2007 Draft Review

Last Thursday, the Mets and every other team in baseball participated in the annual June amateur player draft. As compensation for the free agent signing of Moises Alou over the winter, the Mets were without a true first round pick for the second straight year. Technically, the Mets *did* have two selections in the first round, though they both fell during the "sandwich" portion following the initial thirty selections. They were awarded the 42nd overall pick as compensation for the Indians signing Roberto Hernandez (that trade worked out well for the Mets, eh?), and the 47th overall pick as compensation for the Orioles signing Chad Bradford.

With their first selection, 42nd overall, the Mets grabbed righty reliver Eddie Kunz out of Oregon State University. Per MiLB.com:

Kunz's package of stuff is well-suited to the back of a bullpen, but the lack of the third pitch may keep him from closing as a pro. His future may be as a setup man who can pound his sinker-slider combination in on right-handed hitters.
Marc Hullet at The Baseball Analysts agrees with MiLB's take:
Kunz throws a sinking fastball that can touch 94 mph. His second pitch is a slider, with good late, hard break to it. He has average command and throws from a three-quarters arm slot out of the bullpen. He lacks a true weapon against good left-handed batters but his sinker will induce a lot of ground balls and chew up bats in pro ball. Because of his struggles against lefties, he projects more as a set-up man in pro ball, rather than a dominating closer.
Not sure about the struggles against lefties, though. Here are his splits, according to CollegeSplits.com:
            BA   OBP   SLG
          ----------------      
vs. LHB   .176  .383  .294
vs. RHB   .228  .318  .298
The on-base percentage against lefties is interesting: Kunz walked ten lefties injust 9.2 innings of work (the 9.2 innings for a split just indicate that 29 lefties were retired; the fact that those outs are represented by innings pitched is a fiction of the splits). The Mets currently feature a lot of flyball pitchers, well-suited to the pitcher-friendliness of Shea Stadium. Perhaps liking what they have seen so far in Joe Smith, they took Kunz as another grounder-inducing middle reliever. A reach for the first round, perhaps, considering Smith wasn't taken until the third round last year.

Or, perhaps the Mets are just a little bit superstitious: Kunz was born on April 8, 1986, Opening Day for their last World Championship team. They won that game, 4-2 in Pittsburgh.

Five slots after Kunz the Mets selected Nathan Vineyard, a lefty out of Woodland High School in Georgia. MiLB.com had this to say:

This is turning out to be a pretty good draft for high school lefties and Vineyard adds to the depth at the position. He has the chance to have a good three-pitch mix with a slider that is an out pitch right now. While there's not a ton of projection to make, he should improve on things like command and fastball movement. He might be a tick behind the top prep southpaws on draft day, but he won't fall too far.
Vineyard turned 20 last October, which seems a little old to be a high school senior. It's not clear if he was left back a grade or three, but pending a seven-figure contract offer he's a Met now. I couldn't find his stats anywhere, although it's very difficult to distill high school stats down to something meaningful anyway. Nevertheless, some gaudy strikeout numbers would have made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

With their second round pick, 77nd overall, the Mets took RHP Scott Moviel out of St. Edward High School in Berea, Ohio. One thing you notice about Moviel from his profile is that he is a gigantor, towering over his peers at 6'10" tall. Here is his MiLB.com summary:

Moviel is a huge 6-foot-10 right-hander who'll be a bit of a project for whichever team takes him. He is fairly athletic and used to play basketball, but as is often the case with pitchers his size, he struggles to repeat his delivery and maintain his mechanics. He does have a solid average fastball, a curve that could become a good pitch with some help and a changeup he doesn't throw much. Finding consistency will be the key to Moviel's success. Some pitchers his size have found it, others have not.
Not much else to go on here. Obviously, whenever you talk about pitchers as tall as Moviel the discussion eventually leads to Randy Johnson. Moviel just turned 19, so he has time to develop more arm strength and add a few more miles per hour to his fastball. Anecdotally, one of the problems that taller pitchers seem to have is with consistently repeating their delivery. With so many limbs flying around it seems easy for them to get their mechanics all screwed up. It'll be interested to see what Rick Peterson can do with this tall drink of water.

Later in the second round, 93rd overall, the Mets took yet another pitcher, this time Brant Rustich, a junior right-hander out of UCLA. Rustich had a finger injury that derailed his 2006 season with UCLA. The injury ultimately required surgery that ended his season, and he has certainly struggled this season, sporting a 6.18 ERA and a 7.81 RA (includes unearned runs). He has had a lot of problems with the bases-on-balls, allowing seventeen of them in just 27.2 innings. His strikeout rate (9.43) is very strong, and his homerun rate (0.98) is nothing awful.

For more on Rustich, check out his profile at MiLB.com and his stats at CollegeSplits.com. In the third round the Mets grabbed Eric Niesen, a junior left-hander out of Wake Forest 99th overall. MiLB says:

Niesen has found success since moving into Wake Forest's bullpen earlier in the season. His fastball has picked up a few notches, and he throws it with a three-quarter arm angle. That being said, he lacks deception for a lefty reliever and his other pitches lag behind the fastball.
Niesen has been very strong against lefties, but seems to spend a lot of time pitching around righties. He has issued 29 walks in 53 innings against righties, but his overall numbers against them -- .237/.329/.336 -- are very strong. His strikeout and homerun rates are strong across the board, so he could be a sleeper if he can cut down on the free passes.

The Mets surprised no one by taking another pitcher with their final pick in the third round: Stephen Clyne out of Clemson with the 123rd overall selection. Clyne has had his problems against lefties this year, allowing a few too many of them to reach base. However, he can strike batters out (9.99 per nine innings), he doesn't allow many homeruns (0.21 per nine innings) and is a strong groundball presence on the mound. Stats for 2007 are available at CollegeSplits.com.

You can check out Mets.com for the full draft list and video scouting reports for Kunz, Vineyard, Moviel, Rustich, Nieson, Clyne, and others.

It was a pitching-rich draft and the Mets obliged, taking pitchers with their first six selections. The old baseball adage is that you can never have enough pitching, and the Mets certainly applied that idea to this year's amateur draft. Considering that they didn't get to choose until 42nd overall, my wish for them to draft some impact infield -- or catcher -- talent might have been a tough sell. A lof of the arms they grabbed early are groundball types, some works in progress, and a bunch of guys who profile as relievers at the big league level. It'll be some time before we can reasonably grade the Mets' performance in this draft, and given the disparity in talent across NCAA, not to mention the high schools around the country, once you get out of the first round you really start to rely heavily on your scouting team. Hopeflly, the Mets know what they're doing in that department.

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