The time has come once again to take a look at the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings for 2011.
This year, I’ve split the rankings into three parts to break it up a bit, as it will be a lot of reading.
The first part (ie: this one) contains the teams I ranked 7th-14th and—if these rankings actually meant anything—will undoubtedly be missing the postseason as a result.
The second part (ie: Tuesday’s post) contains the teams ranked 4th-6th that will be representing the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions in the playoffs.
The third part (ie: sometime later this week’s post) contains the teams ranked 1st-3rd that will undoubtedly be atop the final rankings both in the divisions and in the postseason fray.
Now let me get on with my usual quasi-angry pre-post disclaimer:
I know it took—well—a long f’n time, but you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s a whole bunch of work and time that ends with a readership of just thirteen people, and that’s operating on the assumption that all y’all will even read this rambling tome.
It’s not exactly the most-rewarding writing because it’s based on picks that were all-too-often null and void within hours of the rosters going live (see: Aybar, Erick and/or Coghlan, Chris) and because, like I said, at the very most this little ditty snags me thirteen reads.
Anyway, let’s carry on…
If you’re looking to get the full draft results you can peep those by clicking here, this is just a review of the draft itself and a completely arbitrary ranking of each team based on whatever random statistical analysis and personal feelings I have regarding your squads.
I don’t believe I put focus on anything except for the players drafted. Any moves made since the draft should not have been included in this review, although it is possible I have included someone after taking a peek at your teams. I realize some of you may have already addressed weaknesses, if so…ignore what I’ve got to say. That’s your right either way.
Without any further ado…
14) 38 MPH Heaters
Draft Pick #8
Keepers: Ian Kinsler (2B-TEX), Jason Heyward (OF-ATL) & Francisco Liriano (SP-MIN)
First Pick: Justin Morneau (1B-MIN) [Pick 8]
Last Pick: Mike Adams (RP-SD) [Pick 217]
Best Pick: Geovany Soto (C-CHC) [Round 7 – Pick 92]
Geovany Soto, 28, was one of my many pre-season man-crushes. If not for lingering doubts about his chances of garnering 500+ plate appearances, he’d likely have been drafted a round or two higher. Despite questions regarding at-bats, his production is still top-notch and warrants his value as a front-line catcher. Since becoming a (mostly) everyday player he’s been a poor-man’s Brian McCann, averaging a .360 OBP and nearly 20 homers per season.
If he can garner enough at-bats and stay in the middle of the Cubs talented, but aging lineup, he can be a major producer and a serious bargain in round seven; especially when you realize the number of catchers who may fail to match his numbers with an extra 100-150 at-bats to their credit.
Worst Pick: Alexi Ogando (SP/RP-TEX) [Round 12 – Pick 161]
Alexi Ogando, 27, is not ranked as Morgan’s worst-pick because he lacks talent. On the contrary, the converted outfielder is a strikeout machine who has worked primarily in middle-relief throughout his career, all the while piling up strikeouts and limiting base runners at every level.
What hurts this pick is that Morgan was drafting Ogando under the assumption that he was going to be closing out games for the Texas Rangers. In fact, when he was roundly mocked by the entire table—most of whom didn’t know what an Alexi Ogando was—he replied “don’t you fucking know baseball?!”
He would later learn that Neftali Feliz had returned to the closer’s role a few days earlier and Ogando was back in middle relief (this was prior to the last minute decision to move him to the rotation in place of the injured Tommy Hunter). As such it made Ogando a very early holds peg. Not only that, but one that likely wasn’t on ANYONE’s radar. Rough stuff.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Alexi Ogando (SP/RP-TEX) [Round 12 – Pick 161]
The irony is not lost on me folks, trust me. Although Morgan drafted Ogando under false pretenses, he may have landed a legitimate weapon—albeit one he overpaid for—who can help him all season long.
As I said in the previous section, Ogando is a legitimate strikeout machine who has averaged 12K/9 through his minor league career and put on a similar display of dominance upon reaching the big leagues last season. Additionally, his WHIPs have always been downright sick. The dude simply doesn’t let anyone on base.
He may get shifted back to middle relief given the abundance of starting pitchers the Rangers possess, but he’ll be a dominant force no matter where you put him. He may not end up worth a 12th round pick, but he certainly possesses some legit breakout value.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): B.J. Upton (OF-TB) [Round 3 – Pick 36]
Upton, 26, has been around forever it seems. He came up as a superhyped stud shortstop who lacked one key skill, the ability to play defense. This caused Upton to bounce around the diamond from shortstop to third base to second base and eventually to centerfield. His offense suffered while he changed positions, but finally seemed to click when he became a full-time outfielder.
Unfortunately, it then un-clicked as Upton has taken multiple steps backward every year since having his breakout campaign in 2007. His OBP is pedestrian, his power is erratic at best, he’s never scored 90 runs in a season, he’s driven in 70 or more runs once and he’s proven to be a one-trick pony. He can steal bases. He is essentially an overhyped, overpriced version of Michael Bourn, who is already an overpriced, overhyped version of Coco Crisp.
It is entirely possible that this could be the year Upton finally puts the whole package together and becomes a legit offensive weapon, but we’ve all been saying that for the better part of the last four years. He is still young and hasn’t even reached his prime, but he’s been in the game long enough that what you see, might be what you get and (unless he really does breakout this year) what you’re getting is a big flop for a third round pick.
This lineup can burn. With Upton, Dexter Fowler, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Theriot entrenched in the lineup and a cast of 10-20 steal types, this lineup could easily surpass the 150 stolen base mark and potentially push for 200 stolen bases.
Along with the stolen bases comes the added value of extra base hits and runs scored. Speed demons have the ability to turn on the afterburners and turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. In a league that places equal value on triples and home runs, it makes Dexter Fowler a very valuable commodity.
Weakness(es): Health & Pitching
There is an old saying in baseball that goes: “better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late.” This phrase is often attributed to players who are hot commodities before they’re befallen with injuries and a team cannot move them or their value has been obliterated.
Much of this squad makes me think of that phrase. There is plenty of talent on this roster, but there is also a plethora of players who have missed significant time with injuries in recent years: Morneau, Stewart, Cuddyer, Barmes (had a broken hand on draft day), Kinsler, Heyward and Liriano. This team will need all of these guys to avoid the injury bug for this club to be successful.
The second glaring weakness on this club is the pitching. The top two starters (Liriano/Buchholz) are coming off of career years that they may find hard to replicate. Matt Garza has long-proven to be a middle of the rotation monster, but doesn’t have the pedigree of a legitimate ace. A move to the cozy confines of Wrigley Field and away from a much younger, much more talented Tampa Bay club doesn’t figure to help.
Jeremy Hellickson—Garza’s de facto replacement in Tampa Bay—has shown signs of success, but is still young and is jumping into the starting rotation in the midst of a transition year for the Rays who will face four very tough lineups in the AL East for much of the year.
The bullpen—as currently comprised—does not have a legit shutdown closer. Ryan Franklin is good, not great and is only surrounded by a few supplemental pitchers for holds. The team will definitely need to bolster the bullpen to compete in the saves category.
Summary: On paper this team isn’t real impressive. There are a lot of good, but not great, parts in place and some in-season moves will be necessary to push this team into the postseason fray.
What gets me most about this squad is the complete lack of a standout player. No one on the team had 100 runs scored last season, no one had 100 RBI, no one hit 20 home runs, only three pitchers had double-digit wins (two of whom also had double-digit losses) and so on and so on.
The team has a good foundation and is relying on a lot of youth, but it will take career years and a lot of good luck (especially in the health department) for this team—as currently comprised—to crack the postseason.
13) The Dominators
Draft Pick #2
Keepers: Robinson Cano (2B-NYY), Ryan Zimmerman (3B-WAS) & Felix Hernandez (SP-SEA)
First Pick: Shin-Soo Choo (OF-CLE) [Pick 2]
Last Pick: Joaquin Benoit (RP-DET) [Pick 223]
Best Pick: Brett Gardner (OF-NYY) [Round 5 – Pick 58]
In all honesty, I thought this was a bit of a reach given where Gardner’s draft stock has historically gone. I’m letting it slide because of the potential upside for Gardner and the fact that at either end of the draft, you’re almost always forced to reach for players.
Gardner is coming off a breakout campaign wherein the Yankees were originally reluctant to trust him with an everyday starting role. He responded by posting a .383 OBP, swiping 47 bags and scoring nearly 100 runs. Most of that was done from the bottom half of the batting order, thus when the Yankees made the preseason call to use Gardner in the leadoff spot against right-handed pitchers, his value took a major jump.
With enough at-bats and the Yankees potent lineup behind him, Gardner should be a lock for 120 runs scored in addition to a stellar OBP and plenty of stolen bases. His left-handed swing could net him a few more homers this year as he’ll see a few batter-friendly situations with so many potent weapons behind him in the lineup.
Worst Pick: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B/SS-MIN) [Round 6 – Pick 83]
“What the hell is Steven thinking?!” That’s what went through everyone’s mind when Steven made the decision to take the 26-year-old rookie in the sixth round, long before he was even a blip on anyone else’s radar. Nishioka is expected to be—at best—a middling OBP guy, with roughly 30 steal speed and no power. On the plus side, I’ve heard he’s quite the motivator…so there’s that.
With that type of “upside” as the high water mark for Nishi, it would have been sensible to go with an established player or even a more heralded rookie in this spot and take Nishioka ten rounds later or go for someone like Ryan Theriot, Erick Aybar or Mike Aviles as all project out similarly. He needs to produce at roughly twice what he’s expected to do to make this pick even remotely justifiable.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Jordan Zimmermann (SP-WAS) [Round 11 – Pick 142]
Zimmermann, 24, was the top prospect in the Washington Nationals farm system before a couple of guys named Strasburg and Harper came along and took over the spotlight. A brief run-in with Tommy John surgery didn’t help Zimmermann’s stock any either, but he is healthy (unlike Strasburg) and he is on the big league roster (unlike Harper) and figures to contribute in a big way.
Zimmermann has the potential to be a legit front of the rotation starter and his biggest issue right now is when his control will come all the back after the aforementioned Tommy John surgery. When he finds his control, Zimmermann figures to be one of the best pitching values in this year’s draft. The only drawback with Zimmy is the 165-innings limit the team has put on his surgically-repaired arm as it figures to pull him out of Steven’s starting rotation right around playoff season.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Paul Konerko (1B-CHI) [Round 3 – Pick 30]
Paul Konerko, 35, ain’t getting any younger. Last year’s stats may indicate otherwise, but a quick look at the numbers show that last year was an aberration from the way Konerko has been trending in recent years. He busted out to the tune of 39 HRs, 111 RBI and a .393 OBP. His averages over the previous three years? A solid, but not round three-worthy: 27 HRs, 80 RBI and .350 OBP.
Konerko’s big year earned him a shiny new contract, but hasn’t earned my trust to repeat last year’s big bounce-back. I can see Konerko mashing the longball to the tune of 30 HRs and a solid 90-100 RBI campaign, but with Adam Dunn in the lineup, walking Konerko is no longer a simple option and his OBP figures to take a dip as a result.
I think he’ll put up respectable numbers, but likely nothing drastically more outstanding than Steven could have gobbled up half-a-dozen or more rounds later.
Strength(s): Upside & Balance
I’m not going to pretend I’m in love with this roster, in fact, if you take a peek at the “Trends” column on Steven’s team page, you’ll see that there’s not a lot of people in love with his team as only nine players are on his entire roster are currently started in 50% or more of Yahoo! leagues. What this roster does offer is plenty of upside. Robinson Cano and Ryan Zimmerman are still just tapping into their vast potential. Choo, Gardner, Ben Francisco and Zimmermann all have some serious potential to breakout this year.
The offense offers plenty of balance with speed and power and productive OBPs throughout. This is one lineup that will certainly not be confused for a single-pronged attack. The pitching, although less potent, is also quite balanced with innings-eaters and high strikeouts types in both the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Weakness(es): Star Power and Reliability
I can’t imagine I’m alone in saying this, but this team simply ain’t top-notch. I look at this roster and it is the best collection of keepers in the Salmon League surrounded by a bunch of second and third tier types. This team lacks the big names and star power of many great teams. I feel like this has happened somewhere before.
Additionally, Steven is relying very heavily on a lot of guys who have had small bursts of success, rather than lengthy proven track records. David Aardsma? Zack Greinke? Corey Hart? The aforementioned Nishioka? None of these guys have proven to be year-in and year-out game changers.
Summary: On the heels of one of the best regular season runs in Salmon League history, Steven has taken what—on paper—appears to be a major step backward in 2011. He has assembled a roster that appears shaky at best and downright awful at worst. His pitching staff isn’t overly impressive. His offense lacks firepower. His stubborn refusal to admit he overvalued certain players in the draft only further exacerbates the trending mindset that maybe last season was a fluke and Steven isn’t quite back to relevancy in the Salmon League.
The roster—as currently constructed—does little to instill fear in opponents and many of the frantic message board posts we’ve seen from Steven indicate he’s not entirely confident in his squad at the moment either. This team was poorly drafted and constructed with some major holes. It’ll take some work, but the building blocks are there to turn this squad into a contender, if Steven can make it happen.
12) Radioactive Rush
Draft Pick #1
Keepers: Joe Mauer (C-MIN), Adrian Gonzalez (1B-BOS) & Tim Lincecum (SP-SF)
First Pick: Matt Holliday (OF-STL) [Pick 1]
Last Pick: Yadier Molina (C-STIL) [Pick 224]
Best Pick: Matt Holliday (OF-STL) [Round 1 – Pick 1]
It’s Matt f’n Holliday, y’all…
I feel like that should be more than enough to explain why this was his best pick, but I’ll elaborate for sake of the viewing audience. Matt Holliday has been a keeper multiple times in the past and for good reason, as the dude is a career .318/.389/.544 hitter who is pretty much a lock for 25-30 homers, 100 RBI, 90-100 runs, and 10-15 stolen bases just to spice things up. Toss in a smattering of extra base hits and the dude is a legit—somehow under the radar—masher who produces year-in and year-out.
Worst Pick: Ian Desmond (SS-WAS) [Round 8 – Pick 112]
Ian Desmond, 25, is a good shortstop. He is, however, just another version of the much-maligned Tsuyoshi Nishioka whom Steven took roughly 40 picks earlier. The difference is that with Desmond, you know what you’re getting…and it ain’t much. He’s posted below average OBPs through much of his career in both the Major and Minor Leagues, he’s got good not great speed and offers little else of value.
The desire to snag a shortstop is always out there, but with guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, JJ Hardy and Alcides Escobar going completely undrafted, you gotta wonder why one would spring so early for such a middling up-the-middle option.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Pablo Sandoval (1B/3B-SF) [Round 7 – Pick 85]
Sandoval, 24, is coming off a down-year that saw him put on pounds and lose a whole bunch of counting stats. He spent the offseason doing everything he could to get back into shape and is primed to bounce back to his pre-2010 form. If that is the case, he’s a safe bet to pop off 25-30 homers, 90+ RBI, 80 R, 45+ XBH and an OBP north of .370.
The Giants lineup has improved dramatically from 2009—Sandoval’s last big year—when he finished 7th in the MVP voting after posting a .387 OBP, 25 HR, 90 RBI and 49 XBH. If he’s returned to that form in a lineup that now includes Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, and Freddy Sanchez…look out.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jonathan Papelbon (RP-BOS) [Round 6 – Pick 84]
Papelbon, 30, has been trending in the wrong direction for years now. After converting from a starter to a closer in 2006, Papelbon took the game by storm—for a few years, anyway—and propelled himself into every conversation about the “best closers in the game.” In recent years, however, his numbers—aside from his gaudy save total—have all been headed downhill. He walked 28 batters last year and 24 the year before that, the three previous years combined he only walked 36 total batters. He’s become drastically more hittable and is simply not a dominating force in the late innings anymore. He’s also in a contract year and has two potential closer replacements breathing down his neck.
I don’t hate Papelbon, or any team that uses him as their primary closer, I don’t like him going as the third closer off the board. If you’re going to jump this early for a closer, you do it right and you get an elite closer, not just a big-name closer.
Strength(s): Power and OBP
Gonzalez, Holliday, Sandoval, Werth and Weeks (if healthy) should provide some serious thunder for this lineup. Gonzalez alone could put up 40+ home runs moving to the American League East and calling Fenway—rather than spacious Petco—his new home park.
This lineup also features a number of players who can be counted on to post OBPs well above the league average. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see Gonzalez, Mauer, Holliday and Werth all finishing somewhere between .380-.400 in the category and big years from Sandoval and Weeks could help offset the damage that figures to be done by Desmond, Chris Young and Andres Torres in that category.
Weakness(es): Relief Pitching
There are two ways to look at this, Grant nabbed two closers in Papelbon and Francisco Cordero who generally can be counted on to close out 35+ games a year. That’s all well and good, the problem is that they’re two of the sloppiest closers in the game posting high ERAs and struggling to overpower hitters along the way.
Either man could lose his job this year and neither has a firm hold on the ninth inning heading into the season. Drew Storen offers some serious upside, but it was announced before the draft that he’d likely start the year in Triple A or as a setup man due to his Spring Training struggles. He’s a great guy for the future, but for the here and now, he’s a holds guy. Much like Rafael Soriano who is ALSO on the roster which is far too back-end heavy with bullpen types and doesn’t offer enough punch in the rotation after the Lincecum/John Danks cambo at the top.
Summary: I was very low on Grant’s team last year— ranking him dead last if you’ll recall—and this year, I only feel slightly better about his club. There is a good core in Gonzalez, Mauer and Lincecum and immediately adding Matt Holliday to that mix makes for a potent front four, but after that things get shaky.
Chris Young has been very good and very bad in his short career and it’s hard to put a lot of faith in a free-swinging outfielder with a career OBP of .315. He’s coming into his age 27 season and could take a big step forward (think 30/30) or he could regress and hit .200/.300/.400 with 15 homers and 11 stolen bases like he did in 2009.
The bullpen and weak rotation don’t scream out “contender” and I’ve got to wonder if Grant’s got the chops to overcome that in this league. He’s a little…um…“headstrong” and may not be willing to alter this club enough to get ‘em over the hump. The top of the offense is solid and the rotation has two aces, after that, there are a lot of question marks and seemingly very few answers.
Draft Pick #6
Keepers: Albert Pujols (1B-STL), Prince Fielder (1B-MIL) & Clayton Kershaw (SP-LAD)
First Pick: Andrew McCutchen (OF-PIT) [Pick 6]
Last Pick: Magglio Ordonez (OF-DET) [Pick 219]
Best Pick: Gio Gonzalez (SP-OAK) [Round 6 – Pick 79]
Gio Gonzalez, 25, is an absolute stud. He strikes batters out at ridiculous rates, he induces ground balls and he is the prototypical big game pitcher. He’s got a cool head and a hot arm. He may walk too many batters and may not quite be a household name (yet), but to snag a starter of this caliber in round six is an absolute steal.
Gonzo could easily strikeout 200+ batters this year while keep his ERA and WHIP above average and string together 15+ wins. The dude is legit and is part of one of the best young rotations in the league.
Worst Pick: Domonic Brown (OF-PHI) [Round 9 – Pick 118]
Brown, 23, has all the makings of a future All-Star and as the heir-apparently to Jayson Werth in Philadelphia it seemed like this would be the year he gets his potentially historic career rolling. Instead, he broke his hand early in Spring Training and had the hook of his hamate bone removed. Unfortunately, Collin didn’t know this headed into the draft and took him about seven rounds too early a result.
Brown has an impressive track-record in the minors, but didn’t produce in his stint with the team last season or in the Arizona Fall League. He looked lost in Spring Training before the injury and may struggle to win back the job if long-forgotten prospect Ben Francisco can finally tap into his 20/20 potential in Brown’s absence. Good player, bad pick.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Brian Matusz (SP-BAL) [Round 11 – Pick 146]
I am an unabashed supporter of Matusz. I think the kid has a big time future in the game and could be the ace of an up-and-coming Baltimore club for years to come. The 24-year-old southpaw misses plenty of bats as he piles up strikeouts and suppresses hits.
He’s still young, but he is entering his third year (second full year) in the big leagues and could take a major step forward in 2011 for a team that is improving by leaps and bounds around him. He could very easily be considered a (very) dark horse for the Cy Young in the American League.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick):Reid Brignac (2B/SS-TB) [Round 14 – Pick 191]
Brignac, 25, has been on prospect lists for years, but he’s yet to tap into any of the potential he showed early in his minor league career. He’s tumbled down the aforementioned rankings, but is finally in the bigs on a full-time basis as a cost-saving maneuver for the Rays who dumped Jason Bartlett.
Brignac simply doesn’t bring much to the table on the offensive side of things. He’s a below average contact hitter, his power dried up after he graduated to AAA and left the hitter-friendly environments of the Southern and California Leagues. He could leg out a solid number of doubles, but if his big league track record stands, he’ll do so with an OBP far closer to .300 than .400 and bring almost nothing else along for the ride.
Strength(s): Starting Pitching and Heart of the Lineup
The starting pitching assembled here is absolutely bonkers. Clayton Kershaw is one of the game’s best—and most unsung—young starters, David Price was in the Cy Young conversation a year ago, Gio Gonzalez is a future Cy Young winner, Brian Matusz could be right in that same conversation. Toss in the likes of Edwin Jackson to round things out and you have a dynamite rotation.
The offense is powered by the best hitter of this generation, Albert Pujols and a young, driven Prince Fielder in a contract year. There should be roughly 80+ home runs and 240+ RBI to go around from those two alone. Toss in the best young centerfielder in the game—here’s lookin’ at you, McCutchen—and you’ve got a dynamite offense. Michael Young, Rafael Furcal and Nick Swisher can all make solid contributions too when healthy.
Weakness(es): Depth and Speed
The team is very top heavy in the offensive department with Fielder, Pujols, and McCutchen likely doing the bulk of the work. Swisher should be a good compliment, but Furcal can hardly be counted on to stay healthy and Young is a mixed bag at age 34 with questions about his playing time and standing with the organization. There is a reason to have a guy like Aviles or Brignac on the roster, but to have both just strikes me as wrong.
McCutchen probably has the chops to steal 40 bags, but I’d be hard-pressed to think 2011 will be the year he does so as the club is poised to let Jose Tabata get more reps at the top spot and slide McCutchen into the three-hole. After that, the team is relying heavily on the aging Furcal who—when in the lineup—is a good source of steals, but can only be counted on for 20 or so swipes at this stage in his career. After Furcal, the next big stolen base threat is Aviles who projects out to a 15-20 SB guy if given sufficient at-bats. The lineup could use another dose of speed somewhere.
Summary: I questioned a lot of The Collin Brand’s draft picks, but overall I think he put together a solid club. I liked McCutchen in round one. I thought it was ballsy and he knew there was no way he makes it back to him. The dude is a five-tool prospect who is probably a year or so away from being a legit keeper. He’s only 24 and he’s put up very serviceable numbers in roughly one and a half years. He’s going to be a 30/30 guy for years to come and his eye could push that OBP north of .380 and toward .400 in a hurry. Long-story-short: I love me some McCutchen and think he’s the perfect complement to the keepers on the roster.
I think the pitching on this club is lights out. Collin has three pitchers that I am absolutely in love with in Kershaw, Gonzalez and Matusz and if they can call stay healthy—along with Price—this will be the best pitching staff in the league, bar none. I don’t like the bullpen nearly as much, but the rotation is nuts.
Collin has shown some serious potential and some serious deficiencies in his time in the league. I think he needs a big year in 2011 to stay relevant and in the mix as a team to watch out for going forward. This club has the potential with a few good moves along the way.
Draft Pick #5
Keepers: Miguel Cabrera (1B-DET), Cole Hamels (SP-PHI) & CC Sabathia (SP-NYY)
First Pick: Jimmy Rollins (SS-PHI) [Pick 5]
Last Pick: Brandon Belt (1B-SF) [Pick 220]
Best Pick: Brian Fuentes (RP-OAK) [Round 13 – Pick 173]
Fuentes, 35, has been an under-appreciated closer for most of his professional career. This despite saving nearly 200 games in roughly five full-seasons as closer (note: I’m combining the time he was moved to middle relief in 2010 with the Twins and in 2007 following an injury with the Rockies as one full season as a closer). Fuentes was signed by the Athletics with the intent of serving as a top setup man, lefty specialist and backup closer.
An injury to incumbent closer Andrew Bailey guaranteed Fuentes the closing gig in Oakland and set him up as one of the best value closers in the draft. Bailey has proven—like many stud Oakland pitchers over the years—to be a bit snake-bitten in terms of injuries and could easily miss more time. Fuentes will pile up holds and saves all season long and will do so at a vastly more discounted rate than many of the relievers taken five or more rounds earlier.
Worst Pick: Jimmy Rollins (SS-PHI) [Round 1 – Pick 5]
I hate to put too much emphasis on first round picks, either as best or worst picks, but sometimes, you’ve just gotta do it. I like Jimmy Rollins. He’s cocky. He’s brash. He’s fun to watch. He’s also 32 and spent last season suffering through a malady of leg-related injuries; the type of injuries that don’t elicit confidence when they happy to players who rely heavily on their speed to remain productive.
I’m sure Rollins will still put up fine counting stats with 20 homers, 20-30 steals, 35+ doubles and close to 100 runs scored. There’s nothing to suggest he’ll get double-digit triples again and his once average-at-best on-base percentage has slipped dramatically in recent years, even falling below .300 in 2009…when he was healthy. I think he’s a fine player and I wouldn’t argue with him on my team if his pick came at the right place.
Given the recent injury woes, he makes more sense near the end of round two rather than early in round one. Ironically enough, this might be the year G-Doggy really should have gone with old standby, Derek Jeter instead.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Trevor Cahill (SP-OAK) [Round 6 – Pick 80]
Cahill, 23, is part of a very impressive starting three in Oakland along with the aforementioned Gio Gonzalez and another of my man-crushes, Brett Anderson. He may be the least heralded of the trio, but that could all change in 2011 as Cahill is poised to take a major step forward. He’s got an uncanny ability to dominate a game by missing bats or forcing players to do the dirty work themselves with his heavy sinker.
His big league strikeout numbers haven’t caught up to the lofty totals he posted in the minors, but early success in 2011, coupled with his entering the magical “third full season” in the bigs trend favorably toward his continued success this season. I think Cahill—who was an All-Star last season and finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting—will take another big step forward this year. He is one of three potential aces in that Oakland rotation and may be the one who makes the most immediate impact.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Alfonso Soriano (OF-CHI) [Round 4 – Pick 52]
Soriano, 35, is not a fourth round pick. In fact, at this stage in his career, he’s barely worthy of anything more than fourth outfielder consideration. His speed is completely diminished. He doesn’t score runs—partially his fault, partially the fault of a crappy lineup—anymore. He requires too much time off to rest his weary old legs.
All he brings to the table anymore is power, cheap power. He has 20-30 homer power with 70-80 RBI potential and not much else. That type of production can be had in the late rounds or off of the waiver wire all season. The worst part is that Soriano’s once middling OBP is now downright terrible. The only thing currently going in his favor was last year’s rebound in doubles after posting years of 27 and 25, he knocked 40 two-baggers to regain some marginal value. Overall, not worth the pick where he was taken and easily the most likely player on this team to not live up to his draft value.
Strength(s): Pitching Staff (as always)
Somehow, it seems that G-Doggy always throws together a solid pitching staff. Most of the power always come in the rotation and the bullpen is a hodge-podge, but this year I’m really liking what I see in both the front and back-end of his pitching corps. He’s got an outstanding front three in Sabathia, Hamels and Cahill and then he’s banking on bounce-back years from James Shields and Javier Vazquez. If just one of the two returns to form, he can dump the other and still have a solid rotation.
The bullpen figures to go one of two ways. I’ve already alluded to Fuentes’ value both as a middle-reliever and a short-term closer, but Jonathan Broxton and Octavio Dotel could pay large dividends as well. I think round eight was/is the right place to think about your bullpen and the Broxton pick was a ballsy one. Broxton is coming off a year that saw a major second-half implosion and demotion to a set-up role, but he’s also just one year removed from posting ridiculous numbers across the board. If he’s got it figured out, this bullpen has a top-tier closer at second-tier value. Dotel is a mixed bag. He gets tons of Ks and could steal some saves in Toronto, but will mostly be used for holds. He walks too many, but with the rest of this pitching staff, an uptick in WHIP can be compensated for elsewhere. Overall, I dig this pitching crew.
Weakness(es): Age and Diminishing Returns
I am not a fan of this draft. I think there is some serious potential here, but in the first seven picks, I legitimately liked one of them (Cahill). This is largely because G-Doggy went buck-wild accumulating guys are who are old balls. Jimmy Rollins (32), Aramis Ramirez (32), Alfonso Soriano (35) and Vernon Wells (32) are all on the wrong-side of 30 and have been banged up or ineffective in recent years.
Kelly Johnson had a big year last year, but there is little in his track record to suggest it was legit, let alone worth a third round pick. Nick Markakis has all of the potential in the world, and has for years now, but has yet to indicate he’ll ever turn his doubles power into legit power.
I think this roster is very susceptible to injury, ineffectiveness and excessive Metamucil consumption as currently comprised. There is some major talent on this team, but it will require a lot of guys having major bounce-back years and defying Father Time to get this club into the postseason.
Summary: G-Doggy—much like John—is seemingly a million times more focused this season. Personally, I’m quite excited about that fact as it should bolster an already competitive league. The question, however, is will G-Doggy be any better off with excessive focus? He’s had good—but not great—teams in recent years that were a few moves short of cracking the postseason. Too much focus could cause him to micromanage his roster into oblivion.
History has shown that G-Doggy is a bigger fan of fantasy baseball than, well, real baseball…so overreactions and miscalculations are likely to take place. They seem to happen every year in the draft when he drafts familiar names rather than the best players. I think this team has some key cogs for success—the pitching serving as the linchpin—and a few well-timed moves and savvy trades from a pitching-heavy roster could put this team into the postseason mix.
…if no one ends up in a nursing home before the All-Star break.
09) High Cheese
Draft Pick #13
Keepers: Jose Reyes (SS-NYM), Carlos Gonzalez (OF-COL) & Josh Johnson (SP-FLA)
First Pick: Victor Martinez (C/1B/DH-DET) [Pick 13]
Last Pick: Chipper Jones (3B/DL-ATL) [Pick 212]
Best Pick: Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL) [Round 11 – Pick 153}
Kimbrel, 22, is a redonkulous fireballer. That much we know. He’s got the ability to absolutely shutdown the opposition at the end of the game and he’s already entrenched as the Braves closer of the future. What makes this pick so good is the overall value. Kimbrel was—what for it—the 19th closer off the board and 21st overall reliever off the board. That’s right, other teams were drafting for holds while Kimbrel was still on the market.
The Atlanta Braves—as a club—have averaged roughly 41 saves a season over the last decade. The bulk of those figure to land directly in Kimbrel’s lap. Figure the occasional vulture save for Venters or another middle reliever and you’re looking at roughly 35 saves—give or take—plus insane K-rates and a good WHIP/ERA combo to boot. I can only assume that a year from now, Kimbrel will be going in the same spot that Neftali Feliz went this year. Great, great value pick.
Worst Pick: Brandon Morrow (SP-TOR) [Round 7 – Pick 97]
Now don’t get me wrong here, I think that Morrow, 26, is prime for a breakout year in Toronto. He’s worked his ERA/WHIP down to more respectable levels and his K-rates are phenomenal. He’s exactly the type of pitcher you’d pick for a big time season as a pre-season “sleeper.”
The problem is, I think that Levi overpaid for him in round seven. It was very evident early on in the draft that most teams were unwilling to take a gamble on an injured player, even those who have performed at elite levels in the past. As such, I thought that Morrow probably would have sat on the board for another three or four rounds, at least, given the uncertainty surrounding his injury that surfaced just days before the draft.
This is very much a nit-picky kind of selection here, mostly b/c I thought that Levi got pretty solid value out of his picks up and down the board, especially for a guy at the end of the draft. It’s entirely possible Mike or Morgan or someone else down the table was waiting to gobble up Morrow on the first shot, but I think he’d have lurked given the cautious approach at the draft table toward injuries.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA) [Round 12 – Pick 156]
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this is Howie Kendrick’s year!
Okay, we’ve all heard it before time and time again and it already feels like he’s been in the game forever, when—in reality—dude is just 27-years-old this season and is primed for a monster year. Much like I wrote about Rickie Weeks a year ago—and was spot on about, what up!—I think that this is actually Kendrick’s year.
He was finally healthy for a full season in 2010 and it showed in his counting numbers. He doubled his extra base hit output and showed that with a little more bulk he could turn some of that 40+ double power into legit 20+ homer power in a hurry. Until he learns to take a walk, his OBP will never be better than average, but a .340ish OBP, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 80 R, 15 SB and 40+ XBH out of a 12th round pick with multi-position eligibility sounds pretty dang nice to me.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Victor Martinez (C/1B/DH-DET) [Round 1 – Pick 13]
Martinez, 32, has always put up very good numbers for a catcher. He’ll undoubtedly be run out as a catcher all-season long for High Cheese and he’ll get good results. What he won’t get, however, are first-round selection-level results. Martinez has been slipping for years as his power numbers—still in the 20-25 homer range—figure to take a hit moving to spacious Comerica Park and away from the cozy confines of Fenway Park. He’s seen his XBH hits tumble from low-40s and high 30s to the lower 30s where they now sit as injuries have taken his ability to turn singles into doubles.
His OBP figures to be above average and he’ll likely get plenty of at-bats serving as the backup catcher, backup first baseman and regular DH in Detroit, but as a first-round selection those numbers figure to fall woefully below what they were valued at on draft day. There’s no way V-Mart would have come back around in round three, so he had to gobble him up if he wanted a catcher, but it feels like a serious reach that won’t reap the numbers to make it worthwhile.
This is easily one of the more balanced attacks in the league. There is power (CarGo/V-Mart/Hunter), there is speed (Reyes/CarGo/Victorino), there is solid starting pitching (Johnson/Mad Max/Hudson), a good bullpen (Feliz/Kimbrel/Venters) and overall there aren’t too many chinks in the armor.
The balance does, however, rely very heavily on a lot of guys repeating past performance. CarGo is due for a regression. Martinez as a top power producer is a scary thought. Reyes may not have legs that let him swipe 60+ bags anymore. Etc.
Weakness(es): Age and Homerism
Guys like Victorino, Hunter, Martinez, Hudson, Lee, etc. all appear to be on the hook for some major production this year if this team is to succeed, but all are on the wrong side of 30 and not trending upward. There is plenty of young hotness to counter the old busteds, but at what point does countering not become enough to overcome the age deficits?
Seven. That’s the number of guys on this roster with ties to the Atlanta Braves. I could be missing someone who was drafted by the Braves or traded somewhere along the way, but I counted seven guys on a 19-man roster with Braves-ties. That’s seven taken on draft day out of the 16 players drafted. Nearly half of the players drafted. I know that we all love our favorite teams, but blatant homerism is the number one sin in fantasy sports and it could come back to haunt High Cheese in a big, big way.
Summary: I’m torn with this club. There is a lot of talent and upside here, mixed with some old balls, but enough young talent to make me think this team could succeed. I can’t get past this lingering feeling that there is something missing with this club. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m just not sold on this team. A cursory glance at the roster shows a lot of impressive names, almost all of them taken at or near where I’d have pegged them, but the roster doesn’t knock me on my ass as a major contender. I assume it is mostly because only a small sprinkling of these cats were on my draft board.
Anyway, I think it’s a good club with potential, but is currently lacking that spark (or something) that will put it over the top and into the postseason fray. Right now, I’d say this team—as currently comprised—will likely be struggling to finish in fifth in the Atlantic Division.
08) Seabass v6.0
Draft Pick #7
Keepers: Mark Teixeira (1B-NYY), Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B-BOS) & Tommy Hanson (SP-ATL)
First Pick: Nelson Cruz (OF-TEX) [Pick 7]
Last Pick: Brandon Webb (SP-TEX) [Pick 218]
Best Pick: Raul Ibanez (OF-PHI) [Round 15 – Pick 203]
Ibanez, 38, is no spring chicken and I’m not going to try and pretend I haven’t bagged on teams for drafting old balls before, but this is a great pick. In his two years in Philly, Ibanez has average 25 HR, 88 RBI, 84 R, 40 XBH and an OBP right around .350. All of that was done while battling various injuries.
Ibanez—who routinely naps in a hyperbaric chamber to aid recuperation—is said to be healthy and expected to play a big part in the Phillies lineup this season with the departure of Jayson Werth and injury to Chase Utley. He’s likely to produce better than Alfonso Soriano (and a number of other overrated players) who were taken roughly ten or more rounds early. This, my friends, is what we call amazing value.
Worst Pick: Aubrey Huff (1B/OF-SF) [Round 5 – Pick 63]
I dislike Aubrey Huff a great deal. There is little rhyme or reason for this hatred. I have the same situation with David Aardsma, Troy Glaus and a few other players that I’ve never owned, but disdain uncontrollably anyway; that rationale, however, is not why this was a bad pick. This was a bad pick because Aubrey Huff simply isn’t all that good.
Yes, he had a stellar year in a contract push. He was a big part of the Giants offense and all that jazz, but a cursory glance at his recent numbers does not indicate he’s a round five outfielder. His five-year averages of 22 HR, 83 RBI, 76 R, 35 XBH and an OBP right around .350 indicate that he’s Raul Ibanez with less power and a price tag that puts him ten rounds earlier, all the while plenty of better talent was still waiting to be plucked.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): JJ Putz (RP-ARZ) [Round 7 – Pick 91]
It’s hard to label Putz, 34, as a sleeper or breakout candidate, but given that he’s essentially been exiled from the ninth inning role for the better part of three years, he could be a surprise contributor. His track record shows that when he’s healthy he can strikeout batters with reckless abandon, all the while limiting walks and without having any longball tendencies that have haunted other closers.
Arizona is not a pitcher-friendly park—with the roof open, anyway—but Putz’s repertoire should play well in the desert. The Dbacks have had many-a-closer pile up saves over the years and Putz is the best regular option they’ve had since Jose Valverde left town years ago. Expect a good season in the desert from Putz and a very happy Craiggers as he counts up the discount-priced saves, all year long.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jonathan Sanchez (SP-SF) [Round 6 – Pick 78]
This pick is one of my least favorite in the draft largely because it was immediately followed by Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Wandy Rodriguez. All three of whom I view as superior pitchers to Sanchez.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sanchez is solid pitcher and a great number three for any rotation, but his numbers from last year indicate that his “big step forward” had a lot more to do with really good luck than great pitching. His BABIP and AVG/OBP/SLG against were all well below the league averages which explains a lot of how he managed to post career bests in ERA/WHIP whilst allowing more hits, home runs and walks than he did in the 2009 season.
He’s a legit strikeout machine and will still be a good middle of the rotation starter, but there is almost no chance that he replicates his 2010 stat line again without taking a ridiculous step forward as a pitcher or another dump truck full of luck.
Simply looking at the two keepers and top draft pick, there’s roughly a lock for 100 home runs and 300ish RBI. That’s scary stuff. Alexei Ramirez brings some nice pop from the SS position, Huff/Ibanez are both good for 20+, Posada should go for 15+ as an everyday DH.
The only real wildcards are Ben Zobrist (who could hit anywhere from five to thirty-five home runs) and Danny Valencia who may or may not ever develop legit big league power. Setting the bar any higher than 15 homers seems a bit auspicious, but given the rest of the power in this lineup, 15 might be all the more Craiggers needs from Danny V in 2011.
Weakness(es): Regression and Injuries
A quick glance at this roster shows that Craiggers paid for a lot of 2010 production. Guys like Nelson Cruz, Aubrey Huff, Jonathan Sanchez, Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers are all coming off of seasons that were either career-bests or big resurgences, based on their recent history. Many of these guys came off the board very early for Craiggers, so he’s banking on a lot of very unlikely repeats to garner the appropriate return on investment.
Nelson Cruz only played in 108 games last year. He played in 128 the year before and never more than 96 prior to that. Kevin Youkilis played in 102 games last year and just 136 the year before that. He’s never played more than 147 games in a season. These are two anchors in Craiggers’ team. I’m not even going to get into Brandon Webb. The point is that there are plenty of guys on this club with sordid injury histories and if we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that Craiggers has never handled injuries well. Definitely something to watch.
Summary: We’ve got a prototypical Craiggers team here yet again folks, easily one of the better ones he’s assembled, but a Craiggers team nonetheless. Juan Pierre is in charge of the stolen bases and any chip in from Zobrist and Ramirez will be swell. Brandon Webb is lurking—he is always lurking—yet with no signs he’ll contribute. Youk is along for the ride as well. All we’re missing is an overhyped catcher (or two) and maybe Carlos Quentin for good measure.
I like Craiggers’ team, as I do most years, but it is generally the same cast of characters that are subdued by an inability to manage in-season. Craiggers may have turned a corner late last year when he made some shrewd moves to improve his club for a consolation playoff push that secured top draft priority and brought in keeper level talent.
If Craiggers can parlay that in-season management to this year’s club, he could prove to be a dark horse in the league this year.
07) Captain Jack
Draft Pick #14
Keepers: Adam Dunn (1B/DH-CHI), Carl Crawford (OF-BOS) & Ubaldo Jimenez (SP-COL)
First Pick: Chris Carpenter (SP-STL) [Pick 14]
Last Pick: Erick Aybar (SS-LAA) [Pick 211]
Best Pick: Johnny Cueto (SP-CIN) [Round 12 – Pick 155]
Cueto, 25, is one of the only guys on this squad who isn’t applying for his AARP card, so that alone makes this a solid pick. Another big plus is that Cueto—although starting the year on the DL—has the potential to be a legit front of the rotation buzzsaw.
He’s improved steadily since cracking the bigs in 2008. He’s brought down his ERA, WHIP, BB/9, HR/9 and ER/9, albeit at the cost of some strikeouts. Cueto has good mechanics and pitches at the front of an otherwise aceless staff. The Reds figure to be in contention, thus putting Cueto into some big game situations. He’s got legit ace stuff and in round twelve, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value.
Worst Pick: Michael Bourn (OF-HOU) [Round 5 – Pick 70]
This was actually one of the hardest picks to make, because I really disliked Travis’ rounds 3-6. I thought he overpaid for one-dimensional outfielders and closers. Of the bunch, the 28-year-old Bourn drew most of my ire.
Bourn steals bases. That is it. Literally, that is it. His OBP is just a tick above average, certainly nowhere near where a leadoff man should be. He scores roughly 80-90 runs, not nearly enough for a leadoff man. He doesn’t get extra base hits. He doesn’t do much of anything but get on base with singles and steal bases.
At 28-years-old it’s possible he’s still got a breakout in him that’ll result in a legit OBP spike and 40-50 XBH, but right now he looks like a drastically overpriced stolen base peg when Juan Pierre could have been had nearly 50 picks later and both Coco Crisp (who offers additional value) and Rajai Davis went undrafted altogether. Serious reach and overpay. Dude needs to score 100 runs and swipe 100 bags to make this worth the draft slot.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Ian Kennedy (SP-ARZ) [Round 11 – Pick 154]
Kennedy, 26, has long-been labeled a Quad-A player. Too good for the minors and not quite good enough for the pros. As one might expect, what he needed was a move from the AL East to the NL West. Kennedy had a good, not great, debut season in Arizona—his first as a full-time starter—and established himself as a key cog in the rotation going forward.
Kennedy is still very young and has plenty of time to harness his massive potential. He’s got the skills to be a legitimate K-machine on the hill, but his biggest obstacles will be the long ball and his tendency to get wild on the hill. He led the league in wild pitches last year and gave up far too many free passes to opposing hitters. If he can put it all together and rekindle the magic he showed in the minor leagues, this could be the year he sheds the Quad-A label for good.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick):Chris Coghlan (OF-FLA) [Round 15 – Pick 210]
Coghlan, 25, is probably the least-deserving Rookie of the Year winner in recent memory. That’s completely unrelated to why he’s going to flop, but I just felt like saying it. JA Happ, Andrew McCutchen and Tommy Hanson all got f’n jobbed on that dealio!
Anyway, Coghlan is also one of those guys who fits in with the Bourn class. He offers one or two things and nothing else. He’s got a track record of high OBPs and hitting doubles. That’s it. He doesn’t score a lot of runs—much like Bourn that’s just as much on his team as it is him, but it’s still a detractor—or hit for even moderate power. I’d be shocked if he popped ten homers this year. He had some speed—albeit not blazing—prior to knee surgery, but I can’t foresee him getting suddenly aggressive on the base paths following surgery.
The biggest issue is that he’s going to get run out in centerfield for the Marlins, a position he is wholly unfit to play as he was a below-average left fielder. Now the team expects him to take over in spacious centerfield coming off of knee surgery. He hasn’t experienced any setbacks since Spring Training, but I’d be hard-pressed to think he’ll stay healthy trying to man CF on a bum wheel all season and still keep up his offensive numbers.
Strength(s): Speed and Power Arms
This lineup is built to burn on both sides of the ball. This has long been Travis’ M.O. in drafts and I was less than surprised to see it in play again this year. He has accumulated enough big-threat base stealers to essentially guarantee that category week in and week out and he’s got enough power mixed in elsewhere to keep things pretty much leveled if everyone holds up their end of the bargain.
In the rotation and ‘pen, he’s loaded up on potential power arms in Jimenez, Carpenter, Cueto, Nolasco, Wilson and Bell. I wasn’t shocked to see Travis pounce way too early on—and then load up on—closers, but I gotta think that could haunt him if they don’t perform at a high level and with closers, that’s always a possibility.
Weakness(es):Age and Single-Dimensional Players
This team is old balls and a half. The median age of this squad is 30. The top four players drafted were 35, 32, 37 and 33. Only six players on this squad are 27 or younger. The potential for injury and age-related decline is extremely high with this club and I’d be shocked if every member of the old boys club makes it through the season unscathed.
The other major weakness is this club’s lack of real multi-tool players. There are plenty of players who hit for OBP or steal bases, but few guys who offer a legit menagerie of skills. As is the case with many of Travis’ teams of the past, he’s gone balls to the wall trying to acquire power arms and speed. It’s a strategy that makes me wonder if Travis isn’t actually a time traveler who was once a big league scout in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Summary: This feels like many of the teams we’ve seen Travis assemble in years passed, except—much like Levi’s squad—it lacks something to make me think it’ll be around when the postseason starts. Granted, we’ve all seen Travis wheel and deal his way through the season before and we know he’s got the chops to get it done as evidenced by his previous three-year run of dominance.
I think this club is good enough to compete, but given the tough level of competition that exists in the Atlantic Division, I think cracking the postseason—with the current roster—could be a much tougher task than ole Cap’n Jack is prepared to deal with this season.
…and so ends Part I of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings. Check back tomorrow for Part II and later this week for Part III and this year’s “Expert Panel Rankings.”