The Class Of 2005
[September 30th] -- With Ryan Zimmerman making a run at the National League rookie of the year award, I thought it might be fun to look back at the 2005 MLB draft and see how the three players taken before Zimmerman are doing.
#1 - Justin Upton (SS) Arizona Upton was considered hands-down the best player in the draft. A Virginia high schooler, he was one of the best high school shortstops to come along, but Jerry Ford of Perfect Game USA, a scouting service, says Justin would grade higher than any player in high school history if he were a center fielder. With Steven Drew already in the majors, that's where he'll probably end up. Upton read his press clippings, and demanded a financial package so large that the Diamondbacks weren't willing to pull the trigger. He finally signed last winter. The lost season seems to have hurt his development. He spent 2006 at Class 'A' South Bend, hitting .263-12-66 -- not exactly top pick numbers. I don't think his stats are indicative of the player he'll be, just the player he was. I suspect that in a few years, he'll be a Hanley Ramirez clone, perhaps with a bit more power. The problem, though, is that he's likely three years away from playing in Phoenix.
#2 - Alex Gordon (3B) Royals Alex Gordon thought he should have been the #1 pick, and so held out all of last season for #1 money. Like Upton, he signed last fall. Unlike Upton -- probably because he was a college player -- Gordon thrived in his first professional season. Playing for 'AA' Witchita, he batted .325-29-101 with an outstanding 1.015 OPS. Gordon, the Baseball America college player of the year, wasn't as demanding in terms of his signing bonus (he signed for $4 million) as he was wanting a major league contract and a spot of the 40 man roster. Gordon, who bats left and throws right, was a two-time All-American. In 193 games at Nebraska, he hit .353-44-189 with 43 stolen bases in 57 attempts, 53 doubles, 11 triples and 44 home runs. Gordon looks like the real deal, and will likely get his "cup of coffee" next September. He'll probably have more power than Zimmerman, but he doesn't have Ryan's gold-glove defense.
#3 - Jeff Clement (C) Mariners Clement, a graduate of Southern California, was the highest draftpick to sign last year. He began the season at Everett of the Northwest League, batting .273 in just 11 at bats. He finished the year at class 'A' Wisconsin of the Midwest league, where he batted .319-6-20. This year, splitting time between 'AA' San Antonio and 'AAA' Tacoma of the PCL, he batted .257-4-32. The Mariners seem to be promoting him a level above his ability, forcing him to play up to that league's talent. He's a left-handed hitter with power, a perfect fit for Safeco Field, where balls hit to right field and right-center travel better than balls hit to left field and left-center. Though he's just one level below the major leagues, his offense, barely average for the league, has a long way to go before he can survive in the American League. Don't look for him to make an impact in Seattle for at least another two or three years.
Upton is too young to be able to tell if he's going to be a better player than Ryan Zimmerman. Certainly, he won't get a chance to show his talents for a few more years. Jeff Clement may still become an all-star catcher, but he hasn't shown anything yet to warrant those pre-draft comparisons to Johnny Bench. Alex Gordon, however, seems like he's going to be an impact player very soon, maybe even next summer. There is no question that he's more powerful than Zimmerman, but there is also no question that he doesn't have his defensive skills either.
Ryan Zimmerman might not become the best major league player of the group, but he certainly will be one of the best. But more than that, he has shown that he is as good a person as he is a player. While Alex Gordon and Justin Upton were holding out for "big bucks," Ryan Zimmerman was making his major league debut. He is the kind of person you don't mind giving a $50 or $60 million dollar contract to in a few years. He deserves it.
The others? Well, we'll just have to wait and see ....
I don't think Alex Gordon needs Gold-Glove defense since he will likely be a DH for the Royals (Ryan Shealy and Mark Teahan are pretty good young corner IFs).