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]

Donny:

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.

_________________________


Walter:

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.

__________________________

Donny:

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 stuff...is 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
nothing.

______________________________

Walter:

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.

_______________________________

Donny:


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.

___________________________

Walter:

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.

________________________

Donny,


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?

______________________________


Walter:

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.

_________________________

Donny:

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
lists:

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
me.

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
ball.

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

Then promoted to high A:
4 HR in 171 AB
.305/.374/.490

Meanwhile, Edwin spent half the season in AAA hitting:
15 homers in 330 AB
.314/.388/.548

Then promoted to the majors to hit:
9 HR in 234 AB
.232/.308/.436

'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
adjustments.

Pence
277 .339 .518
.282 .339 .441

Encarnacion
.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
backup.

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.

__________________________

Walter:

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.

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