Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking Back at the S5 Draft

Season five will be remembered for the lack of impact players at the top of the draft.

In the first round, 16 college players and 16 high school players were chosen. Talent therefore appeared to be sprinkled across both arenas. Of these 32 players, pitchers were most commonly selected. A total of 11 pitchers were taken including the first three selections overall. There was a general lack of elite depth at the pitcher position however, as most players suffered from one flaw or another. One of the more interesting stories from this draft is that the second pick overall was made by a team that intentionally selected a pitching prospect that was a signability risk, hoping he would not sign.

After pitching, skill positions dominated the first round – with seven shortstops, three centerfielders and four second baseman taken. This was a sign that there was a lack of overall power in this draft, with few – if any – elite sluggers available. Consider that the first power hitters came off the board at number 11 and 16, and one of them was a significant health risk. The only first baseman selected in the first round came off the board at number 21, and he had power well below what you would want to find in a corner infielder. It appears that, given the lack of a big bat or true ace, many clubs opted for decent pitching or skill players with decent bats that could field their position.

Given this distribution of talent, sorting through the draft to determine how each team did was an interesting exercise. This year, I made some general observations rather than go through the draft pick by pick.

Some notable WINNERS on draft day:

1.)    There’s an old axiom that says “Losers are winners on draft day.” Please nod your head in agreement with that premise despite the fact that I just made that up. Yet I believe the DETROIT TIGERS, last season’s biggest loser, were absolutely among the biggest winners on draft day. Yes, they had the number one overall, but despite not having another selection until round two, the Tigers went on to grab major league talent in subsequent rounds. Second-rounder John Revere was the fastest player in the draft, and his defensive skills coupled with a decent bat should help him find his way to the Show. Couple that pick with fourth-rounder Nate McCormick, who should likewise see action out of the bullpen should he develop to his potential, and third-rounder Gary Pose, who might make the team as a defensive specialist, you’ll see that the savvy Tigers threw their weight around to add talent. The Tigers continue to stockpile PITCHING talent and role players to complement future all-star Henry Crosby (AA).

2.)    Quite the opposite situation with the next team here. With four late picks in the first round, how could the MILWAUKEE BREWERS, dare I say the TOUGH LUCK LOSERS of the National League, not make the winners list? Well, they managed to make almost all of them count. Pasqual Melendez projects to second base and should have no problem getting on base with the bat still on his shoulder. Backstop Benji Pineda has a similar profile, while long reliever Salvador Posada’s slide stops with the Brew Crew, as they are willing to spend a pick on a starting pitcher that lacks the frame to pitch deep into games. If Mel Barnes somehow decides to sign, Milwaukee’s first round touches all four bases. In the end Milwaukee adds a mix of keen EYE, PITCHING and SPEED to begin to replenish their farm system.

3.)    HOUSTON continued to collect Major League talent round by round and emerged as a winner on draft day. As a example of this, defensive shortstop Lee Cash was a nice selection with the 98th overall pick. The Astros concentrated on adding POWER and EYE to the minor leagues while still focusing players who can reliably FIELD their position.

Some SURPRISE selections:

1.)    With the second selection overall, the CHICAGO CUBS fell in love with an older WOMAN on draft day. Relief pitcher Tyrone Lara’s chief negotiator was his mom, and given all moms find their sons to be perfect and flawless in their eyes, she demanded the Cubs fork over a lot of dough for the rights to her little boy. Owner tk admits the Cubs franchise would be happy to see Lara in a Cub's uniform, but won't cave in necessarily to mom's outrageous counter offers. They are willing to take their chances and hope that next year's draft class will land them an impact player with the #3 pick. maybe it's not so surprising afterall.

2.) ST. LOUIS overlooked Willis Branyan's multiple surgeries in hopes that they can develop the left fielder's hitting skills to their full potential. Branyan's poor health was likely the number one factor he fell to the middle rounds.  

Some team’s had excellent VALUE selections, compared to the spot they were drafting in:

1.)    OAKLAND was pleasantly surprised to see Bret Christianson still lingering on the draft board. While Christianson can struggle to make consistently put the bat on the ball, the hitter does have a nice eye for the strike zone and everything he does put into play is hit solidly and with power. He’s a great selection at number 27. By the end of the draft, the Athletics focused on adding a lot of PITCHING and POWER to their farm system.

2.)    Finding a defensive shortstop that can hit better than his weight can be difficult, so PITTSBURGH had to be happy to find Omar Cordero available all the way down at 19. The 21-year-old just needs to oil the glove, put a ball in it and stuff it between the mattress for a season or two before he’s ready defensively for big league hitting. As an added bonus, he’ll hold his own against righties while teeing off against left-handed starters and can hit for above average power. He’s a gem to find in the late middle rounds.

3.)    If you could cite an owner for a value pick with the fourth overall selection, I’d give it to the YANKEES for taking William Aoki. A gifted athlete, Aoki projects to the shortstop position while having no holes in his game offensively. Should he come up lacking the range for short, he could easily move over to third base – especially since he hits for power. Add in a dose of base running skills and speed, and Aoki easily could have been off the board two picks ahead of where he went.

Like it or not, there were some LOSERS on draft day. Some lost simply because they gambled and failed. Others through their own admissions:

1.)    While it’s difficult to add talent late in the first round, it can be done. COLORADO rolled the dice in an attempt to snare Louie Ainsworth, who was a signability risk. His mother used to live next door to the Lara’s, and both women dreamed of big pay-days as their sons grew. She demanded first-pick money and an all-expense vacation for his family to Tahiti for six months. Unfortunately he’ll never be worth the money. Not surprisingly, he remains unsigned.

2.)    The CHICAGO WHITE SOX scouts gushed over 20-year-old starter with the quirky name of Jhonny Escuela. They happily scooped the right-hander up at pick 23 in the first round. Once he signed, however, it became apparent that team may have been taken to school. After his first few work-outs on the mound, the team expressed some buyer’s remorse, downgrading his control and questioning his ability to throw the nasty stuff they thought he could. Not much else was added to the farm system.

And finally, the HAPPY owners – those who had to be pleased with their first rounders at the end of the day:

1.)    Like shortstop, catcher is another position where it’s pleasant to find a player who can contribute both offensively and defensively. BALTIMORE was happy to land that potential guy in Haywood Robinson, who profiles to have a slugger’s EYE and POWER. If his failure to master pitching calling comes about, the Orioles still have a decent DH on their hands.

2.)    CLEVELAND nets a potential #2 starting pitcher on the mound with the ninth pick overall. While his splits are average, Drabek throws a plus-plus out pitch, with the rest of his pitches serving as a complementary supporting cast. He should strike out a fair amount of batters while keeping the ball down and out of the zone, inducing a lot of ground balls.

3.)    PHILADELPHIA grabbed a contact hitter in Ezdra Rosales, whose above-average eye and decent splits will put him on base a fair bit. The 18-year-old has a fair bit of development to do and his glove is questionable for first base, but he’s Philadelphia’s future.