I was a bit taken aback when Steve Moyer handed me my copy of The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, by Joseph Werner, which I promised to read and review.
It is not so much that I feared Werner's--who has written for ESPN, Beyond the Box Score, and Baseball Info Solutions--approach or verbiage.
It was more the book, which is sort of coffee table sized, looked like a major tome, and I feared the drag of "Moby Dick" within the 400 plus pages, and that I could never wade through it all in a timely fashion, and that meant a speedy review might well be a pipe dream.
Lucky me, for I was wrong.
In reality, Werner has essentially used his space in a fairly agreeable (and spread out fashion) to simply map out the Top 20 prospects for each team, donating 10-15 pages for each franchise, both summarizing the organization's 2014 draft picks and moves, an analysis of the Minors in general, and then simply rating those players top-to-bottom, giving each player the better part of a page of scrutiny and opinion. Then following the review of the relative Top 20, there is another list of additional prospects who could be worthy of tracking.
The author does give us an introductory chapter in which he introduces his "Comparison and Likeness" (CAL) player classification system, which contextualizes "Weighed Runs Created Plus," measuring a "player's contributions scaled to 100, which is league average."
Truth is I have my own rating system, which I both like, and which similarly ranks hitters and pitchers with a common baseline focusing on age, level of play and ability to overpower coupled with command of the strike zone.
So, Mr. Werner has his means of comparison, and I have mine. In fact, Werner also lists a Top 250 in his book, which coincidentally, is the number of prospects who appear on my list that Mastersball publishes after each season.
What I was more curious about, was how closely--or not--Werner and I assessed prospects and their potential impact, and whether or not we were on the same page.
In writing this, I was not so much looking for validation of my own methodology (although such confirmation at least makes me a little less insecure, at least for a moment) but rather to see how others might indeed determine potential skill set, viability, and impact of a young player in an objective manner.
The truth is, Werner's results are pretty convincing, at least to me. I say this because on the whole, he likes young players I like, and though a rank might be a little different player to player, essentially we have the same Jengo blocks in the same package, just stacked a little differently.
Since there are prospects my list gave me I had not noticed prior to running my algorithms, I wanted to see what Werner thought of those guys, if they even hit his radar as well.
Lucas Giolito (CAL #5/MB # 13): We clearly both love the 6'6", 255 pound 20-year-old who killed it in the SALLY League last year (10-2, 2.20 with 110 whiffs over 98 frames).
Aaron Blair (CAL #71/MB #60): Joseph noted the Arizona pick logged 171 whiffs over three levels last year over 154.3 frames, something I also spotted, and we both liked that the 23-year-old is a big (6'5", 230 lb.) right-hander.
Kyle Freeland (CAL #75/MB #70): Ranked as #3 in the Rockies chain, by Werner, we both liked that after being selected eighth in 2014, Freeland signed, went to work, and blasted through Rookie and Low-A ball (30-0, 1.15 over 33.3 frames).
Dilson Herrera (CAL #60/MB #1): 21-year-old potential shortstop actually spent time in the Majors whom Werner ranked second in the Mets organization, while Herrera was my #1 overall prospect. Again, in such a context (4,000-plus play in the Minors each year) the difference between #1 and #60 is small. Essentially, we are on the same page.
Franmil Reyes (CAL ?/MB #152): The Padres man-child rated #11 within the San Diego chain, while I gave the 6'5", 240-pound 19-year-old a higher nod, that could be due to age issues. Per MLB and Baseball Reference, I had Reyes' age as 17 (he played in the MidWest League last year, producing a .248-11-58 line. It now seems Reyes was actually 18, hence variation, but obviously he intrigues both of us (we both alluded to his linebacker-based body).
Clearly, our methodologies are pretty much in sync, so I could simply say he is right and leave it at that.
But, Werner does go more in-depth than I do, giving three-quarters of a page of pretty good narrative to each of his selections.
If you do love tracking prospects, and trying to stay ahead of the "Who is the next Mike Trout?" curve, the book, which is far more accessbile than intimidating, despite the size, is a must (of course so is my Top 250 list!).
Baseball is so like religion and politics.
Is there a god? Damned Obama! How the hell could Theo Epstein send Kris Bryant down?
It is not like any of the above declaratives/interogatives did not elicit some kind of visceral response out of you, right?
How about mentioning Josh Hamilton, or Ervin Santana, one of whom avoided suspension despite a history of drug abuse, while one was knocked out of half the season for getting caught with PEDs in his bloodstream?
We all have our opinions, and that is part of what makes the human experience so wonderful, and at the same time exasperating.
And, I am no different from most of you with those opinions. I think Jim Kaat and Tommy John should be in the Hall of Fame, no question, and so should Rock Raines and maybe even Dwight Evans and Bill Buckner (just that sentence probably wrankled some of you, right?).
And, while we all have our reactions to Hamilton, and his lack of suspension (how could that be?) and that of Santana (uh oh, I have him on three rosters), it is Bryant, and the comments on an e-mail thread that really piqued me to write about this today.
Within the e-mails, initiated by my old Bill James league mate Bryan Busse, it was asked "how the Cubs management could possibly send down the home run leader this spring to save a year's worth of salary?"
Virtually none of the 10 or so folks who responded to the question liked the move, and the reactions were "I hope the Cubs lose a playoff spot by one game because of this dumbass move," invoking both a superior attitude and schadenfreude in one nifty sentence.
One e-mailer, a Cardinals fan, was thrilled with the move, thinking it would make it easier for his team to make the postseason, and that was typical, for not one person spoke up on behalf of Cubs GM Theo Epstein, who has made the woeful Wrigley-ites the envy of every franchise with his brilliant drafting.
No slack then, for the guy who finally brought a pair of World Series titles to the Red Sox after a century of curse, and whose Cubs are suddenly a 6-to-1 bet to win the Series come October.
Which makes me wonder, what does someone have to do to get a little respect?
In fairness, I do often wonder about the moves made by GMs in baseball and football, truly wondering what these guys are thinking half the time. Barry Zito for seven years, for example, was just about as bad a deal as has been made over the last decade (and I am still a big Zito fan).
Well, dumb or not, Brian Sabean, who closed that deal, won three World Series titles during the bulk of Zito's tenure, so just how terrible of a job did Sabean do?
As for Epstein, is it not enough that he has first, lifted the Curse of the Bambino, but among Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Bryant, Theo (who is also a pretty good guitar player) has assembled a collection of prospects that is enough to raise envy in any kind of baseball team, fantasy or real (how many of his guys do you have on your reserves, roster, and within your minors?).
I am pretty sure that Epstein understands the implications of getting himself an extra year's service from his future star at the expense of a couple of weeks and ten games, but the reality is if the team can simply go 5-5 until Bryant arrives, that should be fine.
And, should it be that the Cubs do indeed finish one game back, and that "failure" is attributed to a "lack of Bryant," well, the team will only get better, and the Cards and the universe better get ready for some rough times from 2016-2020.
Bet Theo does get the last laugh.
Last November, at First Pitch Arizona, Jeff Erickson, Peter Kreutzer, Ron Shandler, and I got together for our annual Tout Review from the previous season, and planning for the coming year.
The four of us--who drive the LLC--only get to see one another in person at the AFL, and then again at Tout itself in late March, and though we have pretty regular conference calls, face-to-face just makes everything that much better.
Sitting in the Marriott this past October, Jeff mentioned an idea--that he said Peter originally posed--of instituting a new league in addition to the four currently enjoying success. This league would be dynamic: the rules, participants, and format would all change from year-to-year, and the four of us would rotate driving the league each season.
This league would be known as "ToutX."
Since Ron is the original Tout, we deferred to him, saying he could employ any format he wanted, and we would work rules and fill the league accordingly.
Ron asked if using a variation of his monthly Shandler Park game that runs monthly cycles, instead of daily or yearly or H2H was ok, and we agreed, it was dealer's choice, and this season Ron was the dealer.
Shandler Park's four-week cycles do differentiate from other formats, but the league is also 4x4, using more esoteric and team oriented numbers, such as saves + holds and runs produced. There is a 32-man roster (23 active) with a $300 salary cap. The format allows for Friday roster changes, so pitcher streaming and platooning can be exploited during the busiest days of the ballplayer's week: the weekend.
However, to add a wrinkle--as well as get the ToutX participants into the New York festivities, which are fun and if you are drafting, some hard work--Ron posed that the initial rosters would be drafted as a snake format, but using the Shandler Park pre-assigned salaries.
What that meant was that for the first month of the season only, if you drafted Chris Sale, you had exclusive rights to the White Sox pitcher for the month, as opposed to the remainder of the season, when new four-week rosters would be drafted via the website utilizing the standard rules the Shandler Parkees now use.
With rules and format set, the dogged Peter set about the screening process of getting ten participants who were in the industry with requisite experience and reputation, but not yet involved with Tout Wars. Nominations were gathered, and invitations sent, from within came another great change: the addition of Stephania Bell and Andrea Lamont as the first women (yay) to participate, becoming part of the "X" factor.
This all seemed like good stuff, but with the swirl of activity that precedes each Tout, I did not give the game that much more thought, for there were logistics, as well as the addition of a Tout Daily game, that took focus.
However, last Friday, as Ron and I walked through the first traces of some Manhattan spring snow to breakfast, I told the Shandler Park brain that I felt pretty sure that the ToutX hybrid draft/auction was going to be the most interesting activity of the weekend.
If all the participants checked the rules and scoring, they would see that Mike Trout was not necessarily the most prudent allocation of resources, and sure enough, the top two players selected were Bryce Harper ($15) and Adam Jones ($13).
But, prior to the draft, as I anticipated to Ron over grits and eggs and toast, reasoning all this out might not be as simple as it seems.
It was true. The whole spectacle--which took just over a couiple of hours, which is not bad for 320 players--was just a fascinating and completely different spin on how to value and exploit player skills.
Had you coveted Sale, he would have been yours. Knowing the Southpaw might miss a few starts was not worth the $26 price tag, so Sale, along with Michael Brantley ($30), and Craig Kimbrel ($16) went undrafted by the ToutX'ers. Add in that Jon Lester ($22), Jason Kipnis ($17) and Jordan Zimmermann ($20) all went as reserve selections, and you can see how all the traditional barometers of skill and potential sort of went out like a wild pitch.
So, the participants, like Jake Ciely and Jeff Boggis had to battle out for normal end-game targets like Dan Otero and Garrett Jones right smack in the middle of each round, while tasty prospects like Kris Bryant sat on the sidelines, waiting for a punched dancecard that never happened (Bryant is surely hot, but the combo of his $15 price tag, and potentially missing the first two weeks of the season caused the particpants to eschew his services this cycle).
In fact, the whole draft dynamic became as interesting a piece of 10-way on-the-fly chess strategies as I have seen in awhile.
I do think ToutX will be a lot of fun to follow through, and equally important, I think that Ron's new format might well be the seeds of a fantastic new variation of a game we already love far more than we probably should.
And, if this year isn't good enough, wait till next year, when Peter, or Jeff, or even I get to conjure the playing field.Look here for all the particulars about ToutX.
When I was in Las Vegas, for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association soiree in January, I casually mentioned to RotoWire's Jeff Erickson that I used to play golf. Jeff responded that I should bring clubs to the Arizona First Pitch, where Joe Sheehan, Jason Grey, and he played each year.
I dismissed this, noting that I hadn't played the game in 41 years.
It is true: I used to play at least once a week, between the ages of 12-21. I bought golf clubs with my Bar Mitzvah money, and Sunday mornings usually found me on the links with my mother and brother.
One day, in my early 20's, I found myself playing with my brother, Peter, and his best friend Michael Drake (who is now the Chancelor at UC Irvine). Now, Peter can be a very abrasive and sarcastic fellow (not unlike our father), and he could wreak fear in me, but Michael was no such animal.
Michael also probably knew better than anyone how to get under Peter's skin, and he was particularly good at it that afternoon. In fact, he was so good at it that somewhere in the back nine, Peter started throwing his clubs at his friend.
That was it for me. I thought I was playing for fun (I do want to play my best, always) so I gave away my clubs and that was that.
But Jeff's words got me. Since I no longer was working for ATT, I had a little more time on my hands. And, while I do like to get exercise, I do have to be careful with respect to my well documented health issues.
But, nine holes at a leisurely pace once a week, and maybe an hour at the range as well, seemed like a good path, especially since I basically knew how to play.
I got hold of my brother-in-law, Eric Hedgecock, and consulted him, bought a set, and headed off to the driving range a few times and then Eric and I met up and played nine. I did ok: some clearly crappy shots, but I sank a 30-foot putt, and hit enough decent shots that I both felt good, and had that elusive fun.
The next Sunday, I played again (Eric was otherwise occupied) and I actually bagged a par that day, which was more than encouraging.
Then came LABR (I was checking out courses in Scottsdale, and found golf, with its muscle-memory repeatable process was a good framing to talk with ballplayers), so I laid off for ten days. Eric, however, got a tee-time for us last Saturday (March 14) and off we went.
My game was still typical--more good shots, but still some loss of focus--when we got to hole 7 and Pine Meadow, a 215-yard Par 3.
Eric had the honors, and then I teed up, straightened my left arm, tried to remember to look at the ball and follow-through, and hit what felt like a very good drive. I hit it clean, and the low-liner hooked a little, but then straightened out nicely, but I lost track of the flight.
"That is a pretty good shot," said Eric, "I don't see the ball, and think it might have gone in."
I laughed, noting "as if," finishing with "I probably overshot."
Eric was not so sure, and we walked towards the green and he repeated, that he did not see my ball, and thought it went in. By then I could not see it either, but I tried to be patient, let him take his shot, and then walked up to the green.
Damned, if the ball was not in the cup. I pointed to it to Eric, and started laughing, and he shook his head in disbelief (just like me) and came over to look himself.
No question: It was an ace.
Back in the pro shop, the Clubhousemaster confirmed with Eric that I was the first person to get a hole-in-one at Pine Meadow wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, while wearing high-top Cons.
We went into the Clubhouse and I offered up a round to everyone (amazingly, it was only around $40 as everyone drank Coors Lite) and my fellow links mates came over, patted me on the back and shook hands, while looking at my feet. "Did you do that wearing those shoes?" was the question, and I nodded, and again a wave of heads shaking in disbelief ensued.
I confess that it all seems like a strange dream: that on the 25th hole after a 41-year layoff, I should hit that shot. I certainly was not even aiming for the pin, but rather the green at large, though such a shot is a golfer's dream (I felt bad for Eric, who has played all the 20 years I have known him and had never even seen one). I cannot believer anyone ever takes a swing with the intention of getting an ace, rather it is just an amazing strange occurance among many that happen in life.
But, just the thought makes me smile in the best of ways.
Thursday, Eric texted the note in the local sports page, adding to just how surreal the whole affair has been.
When we were walking to the eighth tee (first time since my return I got the honors), I looked to Eric and said, "Maybe I should quit now?" but I didn't (I actually hit a pretty good 7-iron right to the lip of the green next shot).
In fact, it is again fun, and I will stick with it. Who knows? I might get good.
Last Monday, I laid out my strategy for this season's National League LABR on the Hotpage (The Kershaw Report, Part II), wherein I dropped $40 on Clayton Kershaw as the center of my LABR team's universe.
I am often asked who I like in a draft, or what I am going to do in an upcoming auction, and a lot of the time I don't really know till the moment hits, kind of like sometimes I am not sure if I will order salmon or a steak in a restaurant till the waiter looks at me in an irritated fashion, tapping his finger, while I decide on the spot.
But, in "real" (as in non-mock) auctions--where every owner has an equal chance of owning every player, at least going in--things are different. For, in those drafts I might have an idea of players I like, and while I try to never let a bargain get past me, for the most part I wait for others to nominate the players I want, at least at first.
However, sometimes, as with last Sunday, I have a clear plan in mind to try. Many years ago, in a mixed 12-team format, I froze $231 worth of roster, and then cleaned up on $2 players within the rich player pool (I won back-to-back titles that way), trading and planning and plotting long before the March auction.
My first Tout Wars--when the league went 5x5 from 4x4--I vowed to exploit saves (won that time, too), and in the XFL a couple of years back, in an effort to rebuild in a deep dynasty-type format, I purposely bought the two most expensive players (Albert Pujols for $61 and Roy Halladay for $41) and then left $40 on the table. In this instance, since I knew I was going to waste a season trading the stars and rebuilding, I knew going in leaving a bunch of money would similarly skew the values at the end-draft, and throw my opponents off their game a little.
I had been theorizing the Kershaw $40 bid since last December--when I started to look carefully at the Dodger Southpaw's totals as compared to those of Pedro Martinez--and I knew I simply had to try the jump bid to $40 (which was actually my opening nomination price, after which I heard crickets).
Though I had a list of players I liked to build out my offense, the truth is that I was not exactly sure what I would do after collecting Kershaw (aside from, as noted, I would not bid $42, should someone bid $41).
What was odd was I don't remember being as nervous about keeping to a strategy, or making a bid like that, in all the years I have been playing fantasy and roto ball, and trying to figure out some parallel path to championship nirvana.
I did clearly hear Lenny Melnick nominate first (Craig Kimbrel, $19), followed Derek Carty naming Giancarlo Stanton ($36), Carlos Gomez ($32), Joey Votto ($23), Angel Pagan ($12), Buster Posey ($24), Andrew McCutchen ($39), Ken Giles ($6), Billy Hamilton ($27), Javier Baez ($11), and then all of a sudden it was my turn.
So, the whole thing felt very out of body. I remember thinking, "here we go" (I similarly remember thinking this when I got Keith Foulke and Derek Lowe as my closers for under a collective $60 back during my first Tout Wars in 2000), and hearing that sort of white noise that Al Pacino hears in The Godfather, before he comes out of the bathroom in Louie's Restaurant, shoots Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in the head and flees for Sicily.
As my body sat there, my voice declared, "Clayton Kershaw, $40," a series of mumbles followed, the pitcher was mine and I had to figure out what to do next. (Note too that in leagues like LABR and Tout, I really don't like to even pay $30 for a particular player.)
I am not sure why this particular time felt so out-of-time: it was like asking someone out for the first time when you are not sure if the other person likes you. I am pretty used to not just drafting and auctions by now, but to my picks and teams being public, and questioned and/or whatever.
For the most part, I try to take any external fallout with indifference, because the objective here is to assemble the team I think will win, as opposed to the squad everyone else thinks I should have built. Which really means the team they would have built, and in that sense, this is sort of like listening to people without children trying to explain how they would fix other people's seemingly out-of-control kids.
I must say that I am not sure if I made mistakes in letting Pagan ($12) and Giles ($6) get past me as I was distracted by my pending Kershaw bid. I wanted both, yet both were a buck more than I anticipated spending on them at the time, and as I noted, my focus for some crazy reason was on the Kershaw conundrum, and whether the whole plan would work.
Which brings me to the second part of that drafting postulate: I can get Kershaw, but my team will be worthless if I cannot build a good supporting cast beneath him.
I did buy Brandon McCarthy nine players later, but then waited a long time (64 players) before I took my third player (Sergio Romo, $3) and then another six before taking my first hitter (Kolten Wong, $25). Meaning 90 players had been purchased before I rostered a position player.
From there, it was pretty easy to grab what I hope is a balanced enough roster to be competitive. Of course, I hope my plan works, although I am resigned to the fact that if it doesn't, there is a lesson learned there as well.
So, in that sense, nothing has really changed. Save, I cannot tell why in god's name I was so nervous about this?
For the complete results of the NL LABR draft, click here.
I have big hopes for Giants reliever Sergio Romo, who arguably has the best slider in the National League. Romo might well also be not just the most upbeat, but appreciative guys on the planet.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world" he declared, great words from a player who certainly had to struggle for the first time in the Majors last year, as he lost his closing gig to Santiago Casilla during a rough stretch.
Philosophically, Romo noted, "I just want to make each pitch the best one I can each time I go out there."
To me, that is the essence of the game: the next pitch is the only one that matters. Romo elucidated, invoking muscle memory as both the perfect essence of the game, as well as a periodically worst enemy.
Romo said--crediting his father with a lot of what makes him the man and player that he is--that the combination of repetition, coupled with experience, makes it so that he knows what he has to do pitch-to-pitch, and that is a lot of what helps him succeed.
I asked, though, if his delivery was not unlike--and as frustrating as--a golf swing in that it was indeed repetition, but that you know immediately not just when your swing is bad, but what went wrong?
"Oh yeah," he agreed, "I know right away if I dropped my arm or didn't finish the pitch just right. You can just feel it.
The difficulty," Romo said, "is in trying not to think about it (think Crash Davis) and yet focusing the let muscle memory do its thing.
But, if I do concentrate on simply trying to make each pitch the best one, it all falls in place.
I am a pretty happy guy," he concluded, and sort of impulsive. If I feel like skateboarding, it is just what I feel like doing at the time. But, that doesn't mean I don't take my game seriously."
With 78 saves over 351.6 innings, to go with 394 whiffs and an 0.927 WHIP, I guess not (my bet is Romo gets his closer gig back by May).
Once again, I spent chunks of my week with Howard Bender's #MockDraftArmy, completing a pair of really great mocks: One each, AL-only and NL-only, with 12 owners and 23 players.
I do find the mock process so interesting and revealing with respect to the flow of the average draft, but since I play in both AL-only and NL-only auctions, I thought it would indeed be revealing to participate in Howard's and the Army's machinations.
If you play in a deep format--that is a league rich with reserves and a player pool, like even a 15-team snake league can be--you should try drafting in a much more spartan fashion, with a shallower player pool.
This exercise will both help you appreciate the notion of Mark Buehrle and Brandon Crawford in the free agent pool. More to the point, the process might also help you better able to adjust to monkey wrench moves in your NFBC-style formats.
In both instances, I did try a couple of things, one of which worked (I think), and one of which failed (I also think).
Even before I knew I was drafting in the #7 spot in Friday's NL draft, I was sure that I would take Clayton Kershaw were he available when my pick came up. Needless to say, I was shocked when the Dodgers southpaw was still in the pool, so I grabbed and adjusted around him. I think as a result I wound up with what would be a competitive team.
Two days earlier, in the AL draft, I was not certain where I was selecting. When I found I was at the wheel--the #12 slot--I decided to wait till a few rounds transpired, determining to grab a pair of closers back-to-back.
Since I have waited till my final picks to collect closers in the previous eight mocks I had done so far this year, I thought this would make an interesting path in a league with restricted resources. Also, I thought this might cause a run on the remaining stoppers, which it didn't at all.
So, that team wound up a lot more fragmented as a result of sacrificing solid fifth and sixth round players for closers, regardless of the fact that I might nail the saves category. For, would the league play out, that might give me some trade surplus, but since the stopper job is so transient, I think that squad would be irreparable.
Below are my teams and picks by rounds. You be the judge. (Links to the full drafts listed below):
|1. Chris Sale/Clayton Kershaw|
|2. Yoenis Cespedes/Nolan Arenado|
|3. Kole Calhoun/Marcell Ozuna|
|4. Alexei Ramirez/Kolten Wong|
|5. Chad Allen/Gregory Polanco|
|6. David Robertson/Lucas Duda|
|7. Lorenzo Cain/Neil Walker|
|8. Nick Castellanos/Andrew Cashner|
|9. Chris Tillman/Hector Rondon|
|10. Mike Zunino/Derek Norris|
|11. Taijuan Walker/Angel Pagan|
|12. Kevin Gausman/Francisco Liriano|
|13. C.J. Cron/Wilmer Flores|
|14. Ervin Santana/Jake Peavy|
|15. Gordon Beckham/Chris Denorfia|
|16. Jesse Hahn/Scott Van Slyke|
|17. Alex Avila/Tim Hudson|
|18. Conor Gillaspie/Brian Anderson|
|19. Francisco Lindor/Casey Janssen|
|20. Brock Holt/Michael McKenry|
|21. Marco Estrada/Chris Heisey|
|22. Nick Swisher/Archie Bradley|
|23. Delmon Young/John Mayberry, Jr.|
So with about ten mock drafts under my belt so far this year, I am indeed trying some oddball things here and there to see what, if any, impact picking pitchers 1-2-3, for example, might have on the outcome of a drafted team (I did this last week, and my assessment is here).
Well, trying different formats is also a fun experiment, and this past week, Seth Trachtman, of Rotoworld, coordinated a mock under the presumption that it was a Dynasty League. In this instance, Dynasty meant a 25-man snake, with 12 teams, in a mixed league, and the presumption was the team we drafted could be perennial, meaning we could keep a drafted player forever, with no salary impact.
That makes a variable that shifted drafting and strategies a lot, and actually made for a most fun experiment and mock. Some teams clearly did not care about 2015, and then there is Matthew Pouliot, who declared, "Fine, I am happy to win the league this year." Note that Matthew grabbed at least four players I had queued, although I am not sure what that means beyond the fact that we both liked the guys in question.
I won't bore you with the specifics of any particular team (though overall results can be viewed here), but, here is a list of some of the interesting selections, but bereft of analysis, other than it is interesting that say Francisco Lindor was picked in round 13, along with Addison Russell, but Erick Aybar was not drafted at all.
Which is curious in the Matthew Pouliot sense. As in, why would owners eschew a current starter who can regularly put up a .280-8-60-15 line in lieu of someone who has never played in the Majors?
Round 2: George Springer (#7)
Round 6: Devin Mesoraco (#11)
Round 7: Byron Buxton (#1)
Round 9: Joc Pederson (#1)
Round 10: David Wright (#12)
Round 15: Julio Urias (#1)
Round 16: Miguel Sano (#5); Jung-Ho Kang (#10)
Round 18: Blake Swihart (#11)
Round 19: Brett Gardner (#2)
Round 21: Dylan Bundy (#12)
Round 23: Henry Owens (#6, and three of us had him queued)
Round 24: Jorge Alfaro (#10)
Round 25: Joe Panik (#11)
So, the idea was to push Rendon up in a 15-team mixed format, and see if that shuffled anything, and what kind of squad I could assemble underneath him.
Well, earlier in the week, the Bender and the Mock Army had a 12-team mixed draft, where I picked fourth, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
To preface, we all know just how deep pitching is this year, in fact in several mocks I have waited until the 10th round before selecting a starter, and at the FSTA draft, Todd and I did not grab a starting hurler until the ninth round. In fact, I have been very clear to readers that during your mixed league drafts, it is smart to postpone pitching as long as you can, grabbing hitters and counting totals up front.
However, I thumbed my nose at that on Tuesday, selecting Clayton Kershaw as my first pick (in the #4 slot), then taking Chris Sale when the pick returned to me, and then going out in the third round selecting Madison Bumgarner, giving me a formidable core of a rotation.
I then planned to simply take hitters the next 14 rounds, finishing up with starters and closers (remember, 12 teams means stoppers at the end, albeit volatile ones).
I did want to see just what kind of offense I could build after the first three rounds of those stat grabbing hitters were gone, so I did speculate a little, but here are my selections, by round, with appropriate thoughts.
1. Clayton Kershaw: Best pitcher, and I knew if I got Kershaw, this was the plan I would invoke. He has been a first rounder.
2. Chris Sale: The American League version of Kershaw. Generally drafted in the third round.
3. Madison Bumgarner: Being grabbed in rounds 3-4.
4. Yoenis Cespedes: Consistent fourth rounder for me, should hit well in Motown.
5. Kole Calhoun: I seem to be getting Calhoun in the fourth, and look for an uptick.
6. Marcell Ozuna: You know the spiel: up-and-comer in the best young outfield in the Show, and again, been drafting Ozuna right around here.
7. Alex Gordon: Very steady at the dish, after his early struggles. First time I have drafted Gordon this year, but again, this is pretty much on par with where he has gone.
8. Kolten Wong: There are guys I like, and Wong is one of them. This is right around where I have been drafting him.
9. Lucas Duda: A little earlier than I have been getting Duda. I know he cannot hit lefties: I am hoping that changes.
10. Brandon Belt: Earlier than most drafts (he has been grabbed rounds 14-17) and I got him to hopefully hedge Duda.
11. Alcides Escobar: A little earlier than most mocks I have done, but was trying to build speed later since no hitters those first three rounds.
12. Mike Zunino: Might have been able to wait, but I like his upside (check out BB:K numbers in the Minors) and 20-plus homer pop is good.
13. Derek Norris: Like to pair with Zunino, and more double-digit power potential.
14. Lorenzo Cain: Another speed threat, Cain is another guy I have been targeting right around here.
15. Alex Rios: First draft I have grabbed Rios, but more speed/power potential from a guy who was a top-three rounder last year.
16. Nick Castellanos: More power gambles, this time at the corner. First time I've seen Castellanos go in a 12-team draft.
17. Yordano Ventura: Surprised he was still available. Note, I planned on taking Gyorko here, but he just went. So, held off on MI till the end.
18. Taijuan Walker: Again, see just how deep pitching is?
19: Chris Tillman: So steady, great second half, and again, in a 12-team league, Tillman seems an afterthought. That should not be.
20. Trevor Bauer: Bauer gets taken in 15-team drafts, but not 12 teams, and again, pretty good gamble here.
21. Sergio Romo: Closer #1. Been taking Romo right around here in 12-team leagues.
22. Joe Nathan: Again, I know folks don't trust him, and I have grabbed him here. 35 saves last year, and just one down year. I am willing to trust at this juncture.
23. Marcus Semien: Filling the middle, last, with a little pop and speed. Thought about Joe Panik--neither of these guys gets any attention even in 15-team formats--but was hoping I could get a little more bang out of Semien.
What this really tells me is my draft was not that different. Can the combo of Rios, Castellanos and Gordon offset not taking hitters the first three rounds? I think they can, meaning the sky is the drafting limit.
Having worked my way through a good ten mocks now, I am getting a pretty good feel for both the player pool this year, as well as how others view player value.
Mind you, I am not talking ADP here, although I suppose folks who draft using ADP in my mocks do tend to draft Chris Davis in the fifth or sixth round, every time.
But, rather than thinking of this in terms of ADP, I prefer to use the exercise as a test to try different drafting schemes, but also to get a gauge of how the rest of the players value guys I like. Certainly by this time there are a handful of players from both leagues that I think will turn a profit at a moderate price while my fellow drafters feel differently, so I am getting an idea about when I can get players, and even validating what I think they should cost in an auction format.
So far, though, I have noticed a collection of players that always seem to fall to the bottom rounds, and in 12-team formats, sometimes these guys are not taken at all. So, the question now--at least to me--becomes is this a mistake or not?
Well, let's look at a few of them:
Tim Lincecum: Timmy has now had three years in a row that were as bad as the three prior were good. Lincecum's name has not been uttered in any mock, anywhere, and truth is that probably makes sense. In fact, save an NL-only format, with a reserve list, he is an afterthought. By the way, Matt Cain has similarly been ignored in 12-team mocks, as has Ryan Vogelsong, as long as we are picking on the Giants.
As an additional thought--and as something I have noted before, I saw a lot of pitches thrown by Cain and Lincecum over the past six years, and the reality to me is hitters have adjusted to them, but not the inverse. More than that, neither pitcher looks confident when an at-bat is on the line. Whereas a few years ago, with a 3-2 count and a couple on, and a pair of outs, both Tim and Matt would bear down and challenge, I just don't see "put away" in the eyes or look of either pitcher. I do hope they get their mojo back, but for now if someone is going to gamble, let it be someone else.
Mark Buehrle: I write this every year. Talk about no respect, like Lincecum, Buehrle has not been whispered anywhere. It is true the southpaw doesn't strike out a lot of batters, but, he is as dependable as they come as a fifth or sixth starter. Over his 15-year career, Buehrle averages 13 wins, a 3.71 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP over 31 starts and 202.3 frames. It is true his mean whiffs are just 125, but Buehrle is stable like just about no other arm.
Chris Tillman: Todd and I got Tillman on our FSTA squad (15-team, 29 player roster), grabbing him in the 26th round. I drafted the Oriole in a 15-team mock Thursday in the 19th round, and maybe owners are disappointed after Tillman won 16 games in 2013. Truth is, in many ways, Tillman's 2014 was better, as he lowered his ERA (from 3.71 to 3.34), even though his wins were down (by three) and whiffs (by 29) over one fewer inning. Much of this is rooted in the 7-5, 4.11, 1.394 mark Tillman had over 118.3 first half innings, but for the second half, he was 6-1, 2.33, with a 1.011 WHIP over 89 frames. And, he is still just 27. Load up atop your rotation, and flesh it out with Tillman and Buehrle, and I suspect you will not regret it.
Joe Panik: The Giants second sacker has not been selected in any mock as of yet, 12-team, or 15-team. Again, Todd and I got him as a late selection in the FSTA (pick #24) which is rugged for a kid who hit .305-1-18 with 31 runs over half a season, first time through. Panik will play every day, and though he will not give a lot of power, he can hit 35 doubles for he is a line drive hitter. And, should you be in a deeper format, and need some average to offset Chris Carter or Lucas Duda, Panik is a great choice.
Marcus Semien: Same as Panik. For some reason, the Bay Area middle infielders get little or no respect, for Brett Lawrie, Jed Lowrie (OK, he is a former Athletic), Panik and Semien got no mention by anyone but me over the past three weeks. Semien will be the starting shortstop in Oakland, and I am betting that going out every day, knowing he will get the nod will stabilize him into a .270-14-65-15 middle infielder. That is pretty good.
Fernando Rodney: Even in the 15-team mocks I have done, Rodney has gone undrafted. In my 12-team leagues, Rodney has been a late choice along with Joe Nathan, which is just crazy. Both are the closers, and between them they saved 83 games last year. Yet, folks would rather gamble on Ken Giles? Fine with me.
Brandon Belt/Eric Hosmer: Both are being drafted around the 15th or 16th round of 12-team leagues, as a corner (I got Belt in the 13th of a 15-team), which might jibe with the disappointment both have generated after dangling all that promise before us. Belt, now 27, was hurt much of last year, and Hosmer simply disappointed, at least until the postseason (note he is 26). I think they will both come into their own this year.
I realize that I am now a sort of "retiree," since I have left the corporate world, and even qualify for Social Security, that I am on the road to becoming a cranky old man.
It is true: When Henry Winkler prefaces his reverse mortgage commercial, noting, "If you are 62 or older..." my head quickly turns to the sound, even though I have seen the ad many times, and have no intention of putting my house on such a plan. At least not just yet.
On the other hand, I do still play in a rock'n'roll band, am a complete junkie for Mr. Pickles and Squidbillies on Adult Swim, and dig Modest Mouse and The Black Keys.
I can say that I started watching baseball when there were two leagues with eight teams in each, having witnessed the first expansions in 1962, the lowering of the mound and expansions of 1969, and also the implementation of the DH. There was the recent re-alignment, and of course Interleague play, and now the expanded Wild Card. And, then there was the advent of Instant Replay.
Among those, there have been some really good moves in my view. I love Interleague play, and apparently the expanded Wild Card keeps more teams in it as hopefuls longer, and seems to create a dogfight for a chance at post-season play in the best of ways.
The lower mound, and the DH? Well, they have not killed the game, although I wish both leagues simply used the DH, or neither did. As in both leagues may as well play the same game. If I had a preference, it would be in favor of having the pitcher hit, because I love tactics and watching a manager try to push or pull the right buttons at the right time when the game is on the line.
But, I can live with the DH.
Although, I hate Instant Replay, and the idea of umpires and referees being second guessed. Not because I don't want the crew to "get it right," as they say, but as often as not, Instant Replay is not definitive and I truly feel that the officiating at games is really pretty good, all things considered. More important, since the game is played by humans, can we please just let humans adjudicate and be done with it?
For, when push comes to shove, I think the good and bad breaks for every team are about the same (even with Instant Replay). The issue is whether or not a team can take advantage of the situation. But, the timeouts do disrupt the flow of the game, in my opinion.
But, this talk about a pitch clock, and even worse, banning the shift is just crazy.
Let's start with the shift. Prohibiting moving a team's defense is almost like saying a team's offense cannot platoon. Which could be a way of saying you cannot pinch-hit under certain circumstances. The shift is indeed a strategy, like a platoon. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it is certainly not like using a spitter, or corking a bat, which actually does involve manipulating equipment to gain an advantage.
But, moving your defense is simply part of the game, and a smart hitter (and manager and batting coach) will try to figure a way around it. Because, as we know, baseball is a game of adjustments.
As for the pitch clock, isn't one of the main things we love about baseball the fact that it does not actually have a time limit? Is it frustrating when Jamey Wright pitches--you can start a fire and toast marshmallows on it between throws--but that is also part of the game. So is Mark Buehrle not allowing a hitter enough time to adjust his jock, let alone hat.
But, again, it is a game played by human beings. So, can our hurry-up world of instant gratification please just take a deep breath? Then, in 10-15 years, when I am dead, go ahead and change everything.
Ayyy! Even the Fonz knows the wait won't be that long.