Mets' picks reflect pitching-rich draft

Mets' picks reflect pitching-rich draft

NEW YORK -- The consensus was that the 2006 First-Year Player Draft probably would prove to be more pitching-oriented than most of the drafts that preceded it. And if the breakdown of players selected didn't bear that out, the Mets' selections certainly did.

Denied a place in the first round because of their signing of Type A free agent Billy Wagner in the fall, the Mets selected 49 players in two days in the 50 rounds that concluded early Wednesday evening. More than half of their selections were pitchers, the vast majority of those right-handed with college experience.

Those who say pitching is 90 percent of the game may be right, in terms of impact. For the Mets, it was 55 percent of their draft. And 24 of the 27 pitchers they chose throw from the right.

The Mets didn't purposefully emphasize right-handed pitching, of course -- they took from what the draft field provided. But as they have done in recent years, they focused more on pitchers with more experience, implementing a philosophy quite different from what former general manager Joe McIlvaine advocated.

It was McIlvaine's influence -- and the Mets' advantageous position in the drafts of the early 80s -- that fueled the Mets' successful teams and trades of that period. And McIlvaine, now scouting for the Twins, preferred high school talent -- for example, Dwight Gooden and Jason Isringhausen.

Of the 27 pitchers the Mets selected this year, 18 have pitched in college or junior college, including Villanova's Kevin Mulvey, the 21-year-old right-handed pitcher they took with their first pick, the 62nd overall.

"We wanted the best talent out there," Rudy Terrasas, the Mets' director of amateur scouting said Wednesday. "It just happened to be that way that we took more pitchers from college programs. We did take high school pitchers in the later rounds."

Six of the nine high school pitchers the Mets selected were among their final 10 choices.

The experience breakdown of position players wasn't so lopsided -- four college outfielders to two from high school; six college catchers to one from high school; six college infielders to three from high school.

The only other aspect of the Mets' draft that suggested a theme was that they chose players with size, as the Dodgers used to do and the Reds have done more recently. The Mets chose 13 pitchers who are 6-foot-3 or taller, including 6-foot-10 Nathan Hedrick of Barton County Community College in Missouri, 6-foot-8 John Holdzkom of Salt Lake Community College in California and 6-foot-6 Tyler Binkley of St. Mary's College High School of Ontario. No pitcher they chose was shorter than 6-foot-1.

And this is the organization team that gave us Tug McGraw, John Franco and Tom Seaver, and whose tallest pitcher -- 6-foot-11 Eric Hillman -- was never confused with Randy Johnson.

The only players shorter than 6 feet that the Mets selected were three second baseman and two catchers. Size apparently matters.

"I do like a pitcher with size and who has leverage," Terrasas said. "My daddy said, 'Bigger is better,' But it wasn't by design. The best player available at the time we picked happened to be a tall pitcher."

That said, Holdzkom was the draftee who most intrigued Terrasas "because he has such an upside." The right-handed 18-year old had control issues at Salt Lake. He struck out 44 and allowed merely 15 hits in 31 2/3 innings, but he walked 40.

Other than the two name players they selected -- Jeremy Barfield and Steve Puhl, the sons of former big league players Jesse Barfield and Terry Puhl -- the most intriguing selection came relatively late Wednesday. The made Justin Woodall, a 19-year-old high school pitcher from Mississippi, the 574th selection, aware that Woodall is more likely to play football for Alabama than sign a baseball contract. But you never know.

"We'd still like to talk to him and see if we can persuade him," Terrasas said, acknowledging that Woodall probably would have been drafted earlier if clubs had believed he would forsake football. "We'll try to get to him right away now that he's back from his senior trip. We'll start talking to some of our picks [Wednesday] and get into it all the way tomorrow."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.