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Interdivisional Draft Review 2001-2005: part two, 2002

The 2002 draft is a little trickier to evaluate head to head, because it was very good for many teams in the division, resulting in the addition of some of the NL West's brightest young players. Matt Cain, Khalil Greene, Jeff Francis, Russ Martin, and Dustin Nippert all were products of the 2002 draft. What makes it more tricky, is that several of 2002's draftees haven't yet hit the MLB level but could be primetime players when they do. George Kottaras, and James Loney fall into this camp. So I'm going to give it my best shot here, but feel free to comment if you take exception to my picks.

  1. Los Angeles - So far, the Dodgers' 2002 draft hasn't produced much on the MLB level, but I look at those players who are either just starting to produce like Martin and Jonathan Broxton, or on the cusp of being called up, like James Loney, Greg Miller and Delwyn Young, and this draft just looks scary deep with talent. Even forty-seventh round selection Chad Bailey has proven to be a coup, and should see some MLB time. This is what a prototypical high school heavy draft should look like four years down the line.
  2. Colorado - It's a tough call over the Giants and Padres, as Matt Cain has quite a bit more potential than Jeff Francis and Khalil Greene is an everyday player at a premium position, but the Rockies depth with the two Ryans and two Jeffs wins out. Ryan Shealy, Ryan Spilborghs, Jeff Salazar and Jeff Baker all have provided the team with some support in bench roles already, and a couple of those should either find their way into the lineup or at least bring back something of value in trade. Being a Rockies devotee, I know that Neil Wilson is heating up down in the system and catchers are slow to develop, so there could be one more MLB contributor on the way, but he's the only other wild card in this draft for the Rox. So you have one mid-rotation starter with a little upside left, four MLB-ready reserve players, with one (Shealy) at least everyday worthy, a quadruple A swing man/sixth starter in Esposito and a potential back-up catcher in Wilson. No, it doesn't have the same top impact as some of these other clubs, but it's got a lot more day to day functionality right now.
  3. San Diego - Once Matt Cain starts truly dominating the division like he's capable, I might vault the Giants over the Padres and Rockies, but until then, I have to go with Greene and Francis, as they've actually performed consistently well at the MLB level. Catcher George Kottaras, who's currently the Padres best prospect and in AA ball, could bump San Diego up further if he continues hitting like he has been in his expected call-up next season.
  4. San Francisco - Matt Cain, Kevin Correia, and Clay Hensley are the beginning and end of this draft. Daniel Ortmeier's contributions will probably equal those of Ryan Spilborghs for the Rockies. Cain has top of the rotation stuff, and while he's shown it at times, his lack of consistency bumps the Giants draft down a bit. Correia has been solid in relief and Hensley netted Matt Herges in a trade in 2003. Had Herges' 2004 and 2005 been more like that first year, maybe I could see putting the Giants up a little further. Since then, Herges has been flipped to the D-backs for Doug Devore, who's been no great shakes himself. Still, I feel uncomfortable rating this draft so low, because those three contributors have given a lot thus far either directly or not, and Cain should give a lot more going forward. It's a tough call that I might have to change the order for as soon as next season.
  5. Arizona - Chris Snyder and Dustin Nippert might turn this around for the D-backs yet. Snyder, like San Diego's Greene is the starter at a premium position, while Nippert could provide the D-backs at least mid-rotation help to back up ace Brandon Webb. Add in Lance Cormier, and whatever part of Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista that Sergio Santos helped net (along with Troy Glaus) in an offseason trade with Toronto, and you can see why AZ fans might be legitimately upset for ranking so low. I'm going to assume that the trade was two-thirds Glaus and one-third Santos for the two returnees from Ontario, as most reports seem to indicate Santos was a pretty hefty minor component to the trade and not one of its principals. Like Los Angeles, AZ's draft is just starting to bear fruit, but the D-backs picks don't have the same potential as the Dodgers do.
Still, four fifths of the way to a complete evaluation and the 2002 class, much like the division itself this year, remains too close to call. I haven't looked in depth at the other three years yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if this class didn't turn out to be the best for the division overall.