Part III of this year’s Draft Review and Rankings is finally finished.
In total, this year’s DR&R covered 38 pages in Microsoft Word and took up more than 19,000 words. That’s an ass-ton of writing. I hope you’ve all enjoyed it.
Personally, I have appreciated all of the feedback and comments I’ve received thus far, it makes it feel like I’m not completely wasting my time on this thing.
Anyway, on with the festivities where I will now reiterate everything from the beginning of the first two posts, 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.
Part I contains the teams I ranked 7th-14th and—if these rankings actually meant anything—will undoubtedly be missing the postseason as a result.
Part II contains the teams ranked 4th-6th that will be representing the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions in the playoffs.
Part III (ie: this 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…
03) money grubbers
Draft Pick #10
Keepers: Joey Votto (1B-CIN), Evan Longoria (3B-TB) & Yovani Gallardo (SP-MIL)
First Pick: Brian McCann (C-ATL) [Pick 10]
Last Pick: Michael Pineda (SP-SEA) [Pick 215]
Best Pick: Michael Pineda (SP-SEA) [Round 16 – Pick 215]
Pineda, 22, isn’t a household name—yet. There is a very good chance that since he cracked the Mariners’ opening day rotation he’ll not only be a household name, but an All-Star, Cy Young candidate and AL Rookie of the Year by this time next year. Despite being just 22, Pineda is already a seasoned minor league veteran after five seasons honing his craft in the Mariners’ farm system. All signs indicate that the flamethrower has ace potential as he entered the 2011 season as the number 16 prospect in all of baseball.
Pineda has a plus-plus fastball and couples that with two good, but not quite dominant pitches in his slider and change-up. His breaking ball has been inconsistent through much of his stint in the minor leagues, but if/when he gets it mastered, he might be damn near unhittable. He’s survived with top-notch results while only carrying one lights out pitch in the holster, this kid could be downright frightening when he’s got multiple weapons to draw upon on the hill.
Worst Pick: Clayton Richard (SP-SD) [Round 12 – Pick 159]
Richard, 27, didn’t land in this spot because I have questions about his abilities or skill-set. If I were basing the worst pick solely on that it’d be Edinson Volquez or Madison Bumgarner in the hot-seat. Instead, Richard is here for the same reason that Steven has been raked over the coals to no end about his ill-timed Tsuyoshi Nishioka pick in round six, it’s all about value.
Richard is a long-forgotten prospect from the White Sox system who was exiled to San Diego as the key cog in the Jake Peavy trade, essentially he was Dan Hudson before Dan Hudson. He had a breakout season a year ago—his first full-season in San Diego—and figures to continue building on that success as he enters his prime. He throws five pitches and of that assortment, his fastball, slider and cutter are all top-notch and that works to keep hitters off balance.
Richard likely would have gone in one of the last two rounds—to me, most likely, as I don’t know if he was on anyone else’s radar—if he were drafted at all, so Mike clearly reached and reached hard. Easily his worst pick—in terms of value.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Shaun Marcum (SP-MIL) [Round 5 – Pick 66]
Marcum, 29, has all of the potential in the world to be the best starter on a very good Milwaukee Brewers squad this season. That is largely because he has been battle-tested in the depths of the American League East and has come out better for it. The right-hander—who missed all of 2009 following Tommy John surgery—spent five seasons in Toronto compiling a 3.85 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, while averaging better than 7K/9 and keep his BB/9 under 3. That’s some serious front of the rotation stuff.
The move from the big bats and small ballparks of the AL East to the more pitcher-friendly parks and style of play offered in the National League figures to be a step in the right direction for Marcum. It’s not unfathomable to predict 175+ K to go with a sub 3.50 ERA and his usual sub 1.25 ERA with a move to the NL. This could be a monster year for not only the Brewers, but the least-hyped of their two off-season acquisitions.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Edinson Volquez (SP-CIN) [Round 8 – Pick 103]
I won’t even attempt to keep a professional pretense on this one, I don’t like Edinson Volquez. There, I said it. You can ask Steven—who enjoyed the one good half-season Volquez had in the big leagues—about my disdain for Volquez, as it knows no bounds. His cocky, me-first attitude hasn’t changed any either, despite surviving a suspension for violating MLB’s PED policy.
Volquez has had exactly one half of a good season in his entire career. From Opening Day 2008 until roughly the All-Star break he was the best pitcher in the National League. That’s it. His entire career is banked on a run of three months. He showed questionable control and was homer prone prior to Tommy John surgery and I can’t imagine it’ll magically bounce-back and/or prove to be better than it once was. His value is entirely tied up in his high strikeout potential, but the rest of his numbers don’t warrant taking the plunge just for strikeouts. If that’s the case, go pick up AJ Burnett or Bud Norris and take your luck there, same stats, different name on the jersey.
Strength(s):Power and Potential
Power: This club is loaded up and down with guys who can easily be counted on to pop 20 homers. Just looking at the roster, I’d say ever regular except for Gordon Beckham and Stephen Drew can probably be banked on for 20+, those two will likely have to settle for 15-20. Of those who can go over 20, at least half-a-dozen could go for 30 or more with ease. Tons of power to burn on this roster.
Potential: Mike, as he is wont to do, drafted young this season. The bulk of his roster is under 30 and has many-a-player on the verge of a potential breakout season. He has two of the best keepers on offense and both could be in for career years in 2011. Expect a lot of offensive fireworks.
Weakness(es):Speed and Bullpen
Speed: There isn’t a lot of speed to go around on this club. Alex Rios is the club’s stolen bases leader with 34 thefts. After that it’s Joey Votto (16), Evan Longoria (15) and Colby Rasmus (12) who are responsible for the speed on this club. I’d definitely expect a trade or free agent signing to infuse a little life into an otherwise sluggish roster. There is more than enough in-house power to swap for a quick pair of legs, but I’d suspect there’s at least one plenty one or two potential base-thieves lurking in free agency that will catch Mike’s eye before he hits the trading block.
Bullpen: I am not loving this bullpen. I’m a little wary about the backend of the rotation, but the bullpen worries me more. Jose Valverde is the type of closer that no one ever wants to draft. He consistently puts up good numbers, but everyone is always waiting for the wheels to come off. You could tell Mike felt the same way when he called out Valverde’s name in round ten. After that Mike is taking a gamble that Jake McGee will emerge from Tampa Bay’s closer-by-committee as the new stopper. If that doesn’t work out, Mike’s got himself a fireballing set-up man. Frank Francisco has been good and he’s been hurt. Right now he’s hurt. When he makes it back, he’ll serve as a solid value pick with the potential to knock down 30+ saves in Toronto. Kerry Wood is old-balls. Easily the oldest member of Mike’s roster and also the one who had the most surprising run late last season when he transitioned to a middle relief role. It’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain that level of success for a full season.
Storyline to Watch:Lack of Confidence
I know it sounds almost blasphemous to suggest that a Kunkel—let alone Mike Kunkel—might be suffering from a lack of confidence, but there was certainly less swagger from Mike at the conclusion of the 2011 draft. A year ago, he was roundly chosen as the GM who had the best draft. This year, very few seemed to peg Mike at the top of the heap and Mike’s own lack of the famed “Kunkel Swagger” is disturbing enough to warrant its inclusion as this year’s major storyline for the money grubbers.
Mike is a great manager in this league, but without his trademark self-assurance, he may react poorly to his annual onslaught of nagging, non-DL style injuries. He may misread the free agent market thinking he needs to make splashes when holding the line is the best action. If he starts off cold, expect a flurry of activity to compensate for what he feels are shortcomings after a draft that didn’t live up to his usual hype and hysteria. If he comes out of the gates with his guns-a-blazin’…well, then we can expect that trademark swagger to return pretty dang quick.
Summary: Another year, another good money grubbers squad. This is the lowest Mike has rated in years—which is saying something—and I think deep down Mike knows he didn’t assemble the type of squad he’s used to putting together. There were some definite reaches here for Mike to get the players he wanted and I think he left some talent on the table as a result. He picked up A LOT of the guys we were high on in the NFBC and I think ultimately, his preparation for the NFBC went into overdrive during the SLB draft causing him to reach for players he’d valued at a higher level in a different league.
Overall, I think this team has the potential to do major damage. The pitching staff will need some reinforcements. Relying on Volquez for any longer than necessary is a recipe for disaster. The offense will need a little more balance—some lightning to go with all the thunder, if you will—to make this one of the truly elite attacks in the league. Right now, I’d say this team has a shot at the playoffs and a deep playoff run, but some changes will definitely be needed along the way.
02) Genies in a Bottle
Draft Pick #11
Keepers: Hanley Ramirez (SS-FLA), David Wright (3B-NYM) & Jered Weaver (SP-LAA)
First Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-BOS) [Pick 11]
Last Pick: Jake Peavy (SP-CHI) [Pick 214]
Best Pick: Manny Ramirez (OF-TB) [Round 8 – Pick 102]
Manny Ramirez, 38, is going to be a full-time DH in 2011, a move that is loooooooooooong overdue, but one that figures to help him continue his legendary career a few years longer. He suffered through a number of maladies last year involving his legs and was reported after the season to have played through a sports hernia for much of the season. He is healthy and figures to be firmly entrenched in the clean-up spot in the Rays lineup.
Ramirez may be well-beyond the days of ripping 40+ home runs again, but expecting 25-30 with a return to the AL East isn’t out of the question. He’ll no longer need to take off afternoon games to rest his legs, thus giving him close to 125-150 extra at-bats. He’s a lock for an OBP over .400 along with 100+ RBI, 100 R and 35-45 XBH. There is no downside to that kind of value in the eighth round. He’d have to—oh I don’t know—get caught using performance enhancing drugs and abruptly retire a week into the season for this thing to not work out. What could go wrong?
Worst Pick: Joe Nathan (RP-MIN) [Round 9 – Pick 123]
Nathan, 36, was one of the best—if not the best—closers in baseball for a six year run of brilliance between 2004 and 2009. Tommy John surgery derailed him a year ago and he’s worked his way back this spring and was impressive enough that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire re-anointed him the closer to start the season.
I don’t hate this pick because of Nathan’s struggles. I hate it because I didn’t want to dive into the closer pool until round ten or later, no reason to overpay for such a fluctuating stat—and there was plenty of solid talent still on the board after I made this pick. It was blatant homerism and fanboy worship at its worst. I love Joe Nathan, I’ve got an autographed picture of the dude staring at me as I type this and that’s a problem. You need to draft with your head, not your heart and this was blatantly a heart pick.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Ricky Romero (SP-TOR) [Round 6 – Pick 74]
Romero, 26, was probably one of my biggest reaches of the draft and I’m down with that because he falls right into the wheelhouse of my “reach for the right player” doctrine. Romero is a young fireballer who—with the recent defections of Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum—has become the de facto ace of the Toronto pitching staff.
He’s got a great fastball and a change-up and curveball that are equally as nasty. He’ll mix in a cutter or slider to keep hitters off balance, but for the most part he comes right at ‘em and leaves hitters looking silly. He’s got the goods to strike out 200+ per year and his groundball tendencies pay major dividends in the thumper-heavy AL East. If he can limit walks this season, he’ll be in the short discussion for potential Cy Young candidates at season’s end.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jake Peavy (SP-CHI) [Round 16 – Pick 214]
Peavy, 29, is about four years and a ton of injuries removed from being a consummate Cy Young contender and no-doubt fantasy keeper. In the years since he’s suffered from a litany of arm and shoulder issues and moved from the best pitcher’s park in baseball to the worst. His control and blazing speed are still there—or were when last we saw him—but the move to the AL has severely hurt his value and expecting him to bounce back from a major surgery as an ace is likely a fool’s errand.
I like Peavy, it’s probably why I picked him in the last spot of the draft as a reclamation project rather than going after an up-and-coming stud like Michael Pineda (who, fun story, I was going to add when I moved Peavy to the DL…except Mike immediately gobbled him up with the next pick). Peavy has had numerous setbacks already, which isn’t surprising given that the original estimates didn’t have him returning until July or later. I’d like to think he can still be a top-flight pitcher, but he’s also got the biggest odds of blowing up in my face.
Strength(s):Balance and the Calvary
Balance: This club is packed with a balanced attack. The offense has a ton of potential to lay the smackdown. Every player drafted, with the exception of probably Jacoby Ellsbury, has the potential to blast 25+ home runs and drive in 80+ runs while nabbing 30+ XBH. The speed is largely centered on four players: Ellsbury, Ramirez, Wright and Utley. If/when healthy the latter three can all nab anywhere from 20-30 bases. Ellsbury could be the big difference maker as he swiped 120 bases over his two full seasons. The pitching is also balanced with plenty of solid high-K types and plenty of control types to temper the ERA/WHIP.
The Calvary: This club was setup with some obvious deficiencies. You don’t draft three players who are on the DL and not expect to start the season a little behind the 8-ball. I knew that I’d struggle without the immediate presence of Chase Utley, Kendrys Morales or Jake Peavy, but knowing that all three could join my team after only missing a month or two gave them each incredibly value, especially with their draft stock tumbling. Three-quarters of a season from Utley/Morales/Peavy will more than make up for playing with replacement players for a month or two.
Weakness(es):Slumps and Bullpen
Slumps: This lineup contains a lot of hitters who are prone to lengthy slumps. This is especially true of the younger sluggers on the roster and both of the offensive keepers. Slumps happen, it’s just the way things are, but if multiple players on this team slump at the same time, it could lead to some disastrous results for the Genies.
Bullpen: This was the second season in a row that GM Graves decided to eschew the bullpen in favor of better talent elsewhere. A year ago, I got a revival of Billy Wagner out of the deal and filled in with spare parts. This year I overdrafted Joe Nathan and complimented him with Brandon Lyon who is a great setup man and an okay—at best—closer. I completely blew off drafting a holds guy, figuring there are always top-tier holds guys available in free agency, why waste a draft slot? The bullpen will need another closer and a holds guy at some point. Neither in-house closing option figures to be dominate, so this may be a move that sends me to the trading blocks.
Storyline to Watch: The Playoff Hump
I have never missed the playoffs in the head-to-head format. Since we moved to H2H, I have finished the regular season in 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st and 5th. I have finished the playoffs in 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd and 3rd. I haven’t been in a championship game in four years. I have found my way to the playoffs—almost always a top-seed—and I’ve found my way to the championship game—albeit not recently—but I always come up short. As is the case every single year, my storyline to watch is whether or not this will be the year the Genies finally get over that hump and return to the championship game to claim a long overdue gold salmon.
Summary: This is one of the stronger teams I’ve put together in years. I’ve generally come in with a pretty rough sketch of what I wanted to do and rolled with it from there, this year I came in free as a bird. I had two or three first round targets (Adam Dunn, Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew McCutchen, respectively) and little else. I let the draft play out and went with whomever I felt offered the most value for my club at the moment—and I picked Joe Nathan—and it seemed to have worked out.
This club is balanced from top to bottom and aside from a few nagging needs, has the potential to do some serious damage all season long. The lurking DL-Calvary will likely tell the story of my season. If Utley/Morales come back slugging, it was a success. If they’re both slow to return—or don’t return—it will have been two wasted draft picks when plenty of legit, healthy talent was still available. It was a gamble that will likely make or break my season and it’ll be a hoot to see which way it goes.
01) SL Disappointment
Draft Pick #3
Keepers: Ryan Howard (1B-PHI), Dustin Pedroia (2B-BOS) & Cliff Lee (SP-PHI)
First Pick: Jose Bautista (3B/OF-TOR) [Pick 3]
Last Pick: Brandon Beachy (SP-ATL) [Pick 222]
Best Pick: Starlin Castro (SS-CHI) [Round 4 – Pick 54]
Castro, 21, has been called the second coming of Derek Jeter for a couple of years now; whether or not he’ll live up to that hype has yet to be seen. He does have the ability to hit for average and some good speed—albeit lacking the instincts to use it effectively—and a slick glove at shortstop. He’s still very much a raw product, but one with enough upside for management to have him bypass Triple A completely on his path to the big leagues a year ago.
The thing that makes this pick so great is that Castro has future star written all over him. If he is the second coming of Jeter, you’re looking at years of above average OBP, runs scored, extra base hits and stolen bases. He’ll hit for some solid power for the position (think 10-20 homers as he grows into his body) and the job is his for the next decade. In a league that is so panicky about drafting infielders, it baffles my mind that Castro even made it to round four, let alone the tail-end of the round. There were five shortstops taken in front of Castro in the draft and I’d be shocked if any more than one or two of those cats actually finish ahead of Castro when the season is over. Great pick. Great value. Great potential keeper.
Worst Pick: Hideki Matsui (OF-OAK) [Round 13 – Pick 171]
Matsui is all-kinds of old-balls. That’s not why I’m hating all-up on him here, though. He’s also proven to be a 15-20 homer guy with little else in his arsenal nowadays. That is also not why I’m hating all-up on him here. He’s never going to put up monster numbers in the HR/RBI department again. His XBH have all but dried up and his OBP is drifting closer and closer to league average with each passing year. None of that, however, is why I’m hating all-up on him here.
I’m hating all-up on Hideki Matsui because he was drafted as John’s sixth outfielder. If there’s anything I’ve stressed heavily throughout these rankings it’s that there is almost zero reason to draft this many outfielders. You leave your roster barren of any flexibility and you’re always stuck picking and choosing which guy to leave out of your lineup. Plus, Matsui is really only good for the four or five weeks a year he gets hot anyway. Other than that, he’s serious bench fodder.
It should be noted, this is pretty much the only pick of this entire draft that I could dig up. The rest of it was pretty airtight, round after round.
Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Jose Tabata (OF-PIT) [Round 9 – Pick 115]
Jose Tabata, 22, was on my ever-growing list of man-crushes this spring. The speedy Tabata—along with eternally depressed Andrew McCutchen—form one of baseball’s most dynamic one-two punches at the top of the Pirates lineup. Tabata has marquee speed and could easily become a player who swipes 40+ bags annually while posting above-average OBPs.
Something that stuck out about Tabata this spring was the amount of weight he’d put on bulking up over the winter. In an attempt to avoid becoming a one-dimensional slap-and-go speedster, Tabata added weight to allow him to hit for more power and drive the ball to the gaps for more extra base hits. The youngster has all the makings of a superstar and figures to be a legitimate beast alongside McCutchen all season long.
Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Vladimir Guerrero (OF-BAL) [Round 7 – Pick 87]
Originally, I wanted to go with Matsui here, but I always try to avoid doubling up on using a guy twice. As such, I had to take a shot at one of my all-time faves and peg Vlady for the down year. This is based largely on how slow and worn-out Vlady looked in the second-half and in the postseason last year. The fire and bat-speed that played so well in the first half dropped off the table after the All-Star break.
Vlady does have the benefit of another hitter’s haven in Camden Yards and a very solid lineup around him, but if he plays at the level he did during the second half last year, he might as well hang up the spikes, because he’s toast.
Strength(s): Balance & Rotation
Balance: This lineup has at least five guys who can be counted on for 15+ stolen bases and that includes Tabata and Castro who could each go for 30+ this season. The lineup also has seven guys who could reasonably crush 20+ homers and Ryan Howard and Jose Bautista could both go over 40 on their own. The offense is full of above average OBP-types and guys who wreck XBH like crazy. This lineup has the potential to give teams fits all season long.
Rotation: This team’s rotation is stacked with guys who can strikeout 150+ whilst keeping their ERAs under 3.50 and posting solid WHIPs. This rotation has three big-time aces in Cliff Lee, Matt Cain and Wandy Rodriguez. The peripheral additions of Brandon Beachy, Travis Wood and Hiroki Kuroda were all genius as all three were heavily underrated coming into the draft and all offer tremendous value.
Bullpen: I’m wary of teams that try to carry four starting pitchers in this league. I’m equally wary of teams that don’t treat their bullpen as equals. John is currently carrying one closer and one setup man. One setup man makes sense as one hold is often enough to win you the week, but closers are notoriously streaky. They’ll rake up five saves one week and none for two weeks. Carrying one closers is like punting on the saves category altogether, but since it’s just as important as HR/RBI/W/etc…it doesn’t make any sense. This club needs another closer to avoid handing the saves category over week in and week out.
Storyline to Watch: John’s Attention Span
It’s no secret that once upon a time, John was a pretty solid fantasy baseball player. He ran away with the league in its inaugural season and then, um, just sorta stopped paying attention. We caught his attention again a few years later with live drafts, but the attention would generally wane a week or so into the season. This year, John has a job that allows him to check his team—and this blog, which I’m pretty certain he didn’t know existed until recently—as often as he wants. He’s got a good team and he’s got the ability to check it. Thus far in the season, he’s done just that…if he’s still paying attention by July or August, there’s a good chance most of the Pacific Division is looking up at John in the standings. If he’s moved on to new pursuits, like playing Bloons or something during his workday, well, there’s a good chance he’s back in or near the cellar.
Summary: John Kunkel appears to be back, ladies and gentlemen and that is no f’n good for the rest of the league. John has always—with the exception of 2010, WTF was that all about?—rated near the top of the boards following his drafts, but this one was crisp from top-to-bottom. He has assembled what is easily one of my favorite rosters in this entire league. I see a team that is balanced from top to bottom and only needs to retool the bullpen a little bit to be absolutely dominate. If John can acquire a big game closer, this roster has no holes—as currently constructed—that I can see.
He’s put together a very solid mix of young guys and veterans, burners and mashers and in the end, I think this squad has the potential to be the very best of the bunch when it’s all said and done. As I stated above, a lot of that will depend on whether or not John can stay focused on the league, but if he can…watch out.