Draft Revision: Going back and redoing the 2008 Draft
By Jeff Ellis
March 12, 2013
The first Major League Baseball draft that I ever invested a lot of time and research into was the 2008 Draft. Right after the 2007 baseball season I discovered Indians Prospect Insider, now Indians Baseball Insider, and used this site as my main draft resource leading up to the 2008 Draft. At the time, little did I know that by the next year I would take over as the main draft writer on the site. The 2013 draft will mark my fifth straight year as the draft guy for Indians Baseball Insider, and it has been a fantastic experience.
As the college baseball season gets into swing it seemed like the perfect time to look back at that first draft, and do a redraft of the 2008 Draft. I will be doing just the first 30 picks, but will admit I had several very hard cuts. Guys like David Phelps, Shawn Armstrong, Brian Matusz and Ryan Cook all failed to make the top 30. I think my favorite pick to not make the list is Eric Decker.
I literally went round by round making this list and when I got to Decker I knew that name, but could not place it in baseball. Then I realized it was the Denver Broncos wide receiver who was also a successful outfielder for the Golden Gophers. If he could have been talked out of football he may have made the list just on athletic ability alone.
One more note, I included any player that was drafted - not just those who signed - as many of the guys who were later picks might have signed if they had been given first round money. So without further ado here is the 2008 redraft.
This was a hotly debated pick from the start as many people thought Posey should have been the top pick from the beginning. For the record, I was one of them as he filled a massive organizational hole and was a polished product. He was such an athlete some thought that he could play shortstop - there really wasn't a major hole to his game. The only concern seemed to be he didn’t have the wow factor other players displayed. Yet Tampa felt like Beckham had star potential as a shortstop, and five years later it looks like he will be lucky to ever make the majors. Posey on the other hand is an annual MVP candidate, so this is truly a pick which had major ramifications for two franchises. There is a good chance Tampa is in the World Series instead of the Giants if they had taken Posey.
I lauded the Pirates for going over slot and grabbing the bat with the most upside in this draft. Alvarez was such a dominant college bat that I thought was a future all star. Instead, he is a first baseman with contact issues, but with good power. He did hit 30 homeruns last year but the high strikeouts and low on-base percentage are still scary. His comparisons by age are also not inspiring either - Ian Stewart anyone? In spite of Alvarez's power I think they would gladly take Lawrie. Lawrie was a kid out of Canada who had teams concerned about his position and the level of competition, yet over the past two seasons he has been an almost four-win player per year over that time. He is still getting better, but looks like a future all star candidate at third going forward.
Hosmer was a mess last year. His mechanics seemed off and he ended the year with a .663 OPS which was worse than Matt LaPorta's OPS in 2010 or 2011 when he got regular playing time. I still think he can rebound, but when you draft a first baseman in the top three you are expecting an MVP caliber player. It is not extreme to say this is already a make or break year for Hosmer. Kipnis on the other hand has established himself as one of the top five second basemen in baseball going forward. He was a 4th round pick by the Padres after his red shirt sophomore year. The Royals have struggled for years to find someone to take over second base, so there is no doubt Kipnis would be the ideal guy. He brings a good combo of power and speed to any lineup. Even if Hosmer had a good year, it would be hard to justify taking him over Kipnis if only because of positional value.
4. Baltimore Orioles
2008 Pick: Brian Matusz - SP
New Pick: Wade Miley - SP
There is just something wrong with the Orioles when it comes to pitcher development. The long line of top prospects who have flamed out is ever growing and extremely troubling. It is enough to make one worry about Dylan Bundy. So it struck me that a team that has struggled so mightily with development would love to take the sure fit in Miley. Miley was an All Star, and even got Cy Young votes as a rookie. He was originally a supplemental first round draft choice by the Diamondbacks, and is a left hander who would be the ace of the Orioles’ staff. His season last year was the best season of any starter in this class yet.
5. San Francisco Giants
2008 Pick: Buster Posey – C
New Pick: Gerrit Cole - SP
It is kind of crazy to realize Posey fell to the fifth pick, and that every team that passed on him took a different high priced talent. Not a single team passed on him because of his cost, which was also high. This alone might say something about the extreme hit or miss nature of the MLB draft. Since Posey is gone at this point in the redraft, the top talent to me is Gerrit Cole, a potential ace who a few years later would be the number one pick in the draft. Cole was viewed as one of the top high school pitchers who fell late in the first round to the Yankees in 2008. They offered him a lot of money, but he decided he wanted to go to college. Maybe if he went higher and to a team near where he went to college – UCLA - he might have been more willing to sign.
Kyle Skipworth might end up being the worst pick of the entire first round. He was viewed as a solid pick at the time, but has never had a single decent season in the minors. This is a guy whose career OPS in the minors is .660 and who only once has managed an OPS over .700. He doesn't even look like a quad-A player at this point. The Marlins at the time seemed set on taking a catcher, so instead they should have taken Alex Avila who was a 5th round pick of the Tigers. Two years ago Avila was the top catcher in the American league, last year he was league average, and there is a good chance he ends up in between those years this season. I think he should be an above average starter going forward, maybe never having another year quite like his 2011, but still a good chance to be an all star candidate every year at a position where all stars can be hard to find.
I remember being a bit confused by the Alonso pick at the time as the Reds had no place to play him, and on top of that he was viewed as being one of the guys who would be quickest to the majors. The Reds lived by the approach you draft the best player, and if he is blocked you trade him later. They flipped him along with several other assets to land a front line starter in Mat Latos. So instead of drafting a guy to trade later, it makes more sense to just draft an all star pitcher. Lynn was a supplemental pick by the Cardinals. Last season he made his first all star team and looks like he will be in a few more in his future. If there is any concern with this pick, Lynn has had bad luck in Cincy, but this could be due to small sample size. It is hard to pass on an all star pitcher at this point.
8. Chicago White Sox
2008 Pick: Gordon Beckham - 3B/2B
New Pick: Danny Espinosa - SS/2B
Beckman was one of the first players from the class to make the majors. He jumped into the majors in 2009, and excelled at third base with an OPS over .800. He looked like a steal, but since then his OPS has failed to get over .700 and while Chicago keeps playing him he is really hurting the franchise. Espinosa was a 3rd round pick by the Nationals. Espinosa can play second base or shortstop and plays them both well. He brings close to above average power to the position as well as he is a shoe in for 50 extra base hits a year. You would like to see him get on base more and strikeout less, but the defense and power he brings make him a welcome addition to any team.
The Crow pick ended up being a major debacle for the Nationals. They failed to sign him and both sides spent a lot of time blaming each other. This lead them to get a compensation pick the next year where they drafted Drew Storen. In this mock they get Kimbrel who was a 3rd round pick by the Braves. The Braves had actually drafted Kimbrel the year before as a 33rd round pick but failed to sign him. It is hard to put a reliever this high, but Kimbrel just came off one of the greatest seasons any reliever has ever had. WAR is known to not be favorable to relievers, yet he was still the 29th best pitcher in terms of WAR last year one spot behind Kyle Lohse. Adding the best closer in baseball is always going to be a good move.
10. Houston Astros
2008 Pick: Jason Castro – C
New Pick: Anthony Rendon - 3B
Houston grabbed a catcher who they thought could hold down the position for them, but instead they got a guy who looks like a back up to me. Catchers are a position that thanks to positional scarcity get driven up the board on draft day. Rendon has yet to hit the majors, but he seems like a potential impact bat. The big concern is injuries and if he will be able to hold up to the rigors of the long major league season. This is the point where the talent started to drop a bit to me, so Rendon's potential impact bat makes him the guy to round out the top ten in this redraft.
I loved the Smoak pick for the Rangers. I was shocked he fell, and then he had a great season in the minors. Smoak looked like all star bat who would win multiple gold gloves at first base. He was the feature trade piece who netted the Rangers Cliff Lee, but now he now seems completely lost and the Mariners appear to be moving forward without him going forward. Meyer was a 20th round selection by the Red Sox who knew he was a very hard sign. He went to school and was a first round pick by the Nationals. His size has always been a concern, but he is a top 50 prospect in all of baseball who should be up by September for the Twins this year (he was traded to the Twins in the offseason). He is a guy with a low floor because worst case he could be a dominate pen arm. I liked him on draft day and still think he is going to be a starter long term.
12. Oakland Athletics
2008 Pick: Jemile Weeks - 2B
New Pick: Eric Hosmer - 1B
Weeks is of course the brother of Rickie Weeks. This pick surprised a lot of people as it was seen as a bit of an overdraft, but the A's loved his athleticism and ability to stick at second base. I know I was very negative about Hosmer earlier, but the potential is still there. He is still a young guy, and there was a reason people where calling him a Todd Helton type prospect. Most of baseball still thinks highly of him, and that this year will be a break out year for Hosmer. There is just too much upside to let him fall farther than this.
The Wallace pick is one of the few rare misses by the Cardinals; then again they were able to sell high on him to land Matt Holiday, so even when the Cardinals miss they manage to get great value. This is why they are the best run team in baseball right now. Casey Kelly was a back of the first round pick by the Red Sox. He fell because of his desire to play SS and his cost. In time he was convinced that his future was on the mound and not in the field, and he would be another great arm for this system. He is still developing, but there is front of the rotation potential in there. The Cardinals already have the deepest set of starting pitching in baseball, and the addition of Kelly would just drive that up a notch.
Aaron Hicks is a centerfielder with a lot of potential but some major concerns about his bat on ball skills. Hultzen was a 10th round pick by the Diamondbacks, and I am sure if they knew how good he would become they would have tried harder to sign him. Hultzen is a guy I have never been as high on as most. He strikes me as more a number three starter than a number one starter, and I have major concerns with his collapse last year. Yet he is still a good lefty prospect who should be in the majors this year, and could end up a solid number two.
The Dodgers selected Ethan Martin who could still be considered here now, but I think Vance Worley would be the better selection at this point. Worley might be a back of the rotation guy but there is still value in a guy who can be counted on to go out and be a steady pitcher. If I asked you which starting pitcher in this draft has the highest WAR, would you have said Worley? He is a guy who had a heck of a rookie year, though no one expects him to match it again. Yet he seems like a guy you can plug in and forget about.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
2008 Pick: Brett Lawrie - 3B
New Pick: Aaron Crow - SP
The Brewers got the steal of the first round by drafting Lawrie this late. He has settled in and become a very good player at third base while showing continuing improvement. They did make one very questionable decision when they traded him away for Shawn Marcum. Crow has been an all star reliever for the Royals, but I still think he could be a starter. He has the pitches and ability to be no worse than a four or five starter and has upside that could make him a number two type. There is some concern that he might not transition back to a starter, but the potential risk is mitigated by the fact he is a proven major leaguer.
David Cooper was one of those safe picks which ended up not being safe at all. He was a four year player who showed good power, a solid hit tool, and a nice eye according to his college numbers. He has continued to show those skills in the minors, yet they have failed to translate to the majors. In 72 major league games his WAR is -0.1, and at 26 years of age is old for the minors. Ordorizzi on the other hand is a ready starting pitcher who was a supplemental first rounder for the Brewers. He has been so well thought of that he has been a central part in block buster trades for a pair of ace pitchers. He was dominant in AAA last year, and should be able to challenge Alex Cobb for a spot in the Rays rotation.
Ike Davis has been an up and down player for the Mets. He showed great power last year, but the down side was he also showed a decided lack of skills for getting on base. He does appear in this redraft, but later on. The player I have the Mets taking is Andrew Cashner, a starter who has spent parts of three seasons in the majors. The Padres thought so much of him that they traded a very good prospect in Anthony Rizzo for him. Cashner is a very interesting prospect for another reason: he was drafted four years in a row. I have never seen that before and I assume that has to be some kind of record. This is yet again another ready arm that should help in the majors this year. He has the size teams want in a pitcher and the mix to be no worse than a back end guy. After watching the Indians last year, I think everyone can see the value in a ready starting pitcher.
19. Chicago Cubs
2008 Pick: Andrew Cashner – SP
New Pick: Daniel Hudson - SP
The pick of Cashner proved a good one and he just barely missed going back to the Cubs. The Cubs were big fans of him drafting him in back to back years, but in the redo he is off the board. Instead they get Daniel Hudson who a year ago would have been much higher. Hudson was a 5th round pick of the Chicago White Sox. He has spent parts of four years in the majors, but was very limited last year thanks to injuries. Last year he looked like a possible all star pitcher and even won the coveted silver slugger award for pitchers. He is a bit of risk as last year appears to be an outlier, yet he is an interesting guy because if I did this next year odds are he would either be much higher or much lower based on if he can rebound this year.
This was the most interesting pick in the draft. Fields was viewed as a near ready reliever who many thought a contending team would draft so he could help that team by September. It was obvious at this point Seattle would not be a contending team as they would end with the second worst record in baseball in 2008. Then Seattle and Fields failed to come to terms until February, so they drafted a guy with a ready arm but failed to sign him that year and he has yet to make the majors. Ross was a 2nd rounder by the Rangers. He was a starter in the minors until last year when the Rangers moved him to the pen and had him jump from AA to the majors. He was one of the top set up men in baseball last year, plus the Rangers have no problem transitioning pen arms to the rotation, so long term he could end up a starter. If Seattle had made this pick they would have gotten the pen arm they needed and Ross got there before Fields, so it's a double win.
The Tigers drafted Perry who was a hard thrower out of Arizona. The view at the time was that he was very likely a pen arm who should be quick to the majors and could close. It was partially true as he would pitch in the majors the very next season. He has pitched in the majors for parts of four seasons and has yet to establish himself. Chisenhall as everyone knows was the first rounder for the Indians and is slotted to be the starting third baseman this year. There are some major concerns about his ability to hit lefties and how little he walks. Yet his swing has always made scouts drool, and most scouts think he should be a solid regular.
22. New York Mets
2008 Pick: Reese Havens – SS
New Pick: Ike Davis - 1B
Havens was a safe college player as he played at a major program and preformed well. The prediction was that worst case he would be a solid utility guy, but the thing you can't predict is injuries which have derailed his career. Davis was someone the Mets did draft, at pick 18 in this draft. Davis might have had the quietest 32 homerun season ever last year. He was all power though as he failed to get on base. He had missed the year before due to injury, so there is some hope that with another year away from that injury that his average could get up to the .260 range which with his power would be more than acceptable. Davis's power and track record make him an easy choice at this point.
23. San Diego Padres
2008 Pick: Allan Dykstra - 1B
New Pick: Pedro Alvarez - 1B
Dykstra was a safe college bat. He put up huge numbers in the ACC, and really did well in the Cape as well showing he could hit with a wooden bat. The issue for him in the minors has been making contact - though he often posts a solid OPS – and he has not played above the AA level. Alvarez was viewed by many as the top hitter in this draft and he has failed to live up to it. He did show signs of life for the first time last year and ended up hitting 30 home runs. The power is what makes him a guy who still goes in round one. He strikes out a lot, doesn't walk much, and his average is ugly, but the hope is that there is still room for development. Even if he is done developing, if he can just replicate what he did last year he will play in this league for a decade.
This was actually an excellent draft for the Philles outside of the Hewitt pick. The Philles approach has been to draft athletes then sort it out later. The idea being when you hit, you hit big, and when you miss you miss big. This is the definition of a big miss as four years in he has never made AA or had an OPS over 700. In other words he will never see the big leagues. Cosart was a guy who the Phillies drafted in the 38th round. Cosart was able to develop into an interesting pitching prospect who turned into one of the major pieces in the Hunter Pence deal. Cosart should pitch in the majors this year. A fun note on him is for some reason he dropped from the 50th best prospect to out of the Baseball America top 100 prospect listing in spite of having a better K-rate, lower ERA, and lower HR-rate than he had before all the while doing it at higher levels. I’m not sure why people are down on this guy as he should be solid for the Astros.
At one point Friedrich was so well thought of he was the 33rd ranked prospect by Baseball America. The problem is he has really failed to excel above the AA level, and last year in his extended big league shot he had an ERA over six. He looks like a guy who is going to bounce around and his best shot looks like a Bruce Chen type of career. Brandon Crawford is a guy who has never been a sexy player and is never going to make a fan base excited. He is a guy who teams might try and upgrade, yet end of the day his defense makes him a major league starter in this league. A lot of teams have gone with players at shortstop who are more defensive orientated. He might never be a league average hitter for his position, but his defense means he will always find a home somewhere.
Schlereth was another pitcher who was viewed as a pen arm who could help a team quickly. He did just that by making the majors the next season. He was traded to Detroit and put up two pretty solid seasons, but last year was so bad that he pitched in only six games before he was sent to the minors to stay. Sonny Gray was a 27th round draft choice by the Cubs, and the major concern on him has always been his size as he is about 5'10". The issue with shorter pitchers is that the lack of height often leads to straighter fastballs. Gray didn't have the strongest stats this year, but his potential to be a starter or a very good pen arm I think would still have him go at about this point in the draft. I liked him coming out of Vandy and still see a potential starter in him, and would need to see more than one meh year before I would write him off.
The Fields pick was strange but this was the one that really made people scratch their heads. Gutierrez was not viewed as a first round talent out of the University of Miami, plus word soon came out that they were going to turn him into a starter. He had been the closer for Miami the year before. He had a great sinker and since the Twins were a model franchise at that point they really got the benefit of the doubt. Gutierrez is now a pen arm again at 26 posting ERA's over five in AAA. Gose was a 2nd rounder by the Phillies and another player from their great draft class. They actually used the pieces for this draft as central pieces in the Cliff Lee, Doc Holliday, and Hunter Pence deals. Gose is a crazy athlete but has always had trouble putting the bat on the ball. He was always viewed as a guy with great upside, but there has to be a point where you worry about the fact that some of his skills have not quite developed. At this point the upside is still enough to make him a late first rounder.
28. New York Yankees
2008 Pick: Gerrit Cole – SP
New Pick: Taylor Jungman SP
It is hard to fault the Yankees for the Cole pick. He was the top player on the board by far, and they got a compensation pick for failing to sign him. Jungman was a 24th round pick by the Angels, but they failed to sign him and three years later he was a first rounder by the Brewers. He was viewed as a classic safe, back end of the rotation guy. He pitched very well in high-A last year, which should be expected for a polished college arm. I was kind of surprised they did not get him to AA last year. The reason he does not go higher is because he is farther from the majors. His upside is maybe a better Vance Worley, but with Worley you have a finished project while Jungman is still possibly two years from the majors.
29. Cleveland Indians
2008 Pick: Lonnie Chisenhall - 3B
New Pick: Ethan Martin - SP
Chisenhall was an excellent pick. The talk on draft day was that the Red Sox were all set to draft him before the Indians took him. He had a great freshman year at South Carolina before being kicked off the team for stealing. He never had any other issues before or after, but red flags still hurt his value at the time. Ethan Martin was the 15th overall selection by the Dodgers. He had been a bit of a disappointment but really rebounded this past season. He actually seems to get better the higher level he pitches at and was able to reestablish himself as prospect. He looks like a potential starter down the road for the Phillies as soon as this year.
30. Boston Red Sox
2008 Pick: Casey Kelley – SP
New Pick: Aaron Hicks - OF
Kelly was a solid pick for the Red Sox and they later used him as the primary piece to help them acquire Adrian Gonzales. Aaron Hicks was the 14th pick to the Twins and he was known as a major athlete. The positive news is that his first season at AA last year was his best. I still like him, thanks to his athletic skills along with a solid walk rate which allows me to think that even if the power does not develop that he could still be a starter. He has a lot of the similar concerns Gose had, but he is farther away from the majors. I debated flipping those two guys a dozen times, but in the end went with the player who was closer to being able to help.
So there you go. A complete redo of the top 30 picks of the 2008 draft. I think the one thing I took away from this was how little impact talent there was. By the middle of the first round if you got a guy who could be a back end starter then you did a good job.
As fans we often get very concerned about every single pick, but outside of the Phillies no other team had more than two players appear in this list. In those first 40 rounds a total of 1222 players were drafted, and doing this redraft I was unable to find as many as 50 guys who look like major leaguers. If you landed two players who turned into starters then you did an excellent job.
If nothing else this should show teams that are afraid of losing a pick that it is always better to sign a proven major league player than take a risk on a guy who might help you down the road. Don't get me wrong it is important to invest in the future and the draft allows for that, but just don't get upset when a majority of even the early draft picks don't make the majors.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at email@example.com
JWahoo, if you read the comments where Chisenhall was picked a littl earlier I think Jeff makes note of how it was a good pick. Since he is already off the board in the redraft when the Indians pick, he has them taking someone else.
Will fix the Beckham issue thanks for the heads up typos happen
You say the Indians should not have drafted Chisenhall just because you had him already taken in the draft right?
Because I am glad we drafted Chisenhall. I think he has a break out year and is cornerstone in the infield for years to come.
Sorry to be that guy.