By JAY LeBLANC
As teams begin the process of trying to sign their picks from Thursday’s 2008 draft, let’s take a look back at the top 10 selections from last year’s draft - held exactly one year ago today - and see what kind of progress they’re making so far:
No. 1: David Price, LHP, Rays
The 6‘6” lefty out of Vanderbilt signed too late to make his pro debut last season and suffered an elbow strain this spring that kept him out of action until May 22. Since then, Price has only added to the hype by tossing 18 straight scoreless innings for the advanced Class A Vero Beach Devil Rays while striking out 19 batters and walking just two. Price was considered a very advanced pitcher when he was drafted and there’s speculation he could make his big league debut by the end of the summer if he keeps up his current pace and his elbow issues don’t resurface.
No. 2: Mike Moustakas, SS, Royals
Drafted out of high school, Moustakas got his feet wet last summer with the Pioneer League‘s Idaho Falls Chukars, hitting .293 in 41 at bats but failing to go deep after setting the California high school single-season and career home run marks. Moustakas is now playing for the Class A Burlington Bees and after a terrible April in which he hit just .190 with a single jack and four RBI, he turned it on in May and is now hitting .237 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI on the season. He’s still a few years away from making a big league impact.
No. 3: Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs
Vitters, another high school infielder from California, struggled mightily in his pro debut last summer, hitting just .118 in 51 at-bats with the Arizona League Cubs and the short-season Class A Boise Hawks. Assigned to play for the Peoria Chiefs and manager Ryne Sandberg this season, Vitters played just four games and went 3-for-14 with three doubles before injuring his left wrist on a swing. He was sent to extended spring training to rehabilitate his injury and has yet to return to action. Like Moustakas, he’s at least a few years away.
No. 4: Daniel Moskos, LHP, Pirates
Moskos was primarily a reliever at Clemson but became the team’s Friday starter out of need last season and impressed the Pirates enough that they took him fourth overall in what was considered by some to be a reach. He was used as a reliever in his pro debut last season but is now starting for the Pirates advanced Class A Carolina League affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats. He’s been a bit inconsistent so far and is currently 4-3 with a 4.66 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 56 innings. The Pirates will probably move him quickly if they think he can handle it.
No. 5: Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
The switch-hitting catcher out of Georgia Tech was considered the top positional player in last year’s draft but scared some teams away with his contract demands. Baltimore signed him just before the Aug. 15 deadline, and so far this season Wieters definitely looks like he’s worth the $6 million signing bonus the team gave him. Playing for the advanced Class A Frederick Keys, Wieters is hitting .337 with 33 RBI and leads the Carolina League with 12 home runs. At 6‘5”, he’s considered tall for a backstop, but he’s been impressive behind the dish as well. A promotion to double-A looks imminent, and he could be in the majors by the end of the season.
No. 6: Ross Detwiler, LHP, Nationals
The lanky lefty out of Missouri State pitched well enough in his pro debut last summer (2-2, 3.51 ERA in 33 1/3 innings) that the Nationals called him up from the advanced Class A Potomac Nationals in September. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Braves in his only appearance, becoming the first member of his draft class to appear in the majors. He’s back at Potomac this season and while he’s flashed his potential by striking out 54 in 50 innings, he’s also struggled with command, walking 28 batters. He’s currently 4-3 with a 5.76 ERA and likely won’t be back in Washington this season unless he gets his command issues straightened out.
No. 7: Matt LaPorta, OF, Brewers
LaPorta played first base at Florida but the Brewers liked his bat too much to pass on him even though they’ve got Prince Fielder, and it’s easy to see why. LaPorta kicked off his pro career by slugging 12 home runs in 115 at bats between Rookie ball and single-A last season, and is hitting .294 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI so far in 2008 with the double-A Huntsville Stars. The only negatives are his below average outfield defense, which was expected, and the fact that he’s struck out 45 times in 221 at-bats. He could make his big league debut this summer.
No. 8: Casey Weathers, RHP, Rockies
Weathers, who played at Vanderbilt, was considered by many to be the top reliever in college baseball in 2007. He struck out 21 single-A batters in 14 2/3 innings in his pro debut last summer and has been lights out so far this season as a member of the double-A Tulsa Drillers. Weathers is sporting a 1.96 ERA through his first 23 innings and has struck out 25 batters, though he has walked 13. Opposing batters are hitting just .171 off him. The Rockies don’t look like contenders, so Weathers might not be rushed even though he looks close to ready.
No. 9: Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks
The D-Backs saw a potential future front-line starter when they drafted the high school righty, and so far in 2008 the 6‘1”, 180 lb. Parker has looked the part. Pitching for the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Class A Midwest League, he’s currently 4-3 with a 2.72 ERA and 34 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 39 2/3 innings - impressive numbers for a 19-year-old in a competitive circuit. He’s young so the Diamondbacks will be patient with him, but Parker appears to be a very polished pitcher for his age.
No. 10: Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
Bumgarner, a 6‘4” high school lefty, had scouts drooling during his senior season with his projectable frame and plus velocity. Viewed by some teams as somewhat of a project, Bumgarner instead looks like one of the more advanced 18-year-old pitchers you’ll ever see. Pitching for the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, he’s currently 5-2 with a 2.20 ERA, and he’s struck out an impressive 64 batters while walking only 10 over 57 1/3 innings. You’d think the Giants would be inclined to be patient with him given his age, but he may leave them no choice if he continues to dominate single-A competition.
Which of these players will be the best major leaguer? How about the biggest bust? Have you seen any of them play? Leave a comment in the field below and let us know.