Minors Only - 1st Round Checkup

July 22, 2009

A vast majority of first round picks remain unsigned, but a dozen have already signed on the dotted line and have debuted in the minor leagues.

How are they doing? Lets find out.

C Tony Sanchez - 4th overall - Pittsburgh Pirates

Virtually nobody saw Sanchez as the fourth-best talent in the draft, but most agreed that the selection had “signability” written all over it. By taking Sanchez, it was thought the money Pittsburgh saved on that pick would be used towards signing Miguel Sano, one of the top international prospects this year, or used later for later picks who are commanding over-slot bonuses (i.e Zachary Von Rosenberg and Colton Cain). Sanchez wasn't such a “signability” pick after all as he signed for a near-slot bonus of $2.5 million. He has had 71 plate appearances between the SS-State College and Low-A West Virginia and he has shown a good eye at the plate (12.7% K, 9.9% BB). Sanchez should move quickly and is likely to end the season in at least High-A.

RHP Matt Hobgood - 5th overall - Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles understand that good pitching is mandatory if they want to be a factor in the American League. They have stocked their system with several quality pitching prospects in recent years, from Chris Tillman to Jake Arrieta to last year's fourth overall pick, Brian Matusz. Hobgood is latest addition to the stable and he features an 89-92 MPH fastball and an 11-to-5 curveball that rates as a plus pitch. Hobgood signed for $2,420,000 and debuted with the R-Orioles on July 18th, lasting an inning while allowing a run on two hits. "A horse with room to grow," said Baseball Beginning's John Kilma of the six-foot-four righthander. "(He) has a bright future and should be an innings-eating mainstay on a contender."

RHP Drew Storen - 10th overall - Washington Nationals

With a record-setting contract likely coming to first overall pick Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals needed to save some money with their second pick and they selected Storen, a reliever out of Stanford who signed for $1.6 million. Taking college relievers in the first round has yielded sub par results in recent years, but the Nationals bullpen is arguably the worst in the majors, and Storen will move quickly. Assigned to Low-A Hagerstown, Storen overpowered hitters with his fastball/slider mix to the tune of no walks and 26 strikeouts in 14.2 innings pitched. He was promoted to High-A Potomac on July 19th and is a good bet to become the big league closer down the road.

OF A.J Pollock - 17th overall - Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona had back-to-back first round picks and Pollock was the second of two. The first -- high school third baseman Bobby Borchering -- has yet to sign. Pollock quickly signed for $1.4 million and was sent to Low-A South Bend, where he has put up a line of .256/.280/.385 over 82 plate appearances. Pollock doesn't have high-impact potential, but he could be a solid contributor at the major league level. "A.J. has a great swing. There's no doubt about it. His personality is such that he's steady and very consistent. He elevates his game and never gets out of it. That's a sign of a guy who is going to move through the system very quickly," South Bend manager Mark Haley told The South Bend Tribune.

SS Jiovanni Mier - 21st overall - Houston Astros

Mier was considered a defensive-first prospect, but based on what he has done so far, you wouldn't believe it. After signing for $1,358,000, Mier was sent to R-Greeneville and he has been impressive with the bat, posting a .307/.411/.453 line through his first 90 plate appearances. He has also shown the all-important knack for taking walks (12.2%). "We think he's an everyday regular shortstop and is going to contribute both defensively and offensively," Astros scouting director Bobby Heck told The Houston Chronicle.

OF Jared Mitchell - 23rd overall - Chicago White Sox

Mitchell was a standout at LSU, the school that won this year's College World Series. The toolsy outfielder signed for $1.2 million and you can read more about him here. Since sent to Low-A Kannapolis, the 20-year-old Mitchell is off to a 4-for-9 start with a pair of doubles and three strikeouts.

OF Randal Grichuk - 24th overall - Los Angeles Angels

Grichuk was something of a wild card, but his power was the reason he was able to sneak into the first round. The Lamar, Texas native belted 25 homers this spring, but he was also was known for being an aggressive hitter, something that has been demonstrated early in his pro career. After getting a $1,242,000 bonus, Grichuk was assigned to the AZL Angels. So far he has a 3/30 BB/K ratio over 102 plate appearances. That will need to be tightened significantly as he moves forward, but he's only 17-years-old and has managed to hit six doubles and three triples while going 3-for-4 in stolen bases.

OF Michael Trout - 25th overall - Los Angeles Angels

With their second consecutive pick, the Angels stuck to hitting and took Trout, a product of Millville High in New Jersey. He signed for $1,215,000 and has hit the ground running for the AZL Angels, going 15-for-33 with three doubles, two triples, five steals, seven walks, and five strikeouts. What made Trout so appealing to the Angels? "It's his combination of strength, size, speed. A lot of prospects have some of those qualities. I think what's so intriguing to most of the scouts is that he seems to have all of them," his high school coach, Roy Hallenbeck, told The Newark Star-Ledger.

RHP Eric Arnett - 26th overall - Milwaukee Brewers

Besides being arguably the best player left on the board, Arnett gave the Brewers farm system a much-needed pitcher when they took him in the first round. Most of their top prospects are hitters, especially if you take suspended pitcher Jeremy Jeffress out of the mix. Arnett's calling card is a 93-95 MPH fastball that can touch 97. "This is a 6-foot-6 pitcher who we feel still has some upside. This kid just blossomed this year. He’s always had some success but his velocity really picked up this year," Brewers’ scouting director Bruce Seid told The Wisconsin State Journal. In an interview with Brew Crew Ball, Arnett elaborated on his improvements, saying "this year I was able to build confidence and my stuff improved, and I think my preparation and work ethic really became a huge factor coming into this year." He signed for $1,197,000 and has appeared in five games for R-Helena, surrendering 10 runs on 10 hits while walking five and striking out nine.

OF Reymond Fuentes - 28th overall - Boston Red Sox

The consensus top talent out of Puerto Rico this year, Fuentes is a relative of New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. Fuentes signed for $1,134,000 and was sent to the GCL Red Sox, where he has opened his pro career by going 13-for-39 with two doubles, three walks, five strikeouts, and two steals. "Speed is going to be part of his game -- he's a plus-plus runner, sprinting champion on the island. We really think he has an opportunity to be a leadoff-type player who can give us good defense in center field and hopefully disrupt on the bases as well," Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod told The Providence Journal.

OF Brett Jackson - 31st overall - Chicago Cubs

Jackson, who Baseball America tabbed as the second-best athlete among college draftees this year, signed for $972,000 and departed for the AZL Cubs, but he was quickly bumped to SS-Boise. Between the two teams, he has had 83 plate appearances, and he has shown the ability to take a walk (21.7%) though he has 16 strikeouts to go along with two triples and a homer. "He's a hard-nosed player who likes to get dirty and compete. He's got a short compact stroke with strong, quick hands. He's got plus range in all directions, gets good reads off the bat and takes instinctive routes. He looks the part now. He still gets pull happy at the plate. He needs to recognize off-speed pitches better and use the whole field. But he has the tools to play," Cubs area scout John Bartsch told Vine Line Magazine.

OF Tim Wheeler - 32nd overall - Colorado Rockies

I profiled Wheeler earlier this month. Since then, he has continued to draw walks at a strong clip (11.6%) but has yet to show much power (.093 IsoP). A lack of power hurt his draft stock early in his college career, but he hit 18 homers as a junior after going deep just three times as a sophomore. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain those power gains because Colorado views him as a corner outfielder and he'll need to hit for power to profile there.

Discussion question: Which 2009 first round pick is LEAST likely to sign by the August 17th deadline?

(Respond here.)


Contact Ryan Fay at rfay@projectprospect.com