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Yippee, it's MLB Draft time

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - My least favorite thing to cover during the Major League Baseball season takes place this Thursday, when the annual First-Year Player Draft gets going at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Apparently we should all care that this event is happening, because for the first time, MLB has decided to televise the draft. Well, actually not the whole draft, just the first round. After teams make their first selection, the draft will revert back to the traditional conference call format while the talking heads over at ESPN will inform us who has been taken along the way.

Gosh, I can't wait.

So instead of the first round taking about 10-15 minutes to complete - like in years past - the opening round will now likely take up most of the afternoon, as each team has five minutes to make their selection. I can only compare that kind of drama to what's going to be taking place on HBO this coming Sunday in the series finale of the Sopranos.

Speaking of which, I predict Paulie Walnuts is working with the New York crew and will wind up killing Tony.

But back to the topic at hand. In the era we live in, where anything and everything is on TV these days, how is it even possible that this is the first year the MLB Draft is being televised? I mean even the WNBA and NHL have their drafts televised. The NFL Draft has become so popular in recent years that it's most likely going to be aired in prime time next season.

So why wouldn't MLB try and make their event a big deal? I will tell you why. Because nobody cares. Nothing is going to change that. You can put a bow tie on a pile of vomit, but it is still a pile of vomit.

It is the biggest crapshoot in all of sports. A player taken in the 20th round has just as good of a chance as making it as a player in the first round.

Don't get me wrong, a good number of first-round picks pan out, and obviously more picks in the first 10 rounds make it than in the second 10 rounds. My point is you just don't see the success rate in later rounds in other sports as you do in baseball. It's not even close.

Mike Piazza, for instance, was a 62nd-round selection and the last player chosen in the 1988 draft as a favor to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who is godfather to one of the catcher's brothers.

Can you imagine Mr. Irrelevant amounting to anything in the NFL? The Detroit Lions selected Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson with the last pick in this past April's NFL Draft. What are the chances of him putting up a Hall of Fame career like Piazza? Heck what are the chances of him even making the team? No offense to Mr. Robinson, but I think the Arena Football League is in his future.

And oh by the way, a good portion of the players selected will never even don the team's jersey that takes them. They either go to college, stay in college or don't reach agreement with the team, putting them back in the draft for another year.

MLB actually made it a lot harder for players to hold out this year, as for the first time there will be a universal signing date, meaning all draft picks have until August 15 to come to terms. This rule change also eliminates the draft-and-follow process, where teams would control the rights to players attending junior college until the following spring.

It also means teams will be more wary than they already were of taking players represented by super agent Scott Boras. Boras no doubt gets you paid at the major league level, but teams definitely shy away from taking his clients in the draft.

Take Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, for example. He is probably the best position player in the draft, and some scouts have him rated higher than probable first overall pick David Price. But every profile you read on him lists his downside being that he is represented by Boras. His signability weighs more on team's minds than the fact that he is probably the best amateur catcher in the draft since Joe Mauer.

But, then you look at other Boras clients like Luke Hochevar and Max Scherzer.

Hochevar was drafted by 40th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005, held out the whole season, impressed in his time with an independent league team, and went back into the draft pool in 2006 and became the top overall pick.

Scherzer followed a similar path, but actually came to terms with the Arizona Diamondbacks -- who drafted him 11th overall last year -- right at the deadline for four times the amount of their initial offer.

Moral of the story is that Boras gets you paid. It might not be right away, but he gets you your money. I guess the reward is greater than the risk when it comes to some of these players.

So, how is this week's draft going to shake out? I haven't a clue, but I can tell you that Tampa Bay is leaning towards Price. It would be hard to argue with that pick. Blessed with a perfect pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5, Price is considered the best college hurler to enter the draft since Southern California's Mark Prior in 2001.

He led Vanderbilt to a No. 1 overall seed in the College World Series this season following an 11-0 campaign to go along with a 2.71 earned run average. He also fanned 175 batters in 123 innings.

Price regularly throws in the 89-93 mph range and can reach 96-97 mph without much extra effort. He also has a better-than-average slider in his repertoire and is working on a changeup

If there is a downside to Price, it is that some people would like to see him be more aggressive at times. But that is not really considered a major problem.

Is David Price the second coming of Roger Clemens? Probably not. History tells us that he is probably more like the second coming of Gil Meche - a solid starter at the major-league level. Given their storied past, though, I am sure most D-Rays fans would sign up for that right now.

But for those fans in Tampa who expect more out of the top overall pick in the draft, have no fear, because your 15th-round pick could turn out to be an All- Star.

That my friends, is the beauty of the MLB Draft.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
Chris Ruddick

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