Reinstating the Draft

Well it is that time of year again when the scouting departments for all 30 franchises meet and hold the annual first-year player draft. This year is slightly different as the rules have changed as a result of the collective bargaining agreement. This also marked the first time that the draft would be televised on ESPN2 and also on MLB.TV via the Internet. I have said for a long time that baseball was missing a golden opportunity to market the game. The NFL has made their annual draft almost as large a media event as the Super Bowl yet baseball insisted on keeping their draft behind closed doors and out of the public spotlight. It always takes nearly an act of Congress to get a listing of the draft choices and information about the players. But today we had baseball commissioner Bud Selig welcoming fans and viewers to the draft then acting as master of ceremonies for each and every pitch. It was sometimes hard to get caught up in the drama that the announcers were attempting to build with each pitch. Still, it was kind of exciting to watch the draft unfold. I was slightly disappointed, each team sent representatives to the draft to man the phones or act in some sort of official capacity. I waited by the phone all week and diligently checked my email but the Diamondbacks never called. I was really disappointed as I thought I would be perfect sitting there at the table looking important while doodling on a notepad.

I was very interested to see how the Arizona Diamondbacks draft strategy would differ this year as from the past few years. Director of Scouting Operations Mike Rizzo is no longer with the team as he has moved on to the Washington Nationals. During Rizzo’s tenure the Arizona Diamondbacks built one of the best farm systems in all of Major League Baseball. That farm system has produced many of the players that are currently on the Arizona Diamondbacks team including Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Carlos Quentin, Scott Hairston, and Micah Owings to name a few. With Rizzo’s departure the draft would be left in the capable hands of Tom Allison. All the Diamondbacks faithful would be watching to see how the draft played out. Would Arizona continue to put a premium on college recruits over high school prospects as they had done in the recent past or would they break that mold and look for younger players that they could devote more time to in the minor leagues? With such a young core of players on the major league roster the Diamondbacks have somewhat of a dilemma since anyone coming up through the minor league system will most likely be blocked when they attempt to reach the major league level. It would seem more appropriate to build the next wave of young superstars by drafting high school talent which may take 2-3 years to mature. This would pay dividends by restocking the now somewhat depleted farm system from the bottom and allowing it to grow. For that to work you would need a very good instructional system and I think the Diamondbacks have put that into place.

During the first round the Arizona Diamondbacks had the ninth overall pick and the also had 2 compensatory selections at the end of the first round for compensation on losing two players through free agency. With their first selection they took right-handed pitcher Jarrod Parker, who many draft analysts had identified as the best high school pitcher in the draft. Parker has had a stellar career at Norwood High School in Indiana. He did not allow an earned run until the seventh game of the season. Parker has been compared in stature and skills to Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros. If those comparisons hold true, the Diamondbacks will be in very good shape. The first compensatory pick also saw the Diamondbacks load up on pitching with the selection of Wesley Roemer from Cal State Fullerton. Wesley not only pitched for Cal State but was also a member of Team USA so he has some international competition experience. The other compensatory pick the Diamondbacks chose Edward Easley a catcher from Mississippi State. The theme of pitching definitely played out during the first day of the draft as 4 of the first seven picks the Diamondbacks made were for pitchers. Besides Parker and Roemer, the Diamondbacks selected right-handed pitcher Barry Enright from Pepperdine in the second round and right-handed pitcher Sean Morgan from Tulane in the fourth round. The Diamondbacks also went a younger route by selecting short stop Reynaldo Navarro of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School in the third round and left fielder Tyrell Worthington from South Central High School in North Carolina in the fifth round. Worthington is an especially interesting pick as he has signed a commitment to play running back or corner back at East Carolina University this fall. He is a gifted football player so it will be interesting to see whether he will choose professional baseball or college football as his emphasis.

The first day of the draft saw the Diamondbacks almost evenly split on selecting college versus high school players. It also showed that Arizona is very serious about restocking their farm system with quality athletes as the Diamondbacks selected what many considered the best athlete in the draft at each of their selections. With pitching being such a premium it came as little surprise that pitchers were drafted more than any other position in the first five rounds. If I were to give Tom Allison’s first draft a grade I would definitely say he showed great promise and some creativity earning him an A in my book. Let’s hope that someday soon we’ll see the draft class of 2007 in a Diamondbacks uniform.

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