Scouts: D-backs had best Draft haul
Blue Jays, Rays, Padres, Red Sox also made wise selections
All 50 rounds and 1,530 picks are now in the books for the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. For each of the 30 teams, the clock starts for getting the players who were selected over the past three days signed.
That, of course, will be step one in determining who had the strongest Drafts in 2011. Step two will come a few years from now, after this crop has been given time to develop and make it to the big leagues. That's when the real evaluation will take place.
Still, there certainly are immediate opinions formed about who seemed to do well in this Draft. With the understanding that this was just an "on paper" evaluation, scouts were asked which teams were getting buzz for having done well in potentially adding talent to their systems. Taking a variety of responses into account, here is what the general consensus among those polled said.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Getting Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley at Nos. 3 and 7, respectively, would be enough to give Arizona a nice bounty, but it was far from done. The D-backs got two more Top 50 guys in the supplemental first round and second round in Andrew Chafin and Anthony Meo, a pair of college starters who could always be shortened up to be quick-to-the-bigs relievers. Add in third-rounder Justin Bianco, a high school outfielder from the Pittsburgh area, and Kansas State reliever Evan Marshall in the fourth, and Arizona broke out of the gate with six players all of whom one scout said would play in the big leagues. If a hurt Kyle Winkler (10th round) can come back and stay healthy, even if in a relief role, that just adds to the bounty.
2. Toronto Blue Jays: While the Rays (see below) got most of the attention for having 10 of the first 60 picks, the Blue Jays were very busy as well and scouts were giving them kudos for doing very well, starting with those seven picks in the first two rounds. Toronto was very aggressive, going after high-ceiling high school arms early, seemingly without worrying about signability. In first-rounder Tyler Beede and supplemental pick Kevin Comer, the Blue Jays selected two of Vanderbilt's top pitching recruits, both of whom could be tough signs, but both with outstanding futures. Add in some interesting young outfielders -- high schoolers Jacob Anderson and Dwight Smith Jr. -- and even more projectable arms (Joe Musgrove, Jeremy Gabryszwski) and Toronto had one of the more exciting hauls in the early going. Getting an injured John Stilson, the Texas A&M right-hander who would have been a first rounder if healthy, in the third, and a power arm like Anthony DeSclafani in the sixth should have people excited about the future of the Blue Jays' pitching staff, should they get everyone signed.
3. Tampa Bay Rays: It's hard not to have a good Draft when you pick 10 times in the first 60. As one scout said well before the Draft, everyone knew who would have the best Draft even before it happened. They may not be No. 1 -- some scouts felt they were a little conservative with all of those picks, though they admitted budget may have figured into it -- but the haul the Rays brought in should help add to an already-deep system. It may be best at the top, with their first two picks being players the Rays may have not thought would be there for them. Taylor Guerrieri was one of the better high school arms in the class, with a great pitcher's body and the ability to get his fastball up to the upper 90s. Then Tampa Bay was able to nab Mike Mahtook at No. 31. The LSU outfielder was one of the better college hitters in a weak class and most thought he'd be gone long before the Rays' selection.
4. San Diego Padres: The Padres had five Day 1 selections, and while they were fairly aggressive there, it might be their selection in the second round that lands them on this list. San Diego was initially hoping Cory Spangenberg would be there for them at No. 25, but when some of the high school bats they liked were taken in front of them, they reached a bit to take Spangenberg's bat. Then they picked up a pair of projectable high school right-handers in Joe Ross and Michael Kelly, who have plenty of arm strength. Then, to kick off the second day of drafting, they took a shot in taking high school catcher Austin Hedges. Scouts rave about his defensive ability across the board and feel that he'll be an everyday catcher even if he doesn't hit that much. If the bat progresses more than expected, he's got All-Star potential. Getting signed will be the first order of business, as most felt it would be tough due to his strong commitment to UCLA.
5. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox had four picks on the first day, and while they typically have been aggressive in pursuing tough signs later, they didn't wait around this year. After being pleasantly surprised by seeing UConn's Matt Barnes be there for them at No. 19, they took a shot at high school bat Blake Swihart at No. 26. While it remains to be seen what position he plays -- he's shown some good things behind the plate, but may not stay there -- he was high on many Draft rankings because of his bat. He's a switch-hitter who should hit for average and power, and the Red Sox could either take their time in developing him as a catcher or move him so his bat could move faster. They'll have to sign him away from his University of Texas commitment, of course. Boston followed up that pick in the sandwich round by getting big high-school lefty Henry Owens, who was in many first-round conversations for much of the spring.
Others being mentioned: Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates.