Three Draft Picks to Shape the NL East

With all of the draft hoopla today I thought it'd be interesting to recount this little draft story: Every June draft has it's impact on an organization and ultimately on the competitiveness of the league as a whole. But rarely do you see 3 consecutive picks that will have more impact on the future of one division than you did in the 2007 draft.  Picks #76, #77 & #78 (by the Marlins, Mets & Braves, respectively) will most definitely have a hand in shaping the landscape of the NL East for years to come.

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The 3 picks to which I am referring all took place in the second round of the '07 draft. First, the Marlins selected a raw HS talent out of SoCal by the name of Mike Stanton. At the time scouts were all over the board on Stanton, viewing him as your classic toolsy athlete who still had to learn to actually play the baseball. Here's an abbreviated version of Stanton's pre-draft scouting report (courtesy of the excellent draft scouting site, PGCrosschecker.com):

"Stanton has elicited more wide-ranging opinion than just about any player in California . Few players look as impressive physically in a uniform...and he has excellent raw power...He can also run and throw well, and he covers plenty of ground in the outfield. The questions about Stanton are...about how soon that raw ability will become usable ability at the professional level and how much a team might be willing to invest in him. He is classic high-reward, high-risk talent...he is more athlete than baseball player. There are teams that have a history of drafting players like Stanton around the fifth round range and Stanton appears signable in that area."

Obviously Stanton had the goods to become an impact player in the pros and the Marlins, to their credit, weren't scared away by the inherent risk of drafting such a raw talent, reaching for him early and signing him for $475,000. And so far their investment has paid off; in the past 2 seasons Stanton has swatted an incredible 67 hrs between Single and Double-A on his way to becoming the Marlins' top prospect and BA's #3 overall (behind only Jason Heyward & Stephen Strasburg) on their most recent Top 100 list. Though his approach at the plate is still somewhat raw, his extreme athleticism and otherworldy power figure to make him an impact player and potential star in the majors very soon. He's off to an incredible start thus far (21 HRs and an ungodly 1.157 OPS) and will be in a Marlins outfield near you soon.

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On the clock: The New York Mets. Now do we all remember the Mets 2007 draft strategy? That's right, low ceiling, signable relievers! Well they certainly stayed the course with the 77th overall pick, selecting the 6'10" Ohio righty, Scott Moviel. I suppose in their defense, Moviel was a dominant starter in HS at the time and because of his height one could hypothetically dream on his upside but that doesn't make me feel too much better about their motives as he was couched by names like Eddie Kunz, Brant Rustich, Nate Vineyard & Stephen Clyne. Moviel's pre-draft scouting report (from the same source):

 

"The Moviel/Andrew Brackman comparisons are too obvious to repeat but...scouts feel that Moviel is more advanced at the same age...On the mound, Moviel has been very consistent this spring, pitching in the 90-93 mph area virtually every time out and showing good command and feel for a mid 70s breaking ball that has good shape but could use more power and deception. He repeats his delivery very well for a pitcher of any size, which is a big positive for the future. Aside from natural worries about extremely big pitchers, there is nothing that Moviel has done this spring to discourage scouts from keeping him moving up the draft ladder."

One more important note from a BA draft write-up:

"...Because his older brothers Paul (in the Devil Rays system) and Greg (in the Mariners organization) went backward in college, Moviel is considered signable..."

Moviel wound up signing for $414,000. To date he hasn't had much success and his 2009 was hampered by injuries. At age 22 Moviel hasn't really moved forward at all in any facet; he hasn't developed the fastball some thought he might due to his size (still throwing around 90mph) and his curveball actually regressed, so much so that he has scrapped it completely and is now working on a slider (like every Met pitcher ever). Moviel has started the 2010 campaign really poorly (2-5, 6.93) and at this point, he leads a sorry group of '07 draftees as the best chance to one day make a minor impact in the Mets bullpen.

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Next up was the Braves. Like the Marlins, the Braves looked to a SoCal prep player with first round talent in selecting Freddie Freeman 78th overall. Like Stanton, Freeman was lauded for his offensive ability yet represented something of a project, a definite risk for any team that chose him. More on Freeman from his PGCrosschecker scouting report:

 

"There was a time during Freeman’s junior year of high school that scouts were saying he was a potential first-round bat if he were eligible...He has shown that he can hit and hit good pitching with power, though it has come as doubles-power more often than not. Freeman has a big arm—he’s been 90-plus on the mound—and a big frame that will hold more size and strength. While his skill set and tools rate well, the biggest question scouts have about Freeman is his energy for the game. He can appear aloof and disinterested at times and that has hurt him."

Freeman eventually signed for $409,500 and squashed concerns about his energy as well as his power by rocking the Sally League to the tune of 18hrs and a .316 AVG, all at age 18. Freeman has continued to climb through the minors, displaying excellent contact skills and plate discipline while consistently facing off against older competition, making him the Braves #2 prospect and the 32nd overall on BA's latest Top 100. As long as his power continues to develop, Freeman figures to hold down the first base job in Atlanta for years to come, starting as soon as late 2010. He's off to an OK start this season in Triple-A (.262, 5 HRs) and will probably get a look late in the summer.

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So like I said at the start, the competitiveness of the division as a whole could potentially shift a great deal due to these 3 picks. Both Atlanta and the Marlins took wise risks and as a result look to bolster their talented young cores with upper tier talent while the Mets add to their growing list of early round misses, making it even harder for them to compete in coming years.

Now you can take this however you want to. Ultimately, it's merely a coincidental oddity of the draft. And maybe that's all that it was, a coincidence, a mere 3 isolated picks that had varying degrees of success. But it isn't hard to dig deeper and see more. Both the Marlins and Braves (and the Philles for that matter) have been excellent at drafting high level, impact players for years now. Aside from Big Pelf (and I suppose we can throw Ike in there soon), the current Mets regime has been impossibly bad. I see this scenario as yet another error in judgment by a staff that hasn't proven the ability to identify and acquire impact talent on draft day, even when they do excercise the requisite financial commitment (which isn't often).

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