2011 MLB Draft Results: The 6 Biggest Surprises of the First Round
Pittsburgh made UCLA's Gerritt Cole the No. 1 pick (UCLA photo)
The first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft is officially in the books, and in its wake comes the range of emotions fans always feel after watching their teams plan for the future. Did your club get value? Did it reach? Whom did it pass on that may one day make the brain trust regret the move?
As always there were surprises and disappointments, winners and losers. This was a deep and talented draft class with valuable players at a variety of positions, and while you might think that that would make the draft process easier for MLB franchises, it appeared that more than a few times, the opposite was true.
Perhaps teams were overwhelmed by the choices or simply letting finances dictate their decisions. But there were some questionable moves made on Day 1. At the same time, some clubs swooped in to get stunning value late.
Here then are my Top Six surprises from Round 1.
Anthony Rendon Falls to No. 6
(Rice University photo)
Rendon's drop has been much-discussed and will continue to be a hot topic for years as this draft class works through the minors. I wasn't shocked to see Pittsburgh pass on the third baseman from Rice given the Pirates' recent draft history. The club isn't yet ready to give up on Pedro Alvarez. But to see an additional five teams pass on Rendon was unexpected.
The Royals wanted a pitcher with a short learning curve, and when all the top arms were gone they went with Bubba Starling, a guy they've been publicly coveting. But the offensively challenged Mariners might have considered a bat early instead of grabbing yet another starting pitcher.
Ditto for the Orioles. Now both clubs have the potential for knockout rotations: Hernandez/ Pineda/ Hultzen in Seattle, and Matusz/ Britton/ Bundy in Baltimore. But a polished bat and glove might have done each more good.
And so the Washington Nationals got great value at No. 6, nabbing an infielder whom many thought could be the No. 1 overall selection. Now it's just a matter of ironing out how he'll fit in with Ryan Zimmerman manning the hot corner.
Chris Reed Rises to No. 16
(Stanford University photo)
Perhaps this shouldn't have been a shock. The Dodgers, reeling from financial woes and a McCourt family civil war, went with a player that would likely have remained on the board for some time. This seems to be a move made primarily for the sake of money. Reed should sign for a relatively low price, making him a smart pick for L.A.
In a way.
However, I had hoped that this beleaguered franchise might gamble a bit and go for a big-time talent. The Dodgers could use a positive focal point right now, and it would have been nice to see something more spectacular. Perhaps that wasn't possible given how the team is currently being managed.
This isn't to suggest that Reed won't be a quality professional. He has the tools. And maybe the team is simply tightening the purse strings for 2013 when both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will need new deals. But seeing Reed go so high was still a bit of a disappointment.
Marlins Gamble on Jose Fernandez
I love upside picks. I don't mind a team taking a risk on a guy with a high ceiling, but there is a limit to how big a gamble a franchise should take, especially in the first round. In general, first-round picks should be players with a fairly short distance between their current skills and major league readiness.
While Fernandez has the raw tools, such as a mid-90s fastball that has allegedly hit 97, he's nowhere near being ready for high-level pro baseball.
As one might expect from a high school pitcher, Fernandez's command needs a great deal of work. He has yet to develop any reliable secondary pitches. This guy has a cannon, but there's really no telling at this point how well he will be able to control it.
To draft him at No. 14 with so many college-level arms and quality bats still available was too risky for my liking. It could pay off in the long run. The long long run. But for now, it was an odd decision.
Boston Red Sox Steal Value Late
Picking for the first time at No. 19, Boston had to be elated to snatch up UConn's Matt Barnes. In most drafts, the 6'3" righty would have been a top-10 pick, easily. But with plenty of depth around him, he tumbled down the board into the hands of the local franchise.
Barnes will likely have a short and straight road to the majors and could be a front-of-the-rotation starter. Not bad for the bottom half of Round 1.
The Sox built on that success by taking a switch-hitting catcher who can actually hit and actually catch. That's a rarity. Blake Swihart was regarded by many as one of the best high school bats available, regardless of position. Boston usually leans toward college players, and the problem with Swihart is that he may well refuse to sign.
But it was a calculated risk. The team had several other picks and could afford to gamble.
Mikie Mahtook Nearly Falls out of Round 1
Getting one of the most major league-ready college bats in the draft at No. 31? Unheard of. But the Rays had fortune smile down upon them when LSU's Mahtook slid just that far. The center fielder was graded by various sources as a top-20 or even top-15 talent, and no one could have expected him to last until the end of the first round.
It was a mixed blessing for Tampa, which will now have to convince Mahtook to sign despite the relatively low pick. And with draft status so closely tied to money, it could be a tough sell. The Rays were picking all day long on Day 1, so they could afford to gamble. And if Mahtook does ink a deal, it might just be the steal of the draft.
Mahtook might not last in center, but his arm is big enough for him to move to right, making Tampa's future outfield a very scary one indeed.
Yankees Don't Learn from Drew Henson, Draft Dante Bichette Jr.
(Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)
It's not that Dante Bichette Jr. isn't a talented player. He is. Currently at shortstop, the Yankees evidently view him as a future third baseman, and took him at No. 51 in the Compensatory Round.
New York already had the deck stacked against it coming into the draft; by signing free agents Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano they were forced to part with a pair of first-round selections that might have brought in significant value.
Then, with their only pick of Day 1, they take Bichette. Obviously there's some benefit to having a major leaguer for a dad. And Bichette certainly has upside. But he's far from being ready, and if he doesn't continue to develop, could be a high-profile bust for New York.
My B/R colleague Nathaniel Uy drew an interesting comparison to the Drew Henson selection. Now the Bombers will have to hope that history does not repeat itself.