Rays righthanderMatt Garza, member of the vaunted 2005 draft, was throwing a no-hitter into theseventh inning last Thursday—until, that is, he faced another alum from whatwell may be the best... draft... class...ever. And there went Garza's bid forhistory. Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (the No. 23 pick) legged out aninfield single against Garza (No. 25), Boston's only hit that night.
Garza was theALCS MVP in 2008, and Ellsbury was a World Series hero the year before, yetneither was considered even close to the cream of the '05 bumper crop."That first round, especially the first half of that first round, isamazing," says acting Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo, who as Arizona's scoutingdirector that year took outfield superstar-in-waiting Justin Upton with thefirst pick. "I can't remember one draft with more big names or more impact.It's like a Who's Who of amateur players."
Six players fromthat class—Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ellsbury andClay Buchholz—appeared on the cover of SI's Baseball Preview last year (inset).But there are dozens more where they came from: Of the 30 players selected inthe regular phase of the first round, 20 have already reached the majors."There are a lot of guys who will be All-Stars, win awards and maybe go tothe Hall of Fame," says Josh Byrnes, the Diamondbacks G.M. who was part ofa Red Sox front office that plucked shortstop Jed Lowrie and potentialtop-of-the-rotation pitcher Michael Bowden along with Ellsbury and Buchholz."Twenty years from now it's going to be special to be labeled one of thebest from the '05 draft."
Several membersof the class are off to solid starts. Reds outfielder Jay Bruce (No. 12) hadfive homers in April, Marlins righthander Chris Volstad (No. 16) was 2--0 witha 2.67 ERA at week's end, and Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus (No. 28) had a.365 on-base percentage. Then there is lefthander Ricky Romero (No. 6), whomthe Blue Jays were widely criticized for picking ahead of Tulowitzki (No. 7).After a slow start in the minors Romero—who had a 2--0 record with a 1.71 ERAbefore straining his right oblique muscle—has the look of a No. 3, maybe even aNo. 2, starter. With free-agent arms so reluctant to come to the AL East unlessteams are willing to overpay, says Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi,"if we don't draft pitchers, we're not going to get pitchers."
The Rays wereable to acquire a gem in Garza, who was drafted by the Twins. "We thoughtwe'd get a good player even picking 25th," says Minnesota scouting directorMike Radcliff. "Garza had a rather pedestrian record in college—nobody hadhim in the top five, 10, 15 or even 20—but he elevated his velocity."Desperate for offense, however, the Twins dealt Garza to the Rays before thestart of last season for outfielder Delmon Young. Minnesota tried to interestTampa in Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn, but the Rays insisted on Garza, who isshaping up to be the premier pitcher of a historic draft class.
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DAMIAN STROHMEYER (GARZA)
ACE VALUE Garza missed out on the 2008 cover, but his star is rising quickly.
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