And the Top Five Baseball Draft Picks Will Be...

Apr 24, 2008 at 12:59 pm

With the NFL Draft coming up this weekend, and all the surprises seemingly gone from the top teams, let's look ahead to baseball.

But first, on the Cardinals game last night: I'll sum up last night's game very succinctly. The offense jumped on Ian Snell early, and then went to sleep. Anthony Reyes didn't pitch very well, and his defense let him down. That's about it. When you lose to the Pirates, there's not a whole lot productive to say. So I won't.

It's almost May, and all of the baseball sites are putting up their mock drafts for June. A couple of good ones to check out:

Future Redbirds- Cardinal-centric.

Saber Scouting- one of the best new scouting sites on the web; check it out.

Both have gone up in just the last couple of days, and are great reads.

So, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. I'm actually a draft junkie, and not just in baseball. I'm only a casual football fan; if the Rams aren't good, I don't particularly follow the sport that closely. However, I can tell you damn near everything about the draft and what each team's needs are, even when I haven't exactly, you know, ''heard'' of the team in question. It's very strange.

Here are my first fifteen picks in June. I'm only doing the first fifteen because it becomes incredibly complex the further you go, and is almost never at all accurate at that point. Also, that's far enough to get to the Cardinals, and that's what I most care about. I'm going to do five picks at a time; otherwise the column would quickly become completely unwieldy. It probably will be anyway; let's not shit ourselves here.

I've tried to take into account things like the team in question's drafting patterns and history; I also look at their system to see where they may be strong or unusually thin. It's as thorough as I am with anything in life; sad but true.

Anyway, on to the crystal ball…

1. Tampa Bay Rays Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin High School, Griffin, Georgia This is a fairly easy one, really. Beckham is the best prep player in the draft. The Rays love drafting athletes; guys like Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Elijah Dukes, and B.J. Upton are the exact type of players they go for. Beckham is absolutely loaded with tools; he's essentially another Upton brother.

There was originally some thought that the Rays would take Pedro Alvarez, the overall best bet in the draft, but they appear to be set at both third and first base in the foreseeable future, and Beckham fits their profile better anyway. I think this one's a slam dunk here.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates Pedro Alvarez, 3b/1b, Vanderbilt University Alvarez is, by most accounts, the best player in the draft this year. There was some concern about his stock falling early in the spring, when he broke a bone in his hand, but he's returned from that healthy and productive.

Pittsburgh has gained a reputation the last few years for being cheap in the draft; a notion reinforced by last year's pick of Daniel Moskos, a college closer and easy sign, at four overall. The Pirates now have a new General Manager in Frank Coonelly, the man who actually designed the MLB slotting system for paying draft picks. This is a team looking to turn around a pervasive culture of losing, and show their fan base that they're committed to improving the product on the field. Taking the best overall player, with some definite name recognition, and one of the safest bets, without the fears of physical breakdown that have plagued the Pirates' recent pitching draftees. The Pirates take Alvarez, I think, and pay the piper, who happens to be, in this case, Scott Boras.

3. Kansas City Royals Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri In the last couple of years, the Royals have really started to turn around their farm system, and even a bit at the major league level. The brought in Dayton Moore, formerly part of the Atlanta Braves' brain trust, to help build the franchise back up. So far, their draft picks have been solid, and they've focused on pitching depth in the minors. Adding Crow, the most dominant college arm in the draft, will be too tempting to pass up. Crow should move quickly through the minors and join a very good, young rotation in KC by next year some time.

There are some concerns about Crow's arm action, and those concerns are well founded. His arm action isn't ideal, and that could lead to some injury problems down the line. Still, his talent is undeniable. The fact that he's sort of a local kid adds to his appeal, and the Royals have show a willingness recently to spend on the draft, so I don't see them going cheap here. Crow it is.

4. Baltimore Orioles Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego There are some that might say this is a four player draft, with four individuals standing well above the rest of the available talent. I don't quite agree with that, but there are four very good players with high profiles, and I think they all go together at the top of the draft.

Baltimore has taken high upside hitters each of the past two years, with Billy Rowell, a high school third-baseman in 2006, and Matt Wieters, a catcher out of Georgia Tech, last year. This year, they go with a pitcher with their first pick, and they take the best available at the time. Also, I think they may see Matusz essentially filling in for the departed Erik Bedard in the next year or two. The Orioles have shown a willingness to pay for good talent, dealing with Scott Boras for Wieters last year and handing him the largest bonus in draft history, so I don't think they're going to go cheap. Matusz is easily the best pitcher on the board here, and Baltimore snatches him up.

5. San Francisco Giants- Buster Posey, C, Florida State Ah, now, here we come to an interesting pick. The Giants are always tough to get a read on, and this year promises to be no exception, especially given the way that this year's class appears to be grouped, with four guys at the top, then a whole cluster of players lumped together after that.

The Giants went extremely heavy on pitchers last year, so I think they want a position player here. I think Posey is a perfect fit for this team. They have virtually no catching prospects in the minors, (not one catcher in their top ten, according to Baseball America) and they have the oldest, slowest, and- shall we say- roundest, of the Molina Brothers at the major league level. Posey presents an ideal opportunity to get a catcher who should move quickly, and he's an unusual, dynamic talent as well, being a converted shortstop with a great bat.

All the big first basemen are still on the board at this point, but the Giants have their Dominican bonus baby, Angel Villalona, in the minors, who's already garnering comparisons to Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera with the bat, but is also over at first base because his body will be a limiting factor defensively. So, I don't see them taking a first baseman. They could go for a high schooler, but I think they may want a player who's going to move a bit faster through their system. Hence, Posey. I think he's the best possible fit here.

The rest of the picks coming this week to The Rundown.

-- Aaron Schafer