Now that I’ve had some time to digest the Mets’ draft, I wanted to get my thoughts down. My first impulse was to actively dislike it. I’ve softened that stance somewhat, but—well, you’ll see after I’ve spoken about the picks. Let’s jump right into it.
Round 1: Matt Harvey, RHP, North Carolina
I’ve spoken at length on Matt Harvey, so I won’t spend much time evaluating the selection here. He has some obvious upside thanks to a hard sinking fastball, but the lack of a major league ready breaking pitch, outstanding command, and some rough mechanics suggest to me he’ll take some work and won’t rise quickly, unless he’s converted to relief immediately, which would be a waste of his fastball. In the end, Harvey wouldn’t be my choice, but I understand the selection. My shadow draft selection was prep outfielder Josh Sale, who is the single-most polished hitter in this draft with major power and the patience to go with it. Oddly enough for a prep player, Sale was the signability choice here, as I had no confidence in Mets management to pay Yasmani Grandal’s price tag.
Round 3: Blake Forsythe, C, Tennessee
Like Harvey, there’s clear upside here: Forsythe was seen as a guy who could break into the first round with a strong spring. After not playing much as a freshman, Forsythe had hit .347/.490/.663 as a sophomore, but that strong junior season never happened, as Forsythe hit just .286/.405/.583. He still displayed the patience and power you love to see out of a prospect, but a high strikeout rate—22.3%, following a 19.4% rate in 2009—severely limited his ability to hit for average. The swing more or less backs this up. He wraps his bat behind his back which lengthens the distance the barrel of the bat has to travel to reach the contact zone. Topping it off, he sometimes deepens his load too much, though I’ve seen him with a shorter swing at times. The other worry concerns his power. He has a foot tap as a timing mechanism, which is not in and of itself bad, but he transfers all his weight to his front foot very early. When he actually makes contact, the only forward-moving force is his arms, meaning the power he’s generating is resulting solely from his upper body and the aluminum bat. Possibly related to this, he’s also not waiting on the pitch long enough to really utilize his bat speed to drive the ball. Finally, while his patience is admirable, scouts have questioned his pitch recognition skills. He’s consistently fooled on breaking balls. He doesn’t figure to be a plus defensively, but he has a strong arm and figures to stick at the position.
The pluses are substantial here, so I really do like Forsythe—I see his upside as being a sort of Ramon Castro type of player. But there are enough negatives that I had him targeted for the fifth round, and there were still enough guys I liked where I didn’t see the need to take him as early as the Mets did. In fact, I thought Rob Brantly, taken later in the round, was the best college catcher on the board. My shadow draft selection was Aaron Shipman, a very toolsy outfielder from Georgia. He’s not my typical selection—I tend to like skills a lot—but I’m really intrigued by the tools package, see little bit of polish, and think he’s signable at slot or slightly above slot. He’s a future leadoff hitter in my eyes. I was also really tempted by Jess Hahn, who I think is 95% the player Matt Harvey is, but I’m thinking his arm must be in worse shape than anticipated for him to fall as far as he did.
Round 4: Cory Vaughn, OF, San Diego State
Vaughn, to son of former major leaguer Greg, was well regarded in high school, and there’s little wonder why: he’s a physical specimen. At 6-3, 225 pounds with great speed and a strong arm, Vaughn is built like a linebacker. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture him as a 30-30 player. Unfortunately, his college career was seen as disappointing until a strong finish resulted in an impressive .378/.454/.606 junior campaign. There are still some concerns. At the plate, almost everything I said about Forsythe applies to Vaughn: bat wrap, leaks his weight, long swing, hits the ball way out in front, poor pitch recognition. His strikeout rate, 26.4% over his career, was even worse than Forsythe’s, and, unlike Forsythe, he doesn’t have a whole lot of patience. Considering that his numbers in college were more batting average dependent than I’d like, the contact rate might be very important at the next level. In the field, the general feeling is that he’ll stick in center for a while, but he’ll eventually become more of a right fielder due to poor reads and his sheer size. I took SUNY Oneonta pitcher Dave Filak, a righty with some really great stuff who treated Division III like his rag doll.
Round 5: Matt den Dekker, OF, Florida
Matt den Dekker has been on draft radars for a long time. But he's been very inconsistent in college and was selected by the Devil Rays in the 16th round in last year’s draft, a very disappointing showing. He refused to sign and returned for a senior season in 2010, where he finally put together a solid performance, batting .358/.436/.575 and stealing 23 bags in 30 attempts. Of course, you have to keep in mind that he was one of the oldest players in the league, and he was, essentially, repeating the level for the third time. His biggest asset right now is his speed, which does translate into some great range in center field. He also brings a very strong arm to the field—he was a two-way player in high school. And he does have some raw power, but that just hasn’t translated yet, thanks to a flat swing—actually, flat might be generous since he tends to swing down at the pitch—and poor lower body management. Furthermore, contact is a question, too. He cut down on his strikeout rate this season, but it still doesn’t sparkle, and he has a decidedly long, sweeping swing due to a very deep backward hand load. He also struggles with his pitch recognition, and overstriding can lead to early commitments to balls outside the zone. I like him more than Vaughn due to his defense, but he has less time to refine his offense than most due to his status as a senior sign. I see him as a fourth outfielder providing defense and speed off the bench, but little else. My fifth round selection was Hawaii righty Josh Slaats, who I expected to go a little earlier. Slaats has some solid average velocity, a clean arm action, and he really made some strides this year with his slider which can really show some outstanding depth.
Round 6: Greg Peavey, RHP, Oregon State
Greg Peavey has also been on the minds of scouts for a long time, and he was considered a very promising prep arm three years ago, but fell due to signability—Scott Boras is his advisor. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t developed the way scouts previously envisioned. He never had much in the way of projection, and his velocity predictably stalled at 88-93, average for a righty. The slider is what’s really troubling his prospect status. At times it has nice depth and good velocity, a true two-plane pitch, but more often it’s got a little bit of late break but lacks the depth to be a true swing-and-miss pitch. I don’t think his three-quarters delivery is helping any. What’s happened is he’s posted some very pedestrian strikeout rates in college, just 6.37 per nine innings over his college career. His changeup is allegedly a non-factor, though I haven’t seen it. He does have a clean arm action and fair control, so he has some chance to be a back-of-the-rotation righty finesse arm, but it’s more likely he ends up a short reliever. For my shadow choice, I thought about Peavey for a couple minutes before opting for sinkerballing righty Gabe Encinas out of a California high school. The Yankees wound up taking him later on in the round.
Round 7: Jeff Walters, RHP, Georgia
Drafting Walters has become something of a tradition that finally ended with Walters signing a contract with the Mets the other day. This year was the fifth consecutive year that Walters had been drafted. He’s a big man with a big fastball that can touch 95 or so but more commonly sits 90-93 with a little arm-side run. He’ll also throw a sinker 88-92. I’ve only seen Walters’s draft video, but what I see is pretty consistent with what I’ve unearthed about him. The big problem is inconsistency. He had a terrible year this year as he moved into the rotation, posting a 7.90 ERA, losing the plate frequently, and allowing way too many home runs for a guy who relies on a sinker. The slider has some depth, which is nice, but he can’t command it consistently, making it a below average pitch. The delivery is a little different each pitch, though he always cuts himself off early. Command is obviously a very large issue here. Walters is both a project and a senior, a situation I’d normally associate with a later draft pick. I figure the Mets envision him first as a starter, but he was much more effective as a reliever at Georgia. I opted to go a different route in my shadow draft, selecting the similarly named Kevin Walter. He’s a high schooler with a big body and decent command. His fastball isn’t great, but I think he could easily add some velocity with some refinement. The word before the draft was that he was signable for sixth round money, so I was taking a small gamble that he’d sign for seventh. But he fell all the way to the 20th round; considering his commitment to Boston College, I’m probably going to lose the pick.
Tomorrow I'll post rounds 8-15, and later on I'll post the highlights from rounds 16-50 as well as some closing thoughts.