September 27, 2011
Divide and Conquer, NL West
Is There a Draft in Here, or is that Just 2006?
I'd wanted to write about Clayton Kershaw because I haven't discussed him in as much detail as his season merits, but finding a fresh angle proved to be difficult. Improved control? Done. Comparisons to Sandy Koufax? Done. A thousand other things? Done.
Still, I pondered the possibilities. And I got to thinking about when Kershaw was drafted, which was with the seventh pick overall in 2006. The Dodgers did nothing with the rest of that draft—the only other players they selected that have reached the big leagues are Alex White (14th round, currently pitches for the Rockies) and Paul Goldschmidt (49th round, currently plays first base for the Diamondbacks), neither of whom signed out of high school—not that they needed to after picking up a gem like Kershaw.
As is often the case with drafts, which are populated with unknown players, some choices look downright baffling five years after the fact. How did Evan Longoria slip to the third pick? How did Andrew Miller go before Kershaw? Billy Rowell before Tim Lincecum? And so on... Not that this is anything new. Second-guessing the draft has been great sport since its inception, or at least its second year... Steve Chilcott before Reggie Jackson, anyone?
Dodgers and Giants Draw Aces
Everyone except the Rockies had a supplemental pick as well, although only Emmanuel Burriss has reached the big leagues. (Preston Mattingly, taken with the 31st pick overall, is the son of current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Unfortunately, Preston didn't inherit his father's ability to crush baseballs and has hit just .232/.276/.335 in 463 minor-league games, none above High-A.)
Reynolds, Antonelli, and Morris have done nothing. Reynolds is the Rockies' only 2006 draftee to play for the team, and he owns a 7.47 ERA in 27 career appearances through September 25.
The Padres picked up a few useful pieces later in the draft, including perennial sixth starter Wade LeBlanc (second round), third baseman David Freese (ninth round, shipped to St. Louis for the expensive but useless Jim Edmonds), and most notably, right-hander Mat Latos (11th round).
The Giants didn't get much of value beyond their first-round pick. A few guys have had cups of coffee, but seventh-rounder Brett Pill is the only one who might turn into something. Arizona, meanwhile, popped southpaws Brett Anderson (second round) and Clay Zavada (30th round) to go with Scherzer, but we're getting ahead of the story.
Kershaw and Lincecum have been brilliant big-league pitchers. Lincecum won the Cy Young Award in each of his first two full seasons. Kershaw is a serious contender for this year's award (he would get my vote if I had one), and he is younger than Lincecum was when he won his first.
Latos is the same age as Kershaw, and although the right-hander hasn't enjoyed the same level of success as he did last year, there's still a lot to like:
The biggest concern for Latos is whether he can stay healthy. He isn't Lincecum or Kershaw, but he's pretty darned good.
Snakes Make a Deal... or Four
Scherzer became Kennedy, Hudson, and a three-star prospect. Two of those guys have played huge roles in the Diamondbacks' surprise resurgence that has them headed to the postseason. Not a bad haul.
Okay, Gonzalez has gone on to become a great player for the Rockies. And it could be argued that Arizona would have been better off not trading Haren, although if ever a team appeared to be rebuilding last July, the Diamondbacks were it.
There is nothing sexy about Saunders' game, but the guy eats innings and isn't terrible. Meanwhile, Arizona also picked up Corbin (eighth-best prospect in the system) and Skaggs (second-best). For a team that was thought to be building for the future, that is at least defensible.
Here's the net result of the Scherzer and Anderson trades:
Focusing on the primaries in these deals, are the Diamondbacks better now with Hudson, Kennedy, and Saunders than they would be with Anderson, Gonzalez, and Scherzer? Granted, Anderson got hurt, but it sure looks that way:
Moving beyond current value, Corbin, Holmberg, and Skaggs could be useful down the line. This is looking good for the Diamondbacks now and into the future.
(While we're on the subject of trades, it is worth noting that the Dodgers' failure to sign Goldschmidt in 2006 opened the door for Arizona to draft him three years later. Without Goldschmidt, the Snakes might not have been willing to send Brandon Allen to Oakland for reliever Brad Ziegler—who has become an important part of the bullpen—back in July.)
Four Out of Five Teams Surveyed Love Their Hands
That's four of the league's 20 best pitchers, plus two guys who have been solid. All except Saunders are well under 30 years old and, health permitting, should be serious forces in the division for some time.
There is a theory that the draft is a crapshoot. This may be so—Miller is not Kershaw, Rowell is not Lincecum, Chilcutt is not Jackson—but if you are a good (or, if you prefer, lucky) enough shot, you just might get rewarded with a championship. Lincecum helped lead the Giants to the title in 2010. Kennedy, Hudson, and Saunders—along with Goldschmidt and Ziegler—hope to do the same for the Diamondbacks this year.