Based on what we heard prior to the draft, it certainly wasn't a shock that the Blue Jays select high school prospect Travis Snider. In a draft thin on hitting prospects, Snider appeals because, well, he can hit. His defense, by most accounts, is a liability but he possesses enough power and all around hitting acumen to quickly make his way up the organization's minor league depth chart. Since he was drafted out of high school, it's likely that he won't receive any major league playing time for at least 3-4 seasons, which curbs our excitement a great deal. In fact, in his most recent article on espn.com, Rob Neyer discusses why he believes the level of excitement created by the MLB draft is inherently unable to match the level of excitement found in the drafts of other major sports. And this is certainly one of the reasons. Players, especially first round selections, drafted in other sports play almost immediately, often occupying major roles. That simply isn't the case in baseball. Sure, every now and again a Ryan Zimmerman will breeze through the minors and proceed to play well in the majors, but even he's endured rough stretches. Also, unlike football, basketball, or hockey, the majority of first round selections experience virtually no success in the majors, while others (actually, most) don't even experience any playing time. With that said, I certainly do get genuinely excited for the draft. Even though we're forced to wait years until most of the players reach the majors, it's interesting to get a glimpse at each team's long-term strategy and health.
As for this draft in particular, I was surprised -- despite the fact that rumours had been floating around suggesting that it could occur -- by the Royals' decision to select Luke Hochevar instead of Andrew Miller. Miller seems to possess the most upside, he's left-handed, and he's younger than Hochevar. But he'll ultimately be more expensive to sign. However, I fail to understand why that should even be an issue with a team like the Royals. Rather than throwing away millions of dollars to sign unproductive veterans such as Scott Elarton and Reggie Sander, that money could be invested in the draft. Even in rounds two and three, they selected players who were slated to be drafted fairly later in the draft. These selections might not have been premised upon financial reasons, of course, but it's difficult to believe that they didn't play a role, and a significant one at that. A team like the Pirates, for example, have been notorious for never paying above slot money for their selections. In the 2002 draft, for example, they drafted Bryan Bullington instead of B.J. Upton simply because of financial factors. Bullington's career has never quite gotten on track while Upton, despite being terribly mismanaged by the Devil Rays, is a potential superstar. With that in mind, the Pirates have no problem throwing money at someone like Sean Casey, an aging, mediocre first baseman who will not be useful long term. This season, moreover, they passed up the opportunity to draft Miller, most likely due to financial reasons.
As for Hochevar in particular, I'm sure some are still second guessing his decision to spurn the Dodgers' contract offer of a year ago. He'll earn more money by signing with the Royals this season, but it's not certain that he'll actually earn more long term. By holding out for a year, he delayed his arbitration clock, lost a full year of development, and ultimately joined a much less successful organization. He passed up the opportunity to pitch for the Dodgers, a good team on the rise that plays half its games in a pitcher's ballpark. Meanwhile his new team, the Royals, have been decidedly mediocre and appear to be for many more years. Also, the organization has historically shown a marked inability to develop young pitchers. The past 10-15 years are rife with tales of Royals pitchers who simply never met expectations. Jose Rosado, Kyle Snyder, Mike MacDougal, Mike Stodolka, and Colt Griffin are only some examples of players whose career output never matched their potential output. Zack Greinke, who appeared primed to buck the trend of failed Royals pitching prospects, has experienced many trials throughout the past season and a half and his career seems to be in jeopardy. Hochevar could certainly become productive and earn substantially more money as a Royal than he would've as a Dodger, but history certainly isn't on his side.