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'05 draftees leave mark at AT&T Park07/08/2007 8:22 PM ET
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- One day, people will look back at the first round of the 2005 draft as perhaps the best ever -- at least from an offensive perspective.
If you were to just take the players already in the big leagues it'd be a top-tier first round. Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki were all taken in the top 10 two years ago. But all you had to do was watch the introductions of the U.S. Team at the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game to realize it truly will be a round for the ages.
The World team's 7-2 victory did nothing to lessen the star power on the U.S. team, particularly in the outfield. All five outfielders on the roster were first-round picks in 2005, starting with No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton. Cameron Maybin, who didn't play because of a shoulder injury, was No. 10, Jay Bruce was No. 12 overall, Jacoby Ellsbury went 23rd and Colby Rasmus went 28th.
Those who did play combined to only 2-for-11, but there were enough glimpses of the immense potential turning into performance on the field. Upton has put a so-so first full season in his rear-view mirror as he rockets up the Diamondbacks ladder. He began the year in the California League, but after hitting .341 in 32 games, he got bumped up to Double-A and kept on raking. He won't turn 20 until the end of August and is hitting a combined .318 with 13 homers, 16 steals and a .535 slugging percentage. It wouldn't be shocking if he ended the year in Arizona, at least for a September call-up.
Upton certainly looked like he belonged here at AT&T Park. It started during batting practice, when he put on the best show of the morning. Still so young and not yet completely physically mature, Upton hit lasers into the left-field bleachers. He carried it over into the game. Facing Fautino De Los Santos in the third inning, his no-doubt-about-it blast was one of the lone offensive highlights for the U.S. team.
Maybe he felt he needed to one-up Bruce, his fellow 2005 draftee. The Reds outfield prospect hit a moon shot to right-center that bounced off the brick wall and resulted in a triple. Had he hit it 25 yards to the left, he would have had the first homer of the game. Of these first-rounders, Bruce has the most raw power. He, too, is already in Double-A and has hit a combined .325 with a .602 slugging percentage. Of course, he's an elder stateman: He turned 20 in April.
If it hadn't been for his banged up shoulder, Maybin may have joined Upton and Bruce in Double-A by now. He was hitting .303 with eight homers and 23 steals for Lakeland in the Florida State League before missing the last several games. He last had an at-bat on June 30. Once he gets back, the smooth center fielder should continue his path to Comerica Park and moving Curtis Granderson to a corner spot.
Rasmus actually replaced Upton after the latter's longball. It says something about the loaded outfield that a player of Rasmus' talents couldn't crack the starting lineup. The Cardinals center fielder is another with the hard-to-find power-speed combination. He's actually spent the entire year in Double-A and while his .258 average may not seem all that impressive, he's got 44 extra-base hits, including 16 homers, and has gone 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts. He went 0-for-2 in Sunday's game, but it won't be long before he'll be displaying his considerable tools at Busch Stadium.
Then there's the lone college guy. Ellsbury, out of Oregon State, may have gone 0-for-4 in the Futures Game, but he's the one in this group of five who actually has big-league time. He made the most of his six games there, going 6-for-16, stealing a base and electrifying the crowd by scoring from second base on a wild pitch. He had hit .329 in the Minors with 31 steals in only 69 games, and it's a matter of when, not if, he supplants Coco Crisp in center field in Boston. Ellsbury also deserves some kudos for asking to come to the Futures Game once he got sent down. Others with less character may not have been so eager to come here after getting a week of "real" big-league life.
We're not just talking decent players here. All five of these guys can hit for average, can run and, with the possible exception of Ellsbury, have some serious pop. They will be game-changers for years to come, the kind of players who will return to countless All-Star Games as big leaguers as time passes.
Sure, other draft classes might try to take the crown from 2005. Evan Longoria and Luke Hochevar were here from 2006. That's a nice start, but they're not quite there. And just in case you thought it was close, throw this into the mix: Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates prospect who belongs in the same converstation with these other toolsy outfielders, went No. 11 that year. Matt Garza, Craig Hansen and Joey Devine all have big-league time already. And yep, all three hail from the Class of '05.
But Sunday was about showcasing talent here at AT&T Park. And when you add the quintet of U.S. players who gave fans a glimpse of what the future holds to those already making a splash in the big leagues, this one is no-contest. Perhaps only time will tell, but right now it's hard to pick another draft class to put ahead of 2005.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.