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2008 Draft Preview Pt. 2- the Home Runs

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First off, I have to acknowledge two factual errors in my post from last week.

One, Kevin Mulvey, whom I referenced in speaking about the Johan Santana trade, went to Villanova University, not Vanderbilt, as I indicated. Brand new reader danimalvu corrected me, which is to be expected, given it is his alma mater. To him I say, damn you, and damn your "factual correctness". I care not for facts. Facts only impede the truth. On a related note, I would like to enlist the aid of all readers here in an email, letter writing, and petition gathering campaign. I propose that Congress pass legislation mandating that there be only one university for any given letter of the alphabet. I realise this would require thousands of schools to close down, and I also know it would be a sacrifice for many people. However, in the end, I think that it would be worth it in order to eliminate further confusion on my part. I thank you all in advance.

Two, I stated, during my Tolstoyesque review of possible draftees, that Christian Friedrich was, "a big, tall version of Barry Zito". Later in the week, I got to thinking about this, and realised that I have no idea how tall Barry Zito is. He doesn't seem like a very big guy to me. So I looked it up, and he's 6'4", 225 lbs. In other words, he and Friedrich are the exact same height, and Zito weighs substantially more. In my defense, umm, well, I bet none of you knew he was that tall either. Or maybe you did. That's not the point. Again, it's a fact, and I believe I've made my stance on facts perfectly clear. Seriously, though, I had no idea Zito was that big of a guy. I guess it's because he doesn't break about 86 mph or something. I don't know, he just doesn't seem like he should be that big. Oh well.

Over at Future Redbirds, erik has a post up about a new defensive metric, developed by Dan Fox of Baseball Prospectus, called Simple Fielding Runs. You should check it out; lots of good stuff.

Onward and upward!

Last week, I did my first preview of the June draft, covering collegiate lefthanded pitchers. This week, I'm going to focus on the highest possible upside picks possible; the home run picks, if you will. These picks, in addition to being tremendously talented, are also high school players. You can dream on their tools, but they aren't quite as safe as, say, a Chris Friedrich or an Aaron Crow. In fact, it may be better to refer to them as 'home run swing' picks. You take the big cut, and you either hit it out, or you whiff. No choking up allowed.

A quick word on my method: I'm not really going to cover players that I think have absolutely no shot of reaching the Cardinals at 13. So I'll probably ignore Tim Beckham, Pedro Alvarez, maybe even a Yonder Alonso, those sorts of guys. Truth be told, Brian Matusz, from San Diego U., probably fits in that category too, but it's a thin year for lefties in the first round, so I included him basically just to have more to write about.

Anyway, this week, I'm covering Tim Melville, Harold Martinez, and Aaron Hicks. We'll start with the local kid.

Tim Melville
RHP, Wentzville Holt HS, MO
6'5", 205lbs.
DOB: 9th October, 1989

So, what's so great about this guy?

There are three words that keep getting thrown around a lot in regards to Melville.

1.) Rick
2.) Porcello
3.) Light

Really, that's not the worst possible description you can imagine. Melville has similar size, similar velocity, a very similar build, and similar ability. However, he doesn't have quite the polish of the Cardinals' draft day folly of 2007 yet, and that's mostly where the 'light' portion of the description comes in. A couple of links for you:

Brewer Fan
Perfect Game USA

Some nice stuff in there; I particularly liked Brewerfan's opening:

"Melville is the type of pitcher that makes his craft look incredibly easy, and also makes it hard to believe he is a high school senior"
High praise, but I think the kid is worthy of it.

Brass tacks: Melville's fastball sits in the low 90s right now, reaching up to 95 pretty regularly. He throws a wicked curveball that rates a plus, and a solid average changeup that projects to be better down the road. What's even more impressive than his stuff, though, is his command. He's already able, at 18 years old, to throw all three of his pitches consistently for strikes. In particular, he can put his fastball wherever he wants it. For a kid his age, at his size, his athleticism is just off the charts, allowing him to repeat his delivery consistently and field his position well. He's even a solid hitter; he hit .443 last spring.

On a personal note, I actually drove all the way up to Wentzville to see Melville pitch last spring, whenver I started to hear his name mentioned heavily. The kid is for real. I had to leave in the fourth inning of the game I saw to do other things, but in those four, I believe he had two hits, both doubles, gave up only one hit, a bloop single, and struck out nine against zero walks. Needless to say, I was impressed. Nice, clean mechanics too. Of course, I wasn't watching him in high speed video or anything, so I couldn't say definitively, but I like what I saw of his delivery.

Unfortunately, Melville may be the first HS pitcher selected in the draft in June. He would be, if it were based solely on ability. However, he's made a commitment to North Carolina, which could lead him to fall a bit. (Yet another reason to compare him to Porcello, who also committed to NC, before the Tigers threw a bag of money and a contract at him.)

Harold Martinez
SS- Braddock HS, FL
6'3", 185lbs.
DOB: 3rd May, 1990

So, what's so great about this guy?

Harold Martinez may be the best prep hitter in the draft this year. He has an easy, fluid swing that produces power to all fields, and his overall athletic ability is outstanding. He's drawn a few comparisons to another south Florida shortstop, a fellow by the name of Rodriguez. Of course, no one is projecting that career path for him quite yet, but there is a reason that name has been brought up.

Martinez has great quickness in the field, especially to his left, and he plays an outstanding shortstop. However, most scouts project that his frame, as it fills out, will move him over to third base. He'll probably lose a bit of his lateral range, but his outstanding reflexes and range should make him a gold glove caliber third sacker. There are some who think he could stay at short for the long haul, but it would probably be an uphill battle for him. His body just makes him a prototypical third baseman, including a well above average arm.

Either way, Martinez is probably going to be known for his bat, much more than his glove. He has what is referred to as, "game changing ability" with the bat in his hands. He has great balance, and should be able to hit for a good average, along with the power. He hit an even .500 last spring as a junior. I haven't heard much one way or the other about his plate discilpline; I assume that's not what most scouts are paying attention to at the moment.

Martinez has committed to playing ball for the U, another tough committment to lure a kid away from. He's a top ten talent, but definitely could be hanging around.

Aflac All American
Baseball Factory

Aaron Hicks
OF/RHP- Woodrow Wilson HS, CA (Long Beach)
6'1", 160lbs.
DOB: 2nd October, 1989

So, what's so great about this guy?

Hicks is one of the most athletic players in the nation, period. He's a different sort of athletic than either Martinez or Melville, though. He's a burner on the basepaths, and in the outfield, where he typically plays center. He also pitches, showing a mid 90s fastball and a plus breaking ball; his command, however, isn't so great.

He's probably the rawest of the three players I'm profiling here today, but he may also have the most extraordinary pure tools. Hicks probably isn't in the Upton class of athleticism, not quite, but he's close. He compares a little bit to Carl Crawford when he was drafted. Hicks has the same plus-plus speed, and a frame that's skinny now, but looks to be able to handle quite a bit more muscle. I've also heard some comparisons to Jose Reyes, but I'm afraid that if I started spreading that around, mass excitement could suddenly take hold of everyone, and I just don't want to be responsible for that. He is, however, a switch hitter, so the Reyes comp may be fairly apt. Hicks is a better hitter from the left side currently, but is quite capable from either side of the plate. From what I understand, he made some substantial changes to his batting stance during his junior year, with strong results; I'm not sure if that applies to both sides, or just one or the other.

Last spring, Hicks stole 44 bases, getting caught only once, while posting a 1.046 OPS and walking 27 times, to only 19 strikeouts. He's not as feared a hitter as Martinez yet, but his ceiling is still sky high. His glove is supposed to be outstanding in center, and his range and arm, as I mentioned before, are both top notch. For a high schooler, I could see Hicks moving quickly, much like a Crawford or Upton, due to his overwhelming athleticism. He can simply outrun his mistakes in the field, use his speed to make up for his still developing bat, and his arm will help minimize the damage from the mistakes he does make. I wouldn't project him to make the big leagues at 19 or anything, but he is in a similar class to some of those other players I mentioned, particularly Crawford and Reyes, I think.

There is some thought that Hicks could make some noise as a pitcher this spring, but he appears to profile much better as an outfielder, and I think it would behoove a team that drafts him to keep him there. He fits the profile of a leadoff man almost perfectly, showing great on base skills, speed, and at least gap to gap type power in the future. I really like this kid.

I can't find a college committment for Hicks anywhere, if anyone knows, I would really appreciate the help.

Perfect Game USA
Aflac All American

Overall

So, what do we make of this group? Well, as I said earlier, these are probably the cream of the crop, as far as their potential upside goes. Any of these players could have a huge payoff down the road. Of course, because of that, there's a good chance that any one of them won't be there when the Cardinals pick. However, I would be willing to bet that at least one of the three of them will still be available at 13 overall. If any of them are still there, I think it's a no brainer to draft them. Personally, I would prioritize them the same way I profile them: Melville, then Martinez, then Hicks. I love Melville's upside, and I also really like drafting the local kid. (yes, I am aware he's originally from Virginia; he moved here prior to starting HS) More than anything, I think it's just good karma to bring talent from your area, your fan base, into your system. It creates a good base for a relationship to be built on, when a kid has followed the team he's drafted by, and the fans can relate to the player, connect with him. It may not mean much, and probably won't come contract time, but I like seeing hometown talent stay close. Circular. All good things.

I think Martinez has just as high a ceiling as Melville. Those ARod comparisons aren't just idle speculation. He's going to end up playing a position that I would love to see filled on a long term basis; Troy Glaus is great, but I miss having a guy that I really adored out there. The defense, the power, the speed, he's the total package.

Hicks is just a shade behind the other two, in my opinion. He most likely won't ever have the power that Martinez could, and I think that knocks him down just a peg or two. That being said, I think he, too, will be a star player in the future, very much in the mold of some of the most 'exciting' players in the game. Very much a 'home run swing' pick.

As I said before, all three of these players are top ten talents. Unfortunately, the Cardinals pick at 13, and I'm pretty sure that 13 is greater than ten. (you may want to check my math on that one; I'm not good with numbers) However, at least one of these three players will probably fall down to where the Cardinals pick. If any of them do, I think that's the pick you have to make. The potential payoff is just too huge to pass on these type of guys. Take the player, throw enough money at him to convince him to eschew college, and get him started on the path to developing into a Cardinal ball player. Any of them are fantastic selections; I would be thrilled with any of these players.

Great Moments in Redbird Future History

September 20, 2008
For the past several weeks, terrified players have reported encountering the ghost of So Taguchi in the bowels of the stadium. After three exorcism attempts, a Shinto blessing, and a call to a professional ghost hunting service, as well as much confusion over the fact that So Taguchi is still alive, the mystery is finally solved. The ghost of So Taguchi was, in fact, the real So Taguchi, covered in flour, attempting to frighten the team into giving him an invite to Spring Training. The case was finally solved by a group of teenage detectives who were in town to adopt a great dane from Tony LaRussa, when their van ran out of gas in front of Busch Stadum.

After his arrest, Taguchi was quoted as decrying, through an interpreter, these 'meddlesome children' who kept his plan from coming to fruition.

This has been another great moment in Redbird Future History.