Thursday, November 23, 2006

End of the draft (32-50)

[First an apology to our loyal 0 readers, this was finished over email on the same day as the rest of the draft, but through a war of "no, you post it", it never got up]


First, Pelfrey is a good pick up at this point,
completely fell off my radar. I had a feeling you
were going for Broxton here, especially considering we
are fast approaching the 'random guys I like' portion
of the draft.

Something else I just realized is that we have been
drafting with different philosophies, but we have
alternated strategies between hitting and pitching.
As much as your pitching is 'high upside with a lot of
bust potential' and my pitching is 'more proven
players, higher expected average but lower ceiling',
in terms of hitting philosophies we have been the
complete opposite, with you going for the safe OBP
picks and me going for projectable guys who have
power, or whose recent hitting has been a big factor
in the selection. Just something interesting (for no
one excpet us I guess) to ponder.

#32) - BJ Upton
Age: 21
Position: 3B - probably converted to outfield

Seriously, could I draft anymore third basemen?

I don't care, kid is 21 and as a 20 year old in AAA
last year he put up a near 400 OBP with decent power
and before he got too much playing time he was a
consensus #1 prospect on every list. So what if he
can't play SS defense.

By the way, something is wrong with us that this guy
fell to pick 32. Seriously, do you think in 20 years
you would look back and say 'boy am I glad I picked
Broxton over BJ Upton', yeah me neither.

Speaking of picking a reliever...

#33) - Joal Zumaya
Age: 21
Position: Pitcher

Ok I just drafted him because he has the coolest last
name in baseball. Well that and being the second
coming of Papelbon while being 21. The more I think
about it, the more I am shocked at how many high
upside guys are lying around. I guess this is either
because a) we are too optimistic or b) when you take
the best prospect from every team in baseball you
should be drafting a potential All-Star team.



Intersting stuff about our alternating strategies. And two pretty good picks by you. I hear what you are saying about Upton but he just doesn't have the steady plate discipline that I require in guys on my team. He is a free swinger who could put up some monster numbers. More than anything, though, Upton is a "tools guy." I hate "tools guys" because they are often the ones who can't put it all together in the big leagues. Upton really reminds me of a Younger version of Alfonso Soriano. His numbers will wow you, but when you absolutely have to get him out you can get him to swing at "your pitches" and get himself out. As opposed to a guy like Daric Barton who is not going to swing at your pitch, and would probably focus more on getting a good pitch to hit in a pressure situation. Same goes for someone like Pedroia. Upton may turn into ARod someday and I will look back and say "why the hell did I draft Jonathan Broxton over him," but the bottom line is that I am drafting this team as I would a team that was really going to play games and Upton just doesn't fit into my philosophy on how to win baseball games.

That said, excellent value pick for you. I almost took Zumaya last round with Broxton because I consider them to be the best young middle relievers in baseball (although they will both be closers next season). Finally you got yourself a relief pitcher, which you desperately needed. Relievers aren't the sexiest picks, but you have to have confidence in your pen late in games.

#36) - Billy Butler
Age: 20
Position: OF

Really young and really talented. Butler is a guy who you would like because of his natural power. He hit 25 HR in single A last season at the ripe age of 19. He strikes out more than I prefer but he also takes the walk when it is there. I really like the way this kid plays the game (he passed the Walter "my own two eyes test" when I watched the MLB futures games) but I waited on him for this long because of the strikeouts. He strikes out nearly twice as often as he walks, that isn't going to cut it. But he is only 20 and has the upside to be an all star LF.

#37) - Cole Hamels
Age: 22
Position: SP

Not a few months ago, Hamels was considered the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues. And now he is being drafted 37th overall by us. The weird part is that I can't really come up with a reason that either of us would have soured on him. He pitched decently in his major league outings. Not dominating but he was able to get a lot of swings and misses (always a good sign). His minor league numbers are absurd so I think he has the ability to be a solid front of the rotation guy.



I was going to pick up Hamels last round but didn't
for two reasons:

1. He is notoriously injury prone
2. He is walking lots more guys than Zumaya

Now considering he is starting and Zumaya is relieving
this may be a very very bad call. So probably should
have drafted him before.

I have to call foul on your 'drafting for this year'
call. That is certaintly not what I was under the
impression we were doing. If we were, actually, then
all the MLB guys would have gone first, and none of
the project guys would have been picked. I have been
trying to assemble the best team, hence all the talk
about how these players will develop. When I say
develop, I don't mean how are these guys going to do
in the next 3 months, I mean what kind of careers are
they going to have. Totally different strategy.

Since we are going with pitching, I am going to pick
two tremendous upside guys.

#36) - Jon Lester
Age: 22
Position: Starting pitcher

Well, we know the story with him by now. Seems to
have overpowering walking WAY too many guys
right now. Hopefull he snaps out of it, but it is
definitely going to take a patch where he gets
absolutely lit up before it happens, because he is
having too much success doing what he is doing right
now. I say second or third time around the league he
has to make some huge adjustments.

#37) - Homer Bailey
Age: 20
Position: Starting pitcher

Ok, another young, raw and talented pitcher. All the
standard caveats apply. Very good upside, could be



Two solid picks by you. I would take notice to your calling Lester's stuff "overpowering" though. Lester's stuff is good, but not great. I know you probably haven't seen him pitch yet, but the comparison for me is Scott Kazmir "lite". His motion is almost identical to Kazmir's, his breaking ball cuts the same way, he works a 2 seam and a 4 seam fastball like Kazmir, BUT he does all of these things at about 3-4 MPH slower than Kazmir does. Kazmir is dominant, Lester is not. He is very very good though. I know nothing about Homer Bailey except for the stats I looked up online, so I can't really condemn or applaud that pick. Two pretty good pitchers for you at this stage in the draft though.

#38) - Zack Greinke
Age: 22
Position: SP

This is a risky pick given the personal problems that Greinke endured this past spring. That said, it wasn't too long ago that he was regarded higher than Liriano and Felix Hernandez. If you look at his minor league numbers its not hard to see why. He owned the minors, striking out almost seven times as many hitters as he walked. Greinke has been decribed as Maddux-like with his pinpoint control. I am a true believer that to succeed in the American League you need pinpoint control and NOT overpowering stuff. If you have both you get Liriano or Santana but very few have both. If you just try and throw it by guys in the AL you get rocked (see Beckett, Josh). Greinke has all the ability to be an ace for years to come, he just needs to get his head on straight. He is only 22 so its possible that it could happen.

#39) - Ryan Zimmerman
Age: 21
Position: Infield

Zimmerman is a 3B by trade but he is good enough over there that he could probably switch over to just about any position on the diamond if he needed to (even SS). Of course, if he stays at his natural position he is one of the best, if not the best, in baseball over there. Zimmerman is not exactly my type of player but he does make solid contact and should hit for a high average though not much power. In my philosophy, if you aren't going to hit for power you must be able to do 2 things: (1) hit for a very high average (like over .330), and (2) use the entire field. Zimmerman should do both as well as anyone we have drafted today. The ability to use the whole field is essential for line drive hitters or else pitchers can get them out when they have to. Zimmerman has a short, compact stroke which allows him to get the meaty part of the bat on almost any pitch. I think Alex Gordon is a much better hitting prospect than Zimmerman, but it wouldn't shock me if Zimmerman turned into a George Brett type of player and ended up in the hall of fame.



I think I have to focus a bit on pitchers now since I
have been going heavy on the position players,
traditionally the safer bet.

#40) - Anibal Sanchez
Age: 22
Position: Starting pitcher

I was very high on him as a Red Sox prospect and I
still see the same thing in him I did then.

#41) - Ambriorix Burgos
Age: 22
Position: Relief pitcher

This guy is intriguing, I mean Rule 5 pick, stuck in
the bullpen and just start striking everyone out.
Pretty standard story here, will either learn to
reduce the walks and become an above average guy, or
the control problems will be the end of him. I am
just shooting darts at this point.



Nice pick on Sanchez, he was on my radar. Gotta love his K rates and GB:FB ratio, although I am not sure he has the dominating stuff to ever be more than a middle of the rotation guy. Overall, though, he is a solid pick. Could turn into a David Bush type in the NL. I think you swung and missed big time on Burgos though. I have seen him throw a but over the past few years and he is never going to be a big time MLB player. He has a great fastball (high 90's) but he can't locate it and he doesn't even come close to having a secondary pitch. Absolute best case scenario for this guy is Mark Wholers....worst case is Kyle Farnsworth. Like either of them he may have the occasional effective season, but I think you passed on a much better relief prospect to take Burgos.

#42) - Craig Hansen
Age: 22
Position: RP

I cannot believe you passed on Hansen for Abiorix Burgos. I am just stunned and I think this will come back to haunt you. Unlike Burgos, Hansen has shown the ability to dominate in the college, minor, and, at times, the major league level. This season with the Sox Hansen has been absolutely lights out in his first inning of work (like a 1 something ERA). Though he has gotten himself into trouble when he comes back out for another frame, he can easily work this out next season (getting him ready to close in 2008). Hansen will be the best setup man in the AL by the end of next year, and Ambiorix Burgos will be........well you get the picture.

#43) - Howie Kendrick
Age: 22
Position: 1B/2B

I hate Kendrick's game, and as I said before I think he is the most overrated prospect in baseball. That said, taking him with the 43rd pick is an absolute no brainer. Though he swings at everythng, and doesn't even know the meaning of the word "walk", Kendrick has put up some ridiculous batting averages on the minor league level. I hate that he is only a singles hitter, and he probably won't ever generate enough power to justify using him at first base, even in an emergency. Still, I think in the best case scenario he compares favorably with another Angels 2B, Rod Carew. Kendrick could probably hit .300 in the big leagues right now.



I have no excuse. Well, I do, I got very little sleep
right now and am operating at about 60% of my usual
capacity. Seriously, I am the walking dead right now.
Good thing I am just mindlessly plugging in numbers
to financial models. But yeah, if I had 65% with me,
no way I pick Burgos. Ok back to hitters.

#44) - Edwin Encarnacion
Age: 23
Position: 3B

Something is wrong with us. Seriously, this guy is
producing, right now, in the majors leagues. We are
picking random AA dudes who have the same upside as
him, but are two levels away. Well, at least he is on
my team now.

#45) - Jose Lopez
Age: 22
Position: 2B

I think I am running out of position spots. If so,
this is potentially my last one. Either way, same
thing goes for Lopez (and maybe 2-3 other guys still
left ) as went for Edwin. When did prospects start to
be penalized for being average in the majors as
opposed to killing 20 year olds with 84 mph fastballs?



You make a solid point about us devaluing production in the ML in favor of potential, but that is the whole fun of this draft. While Encarnacion and Lopez are both in the majors right now, I don't think either of them have the upside of the guys we have been choosing from AA. First of all, I am not sold on Jose Lopez at all. He has almost four times as many strikeouts as walks and an OBP under .320. And its not like we are talking about a guy who lit up the minor leagues. In 5 minor league seasons Lopez posted a career average of .288 and a carerr OBP of .327. Plus he posted only 180 extra base hits in over 1800 AB's. If you ask me, Lopez is enjoying the best seaso he will ever have this year. As for Encarnacion, he was a middling prospect until he turned in a pretty good season in AAA. His defense at third is shaky at best which will probably result in either a move across the diamond or to the OF. Edwin has not proven himself to be naturally powerful, or have exceptional plate discipline. Basically he doesn't have any baseball attribute with which he can hang his hat on (insert Brandon Larson joke here).

#46) - Jeremy Sowers
Age: 23
Position: SP

While Sowers doesn't have dominating stuff, he does have two things going for him: (1) pinpoint control, and (2) he throws with his left hand. Sowers dominated the SEC in college and has proven himself in the minors by posting a 14-4 record with a 2.38 ERA in his only minor league campaign. Sowers does not throw hard but he is always around the plate as evidenced by his outstanding 149:29 career minor league K ratio. I cannot explain how he has struck out nearly a batter per inning without a swing and miss type pitch, but I doubt it would continue on the ML level anyways. Regardless, Sowers projects as a Mark Mulder type (I wanted to stay away from the obvious Moyer/Glavine comparisons because Sowers is not known for pounding the outside corner like those 2) who can effortlessly and efficienty eat innings. As I said earlier when I chose Zack Greinke, I truly believe to succeed in the AL (Sowers is in the Indians system) having pinpoint control is more important than having overpowering stuff.

#47) - Jacoby Ellsbury
Age: 22
Position: CF

I almost went with Hunter Pence here (I love his raw power potential), but instead I went with Ellsbury whose prospect status has skyrocketed in the past year. Ellsbury is a rare player in the sense that he is an on base machine without really displaying any semblance of power at the college or minor league level (though some feel he could develop 10-15 HR potential). Ellsbury is primarily a singles hitter, but he has shown outstanding plate discipline never having struck out more times than he has walked in college or in the minors. Plus, he has the speed to steal close to 50 bases and should be given the green light given his success rates in college and the minors (23 SB only 3 CS in his first minor league season). Ellsbury's speed gives him a trait which can mitigate his lack of power. Given that he projects as a gold glove caliber CF, Ellsbury could leadoff for this team and be a true steal at pick #47.



See here's where I think you make the same mistakes
over and over again. The reason Edwin wasn't regarded
as a hot prospect was something that is increasingly
problematic with how people compile top prospect

1) Guy who split leagues are often downgraded because
their year end numbers don't have the same weight in
the counting stat department as guys who spend the
whole year padding stats. This seams very silly, but
it happens to lots of guys. This happened TWICE to
Encarnacion, which is why he flew under the radar.

2) Young guys who make to the majors are summarily
bumped off prospect lists due to losing eligibility.
Problem is, they are competiting again the highest
level of competition, so when they don't set the world
on fire, everyone forgets about them, calls them
former prospects. How does succeeding and making it
to the majors hurt the reputation of guys. It kills

3) You completely neglect the impact of guys playing
at a young age against older competition.

Case in point. Last year Hunter Pence was having a
grand time destroying pitching as a 22 year old in A

His line:
25 homers in around 340 ABs
.338/.413/.652 (AVG OBP SLG)

Then promoted to high A:
4 HR in 171 AB

Meanwhile, Edwin spent half the season in AAA hitting:
15 homers in 330 AB

Then promoted to the majors to hit:
9 HR in 234 AB

'Failed prospect'? Hardly. Even just going by
counting stats Pence had 29 HRs and Encarnacion 24.
Difference is Hunter was hitting those home runs
against kids who still needed to ask random bums to by
them liqour.

Taking another track, let's look at BP translated
stats for last year, which make park and league

277 .339 .518
.282 .339 .441

.281 .354 .497
.227 .303 .441

Keeping in mind, this was my man Es first exposure to
top caliber pitching, along with the standard initial
plummet in AVG, I would say he had a substantially
better season than Pence did last year.

Prospect hounds are realizing that age relative to
league is perhaps one of, if not the most, important
aspect of a prospects star potential.

Funny thing is, Jose Lopez is also a victim of all
three of these curses. He split time between AAA and
MLB for two years, at the ages of 20 and 21! He
wasn't doing a whole ton in the MLB as a 20 year old
but he was hitting .295/.342/.505 in AAA.

So to summarize, Jose Lopez: hitting a ton for a
middle infielder as a 20 year old in AAA. Hunter
Pence: destroying kids who still wear their retainers.

Oh and by the way, this year Edwin and Lopez are both
currently above average offensive players for their
position. And Hunter is looking the fool down in AA.
But you know, he has tremendous UPside.

#47) - Yadier Molina
Age: 23
Position: Catcher

I am not sure Molina is ever going to hit, in fact,
odds are against it. But there are a three reasons
why I am drafting him here:

1) By many measures, just a tremendous defensive
catcher. Which is good, because right now he is a

2) Every team needs two catchers Nobody else excited
me really and further...

3) Catchers develope hitting later. So, I'll take the
guy in the majors because of his defense, on the hope
that something comes around. But I won't bank on it.

#48) - Matt Cain
Age: 21
Position: Starting pitcher

Probably whose stock droped the most over the past
couple of months, so I will take a flyer. What he did
last year was for real, just like so many before him,
he needs to make adjustments. What he is going
through right now is what I expect Lester to have to
go through soon. He's young, with lots of development
time left.



FYI, your last picks were supposed to be 48 and 49, not 47 and 48.

Interesting points about prospects getting lost in the shuffle because of promotions. Two comments though: (1) I don't buy Jose Lopez no matter what you say. He may be having a nice season this year but he doesn't have the approach at the plate necessary to put up consistent numbers in the big leagues. I would bet anything his numbers drop a ton in the 2nd half of the season. He looks like a career .260 hitter to me, and it doesn't matter whether he was promoted early, late, whatever. (2) You're points about relative age are excellent, and I must concede that I hadn't really given it a whole lot of consideration. But, I also don't think its fair to judge a guy like Pence poorly because he is struggling upon promotion. He dominated young A ball pitchers as a 22 year as he should have. It is not uncommon for a guy to struggle when he gets promoted, in fact it is the norm with almost any prospect. Especially when teh promotion is from A to AA because A is where the newbies are, and AA is the league where all of a team's top prospects (read most talented) are. Inasmuch its not really fair to look at a guy like Pence and say he should be dominating AA at the age of 22 without looking into the circumstances of his promotion. That said, really an excellent point by you, but I am still not sold on Edwin Encarnacion. He doesn't have a particular skill to to hang his hat on. He might be one of those "jack of all trades, master of none" type hitters. I.e. someone like Raul Ibanez. One year he is hitting .300 with 18-20 HR, and the next he is hitting .270 with 25-30 HR. Ibanez is a nice player and all but he doesn't have a particular trait has a hitter that you know you can count on every season.

Quickly on your two picks. Cain is a good pick this late in the draft, although his stock has plummeted faster than anyone's in the history of baseball. I was very high on him at the beginning of the season (I did draft him in our redraft fantasy league), but his inability to be effective in the NL West is extremely worrisome. As for Molina, you might as well have burned that pick. Molina is by far the worst hitter of the three Molina brothers. Even if he improves drastically, what is his absolute ceiling? Probably what brother Bengie put up a couple seasons ago: .260 avg. 17 HR and an OBP of around .320. He is awesome defensively but I think you dropped the ball on this one.

#50) - Kurt Suzuki
Age: 22
Position: Catcher

This guy is 10 times the prospect Yadier Molina is, and I truly believe him to be the 2nd best catcher under the age of 23. I fell in love with Suzuki 2 seasons ago during the college world series when he was by far the best player on the field for either team. Suzuki played against top notch competition at Cal State Fullerton so I put a lot of stock in his numbers there. In the NCAA Suzuki was an on base machine posting OBP's of .523, .441, and .511 during his three seasons. He came to school as a walk on but turned himself into an absolute stud by his senior year. His senior year line says it all: 252 AB's, .413 avg, .511 OBP, .702 SLG, 16 HR, and an OPS of 1.213. Suzuki also made a really nice transition to the minor leagues putting up a combined .381 OBP between low and high A ball. He has also showed further power development with 12 HR. Suzuki is a protoypical Walter player, and that is not easy to find at the catcher spot. He has tremendous plate discipline, and is a real leader in the clubhouse. Suzuki is also a tremendous defensive catcher. Suzuki is a project but he has shown tremendous ability to improve (as he went from walk on to All American in college). While he won't ever be a hall of fame caliber player, expect him to be the type of guy every team wants for many seasons.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Random rants while still wondering what Dave Littlefield could have possibly demanded in return for Kip Wells to make Theo walk away.................

Do you think that around 8:30 last night (right about the time David Wells was giving up his 8th run in 4+ innings) Johny Henry called up George Steinbrenner and conceded the division, only to call him back two hours later after the Ortiz home run:
Steinbrenner - "Let me make sure I understand. You're calling me back to retract your concession?"
Henry - "You don't have to get snippy about it......Let me explain something, your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this."
(comparing Steinbrenner and Henry to Bush and Gore..........good times)

Anyone else think Trot Nixon faked an arm injury so he wouldn't suffer the embarrasment of being traded at the deadline?

Wily Mo Pena has as many home runs in his last three at bats as Trot Nixon does in his last three weeks.

Which GM will be stupid enough to give Kyle Lohse a 3 year $18 million contract this offseason after he goes 6-1 with a 3.45 ERA down the stretch for the Reds? I'll say Jim Bowden.

Theo Epstein reminds me of that pathetic owner in fantasy baseball that everyone hates because he has an unwholesome attachment to the players he drafted, but still makes trade attempts by offering various combinations of waiver wire fodder.
John Schuerholtz: "OK we'll give you Andruw Jones for John Lester, Craig Hansen and Coco Crisp."
Theo Epstein: "I'll give you Rudy Seanez and David Pauley."
John Schuerholtz: "You know you can turn around a trade Andruw to Houston for Roy Oswalt right?"
Theo Epstein: "Fine, Seanez, Pauley and Kaston Gabbard."

If Theo Esptein was Scott Baio, his signing of David Ortiz would be the equivalent of Baio's getting the lead role in "Charles in Charge." Just inexplicable dumb luck leading to what is (incorrectly) percieved to be a successful career.

Not to pile on Theo Epstein too much, but when Kyle Snyder is prominently involved in your best move of the past year, well that's not a good thing.

Now I am piling on, but has there ever been a GM worse than Theo Epstein at signing free agent relievers? If Theo had his way, the Sox pen would comprise of: Rudy Seanez, Julian Tavarez, Chad Fox, Ramiro Mendoza, Jermaine Van Buren and Alan Embree, with BK Kim and Keith Foulke fighting over who gets to be closer. I mean would any lead be safe? Would that team be better off saving the money and just setting up a pitching machine?

Monday, July 31, 2006

All hail Papi

Thank God for David Ortiz!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The 323 - Preseason All Americans

Quarterback: Brady Quinn, Sr. Notre Dame

While I have been accused of having a flair for the dramatic (perhaps evidenced by my preseason ranking of Auburn #1), this selection is as pedstrian as they come. By no means do I intend to denigrate Mr. Quinn with this statement. If anything, it should be viewed as laudatory, serving notice that he is so far superior to all other quarterbacks in the nation so as to remove all doubt as to the 1st team all America selection. Brady Quinn is a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has the size to stand in the pocket, the arm to make every throw, and the intelligence to know where, and perhaps more importantly when, to deliver the football. With two years directing an NFL style offense under the tutelage of Charlie Weis, we may be looking at the most NFL ready college quarterback since Peyton Manning.

NFL Comparison - Jim Kelly

Runner Up - Drew Stanton, Sr. Michigan State

Stanton is my favorite college QB. His toughness, mobility, and improvisation reminds me of Matt Hasselbeck. He thrives against the best competition, and revels in carrying his team.

Running Back: Adrien Peterson, Jr. Oklahoma

Another essential position, another obvious selection. To be perfectly blunt, Peterson is the most natural rusher I have ever seen. Every run of his is a work of art, whether it's a short burst up the middle, or Oklahoma's patented stretch sweep which he runs better than anyone this side of Larry Johnson. Peterson is so fluid on the field, and plays the game so effortlessly that even a football novice would recognize his greatness almost immediately. Sure Peterson has the size and the speed, but more importantly he has a seemingly preternatural understanding of the running back position. Not only does Peterson have the vision and patience to wait for a play to develop, but he has the instincts to delay his cut or slightly alter his route to the hole to give his blockers better angles on defenders. Despite his tremendous size (6'2'') and powerful build (220 lbs.), Peterson has the ability to never get hit squarely by a defender and avoid most of the punishment that shortens the careers of tall backs (see George, Eddie; Campbell, Earl). Should he enter the NFL draft after this season, he would most likely be the number one pick overall.

NFL Comparison - Eric Dickerson

Runner Up - Garrette Wolfe, Sr. Northern Illinois

With all due respect to the more talented backs like Marshawn Lynch, Steve Slaton, and Michael Bush, I have to give some love to the MAC and it's best (and perhaps littlest) player. Wolfe is a Warrick Dunn clone, though he does not catch as many passes as the Seminole great.

Wide Receivers: Dwayne Jarrett, Jr. USC; Jeff Samardzjia, Sr. Notre Dame

Assuming he is academically eligible to play, Jarrett might be the best overall offensvie player in the country not named Peterson. Jarrett is a massive target (6'5'') and as physical a receiver as there is in the country. His stature and production beg comparisons to former USC receiver Mike Williams, although Jarrett's production and work ethic in his two seasons for the men of Troy indicate that he is a far better NFL prospect. Though he has had some off the field issues this offseason, between the lines Jarrett is everything a coach could want and plays hard on every down (as evidenced by his excellence as a downfield blocker). It will be interesting to see how Jarrett performs without his partner in crime Matt Leinart, although he and alter-ego Steve Smith could make me look decent at QB.

NFL Comparison - Michael Irvine

Samardzjia is another huge target (6'5'', 220 lbs.) who is coming off a wildly productive 2005 season. Unlike Jarrett, Samardzjia was resigned to the bench for his first two seasons in South Bend before exploding as a junior. As such, he is not nearly as polished as Jarrett when it comes to route running and reading defensive backs. However, Samardzjia is just as physical going after the ball as Jarrett is, and may possess the best hands in all of college football. Because he lacks elite speed, Samardzjia is at his best against zone defenses and may open his NFL career as a slot reciever. However, the more he plays the more he will learn to use his size against smaller defensive backs in man coverage and truly become a complete reciever.

NFL Comparison - Cris Carter

Runner Up - Calvin Johnson, Jr. Georgia Tech

A better blend of size (6'4'', 235 lbs.) and speed (4.4) than either Jarrett or Samardzjia, Johnson just misses because he has not produced as consistently as either. That said, physically he projects as the best NFL prospect, although his inconsistency begs the question of whether he is more Terrell Owens, or JJ Stokes.

Tight End: Joe Newton, Sr. Oregon State

While Juniors Zach Miller (Arizona State) and Greg Olsen (Miami) get most of the attention, it is Newton who is the most complete TE in the nation. Newton was outstanding as a Sophomore catching 56 balls for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns, but seems to get lost in the shufle of promising tight ends because he missed all of last season with a leg injury. Newton is massive at 6'7'' and 260 lbs. He does not have great speed, but he catches everything thrown his way and is a better blocker than most tackles. Newton will never put up eye popping combine numbers like Vernon Davis or Tony Gonzalez, but he is the type of player that winning teams rely on.

NFL Comparison - Dave Casper

Runner up - Brian Leonard, Sr. Rutgers

Technically Leonard is a fullback, but he deserves mention on this all America team. A rugged runner with deceptive speed, Leonard contributes in every aspect of the game (blocking, running, and catching). He executes screen passes as well as anyong since Keith Byars.

Tackles: Joe Thomas, Sr. Wisconsin; Levi Jones, Sr. Penn State

Thomas is a prototypical left tackle with his 6'8'' frame, and long arms to keep defensive lineman away from his body. He is a shade over 300 pounds, but is not really an overpowering run blocker in the mold of an Anthony Munoz. Thomas has outstanding balance and footwork which helps him excel in pass protection, the most important trait for the man guarding the quarterback's blind side. A former defensive lineman, Thomas knows all the defensive techniques and pass rush moves, and he has the instincts to anticipate counter moves and defensive line stunts. Joe Thomas projects as a long term left tackle in the NFL.

NFL Comparison - Gary Zimmerman

Whereas Joe Thomas should be described as more of a technician, Levi Jones in an old school road paver at left tackle. At 6'5'' 330 lbs., Jones is one of the biggest and most powerful lineman in America. While he lacks Thomas' elite pass protection skills, Jones is a true mauler in the running game who can hold his own against the best pass rushers in the nation. As the lone returning starter along the offensive line, Jones will be asked to carry the load for the Nittany Lions this season. Jones projects as a capable left tackle in the NFL, though his size and lack of ideal footwork may cause him to struggle against the new bread of NFL speed rushing ends/linebackers. I would not be suprised to see Jones shift to the right tackle spot where he can used his power and nastiness to dominate in the running game.

NFL Comparison - Jon Runyan

Runner Up - Justin Blalock, Sr. Texas

Blalock is a bit overrated in my opinion, but still remains one of the top lineman in the nation. He is big and strong, but struggles in space like almost all recent Texas o-lineman (see Davis, Leonard; Williams, Mike). Blalock will most likely have to play guard in the NFL but projects similar to former Longhorn Leonard Davis.

Guards: Josh Beekman, Sr. Boston College; Mike Jones, Sr. Iowa

Like all BC lineman, Beekman is a poweful, nasty, and smart blocker. While many believe his permanent position is center, I love Beekman as a long term left guard in the NFL. While Beekman is an outstanding run blocker, what makes him a top flight prospect are his left tackle caliber pass protection skills. At 325 lbs., Beekman is strong enough to stalemate even the most powerful defensive tackles, and he possesses uncanny balance and footwork for a guard.

NFL Comparison - Chris Snee

Jones is not quite as powerful as Beekman (who is), but at 308 lbs. he is certainly no slouch. Jones' best attribute is his intelligence, as he lined up at both tackle spots for the Hawkeyes last season before settling at guard. While it is possible that Jones could play tackle in the NFL, he should be a dominant guard, capable of playing in any system. Look for Jones to start from day 1 in the NFL, as he has been the beneficiary of four years of coaching from one of the best offensive line coaches on the planet in Iowa head man Kirk Ferentz.

NFL Comparison - Mike Wahle

Runner Up - Ken Quarterman, Sr. Louisville

My favorite O-Lineman in the nation, Qarterman is dominant inside at 6'5'' and 336 lbs. Easily the best straight ahead run blocker in the nation, Quarterman projects as an NFL right guard in the mold of former Viking David Dixon.

Center: Dan Mozes, Sr. West Virginia

While there are no truly dominant centers in America this season, Mozes gets the nod based on his consistency and leadership. Mozes has been a four year starter for the mountaineers, and is excellent in space taking on quicker linebackers. At only 290 lbs. Mozes can struggle at times with more powerful defenders. While he has played some guard for Rich Rodriguez in the past, Mozes is much more suited for the center position where he can sift through at the point of attack and take on scraping linebackers.

NFL Comparison - Mark Stepnoski

Runner Up - Ryan Kalil, Sr. USC

Another veteran leader, Kalil is a technically sound center who does not possess incredible natural power or explosion. However, he has bulked up to 285 lbs. and his coaches love his wortk ethic and intelligence. He looks like a late round pick who could find himself as an NFL starter by the end of his rookie season. His profile fits that of a Dan Koppen type.

Defensive Ends: Gaines Adams, Sr. Clemson; Adam Carriker, Sr. Nebraska

At 6'3'' and 265 lbs. Adams is the prototypical college "tweener". Lucky for him, he plays on a loaded Clemson front seven, which allows the coaching staff to move him between end and linebacker (technically called the "bandit" position). Adams is a pure disrupter, posting 55 tackles and 9.5 sacks last season. His 15 tackles for a loss and 29 quarterback pressures in 2005 evidence his adept ability to play on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Because of his smallish frame and outstanding speed, Adams projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Though he will need to learn to play more consistently in pass coverage, there is little doubt that he has the speed, quickness, and agility to develope into a top flight curl-flat defender.

NFL Comparison - Roosevelt Colvin

Though not blessed with the pure talent of Adams, Carriker is a far more complete defensive end, and one of the best all around defensive players in the nation. Not only is Carriker one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 (9.5 sacks in 2005), but he is also stout against the run. Built like an offensive tackle, Carriker stands 6'6'' and 295 lbs. He is exceptional at leveraging his body and maintaining the outside by keeping offensive lineman off of him, making it almost impossible to run sweep plays to his side. Carriker owns a non-stop motor, which is typical of Nebraska defensive lineman. He projects as a dominant defensive end in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 system.

NFL Comparison - Trevor Pryce

Runner Up - Quentin Moses, Sr. Georgia

The 6'4'' 250 lbs. Moses is the best pure pass rusher in the nation. However, his slight frame and tendency to get upfield make him somewhat of a liability against the run. He will probably be chosen too high in the NFL draft as he projects as another in the long line of one dimensional, speed rushing defensive ends such as Jevon Kearse, and Leonard Little.

Defensive Tackles: Quinn Pitcock, Sr. Ohio State; Brandon Mebane, Sr. California

Pitcock is not your typical Ohio State tackle. He doesn't rack up huge numbers like Ryan Pickett, or Dan Wilkinson, but he is every bit as valuable. In 2005 Pitcock consistently ate up 2 or even 3 blockers, allowing the Buckeyes' star studded linebacking corpse to run around and make plays. With AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Anthony Schlegl all playing in the NFL, it would not be suprising to see Jim Tressel ask Pitcock to make more plays in the backfield (something he is more than capable of doing). At 6'3'' and 300 lbs., Pitcock is a true run stuffing tackle. He has adequate speed to play the 3-4 end in the NFL, but projects as more of a 1 technique tackle in a 4-3 defense.

NFL Comparison - Rod Coleman

Though he is bigger than Pitcock, Mebane is a protoype 3 technique, pentrating tackle. At 6'3'' and 306 lbs. with tremendous quickness, Mebane is built like a 3-4 defensive end. His 7 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2005 only serve to further emphasize Mebane's ability to wreak havoc in the opposing backfield. With a more talented California defense surrounding him in 2006, Mebane should be able to put up much more dominant numbers and establish himself as the premier pass rushing tackle in the country.

NFL Comparison - Kevin Williams

Runner Up - Jay Alford, Sr. Penn State

While I love his game, Alford just misses because of his slight size (only 6'2'', 280 lbs.). Alford is probably quicker than any other tackle in the country, and is an excellent pass rusher. Unless he makes the move to defensive end in the NFL, he projects as a situational pass rusher in the mold of Jarvis Green. Although the same thing was said about another 6'2'' 280 lbs. tackle coming out of college......John Randle.

Middle Linebacker: Patrick Willis, Sr. Mississippi

Willis flies under the radar since he plays for Ole' Miss., but he has proven to be one the best players in the entire SEC. Willis lacks elite speed and is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker at 6'2'' and 230 lbs. Still, he is a tackling machine and a ferocious hitter. Willis is outstanding at reading keys and anticipating the play. He plays under control so he rarely overpursues and is almost never out of position. Willis is a smart enough player that with time he could develop into an adequate pass defender, making him a 3 down linebacker in an NFL 4-3 scheme.

NFL Comparison - London Fletcher

Runner Up - HB Blades, Sr. Pittsburgh

Blades has been a highly productive linebacker at Pitt, twice earning all Big East honors. Blades started his career as a strong side outside linebacker, but shifted to middle in 2005. He has the speed and size to make all the plays, although his is not as polished as Willis. Blades projects as a strong side NFL linebacker in the mold of Jamie Sharper.

Outside Linebackers: Paul Posluszny, Sr. Penn State; Rufus Alexander, Sr. Oklahoma

Posluszny, the reigning Butkus Award winner, is flat out the best defensive player in America. He is blessed with the size (6'2'' 230 lbs.), speed (4.5), and smarts you want in your defensive leader. Had he not hurt his knee in last year's Orange Bowl, he would have been an early first round pick and should be a man among boys playing in the college game this season. The most impressive thing about Posluszny, though, is his ability to stay within the scheme and still make as many tackles as he does. Unlike former Nittany Lion Lavar Arrington, Posluszny never freelances, and always finds himself in the right position. He has great closing speed, and is the best backside pursuit linebacker I have seen.

NFL Comparison - Jesse Armstead

Physically, Alexander is similar to, perhaps even a step ahead of, Posluszny. At 6'3'', 230 lbs. he has the frame to add more weight should an NFL wish to move him to the strong side or into the middle. However, if I drafted him I would leave him on the weak side where his tremendous speed and instincts allow him to roam free and make plays in the backfield. The only area where Alexander's game is lacking is discipline. While he made a mind-boggline 17 tackles for a loss last season, Alexander can get caught out of position by patient runners. With so many zone blocking schemes in the NFL, Alexander is going to have to learn how to play the cutback better. He could learn a thing or two from Posluszny.

NFL Comparison - Takeo Spikes

Runner Up - Sam Oljabutu, Sr. Arkansas

At 5'9'' and 230 lbs., Oljabutu is a kamikaze on the football field. He is a ferocious hitter who plays with a chip on his shoulder. A great college player, he reminds me a lot of former Clemson standout Keith Adams who has carved out a niche for himself in the NFL as a special teams gunner and occasional nickel linebacker.

Cornerbacks: Antoine Cason, Jr. Arizona; Daymeion Hughes, Sr. California

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cason is the second Stoops coached player on my preseason all America defense. Cason is not as high a profile player as Oklahoma's Rufus Alexander, but then again Mike Stoops is not as high profile a coach as his brother Bob. Though his teams have struggled record wise, Mike Stoops has quietly turned the University of Arizona into a very formidable opponent. Like his elder brother, Mike Stoops relies on a hard hitting, physical defense to torment the opposition. Cason fits that mold perfectly. A tremendous athlete, Cason is one of the few cornerbacks in America capable of playing both man-to-man coverage and zone. He has safety like tackling skills, racking up 120 stops in his first two seasons in Tuscon. Playing in the "air it out" Pac-10, Cason has had to develope quickly and projects as an NFL corner, ready to start from Day 1.

NFL Comparison - Antoine Winfield

Hughes is probably the most physically gifted cornerback in America. Blessed with outstanding size at 6'2'' and 180 lbs., Hughes has the athletic ability to dominate most opponents in man-to-man coverage. Though he can struggle in zone at times, there is no reason to think that Hughes cannot improve on his recognition skills will more time. You can teach a player to read coverages in a zone, you can't teach the kind of athletic ability Hughes sports. Though he is not as sure a tackler as Cason, Hughes never shies away from contact and is willing to come up in run support. If Hughes is drafted into the right NFL system, he could blossom into an absolute superstar lock-down corner.

NFL Comparison - Shawn Springs

Runner Up - Leon Hall, Sr. Michigan

Hall gets the nod because of his overall potential. At 5'11'' and 190 lbs. Hall is a compact corner in the mold of former Wolverines Ty Law and Marlin Jackson. While Hall has the potential to be the best cover corner in the country, he has yet to show that he can consistently play at a high level. How Hall harnesses his ability this season will determine whether he develops into a perennial all-pro like Ty Law, or a disappointment like Jackson.

Free Safety: Brandon Meriweather, Sr. Miami

I remember watching Miami-FSU early last season, and wondering who the Miami kid was who was flying all over the field making plays. I also remember wondering why the Seminols didn't go away from him. Well the player was Brandon Meriweather, and the reason they didn't go away from him was they couldn't. Technically a strong safety at Miami, Meriweather has the speed and instincts to play either safety spot. Meriweather may not be as flashy as former Hurricane Ed Reed, or as big of a hitter as Sean Taylor, but I prefer his game to either. Too often safety prospects are overrated because they make big interceptions like Reed, or big hits like Taylor. Meriweather is a steady safety, who may not make as many interceptions as Reed, but is far superior in deep coverage (Reed's highlight reel interceptions mask his shortcomings covering the deep pass). Similarly, Meriweather is not a 235 lbs. behemoth like Taylor, but he is a willing, sure tackler who knows his role as last line of defense. Overall, Meriweather is a technically sound safety who just makes plays.

NFL Comparison - Darren Sharper

Strong Safety: Tom Zbikowski, Sr. Notre Dame

While Zbikowski does not have the natural ability of some of the other defensive backs in the country, he more than makes up for it in leadership and toughness. A part time boxer, Zbikowski is easliy the best player on a weak Irish defense and probably the toughest player in the nation. While he can struggle in coverage at times, there is no denying that he is one of the surest tacklers in the nation and is never afraid to stick his nose into a fray. Like Meriweather, he is a smart player who uses his instincts and desire to make up for his less than adequate speed. Comparing him to John Lynch may be a bit generous, but Zbikowski is smart enough and tough enough to succeed as a cover 2 strong safety in the NFL.

NFL Comparison - the late Pat Tillman

Runner Up - Mike Griffin, Sr. Texas

Griffin earns the nod by a hair over LSU's LaRon Landry because of his versatility. Like former Longhorn great Mike Huff, Griffin can line up at either safety spot, corner, and can even cover the slot man in a nickel set. To think that the Longhorns had the trio of him, Huff, and Cedric Griffin in the same secondary last season is scary.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Predicting the future part 3 (picks 22-31)


Fielder is a decent pickup here because of his power potential. I would like him better if he didn't strike out so much but I if he develops properly that should become less of a factor (as you said, walks often follow power). I like the McCann pick less. Its true that he is raking right now, but if you look at his minor league numbers it appears to be kind of a fluke. He never hit higher than .290 in the minors (and that was in single A), and struck out nearly twice as often as he walked. He does have some nice power potential as a catcher, as evidenced by his 15 HR season in high A ball, but to me he projects more as a Jason LaRue type (.250 average but some pop to hit 20 HR). We'll see though, overally he was the safest catching pick left (this analysis emphasizes the reasons for picking Mauer so early).

#22) - Stephen Drew
Age: 23
Position: SS

Despite the hype surrounding this kid, I absolutely love him college numbers. At Florida State, Drew absolutely destroyed the ACC (the best league in college baseball top to bottom) for two seasons posting OBP's of .457 and .458 while displaying some pretty solid power potential (33 HR in 2 seasons). The D-Backs have had nothing but praise for him as he has skyrocketed through their entire system in under a year. To me, Drew projects as a Michael Young type. He is going to hit for a high average (above .300) and provide some limited pop (maybe 20-25 HR) while playing adequate SS (he'll make the plays he gets to). The way my team is composed, I would not be shocked if Drew ended up as the leadoff hitter.

#23) - Yusmeiro Petit
Age: 21
Position: SP

I was almost scared away from this pick by his disastrous start to a AAA career (0-3, 9.20 ERA). But Petit is only 21 (even though it seems like he has been around forever) and has put up outstanding numbers at his other minor league stops. He had a similar run in AA where he struggled a bit during his fist few starts but settled down to put up numbers worthy of one of the top pitching prospects in the game. In his final 21 starts at the AA level Petit went 9-2 with an other worldly 130:18 K:BB ratio in 117 innings. Those numbers alone were enough to get me to take a chance on this kid.


I would jump on you because of the Petit pick, because I know you are feeling a little insecure about it right now, but to be honest, I almost took him in that round and I think it is a good decent pick. You just have to hope the scouts are wrong and he did not top out in AA.

Drew is a good pick, I would have taken him a lot earlier if I didn't already draft two shortstops. It may be rose coloured glasses but their certaintly seem to be a ton of great infield prospets on the left side of the infield. It will be very interesting to see how they pan out, especially since this is the first generation of prospects I feel I have a good grasp on.

#24) - Ervin Santana
Age: 23
Position: Starting Pitcher

#25) - Matt Kemp
Age: 21
Position: OF (LF)

Both have question marks, both putting up good seasons. Kemp was detroying AA, moved up to AAA and hit a bit, along with a cup of coffee. Used to be rated below Pence, but is younger and producing at a higher level, if striking out a bit more.


Two solid picks by you. Santana has been on my radar for a while because he has proved himself on the major league level. However, my hesitation with him was that what he had proved was that he was a solid middle of the rotation starter and not really an ace. Overall another solid/safe pick for your pitching staff (along with Liriano and Bonderman). I think the ironic thing is that you are making the safer selections and I am opting for younger guys like Hughes and Petit. Kemp is a similar pick. He was also on my radar but I just wasn't overwhelmed by his overall minor league numbers. He is not a patient hitter and strikes me as very streaky. I am trying to build my lineup to be tough outs top to bottom to really wear on a pitcher. Kemp definitely has the talent and is a great value for you at this spot in the draft, he just didn't really fit into what I am trying to do.

#26) - Dustin Pedroia
Age: 22
Position: 2B

As a converted SS at 2B, Pedroia gives me a third excellent defensive player up the middle (the weak link being Drew). While there are a ton of good middle infielders available (Weekes, Barfield, Cano, Kendrick), Pedroia is clearly the guy who my philosphy favors. Whereas the others strike me as free swinging singles hitters for the most part (especially Kendrick, who I think is the most overrated prospect in MLB), Pedroia is an on base machine (career .398 minor league OBP) who walks more than he strikes out. Pedroia has even shown some power at the AA level, blasting 8 HR and 19 doubles in only 256 AB's. He is never going to content for a batting crown, but he should perrenially be a leader in OBP for second baseman. I just love his approach at the plate (and I know Donny does as well).

#27) - Carlos Quentin
Age: 23 (just barely)
Position: OF

Ironic that my fourth OF may yet be the most polished hitter (even more so than Major Leaguers Sizemore and Hermida). Quentin can flat out rake, though he cannot play defense the way my three starters can. Still, at this point in the draft I can't pass up on a solid all around hitter like Quentin. His career minor league numbers say it all: .316 avg., .428 OBP, .534 SLG. That he blasted 21 HR in 136 games at AAA demonstrates that he has the power to drive the ball to all fields. Quentin doesn't possess the upside of guys like Delmon Young and Jeremy Hermida, but he should be a regular all-star for many years to come.

Pedroia and Quentin are both safe OBP guys. Your team is definitely going to have a tremendous ability to get on base. Whereas I picked a bunch of free swingers with power. I guess the difference here is that I know power translates from the minors, and doesn't go away, whereas some guys who get on base tons in the minors just can't do it against major
league pitching and *poof*, all of a sudden they are putting up 260/320/400 lines, which is not what you want. The downside of my guys may be that 320 OBP but they got the 500 slugging to go with it. On the other hand, I think at this point you have a bit more upside, because if enough of those guys do translate into the bigs, and a couple find power, which is certainly possible (although I am beginning to think it is less likely for those two).

If you take a look at the Arizona AAA team, something will stick out at you pertaining to Quintin, he is like 6th(!) on his team in HRs. He's got a 427 OBP to go with it, and 30 doubles, but his IsoPow is only 200 in a tremendous hitting environment. I really don't think the homer power is coming any time soon.

Not to be too negative, because I like both of them a lot, but notice to temper expectations.

Onto my picks:

#28) - Andy Marte
Age: 22
Position: 3B

I have no idea how many third basemen I have drafted so far, but you know what, it doesn't matter, they can all swing the bat. I have said it a million times, but I really think the Sox are going to regret the Coco trade. You just don't trade away guys who are one season away from being top 5 prospect material.
In fact it is a little shocking he has fallen this much.

#29) - Hanley Ramirez
Age: 22
Position: SS

Really, there is just a tremendous depth of talent at this position right now. The guy is young and producing at the major league level. Also had a power spike (9 HR!) which came out of nowhere. Guess the standard story, that he needed to be pushed, was right.


Some really good points by you about the draft so far. I think it is very intersting that we have both taken contrasting approaches to drafting our teams. I agree with what you are saying about guys losing the ability to get on base in the bigs, but I think most of the guys I have drafted don't fit into that category. I mean if a guy puts up .450 OBP's in college, then in low A, high A, AA, etc. you have to have faith that their approach is good enough to do it in the majors.

Two good picks by you, especially Marte. I cannot believe he fell this far and he might be the steal of the entire draft. The only thing I worry about with him is that we have been hearing how great he is for almost 5 seasons now. Why hasn't he gotten an opportunity to play in the majors? Is there something about him that we don't know? Plus he has been traded twice! Its just not the prototypical treatment a "can't miss" prospect gets. Hanley is a solid pick and will be a pretty good player (he fits right into your free swinging team) but I think you made an error by addressing backup infielders before addressing quality relief pitching.

#30) - Jonothan Broxton
Age: 22
Position: RP

A converted starter, Broxton has been lights out for the Dodgers this season as a setup man, so much that they believe he might be their opening day closer next season. Broxton is a huge man (6'4'' 280 lbs.) and has the stuff to match his size. He is a prototype reliever who has a dominating fastball-slider combination. Two other reasons he is a future dominant closer: (1) his control is better than you think - his career minor league ration was 3:1, and (2) he does not give up HR - he gave up only 12 in almost 300 minor league innings. Though he does not have Huston Street's poise and moxie, Broxton slides in nicely behind him.

#31) - Mike Pelfrey
Age: 22
Position: SP

Another young gun for my staff which I am falling in love with. It's not really possible to dominate more than Pelfrey did in the NCAA posting a 33-7 record over three seasons at Wichita State. There isn't much not to love about this kid. He has dominating stuff, strikes out about 5 times as many batters as he walks, and has looked pretty darn good in his two starts for the Mets this season. Plus he has the size to be a durable pitcher for a long time, and the length (6'7'') to not lose much on his fastball as he ages.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The 323 - Preseason College Football Top 10

As anyone who can read has no doubt already gleaned, both Donny and myself have an infatuation with baseball that borders on obsessive-compulsion. Sadly, I cannot even place baseball alone atop my list of vices that subsume my life, as our national pastime must share that mantel with our country's other great passion: football.

Both Donny and I played football together in high school, side by side in both the offensive and defensive trenches. Donny played for a year in college, while I have pursued a coaching career on the high school level for the past three seasons. In a word, there are few people in New England not named Belichick who know more about the game than I do. In the past 6 years have attended countless games, broken down days worth of game film, and have more blue books filled with offensive and defensive schemes than I know what to do with. If I may be as bold as I am arrogant, listen to what I have to say about the game. I know what I am talking about.

While I would never even dream of missing a Patriots game, as the title of this post indicates I love college football (323 references the number of wins for Bear Bryant, the greatest football coach of all time). What follows is my first attempt at a preseason top 10. However, it would be somewhat inaccurate to describe what follows as a true preseason poll as the teams are not ranked in order of skill, potential, or dominance, but rather in the order that I believe represents the likelihood each team possesses of making it to the championship game.

Methodology: So how did I come up with this rather unorthodox looking preseason top 10? And what does it mean? Well, as I explained earlier, the following poll lists the teams, in order, that possess the best chance of making it to the championship game. While many factors went into the equation that produced this list, essentially it can be boiled down to the reconciliation of a team's talent against its schedule.

Step #1 - I chose the 20 teams who are realistically in the discussion for the national championship this season. All of these teams came from the BCS conferences, because, frankly, as much as I love Fresno State, Boise State, and everyone from the MAC (by far my favorite college conference), those teams do not have a realistic opportunity to play for the BCS championship.

Step #2 - Based on a 12 game season, I flat out gave each of these 20 teams 8 wins over their 8 weakest opponents. This 8-0 record (7-0 for teams who only play 11 games) represents the best-case scenario for a team with national title aspirations. Basically, it assumes that each of these 20 teams is not going to lose a game that they are supposed to win. Now I concede that this is an imperfect science, but this list is all about comparative chances and not mathematical precision.

Step #3 - I determined the 4 most difficult opponents for each of the 20 teams based on four factors: (1) the strength of the opponent's returning players, (2) the strength of the opponent's recruiting class and/or transfers, (3) where the game is going to be played, and (4) any significant history between the two teams.

Step #4 - I made a list with each of the 20 teams in one column, and their 4 toughest opponents in an adjacent column. I then used process of elimination to divide the 20 teams into 4 categories: national title contenders who could realistically go undefeated, national title contenders despite the fact that they are likely to lose 1 game, teams that are likely to lose more than 1 game, and pretenders.

Step #5 - I arranged the teams in each category in the order which I believe best represents their preseason chances of going to the national championship game. This determination was based on the relative skill and talent of each team, and the relative difficulty of their 4 toughest games. Voila, a preseason top 10 that is likely to look different than any you have seen so far.

#1 - Auburn

Someone upstairs loves Auburn. The Tigers return a core group of players led by a potential All-SEC backfield comprising of Kenny Irons and Brandon Cox (one of the more underrated signal callers in the conference, if not the country). Though Auburn was hurt some by graduation and defection to the NFL, they return their two best offensive weapons, and their two best defensive players in converted safety Will Herring and CB David Irons.

What vaults this team into the top spot, though, is a schedule that has seemingly been touched by the hand of God. Of their 4 toughest opponents, the three best teams (LSU, Florida, and Georgia) have to travel to Auburn, and the games are spread out with at least two weeks in between each of these contests. The only difficult road game Auburn has this season will be the finale against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. While this game is always a war, this is not the magical Alabama team of last year. Auburn has the talent to dominate the Crimson Tide, and will be especially amped for the game if they enter it 11-0. Two games to watch out for: the opener against a strong Washington State team (although after losing the opener a season ago, my money is on Auburn demolishing the Cougars), and their Oct. 7 date with Arkansas (who is an SEC sleeper) which has the look of an obvious trap game the week before Florida comes to town. Tommy Tubberville has proven that he is one of the best in the business, and I say he has his troops ready each week.

#2 - Louisville

Another surprising selection, but perhaps they shouldn't be given their talent, conference, and schedule this season. Assuming star QB Brian Brohm is healthy, the Cardinals boast three of the best at their positions in all of college football in Brohm, RB Michael Bush, and most importantly head coach Bobby Petrino (who is, along with Dan Hawkins and Rich Rodriguez, one of the finest offensive minds in the college game today). Though the defense is not star studded, they always seem to get their explosive offense the ball just enough to win.

Like Auburn, Louisville has an amazingly favorable schedule. Of their four toughest games, only two are on the road: at Syracuse (a very poor team whose presence on the list of Lousiville's toughest games speaks to the decline of the Big East), and at Pittsburgh (who is maddeningly inconsistent). Home dates against clearly the two best teams they play all season, Miami (Sept. 16) and West Virginia (Nov. 2), will determine if Lousiville takes the next step towards becoming a national power. Louisville played inspired football at the Orange Bowl last season, serving notice that they would not be intimidated by Miami. The smart money is on Brohm and Co. taking care of Miami in Kentucky, setting the stage for a battle of unbeatens, and a possible spot in the national title game, when a very strong West Virginia team comes to town Nov. 2. Louisville gets the nod playing on its home turf.

#3 - USC

While it seems almost impossible to rank USC so high based on the amount of talent they lost to the NFL draft, it is even more impossible to think about how much talent they still have on this team. They still boast the best receiving duo in the nation in Dwayne Jarrett (who looks like a #1 overall pick if ever I saw one), and Steve Smith. The much-maligned defense should be much stronger this year with double digit sack man Lawrence Jackson, and as young and talented a LB corpse as there is in the country led by super Soph Rey Maualuga. While the loss of all of their backfield could potentially derail this dynasty, both John David Booty and Matt Sanchez were former #1 overall recruits (!!!!), so they clearly have the ability to succeed. The development of whichever one wins the starting QB battle will determine just how far USC falls this season (if at all).

Thanks to what appears to be a loaded Pac-10 this year, USC's schedule is by no means easy (road games at much improved Arizona, Washington State and Stanford will be a chore). It is, however, favorable in that their the two toughest opponents, Notre Dame and California, have to travel to the land of Troy. Even though ND and Cal represent two of the most offensively talented teams in the country, I have to believe that USC will be favored to win both of them based on their defensive superiority. Their other two toughest games, Nebraska at home and at UCLA, are tremendous steps down in terms of competition. Though I loved what Nebraska was able to do in the second half of last season, they are not ready to step on the field with the athletes USC can throw at them quite yet. Ditto for UCLA who appears to be heading backwards already, after a surprising 2005 season (although BYU transfer Ben Olson may be the most highly sought after QB by NFL teams by the end of the season). One other game that USC needs to watch out for: their opener at Arkansas. Houston Nutt is a fantastic coach and I think Arkansas could be a real sleeper in the SEC. Given that USC will be traveling across the country, and playing their first game in three seasons without Matt Leinart, it could have the making for an early season shocker.

#4 - West Virginia

A second Big East team in the top 4, how can that be? Well, it's easy. If the chips fall as they should and Louisville holds serve against Miami, they will meet on Nov. 2 for the Big East title and a shot at a national championship. While West Virginia's schedule is a joke, their team is far from one. RB Steve Slaton and QB Pat White form an explosive backfield, both capable of taking it to the house from anywhere on the field. Head coach Rich Rodriguez has installed the perfect offense for these two playmakers, and they should be even better with another year under their belts. The real question is going to be whether White can throw the ball more consistently if teams stack the line against Slaton. Sadly, save for their games against Louisville and maybe Pittsburgh, it won't matter.

There is no doubt that WVA has the easiest road to the BCS of any contending team. That said, its not as if there aren't landmines along the way (hence their #4 ranking). Aside from their trip to Louisville (where they will not be favored), WVA has to travel over 200 miles north to play a much improved UConn team (with a great coach who will be ready for them) and travel to Pittsburgh for their rivalry game known as "The Backyard Brawl." While WVA will be favored in both, the Mountaineers aren't balanced enough on either side of the ball to overcome a sub par performance on the road.

#5 - Notre Dame

While fifth might seem awful low for Notre Dame, to be honest I was hesitant to even rank them this high. Yes 2005 was a wonderful season for Notre Dame. And yes Charlie Weis is a great coach who has seemed to turn this program around. And yes they have the best offense on paper in the country. But for all the ballyhoo surrounding Notre Dame's "resurrection" last year, I find it interesting that they only beat one team of consequence the entire season (Michigan). In fact, Notre Dame received more accolades for almost beating USC than they did for any single win the entire season. I just wonder how well they will fare with a much tougher 2006 schedule.

All that said, the Irish offense is stacked. Brady Quinn is hands down the best QB in the country, and Jeff Samardzjia has transformed himself from a third or fourth college wideout into a top 10 NFL pick. Though they lost Marice Stovall to the NFL, many believe that his replacement, Rhema McKnight (who was actually starting over Samardzjia before getting hurt last season), may actually be a better natural receiver. While there is no arguing that the offense will put up world class numbers, I fail to see any improvement in a defense that was consistently outclassed last season, especially in the secondary. Safety Tom Zbikowski is a great player, but he is at his best near the line of scrimmage making tackles. The bottom line is that the Irish defense doesn't have anyone that can cover. They were torched last season by mediocre passing offenses such as Michigan State (44 pts), Ohio State (34 pts), and Stanford (31 pts). At some point, this defense is going to need to make some plays and I am not certain they can consistently do it.

As I referenced earlier, the Irish schedule is significantly more difficult this year. Two of their four toughest games require trips to teams that beat them last season (Michigan State and USC). While Notre Dame will probably be favored against the Spartans, Michigan State always seems to play up to (and down to) the level of their opponents. When the Irish travel to East Lansing they will be coming off a brutal opening schedule which includes home games against their other 2 toughest opponents: Penn State and Michigan (though they get both of them at home), and a season opening trip to Georgia Tech (who happen to have the best WR in the country not playing for the Irish in Calvin Johnson to test their secondary early and often). Add creative Michigan State QB Drew Stanton to the mix and that game has the makings of a potential shocker early in the season. If the Irish somehow manage to get through their early schedule without a loss, their finale at USC still looms. I cannot foresee any circumstances where Notre Dame would be favored in that game, although if they are playing for an undefeated season and a chance at the national title I wouldn't bet against them. Overall, Notre Dame just has too many difficult road games to be considered as a team likely to go undefeated.

#6 - Ohio State

Ohio State is in a nearly identical situation to Notre Dame. They possess all the talent in the world, but have as tough a schedule as you can find. Offensively, the Buckeyes look imposing. Troy Smith became a bonafide heisman contender last season, and Ted Ginn Jr. finally realized that he plays for a division 1A powerhouse. That said, 5 games does not a career make, and neither Smith nor Ginn have the pedigree that guys like Quinn and Samardzjia have. This could be troubling for Ohio State because they will need those guys to be dominant every game. The defense was decimated by graduation, especially to the LB corpse. OSU should be typically strong up front with all world DT Quinn Pitcock, but it has been four years since they played a game without AJ Hawk, and the OSU LB corpse is the most reconstructed unit in the nation. The defense could struggle early.

Like Notre Dame, Ohio State's schedule is murderous. Three of their four toughest games are on the road, including a trip to defending national champion Texas in the second week of the season (at Iowa and at Michigan State being the others). Its true that some guy named Vince Young is gone to the NFL, but Austin is a tough place to play no matter who they are trotting out there, and I would be shocked if OSU was not at least a field goal underdog in that game. The Buckeyes do catch a break, though, getting Michigan at home, but that's one of those rivalry games and it wouldn't be the first time that an undermanned Michigan team ruined Ohio State's season in the last game. Ohio State, like ND, has the ability to win each of those tough road games individually, however it’s hard to imagine that they could play all three without slipping up along the way.

#7 - Oklahoma

How quickly people forget just how good Adrian Peterson is. Taking absolutely nothing away from Brady Quinn, or Troy Smith, or Marshawn Lynch, Peterson is by far the most talented offensive player in the country. He alone is enough to carry Oklahoma into the top 10. However, Oklahoma is set up for a very nice bounce back season. QB Rhett Bhomar improved steadily over the course of last season, and Peterson's presence should do nothing but aid his development into a top flight college starter. But, aside from Peterson, the offense is not the strength of Oklahoma. Bob Stoops is an old school defensive coach and his 2006 defense may be his best since Oklahoma won the national title. Seniors Rufus Alexander and Larry Birdine are all America caliber players who should consistently dominate for the Sooners. Add CJ Ah You, Zach Latimer, and DJ Wolfe, and you can get the picture that this will not be a fun team to face in 2006.

While the personnel may be in place for another title run in 2006, the schedule is not. All four of the Sooners' toughest games are away from Norman: at Oregon, at Texas A & M, at Oklahoma State, and in Dallas against Texas. That's the bad news. The good news is that, but for Texas, none of these teams should be in the top 25 by the end of the season. Oregon should prove the toughest test, but the Sooners were able to beat them in the Holiday Bowl last season and have only gotten better. After being embarrassed in the Red River Shooutout last season, and then watching the UT band play "The Eyes of Texas" while Vince Young held the national title trophy, Oklahoma should be burning for their showdown with Texas in 2006. Adrian Peterson wasn't healthy for the game last season, if he is in 2006, the Sooners will probably be favored.

#8 - Miami

If it's possible, I think Miami is being a little bit underrated this season. Though they may not have some of the explosive athletes on offense as in years past, Miami has as much talent as any team in America. The Hurricane's season will really come down to 2 things: (i) how healthy is Tyrone Moss, and (2) whether Kyle Wright can develop into a more consistent player. If Moss is healthy he gives the Canes the offensive gamebreaker they lacked last season, and instantly becomes one of the top 5 backs in the country. As for Wright, he showed a lot of promise in his first season as a starter. He has a live arm, and showed he can be productive at times. In WR Ryan Moore, and "the next big thing" TE Greg Olsen, Wright has plenty of options. As usual, though, the strength of Miami will be their defense. They have the best set of safeties in the country in Brandon Meriweather (who I absolutely love as a football player) and Kenny Phillips. Add NFL quality lineman Baraka Atkins and Bryan Pata, and Canes should give up very few points once again.

Playing in the ACC, Miami has a very tough schedule, and that was before they signed on the play Louisville at Louisville. The good thing for Miami is that aside from their trip to Kentucky, they get Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech all at home, and should be favored in all three games. If Miami can somehow beat Louisville (which it's clear I don't think is going to happen), they will have the opportunity to hold serve at the Orange Bowl and play for a national title.

#9 - FSU

Like Miami, Florida State will get the opportunity to prove that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, since both teams' opportunity comes when they meet at the Orange Bowl on Sept. 4, only one will be able to prove the pundits wrong. To me, FSU looks like Miami's doppelganger. They are loaded on offense (whereas Miami is loaded on defense), but inexperienced on defense (whereas Miami is inexperienced on offense). Personally, I believe in Sophomore Drew Weatherford. He has the chops to be an excellent college passer, but more importantly he has the teammates. RB Lorenzo Booker steps into the lead role for the departed Leon Washington and should be as good running the ball while also adding something to the passing game. Weatherford also finds himself throwing to perhaps the most talented trio of WR in the nation in Greg Carr, Chris Davis and De'Cody Fagg. On the flip side, the FSU defense was hit hard by graduation. Losing Brod Bunkley, Ernie Sims, AJ Nicholson, and Antonio Cromartie represents an extreme exodus of talent. LB Buster Davis is a stud, as is DT Andre Fluellen. But for the most part, FSU will be relying on guys like Freshman Myron Rolle and Sophomore Tony Carter to get the ball back.

Florida State catches a break in that they play their toughest game of the year in week 1 at Miami. This gives them an opportunity to get extra preparation (which will be critical for the young players). Also, even if they lose, it gives the team ample time to climb back into the BCS picture. Outside of that game, the schedule is very favorable as FSU gets Clemson, BC and Florida all in Tallahassee.

#10 - California

It pains me to put Cal so low on this list because I have so much respect for Jeff Tedford, and I truly believe they are the most talented offense in the country (even more so than Notre Dame). RB Marshawn Lynch is the best back in the country not named Peterson, and Justin Forsett may also be in the top 5. QB Nate Longshore is unproven, but come on, we all know there is no better QB guru in the world than Tedford (See Rodgers, Aaron; Harrington, Joey; Smith, Akili). Add last season's #1 overall recruit Desean Jackson and Cal has an offense to rival anyone's.

That said, they have a very difficult schedule. As I have said already, I believe the Pac-10 is the most difficult conference in the nation this year, top to bottom. So much so that games against Arizona State, and at Washington State don't even make their top 4 toughest games. I may be giving Arizona too much credit, but I believe playing at Arizona is one of Cal's toughest games, although they should be favored going into Tuscon. Cal should also be favored when they travel across the country to play Tennessee, although the next easy game at Knoxville will be the first. I sincerely hope that Cal can somehow navigate their Pac-10 season undefeated until Nov. 11 when they head to USC as the last team to beat the Trojans on their turf. If both teams enter that game undefeated, the winner could find themselves playing for a national title.

Just Missed:

Clemson - I love this team to be a big time sleeper this season. They have top 10 talent but road games at BC, Florida State and Virginia Tech are just too much to overcome.

Nebraska - Again, I love what Bill Callahan has done, and they should take the weak Big 12 North. However they look like they are a year away, especially with games at USC, at Oklahoma State, and at Texas A & M.

Georgia - Will probably start the season 8-0, raising hopes in Athens, before dropping at least 2 of their last 4 which includes visits from Florida and Georgia Tech, and a trip to Auburn.

Michigan - Talented team, but I would be surprised if they didn't drop at least two of their three road games at Notre Dame, Penn St., and Ohio State.

Not Even Close:

Texas - Possibly the toughest 4 games of anyone in the country: Ohio State at home, Oklahoma in Dallas, at Nebraska, and at Texas Tech. And losing VY hurts a little bit too.

LSU - At Auburn, at Florida, and at Tennessee. They also didn't do themselves any favors by scheduling the always tough Pat Hill coached Fresno State Bulldogs.

Florida - At Auburn, at Florida State, at Georgia, and LSU at home. For a soft team to begin with this looks like way too much to overcome. Seeing as they also go to Tennessee, and get Alabama and South Carolina in Gainesville, this looks like a 6-5 team to me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Predicting the future part 2 (picks 12-21)


Well, I went through the same thought process, and was about to pull the trigger on Kazmir, but then I looked at his break out year in comparison to Bonderman's and I came to some obvious conclusions. Bonderman strikes out less guys, but 119/35 in 125 IP is just better than 125/45 in 115 IP. So what, he Ks fewer guys. He walks less and 8.6 K/9 aint too shabby anyway, and remember dominance is more about relative strike out ability (K/BB) than ability to strike guys out (K/9). If you consider that Kazmir walk more guys and thus probably faces more batters, I bet their K rates are closer than you would think at first. I’m not bashing Kaz just saying when you consider the difference in experience, history and yes age (which I think is good for Bonderman because he is closer to being out of the period where young pitchers break down) then Bonderman is the choice.

Wood has some K issues, but they are getting better and he is the number one power prospect in the game, and he plays shortstop, so I think I will let passable SS defence slide especially when you see…

#12) Jose Reyes
Age: 23
Position: Shortstop (potentially moving Wood to 2B)

Ok I am going to pull a bait and switch and move Wood to 2B and stick Reyes in at SS. There is a very high likelihood that his current 350/500 hitting is a fluke, but you never know, guys who make it to the majors very young, well there is usually a reason. Add in his statistically great defence and this is a risky pick I am willing to take.

#13) Jered Weaver
Age: 23
Starting pitcher

Ok this could end up looking pretty stupid down the line, but I think this might be a guy who the scouts just missed on. They said he was an extreme fly ball pitcher, but, hey keep him out of Chicago and maybe he might just make it. Weaver had comparable stats to Prior in college, but played in a weaker conference, and now he is looking like a latter day Prior in a brief stint in the majors. Speaking of upside, I am going to take him here, which would have seemed extremely high in the offseason, on the hope that he is going to fullfill his brothers promise.


Two interesting picks by you. Reyes was a guy I had my eye on for later in the draft. The best word I can think of to describe Reyes' game is dynamic. He definitely passes the Walter "my two eyes" test because of his speed and abilitiy to just make things happen on the field. That said, he doesn't hit for any power, and is more of a singles hitter than anything else. He belongs at the top of an order, but he strikes out too much and walks to little to leadoff. He is an incredibly talented player but would not fit into what I want in a baseball team (or you, I am surprised you picked him to start for your team at SS). Oh and he is marvelous defensively. Wood can move to 2B but you are looking at a team very weak defensively up the middle (outside of Reyes).

Weaver is a real interesting pick. He reminds me a lot of his brother who I always thought had a chance to be a perrenial all star. The problem with Jeff, though, was that his stuff just wasn't good enough. Once guys got used to his herky-jerky motion he became eminently hittable. I could see that happening to Jered also, although his delivery is a bit more deceptive than big brother and his stuff is a little better. You've got to be encouraged by his college numbers though. True he didn't play in the Pac-10 like Prior, but he put up a 10:1 K:BB ratio his senior year which is impressive at any level. Risky pick, but an interesting one.

#14) - Daric Barton
Age: 20
Position: 1B

Another real risky pick because of his age (I guess I'm no longer gravitating towards guys who have proved it on the ML level huh?) but I am absolutely in love with his numbers. In 4 full minor league seasons he has never put up an OBP less than .410. He has shown unbelievable plate discipline while walking over 30 times more than he has struck out in his minor league career.....And he is only 20 years old. I know that his power is going to come along slowly, but he is going to hit a ton of doubles and get on base enough that it will be worth it. Even still, it's a bit risky taking a 20 year old 1B who projects to only about 25 HR per season.

#15) - Delmon Young
Age: 20
Position: OF

Unbelievable potential here (especially power) despite not having the type of numbers the other hitters I have chosen have. Plus he's a total asshole but whatever. Delmon had one of the finest 1st seasons in pro ball ever hitting .320 with 25 HR and 115 RBI in 131 games for Tampa's single A affiliate. I am a bit worried about his strikeout rate but his raw power potential is just too high to ignore. He is a potential triple crown candidate and projects to the next level as an Alberte Belle type. I would not be surprised to see him put up a 50 HR-50 2B season at some point in his career........Although I also wouldn't be shocked if he were out of baseball before he turned 32 (like Belle). Still Alberte Belle was the offensive force in baseball for almost 8 years. Delmon Young has the potential to dominate this league and my team could definitely use someone to produce some runs behind all my high OBP guys.


How can I be weak up the middle when I only have 2 out of the four picked?

As for your picks, I understand the Barton pick, but I cannot agree with it. Aside from being too high, I am not convinced his HR power will magically appear. Remember walks follow power, not the other way around.

Ok quickly, my next two...

#16) - Chris Young
Age: 22
Position: CF

You were right I needed some help up the middle, and I think I go a way to fixing it here. Prototypical power/speed guy in the minors right now, and whose upside is Cameron without the strikeouts. I'll take it. He is hitting well in Tuscon right now, but then again, so is everyone so it is hard to distinguish how good he has been.

#17) - Justin Verlander
Age: 23
Position: Starting pitcher

I am not convinced he is going to be as good as this, especially when the lack of strikeouts catch up with him. But according to scouts, and you, he definitely has the stuff to convert it into Ks. Look for him to wear down a little as he extends his innings count.



Two good picks by you. One note on Barton though, I admit that he is very young and its a risky pick, but his upside is 2006 Bobby Abreu. Whether he develops power or not Barton should be a .400 OBP machine.

Good pick with Chris Young, although could be a bit early. I think Mike Cameron without the K's is a good comparison, but I guess I'm not certain if that is a good thing. There are still OF's with far more upside. You do realize Delmon Young was picked with the preceeding selection. As for Verlander I agree with everything you said. His stuff is wicked nasty but he is gonna dip a lot in the 2nd half. If Verlander becomes a dominant pitcher it will be by striking guys out (which he is definitely capable of doing) not by doing what he has so far.

#18 - Jeremy Hermida
Age: 22
Position: RF

Prototypical Walter pick. High OBP, tons of walks, not a ton of HR power. Anyone who can walk 100 times in the minors is OK by me. 255 career minor league walks in under 400 games works for me. Right now he could be a 20 HR guy but I doubt he will develop more power than that. I project Hermida as a Brian Giles type right now, but he has the skills to develop a bit more power and better defense.

#19 - Huston Street
Age: 22
Position: Relief pitcher

By far the best under 23 closer in the game. With all due respect to Craig Hansen, Huston Street is the only guy who has proven he can consistenty close the door in the ninth inning. Though he hit a rough patch earlier this season, he has rebounded nicely and I don't think there is any cause for concern. Owns a career MLB WHIP under 1, ERA at 2.18, and a sterling 111:35 K:BB ratio. Two concerns that I do have, though, are (1) he doesn't have truly dominating stuff, and (2) he is an extreme fly ball pitcher. That said, in his ML career he has almost struck out a batter per inning. As for being a fly ball pitcher, that is the MO of most closers (when was the last time you saw a sinkerballer close out a game), and if he stays in the spacious Oakland Coliseum being a flyball pitcher will actually help him. Bottom line is that Street is a top 10 MLB closer right now and he is only 22 years old (that's 3 years younger than Papelbon for those of you paying attention). When he retires we might be talking about him as the greatest closer ever.



good pick on Street, proven young pitcher. People at work are being suspicious so I will keep this brief.

#20) - Prince Fielder
Age: 22
Position: 1B

Ok I know you aren't supposed to pick firstbasemen this high, and that you can basically make a first basemen out of anyone else, but I going with the 'take the best player available' in this part of the draft.

#21) - Brian McCann
Age: 22
Position: Catcher

Well, if I cannot get the defense of Mauer, I will go for the bat of McCann, reports on defense have been positive and you can't argue with his .408 OBP .555 SLG line thus far.

Hot to Trot?..........not

Is it time for the Red Sox to trade Trot Nixon? The mere utterance of this question is often perceived as sacrilegious by most Red Sox fans who worship the longtime right fielder. Trot Nixon has endeared himself to an entire generation of Sox fans with his hard-nosed performance and blue-collar approach to the game since he came up to the big club in what seems like a lifetime ago. He was a leader on Boston's first championship team in nearly a century, and has vocally commanded the clubhouse since the departure of Mo Vaughn. Boston, as blue collar a city as one will find, has been lucky to have Trot Nixon, and Trot, himself, should be proud that he was able to win over the fans in a city where baseball is paramount to family, friends, and often times, God.

That said, there comes a time when even such a perfect match runs its course, and parting ways becomes more beneficial to one side than continuing the relationship. While it may sound strange to argue that a team considered by many as a World Series favorite should be a "seller" at the upcoming trade deadline, it is my contention that the Red Sox are in the unique position of being able to improve their team for both the present and the future by trading away a single player now.

Trot's Impending Free Agency

Although I could, and would, contend that the Red Sox should trade Trot Nixon regardless of his contract situation, the fact that he is a free agent at the end of this year certainly weighs heavily in favor of a move. Currently Nixon makes 7.5 million per season, which is about market value for a player of his skill set. However, entering the unrestricted free agent market, Nixon stands to make at least that much money over the next 3-4 seasons. As I will discuss later, his overall performance has declined to the point where he is no longer worth this money. However, there are plenty of teams out there who would gladly pony up that kind of cash for a player with Nixon's demeanor and credentials. The Tigers are a team that immediately comes to mind because not only would Nixon improve their team, but he is a likeable player who ownership could easily market to the blue collar city of Detroit. The point is that if the Sox let Nixon go to free agency, there inevitably be a team willing to give him more money than they are, and they risk losing him for nothing.

Trot's Aforementioned Decline in Production

On it's face value, Nixon appears to be having one of his finer statistical seasons in 2006. His line of .302 (avg), .405 (OBP), and .435 (SLG) appears to illustrate a fairly productive player. In fact I was surprised when I contemplated his stat line, because I have watched every game this season and always felt that Trot was underperforming. When I delved deeper into the statistics, I discovered that my gut was right, and that his stats are incredibly misleading.

First and foremost, Trot Nixon's stats do have a weak link in his low slugging percentage so it seems prudent to start here. A .435 slugging percentage is below average for a corner outfielder and falls way below Nixon's career percentage of .484. Even more horrifying was the revelation that since 2003 (Nixon's career season) his slugging percentage has dropped in each successive year including 2006. This trend evidences the fact that Nixon has lost a substantial portion of his power and is becoming purely a singles hitter (if he hasn't already). Along these same lines, it is worth noting Nixon's sharp decline in extra base hits. This season only 26 of his hits have been for extra bases, with only 6 of them being HR. This means that in his 285 AB's in 2006, only roughly 9% of them end in an extra base hit. For a point of comparison, the trio of Aaron Rowand (10%), Juan Uribe (9.8%), and Orlando Cabrera (9.7%) are all outperforming Trot while playing more defensively demanding positions. Nixon's numbers would be even worse if he didn't play in one of the best hitter's parks in baseball. In fact, Fenway Park has saved Nixon as he is hitting .375 (avg), .430 (OBP), and .483 (SLG) at home, as compared to .267, .392, and .406 on the road. If not for Fenway, Trot might find his OPS under .800 on the season.

While that speaks to his power drain, what about his ability to get on base? It's true that Nixon has a very robust OBP this season, thanks in large part to an impressive 47:36 BB:K ratio. Even on the road he has gotten on based nearly 40% of the time. While these facts are indisputable, there are certain quirks contained in them that reduce Trot's overall value. While OBP is a critical statistic (the critical statistic in my opinion), there are several factors that determine whether a high OBP turns into run production. The most important factor is the situation in which the player gets on base (obviously a man reaching base with 0 outs has a better opportunity to score than a man reaching base with 2 outs). Given Trot's superb OBP numbers, one would expect that he would be an ideal player to lead off an inning for the Red Sox. However, in that situation Nixon's OBP drops by nearly 20 points (to .388), and his already borderline SLG percentage drops to an anemic .345. While .388 is still an outstanding OBP, these stats indicate that Nixon has been at his worst when put in the best position to get on base and score (0 outs). His .345 SLG indicates that when he does get on base, its only to first base, which drastically reduces the chance for run production (a leadoff double, for example, can score on two consecutive outs whereas a leadoff single/walk requires at least one hit to score). Really, Nixon has put up most of his numbers in the worst possible situation: nobody on and 1 or 2 outs (the chances of scoring in this situation are extremely low because it requires additional hits without making outs). In that situation Nixon's numbers appear Ruthian: .372 (avg), .462 (OBP), and .525 (SLG). While I do not intend to take anything away from these fantastic numbers, they do serve to skew his overall stats and lead an observer to believe he has been better and creating runs than he has in reality.

The Presence of Wily Mo Pena

While the previous arguments serve to lay a rather convincing foundation, the presence of Wily Mo Pena on the Red Sox roster should be the determinative factor. The Red Sox invested quite a bit in Wily Mo (trading away Bronson Arroyo), and I doubt they did so for him to be a 4th OF. Given the landscape of the Red Sox OF, right field appears to be the only spot available for Wily Mo to get regular AB's in the near future (Manny isn't going anywhere, and the Sox paid handsomely to acquire Crisp as well). While many fans may agree that Wily Mo's presence, more than anything, should be the determining factor in the Sox not resigning Nixon at the end of the season, why should the Sox wait? Taking into account the previous arguments documenting Nixon's offensive deficiencies, I contend that the Red Sox would be a better team right now with Wily Mo in the lineup than with Trot. In limited action this season, Wily Mo has put up a line of .330 (avg), .382 (OBP), and .496, besting Trot in every category except OBP. If we look at Wily Mo's splits, inserting him into the lineup looks even better. Trot is so clueless against left handed pitching that I need not waste words comparing the two in that situation. However, Wily Mo annihilates Nixon even against right-handers. Wily Mo has put up an other-worldly line of .412, .447, and .618 against right handed pitching this season, as compared with Nixon's .332, .425, .467. While Pena clearly would not maintain those numbers over a full season, they indicate enough of an ability to at least approximate Nixon's numbers while besting him in other areas (power, against lefties, etc.). Situationally Pena has proven Trot's superior as well hitting .409, .480, and .500 leading off an inning. He has even obliterated Trot's numbers with nobody on and 1 or 2 outs (not that it matters) by putting up a line of .375, .412, and .688 while scoring 3 runs (1 more than Nixon) in half of the at bats.

So given all of this evidence, the million dollar question becomes (1) whether Theo could get value for Trot, and (2) whether he'd have the guts to trade away one of the team's most popular home grown players. While the first question remains unanswered, Theo proved he has the proverbial cajones to pull the trigger on this exact move by trading away the equally revered and home grown Nomar Garciaparra while his team was on its way towards winning its first World Series since 1918. If the value is there, Theo should be listening.

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