04/04/2007 10:00 AM ET
First-rounders take next step
Top '06 picks can be found all over the baseball map in '07
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
First-round draft picks always have a certain amount of buzz around them, with expectations both within the organization and among fans riding high from the moment they sign. Last year's draft class is no different.
Most got to dip their toes in the professional waters last summer, but it's this season -- their first full year of pro ball -- that can go a long way in telling what kind of prospects they are.
There were 44 players taken in the first and supplemental first rounds last June, all with hopes of one day being big leaguers. How did they fare in their debuts? And, more importantly, where are they starting out the 2007 season?
MiLB.com takes a look at the homes for all of them, with the 44 landing everywhere on the map, from the big leagues all the way down to an eventual short-season assignment. Here's how the chips -- blue, of course -- fell in terms of 2007 assignments.
1. Luke Hochevar, RHP, Kansas City Royals
The draft whirlwind for Hochevar ended when the Royals took him with the No. 1 overall pick and signed him in early August. He threw about 15 innings in the Midwest League, then hit the Texas League playoffs before heading to the Arizona Fall League. He was shut down early, but he's fine now. He'll start the year at Double-A Wichita, but don't be shocked if he's not there long.
2. Greg Reynolds, RHP, Colorado Rockies
The big right-hander out of Stanford may have been a little bit of a surprise at No. 2, but he handled himself fairly well in his debut. After a long college season, Reynolds tossed 48 2/3 innings in the hitter-friendly California League, finishing with a 3.33 ERA. The Rockies saw enough to send him to Double-A Tulsa to start this season.
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
No one from the 2006 draft class had a better debut than Longoria. All the Long Beach State infielder did was finish with a .957 OPS across three levels, hitting .315 with 18 homers and winning a Southern League title along the way. He'll head back to Montgomery to begin the 2007 season.
4. Brad Lincoln, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates were hopeful that some rest and a throwing program would be enough to help the former University of Houston ace's elbow. Unfortunately, it was not and Lincoln underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday. A two-way star in college, Lincoln will not pitch in the 2007 season. He originally felt discomfort at the end of instructs last fall, but thought it was normal. When it didn't dissipate, he told the Pirates.
5. Brandon Morrow, RHP, Seattle Mariners
In perhaps the biggest surprise this spring, Morrow broke camp with the Mariners as part of the big-league bullpen. The Cal standout pitched well in camp, yielding just one run on four hits and striking out eight in 8 1/3 innings to earn a spot as a short reliever. Whether that's his long-term role remains to be seen.
6. Andrew Miller, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Miller shot to the big leagues late last year when the Tigers needed some left-handed help out of the 'pen down the stretch. After a long college season, it was a lot to ask, but the big lefty handled himself well. Now he's back in the Minors for his "real" job, that of a legitimate front-of-the-rotation pitching prospect. He's starting the year in the warm weather of Lakeland and the Florida State League, but don't expect him to stay there very long.
7. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw was virtually unhittable in the Gulf Coast League last year, making 10 appearances that spanned 37 innings. He yielded only 28 hits (.201 opponents' batting average), walked ofive and struck out 54. Just 19, the Dodgers decided he was ready for full-season ball, so he's headed to their new Midwest League affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons.
8. Drew Stubbs, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Stubbs took all five of his tools from the University of Texas to Billings in the Pioneer League. While he hit just .252, he homered six times and stole 19 bases in 23 tries, just a glimpse of what he can do. He'll move up to Dayton in the Midwest League and will patrol center field for the Dragons.
9. Billy Rowell, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
A very advanced hitter for a high schooler, Rowell batted .328 in his summer debut in the Appalachian and New York-Penn Leagues. He drew 29 walks for an impressive .415 on-base percentage while slugging .503. He's more than ready to start the year with full-season Delmarva in the South Atlantic League, but an oblique strain has him on the shelf for now. Once he's ready, he's the kind of offensive talent who could move quickly, whether it's at third base, first or even the outfield.
10. Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants
There were some who wanted to see the University of Washington ace go right to the big leagues at the start of the season. His stuff probably would play fine there, but a little Minor League seasoning wouldn't hurt. He did throw only 31 2/3 pro innings last year. Granted, they were ridiculously dominating -- 58 K's, .127 opponents' batting average -- but he'll go to Triple-A Fresno to prepare for a big-league call that's likely to come at some point this year.
11. Max Scherzer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Scherzer remains the lone 2006 first-rounder who hasn't signed with the team that drafted him. This is the last time this kind of holdout will happen, with the new draft rules mandating that any draftee not signed by August automatically goes back into the draft pool. The Diamondbacks have been down this road before with Stephen Drew, and they came to terms at the 11th hour. Not coincidentally, Drew and Scherzer share the agent Scott Boras.
12. Kasey Kiker, LHP, Texas Rangers
Kiker, the lefty out of high school powerhouse Phenix City, Ala., had an odd debut. Pitching for Spokane in the short-season Northwest League, Kiker went 0-7. At the same time, he had a 4.13 ERA as one of the youngest players in the league, held opponents to a .232 average and struck out nearly a batter an inning. He'll need better command (35 walks) as he moves up, but the Rangers will take things slowly with the southpaw. He'll stick around in extended Spring Training until the weather warms up in Iowa, then he'll head to Clinton in the full-season Midwest League at age 19.
13. Tyler Colvin, OF, Chicago Cubs
The Clemson outfielder was a little bit of a surprise on draft day, but his debut in the Northwest League certainly was promising. Though he hit .268, Colvin belted 11 homers and swiped 12 bases in 64 games. After that nice introduction to pro ball, the Cubs will jump him over Class A and send him to Daytona and the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
14. Travis Snider, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays may have tripped everyone up when they took a high school player with their first-round pick last year, but they simply wanted what they thought was the best bat on the board at the time. It's hard to argue Snider wasn't after he won Appalachian League MVP honors for hitting .325 with a .979 OPS. Just because you're in high school doesn't mean you don't know how to take a walk, and Snider took 30 of them en route to a .412 OBP. The power and the plate discipline are legit, and he'll get to show them off at age 19 with Lansing in the Midwest League.
15. Chris Marrero, OF, Washington Nationals
Scouts had been on Marrero as one of the top high school bats in the draft class for a long time. He may not have lived up to those expectations, but he didn't drop off enough to get past the Nats at No. 15. And he didn't disappoint in his Gulf Coast League debut, hitting .309 over 22 games. The Nationals have seen enough to decide whether he's ready for the challenge of full-season ball, so he's heading to Hagerstown and the South Atlantic League on Opening Day. A third baseman in high school, he's listed on the Suns' roster as an outfielder.
16. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Jeffress drew comparisons to Dwight Gooden last draft season because of his explosive stuff and his athleticism. His performance in the Rookie-level Arizona League showed that he'd have a bit to iron out before reaching Doc status. Jeffress wasn't easy to hit -- he struck out 37 in 33 2/3 IP and held opponents to a .227 average -- but he didn't always know where the ball was going, as evidenced by his 25 walks. That led to a 5.88 ERA. Still very young at 19, the Virginia high school star will stay in extended Spring Training before heading to a short-season or Rookie-level stop, perhaps Helena in the Pioneer League. The Brewers didn't rule out the possibility that if things start to click for Jeffress in extended, they could send him to their lowest full-season club, Class A West Virginia.
17. Matt Antonelli, 2B, San Diego Padres
When the Padres took Antonelli out of Wake Forest, they liked his bat and his athleticism. A third baseman in college, the thinking now is that he might be able to handle any number of positions. He'll begin 2007 at second base, where the Padres hope he can become an offensive force. He hit .273 over 60 games in his debut, with a sparkling .412 OBP and nine steals in 10 attempts. He finished the year with a brief stop at Fort Wayne in the Midwest League, but he won't return there. He'll be the starting second baseman for Lake Elsinore in the Class A Advanced California League.
18. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Taken under his wing by veteran Jamie Moyer this spring, Drabek got off to a very good start in his first full season. Perhaps the best arm in the 2006 draft has shown good maturity thus far, and the Phillies felt more than comfortable sending him to Lakewood in the full-season South Atlantic League (Class A) even though he threw only 23 1/3 uneven innings in the Gulf Coast League in 2006.
19. Brett Sinkbeil, RHP, Florida Marlins
Missouri State's top starter had some injury issues in his junior season but returned in time to give the Marlins enough information to take him 19th. He got into 13 games during his debut in the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues. Over 61 2/3 IP, he had a 3.65 ERA, 54 K's, 22 walks and an impressive 1.91 GO/AO ratio. An advanced college starter, Sinkbeil will jump up to Jupiter in the Florida State League, where he will join a rotation comprised of fellow first-round picks (from the 2005 draft).
20. Chris Parmelee, OF/1B, Minnesota Twins
After getting 154 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League -- hitting .279 and slugging .532 -- Parmelee was pushed up to the Midwest League. He went just 5-for-22 with Beloit but still managed a .370 OBP, a sign that he's not your typical high school hitter. He went 3-for-10 in the Midwest League playoffs, a nice way to end the season. He'll head back to Beloit to start the season, but with his advanced approach at the plate, he could move up before the year is out.
21. Ian Kennedy, RHP, New York Yankees
Kennedy slipped in the draft, partially because of a so-so junior season at USC and partially because of perceived bonus demands. The Yankees, of course, could afford him and signed him to a top-10 pick-type bonus. He appeared in just one regular season game for Staten Island in the NY-Penn League before being asked to make a playoff start. He then headed to Hawaii Winter Baseball and pitched pretty well there. A finesse right-hander with outstanding command, he'll make the leap to Tampa and the Florida State League to start the season.
22. Colton Willems, RHP, Washington Nationals
The Nationals stayed in the high school ranks with their second first-round pick, taking Willems, a right-hander from the Florida prep ranks. He got his feet wet in the Gulf Coast League, yielding six earned runs over 16 innings for a 3.38 ERA while walking only three. Unlike fellow Nats first-rounder Marrero, Willems isn't heading to full-season ball right away. He'll stick around in extended Spring Training before getting an assignment, but don't rule out a trip to Hagerstown before the season is over.
23. Max Sapp, C, Houston Astros
The Astros were aggressive with Sapp, sending the high school catcher to the short-season NY-Penn League. He hit just .229 in 166 at-bats for Tri-City. He committed himself to getting better behind the plate and the Astros saw enough in instructs and this spring to keep on pushing him. He'll go to Lexington in the SAL, where he'll get to share catching duties with Ralphie Henriquez.
24. Cody Johnson, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Johnson has tremendous raw power but didn't translate it into results in his debut as he hit just .184 and struck out 49 times in 114 Gulf Coast League at-bats. The Braves already have seen great progress from the big first baseman and are excited about what 2007 will bring. The former high schooler will stick around in extended Spring Training to get further instruction before heading to a short-season or Rookie-level locale. If everything continues to go well, that could be Danville in the Appalachian League, but a return to the GCL wouldn't be the end of the world.
25. Hank Conger, C, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The switch-hitting high school backstop was off to a great start last summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League, hitting .319 with a .903 OPS in 19 games. But he broke the hamate bone in his hand and his debut season was over. Now completely healthy, he'll head to Cedar Rapids and the Midwest League at age 19.
26. Bryan Morris, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were thrilled to get Morris with their second first-round pick, and he showed some good things in the Pioneer League, striking out 79 over 59 2/3 IP (while walking 40). He also hurt his elbow, underwent Tommy John surgery in September and will not pitch at all in 2007, with the Dodgers hoping he'll be ready to take the mound again by instructs next fall. Even with the lost year, Morris will begin the 2008 season at age 21.
27. Jason Place, OF, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have shown in recent drafts that they are far from a college-only organization. Case in point: Place, a high school outfielder from South Carolina with five-tool potential. He hit .292 in his debut, a 33-game stint in the Gulf Coast League. His best tool may be his raw power, though he's got a cannon for an arm, and he'll get to start developing it in Greenville and the South Atlantic League under the watchful eye of manager Gabe Kapler.
28. Daniel Bard, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Bard's name was all over the first-round map heading into the draft and the Red Sox were thrilled to get him so late. The University of North Carolina starter has a tremendous arm but struggled with consistency for much of his college career. He signed too late (August) to make his pro debut last summer, but the Sox like what they've seen since coming to terms with him. He'll get a stiff test in his debut as he heads to Lancaster and the extremely hitting-friendly California League.
29. Kyle McCulloch, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Each year since 2002, the White Sox had taken a college player with their top pick, so it was no shock when they tabbed McCulloch, the University of Texas ace, last June. He doesn't have explosive stuff, but he's a tremendous competitor who has won at just about every level. The right-hander pitched 57 2/3 pro innings last summer and had a 3.12 ERA after a long college season. He finished the year with seven starts for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, and that's where he'll return to begin the 2007 season.
30. Adam Ottavino, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals returned to their comfort level draft-wise in 2006, going very college-heavy, beginning with Ottavino out of Northeastern. The tall right-hander pitched in the NY-Penn and Midwest Leagues, combining for a 3.31 ERA over 65 1/3 IP. He struck out 64 in that span and held opponents to a .211 batting average. His eight Midwest League starts were enough to send him to Palm Beach and the Florida State League to begin this season.
31. Preston Mattingly, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Preston Mattingly is a Loon, a Great Lakes Loon, to be exact. The Dodgers are sending Don's kid to the Midwest League for his first full season. A bit of a surprise pick to initiate the supplemental first round, Mattingly impressed early by hitting .290 in 186 Gulf Coast League at-bats. He also went 12-for-15 in stolen bases, showing speed his dad never had. The Evansville, Ind., high school three-sport star will play shortstop for now, though there are some who think he'll have to move to third or the outfield as he continues to grow and mature.
32. Pedro Beato, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
It was somewhat surprising last summer when the Mets did not sign Beato as a draft-and-follow, allowing him back into the draft pool. The O's nabbed him and sent him to Aberdeen and the NY-Penn League to make his debut. Beato, who had Tommy John surgery in April 2004, pitched well for the IronBirds, posting a 3.63 ERA over 57 IP. He struck out 52 and the league hit just .222 against him. The big right-hander will move up one rung to Delmarva in the South Atlantic League as a 20-year-old starter.
33. Emmanuel Burriss, SS, San Francisco Giants
The Giants are very excited to see how quickly the speedy middle infielder from Kent State might move through their system. He had an excellent debut, hitting .307 for Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League while posting a .384 OBP and stealing a league-leading 35 bases. He then hit .316 and stole four more bases in helping the Volcanoes win the Northwest League title. He'll jump on the fast track and start the year in San Jose and the California League, with a jump to Double-A at some point not out of the question.
34. Brooks Brown, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The University of Georgia standout pitched in relief for Yakima in the Northwest League during his debut. The right-hander had a 3.42 ERA over 23 2/3 IP and struck out 30, using his excellent sinker-slider combination well. He'll be a starter at Visalia in the California League, where he'll get the opportunity to work on his third offering and help determine whether his long-term role is as a starter or reliever.
35. Kyler Burke, OF, San Diego Padres
The Padres went the high school route with this pick, taking Burke out of the Tennessee prep ranks. A two-way player who some saw as a left-handed pitching prospect, his raw power convinced most he'd be better suited as an outfielder. He hit just .209 in his debut, getting 163 at-bats in the Arizona League. He progressed enough during the offseason and this spring to earn an invitation to full-season ball. He'll open the year in Fort Wayne's outfield in the Midwest League.
36. Chris Coghlan, 3B/2B, Florida Marlins
Coghlan has always been able to hit for average and get on base but never hit for much power at the University of Mississippi. That continued in his debut last summer, when he hit .297, mostly in the NY-Penn League, to go with a .368 OBP. It's a skill set that might look better at second base than his college position of third down the line. He'll head to Greensboro in the SAL to kick things off but has the advanced approach that could move quickly.
37. Adrian Cardenas, SS/2B, Philadelphia Phillies
Scouts came to Monsignor Pace High School to see Chris Marrero, but in many ways his teammate Cardenas had a better senior season. Marrero went in the first round, but Cardenas wasn't far behind, going in the supplemental first round to the Phillies. He hit well, albeit without the power he showed in high school, with a .318 average during his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League. A shortstop in high school, the Phillies had Cardenas try out second in instructs and he took to it well. As a result, his home will be in Lakewood and the SAL this season, even if it's not for all that long.
38. Cory Rasmus, RHP, Atlanta Braves
With older brother Colby (OF) tearing through the Cardinals system, the bloodlines are definitely good in the Rasmus family. The two paired up to win a national high school title a couple of years back in Alabama. The younger Rasmus didn't work many pro innings last summer, tossing just 7 1/3 in the Gulf Coast League. As a result, he'll stick around in extended Spring Training before getting some more experience in short-season ball. Like fellow Atlanta draftee Cody Johnson, the Braves hope it'll be in Danville.
39. David Huff, LHP, Cleveland Indians
The Indians didn't have a first-round pick and took Huff, a polished lefty out of UCLA, with their first selection. He only pitched 7 2/3 innings with Mahoning Valley in the NY-Penn League after a long college season. He's the kind of advanced college hurler you hope will move quickly, and with that in mind, the Indians will start him off all the way up in Kinston and the Class A Advanced Carolina League.
40. Kris Johnson, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Johnson probably would've gone much higher had it not been for Tommy John surgery in April 2005. At the same time, his ability to come back strongly post-surgery last spring enabled him to go this highly. The Wichita State product was extremely impressive with Lowell in the NY-Penn League last summer, finishing with a 0.88 ERA over 30 2/3 IP. He gave up just 25 hits and seven walks. Now another year removed from the surgery, he'll make the leap to Lancaster and the California League to start the season.
41. Joba Chamberlain, RHP, New York Yankees
A top of the first round arm slipped to the supplemental round because of some injury problems. He signed too late to play for the Yankees organization last summer but went out to Hawaii Winter Baseball and was arguably the best prospect there. The right-hander had a 2.63 ERA over 37 2/3 IP, striking out 46 while walking only three and holding opponents to a .203 batting average. A slight hamstring injury held him back for a week or so this spring, but he'll soon join Ian Kennedy in the FSL as part of Tampa's rotation.
42. Chris Perez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
The college closer out of the University of Miami is the type you'd want to move quickly, and he got off to the right start last summer in his debut. Going to Quad Cities in the Midwest League, Perez had 12 saves and a 1.84 ERA in 29 1/3 innings. He yielded just 20 hits (.198 opponents' batting average) and struck out 32. He'll jump over Class A Advanced ball, where it was thought he might begin the year, and go straight to Double-A Springfield in the Texas League, officially putting him on the fast track.
43. Steve Evarts, LHP, Atlanta Braves
A top southpaw from the Florida high school ranks, Evarts had a pretty good pro debut in the Gulf Coast League last year. Over 43 innings, he had a 2.93 ERA. It would not have been surprising for the Braves to have sent Evarts to full-season Rome to start the season, but he'll join Rasmus and Johnson in extended Spring Training before heading to a short-season club.
44. Caleb Clay, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Boston's fourth and final pick in the first round has some serious upside potential. Initially an outfielder in high school, Clay really didn't start pitching in earnest until his senior year. He began the season as a reliever but eventually moved into his school's starting rotation. Clay didn't pitch last summer, so he'll be making his pro debut at age 19. He's going to have to wait a little bit longer as he'll begin the year in extended Spring Training before getting an assignment.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.