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NL Central MLB Draft Tendencies

by Steve Garrity on Jun. 3, 2010


While Neal Huntington came to Pittsburgh in 2007 from Cleveland, President Frank Coonelly also came that same year from the Major League Baseball offices, where he set the slot recommendations for the draft. Many thought he would continue the Pirates frugal ways and understate the cost for many draft picks. In his first two drafts, if people looked closely, the gallery would appear correct. Huntington went right down to the August 15 mid-night deadline with 2008 first round draft choice, Pedro Alvarez. After some difficulties they eventually settled on a $6.4 million dollar contract with a $6 million dollar bonus. In 2009 the Pirates reached for Boston College catcher, Tony Sanchez, with the fourth overall pick. They settled on a below slot bonus of $2.9 million. However not splurging heavily in the first round has allowed the Pirates to be more aggressive in later rounds. They spent the sixth most in the 2009 draft through the first ten rounds. Huntington and Pittsburgh, not surprisingly have been college heavy. 9 out of 11 picks in the first five rounds in ’08 and ’09 were college players, 4 pitchers and 5 bats. They have also grabbed a college bat with their first pick in the last two drafts. The Pirates have the second overall choice in the 2010 draft and many are unsure what route they will take. There have been whispers that the Pirates are leaning towards going against the safe route with their first choice. Neal Huntington has the chance to change some peoples' minds in Pittsburgh and prove he is not afraid to take the best player available consistently. With high school shortstop Manny Machado the consensus number two prospect in the draft, he might be a good prediction.



While in control of the Brewers, Doug Melvin has not leaned heavily in one direction in terms of college or high school talent. In fact, in the seven drafts that Melvin has overseen, Milwaukee has alternated between college and high school players with their first pick each year. In the earlier part of his tenure, within the specific types of players, they leaned more towards the bats in college and the arms in high school. They continued to mix it up with seventeen picks in the last two years, taking nine arms, five from the college ranks such as 2009 first round pick Eric Arnett, and eight bats, four from the high school level such as 2008 first round pick, Brett Lawrie. The Brewers, like the Pirates stay within slot recommendations, (Lawrie $1.7 million at #16 overall and Arnett $1.197 million at #26 overall) and are aggressive later in the drafts. For example they gave high school pitcher Steven Hall, who was a 2009 fourth round choice, an above slot $700,000 bonus. The Brewers have the fourteenth pick in the draft this year, and in a class where prep pitching may be its strength, I expect Milwaukee to take one the high school hurlers. However if a top college bat like Bryce Brentz or Zack Cox is still available, it wouldn’t shock me to see them go in that direction as well.



General Manager, Walt Jocketty, came over from the St.Louis Cardinals in 2007 after almost thirteen years with the team. And with him came the philosophy to go very heavily after college players, especially pitching. In his first two drafts with the Reds he grabbed seven college players with the first ten picks, five of which were pitchers. These players included Mike Leake and Brad Boxberger in 2009 and first-basemen Yonder Alonso in 2008. Jocketty has not usually been a huge spender in the draft, staying within slot and reaching some to get an easier sign, like he did with Alonso with the seventh overall pick giving him a below slot $2 million bonus. The 2009 draft wasn’t much different, with the Reds being in the middle of the pack in terms of spending in the first ten rounds, while giving 1st round 8th pick Mike Leake a slotted bonus of $2.27 million. Cincinnati has the 12th overall pick this year and with some of the top college arms still expected to be available, I predict the Reds to keep going down that route.



In General Manager Jim Hendry’s first few drafts with the Cubs, he had an approach similar to the Brewers and did not show a strong preference towards either college or high school players. Unfortunately the Cubs mirrored another team, the Mets, as spending at the Major League level cost them several early round draft picks. In 2003 they did not have a second or third round pick, in ’04 they lost their first round pick, and in 2006 they did not have their second, third or fourth round picks. When the team was put up for sale in 2007 and finally put under new ownership, spending was curbed a little and the drafts were better for it. In the last three drafts Chicago has had sixteen picks in the first five rounds. They have also leaned more towards college talent early, using twelve of those picks for collegiate players, including 2008 first round pick pitcher Andrew Cashner and 2009 first rounder outfielder Brett Jackson. Under new ownership the Cubs have also kept bonuses within slot recommendations, which have allowed them to spend when needed in later rounds like with 2008 fourth rounder, Matt Cerda receiving a $500,000.00 bonus. Chicago has the sixteenth pick in this year's draft and I predict they will go with one of the easier to sign, more major league ready players, such as shortstop Christian Colon. By doing so it would allow them to take some risks in the later rounds.



General Manager, Ed Wade, couldn’t afford to bring his philosophy of exceeding slot from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Astros. The Astros operate like a small market team and Wade has done the same when it comes to the draft. He has not been a big spender in his first two drafts with Houston, a rare exception was 2008 third rounder pitcher Ross Seaton who got a $700,000.00 bonus. However, the Astros failed to sign their other third rounder that year, Charles Davidson. In the early rounds, Wade and the Astros have reached for players, looking for the easier to sign players such as 2008 tenth overall pick catcher Jason Castro, supplemental first round pitcher Jordan Lyles (few who thought should have been an early round pick), and 2009 first round pick shortstop Jiovanni Mier. With fourteen picks in the first five rounds of Wade’s two years at the helm, the Astros have leaned slightly in favor of high school players, with bats getting the 5-3 edge. The Astros have the eighth overall pick this year and with the Royals, Indians and possibly the Mets, picking before them and leaning towards collegiate talent, there could be some of the top prep talent still available. Don’t rule out a possible reach at this spot in the draft, like Justin O’Connor or Josh Sale.





John Mozelinek, is the only other General Manager in the NL Central who has never held the position before 2007 when he took over for Walt Jocketty after the World Series. In his first two drafts in charge he kept Jocketty’s philosophy intact. The Cardinals, like the Reds, are an extremely college heavy team in the draft, using picks on bats in 2008 and 2009 for first round first basemen Brett Wallace and first round catcher Robert Stock respectively. In 2008 and 2009 the Cards had 21 picks in the first ten rounds and 17 were used on college players, 10 of which were bats. The Cardinals are also not huge spenders in the draft, and try to stay within recommendations. The exception under Mozelinek is 2009 first round pick, pitcher Shelby Miller, who received an above slot $2.9 million dollar bonus as the 19th overall pick. The Cardinals have the 25th overall pick this year and should find a player that will fit perfectly into their philosophy.