From the Sidelines: 2009 MLB draft one to remember

Published 10:07 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Demopolis High’s own Devin Goodwin had a special day Thursday when the St. Louis Cardinals selected him in the 33rd round of the MLB Draft. Goodwin flies to New York Sunday where he will begin his professional baseball career.

What happens from here for Goodwin has yet to be written. However, regardless of what his baseball future holds, Goodwin the 999th player taken in the 2009 draft will forever hold the distinction of being a part of one of the most interesting and intriguing classes ever.

Baseball’s draft is a far cry from its NFL and NBA counterparts in terms of watchability. Part of the difficulty in hyping the event comes in that it has 50 rounds. It is virtually impossible for fans to keep up with the 1,521 players that were taken between Tuesday and Thursday. Moreover, the vast majority of these players will never sniff the big leagues. They must first work their way through the multi-faceted minor league system and prove their worth before getting even the proverbial cup of coffee.

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Goodwin, for instance, will begin his career with the Batavia Muckdogs, one of the six minor league affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals. Batavia, the Class A Short-Season subsidiary, is the first of three potential Single-A stops for Goodwin as he looks to claw his way through Double-A and Triple-A and eventually to the bigs.

Adding to the difficulty that these 1,521 players face are the minor league players who are already in place, the growing interest in international players and the more than 1,500 players who will be drafted in 2010.

All of that combines to make the MLB Draft an event that is typically interesting only to those who are the nerdiest of baseball fans.

But this year’s class deserves a little extra attention. Fittingly, the first player taken San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg is the most touted prospect in the history of the draft. The 20-year-old righty etched his name into baseball lore by striking out 23 batters in a complete game against Utah and slinging a fastball that touches 103 on the radar gun. As the draft grew closer, more and more reports and features began to circulate on a player whose change-up is reportedly so good that college hitters are not good enough to be fooled by it.

So the hapless and hopeless Washington Nationals did the only thing they could do and took Strasburg first overall.

After Strasburg who some expect to pull in the neighborhood of $50 million in his first contract while bypassing the minors completely the Seattle Mariners took the consensus best hitter in the draft when they selected North Carolina’s Dustin Ackley. What ensued from there was a 1,519 picks that no one could have predicted.

While it will likely take years to determine the relative strength of this draft class, it is not too early to look at some of the most intriguing, if not trivial, aspects of the group.

The 2009 class featured 27 players from the state of Alabama. Goodwin was the 23rd player taken from the state. Six of those 27 players came from the University of Alabama. NAIA schools Faulkner University and AUM each had one player drafted. Judd Golson of Mountain Brook and Charles Watson of Cleburne County were the only two high school players taken from the state.

The draft also saw its fair share of nepotism and people related to people that most people have heard of. Included in that number are Harold Baines Jr., who hopes to be as relevant as his father, Harold Baines Sr., who racked up 2,866 hits did three tours of duty for the Chicago White Sox over his 21-year career. The ChiSox drafted Baines Jr. and Tyler Williams, the son of Chicago Pale Sox general manager Kenny Williams. The Boston Red Sox drafted Gavin McCourt, son of Los Angeles Dodgers ownder Frank McCourt. The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Robert Amaro, the nephew of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. The Chicago Cubs drafted Joey Jocketty, the son of Cincinnati Reds GM Walt Jocketty.

The Detroit Tigers drafted Jake Porcello, the brother of their top pitching prospect, Rick Porcello. The Texas Rangers selected Ruben Sieera Jr., the son of former all-star Ruben Sierra Sr.

The Baltimore Orioles selected Mike Flacco, the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim took Washington Huskies signal-caller Jake Locker.

The Red Sox picked Michael Yastrzemski, the grandson of Hall of Fame hitter Carl Yastrzemski.

And perhaps the most famous connection in the draft came at pick No. 1,221 when the Angels selected high school catcher Asaad Ali, the son of Muhammad Ali.