For the second straight draft the Washington Nationals came away winners last June, selecting and signing No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper. But the Nats weren't the only club that came away a big winner.
It may be too early to come to any conclusions about the draft hauls of any organization, but there have been some interesting developments early in the professional careers of several draftees.
While Harper's trek to the big leagues began with a stint in the Arizona Fall League, the Chicago White Sox drafted the first and only player in the Class of 2010 to reach the majors in left-hander Chris Sale. Several others are potentially on the brink, however.
In Part 1 of our annual review, we take a look at the American League. A review of National League teams will come on Saturday.
The O's tabbed Florida prep shortstop Manny Machado with the No. 3 overall selection last June, and after a strong nine-game showing last summer the 18-year-old started hot in 25 games this spring before injuring a knee. He appears to be fine, however, and is currently in extended spring training and expected back within a week or two. So far, so good, as Machado is hitting for power while showing he can limit his strikeouts and play shortstop. The Orioles didn't have a pick in Round 2 but selected right-handed reliever Dan Klein in Round 3, a choice scouting director Joe Jordan says he would have made had they had a second-round pick. Klein could see the majors as early as this summer after a fast start at Double-A Bowie and may be the Birds' closer of the future. The O's are also getting strong results from their fourth-round pick, outfielder Trent Mummey out of Auburn. Not much else has happened with the late-round picks, as many of them have yet to get on the field much and some of them have yet to play at all.
The Red Sox flexed their financial muscle last summer, spending more than $2.5 million on their third pick (No. 39 overall), right-hander Anthony Ranaudo out of LSU. Ranaudo didn't sign until after auditioning in the Cape Cod League but is looking the part of a potential front-line starter this season, whiffing more than a batter per inning in nine starts for Class-A Greenville. Top pick Bryce Brentz is the star of the class, torching the South Atlantic League and earning a quick promotion to Advanced-A ball. No. 2 pick Kolbrin Vitek and right-hander Brandon Workman, the club's second-round pick, have played well enough to stay optimistic. Right-hander Garret Rau has struggled, but Keith Couch, taken a round later, is showing he can miss a few bats and could be of use as a middle reliever at the big league level.
Aside from getting Sale, the No. 13 overall pick, signed and in the big leagues before the end of the 2010 season, the Pale Hose stayed in the college ranks and tabbed pitchers Jacob Petricka in Round 2 and Addison Reed and Thomas Royse in the third round. Petricka is performing in Class-A while Reed is pitching well in relief at Advanced Class-A Winston Salem. Ross Wilson, the Sox's 10th round pick out of Alabama, is hitting at low Class-A Kannapolis, but a college draftee should be doing just that. Petricka and Sale are the keys to the class, but until Petricka is challenged in the upper levels and eventually the big leagues, his future is up in the air. To warrant such a high pick, Sale may have to take over as the club's closer or make an effective transition to the starting rotation, something pitching coach Don Cooper would prefer to do over the winter and in spring training, rather than during the season.
The Indians selected a college pitcher for the second straight season, calling the name of Ole Miss southpaw Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz is dominating in Advanced Class-A Kinston and may not be long for the circuit. A stint in Double-A Akron before the end of the season appears likely and could put Pomeranz on track to break through to the big leagues sometime in 2012. The Tribe selected outfielder LeVon Washington in the second round, but he's struggling with the bat and his transition to the outfield continues on a rocky path. Third-round pick Tony Wolters may or may not stick at shortstop, and 2011 may be step one in that process as he's yet to get much time in the minors. Kyle Blair and Cole Cook have not pitched well in 2011 yet. Catcher Alex Lavisky, the club's eighth-round pick, may be a key to the class. He's not hitting for average but has shown a power swing with 10 extra-base hits, and in this day and age a backstop with any offensive ability at all is a tremendous value.
The Tigers did not pick until the sandwich round, in which they selected prep infielder Nick Castellanos with the No. 44 overall selection. The Florida product was considered a first-round talent but a tough sign, and he cost the club almost $3.5 million in the end. He's showing this month why the Tigers felt he was worth it. After a slow start, Castellanos is hitting well over .300 in May with some power. He could be the future at the hot corner for Detroit. Right-hander Chance Ruffin was taken four picks later and could be the first in the Tigers' crop to crack the big leagues. He's already dominating in Advanced Class-A Erie. Third-round catcher Rob Brantly is one of the top bats in the Midwest League. Early on, however, it appears the haul is top-heavy.
The Royals snagged college shortstop Christian Colon with the No. 4 overall pick, which still appears to have been a pick designed to get a middle infielder to the big leagues in a relatively quick period of time. That plan is working, to a certain degree, as Colon signed quickly and got 60 games under his belt last summer, which allowed him start 2011 at Double-A. The organization acquired a plus defensive shortstop over the winter, which could push Colon to second, but his bat will dictate, and he's struggled this season. Second-rounder Brett Eibner may miss the season after injuring his thumb in the second game of the season. Left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman, the Royals' fourth-round pick, is posting big numbers in Class-A and could get a promotion or two this season. Fifth-rounder Jason Adam and eighth-rounder Michael Mariot, both right-handers, have given reason for hope. Adam has shown plus velocity and a polished feel for pitching as one of the younger arms in his league. Outfielder Brian Fletcher, who received $275,000 as an 18th-round pick, has shown well, too, and may be due for a challenge.
The Angels are one of few clubs to get a rather large INCOMPLETE, even in a scaled-down look-back a year after the draft, as first-round picks Kaleb Cowart and Cam Bedrosian combined for just 12 games last summer. Bedrosian underwent Tommy John surgery this month and will not be back on the mound until late 2012, while Cowart has yet to be assigned to an affilliate. Right-hander and second-round pick Daniel Tillman has handled low Class-A and may get challenged this summer. Kole Calhoun is taking advantage of the California League but is having problems chasing pitches out of the zone and is still seen a corner outfielder with the glove, suggesting he's a reserve outfielder if he ever makes the big leagues. Cowart's future will start as a bat, but he has a backup career on the mound if all else fails. He'll likely try third base regularly, but his bat could carry him. Toolsy outfielder Chevez Clarke gives the Halos something they don't have outside of Mike Trout -- an athletic outfield prospect and switch-hitter to boot.
The Twins are becoming as predictable as any club in the league when it comes to the draft, but if it ain't broke, why fix it, right? A year after selecting college right-hander Kyle Gibson, scouting director Deron Johnson went with Ohio State's Alex Wimmers, a high-probability righty who could skate to the majors within a couple of seasons. After a strong initial showing late last season at Class-A Fort Myers, Wimmers returned to the Florida State League to resume his potentially quick ascent only to be shut down after facing just six batters. He walked all six and hasn't pitched since. He's currently in extended spring training trying work out the flaws in his mechanics, but one has to wonder if he is injured. Fifth-round pick Nate Roberts has not shown much of the power he was supposed to possess but is showing progress with the hit tool. Second-round pick Niko Goodrum signed fairly early last summer and received some time but has yet to perform in affiliated ball this season. Pat Dean, a third-rounder, continues to pound the strike zone with somewhat ordinary but plus command -- a trait the Twins clearly covet.
The Yankees reached for prep shortstop Cito Culver with the No. 32 overall pick, and the local product struggled in his first stint facing pro pitching. But he's a project and could take some time, especially considering his raw skills. Of the club's top 13 selections, all of whom signed, not one is currently assigned above low Class-A Charleston, suggesting any returns the club receives from the Class of 2010 are years away. Left-hander Evan Rutckyj, a 16th-rounder out of Ontario provides upside at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, but he, too, is likely a long way from the Bronx. Zach Nuding, a big, strong right-hander out of Weatherford JC in Texas, sits in the low 90s and has hit 96 in the past, but he's struggling with his command.
The A's top pick, outfielder Michael Choice, is showing more all-or-nothing qualities than the club would like, but the power is real and his physical tools suggest he's not a one-trick pony. Second-round pick Yordy Cabrera and fourth-round selection Chad Lewis, both third basemen, are off to quite differing starts to their careers. Cabrera is playing regularly and Lewis remains in extended spring training, likely for another three weeks until the short-season affiliates get their seasons under way. The Athletics loaded up on college players, and a good majority of them are playing consistently and contributing, albeit at the lower levels. Right-hander Zack Thornton, the club's 23rd-round selection, has shown he can dominate left-handers with his low arm angle and could develop into another in a long line of southpaw relievers in the organization.
The Mariners surrendered their first-round pick to the Angels for signing free-agent Chone Figgins, a move they might want back in hindsight, but the club still grabbed some upside, starting with No. 43 overall pick Taijuan Walker. The two-sport star has already opened some eyes in Class-A Clinton, touching 98 mph on the radar gun and flashing a plus curveball. Second-round pick Marcus Littlewood started off strong but struggled so much at the plate in the ensuing weeks that he was ultimately shipped back to extended spring training to make some adjustments. The club did not sign third-round pick Ryne Stanek, but got fourth-round left-hander James Paxton's name on the dotted line late this past winter. The former Kentucky star is showing signs of shaking the rust, grazing 95 mph and overpowering hitters in the lower minors. Right-handers Stephen Pryor and Tyler Burgoon could move quickly as late-inning relief options, but Pryor is battling major control problems. Southpaw Jordan Shipers, a 16th-round pick that signed for $800,000, has yet to be assigned to an affiliate as the organization's player development staff works on his mechanics.
The Rays have built their preposterously successful farm system primarily through the draft -- with a few trades mixed into the formula -- and figure to get more impact talent from the Class of 2010, though it's not likely to show up for several years. The club's top-three picks were prep players who come with a big payoff. No. 17 overall pick Josh Sale brings big-time left-handed power to the table, while catcher Justin O'Conner could be the club's answer at the position for years to come. Supplemental-round pick Drew Vettleson may be the best bet among the three to play regularly in the big leagues, thanks to athleticism and ability to hit for average and power. Sixth-rounder Jesse Hahn could serve as a quick-return arm in a relief role, but he's yet to suit up as a pro. Seventh-rounder Michael Lorenzen did not sign, putting some more pressure on the top three to give the club value out of the class.
The Rangers tabbed prep players with each of their first three selections and have yet to see much of a return in their development. Jake Skole and Kellin Deglan have struggled this season, and right-hander Luke Jackson has just two starts under his belt. Mike Olt, the No. 49 overall pick, is hitting for power; showing patience and discipline at Class-A Myrtle Beach; and could see time in Double-A by year's end. Prep draftee Cody Buckel is flashing swing-and-miss stuff, and former Georgia ace Justin Grimm has shown signs of shaking off the command problems, racking up 54 strikeouts against 18 walks in 50 1/3 innings. If Jackson pans out and the Rangers get a reliever or two out of the class, it's probably a win, as they didn't exactly bring a large budget to the draft party last year.
The Blue Jays mixed probability, signability and upside last year, tabbing front-line prep arms Aaron Sanchez and Asher Wojciechowski after Georgia Tech right-hander Deck McGuire. Their first five picks were pitchers, all with plus fastballs, if you include Griffin Murphy's 89-92 mph heater, which is average or better for a southpaw. Sam Dyson, who has yet to pitch, touches the mid-90s and could breeze through the system in relief, but Toronto could take its time with his development as a starting pitcher. Sanchez and fellow sandwich-round pick Noah Syndergaard may be the keys to the success of the class, and Sanchez put his potential on display last summer, striking out nearly 32 percent of the batters he faced. McGuire, who signed for an even $2 million, is in Advanced Class-A and putting up solid yet unspectacular numbers.