The Washington Times - September 11, 2008, 12:36PM

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September 12, 2008


Five years seems long enough to wait before you evaluate a draft. I was watching the Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays game the other night and when Delmon Young‘s name was mentioned, it got me thinking. Young was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 2003 Amateur Draft; what became of the rest of the 2003 first-rounders? So, faster than Tara Reid’s career faded away, I started researching. It turned out to be a lot of fun, so I am going to break down that year’s first round over the next few weeks. This week I’ll focus on the seven top-10 picks that have made the major leagues and update the whereabouts of the three who have yet to make it to “The Show.”

No. 1: Delmon Young, OF, Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays

Young has had some attitude issues in the past, which is part of the reason he’s now a member of the Minnesota Twins. The runner-up to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia in the 2007 A.L. Rookie of the Year voting, he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, which was thought to be that of an Albert Belle, the troubled slugger for the Cleveland Indians once upon a time. He has yet to show the power that Belle had, but he’s hitting a respectable .286 this season in his new surroundings. The jury’s still out on Young but if he can focus on his career and keep his attitude in check, he still could turn into a 30-30 threat.

No. 2: Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers had the No. 2 pick in 2003 and used it on Weeks, a speedy middle infielder from Southern University who led NCAA Division 1 in batting average that spring. Weeks had a cup of coffee with the major league club that year before spending the next season in the minors. He burst onto the major league scene in 2005 and has been a major piece in the Milwaukee rebuilding process. However, Weeks’ main contributions thus far have come with his glove and legs rather than from his bat. He needs five more home runs this season to eclipse his career high of 16 and already has a career-best 40 RBI to go along with 18 stolen bases. He might get his first taste of postseason baseball this year for the Brew Crew, which has the inside track on the N.L. Wild Card spot.   

No. 4: Tim Stauffer, SP, San Diego Padres

There’s only one way to describe Stauffer: Bust. Taken third overall by the Padres out of the University of Richmond, Stauffer is 4-7 with a 6.37 ERA in 94 2/3 major league innings. He gave up 11 earned runs in his last big league appearance in 2007 and missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Perhaps his most notable moment in his baseball past came during the summer of 2002, when he was a member of the Chatham A’s in the Cape Cod Baseball League and was one of the featured players in the book, “The Last Best League: One Summer, One Season, One Dream,” by Jim Collins.

No. 7: Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles got themselves a true five-tool player when they took Markakis with the seventh overall pick out of little known Young Harris College, for whom he not only hit .439 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI but also posted a 12-0 mark with a 1.68 ERA and a save on the mound. Some teams were interested in Markakis as a left-handed pitcher but Baltimore wanted his bat in the lineup, and it’s starting to pay major dividends. His numbers have slipped a little this season after he posted career highs of 23 homers and 112 RBI in 2007, but he’s still on pace to finish with similar numbers and will benefit greatly when the Orioles surround him with some other young talent. Any way you slice it, Markakis is a budding star and should be roaming the outfield grass at Camden Yards for three more seasons until he’s eligible to become a free agent - and hopefully for O’s fans, much longer.

No. 8: Paul Maholm, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

The crafty left hander made a big splash in the majors, hurling eight shutout innings in his debut and going on to a 3-1 record in 12 games in 2005. The success didn’t last. The Mississippi State graduate has since posted two losing seasons - along with his ballclub - and is hovering at the .500 mark this season at 8-8. On the bright side, his ERA stands at a respectable 3.74 this season after exceeding 5.00 in 2006 and nearing it in 2007. Like Young, Maholm might benefit from a change in scenery … not to mention a lineup capable of providing him with some run support.

No. 9: John Danks, SP, Texas Rangers

Texas may have given up on this young lefty a little too soon. The Rangers dealt the ninth overall pick in 2003 to the Chicago White Sox as part of a package to land Brandon McCarthy before the 2007 season. It hasn’t worked out so well for Texas, as McCarthy has struggled with injuries, but Danks has developed into a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter on the south side of Chicago. He is currently 10-8 with a respectable 3.44 ERA this season for the first-place ChiSox. The White Sox are optimistic that Danks will be part of their rotation for years to come.

No. 10: Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Stewart is just starting to make his mark in the Mile High city. After starting the year in triple-A and slugging 19 homers in 69 games, he has hit 9 home runs and knocked in 40 runs in 213 at-bats this season in his first extended look with the Rockies. The slick-fielding Stewart has just one error in two seasons and has split time between second and third this year. Stewart has only 100 games under his belt at the major league level thus far, but projects to be a solid infielder in the major leagues for another decade.

Three selections have yet to - and may never - make a big-league impact for various reasons:

No. 3: Kyle Sleeth, SP, Detroit Tigers

Sleeth was the top pitching prospect in the nation after he went undefeated as a sophomore at Wake Forest. He returned to school for his junior year and tied the school record for consecutive wins with 26, then went third overall in the MLB draft. Sleeth never realized his vast potential, however, as the hard throwing righty had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and retired from baseball in March. He went 12-21 with a 6.32 ERA in career minor league games, peaking in double-A.

No. 5: Chris Lubanski, OF, Kansas City Royals

Lubanski is in triple-A and still just 23 so it’s too early to completely write him off, but the Royals are likely running out of patience while waiting for him to find the power he showed in high school and advanced Class A in his second full professional season. The left-handed hitter smacked 28 homers and drove in 116 runs in 2005 but has yet to repeat that success at higher levels. He spent most of the last two seasons at triple-A Omaha but has yet to get his chance at the big league level. That’s probably due to his sky high strikeout rate, as he whiffed in 129 of his 392 at-bats this season.

No. 6: Ryan Harvey, OF, Chicago Cubs

So far, Harvey’s claim to fame is belting four home runs in a single game as a member of the advanced Class A Daytona Cubs in 2006. He is the only player ever to accomplish the feat in the Florida State League. Unfortunately for the 6’ 5”, 240-pound slugger and the Cubs, he has not had much success since then. He turned in a team low .228 batting average this season for Daytona and hit just .216 in 111 double-A at bats, and he struck out 114 times in 313 at bats between the two levels. He has yet to earn a promotion above the AA level in the Cubs’ farm system, and unless he develops a more efficient approach at the plate, he never will.

Next week I’ll take a look at picks 11 through 20. Trust me when I tell you it’s a column you won’t want to miss. There are some gems, some great stories and as always, some busts.

Tom Stad’s Amateur Hour runs every Friday here on National Pastime.

Be sure to check out our previous Amateur Hour columns: To sign or not to sign?, Summer on Cape Cod, USA Baseball, etc., Team USA; Cape stars, Stars shine on Cape, Olympics preview, Will top picks sign?, NY’s loss UCLA’s gain, Olympics wrap-up, The Alvarez saga.