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Thursday, June 5, 2008
Law's first-round draft analysis

Following is Keith Law's pick-by-pick analysis of the first round in the 2008 first-year player draft.

Round 1
1 Tampa Bay Rays Tim Beckham SS Griffin (Ga.) H.S.
  The Rays take the best overall player on the board. The system isn't particularly strong at middle infield, so if he stays at shortstop or moves to second, he'd probably be the second-best prospect in their system after David Price. His selection shows a willingness to think long term because they didn't go for a player like Buster Posey who could get to the majors quicker. Instead, they took the best player available.
2 Pittsburgh Pirates Pedro Alvarez 3B Vanderbilt
  The pick makes sense for the Pirates, who have had a hard time developing power hitters and don't have a lot in their system. If Alvarez moved to first base, he'd have a clear path to the majors there. Same thing at third base. My only concern is that they didn't pick the best player on the board at this point. Justin Smoak would have made just as much if not more sense. But if everything clicks with Alvarez, the Pirates have a cleanup hitter for the next several years with 40-homer potential in the majors.
3 Kansas City Royals Eric Hosmer 1B American Heritage H.S.,
Plantation, Fla.
  Hosmer has the most raw power of anyone in the first round, but also has a very refined approach at the plate. He has very quick hands and good plate coverage. He has a hole in his swing middle in, but if pitchers try to pitch him inside, they'd better get it all the way inside. He can hit the ball out to left or left-center. I like his chances potentially to move to right field. He's a good athlete. He has plenty of arm to play right field. He gives the Royals a lot of flexibility.
4 Baltimore Orioles Brian Matusz LHP San Diego
  Probably the fastest moving starter in the draft. The Orioles have to consider moving him quickly through the system. Matusz has about four average or better pitches. Not a ton of projection here; he is today what he's going to be three or four years from now. His offspeed stuff is so good that he'll miss a lot of bats in the low minors and not have a chance to work on fastball command.
5 San Francisco Giants Buster Posey C Florida State
  Posey is the best catcher in the draft, and he is likely to move quickly. There is very little downside to Posey. Defensively, he can play in the big leagues right now. Catching is a glaring need for the Giants in their farm system. And Posey is one of the best makeup guys in the draft.
6 Florida Marlins Kyle Skipworth C Rubidoux H.S.,
Riverside, Calif.
  Skipworth has the potential to be a star behind the plate. Like Posey, he's only been playing the position for a short time, but he has a very strong arm. If he is able to stay behind the plate, he can be a superstar-caliber hitter. He gets his arms extended nicely, and his power will only increase with age. If he can't stay behind the plate, he could always move to another position. His bat will play well at first base or a corner outfield position.
7 Cincinnati Reds Yonder Alonso 1B Miami (Fla.)
  Alonso is the first surprise of the draft. It's a surprise because the Reds weren't linked to him and he's asking for $8 million and a major league deal. He's a left-handed power hitter with a very patient approach, and he should hit for quite a bit of power at Great American Ballpark. What does this mean for Joey Votto?
8 Chicago White Sox Gordon Beckham SS Georgia
  He wasn't supposed to be available at this spot, so the White Sox must be thrilled. Beckham can play second base, but there's a good chance he stays at shortstop. He has tremendous baseball instincts. He'll probably move pretty quickly through the system. On the day he signs, he'll instantly become the best prospect in the organization.
9 Washington Nationals Aaron Crow RHP Missouri
  Crow is the top college pitcher on my board. He might have two plus pitches right now. He's a power pitcher who projects as a No. 2 starter. If he can sustain his velocity at the high end (low-mid 90s), he has a chance to be a No. 1 starter. He had good command throughout his college career.
10 Houston Astros Jason Castro C Stanford
  Castro didn't get to catch last year in the Cape Cod League because his team also had Posey. Castro was expected to go in the second half of the first round. He's a contact hitter; he will not hit for a lot of power. He's an average regular catcher in the big leagues. But I don't see him as a star. By the way, the next best college catcher in the draft is well below Castro.
11 Texas Rangers Justin Smoak 1B South Carolina
  This is the best pick in the draft so far. Smoak is the third-best player on my board. He's a switch-hitting Adrian Gonzalez with more power. In the Rangers' ballpark, he has a good chance to hit 40 home runs, if he develops. There are no major holes in his game. I saw this scenario possibly unfolding last night. A lot of things had to go right for them to get Smoak, and they did.
12 Oakland Athletics Jemile Weeks 2B Miami (Fla.)
  This is the riskiest pick so far. He can't play anywhere but second base in the infield, so he has to hit well enough to be a major league regular. He's a plus runner; he needs to be more contact-oriented with wood. With metal, he's too pull-oriented, so he'll have to adjust his approach. He has a better chance to be a plus defender at second base than his brother, Rickie Weeks.
13 St. Louis Cardinals Brett Wallace 3B Arizona State
  Wallace has the best pure bat in the college ranks. He will hit for average and power. He draws a ton of walks and is very disciplined. He works the count, not just for walks but also to get good pitches to hit in hitter's counts. He started to show a lot more power this year. Unlike a lot of lefty hitters, he's already shown an ability to hit left-handed pitching, which puts him ahead of other left-handed bats.
14 Minnesota Twins Aaron Hicks RF/RHP Wilson H.S., Long Beach, Calif.
  In terms of tools, Hicks is one of the top three or four players in the draft. He's first-rounder as an outfielder and a pitcher. He is relatively unpolished, so he should take a long time to get to the majors. He's gotten by a lot on strength and bat speed for now. The Twins will have to work with him on his hitting approach. He has a chance to be a switch-hitting Andrew McCutchen, one of the top prospects in the minors.
15 Los Angeles Dodgers Ethan Martin RHP/3B Stephens County H.S.,
Toccoa, Ga.
  The Dodgers reportedly drafted Martin as a pitcher. But he is a two-way player who came into the year as a potential first-rounder as a third baseman. He has a chance to be an above-average bat, but he didn't hit well at the beginning of the season. He likes to pitch, and he shut down American Heritage H.S. of Plantation, Fla., (the team of top prospects Eric Hosmer and Adrian Nieto) in February. He throws 91-95 mph, but I'm surprised the Dodgers would keep him as a pitcher because they tend to prefer guys with polish. He has arm strength, but not much polish.
16 Milwaukee Brewers Brett Lawrie C/2B Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.
  Lawrie made himself into a first-rounder during a strong two-month stretch with a wood bat this spring. He has a great swing that is very clean. He's out on his front foot a lot, so it's unclear if he'll hit for power unless that changes. His ultimate position is the biggest question. I'm generally not a fan of taking guys without a clear position in the first round, and that makes this pick very risky. But if can catch, it's potentially a high-reward pick too.
17 Toronto Blue Jays David Cooper 1B California
  Cooper is a polished hitter who should hit for a high average. He's shown home run power with metal but not so much with wood. He's a solid defensive player at first base. I think the draft pool forced a change in direction. The Jays have gone with high school bats in the first round the last two years, but the type of polished high school hitter they like wasn't there for them at No. 17.
18 New York Mets Ike Davis 1B Arizona State
  The Mets said they wanted to focus on college bats with their first two picks, and Davis was probably the best hitter left on the board. His pitch recognition is good, and he has a clean swing once he gets it started. He has 30-plus homer power in the big leagues if everything clicks. He's also a good defender with a plus arm at first base.
19 Chicago Cubs Andrew Cashner RHP Texas Christian
  Cashner could get to the big leagues this year. On his best days, he has two pitches with a 60 grade. The slider is at 88 mph, and it's an out pitch. And he can run his fastball up to 98 mph. There's a question about his command; can he command his pitches? If he can, he can get to the big leagues right away as an impact relief pitcher.
20 Seattle Mariners Josh Fields RHP Georgia
  I'm surprised to see a team in last place take a reliever this high in the draft. Fields is up to 97 mph with his fastball and has a power curveball. If he can't get big league hitters out this year, he will next year. Philosophically, though, you would think the Mariners would go longer term with this pick instead of taking a reliever, who is more of a short-term solution with a shorter life span.
21 Detroit Tigers Ryan Perry RHP Arizona
  Perry touched 100 mph in the NCAA Regional last weekend. He was consistently at 94-98 mph on the Cape last summer. Arizona tried to make him a starter, but it didn't work. He has the best stuff of any closer prospect in the draft. Given the Tigers' bullpen situation, Perry might be the first player in the draft to make it to the majors this year.
22 New York Mets Reese Havens SS South Carolina
  This is a great pick for the Mets. Havens makes all the plays at shortstop because he reads the ball off the bat so well. At the plate he has excellent pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination. If he has to move to second base because of the presence of Jose Reyes at shortstop, he has more than enough bat. Havens has a great approach and strong instincts, and he should move quickly through the Mets' system.
23 San Diego Padres Allan Dykstra 1B Wake Forest
  He's a big, strong first baseman with a chance to hit for power. His approach is pull-oriented; I have to see him use the whole field to believe he'll hit for average and to really profile offensively at first. He's no better than average at first base and can't play third. This was probably a Plan B pick because the player they wanted was Havens.
24 Philadelphia Phillies Anthony Hewitt SS Salisbury (Conn.) H.S.
  Hewitt looks as good as anyone in a uniform in this year's draft. He's a five-tool package. He will put on a show in batting practice, but he's struggled in game situations against tough competition, like at the Area Code Games last summer. He projects more as a center fielder than as a shortstop. If everything clicks, he's a potential superstar. The problem is that he's about 4-6 years away unless he developmentally makes a quantum leap forward. He's high risk, potentially high reward.
25 Colorado Rockies Christian Friedrich LHP Eastern Kentucky
  Friedrich is the best pick relative to draft spot so far. He has a chance for four average or better pitches. His curveball is already among the best among college starters in the draft. He's added a cutter that is very effective against right-handed hitters. I'm a little concerned about his command and control, so he probably won't move as quickly as some other college arms in the first round.
26 Arizona Diamondbacks Daniel Schlereth LHP Arizona
  Schlereth is another college reliever who should be quick to the majors, even getting there this year. He has a plus fastball and breaking ball. He should wreck left-handed hitters in the big leagues. I had him ranked lower because he has a limited history. He blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. He only came back to form over the last two months.
27 Minnesota Twins Carlos Gutierrez RHP Miami (Fla.)
  Now this is the biggest surprise of the first round so far. Gutierrez is another college closer whose fastball tops out at 94 with sink. But he doesn't have a viable second pitch, not even a breaking ball. I don't think a team should take a player with only one pitch in the first round. But the Twins have always had success with power arms out of their bullpen.
28 New York Yankees Gerrit Cole RHP Orange (Calif.) Lutheran H.S.
  This is a great pick; he fell to the Yankees for financial reasons. Cole has the best arm among the prep pitchers in the draft. He has a loose, quick arm. He has the best fastball of the high school pitchers; it tops out 97 mph. He needs more consistency on the breaking ball. And he needs to just throw his changeup instead of guiding it. He's a high-ceiling arm that could be a No. 1 starter. If that doesn't work, he could be a dominant reliever.
29 Cleveland Indians Lonnie Chisenhall 3B Pitt CC, Greenville, N.C.
  Chisenhall is not a first-rounder for me. It's a bet on his bat. He has a simple, clean swing and good bat speed, although his swing plane is flat (making it harder for him to hit for power) and his bat is in and out of the zone quickly. He doesn't currently have a position. He's shaky at third, and his bat might not profile there. I'd try him at second base; the Indians could also try him at catcher. But they have to find a position where his bat profiles better.
30 Boston Red Sox Casey Kelly RHP/SS Sarasota (Fla.) H.S.
  Kelly was announced as a shortstop, but he is a first-rounder as either a position player or a pitcher. On the mound, he throws 89-91 mph; he has command of his fastball and is very aggressive with it. He also has a plus curveball. At shortstop, he has good instincts and is natural and athletic. It's a big upside pick for the Red Sox, and he was the best player on the board at that point.