As promised, here is part two of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings for 2011.
I will now reiterate everything from the beginning of the first post, because I simply have no new introduction for this part.
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: Monday’s post) 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: this 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…
06) j’s team
Draft Pick #9
Keepers: Alex Rodriguez (3B-NYY), Ryan Braun (OF-MIL) & Roy Halladay (SP-PHI)
First Pick: Brandon Phillips (2B-CIN) [Pick 9]
Last Pick: Fernando Rodney (RP-LAA) [Pick 216]
Best Pick: Mark Reynolds (3B-BAL) [Round 10 – Pick 132]
Reynolds, 27, is by no means a great third baseman. His defense is below average and he has proven time and time again to have a me-first attitude in his flippant comments about how he would rather strikeout going for a home run than try for “productive outs” (ie: sacrifices). That fact notwithstanding, he is one year removed from serving as keeper in this very league to the guy who went on to win the regular season and lose in the championship game.
Reynolds is a great power option who has legitimate 40-home run power and the ability to drive in 100+ runs, especially entrenched in a very potent lineup in one of baseball’s best ballparks for power hitters. He may not post stellar OBPs, but he’ll post roughly average numbers in the OBP department with monster power. He can even swipe double-digit bags as an added bonus.
Given that Jay doubled up on both 1B and 3B in this draft, I’m not sure where Reynolds fits in, but Jay was hammered during the draft, so it’s entirely possible he doesn’t know where anyone fits either.
Worst Pick: Mark Buehrle (SP-CHI) [Round 15 – Pick 205]
It’s really hard to take shots at a guy’s 15th round pick, but Mark Buehrle, 32, is an absolute waste of a draft pick in this league.
When he’s not wishing bad luck on NFL quarterbacks, making redonkulous plays on defense or having his ass saved in a perfect game, by DeWayne Wise of all people, he’s busy being a worthless fantasy starter.
Buehrle is routinely a lock for an ERA right around 4.00, a WHIP around 1.30 and—if you’re lucky—100 K to go with anywhere from 12-14 wins (which is usually coupled with just as many losses). Even in the 15th round this is a wasted pick. At the least, Barry Zito who pitchers in an easier division and better ballpark was still out there and he’s usually a lock for 150 K.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD) [Round 6 – Pick 76]
Billingsley, 26, has been kicking around the big leagues for five seasons now—the last three as a full-time starter—and he’s been impressive for the bulk of that tenure. His impressive arsenal that includes a nasty slider, cutter and curveball keeps hitters off-balance and often leads to the batters taking themselves out of the game, as evidenced by his 50%+ ground-ball rate.
Billingsley isn’t completely inept at taking the hitters out of the game himself either, as he has racked up strikeout totals of 201, 179 and 171 in his three full years as a starter. He’ll take another big step forward this year as he heads the Dodgers rotation alongside Clayton Kershaw to form one of baseball’s most unheralded one-two punches.
At age 26, Billingsley is ready to transition into his prime and become a legitimate ace. He may still be a year or two away, but some big strides in 2011 could very easily lead to a 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 185+ K and 15-20 wins for a Dodgers team that could surprise a lot of people in the wide-open NL West.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Delmon Young (OF-MIN) [Round 4 – Pick 48]
Delmon Young, 25, has been on everyone’s radar as a can’t miss prospect for years now. In that time he’s hit for a hollow average, shown middling power, displayed none of the 30-steal speed he was hyped to have had coming out of the minors and his once-revered defense has proven very lackluster at the big league level.
In 2010—with his job on the line—Young re-committed himself to the game. He dropped 30 pounds in the offseason and worked to improve his approach at the plate. The results were extraordinary and he went from potential non-tender candidate to heart-of-the-order threat. The real problem is that nothing indicates last year’s power spike—like the one’s experienced the year prior by teammates Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer—is here to stay.
I’m not indicating that Young will go back to swatting ten homers and netting 60 RBI to go with 20-something XBH, but I am saying that last year was a tremendous jump for a guy who’s peripherals didn’t indicate any major changes beyond the final results. He cut down the strikeouts and upped his walks and that gave him better pitches to hit that results in an outstanding 46 doubles and 21 homers (which looked really pretty next to his 112 RBI), but I’d be hard-pressed to think he’ll duplicate those stats again. He’ll still probably put up solid numbers, but I doubt that he’ll produce fourth round value for a second-straight year.
Strength(s): Offensive Balance & Front of the Rotation
This offense can hurt you in a lot of ways. There are at least seven guys on the roster who can club 20 or more home runs—four of those guys could probably go for 30 or better—and then there’s another six guys who can probably swipe 20+ bags—at least three of those dudes could probably nab 30 or better with ease—and that’s just looking at the basics. There are XBH galore scattered throughout this lineup and this club should have no problem pounding the ball all year long.
On the pitching side of things, Jay has assembled a stellar front three for his rotation in Roy Halladay, Mat Latos and the aforementioned Chad Billingsley. Assuming they can all stay healthy, there is a good chance he snags close to 50 wins out of that crew and everyone of ‘em should be good for 180+ K and above average ERA/WHIPs. Toss in Mariano Rivera to lock down the bullpen and this club could be nasty to face, especially if you are the poor sap who gets ‘em in the short week after the All-Star break.
Weakness(es): OBP & Depth
This club has plenty of offensive firepower, but managed to post a meager, below league-average OBP of .334 as a whole last season. If these guys struggle in that same manner again, it figures to hurt the rest of the counting stats. Rebound seasons from Mark Reynolds, Derek Jeter, Carlos Pena, Chone Figgins, Alex Rodriguez and Matt Wieters could go a long way toward alleviating any offensive risk this club might endure.
There isn’t much depth on this roster, especially given the recent injury woes of Rodriguez, Pena and Reynolds. The depleted free agent market ensures that finding top-flight replacements is harder than ever before and Jay might be forced to get by with some lesser players, especially on the pitching side, if an injury occurs to this club.
Storyline to Watch: Keepers
One thing to watch this year will be Jay’s handling of his keepers. He has talked about trading Rodriguez and/or Halladay for a couple of years now, a move which makes good sense in a keeper league. If Jay finds himself out of the race near the deadline, it’s possible this is the year he makes a splash and loads up for the future.
Summary:It’s another year and we’ve got another solid club put together by Jay. I’m actually kind of surprised at how much I like this club when you consider that Jay was drunk as a skunk from about round ten onward. It goes to prove that when you come in with a game plan and stick with it, it doesn’t matter how drunk you get. We’ve established over the winter that Jay is one of the more consistently good teams in this league, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve on the few weaknesses this club has coming out of the draft.
Jay has a cagey way of making moves that seem to slip under the radar and keep him lurking in the shadows before he finally slips into the playoffs on a seemingly yearly basis. I think this will be another year where his team is good enough to get to the dance, but—as currently put together—I don’t know if this team could take home a third golden fish.
05) cracker jack
Draft Pick #4
Keepers: Buster Posey (C/1B-SF), Matt Kemp (OF-LAD) & Jon Lester (SP-BOS)
First Pick: Dan Uggla (2B-ATL) [Pick 4]
Last Pick: Austin Jackson (OF-DET) [Pick 221]
Best Pick: Austin Jackson (OF-DET) [Round 16 – Pick 221]
Jackson, 24, was the top prospect in the Yankees system before landing in Detroit via offseason trade a year ago. He proceeded to rake to the tune of .293/.345/.400 with 27 SB, 103 R and 44 XBH as a freakin’ 23-year-old. Given the insane overpays for speed in the draft, the value on this pick has to be magnified times a bajillion. Not only does he steal bases, he scores lots of runs and rips doubles and triples like a mad man. He figures to take another step forward in 2011 and, if he can learn to draw a few walks and not whiff so much, could push that OBP up closer to .360 while still scoring 100+ runs and swiping 30+ bags.
To put how good his debut season was in perspective, we’ll compare him straight-up with the other speedsters in the American League by looking at cats who swiped 25 bags or more. He ranked 13th in total steals (27), fourth in OBP (.345), first in XBH (44), second in runs scored (103) and third in total hits (181). Again, that was as a 23-year-old rookie. This dude is going to be an absolute beast. Snagging someone with this kind of ability and skill set with the fourth-to-last pick of the entire draft is absolutely bonkers.
Worst Pick: Bud Norris (SP-HOU) [Round 11 – Pick 144]
Bud Norris, 26, was a hot “sleeper” prospect on many fantasy websites last winter. Plenty of “experts” pegged the 26-year-old as a breakout candidate based largely on the back of his 158K/153IP showing last season. He had a solid minor league track record, but nothing to indicate stardom—or even more importantly, acedom—was in his future.
Strikeouts have never been a problem for Norris who piles ‘em up in bunches largely on the back of his absolutely nasty slider. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. He’s got an unreliable fastball and get-you-by changeup that’s nothing to write home about. He’s prone to giving up too many walks and the wild nature of his fastball sets him up as longball prone in a park that is all too hospitable to hanging fastballs.
Essentially he’s a mixed bag of big strikeout numbers along with big walks, home runs and a very unpleasant ERA/WHIP combo. He has shown flashes of ace material followed by stretches of unadulterated awfulness. Zach Sanders from FanGraphs said it best: “If you need strikeouts, Bud Norris is your man. If you need below average production in every other category, Bud Norris is still your man.”
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Billy Butler (1B-KC) [Round 2 – Pick 45]
Billy Butler, 25, is one of my favorite fantasy players of the future right now. The dude has an amazing eye at the dish and could conceivably be one of few modern ballplayers who are able to routinely post .400+ OBPs, especially as he gets older and gains a little more pop and a little more lineup protection. In the here and now, he’s an amazing asset to a fantasy team due to his high OBP and plethora of XBH. He his 51 doubles in 2009 and poked another 45 last season. His power dipped from 21HR/93RBI to 15HR/78RBI last season, but he’s still roughly two years off from hitting his power prime, so that’s not a big deal.
Butler isn’t likely to have his big “breakout” year in 2011 and maybe not even 2012, as he is more of a contact hitter. Once he gains some more power and can increase his HR/FB rates, he’ll be in good shape. I’d think the ceiling for Butler in 2011 is probably 20-25 homers at most and—given the way the Royals front office will job the lineup around him for cost-savings purposes—roughly 75-85 RBI. He’ll also contribute 40-50 doubles and an above average OBP.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Phil Hughes (SP-NYY) [Round 7 – Pick 88]
Phil Hughes, 24, has been the most talked about pitching prospect in the Yankees system for years. He’s been called the next Roger Clemens. He’s been called a bona-fide future Cy Young winner. He’s been called a future strikeout champion. Yet, for all of those accolades he owns a career ERA of 4.46 and has spent most of his professional career getting shuffled in and out of the starting rotation.
Last season Hughes had his “breakout” as a full-fledged member of the Yankees rotation. That breakout included a 4.19 ERA, way too many home runs, way too many walks and a fly ball percentage that left him very susceptible to big offensive outbursts. As shiny as his 18 wins, All-Star game appearance and 146 K looked, a lot of it was smoke and mirrors. He benefited from a lot of luck as batters had a Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .273 against Hughes, roughly 30 points lower than the league average. Hughes is a very good, very young pitcher with a solid career ahead of him, but I’d expect him to be drastically more exposed when the luck swings the other way.
Strength(s): Power Hitting & Power Pitching
This offense has at least ten guys who can legitimately crush 20+ homers this season; of those ten, I’d say at least four could probably put up at least 30 longballs and 100+ RBI to boot. This team has power to burn and could certainly use that as a trading chip later on in the season.
The top starters on this team Lester, Brett Anderson, and Josh Beckett (if healthy) all have the ability to get 200K, 15-20 wins with solid ERA/WHIPs in 2011. The bullpen mainstays of K-Rod and Joakim Soria are both veritable locks for 30 saves, solid K-rates and good ERA/WHIPs. It’s tough to beat that kind of combination week in and week out. If Hughes and/or Norris outperform my expectations, this could be an unbeatable squad to matchup with all season long.
Weakness(es): Speed & Depth
Right now this roster has exactly three guys who swiped double-digit steals last year: Jackson (27), Kemp (19) and Granderson (12). The rest of the roster combined for less than 20 stolen bases in 2010. Unless Jackson goes completely bonkers and swipes 70+ bags (unlikely) this club is going to need to add some wheels to avoid missing out on a number of speed-influenced categories (ie: stolen bases, doubles, triples and runs). Right now, this club is coming up just a little short in the speed department. Perhaps some of that overabundance of power could be used to change things.
The depth on this club is a little lacking. Juan Uribe is currently penciled in as the everyday shortstop, despite the fact he’s blatantly coming off a late career boom and shouldn’t be counted on to put up those numbers again. He’s got no backup as of now and the bench is filled with outfielders as the team is currently carrying two extra outfielders and an extra first baseman.
Storyline to Watch: Move Limit
Justin has long been known for his wheeling and dealing ways in the Salmon League. In fact, he’s the reason the 45-move limit was created way back in 2006 (or whenever), but right now he’s on pace to make roughly 100 moves this season with 10 moves through 16 games played. Keep an eye on when/if he settles down and rolls with the roster he has for more than a few days at a time.
Summary:Last year I had Justin ranked fourth, the year prior I had him ranked sixth, so it only makes sense that he’d slot into the five hole this time around. He is a perennial playoff team who—much like Jay—always seems to lurk on the periphery and slip his way into the postseason fray. I think this club has some major potential and could make a lot of noise this year.
He is hoping on a lot of preseason hype guys (Norris, Hughes, Freeman, etc.) to play lights out ball, but the core of this club is strong. Matt Kemp is due for a huge bounce back year, Jon Lester is my favorite for the Cy Young and Buster Posey—although due to regress a bit—has put himself on the short list of “best catcher in the game” types after less than a full-season in the bigs.
There is plenty of potential here and I have no doubt Justin will be monitoring this team and the waiver wire, free agent pool and trade market all summer long.
04) Dome Dog
Draft Pick #12
Keepers: Troy Tulowitzki (SS-COL), Josh Hamilton (OF/DL-TEX) & Justin Verlander (SP-DET)
First Pick: Justin Upton (OF-ARZ) [Pick 12]
Last Pick: Chris Iannetta (C-COL) [Pick 213]
Best Pick: Chris Iannetta (C-COL) [Round 16 – Pick 213]
Chris Iannetta, 28, has been the “catcher of the future” in Colorado for years now. Yet, for whatever reason, the club has continually blocked his path to regular at-bats and playing time by bringing in retread veterans. Making this situation even more muddled was the club’s decision to sign him to a three-year, $8.35 million deal prior to the 2010 season and then have him apprentice behind Miguel Olivo and spend time in AAA.
The job, however, is now all Iannetta’s and that’s a very, very good thing for Adam. The last time Iannetta was given a full-season’s worth of at-bats (2008) he hit .264/.390/.505 with 18 home runs. If an older, more powerful Iannetta can garner the same number of at-bats and put up an even remotely similar slash line to go with 20+ homers, this will be one of the best values of the entire draft.
Worst Pick: Aroldis Chapman (RP-CIN) [Round 11 – Pick 152]
Chapman, 23, is a flame throwing southpaw with just over 100 innings of professional experience under his belt. He has amazing potential as either a starter or a closer with his insane strikeout rates and absolutely mind-blowing 100+mph fastball. What he doesn’t have, however, is a starting job or a closer’s gig locked down to start the 2011 campaign. The Reds have decided to use Chapman in a middle-relief/setup role, thus making him a ridiculous overpriced holds option in round 11 of the draft.
There is a chance that Chapman nails down a couple dozen holds by the All-Star break and then returns to AAA to get stretched out as a starter for Cincinnati’s pennant drive or he could get moved into the closer role if the club manages to move incumbent closer Francisco Cordero. If that happens, this pick looks much better than it does right now. Either way we’re talking about a top four team, so this is clearly nitpicking.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Dan Haren (SP-LAA) [Round 2 – Pick 17]
Haren, 30, is by no means a sleeper, but coming off a “down year” that saw him post a 3.91 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP while going a pedestrian 12-12, his value was seemingly very suppressed heading into this year’s draft. He has been a keeper for the better part of the last half-decade and rightfully so as he’s averaged a 3.48 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 15 W and 192 K prior to last year’s “rough patch.”
What many people overlooked was that rather than pull his annual second-half slide, Haren actually got better as the year progressed in 2010 and was downright dominate for the Angels after being traded in late July. Haren posted a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 14 games down the stretch for an underachieving Angels club. It laid the groundwork for Haren to have a monster year in 2011 with his new team where there will be far less pressure to be the ace, thanks to the presence of Jered Weaver.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Drew Stubbs (OF-CIN) [Round 5 – Pick 68]
Stubbs, 26, came out of nowhere last season to hit 22 HR, swipe 30 SB and score 91 R. It was an amazing year and played a big role in the Reds success. It was also very, very overrated. On the surface, the numbers are solid, but when you realize they’re accompanied by an underwhelming .255/.329/.444 slash line, 168 strikeouts and just 25 extra base hits, the shine starts to wear off.
In the minors Stubbs showed an ability to steal bases with reckless abandon, swiping 121 bags over four seasons. What he didn’t show was nearly the power displayed last year, as he hit a total of 28 homers over all four years in the minors. His flyball percentage increase by nearly 5% last year and that type of swing, for a hitter who strikes out at such a high percentage indicates more luck (as does his .330 BABIP) than skill. I’d expect a regression (or at best a holding pattern) in the power department, thus making him an overpriced steals option.
Strength(s): Power & Potential Upside
If I were a betting man—and I am—I’d probably be willing to wager that this squad leads the league in home runs at season’s end. The lineup boasts ten different players who can be counted on for 20+ homers. Out of that ten, I’d say at least half can probably be expected to go for 30+. There is a ton of power to be had in this lineup. Hell, even Neil Walker—arguably the lightest hitter on the team—is probably a good bet for 15+ long-balls, it is scary, folks. Scary.
One of the best things this team has going for it is the upside. Troy Tulowitzki has shown that when healthy, he can be an absolute game-changer. His play down the stretch last year could be a glimpse of what’s to come in 2011. If that’s the case, get ready to put Tulo in every conversation about the “best players in the game.” Justin Upton and Chris Iannetta have had big years in the past and are looking to reclaim their spot among the game’s best. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Stanton and Daniel Hudson have all shown flashes of brilliance in their short big league tenures and all have the potential to take big steps forward in 2011. This team is filled with potential breakout stars.
Weakness(es): Pitching & Depth
The starting rotation has two legitimate studs in Justin Verlander and Dan Haren. After that? Well after that it’s a lot of hoping that Daniel Hudson and Brian “the Duenslinger” Duensing both take big time steps forward in 2011. I’ve rarely seen a four-man rotation work in the Salmon League, so I’d be surprised if he sticks with this setup for long, especially considering he’ll be carrying two holds guys in Chapman and Chris Sale. The rest of the staff consists of two good, but not great, closers in John Axford and Huston Street. Neither of whom inspires much confidence. Street has a history of injuries and Axford is coming of an unexpected rookie year in Milwaukee, where they have a history of one and done type closers (ie: Dan Kolb & Derrick Turnbow).
Six. That’s the number of outfielders on this team. Two of whom are starting the year on the DL in Jason Bay and Grady Sizemore and one of whom is undoubtedly bound for the DL at least once in Josh Hamilton. The infield is dynamic with youngsters Walker, Alvarez and Tulowitzki…but the potential for slumps and/or injuries (ie: Tulo) is also quite prevalent. This team will need to acquire some serious positional flexibility via free agency or deal from the wealth of top-notch outfielders on the roster.
Storyline to Watch: In-Season Management
In 2010, as a rookie manager, Adam had one of the worst drafts I’ve ever seen. He overdrafted players left and right and chose injury-risk after injury-risk. Most of those risks came back to haunt him. As I said in his summary last year, the big game-changer would be his ability to manage the team in-season, which he did to perfection en route to winning the league championship. Now the question is whether he can match last year’s in-season mastery or if he is a one-year wonder.
Summary: I was not real high on Adam a year ago and he proved me wrong. This year, I’m very high on his club and it’ll be interesting to see if he proves me wrong again or if he is able to be the second back-to-back champion in league history and the first of the head-to-head era. There is a ton of talent and potential on this team, as he drafted a good mix of young players on the rise and veterans with proven track records to compensate for any of the struggles that young players often deal with early in their careers.
This club’s biggest weaknesses right now are its lack of dynamic speed options and a pitching staff that falls flat after the top power arms. I’d have to expect we’ll see a few big trades to bolster the pitching corps and some savvy maneuvering on the free agent market to supplement what appears to be another injury-prone lineup.
…and so ends Part II of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings. Check back later this week for Part III and this year’s “Expert’s Panel Rankings.”