The MLB Draft begins tomorrow and goes until Saturday afternoon. The first two rounds are tomorrow and will be shown live on MLBTV and mlb.com. Friday has rounds 3-10, and will be shown online only with no TV coverage. Saturday is the rest of the draft, which concludes with round 40, and will also be shown online only.
The Hoos will likely be watching with great interest tomorrow, as three members of the team are expected to hear their names in the first 2 rounds. Several more should hear their names Friday, and perhaps a few more in the late rounds. By that time, however, the Hoos will be focused on Maryland and not on the draft.
While no draft is an exact science, the MLB draft is even more of a mystery than other sports. This is due to a combination of factors. The first, and most important, is that the road from amateur baseball to the major leagues is much longer than football or basketball. Even the top prospects typically spend a year or more in the minor leagues. The second factor is that there is much less coverage of college baseball and almost no coverage of prep baseball. And the third factor is that baseball is so much harder to project than other sports. On the surface, baseball is the same sport all the way from little league to the major leagues. But the game changes when you get rid of metal bats. Some guys simply can't ever adjust. And, as Crash Davis said, "They throw ungodly breaking stuff in the Show."
The three Hoos likely to hear their names called tomorrow could probably go in any order. Checking out a few different lists, mock drafts and scouting reports, Derek Fisher, Nick Howard and Mike Papi are all listed among the top prospects in the country. Some scouts have Howard listed highest, some have Fisher listed highest. Some have Papi second, some have Papi third. Again, the MLB Draft is a crapshoot.
Derek Fisher is a prototypical 5-tool player. He can run, he can hit, he has power, and he's an outstanding OF with a strong arm. He's almost definitely a first round pick, probably anywhere from 20 to 40. (Note that because of Compensation picks and Competitive Balance picks, there are 41 first round picks. There are 33 second round picks.) I've mostly seen Fisher linked with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Indians. Fisher gets knocked down a bit for the wrist injury he suffered this year.
Nick Howard is a two-way player who plays INF and pitches. He's likely to begin his career as a pitcher, because his ceiling there is higher. He's been a dominating closer this year for the Hoos, but was a starter last year. As a closer, he's struck out 50 batters in under 30 innings. As an infielder, he's played 3B and SS. He batted .346 as a freshman. As a sophomore, he had 17 extra base hits in 198 ABs and allowed just 14 extra base hits in 61.2 innings. He could be the 1st Virginia player to hear his name, or he could wait until the beginning of the second round. He's been linked with the Giants (picking 14th), the Cardinals, the Brewers, and the Royals. Some mock drafts do not have him in the 1st round.
Mike Papi is generally the lowest rated of the 3 top Virginia prospects. This, despite being an All-American two years in a row, leading the ACC in HRs over the past two years and leading the team in HRs, RBIs, OBP, SLG and walks this year. Papi is a 1B/OF, who isn't seen as a plus with the glove at either position. That is the main reason for his somewhat lower status. A guy who doesn't add anything with the glove has to be great with the bat. Papi could be, but some scouts wonder if he'll generate enough power to stick at 1B in the majors. Papi has been linked to the Red Sox, Cardinals and Indians, mostly at the end of the first round. He could slip into the second round.
Other Hoos likely to hear their names call this weekend are Branden Cogswell, Brandon Downes, Artie Lewicki, Nate Irving, Kenny Townes and Whit Mayberry. Cogswell, Downes and Lewicki are probably Friday guys. Irving and Mayberry are more likely to go on Saturday. Projecting guys that far down in the draft is next to impossible.
Among the hitters, Downes and Cogswell are the best prospects of the bunch. Cogswell because he's such a slick fielder at 2B, he handles the bat well, and he has a good eye at the plate. Downes, because he has a lot of pop and can handle CF. Irving may hear his name on Friday, just because MLB teams need catchers. Townes was a better prospect last year when he batted .290 with 7 HRs. This year, he batted just .257 and hit just 2 HRs. He likely falls into the late rounds.
Lewicki is still building up his arm strength after surgery in 2013. He certainly looks like a major league pitcher, but right simply doesn't have the stuff. As he rebuilds his strength, he may develop into a solid relief option. Mayberry will probably go in the late rounds.
Continue to check out Streaking The Lawn over the next few days for coverage of the MLB Draft as well the Charlottesville SuperRegional.
Looking ahead, Nathan Kirby is projected to be a high first round pick next year. Lefties who strike out better than a batter per inning in the ACC tend to be highly touted prospects.