MLB draft: Entertaining the wonks

It's baseball nerd time on ESPN2, and this column's favorite amateur player now belongs to its favorite pro team.

Topics: Baseball, Paul Shirley, ESPN,

Baseball’s amateur draft, going on right now on ESPN2 as well as in real life in Orlando, Fla., is even more wonky TV viewing than the NFL draft.

At least non-obsessed football fans have heard of a few of the guys in the first two or three rounds of the NFL draft. You have to have your nose buried in Baseball America, which as a baseball wonk I recommend, to have even heard more than one or two names from the first round of the baseball draft.

I’ve heard the names of most of these guys, I’ve even seen a couple of the college players play on TV, but I don’t know much about any of them except one, my favorite player in the draft, Buster Posey, who went at No. 5 to my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. He’s my favorite player not because of anything he’s done on the field, though he’s a nice player, an athletic catcher who can hit and even closes for Florida State, but because he’s practically named after my kids, Buster and Daisy.

By the way, I just learned that a posey is not a type of flower, like a daisy. It just means any flower, or a bouquet of flowers. Now you know why I’m not writing a botany column.

ESPN’s coverage seems to be ignoring baseball’s ceremonial “drafting” of living Negro League stars at this draft, which is surprising. I’m on DVR time, so maybe they’ve gotten to it by now, but it seems like pretty good TV fodder.

The baseball shock of the early part of the draft was the Cincinnati Reds taking University of Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso, which I know is a surprise because the guys on ESPN2 said so. But what I’ve found even more shocking is that the smartest thing I’ve heard so far — I’m on DVR time, so something smarter may have come along — has been uttered not by Keith Law, who’s really smart, but by Steve Phillips. Who’s handsome.

“I’m a proponent of kids signing out of high school,” he said. “If you get drafted, I think you sign. I think you get better development from the professional scouts than you do from the college scouts [I think he meant coaches] and I think with the college scholarship program that professional baseball makes part of the contracts now — you can get a signing bonus and have the professional team pay for your college education — but I think the sooner you get into professional baseball the better.”



This makes less sense the farther down the draft you go, but the Chicago White Sox were on the clock with the eighth overall pick when Phillips said it. “I understand some of these guys have improved their draft status,” he continued, “but I think getting into pro ball from high school is the better way to go.”

There are exceptions. Chris Singleton mentioned that maturity level and family stability come into play. Of course. But as a general rule, for the elite players who have a realistic shot at making the majors someday, why not go play every day with pro coaches?

Then again, my favorite player went to college. Such a good boy!

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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