MLB Draft – Picks No. 1-8

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Nationals selected RHP Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in Tuesday’s draft.
We’ve known it was coming for months, so now it’s just a matter of
getting him signed. The Nationals probably won’t rush to get a deal
done, since he’s been worked hard this year and doesn’t really need to
throw any additional innings. Ideally, they’d just get him ready for
2010, when he could be in the rotation right from the start of the
year. Of course, it’d make more sense to delay his arrival to postpone
free agency, but it might save them money in negotiations if they
promise him a rotation spot right away. With his high-90s fastball and
top-notch slider, he is ready now, and he could soon be a major league
ace.

Mariners chose North Carolina first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley with the second pick in the draft.
Ackley, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound left-handed hitter, has been a first
baseman since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the Mariners are
drafting him as an outfielder and will stick him in center. He has the
speed to last there, and he should be able to hit for average. He may
not develop into more than a 12- or 15-homer guy, but he could
contribute as soon as 2011.

Padres selected high school outfielder Donovan Tate with the third pick in the draft.
Tate has a scholarship waiting for him to play cornerback at North
Carolina, but the Padres should be able to get him signed. Tate is a
fantastic athlete, but he’s a raw product who figures to take a long
time to develop. The assumption is that he’ll hit for power and turn
into an excellent defensive center fielder. Still, drafting him this
early is a risky move.

Pirates drafted Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez fourth overall.
A polished product, Sanchez is a fine catch-and-throw guy with an iffy
bat. If he turns into a .250 hitter with 15-homer power, the Pirates
should be pleased. He’s advanced enough to potentially debut next year.
The Pirates would prefer not to need him then, but Ryan Doumit is so
injury prone that the quality alternative is a necessity.

Orioles selected high school RHP Matt Hobgood with the fifth overall pick in the draft.
Hobgood, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty, bares a little too much of a
resemblance to Sidney Ponson for comfort. He’s not as hard of a thrower
as his build suggests, as he tops out at 92 mph, but he does have an
excellent curveball. He’ll have to come up with a changeup over the
next few years.

Giants selected high school RHP Zack Wheeler with the sixth pick in the draft.
It’s no surprise to see the Giants go with another high school pitcher.
They’ve done well with that strategy recently, and Wheeler looks like
another pretty good pick. He already throws 90-93 mph, and he could add
velocity as he fills out. His curve is a quality second pitch. A future
as a No. 2 starter is a possibility.

Braves selected Vanderbilt LHP Mike Minor with the seventh pick in the draft.
The Braves usually prefer upside, but they’re going for a polished
lefty here. Minor throws 88-91 mph with a pretty good slider and
changeup. He went 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA, 109 H and 114/37 K/BB in 110 2/3
IP for Vandy this year. A future as a No. 3 starter is a possibility,
and he’s far enough along that he could begin next year in Double-A.

Reds selected Arizona State RHP Mike Leake with the eighth pick in the draft.
A bit of a surprise, but a good one. Leake doesn’t possess more than an
average fastball, but both his slider and changeup are major league
quality right now and he has a curve that he’ll use occasionally. With
his command, he should move quickly.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.