Format changes, and a new debate

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced changes to the draft structure -- again.

It will still be a three-day event, starting Monday, June 7 in the evening. But unlike last year, the first day will consist only of the first round and initial compensation round; that's a total of 50 selections as opposed to 111 first-day picks a year ago.

So from now on when we say "first-day" talent, or something of that nature, we are talking about a Top 50 pick. The time between picks in round one remains at five minutes with one minute between each compensation round pick.
Among the first 50 selections, the Los Angeles Angels have five selections -- thanks to the losses of free agents John Lackey and Chone Figgins. The Toronto Blue Jays have four, one for failing to sign LHP James Paxton a year ago, and two for the loss of free agent Marco Scutaro.

The Boston Red Sox have three of the Top 50 picks, essentially trading lefty closer Billy Wagner for Lackey and moving up nine slots in the first round. Houston, Texas and Tampa also have multiple first-round picks.

You can find the complete first round draft order right here.

Prep athlete vs. Prep bat

One interesting conversation I had in recent days, with an agent for a player selected last summer, is the prep bat versus the prep athlete debate.

It's not necessarily one that is brought up much, but basically it's a belief system -- and a battle between upside risk and adding the most important single tool to the farm system.

"The thing is," the scout explained, "you can't draft a bunch of hitters that don't give you anything else. What if some of them don't develop at the plate? Then you're left with a bat that can't hit, but he also can't do anything else for you, either."

But the other side of things suggests it's unwise to dream so much on physical tools. "If it a kid isn't a good hitter in high school, he's not likely to become one," a special assistant from a west coast club opined. "Maybe he gets to a point where he's kind of good enough, you know? But will it be enough to use him every day?"

There's always going to be mixed reviews on such a subject, and the answer to the question is always going to involve some sort of compromise. But maybe it's safer to add the best bets to your organization more often than not, and certainly earlier in the draft.

"Especially if you are drafting high year after year and aren't the Yankees or Red Sox," the special assistant said. "Missing on those kinds of picks is a tough hit. You spend the money and it goes for naught and it's a big loss. It's kind of a 'Moneyball' thought process to a small extent."

When it comes to this year's position players in the prep ranks, Blanchet High School (Wash.) RF Josh Sale, Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) 3B Nick Castellanos, Bonanza High School (Nevada) infielder Kris Bryant, Cook County High School infielder Kaleb Cowart and 1B Christian Yelich from Westlake High School (Calif.) lead the pack of bats, while Brito's Manny Machado, a SS who gets some low-level comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, grades well enough with the bat to stave off being the risky athlete.

Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) OF Austin Wilson may qualify as this year's top athlete, much the same way Donovan Tate served last season. Marietta High School OF Chevez Clarke and Charlotte Christian (N.C.) OF Ty Linton also qualify as projects at the plate, more so than the aforementioned group of hitters.

"There's a greater chance at the superstar -- the A-Rod, the Ken Griffey, Jr., the Justin Upton -- when you take that plunge (for the upside and risk)," one club's special adviser and former GM said. "But you're much more likely, and history proves it, to get a major league player if you go for those who have shown the most ability with the bat."

Around The Diamond On May 5, 2010

• Tuesday, USA Baseball added the final 10 names to the watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, given each summer to the top player in college baseball. On June 1 the list will be cut from 60 to 30 before it is pared down to eight finalists a week later. The winner will be announced July 13 in Anaheim at the All-star Fanfest. A few of this year's nominees include draft prospects Christian Colon, Kyle Parker, Michael Choice, Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Zack Cox. Bryce Harper is also among them, and would be the youngest ever recipient as well as the first junior college hitter.

• Bonanza High School infielder Kris Bryant has now homered in five straight contests including two multi-homer efforts, and has 18 for the year in 27 games. He ranks at No. 29 in the top 100 prospects list I helped Keith Law compile.

• Clemson's Kyle Parker rebounded from a tough weekend to go 3-for-4 Tuesday, including two doubles. Parker has impressive numbers for the season, prompting many to wonder where he fits in this year's draft. But despite a .377/.503/.734 line and 16 home runs, the word on the Clemson QB and RF is that he's a mistake hitter without much defensive value in the long term.

• Minnesota catcher Michael Kvasnicka went 2-for-4 and improves to .357/.469/.596 with a 36-15 K/BB ratio. Kvasnicka has a chance to be the No. 3 college catcher off the board, behind Harper and Miami's Yasmani Grandal.

• Texas-Arlington's Choice singled twice and drew walks No. 60, 61 and 62 on the season. Yeah, 62 in 46 games.

• Virginia outfielder Jarrett Parker went 2-for-4 with a triple and his seventh home run of the year and is finally putting together some longer stretches of performance at the plate.