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AL Central MLB Draft Tendencies

by Steve Garrity on May. 22, 2010


Many have questioned the moves of Royals General Manager Dayton Moore at the major league level. However, no one can question the success he has had in the draft recently. Under Moore' watch Kansas City has mostly gone after upside when selecting bats and so far seem to have been spot on with most of their picks. In the last three drafts they have selected top prospects Mike Moustakas ('07), Eric Hosmer ('08) and William Myers ('09). On the other hand, when it comes to pitching the Royals will go after the top arms regardless of level. With this approach the Royals have built quite a stable in the minor leagues with Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery (best prospect in the Royals system), and Tim Melville. Over the last few drafts, Kansas City has also had no problem spending big money to sign top talent. Hosmer, the number three pick in the 2008 draft signed a $6 million dollar contract, and Melville, their fourth round pick that year, was given a $1.25 million dollar bonus. In 2009, the Royals had three picks in the first four rounds and all three received a bonus of at least a $1.45 million dollar bonus, including RHP Crow, C Myers and Chris Dwyer. Dayton Moore has rebuilt Kansas City’s farm system through the draft. However this year’s group is somewhat short on real difference making players. With that thinking in mind, it has been reported that the Royals may be looking to save up for next year's stronger draft and could reach somewhat to make a safe pick this year. Which is similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates money saving approach in 2009, when they selected Tony Sanchez fourth overall.



Eight drafts have come and gone since Mark Shapiro replaced John Hart as Cleveland’s General Manager. With the first pick in each of those drafts the Indians have selected a college player. Cleveland tends to play it a little safe in the draft by going after college talent, mostly hitters. However, unlike other teams that target college players the Indians are not afraid to spend to sign their talent. They usually do not go over slot by much, but if they have to, they will. For instance, in 2006 second round pick, Wes Hodges received a higher bonus ($1.1 million) than first round pick, David Huff ($900,000.00). With this strategy the Indians have picked up many solid prospects, but in 2008 and 09 they selected 2B Lonnie Chisenhall, RHP Alex White and OF Jason Kipnis, all three whom are currently ranked in the top ten prospects for Cleveland. Chisenhall is ranked the highest at #2 and could be a real offensive difference maker for the Indians in the future. The Indians have been successful with their approach to the draft. With a top 5 pick this year, I would be shocked if they didn’t take one of the top college arms or bats off the board.



With Kenny Williams at the helm, the White Sox have probably had the most conservative approach to the draft of any team in baseball. Unfortunately though, this strategy has not served them well. Due to poor drafts and a lack of taking chances on more talented but pricier players, Chicago has one of the worst farm systems. The Sox lean heavily towards college players especially pitchers. Since 2001 the White Sox have taken a college player in the first round every year. And with 52 possible picks in the first five rounds from 2001 to 2009, the White Sox have taken 34 college players, 22 of which have been pitchers. Chicago is also one of the more frugal teams when it comes to the draft. Outside of 2008 when they gave top pick Gordon Beckham a $2.6 million dollar bonus, they have tried to stay at or below the recommendations for most of their picks. Chicago's philosophy is easy to predict and one of the more closed minded ones, which leads me to believe this strategy probably won’t come to an end anytime soon.



For Detroit the approach towards the draft begins and ends with Pitching. The Tigers are always looking for the top arms available. In the last three years, of Detroit’s sixteen picks in the top five rounds, they selected thirteen pitchers. They tend to lean ever so slightly towards college talent, as eight of those picks were from the collegiate ranks. Tigers General Manager, Dave Dombrowski also does not have a problem spending to sign top talent, especially talent that falls to later rounds. In the 2009 draft alone the Tigers went above slot with each of their first two picks. High school right hander, Jacob Turner was selected with the ninth pick in the draft and signed a $5.5 million dollar big league contract; $4.7 million was the bonus making it the largest bonus ever given to a high school pitcher. With their second pick the Tigers selected Oklahoma State LHP, Andrew Oliver and gave him a $1.495 million dollar contract. Turner is now Detroit’s number one ranked prospect and Oliver is not far behind ranked in the top 5. Like the Indians, the Tigers have had success with their approach and it doesn’t look like they will be changing anytime soon. They do not have a pick until the supplemental first round at #44, but they can still grab a solid arm in that range.



Terry Ryan, the long time General Manager of the Twins had an approach to the draft that kept bonuses within slot recommendation and favored high school talent. His successor Bill Smith has tried to keep that same approach after being handed the reigns in 2007. Minnesota has always been a team that has favored toolsy, up-the-middle, athletic, skill position players. In the 2007 and 2008 drafts the twins grabbed two athletic outfielders in Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks. Revere was a slight reach pick who received the lowest bonus of any first rounder that year at $750,000. However he brought the skills the Twins looked for in their position players; speed and athleticism. In Hicks, the Twins number one prospect, they grabbed a potential five-tool talent who could be a game changing bat and offer plus athleticism. In the last two drafts however, the Twins seemed to be looking for pitching, particularly college pitching, to restock the farm system. With thirteen picks in the top five rounds of the 2008 and 09 drafts Minnesota has selected seven pitchers all from the collegiate ranks. Included in that group is one of Minnesota’s top prospects, 2009 first round selection Kyle Gibson. In a draft with possibly a few hidden gems that could be had for cheap, this year could be right in Minnesota’s wheel house.