Thus is the battle evidently raging on the Tampa Bay draft board. Should the Rays go with a bigger need position or with the sexier pick with higher upside? Today we'll begin our draft coverage (including attempting to uncover some draft sleepers rather than spending too much time on the same old names) by attempting to answer the question: who's number one?
To understand what the Rays could be thinking, we must first know the system they have in place, but if a team takes a shortstop in round two it wouldn't make sense to take another one just a year later. Here's the organizational depth charts at SS and C at each level, (hat tip to Kevin Gengler at DRaysBay )
Princeton: Mayobanex Acosta/John Mollicone
Hudson Valley: Mark Thomas/Tyler Hauschild
Columbus: Mike McCormick/Ian Paxton/Shawn Williams
Vero Beach: Nevin Ashley/Christian Lopez
Montgomery: John Jaso/Matt Spring
Durham: Mike DiFelice/Hector Gimenez
Jaso is the most highly touted, but he's got injury and defense issues that have held him from Durham thus far. Ashley is yet to have an extra-base hit this season. McCormick has a nice bat and plays good defense, but is also struggling this year. Thomas was a draft and follow who has a "bazooka arm" per Baseball America.
Princeton: Robi Estrada
Hudson Valley: Jason St. Clair
Columbus: Omar Luna/Shawn O'Malley
Vero Beach: Jairo De la Rosa
Montgomery: Ronnie Merrill/Johnny Raburn
Durham: Reid Brignac/Jeff Bannon
Outside of O'Malley -- the fastest man in the Rays organization -- the Rays don't have much depth at shortstop whatsoever. Brignac is no sure thing either, despite improved defense.
Neither position is strong or deep enough to prevent Posey or Beckham from being drafted, so let's move on to the next topic: signing bonus.
Beckham has more leverage, after all he's a high school senior with a commitment to the University of Southern California. Posey is a college junior, so even he has some leverage, but neither is rumored to match the supposed 8.5 million signing bonus that Scott Boras is seeking for Pedro Alvarez. The Rays haven't flinched in signing Evan Longoria and David Price the past two drafts in a somewhat timely matter -- in fact the MLB actually held up the over slot deals on a few Rays' draftees last year, including D.J. Jones.
As for the only thing that should matter, the player's abilities, let's look at their respective statistics.
And since statistics are only half of the story, let's take a look at a scouting report for each from Brewersfan.net:
A very good and versatile overall athlete, Posey arrived at Florida State's campus as a two-way talent expected to play shortstop everyday while also pitching out of the bullpen due to his natural arm strength and refined approach to pitching which included one of the better changeups in the prep class of 2005. His lateral quickness and arm strength prompted a move to behind the plate for Posey, a transition he started during FSU's fall practices during his sophomore year. He took to the switch quickly and is already considered a good defender with the ability to neutralize the opponents running game with his strong arm. He still needs to improve in some of the finer aspects, but most don't think that will be a problem given how far he has come in such a short amount of time. His bat is made for contact, with quick hands that allows him to lace line drives from gap to gap. There isn't much over the fence power at this point in time, and he probably will never hit for more than 10-15 homers a year, but he could easily hit for 40-plus doubles while managing the strike zone. His overall athleticism gives him good speed for a catcher, as he profiles in a similar fashion to other catcher conversions such as Michael Barrett, Brandon Inge and even Craig Biggio.
Beckham is the type of athlete that makes everything he does look easy. He glides to balls hit deep in the hole to either side of him, and runs the bases gracefully, stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He has good arm strength, soft hands and good instincts that should allow him to star at shortstop for years to come. While his defense draws more raves that his bat, he has improved at the plate over the last year and is now considered a legitimate threat, as he stings the ball to all parts of the field and has also shown the ability to hit the ball out as his body continues to mature and add strength. Shortstops with Beckham’s ability don’t come around very often, as he’s sure to go early. He was named the MVP of the Aflac All-American Classic going 1-3 with a triple and 3 RBI, 2 thanks to a pair of sac flies in key situations.
Let's discuss the final two factors: bust and impact. Posey is breaking out this season, but there don't seem to be many concerns that he'll be able to produce double digit homerun seasons with good average/on-base skills, the only question is whether his fresh catching abilities continue to progress as quickly as they have. A former shortstop himself as well as FSU's closer, Posey has a good arm and average "pop time" (the amount of time it takes a catcher to "pop up" and fire to a base). He'd presumably be in the majors by the end of 2010.
Beckham is a much riskier pick, but with the upside of being an above average bat and having a smooth glove. In fact his bat is the only concern, some have said he could become a Matt Bush type for that reason. Of course others have also thrown around comparisons to Barry Larkin and Edgar Renteria. Beckham probably wouldn't be a factor at the big league level until 2011.