Last night's broadcast of the MLB Draft on MLB Network showed off a lot of good things about the progression of the Draft. The MLB tie-in with Baseball America and their player rankings was a welcome complement to ESPN's usage of Mel Kiper Jr's rankings during the NFL Draft.
The analysis on the main panel by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was excellent. Jim Callis, the editor of Baseball America, also did a great job at breaking down picks and explaining the reasoning behind teams' questionable picks (such as the Royals taking Hunter Dozier eighth overall) and the reasoning for the fall of certain players (most notably Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek). John Hart wasn't great in his role on the main set, but his extensive experience in front offices provided some unique insight that neither Mayo or Callis could offer.
However, there were plenty of cringeworthy moments during MLB Network's coverage that they really need to remedy. Most notably was, of course, the dreadful performance of Harold Reynolds. Calling the performance of Reynolds bad is an understatement. His commentary on the Draft this year was absolutely horrendous, including the following missteps:
-Claiming that Mark Appel, the top overall pick by the Astros, should be in the majors by July. That's *this* July. His reasoning? "Because the team needs a spark for fans to show up". That would go completely against everything Houston is attempting to do with their rebuild. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow deftly knocked down the question of Appel debuting in the majors this year during an interview later in the Draft.
-Saying that Dozier, the eighth overall pick by the Royals, reminded him of Troy Tulowitzki and would be a shortstop for a long time. Numerous scouting reports from a variety of professional scouts don't see Dozier as a shortstop for the long-term.
-Inferring that Reese McGuire, a catcher taken 14th overall by the Pirates, would be ready to take the reins over behind the plate from Russell Martin. Martin is a free agent after next season, and McGuire was just drafted out of high school. He won't be ready for three or four years, let alone by the time Martin's contract expires.
-Most laughable was Reynolds' critique of the Oakland Athletics' selection of Texas high school outfielder Billy McKinney, saying that Moneyball was "all about drafting college players" and "that didn't work." Mayo then laid down the hand of justice on Reynolds and explained (rightfully) that Moneyball was actually about finding undervalued commodities, and that college players were no longer undervalued commodities. Reynolds responded with a "well that's how I interpreted it!" which pretty much verifies the fact that he's never read the book in his life.
I can't even comprehend who would have thought putting Reynolds on the set was a good idea. Scouting young players in advance of the MLB Draft is a thorough, comprehensive procedure, and you're not going to get a feel for a player after watching some video. Reynolds' "analysis" on the set was loaded with cliches and the false assumption that all of the players drafted would move extremely fast and be impact players in short order. Only four players from last year's Draft have made their major league debut thus far: two relievers and two starting pitchers. Thinking that McGuire is going to be the Pirates' Opening Day catcher in 2014 or that Appel is going to be throwing innings for the Astros this summer isn't just wrong, it's completely misleading and inappropriate, as anyone who has ever followed the Draft could tell you. The immediate impacts of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado have skewed the conventional thinking in relation to the Draft.
Possible improvements for next year would include giving Reynolds the night off, slotting Callis into the main desk alongside Mayo and Hart, having Greg Amsinger play traffic cop and not try to interject his own opinion too much, and eliminate the interviews with draftees by Sam Ryan. I like what Ryan does, but interviews with draft picks in all sports are one of the most meaningless trends ever. The interviews come in the same format of "how are you feeling", "what does this mean to you", "random inspirational story", and so on, and really add nothing to the proceedings.
On the bright side for MLB, these fixes aren't exactly difficult to implement. They're really similar to the issues that ESPN had with their Draft until finding a better flow after paring the main set down to Kiper, Jon Gruden, and Chris Berman. MLB is getting there, but things aren't perfect yet.