It's unclear what future years may have in store, but it certainly seems that the trend is holding in 2010. Last year, it was Stephen Strasburg and everyone else. This year, Bryce Harper appears to sit atop the board -- also for the Nationals to select first overall, if they so choose. But who comes next?
Draft fans can find out by tuning in to live coverage of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft on Monday, June 7, at 7 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network. That first evening will include a one-hour preview show, beginning at 6 p.m., followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.
Not everything is an exact replication of the 2009 Draft. While most believe Harper will go No. 1, there isn't quite the same unanimous feeling that he's far and away the top guy. There's "no Strasburg in this Draft" as one scout put it.
Last year at this time, things looked very murky after the No. 1 pick. This year, while it's still a bit early to know for certain who will go where, there are some obvious strengths of the class that are taking shape.
If the old adage is "you can never have enough pitching," then it seems like this is the right Draft class to try to get close to filling up the system. Without question, the strength of the class is on the mound. And it's young, with high school pitchers separating themselves perhaps more so than any other segment of the class.
In fact, after Harper, most in the scouting industry point to James Taillon, out of The Woodlands High School in Texas, as the next best talent to be had. Whether the Pirates will take him No. 2 remains to be seen. Other top prep arms expected to go off the board include Karsten Whitson, Dylan Covey and A.J. Cole.
That's not to say there aren't college arms at the top of boards. Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz is in the mix right at the top. How he finishes his season might really dictate where he lands, as his performances lately include one awful start against LSU and a so-so outing against Arkansas. LSU's Anthony Ranaudo was once considered to be a top pick, but an injury followed by three rough starts in a row -- one against Pomeranz and Ole Miss -- have certainly hurt his stock. He may have been supplanted by Georgia Tech's Deck McGuire and Florida Gulf Coast's Chris Sale, who have done nothing but perform consistently well all year.
"There's pitching at the top of the Draft that will help any organization," said Royals assistant general manager of scouting and player development J.J. Picollo, who has the No. 4 overall pick. "What we have to do is evaluate what fits our needs that matches up with the talent that's there. I don't want to go into our Draft room and only talk about thee or four pitchers. As you hear your scouts talk, you may say, 'This position player is a guy we need.'
"There are position players that are going to be Major League players in this Draft and have an impact on a big league team."
Picollo is right, though the bats certainly haven't generated the kind of buzz the arms have. Many come from smaller colleges, like Michael Choice at Texas-Arlington or Bryce Brentz at Middle Tennessee State, though Arkansas' Zack Cox is making the most noise as June draws near.
The position player who's been getting the most attention, however, hails from the Miami high school ranks. Fair or not, Manny Machado out of Miami Brito High School, has been labeled with a comparison to a young Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, of course, was the No. 1 overall pick in 1993. No one expects Machado to repeat that feat, but his name is being mentioned in the top five or so picks.
"To over-generalize, it's a younger draft," a National League scouting director said. "The high school crop is giving more. But as much as we like the high schoolers, . there won't be 20-25 taken in the first round. But it is the depth of the Draft."
That might be a boon for teams who like to pick up high school arms later in the Draft as they slip down or for teams with multiple picks. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, for instance, do have a reputation for not shying away from the high school scene. Having three picks in the first round and 10 through the first five rounds of the Draft, it shouldn't be surprising if the team that took two high school outfielders in the first round last year, takes advantage of that deep prep arm pool.
They might only be outdone by the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto hasn't necessarily been afraid of the younger players in the past, but they have tended to lean more towards the college crop. The new management, with a fiercely renewed dedication to scouting, might be willing to make more of a splash in that regard. Having 11 picks in the first five rounds might make that even easier. Three of those extra picks are because of unsigned 2009 picks, including a pair of Canadian natives, second-round selection Jake Eliopoulos and supplemental first-rounder James Paxton
Paxton was a junior at the University of Kentucky. After a dispute with the NCAA, however, he is heading to the independent league circuit and will be one of the more interesting players to watch as he'll have a few weeks to show what he can do before June 7.
The Jays, of course, are not the only ones hoping to recoup for losses from the '09 Draft. The Texas Rangers have the 15th pick -- technically 14B -- because they didn't sign their top pick last year, Matt Purke, who's now pitching at TCU and will be a draft-eligible sophomore next year. The Tampa Bay Rays get a do-over of sorts with pick No. 31 after not coming to terms with LeVon Washington, who's back in the pool after going to Chipola Junior College this year.
So there's plenty of intrigue and, as every scout will say every year, regardless of the perceived level of talent: Every Draft produces Major League talent. Only time will tell who they are from this class and where they will land in June.