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Blog Entry

A Mariner surprise, and other draft thoughts

Posted on: June 6, 2011 7:22 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 10:56 pm
 
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- We knew this draft would provide some surprises.

We never thought the surprises would start so soon.

After the Pirates opened the draft by picking UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole, as expected, the Mariners followed by choosing University of Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen with the second pick.

Hultzen wasn't a pick out of the blue. The Pirates went to the final weekend before deciding between Cole and Hultzen at No. 1.

But in every pre-draft scenario discussed among officials at the draft, the pitching-rich, offense-poor Mariners were going to take Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon.

"Completely unexpected," Hultzen told MLB Network after the pick was made.

The Diamondbacks followed by taking UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer, also as expected.

Rendon went to the Nationals, with the sixth pick.

At that point, the six players expected to go 1-6 had gone 1-6. In that sense, the draft was going as expected.

But who knew the Mariners would pass on Rendon and take Hultzen?

Other first-round thoughts:

-- The Orioles took high school pitcher Dylan Bundy, who some scouts considered the most talented pitcher in the entire draft.

-- As recently as Sunday, the Royals were expected to stay away from local high school product Bubba Starling, not because they didn't like him but because he has a football scholarship to Nebraska and they weren't convinced he wanted to sign. Eventually, the Royals took Starling, in part because their preferred picks were taken before they drafted. The Royals loved Bundy, and would have liked the college pitchers, too, but with Mike Moustakas on a fast track to the big leagues, they didn't want a college third baseman (Rendon). Kent Babb, a writer for the Kansas City Star, wrote on Twitter that Starling told him two months ago that "it would make it very difficult to go to Nebraska if the Royals picked him." The pressure is now on the Royals to come up with the money to sign him, but it's a good bet that they will.

-- Two picks after Nebraska's next quarterback went to the Royals, Oklahoma's next quarterback went seventh overall when the Diamondbacks used their second first-round pick on Archie Bradley. Bradley is also well-regarded, enough so that there was talk before the draft that the Orioles would take him with the fourth pick.

-- Starling and Bradley are the type of athletes that baseball needs, and also the type of athletes that teams often need to go "above-slot" to sign. With that in mind, I asked commissioner Bud Selig if he worried that the hard-slotting system that he advocates would make it harder to attract the best athletes. Not surprisingly, he insisted that it wouldn't.

-- UCLA became just the second school to have two of the first three picks. Arizona State did it in 1978, with Bob Horner going first overall to the Braves and Hubie Brooks going two picks later to the Mets. Cole is the first UCLA player to go first overall in the June draft. Chris Chambliss went first overall in the January draft, back when there was a January draft.

-- Bundy and Bradley didn't go to school together, but they have worked out together for years. In an interview on MLB Network, Bundy said they were "pretty much brothers."

-- Mets pick Brandon Nimmo is from Wyoming, which made him the first first-round pick ever out of a Wyoming high school. He was only the 13th player ever taken out of a Wyoming high school. The only previous pick in the first 10 rounds was Michael Beaver, taken by the Phillies in the sixth round in 1966. Neither Beaver nor any of the other 11 has played in the big leagues. Thirteen Wyoming-born players have played in the big leagues. Mike Lansing, who had the most at-bats of anyone born in Wyoming, went to Wichita State and was drafted out of college.

-- As advertised, this was a pitcher-heavy draft. The first four picks were all pitchers, for the first time ever. But it also points up another general problem baseball has right now, which is that there aren't enough good young hitters in the game right now. It's one of the reasons that offense is down in the big leagues, and it's one of the things scouts covering the minor leagues talk about.

-- Baseball has improved the visibility of the draft in recent years, almost all for the better. But it probably wasn't a great idea for one of the MLB Network guys to walk to the front of the media section and yell to the fans sitting behind that they should applaud every pick: "Even if it's fake, it looks good on TV."

-- Baseball keeps trying to get more players to attend the draft, but the only player in attendance who was drafted Monday was Larry Greene, a high school outfielder from Georgia who went to the Phillies in the sandwich round (39th overall). Some players are still playing, others are advised by agents not to attend, but Greene was thrilled he made the trip from Nashville, Ga. He said his father and mother convinced him to come. "She got what she wanted," he said. One of the few players to attend the draft in the past was Mike Trout, who was taken 25th overall by the Angels in 2009 and has since become one of the hottest prospects in the game.

-- Sign of the times? A couple of hours after they were both drafted by the Diamondbacks, Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) sent a public Twitter message to Bauer (@BauerOutage): "hit me up man we need to talk lol."

-- Because the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano as a free agent, they didn't have a first-round pick, and didn't pick at all until the sandwich round (51st pick, for losing Javier Vazquez). They took Dante Bichette Jr., the son of the ex-big leaguer. And according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, that's appropriate because Dante Sr. and Yankee manager Joe Girardi were close when they played for the Rockies. Girardi has a son named Dante, and Bichette's youngest son is named Joseph.

For more draft coverage from CBSSports.com, click here









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