06/04/2008 3:59 PM ET
Yankees look over the slot
Willingness to pay the premium will help Yanks in draft
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Arizona State catcher Petey Paramore is one of the players the Yankees might target in Thursday's draft. (AP)

Thursday's MLB First-Year Player Draft is not the Web event like its NFL counterpart, but recent days have seen more mock drafts come online for us to peruse the handful of players the Yankees are likely to target with their No. 28 pick in the first round and No. 44 supplemental selection.

Most teams follow the league's recommendations for what to pay players taken at each slot, but there are still a few who don't -- the Tigers, Red Sox and, of course, the Yankees. Any educated assessment of the Yankees' plans must factor in players who have "signability issues," code for being represented by agent Scott Boras.

But really, it's not just Boras. All of the elite high school players (and their agents) can use the leverage of college scholarships to demand $1 or $2 million more than teams are allowed to pay at a given draft slot. This demand never decreases as teams pass and the player falls, forcing teams at the bottom of the draft to pay even more over the slot as slot money decreases with each pick.

Last year, the Tigers drafted high schooler Rick Porcello with the 27th pick -- a player many believed was the second-best pitcher in the draft. That's one pick before where the Yanks select this year. But note that the Red Sox, of course, pick after the Yanks in the first round and neither of these other "over the slot" teams drafts before them in the supplemental round. So one or two premium high schoolers are likely to fall far enough for the Yanks to draft at great value.

To be clear, no one that I've spoken to about this issue believes that teams -- especially other big-market clubs -- are being cheap in refusing to yield to player/agent demands. What tempers these clubs, I'm told, is the obligation they feel over borrowing from the league's central fund and the fear that the league will not award them an All-Star Game, which they use to boost season ticket sales aside from the huge gate they get from those couple of nights, including the Home Run Derby and other events.

Enough economics. Back to baseball. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein came online today with his mock draft, but he only goes one round and leaves us without supplemental predictions. John Sickels at MinorLeagueBall.com has numerous mocks, including community ones, but his goes deep enough to cover both early Yankees selections. Baseball America's executive editor Jim Callis helps us again with just the first round. Two relative newcomers, MLB-Draft.com and MLBDraftSite.com go well through the supplemental. And MyMLBDraft.com only previews the first round.

Sickels is right on the slotting issue, awarding the Yanks two high school lefty hurlers, Brett DeVall from Florida and Kyle Lobstein of Arizona. Calllis agrees with Lobstein but has him being taken first and DeVall sliding to the supplemental. Again, mock draft rankings aren't important here because these guys are sliding due to signability and no one who pays over the slot drafts between the Yanks first round and supplemental picks.

MyMLBDraft.com gives them another high school arm, this one a righty with control issues, Gerrit Cole of California.

Baseball America's staff says Lobstein has the best command among high schoolers. Cole's fastball -- which touches 98 mph -- is the best among high schoolers, but he lacks a quality second offering. DeVall is said to have the third-best command among high schoolers.

The scouts at MiLB.com (where you can see video highlights) say DeVall has "great pitchability" and presumably is closest to the Majors even though he doesn't light up the radar gun, recording just 91 mph on his fastball.

At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Lobstein is an inch shorter and 40 pounds lighter than DeVall, but throws almost as hard and also has at least three average pitches.

Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus tabs Arizona State's Ike Davis, a more conventional pick in the first round. Davis is the son of former Yankees pitcher Ron Davis and, according to MiLB.com, has "untapped raw power." He did finally start flashing that power this season at ASU. He also serves as the Sun Devils closer with a fastball topping out at about 90 mph.

MLBDraftSite.com gives New York two catchers, which is odd considering Jesus Montero is hitting well at Class A Charleston and considered a top prospect, though there are doubts he'll ever throw well enough to stay behind the plate. Its projections are for both Juan Castro of Stanford and Arizona State's Petey Paramore (whom Sickels shows less love for, projecting him to go 122nd).

Castro has a plus-lefty bat with an average arm and average defensive ability, according to scouts. However, he hit just .263 in his first two college seasons. Baseball America says he projects offensively like Royals outfielder/first baseman Mark Teahen, who has been hitting like a catcher since 2006.

Paramore has new-age plate discipline and is a switch hitter, though MiLB.com scouts say he is stronger from the right side. He offers less offensive potential but is reportedly ready to catch in the Majors today.

MLB-Draft.com gives them a college first baseman, undersized David Cooper of California and lefty hurler Wade Miley from SE Louisiana.

Baseball America says that Cooper's bat is big enough, but he projects as a Jason Giambi-like base-clogger and defensive liability so he might have to move to DH. There's also concern that he lacks Major League bat speed.

Miley can hit the mid-90s from the left side, but according to Baseball America, "his command is no better than average" with three pitches -- including a slider and developing change.

You can't write a piece like this without venturing a guess yourself. I'm focusing soley on players with the biggest signability issues. So, forget about the college guys and focus on high schoolers.

First baseman Eric Hosmer, the best prep hitter in the draft by a mile, can slide all the way down because only the Tigers are guaranteed to not let Scott Boras' demands bother them and the Tigers are locked into the position with Miguel Cabrera.

Another option at No. 28 would be Anthony Hewitt, a prep shortstop out of Connecticut who is the ultimate boom or bust guy in the draft with great athleticism, defensive potential and the ability to already drive the ball 450 feet. He is extremely raw, however, and has not fared well against top competition.

At 44, either DeVall or Lobstein sound good to me. Given the slotting issues, it's almost certain that one or both will be there.

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and analyst and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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