Everyone knows the No. 1 prospect in Tuesday's draft (and if you don't, read this). But after Washington selects Stephen Strasburg, things get less precise.
"Anybody from [No.] 2 to 15 could be just as good as the other guy," an executive from an NL team with a high pick told FanHouse. "It's really a strange year because it is in the eye of the beholder."
For example, Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake has been discussed as high as No. 3 overall, to the Padres. But he's more likely to go in the middle of the first round, no lower than Arizona's picks at 16 and 17.
Brett Jackson, an outfielder from the University of California, could go as high as sixth to San Francisco – or drop to somewhere around 50th.
Or California high-school right-hander Matt Hobgood. He's on some teams' top 10 list; others peg him going later than the first round.
The source said he has counted 63 players who could be taken in the 32 choices of the first round.
North Carolina's Dustin Ackley (like Strasburg, advised by agent Scott Boras) is generally considered the second best player in the draft. But, the executive said, "We don't even have a consensus on Ackley, really, in our room."
Said one scouting director, "I don't think anybody's 100 percent sold on what position he's going to play. I like him a lot. But he's talked about as a center fielder and plays first base for his college team."
In fact, the draft seems light on impact hitters.
The industry insider's educated guess on the top five: Strasburg to Washington, Ackley to Seattle, Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor to San Diego, former Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow to Pittsburgh and Georgia high-school right-hander Zack Wheeler to Baltimore.
"And then it all comes apart," the insider said.
"[Even] if you just based it on talent, you'd have different opinions on how the top five would shake out," the scouting director said. "Usually if you just did it on talent, most people have a good feel for it.
"There's going to be real differences of opinion on how this thing falls out."
The first three rounds will be held Tuesday, with the first round live on the MLB Network. The 50-round draft then continues Wednesday and Thursday.
Because of free-agent compensation picks, and the rule that gives a team that fails to sign a high choice a corresponding pick the next year, a few teams could make hauls in this draft.
The White Sox have three of the first 61 picks. Arizona has seven of the top 64. Colorado makes three of the first 34 picks. And the Angels have five of the first 48 selections because they lost Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
On the other hand, the Mets' first pick is No. 72 overall, thanks to the signing of Rodriguez, and the Phillies don't go until No. 75 because of Raul Ibañez.
One wild card in the draft is Georgia high-school outfielder Donovan Tate. He has Boras as an advisor and is expected to use the leverage of a North Carolina football scholarship to seek a $4 million bonus. The Padres, picking third, have been linked to Tate, but they've given out a bonus of more than $2.2 million just once, and that backfired (Matt Bush, No. 1 overall in 2004).
San Diego is also looking at Southern Cal shortstop Grant Green along with Minor, who would be the "safe" pick.
"Superstar?" the scouting director said of Tate. "I don't know about that."
In fact, the scouting director said, a lot of amateurs are seeking big dollars.
"I've never heard it this wild," he said. "The way they're talking now, there's going to be a lot of kids going to college [instead of signing]."
That could lead some teams to limit spending in the draft and save their money for the international-signing market.
Two high picks last year didn't get what they wanted and are back in the draft: Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers. The Nationals and Pirates, respectively, couldn't sign them, and instead of going back to college, both are playing independent minor-league ball and back in the draft.
Both should go in the first round, but Crow naturally seeks more than the reported $3.5 million he turned down a year ago.
The sticking point with Scheppers last year was a shoulder injury.
"Scheppers is throwing good," the scouting director said. "I think that one is going to come down to teams' doing medicals – is it healed up from what it was last year.
"Crow's been good. He probably hasn't been as good as Scheppers."
And if you doubt the importance of the draft, just look at some of the names picked just four years ago: Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Joey Devine, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Slowey, Chase Headley, Yunel Escobar, Nick Hundley, Micah Owings, Taylor Teagarden and Brett Gardner.
When it comes to this year's names, the NL executive said some picks may end up criticized as reaches or being based solely on signability when in fact the team was going strictly by its draft board and it just differed from everyone else's.
"There's going to be some picks," he said, "where people say, 'Wow, how'd they take that guy so early?' "
Overheard and Understood
• The Indians went into their weekend series 10 games under .500 and seven games out in the AL Central, but an executive from another team said Cleveland is not ready to start selling players because it feels it can get back in the race. "They won't say it openly, but that division isn't very good," the executive said. While the loss of Grady Sizemore (elbow) is big, the executive said the Indians' fate rests on whether Fausto Carmona can get back to 2007 form. "I think a lot hinges on Carmona," he said. "If they can get Carmona right, they can extend this thing out [before waving the white flag]."
|Chart of the Week|
|The White Sox have had trouble this season when facing a pitcher they haven't before seen. In the 10 games where a pitcher started and faced Chicago for the first time, including four straight last week by Oakland, those pitchers have gone 7-1 with a 1.52 ERA:|
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, last Tuesday marked the first time two pitchers made their big-league debut by facing a former Cy Young Award winner and getting the win. Oakland's Vin Mazzaro beat Bartolo Colon and Philadelphia's Antonio Bastardo beat Jake Peavy.
• Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler on 20-year-old rookie Elvis Andrus, his double-play partner: "You could just tell that he's meant to play shortstop. It's just what he does. He's one of those special talents that come around every once in a while."
• The Red Sox are in no rush to add a shortstop or a hitter to replace David Ortiz. Because Boston is winning, it can afford to wait for Jed Lowrie to get back from a wrist injury and to see if Ortiz improves.
• The Angels – who in past years were able to lock down games late with a dominant bullpen – are 24-6 when leading after seven innings. That .800 percentage is well below the other 29 teams' combined .901 mark (638-70).
• San Francisco is searching hard for a bat, but the Giants "are not going to give up premium young pitching," said someone who has spoken to them.
• Ichiro Suzuki has three of the four longest hitting streaks in Mariners history. The other belongs to Joey Cora (24 games in 1997). Ichiro led the majors with 49 hits in May, the 12th time he was the hits leader in a calendar month. No other active player has done it more than twice.
• A scout who follows the National League called Arizona's Dan Haren: "the best [pitcher] I've seen all year." Haren, scheduled to pitch Sunday, has walked just 10 batters in 78 innings with an opponents' on-base percentage of .230.
• Thursday marked the first time a player had five hits (Toronto's Adam Lind) in the same game a teammate struck out five times (Alex Rios).
• The Pirates felt Andrew McCutchen would be ready for the majors some time this year, but that wasn't the motivation behind the trade of Nate McLouth. "Do I think [McCutchen] still has some learning to go? Yeah," one Pirates person said. "But his tools can play. The thing is how consistent they're going to play right now. ... Our depth of players is not real great. So any chance we have to add depth, we almost have to." Pittsburgh can dream of an athletic outfield of McCutchen, Nyjer Morgan and Gorkys Hernandez, who was acquired from Atlanta in the McLouth deal.
• Congratulations to Randy Johnson, but here's the weird thing about the 300-win milestone: the pitcher reaching it has to sit and watch to make sure his team hangs on and he gets the victory. The last pitcher to go the distance and clinch his 300th win himself was Don Sutton in 1986. Since then, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Johnson have hit 300 from the sideline.