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By James Arnold

The 2004 NASA Rookie Draft was one of the more top-heavy drafts in recent years. At least that's how it looked from a manager drafting his first pick at No. 26. Still, the top 20 picks appeared to be fairly strong, then came a meaningful dropoff in overall skills and future expectations.

I had a moment at work to run down the picks, and thought I would share my opinions on the draft. These are solely my opinions and NASA, Inc., should not be held liable for anything said in the following paragraphs. Feel free to disagree.

Brussels -- Jim looked to fill some holes with his draft, adding two veteran "hitters" in Juan Castro and Adam Riggs. He picked five pitchers, three out of the free agent pile. Outside of Mount Royal and Spokane, Jim started his draft the latest. Not a good year for that. He ran a tight draft, however. Nice job, Jim.

Cuyahoga -- Joe went with young infielders early with Khalil Greene and Garrett Atkins, then filled in his pitching needs with two veterans and two youngsters -- headed by Juan Dominguez. A flier on Daryle Ward isn't a terrible idea for a late-round pick.

Falls Creek -- Two picks in the top ten are never a problem and Jason used his well. He took who most thought was a strong pick No. 1A in Mark Teixeira and a nice young pitcher in Edwin Jackson. Getting Ryan Wagner and Chad Cordero added more top-quality pitching depth. Jason finished up with four more pitchers and three hitters -- highlighted by young outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Spokane -- Mark almost always plays what he is dealt.

Yellowknife -- John got Justin Morneau at No. 15, showing how talented the top 20 picks were this season. Lew Ford is a job away from being a Moose mainstay. Then John went for some innings help in Kyle Snyder, who won't be around next season most likely. Then he got elder rookie Rafael Betancourt late in the draft, which could be a nice pick.


Casa Grande -- Michael's selection of Richie Weeks was against the norm, but the former college standout should be a nice player for years. An interesting pick that probably messed up a few draft lists. With his final 13 picks, eight were pitchers. Jesse Foppert and Chin-hui Tsao should be Road Warrior starters for years. In a weak draft for catchers, Gerald Laird was a steal at No. 43.

Casco Bay -- Getting Jose Contreras at No. 20 is a travesty and a great pick for Larry. He kept up with pitching but the talent didn't keep up, forcing selections of vets Brian Meadows, Darren Oliver and Dave Burba. Reed Johnson, who BP didn't really like but who has been picked as high as 20th in some Strat drafts, could be a nice pick at 40.

Cedar Rapids -- I was looking toward the future and hope that perspective is a little better than other years when I picked Ruben Mateo and other draft stiffs. Jhonny Peralta looks like a decent fielding shortstop with some power, and he should have a starting job somewhere in the majors in 2005, if not before. Todd Linden was a thought at 26, and I was pleased to get him at 55. The jury is out on whether he can develop enough power to earn a job as a corner outfielder. Picking D.J. Carrasco was based on empirical evidence. Wellemeyer was a panic pick with the clock ticking down. It may turn out ok if he can get out of Iowa.

Louisville -- Dan got a potential steal in Dontrelle Willis at 12 but then watched until pick No. 71, when he took one of the best offensive cards in the set in Michael Ryan. No one is convinced Ryan has a lot of upside, but that card could do some major damage this season.

Mount Royal -- Derek used his four picks for pitching, headed by Luis Ayala. He was the latest starter in this top-heavy draft. I feel your pain, Derek.


Los Angeles -- Dennis and Joe went for offense that could help now in Hideki Matsui and Adam Melhuse in their first four picks. Lopez (pick 34) is helpful now and in the near future. Los Angeles had eight picks after 100, three pitchers and five hitters -- including a flier on David Kelton.

Milan -- Randy received a gift getting Jose Reyes at No. 5 and then got Rocco Baldelli at No. 11. Layne Nix was his third top-20 pick -- all three have serious potential. The next four picks were young pitchers, including Arizona's Jose Valverde and Edgar Gonzalez. Nice draft Randy.

Montreal -- Jonah had owned every rookie pick in the draft at one point or another and finished with just three picks. He turned those picks into Brandon Webb, Bobby Crosby and David DeJesus -- all three expected to be quality players for years to come.

Renton -- Jerome Williams is one of the top young pitchers and a very nice choice at No. 8. Horacio Ramirez and Jason Young followed, filling out David's need for pitching. Brady Clark will play some outfield this season with a nice bat.

Traverse City -- Jody Gerut will form a nice platoon for Mike this season, bashing righties and working on hitting lefties in the future -- a solid pick at No. 10. Danny Haren is well thought of and could be a steal at No. 30. Mike Neu went later than expected and also could be a nice late-round pickup.


Chicago -- The top spot is tough when there is so much talent available. Miguel Cabrera was the best bet, showing considerable talent for someone so young. Nate stuck with offense for his second-round pick and grabbed Chase Utley, also a solid pick. Chad Gaudin is a very young pitcher with potential. Nate's fourth pick -- Will Cunnane -- is 20 innings of a nice reliever (righties beware).

Jarry Park -- Daniel stuck with pitching -- a good thing since he entered the draft with only 11 arms on the roster. Villarreal is going to be a good one. Doug Waechter has shown quite a bit. Soloman Torres is only 32? Didn't he pitch against Wilber Wood? Still, 121 innings of reasonable starter is worth a selection.

Kenmore -- Jason Bay was one of six outfielders expected to go in the first round. He's not Miguel Cabrera, but he's plenty good. The pickings were slimmer when George went for pitching at 57, 77 and 78. Brian Shouse at 89 is interesting. Check out his card. It doesn't look right. Could be dangerous.

New York -- Frank went for pitching and came out with Rich Harden, Jimmy Gobble and Erasmo Ramirez. That should be a nice trio for many years. Harden made me wish I had an early pick.

Wichita -- Someone had to do it. Rany picked Jeremy Bonderman (#16), who flashed some talent during a 6-19 season in Detroit. Robby Hammock and J.R. House were now and later picks to fill in at catcher. In a weak catching draft, these two might end up the best.