Was Sandy Alderson’s Struggle To Save A First Round Draft Pick Worth It?


As part of the failed pursuit of Michael Bourn, Sandy Alderson made the Mets 2013 #1 amateur draft pick a major point of contention with the league office.  Now that Bourn plays for the Tribe, and the Mets retained their (albeit reduced) pick, how does Sandy Alderson plan on using his top selection?  And how valuable is the pick in the first place?

Let’s start with the latter question first.  When the L.A. Angels of Anaheim could not reach an agreement with Matt Harvey after drafting him in the third round of 2007, the Mets picked Harvey in the first round of the 2010 draft, selecting him seventh overall.  Matt Harvey spent the 2011 season pitching advanced A-ball at St. Lucie and AA-Binghamton.  He started the 2012 regular season pitching for Buffalo and made twenty starts before being called up to Flushing in July at age twenty-three.  Matt Harvey will turn twenty-four years old in March.  Upon being drafted, it took Harvey two seasons to break into the bigs.  He is now regarded as a valuable member of the Mets future.

In 2009, the San Francisco Giants selected Zach Wheeler in the first round with the sixth overall selection.  He will turn twenty-three years old in May.  Zach already received his orders;  he will be starting the season in Las Vegas.  Since being drafted, it has taken him three seasons to arrive in AAA.  He is expected to touch down in Flushing sometime by July.  By then, it will have taken him 3 1/2 years to crack the big leagues.

When talking positional players, Travis d’Arnaud was drafted #1 in 2007 with the 37th overall selection by the Phillies.  Travis, like Wheeler, is scheduled for a summer arrival in Flushing.  Since being drafted, it took him six seasons to make it to AAA.  In his seventh season as a pro, he finally appears ready to break the bigs.  This season, ESPN’s Keith Law ranks Wheeler the 13th best prospect and d’Arnaud the 14th best prospect in baseball.

In the last two June drafts, Sandy Alderson used his first round pick to select an outfielder and shortstop.  In 2011, Alderson drafted outfielder Brandon Nimmo with the thirteenth overall selection.  At just nineteen years old, he was ranked #35 by Baseball America.  Brandon will turn twenty years old in March, and is currently considered the Mets sixth top organizational prospect.  He managed ten games in 2011 playing rookie ball.  Brandon then spent his 2012 season in Brooklyn.  In sixty-nine games played and 266 at-bats, Nimmo finished fourth in New York Penn League in doubles, fifth in runs batted in, tenth in runs scored, and second in walks.  He hit six home runs (two grand slams), and posted a .372 OBP.  He is most likely headed for a full season of advance-A in either Savannah or St. Lucie.

Sandy Alderson selected shortstop Gavin Cecchini with the 12th overall pick of the 2012 June draft.  The nineteen-year old spent most of last season playing rookie ball at Kingsport where he completed a rather unassuming first year as a pro.  Cecchini and Nimmo, like the six years it took d’Arnaud to matriculate through the minors, are two draftees still several years away from earning a trip to Queens. Whereas the pitchers noted here seem to have arrived at their destinations ahead of schedule.

Circling back to this season’s #1 pick in the June draft, Harvey and Wheeler were selected prior to number eleven.  Nimmo, Cecchini, and this year’s pick will be selected from relatively the same slot in the draft.  Travis d’Arnaud, like David Wright (2001/37th overall) many years ago, and Michael Fulmer (2011/44th overall), prove there is talent to be had with compensatory picks tacked on to the end of the first round.

In the last two drafts, Sandy Alderson has shown a propensity to draft nineteen-year old’s with his first pick.  On February 13th, Baseball America released its 2013 Preseason High School All-America Team.  A much touted outfielder named Austin Meadows currently tops the high school list of top prospects.  Being the Mets need outfielders, I’ll give another youngster named Clint Frazier a shout out.

Of the potential top 100 college prospects entering the June Draft, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt hosted a chat last November in which he discussed this year’s June hopefuls at length.  Making his second appearance in the June draft, pitcher Mark Appel currently ranks as the potential first overall pick.  He rejected a $3.8 million dollar offer from the Pirates last year, and returned to Stanford after Pittsburgh selected him eighth overall.  Outside of being a Scott Boras client, and the money and years involved, this is primarily why Sandy Alderson was hesitant to make a definitive move towards signing Michael Bourn – because the Pirates couldn’t agree to a deal with Mark Appel.  Pittsburgh’s failure to do so entitled them to compensation, which effectively bumped what was supposed to be the Mets tenth overall pick into an eleventh overall pick.

Jonathan Mayo’s MLB 2013 Top 100 Prospects Watch also ranks Mark Appel number one.  High school slugger Austin Meadows ranks third.  Looking down the list where the Mets will potentially pick, is a third baseman/junior out of North Carolina named Colin Moran.  With the recent signing of David Wright to a long term deal, and Wilmer Flores already in the fold, Moran offers no help.  But Mayo says there is “a polished lefty” sitting at number twelve named Stephen Gonsalves.  Of course everything about this list is purely speculative for now.  However, browsing the list in February will make one smarter in June.

While the MLB amateur draft is largely a hit or miss business, some teams are consistently better at identifying talent than others regardless of their draft order.  Of New York’s selections made over the last ten years, Matt Harvey is the only top ten pick currently playing for the Mets.  Mike Pelfrey, drafted number nine overall in 2005, was the only other top ten selection to stick around for any appreciable time.  The only other top twenty pick currently playing for the Mets is Ike Davis.  In 2008, Ike was selected number eighteen overall.  All three were drafted by Omar Minaya.  The number one bust, however, came in 2004 when Jim Duquette used the number three overall pick of the draft to select Philip Humber.

What can Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta accomplish in this year’s June amateur draft?  Who knows? It’s only February.  There is snow on the ground as we speak.  However, it is never too early to begin draft day preparedness.  Or, as I like to say, proper prior planning prevents pi$$-poor performance.  And just for the record, I supported Sandy Alderson’s stubbornness regarding the Mets 2013 number one draft pick.

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