Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Draft Review

Here's my second annual draft review. Like last year, I'll say something about each first-round pick separately, followed by a synopsis of each team's draft in the second round and later. Like last year, I won't always be kind, but I also won't hold myself out as any kind of expert.

I'd say this year's talent pool was more than a little better than last year's. That's partly hindsight; a year from now, I'm sure some of this year's first-rounders will look as bad as Jordan Schafer, Jose Arredondo, Jody Gerut, Lou Marson, Greg Smith, and some other firsts from last year do now. But also, one of my beliefs about drafting is that you don't take a relief pitcher early unless he's just absolutely lights-out, is expected to develop into a starter, or there just aren't any decent position prospects available. This year there was just one pure reliever taken in the first round, Andrew Bailey. (Jennry Mejia hasn't started yet in the majors, but he's expected to eventually.) Last year there were five.

The first-rounders:

1. Everth Cabrera, Sarasota - I hate to start on such a negative note, but this has to be the worst choice I've ever seen for a #1 overall pick. He's a Rule 5 pick who was playing over his head last year and has come down to Earth with a resounding thud. Granted, he's got the best shortstop card in the pool, the Gators needed a shortstop (Jack Wilson can't do it alone) and with no more picks until the fourth round they'd lose Cabrera if they waited. But the #1 pick in the draft could have been traded for a better shortstop than this, or traded down to a middle-to-late first-round pick which would still have gotten him.

2. Desmond Jennings, Hoth - Certainly has to be in the discussion of who would have been the best choice for the first pick. Jennings was second to the top position player on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list not already owned by a BRASS team (behind Jesus Montero, but a catching prospect comes with a bit more downside), and position players are less risky than pitchers.

3. Mat Latos, Chuckanut Bay - This would have been my choice for #1. He's a pitcher, but the risk is much mitigated by the fact that he's in a major league rotation and pitching very well. And he doesn't tie up an AM spot like Jennings does.

4. Dustin Ackley, Duluth-Superior - Mike's comment with this pick was, "Seriously, did you think I'd take anyone else?" I won't say this is a bad pick, but seriously, I'd have gone for Montero or Starlin Castro instead. If Ackley doesn't stick at another position and has to come to the majors as a first baseman, his value is much diminished in BRASS.

5. Casey McGehee, Sugar Creek - Could have been picked first without raising my eyebrows. He's older than you'd like, and wasn't highly rated when he came up, but he's got the best card in the pool with the possible exception of Garrett Jones, and is following it up with an even better year so far. It would be nice if the Brewers would restore his positional flexibility instead of confining him to 3B as they have so far this year.

6. Starlin Castro, Plainsfield - Behind Jennings, Ackley and Montero on the BA list, but the fact that he's up and hitting major league pitching at age 20 pushes him ahead of all of them in my opinion. And Kevin's track record suggests that you disagree with his evaluations at your peril.

7. Brian Matusz, Andover - Not a lot to choose between him and Latos--except that Matusz is lefthanded and has been getting hammered lately.

8. Andrew Bailey, Great Kills - You normally wouldn't want to take a reliever this soon, but what a card! And he's doing it again this year.

9. Ike Davis, Green Bay - I don't think I'd have taken him this high. Granted he's a major-league regular and hitting well, but first basemen are greatly devalued in a non-DH league.

10. Domonic Brown, Colorado - This is the pick I traded to get Yunel Escobar. If I'd kept it, I'd probably have gone for Montero, but Brown's a close second. They're the top two on the BA list at this point.

11. Aroldis Chapman, Diamond - His ceiling might be higher than anyone else in this draft; as a triple-digits lefty, he could be the next Randy Johnson. He could also be the next Steve Dalkowski, though that's less likely.

12. Daniel Hudson, Meridian - Way down (#66) on the BA list, and hasn't pitched in the majors yet this year. But everyone higher on the list who was still available would use up an AM slot. I suppose he's not a terrible choice if you're determined to take a flyer on a pitcher, but I'd have gone for Randy Wells, who has a good year in the bank and has a pretty good lock on a rotation spot, even though he's hit a bad patch of late.

13. Jesus Montero, Washington Crossing - As I've already suggested, I think he should have gone sooner. The only downside is that if he can't stay behind the plate he becomes another 1B-DH type, and thus a drug on the market in BRASS. (Well, that and the fact that he's off to a terrible start this year.) But if he can catch half a dozen games a year for the Yankees while smoking the ball at 1B and DH the rest of the time, he becomes an All-Star catcher in BRASS, playing 150 games a year at the position.

14. Martin Perez, Diamond - The top name on the BA list at this point, but that list was made before Mike Leake came up and dominated. I think if you're going to take an AM pitcher here, it's got to be Leake.

15. Randy Wells, Ashland - A young pitcher with a good card, enough innings for 25 starts, and a rotation job? In a BRASS draft pool? Damn right you take him here, and give thanks to all the baseball gods that he fell this far.

16. Jhoulys Chacin, SoCal - Only #71 on the BA list, but I think he was the highest rated player at this point who was carded, and Scott didn't want another AM pitcher. Can't give you a real reason why, but I have a "next Ubaldo" feeling about him.

17. Kris Medlen, Columbia - Might turn out to be a real good sleeper pick and make up for missing out on Chacin. He's in the rotation and pitching real well, with K/BB rates which suggest it's sustainable. If he goes back to the bullpen, though, it's kind of a waste. Interestingly, he had a strong reverse platoon split last year, and so far is keeping it up.

18. Doug Fister, Sugar Creek - Like Medlen, except that Fister's K rate doesn't bode well for success going forward. On the other hand, he seems a lock to stay in the rotation all year (barring injury, of course).

19. Mike Leake, Great Kills - Love this pick. The season's young, and the NL could catch up with Leake and turn it into a waste, but so far so great. And even if he posted, say, a 5.00 ERA the rest of the way, his season line would still be right around 4. His strikeout and walk rates aren't all that, but they're not bad either.

20. Kyle Drabek, Montgomery County - Not the top BA prospect available at this point, but very close, and much closer to being ready than those above him. That's important. This is actually the second time Rob drafted Drabek.

21. Bryce Harper, Chuckanut Bay - Not on the BA list--not even drafted as I write this--but the potential is obvious. Tony actually thought about taking Harper with the #2 pick instead of Jennings, and somebody was going to take a first-round flyer. The only thing is, even if nothing happens to derail his career, he's going to tie up an AM slot for years.

22. Ian Desmond, Duluth-Superior - Probably won't ever be an All-Star, unless Strasburg is hurt one year and they need somebody to fill the Nationals' quota. But nobody else available at this point is an established major-league shortstop. And the high-upside longshot bin has been pretty well picked over.

23. Garrett Jones, Ashland - Carded players of this quality usually go much higher in a BRASS draft than in my summer league, because in that league the pool hasn't been diluted by removing previous years' uncardeds. (19 of the 24 players in that league's 2010 first round were already owned by BRASS teams.) But Jones went 20th, three slots higher than here. I believe this is explained by the DH rule; in BRASS, there are 24 fewer lineup slots available for a player like this.

24. Jenry Mejia, Montreal - We're getting to the point where no player clearly stands out, and an argument can be made for any of several, but I'm having a hard time seeing it for this one. Sure, he was the Mets' top prospect going into the season, but isn't that kind of like being the smartest kid on the short bus? He's well down the overall BA list, he's not pitching all that well or much, and it'll take a lot of minor-league seasoning before he's a useful starter--and if he's not that, he's not worth a first-round pick. At least he'll be carded next year, so he won't tie up an AM slot.

The rest of the draft, by team:

Andover (Bernadina, Carillo, D. Gordon, Hayhurst, D. McCutchen, R. Perry, Runzler, Saunders; reclaimed Milledge and Thames) - Past the first round, you can get guys who are moderately useful now, or who have a chance to be somewhat more so later. Andover went for the future straight down the line. Bernardina's ceiling is probably somewhere between fourth outfielder and platoon stopgap, but Saunders is supposed to become a regular. Gordon (AM) rates behind several other position players who weren't taken, but he's a shortstop, which is a consideration for a team which will need one pretty soon. The pitchers. . . well, they're pitchers. Law of averages says one or two of them will stick around long enough to get a U contract.

Ashland (O'Flaherty, Pagan, Scheppers, Storen, S. White; reclaimed Garciaparra, K. Greene, Hampton, Loretta, K. Wood) - Ashland, having gotten two first-rounders who are useful now, went for more of the same, except of course for the AMs. Even those are in the majors now, so their slots will be cleared for action next year. With their extra picks, the Penguins were all done by round 4 except for reclaiming free agents.

Chuckanut Bay (Avila, Blanks, J. Francisco, N. Green, Maloney, Reddick; reclaimed Batista, Burrell and Lugo) - On top of their two first-rounders, the Tubas got some serious upside potential here. Blanks would have been a first-rounder if he'd gotten off to any kind of start this year, Avila quite possibly the same, and I've got a Mike Greenwell feeling about Reddick. Lugo. . . I look at his contract and wonder: was there really a moment in history when it seemed sane to give him five years and $36 million? That didn't happen on Dave's watch; it was either Ben Gauthier or one of the revolving-door cast who played hot potato with the franchise until Dave came along.

Columbia (Axford, Buckner, Coghlan, A. Huff, Kearns, West; reclaimed Atkins, O. Perez, Wang) - Like Blanks, Coghlan's poor MLB start cost him a first-round position. The 2B rating Strat gave him, despite only one game there, saved him from dropping much farther, because without it he'd be a DH in a non-DH league. Kearns could be a real find if he's actually come out of his three-year funk. Problem is, you have to get your bet down (in the form of a multi-year contract) before you know how long this phase of his career will last. And the upside limit is two full good years (plus his current card, which is nothing special) before he becomes a URFA, unless you give him an A contract.

Cream City (D. Bush, Carp, Coste, M. Downs, Fisher, C. Guzman, Jacobs, Keppel, Nieve, O'Sullivan, M. Palmer, Parra, Petit, Scales, C. Sullivan, M. Valdez, V. Vazquez) - The Pirates came into the draft with lots of holes, no picks in the first two rounds, and no manager. Vaughn drafted for them, and seemed to go mostly for stopgaps to allow a team to be fielded for 162 games. I think he went a little overboard on pitchers; they ended the draft with 24 of them, with over 1800 innings among them. At the end, when I was drafting for them, I took Scales and Sullivan because they only had three other guys with an OF rating.
Dayton (Norris, H. Rodriguez, Sipp, Thole, N. Walker; reclaimed Delgado, Kuroda, C. Wade) - Holding our draft a month later than we did last year made a big difference to some players. I've already mentioned some who fell because of poor starts, but there were also those whose stock rose considerably. Perhaps none more so than Walker, a bonus round pick who a month earlier would have been taken near the end, if at all. In my summer league draft (held in February) I got him in the ninth round.

Diamond (Belisario, Bulger, Clippard, Colvin, Gregerson, Hawksworth, Medders, A. Ojeda, Thatcher, E. Vazquez) - This draft was all about pitching for Vaughn no matter what team he was picking for. Note that both his first-round picks were AM pitchers. If you want to know where all the innings are this year, look no further than Diamond and Cream CIty. Vaughn had the only compensation pick this year; I forget who he lost to get it, but Gregerson is making it look like a great deal.

Duluth-Superior (Alfonzo, Geer, Griffey, D, Huff, A. Moore, Morse, C. Patterson, Stammen, Stokes, Sutton, J. Vargas, R. Vazquez, R. Webb, Jo. Wilson, Delwyn Young) - The early picks all aimed at improving the starting rotation, with mixed results: Vargas is doing well, Huff is still in a rotation but doing poorly, and Stammen just got sent down to make room for Strasburg. Moore has as good a shot as anyone to be the Mariners' catcher for awhile down the road, and meanwhile Alfonzo has his spot.

Great Kills (Bergmann, B. Carroll, J. Castro, Dickey, C. Duncan, French, D. Hernandez, Jaramillo, Kendrick; reclaimed DeJesus, W. Harris, Madson, Sowers, N. Robertson, B. Webb) - Nothing in the second or third round, and flotsam after that. A real shame about Webb--a year and a half already down the drain, at $20 mil a year.

Green Bay (Bergesen, Duensing, Hu, Lawrie, Manzella, Meek, Jo. Morales, Mujica, L. Powell, Sampson, Stavinoha) - A good balance of future and present value, which was Bob's plan. Bergesen isn't doing as well as one would hope for this year, but Duensing is doing much better. I think Powell is established as a backup catcher; once he runs out of options, the A's will stop jerking him around like they are this year. Manzella and/or Hu might develop at the plate enough to have an Adam Everett career; stranger things have happened. Lawrie (AM) probably could have been had later than the third round, but Bob wanted to make sure he got him for his Brewers connection. There are worse reasons.

Hoth (J. Fox, LeBlanc, Matzek, Narveson; reclaimed Garko, J. Hairston, Lidge, P. Martinez, Villanueva, C. Young, Zambrano) - The Rebs certainly had quantity going into the draft--they protected their full quota of 30 and still had 8 left over. So after grabbing three cards and their second AM, it was all reclaims. Any or all of the carded guys could stick around long enough to get U contracts, though only LeBlanc is distinguishing himself this year. Matzek (AM) was close to the top player available on the BA list at the time, but Tony might have been better advised to drop down to someone closer to being ready.

Inyo (T. Abreu, M. Adams, Fulchino, Hicks, Kilby, Ni, D. Ross, Ryal, Schlereth, A. Torres, Westmoreland) - I had no picks until late in round 2; they were dealt to bolster my upcoming pennant run. (After what I gave up, and the money I spent in free agency, anything less than a division title will be a severe disappointment.) Torres, Adams, Ross and Fulchino were drafted for the same purpose; the fact that Torres and Adams are kicking butt this year is a bonus. I wonder if the league knows something about Hicks (AM) that I don't; he was out there for a long time as the top player available on the BA list. Westmoreland was tops on that list when I finally got around to filling my other AM slot, but I probably should have taken the same advice I just gave Tony. Right now I'm kicking myself for not using the spot on John Jaso. Ni is a sentimental pick; his surname is the same as that of an ex-girlfriend I remember fondly.

Meridian (Allen, Cecil, F. Garcia, Gwynn, D. McDonald, R. Pena, Santos, Simon, Takahashi, M. Taylor) - Cecil's looking good, and Taylor is as good a bet as any AM past the first round. Quite a few analysts thought the Padres got hosed when they traded Jody Gerut for Gwynn, but even as poorly as Gwynn is doing this year, he's still miles ahead of Gerut. McDonald's no prospect, but it looks like he'll provide more than the moderately useful platoon card he has this year.

Montgomery County (A. Arias, J. Arias, R. Castro, Evans, E. Gonzalez, Inge, J. Johnson, Marte, B. Pena; reclaimed Kazmir, F. Rodriguez) - Another team with a big gap between the first round and the rest. These were used to fill a couple of holes, take a flyer on a few longshots, and pull back the albatross contracts that nobody would take off their hands.

Montreal (J. Flores, Litsch, Melancon, Poreda, Tazawa, Veal) - Yet another thin draft, with no second-round or bonus pick. Dan took all pitchers except for Flores (a catcher), so it's a crapshoot. None of these guys is exactly setting the world on fire this year so far.

Phoenix (J. Anderson, L. Cruz, Freeman, Giminez, T. Greene, Hart, Di. Hernandez, Mi. Hernandez, S. Jackson, Loux, MacDougal, A. Romero, L. Rosales, C. Smith, Stubbs) - I'm rooting for Smith; not only do I have him on my other Strat team, but he comes from Apple Valley CA, which is just down the hill from where I live. Stubbs is a regular, if not exactly a star. Freeman was a strange pick; if you're going to take an AM first baseman, why not Chris Carter?

Plainsfield (Bastardo, Belisle, T. Bell, Frieri, Joaquin, C. Johnson, Kottaras, B. Mills, Montgonery, W. Ramirez, D. Robertson, E. Rogers, Stauffer, Stevens, R. Tejeda, Zavada) - Stauffer was lights-out when picked, but has since been hurt. Even when he comes back, his track record makes him a prime candidate to regress. The rest of these guys, picked in the fourth and later rounds, represent the spaghetti approach to building a pitching staff: throw a plateful at the wall and hope a few strands stick.

San Jose (Cashner, S. Casilla, Condrey, Hacker, Heisey, D. Mathis, E. Patterson, R. Roberts, R. Ruiz, Rzepczynski; reclaimed R. Johnson, Hafner, Westbrook) - Good call on Cashner; he hadn't been called up yet when the pick was made, but has been lights-out since (admittedly in a very limited sample). We really need Rzepczynski to make it back, now that it looks like Jeff Samardzija has washed out. With Ruiz gone to Japan, it's a shame that all our rules allow him is an M0 contract and one month's play. The Scorps ought to be able to at least switch him to MTM.

Sarasota (G. Brown, R. Diaz, Durango, F. Guzman, B. Hayes, Hester, J. Molina, Putz, Rios, Teheran, Wise) - I really don't understand the Gary Brown pick. When you only have two AM slots, why use one of them on a guy who hasn't played an inning of pro ball unless he's a totally outsized talent like Strasburg or Harper? In the MLB draft, 22 players besides Harper were chosen ahead of Brown; you do the math. If Rios keeps hitting the way he is this year, he'll probably turn out to be the best value for the money the Gators got in this draft, even with the $10 mil they have to pay for this year's useless card.

Sierra Nevada (Aubrey, Bonine, Crowe, Ely, Everidge, Fuld, Gervacio, K. Gibson, Jakubauskas, D. Richardson, Uehara, Whiteside) - Another team which traded its first round pick and others for more immediate help, but at least they had two seconds. With these they took a couple of AM pitchers, Gibson and Ely, who figure to bolster the rotation sooner than later. Crowe, the third-round pick, was what they had to settle for in CF, as the better prospects were gone. The rest will either fill small roles this year or provide some small hope for the future. Bonine is doing amazingly well in MLB for a 12th-round pick, but his K rate and past scouting reports say he'll turn back into a pumpkin.

SoCal (Barden, A. Blanco, Bruntlett, Z. Cox, Frandsen, Karstens, Lehr, Mitre, W. Nieves, Paul, Thurston) - As mentioned earlier, Scott didn't want another AM pitcher. Since the top hitting prospects were gone by the time his next pick came around, he decided to take a flyer on the best available bat in the MLB draft class, which he figured was Cox. MLB teams, however, didn't seem to agree, taking 11 position players (not counting Harper and Gary Brown) ahead of Cox. Frandsen seems headed for one of those freak years bench players sometimes have, where they go on a 100-AB hot streak which constitutes their whole season. The rest of these guys were picked to fill usage holes.

Southtown (Albers, Bard, Berken, Borbon, Chen, E. Gonzalez, Hanrahan, C. Kelly, J.D. Martin, J. McDonald; reclaimed Bako, Colon, Cruz, A. Jones, C. Lee, J.C. Romero) - No first-round pick, but Bard is likely to turn in a better career than many of those who were taken there. Borbon probably would have gone earlier than round 3 if the draft had been held in April, or if it were held now. Carlos Lee was passed around like a hot potato in pre-draft trades; two different teams offered him to me. Between his fielding rating, his contract and no DH, he's a liability.

Sugar Creek (M. Boggs, Brantley, R. Chavez, Daley, Freese, Gload, J. Jennings, Kelley, Lillibridge, Perdomo, Mi. Sweeney, C. Tracy, P.J. Walters, Young Jr.) - Freese and the two first-round picks should really pay off next year. Age and other factors don't bode well for much beyond that, but Brantley and Young could help in that department.

Washington Crossing (Andino, Si. Castro, Crain, Flowers, D. Reyes, O. Salazar, Sanches, Silva; reclaimed D. Marte, J. Miller, Wigginton) - If he doesn't collapse, Silva is a great value even for a U contract, and Salazar is about the best platoon partner you could imagine for Lance Berkman. Down the road, I don't see much coming out of this draft except Flowers.