picking is SS Emmanuel Burriss from nearby Kent State.

Q : How would you assess your team's track record of drafting over thelast few years? Are you satistified with the team's scouting and drafting history?

The Royals Corner : The Royals have drafted pretty well in the first round since 2002, but the later rounds have produced little. I'm looking forward to seeing if the new GM Dayton Moore can start to reverse that trend next year.

Purple Row : With the aforementioned Rockies prospects almost all coming from therecent drafts of Bill Schmidt, I would say I'm very happy with the way things have been turning around. This year's surprising Rockies team represents just the first wave of talent coming up in the system, with some really good players yet to appear. Even though a lot of the media attention on the Rockies system is focused on our top notch first round selections ofthe last few years, such as Tulo and Stewart, our real drafting strength has been a little later, in rounds four through twelve where we consistently find at least a couple of overlooked impact prospects. Hawpe, Iannetta, Fowler, Koshansky, and Corey Wimberly are just a few of the players we've found in these slots.Pitching has been a weakness of past drafts, as mostof our best talent in the upper minors has come from international signings and we've had a few upper round selections not pan out as expected. I think with Chaz Roe, Brandon Durden and a couple of other picks, last year's draft might have signalled a change in that trend. I certainly hope so, at least as this year it looks like pitching might be all we can get.

Tiger Tales : The Tiger draft history over the past 25 years has been pretty bad and that's been one of the big reasons for their long drought at the major league level. However, it looks like they may finally have a good player drafting and development staff in place now and things have been better the last few years. Cameron Maybin was an excellent first round pick last year. The year before it was Justin Verlander and he's already paying dividends. Joel Zumaya is another recent pick who is already helping a lot.

6-4-2 : Both clubs have done phenominally well, with both teams' minor league talent appearing in the top 100 prospects in the game and both getting top five system ratings from Baseball America. To say I'm satisfied with how they've done is an understatement, especially lately for the Dodgers, whose player development system fell off the face of the earth; their rookies are coming up and playing very well this year, helping to put to an end the notion that Dodger rookies are all hype.

Cincinatti Reds Blog : The Reds' drafting and development record over the last few years is abysmal. That is a major reason former GM Dan O'Brien was fired, and why Twins assistant Wayne Krivsky was hired this offseason to take his place. Krivsky has been saying all the right things so far and his moves have paid off, so Cincinnati fans are giving him the benefit of the doubt. We hope he can repeat his success with this year's draft.This draft is very important in starting the recovery of the Reds' poor stock of prospects in the minors.

Orioles Sound Off : The Baltimore Orioles have long had largely unsuccessful First-Year Player Drafts. For many years the O’s farm system clubs have been mediocre and the prospects scarce.The Orioles, as of late, have been less futile than in previous years. Yes, 2004 saw Baltimore get spurned by drafting Wade Townsend at No. 8 overall only to have him not sign and reenter the draft the next year. For all those lovers of karma, Townsend blew out his elbow while in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays farm system.The progress the O’s have made in the draft can be best seen by taking a look at the current major league roster. Nick Markakis, chosen No. 7 in the 2003 draft is the Orioles outfielder of the future. Brian Roberts is an all-star second baseman who was chosen with the No. 50 pick by the O’s in 1999. Adam Loewen, the Orioles top choice in 2002 is currently with the big club and recently made his major league debut start against Randy Johnson and the Yankees. He held his own in that start drawing praise from Johnny Damon in the process.

D.A. Humber : The JP Ricciardi regime of scouting has been met with a lot of skepticism in regards to their drafting philosophy. The new scouting objective, run by Canadian Jon Lalond is stiming at times and has deterred the team from sometimes drafting the best talent available at their draft position.The drafting regime has a lot to live up to. When Ricciardi let go of Tom Wilken, he let go of one of the premier scouting directors in the game. Wilken, who now is the director with the Cubs, was a major player behind the Jays’ phenomenal drafting record in the 90s. His drafting still remains a key reason why the Jays are competitive this year with his picks of Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay. He was also responsible for drafting such superstars as Felipe Lopez, Michael Young and Shannon Stewart.With the team's farm system being pretty depleted right now of potentially explosive talent, and the fact that the Jays haven't really drafted a high end talent since the new philosophy was put in place, I'd like to see a bit of flexibility now that the team has more money at their disposal, and the opportunity use it on more risky propositions.

The Good Phight : From 1998 through 2002, the Phils' first-rounders were Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Chase Utley, Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels. Floyd was just demoted, but the other four are on the big-league roster and all playing very well. Further down they selected Jimmy Rollins (2nd Round, 1996), Ryan Howard (5th, 2001), Ryan Madson (9th, 1998) and Geoff Geary (15th, 1998). That's a pretty impressive haul. The problem was that from 2002 on, former GM Ed Wade kept losing picks because of free-agent signings-- none of which got the team over the hump. This year, with a first-round pick and a supplemental from the Mets signing of Billy Wagner, the Phils actually will have three picks in the first 65 selections-- so they will need to find some value with them.

Aaron Gleeman : As with the team in general, the Twins do a fantastic job finding pitching talent and a mediocre job finding hitting talent. They have pumped out great young pitching prospects for a long time already and the pitching depth in the low minors right now is incredibly good. Unfortunately, there might be 2-3 potential impact hitters in the whole organization outside of Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel.

In George We Trust : The Yanks have certainly done a better job of drafting over the last few years, and I think the 2005 draft was their best since 1990, which yielded Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer. They landed 2 first round talents in Henry and Austin Jackson, and stole Alan Horne - a former first rounder himself - in the 11th round. Throw in closer-in-training JB Cox and leadoff man extraordinaire Brett Gardner, and it's nearly impossible to think last year was the Yanks best draft in almost 2 decades.I'm becoming more and more satisfied with the Yanks scouting, especially since they've landed some nice international signees (none better than Mr. Tabata) to make up for the lack of upper round picks in recent years. Dan Oppenheimer is doing well, but it's still a far cry from the Brian Sabean days.

Talking Chop : I don’t know too many people who haven’t been happy with the way the Braves have drafted over the last decade. Roy Clark (Director of Scouting) has done a tremendous job of replenishing the organization with Major League quality talent. All you have to do is look at the “Baby Braves” of 2005. Atlanta promoted nearly 20 first year players and was still able to capture its 14th straight division title. Recent draftees such as Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Kyle Davies, and Saltalamacchia are just a small sample of the type of talent developed within the organization.

Let's Go Tribe : Over the past couple of years, the Indians have drafted much better. Their past first rounders were Trevor Crowe, Jeremy Sowers, Adam Miller, and Brad Snyder. Snyder is struggling at Akron this season,but the other three are doing well, especially Sowers and Crowe. Even 2002 first-rounder Jeremy Guthrie is finally having some success in Buffalo. But they haven't gotten much return on their draft picks since 1996 (with the obvious exception of CC Sabathia) thanks to several bad drafts from 1999-2001.

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