Here are some initial impressions of the players picked in the first round in the 2003 draft.
1. Tampa Bay: Delmon Young, OF, HS, Camarillo, Calif.
The Devil Rays added a power bat to their already deep stock of talented young outfielders. Young has enormous power, good overall tools, and has strong bloodlines. He is more advanced than his brother Dmitri was at the same stage of development, and he should move quickly for a high school player. A legitimate pick at first overall, though some observers feel the D-Rays should have picked Rickie Weeks due to Tampa's positional needs.
2. Milwaukee: Rickie Weeks, 2B, Southern University
The Brewers snagged Weeks after the Devil Rays passed on him in favor of the younger Young. Weeks is an outstanding prospect and the Brewers will be happy to have him. He doesn't have Young's pure power, but is a strong hitter in his own right, will hit for average, steals bases, and has more defensive versatility. As soon as he signs, he'll be the best player in an improving Brewers farm system. His defense at second base needs some improvement, but his bat will play at any level. He's had one of the most successful careers in college baseball history.
3. Detroit: Kyle Sleeth, RHP, Wake Forest University
The Tigers picked Sleeth over fellow college right-hander Tim Stauffer. Sleeth throws in the mid-90s, and had a successful college career. Some scouts worry that he throws across his body, but he has a good combination of power and command, and compares favorably to most other college hurlers available this year. A solid pick.
4. San Diego: Tim Stauffer, RHP, University of Richmond
Stauffer doesn't throw quite as hard as Sleeth, but is more polished and should advance quickly through the Padres farm system. Hard to go wrong with this choice. Only concern is that Stauffer's workload has been rather heavy, so expect the Padres to baby him at first, to avoid Kenny Baugh-like (arm) problems later this year.
5. Kansas City: Chris Lubanski, OF, HS, Schwenksville, Pa.
The Royals were linked to high school outfielder Ryan Harvey for several weeks, but in the end they went with Lubanski. He is a safe pick as high school players go, having proven himself against good competition despite coming from a cold-weather state. He has a quick bat from the left side, power potential, plus excellent speed and defensive ability. His makeup is also very strong, and he's expected to sign relatively quickly.
6. Chicago (NL): Ryan Harvey, OF, HS, Palm Harbor, Fla.
Rumors had the Cubs interested in a college hitter, but they couldn't pass on Harvey, who was rated as a possible first-overall pick as recently as a week ago. He has enormous power, good athleticism, and a right-field arm. Concerns about a knee injury from last winter have faded. Some worry that he may have a longish swing and will be vulnerable to strikeouts, but others say that is overblown.
7. Baltimore: Nick Markakis, OF-LHP, Young Harris JC
Having turned down over $1 million from the Reds as a draft-and-follow, Markakis went back in the draft pool and will likely earn a larger bonus. He has potential as both a strong hitter and a strong pitcher, featuring plus power potential as well as a very strong southpaw arm.
8. Pittsburgh: Paul Maholm, LHP, Mississippi State University
A polished lefty, Maholm doesn't have the upside of recent Pirate college pitching picks John VanBenschoten and Bryan Bullington. But he throws strikes, knows what he's doing, and should move quickly up the ladder.
9. Texas: John Danks, LHP, HS, Round Rock, Texas
The top lefty in the class last year, and a local kid to boot, Danks makes an attractive sign for the Rangers. Biggest problem is the standard problem with young high school pitchers: the odds are against him. But he has a power arm with good command, so if the Rangers take care of him, he has a chance to be special.
10. Colorado: Ian Stewart, 3B, HS, Garden Grove, Calif.
Tremendous power potential in this left-handed stick. Only questions are defensive: he may have to switch positions. But the Rockies will likely stick him at third base as long as possible, due to the presence of Todd Helton at first base. Stewart's bat looks good at any position, but how quickly he arrives will depend on his glove.
11. Cleveland: Michael Aubrey, 1B-OF, Tulane University
Best college hitter in the draft besides Weeks, and a possible bargain at this pick. Aubrey has decent power, excellent strike zone judgment, and will hit for average. Main concern is if he can move successfully from first base to outfield, which may have dropped him down a few notches.
12. New York (NL): Lastings Milledge, OF, HS, Palmetto, Fla.
Tool-laden athlete with a good track record of performance. Projected as a top five pick earlier in the year, so this is a potential bargain at this point in the draft, assuming that off-the-field issues which have hurt his reputation don't reoccur.
13. Toronto: Aaron Hill, SS, Louisiana State University
Polished college player with strong work ethic, a good fit for the Blue Jays with their new emphasis on collegiate talent. Hill may not stay at shortstop due to his range, which scouts question, but his bat and otherwise-reliable defense would be fine at second or third.
14. Cincinnati: Ryan Wagner, RHP, University of Houston
Strikeout artist with good fastball and killer breaking ball. Wagner should move through the system fairly quickly, and gives the Reds their closer of the future. Main concern is poor track record of previous hot college closers, but Wagner's overall package is hard to beat. His strikeout rate is outstanding.
15. Chicago (AL): Brian Anderson, OF, University of Arizona
Toolsy college outfielder who was somewhat disappointing until this year, Anderson has an attractive mix of physical skills and good numbers in '03. May take longer to develop than some of the other college players drafted early, but also has a better physical upside and defensive value. But he also carries more risk.
16. Florida: Jeff Allison, RHP, HS, Peabody, Mass.
The best high school pitcher in the draft, but fell to this spot because of his rumored bonus demands, as well as the queasiness of many teams about high school pitchers this year. Throws hard, throws strikes, and as well-regarded by some scouts as Josh Beckett and Kerry Wood were. Risky, of course, from an historical perspective.
17. Boston: David Murphy, OF, Baylor University
Polished college player with a smooth stroke from the left side. Features good strike zone judgment to go with his picturesque swing. Would have been a second-round pick in some draft classes, but he impressed several clubs looking for fast college help.
18. Cleveland: Brad Snyder, OF, Ball State University
Another polished college kid, Snyder features decent power from the left side with some speed, and could have been an earlier choice if he'd gone to a school on a coast. As it is, he represents solid value for the Indians.
19. Arizona: Connor Jackson, 3B, University of California
A surprise that he went this early; he was targeted by clubs drafting later in the round. Jackson has plus power and excellent plate discipline, but has questions about his defense, and may face a position shift.
20. Montreal: Chad Cordero, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
Another surprise, a likely signability selection by the Expos. Cordero is a fine college pitcher with a good track record and a live arm, but was considered second-round material by most teams.
21. Minnesota: Matt Moses, 3B, HS, Richmond, Va.
Smooth-swinging high school pick for the Twins, who take a traditional draft approach and have had good success with it in recent years. Moses has a strong bat, but his defense is questionable. He played shortstop this year, but is likely to move to either second base or third base.
22. San Francisco: David Aardsma, RHP, Rice University
An erratic season looked like it might knock him to the second round, but Aardsma held his slot to the surprise of some. Has a very live arm, and pitched extremely well against wooden bats in the Cape Cod League last summer.
23. Anaheim: Brandon Wood, SS, HS, Horizon, Ari.
A slick fielding high school shortstop, Wood added muscle this winter without losing his flexibility or range. As a result, his hitting caught up with his fielding and he earned a first-round pick. Could be another Derek Jeter.
24. Los Angeles: Chad Billingsley, RHP, HS, Defiance, Ohio
One of the most successful high school pitchers over the last two years, Billingsley is physically mature for a prep pitcher, but has a fine combination of velocity and command. He should advance rapidly compared to most high schoolers.
25. Oakland: Brad Sullivan, RHP, University of Houston
Overshadowed a bit by teammate Wagner, but Sullivan is a hardthrower in his own right, and has outstanding command. He fits perfectly into what Oakland looks for in a pitcher, and should move up the ladder quickly.
26. Oakland: Brian Snyder, 3B, Stetson University
Doesn't have plus power for a third baseman and isn't a masher, but he controls the strike zone like few other players, and fields his position. Think Joe Randa with a lot more walks and OBP.
27. New York (AL): Eric Duncan, 3B, HS, Florham Park, N.J.
The Yankees like the fact that he's from New Jersey, and his left-handed bat would be very intimidating in Yankee Stadium due to the short right-field porch. Plus power potential, but has a few kinks to work out at third base.
28. St. Louis: Daric Barton, C, HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.
One of the surprises of the first round, Barton has an excellent bat from the left side, but his defensive skills are very marginal, and most teams saw him as a second or even third-round choice.
29. Arizona: Carlos Quentin, OF, Stanford University
The D-Backs added another polished college bat to go with Jackson drafted at No. 19. Quentin has power and patience, but a balky elbow may require surgery and get his career off to a late start. Even so, he's one of the best of the quality college players available this year.
30. Kansas City: Mitch Maier, C, University of Toledo
The Royals take an intriguing power/speed catcher with the compensation pick for losing Paul Byrd. Maier's defense behind the plate is shaky at times, but he's got a great bat, and picking him leverages some of the risk in selecting a high school hitter fifth overall.
John Sickels is the author of the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his website, JohnSickels.com. His biography of Bob Feller will be published this fall by Brassey's. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.