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NL East MLB Draft Tendencies

by Steve Garrity on May. 30, 2010


Under General Manager Jim Bowden and his successor Mike Rizzo the Washington Nationals have not been as conservative many might think they are. Bowden and Rizzo have not shied away towards taking the big name or the best player available with their early round picks. Earlier in Bowden’s tenure the Nationals went after a few high school bats such as Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess with some of their first round picks. However in the last three years, Washington has grabbed a college pitcher with their first pick, taking Ross Detwiler, Aaron Crow and Stephen Strasburg. Not signing 2008 first round pick Aaron Crow may have given the impression that the Nationals do not like to exceed slot recommendations or spend big, but in that same draft they gave second rounder, outfielder Destin Hood an above slot $1.1 million dollar bonus. In the draft the very next year, the first under Mike Rizzo, the Washington Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg with the number one overall pick and gave him a draft record $15.1 million dollar contract with a $7.5 million dollar bonus. Due to the fact that they did not sign Aaron Crow, they received the tenth pick in the same draft and picked pitcher Drew Storen, giving him a $1.6 million dollar bonus. The first draft under Rizzo has definitely paid off early as Storen has already made it to the majors and Strasburg is expected to make his debut in June. The Washington Nationals have the number one overall pick again this year and junior college catcher, Bryce Harper, has all but been guaranteed to be the top pick. There are also talks that Harper may take the bonus record from Strasburg. It could be back to back hauls in the draft for Mike Rizzo.



As a big money team it is surprising to see how conservative the Mets approach to the draft has been. Since General Manager Omar Minaya has taken over, New York has leaned heavily towards college talent especially pitching in the early rounds of the draft. However recently, college bats have been the target such as first-basemen Ike Davis and Beau Mills. For the first four years of Omar Minaya’ tenure, the Mets had taken a college player with their first pick of the draft. However the signing of free agents at the Major League level has cost the New York Mets heavily in terms of actually having early round picks. In 2006, 2007 and 2009 the Mets did not have a first round pick and in 2005 lost their second and third round picks. Combined with ownership's stand to rarely exceed slot recommendations (a rare exception was in 2009 when New York gave second rounder, Steven Mitz an above slot $895,000 dollar bonus), the Mets have not gone after the big names much and have leaned more heavily towards signing international free agents such as RHP Jerry Mejia, who is one of New York’s top prospects. The Mets signed free agent Jason Bay in the off-season, but due to the fact that they finished in the bottom 15 in the Majors, their first round pick (#7) is protected and they will have to forfeit their second round pick. The Mets are in an odd spot this year, as they have been predicted to go in a number of different directions and after a number of different players. I predict they will take one of the top college arms or bats off the board.



Frank Wren took over the General Manager position from John Schuerholz in 2007. Under Schuerholz the Braves built one of the better farm systems in baseball with picks like Jason Heyward, Jeff Francouer and Adam Wainwright, leaned often towards local high school bats. Under Frank Wren the system has been somewhat gutted with trades for players like Nate McClouth, Adam Laroche and Javier Vazquez. Wren also has had a more conservative approach to the draft than Schuerholz leaning in the direction of college talent and has been heavy on the pitching in the early rounds. He has also chosen to not go above the slot recommendations. Many thought that Atlanta’s 2009 draft had been sub-par, but first round pick pitcher Mike Minor is looking like he will move through the system very nicely. Wren may not be off to the best of starts as Atlanta’s General Manager, but the Braves are steadily improving at the Major League level. Even though it has only been two drafts, it seems that Wren enjoys the safety and probability of college talent. The Braves do not pick until the supplemental first round at #35, and I suspect the Braves will grab a college player with their first pick.



Larry Beinfest took over the Marlins in 2002 and has pretty much done it all for Florida. He brought them a World Series Championship in 2003, won executive of the year, and has built a very good farm system. Beinfest and the Marlins have mixed it up early in the draft taking both pitching and hitting talent from 2002-2007. They have had 36 picks in the first five rounds and have taken 16 pitchers and 20 bats, such as 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan in 2006 and top prospect Mike Stanton in 07. With the exception of 2004 and 2006, the Marlins have leaned towards upside high school talent having taken a prep player with their first pick in the draft from 2002-2009 taking top prospects such as third-basemen Matt Dominguez (’07), catcher Kyle Skipworth (’08) and pitcher Chad James in (’09). Catching is a position Florida addresses often in the draft, having selected eight catchers in the first five rounds from 2002-2009 including the #6 overall Skipworth in 2008. The Marlins are also known to be a frugal team and do not like to exceed slot recommendations to sign picks, although they give their first round picks fair bonuses. Florida is a team that builds itself through trades and more importantly through the draft. Their first pick in 2010 comes with the 23rd overall pick and I would look for the Marlins to take one of the top high school talents.



Pat Gillick’s run as the General Manager for Philadelphia was short but sweet. He brought the Phillies their first World Series Championship since 1980 and, as has done at every other one of his stops, helped turn the organization around and build up their farm systems. Assistant GM, Ruben Amaro worked closely with Gillick and was involved in many of the decisions regarding player movement. Thus, when Gillick stepped down at the end of 2008, Amaro was promoted to the position of General Manager and did not miss a beat. He lead the Phillies back to the World Series and along the way used Philidelphia’s strong system to make big trades for pitchers Cliff Lee in 2009 and Roy Halladay in 2010. While those trades gutted the system, strong drafts from Philadelphia have kept some of the value intact. The Phillies love to go after the top athletic players available, mostly high school players like pitcher Kyle Drabek in 2006, as well as outfielders Michael Taylor in 2007 and Anthony Gose in 2008 all of which are their top prospects. The Phillies did not have a first round pick in 2009 due to the signing of Raul Ibanez but Amaro kept Gillick's philosophy towards the draft intact and in his first go around in 2009 using his first two picks (rounds 2 and 3) on Kelly Dugan and Kyrell Hudson, who were both high school bats and both centerfielders. Those picks showed the Phillies once again leaned towards the more athletic players. Their top pick is at #27 and some of the top two way talent and more athletic players in the draft will still be available. Look for Philadelphia to continue their strategy to find the next big player in 2010.