Rounding Third: Time to mock the MLB Draft

The biggest crapshoot in all of sports will get underway Thursday, as Major League Baseball presents its First- Year Player Draft.

And, of course, it will be on television and watched by virtually nobody as people pretend they have heard of San Diego outfielder Kris Bryant or high schooler Austin Meadows.

Obviously, I understand the need for a draft, but the whole thing is a joke.

Perhaps I've soured on the event because I have to type 40 rounds worth of players, or roughly 1,226 names into our database.

But I digress.

Given the popularity of the NFL Draft, MLB has tried real hard in recent years to generate the same kind of buzz for its annual showcase. The festivities actually picked up some steam for a bit with the overly hyped No. 1 selections of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but the level of excitement has once again gone back to matching that of a Wednesday evening tilt at Minute Maid Park.

See what I did there? I mentioned the Astros. Why? Well, they hold the top pick in this year's draft for the second straight year. And judging by the product they've put on the field this year, it's conceivable they'll be picking first next year, too.

Houston really hasn't given any indication which way it may be leaning this year, but the pick figures to center around a pair of collegiate right- handers, Oklahoma standout Jonathan Gray and Stanford's Mark Appel, who was high on their draft board last year, but slipped due to signability issues.

The concerns for Appel proved to be valid, as he chose to go back to college after failing to come to terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who picked him at No. 8.

Gray has been drafted twice before, but really came into his own this season, as he led the Big 12 with 115 strikeouts and compiled an 8-2 overall record with a 1.69 ERA. He's touched 100 mph with his fastball, but works regularly between 94-97. He's also been compared to former first overall pick Gerrit Cole.

Appel, meanwhile, did nothing to hurt his stock this year with the Cardinal, as he was 10-4 during his senior campaign with a 2.12 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 106 1/3 frames. Through 14 appearances, he has held opponents to a career- low .203 clip.

One of the most decorated players at the collegiate level, Appel finished his Stanford career with a school-record 372 strikeouts, which are second-most among active NCAA pitchers.

Real exciting stuff.

It's pointless to try to produce a mock draft. You can probably gauge who the top-10 picks are going to be, but after that it's a free-for-all.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Teams often pass on players because they know they won't be able to sign them, which is pathetic. MLB has actually put rules into place to kind of prevent that from happening, but it still does and it did last year with Appel.

There probably are some draft geeks out there who will tell you they know for sure that Houston prep right-hander Kohl Stewart is going to be a stud, but in reality they have no idea.

You want to know how your team is going to do? Well, they'll probably take 20 pitchers, eight infielders, seven outfielders and a few catchers. And guess what? A player taken in the 20th round has just as good a chance of making it as a player in the first round.

Don't get me wrong, a good number of first-round picks pan out, and obviously more picks in the first 10 rounds make it than in the second 10 rounds. But the amount of late-round success present in baseball simply does not translate to other sports, and the comparison isn't even close.

Mike Piazza, for instance, was a 62nd-round selection and the last player chosen in the 1988 draft, supposedly as a favor to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who is godfather to one of the catcher's brothers.

Teams don't draft for need. They go with whatever is there. The Detroit Tigers have the best right-hander in baseball in Justin Verlander, and guess what, they'll probably take one with their first pick Thursday.

Imagine the New England Patriots taking a quarterback with their top pick when Tom Brady was in his prime?

How much of a joke is the MLB Draft? Well, pay attention to the later rounds. You'll certainly hear names you recognize. Only they'll be the names of kids who are related to someone in the front office, the son of someone who was a star for the team in past years or the kid or grandchild of the manager.

Actually you'll hear a name you recognize fairly early this year, as Craig Biggio's son, Cavan, is a pretty highly regarded infielder. In fact, the Astros could take him at the top of the second round. But if he falls past then, there is a good chance he sticks to his commitment to Notre Dame and probably be a top-10 pick three years from now.

And that is why it is hard to get into the MLB Draft. But I'll be there with bells on Thursday.

Just don't talk to me those three days.