CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Bizball: 2012 Sees Low... (10/30)
<< Previous Column
Western Front: Better ... (10/23)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Western Front: Three D... (11/06)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Sobsequy: The Freaks a... (10/31)

October 30, 2012

Western Front

Three Giant Draft Picks

by Geoff Young

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Brian Sabean doesn't always get the credit he deserves. The Giants GM has been lampooned for his tendency to sign players who are past their prime (outgoing skipper Felipe Alou complained upon being dismissed after the 2006 season that, “I don't believe one manager enjoys having players die in their hands”) and for being out of touch with the hippest trends. Early in his tenure, Sabean went on record as saying “I am not an idiot” in defense of a trade that sent popular third baseman Matt Williams to Cleveland for four players, the most notable of which was future MVP/“Survivor” contestant Jeff Kent.

All of which I'm sure is fine with Sabean, who gets results while those that would criticize him must settle for dismissing his success as a fluke or some such. The man and his team have played in three World Series in the past 11 years and won two of the last three. Clearly he is doing something right.

One of the things Sabean and his staff have done well is draft players. While his counterparts in the National League West have been collecting talent of varying utility, Sabean has been tabbing stars. Pitchers Matt Cain (2002), Tim Lincecum (2006), and Madison Bumgarner (2007) all were taken in the first round. All played key roles in 2010 and now again in 2012. Same with Buster Posey (2008).

As a thought exercise, while the Giants wait for their rings, let's consider what the NL West might look like had Sabean's counterparts been better at procuring amateur talent. We'll skip 2008 and Posey because the Giants picked fifth overall that year, giving them an advantage over the competition. Focusing on 2002, 2006 (which I've examined briefly in the past), and 2007, what actually happened and what—given the benefit of hindsight—should have happened?

In rewriting history for the purpose of this exercise, we'll make a few assumptions:

  • Only NL West teams get a “do over” on their first pick in the draft; all others remain as is.
  • Players stay with their drafting team, i.e., there are no trades, free agency, etc.
  • Value is determined by career WARP to date and/or common sense, e.g., Matt Moore gets the nod over Darwin Barney and Jonathan Lucroy because I would rather have Moore on my team going forward despite the slight edge in WARP enjoyed by the latter two right now.

To the drafts...

2002

Team

Slot

Actual

Revised

Player

WARP

Player

WARP

Rockies

9

Jeff Francis, LHP

14.7

Curtis Granderson, OF

30.9

Padres

13

Khalil Greene, SS

9.8

Brian McCann, C

24.7

Dodgers

19

James Loney, 1B

2.5

Joey Votto, C

26.0

Giants

25

Matt Cain, RHP

19.9

Cain

19.9

Diamondbacks

27

Sergio Santos, SS

2.1

Josh Johnson, RHP

17.8

For the Rockies, this is their good pick. Francis reached the big leagues and, although he never developed into a star, has had a solid big-league career. The same cannot be said of their picks in 2006 and 2007. Still, it's hard not to fantasize what might have been had Granderson played half his games at Coors Field.

This repick has additional repercussions. Granderson never ends up with the Yankees, Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer never get to Detroit, and Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy don't go to Arizona. (Kennedy, as we'll see, has another reason for not joining the Diamondbacks in this scenario.) Do the Tigers face Sabean's Giants in this year's World Series without Jackson and Scherzer? That is a whole other level of butterfly effect, but I'm thinking no.

The Padres have their choice of “catchers” in Votto and McCann (or pitchers in Cain, Johnson, and local product Cole Hamels). With the benefit of hindsight, they take McCann because he doesn't move off the position after seven games in Rookie League. Votto has provided more value as measured by WARP but would have been blocked by Adrian Gonzalez, which is a nice problem to have but which ruins my next joke.

A secondary effect is that, without Greene, the Padres never acquire Luke Gregerson. This is a small price to pay for landing McCann.

The Dodgers take Votto. If you are very quiet, you can hear Jay Jaffe screaming. Without Loney, of course, the Dodgers never acquire Nick Punto. Or Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Gonzalez.

The Giants do what they did, which is take the best available player.

The Diamondbacks take Johnson. This eases the sting of never having acquired Jackson and Kennedy in the Granderson trade that didn't happen. Without Santos, Arizona doesn't acquire Orlando Hudson, who plays a key role on the 2007 NL West champion squad.

2006

Team

Slot

Actual

Revised

Player

WARP

Player

WARP

Rockies

2

Greg Reynolds, RHP

-0.9

Evan Longoria, 3B

25.8

Dodgers

7

Clayton Kershaw, LHP

18.1

Kershaw

18.1

Giants

10

Tim Lincecum, RHP

16.5

Lincecum

16.5

Diamondbacks

11

Max Scherzer, RHP

10.9

Scherzer

10.9

Padres

17

Matt Antonelli, 3B

-0.3

Ian Kennedy, RHP

8.1

So instead of Francis and Reynolds, Colorado has Granderson and Longoria. Don't worry, it gets worse.

The Dodgers nail their pick. So do the Giants (again) and Diamondbacks.

Kennedy to the Padres has implications. Is his presence in the 2010 rotation enough of an upgrade over Kevin Correia to push San Diego past the Giants that year? Well, maybe:

Player

IP

ERA

WARP

Correia

145.0

5.40

-1.1

Kennedy

194.0

3.80

2.2

They only lost by two games.

Other defensible picks would have been Joba Chamberlain, local product Justin Masterson, Jon Jay, David Freese (whom they took in the ninth round), Kris Medlen, Doug Fister, Brett Anderson... well, it's a long list.

San Diego's pick of Kennedy also ruins the 2011 season for the Diamondbacks, who never acquire him from the Yankees. But then, we already knew that because of the whole Granderson not being drafted by the Tigers thing.

2007

Team

Slot

Actual

Revised

Player

WARP

Player

WARP

Rockies

8

Casey Weathers, RHP

n/a

Giancarlo Stanton, 1B

12.7

Diamondbacks

9

Jarrod Parker, RHP

2.0

Jason Heyward, OF

9.8

Giants

10

Madison Bumgarner, LHP

7.5

Bumgarner

7.5

Dodgers

20

Chris Withrow, RHP

n/a

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP

6.8

Padres

23

Nick Schmidt, LHP

n/a

Matt Moore, LHP

2.9

I don't know about you, but I find the idea of Granderson, Longoria, and Stanton in Colorado rather titillating. More titillating than Francis, Reynolds, and Weathers, anyway. The Rockies picked ahead of the Giants in all three of the drafts we've examined and came away with the worse player every time. Again, we're conducting this exercise with the benefit of hindsight, but the Rockies could have been a force by now instead of a team that overpays Michael Cuddyer to play like Scott Hairston.

Arizona ends up with an interesting right-field situation. One of Heyward or Justin Upton moves to the other corner, or maybe to another organization. Given that Upton is the only Diamondbacks first-round pick between 2002 and 2008 who hasn't been traded, I'm betting on the latter.

Also, Parker never ends up in Oakland as part of the haul for Trevor Cahill. Both pitchers enjoyed similar success, although the A's also got Ryan Cook in that deal. In a division that was decided on the season's final day, Cook's absence could have been enough to tip the scales in favor of Texas.

Sabean nailed it. Again. He's 3-for-3. You could make a case for Zimmermann over Bumgarner in a Devil's Advocate kind of way, but whatever.

The Dodgers took Withrow with a compensation pick from Boston for their signing of Julio Lugo. While Lugo produced 0.2 WARP in two seasons and change for the Red Sox, Withrow has been stuck at Double-A for the better part of four years. Zimmermann would fit well on this team.

Sabean also picked Charlie Culberson in the supplemental first round, which is interesting because:

  • The pick was compensation for the departure of free agent Mike Stanton (not to be confused with the Giancarlo formerly known as Mike).
  • Culberson was used to acquire Marco Scutaro this past July. Scutaro played out of his head for the Giants over the final two months of 2012 and then drove home the championship-winning run against Detroit.

The Padres, who haven't picked a star in the first round since Derrek Lee in 1993 (and haven't had one get more than a cup of coffee with them since Andy Benes in 1988), take Moore instead of Schmidt. This keeps them from acquiring Huston Street and extending his contract. Well, it keeps them from using Schmidt to acquire Street. I'm not sure the Rockies were interested in acquiring Schmidt so much as ridding themselves of Street.

Cases could be made for taking Lucroy, Barney, Brandon Belt, Rick Porcello, Parker, Freddie Freeman, or Anthony Rizzo instead of Moore. Some of these (Belt not on Giants, Porcello not on Tigers) would have implications in 2012.

Conclusion
In our make-believe scenario, here is a before-and-after comparison (and again, forgive the gross oversimplification of a player's value as represented by a single number; this is just shorthand):

Team

Before

After

WARP Gain

Player

WARP

Player

WARP

Diamondbacks

Sergio Santos

2.1

Josh Johnson

17.8

15.7

Max Scherzer

10.9

Scherzer

10.9

0.0

Jarrod Parker

2.0

Jason Heyward

9.8

7.8

Total

15.0

Total

38.5

23.5

Dodgers

James Loney

2.5

Joey Votto

26.0

23.5

Clayton Kershaw

18.1

Kershaw

18.1

0.0

Chris Withrow

n/a

Jordan Zimmermann

6.8

6.8

Total

20.6

Total

50.9

30.3

Giants

Matt Cain

19.9

Cain

19.9

0.0

Tim Lincecum

16.5

Lincecum

16.5

0.0

Madison Bumgarner

7.5

Bumgarner

7.5

0.0

Total

43.9

Total

43.9

0.0

Padres

Khalil Greene

9.8

Brian McCann

24.7

14.9

Matt Antonelli

-0.3

Ian Kennedy

8.1

8.4

Nick Schmidt

n/a

Matt Moore

2.9

2.9

Total

9.5

Total

35.7

26.2

Rockies

Jeff Francis

14.7

Curtis Granderson

30.9

16.2

Greg Reynolds

-0.9

Evan Longoria

25.8

26.7

Casey Weathers

n/a

Giancarlo Stanton

12.7

12.7

Total

13.8

Total

69.4

55.6

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers need to “fix” two of their picks, while the Padres and Rockies need to fix all three. The Giants—thanks to Sabean and his brain trust—need no such revisions.

What impact might all this have had on the NL West over the past few years?

  • 2007: Granderson (.303 TAv, 6.6 WARP) is a huge upgrade in center field over Willy Taveras (.254, 1.6); would it be enough to push Colorado past the Red Sox? Maybe not, but it would be enough to keep them out of a controversial Game 163 against San Diego.
  • 2008: Would Votto (.293 TAv, 3.3 WARP) help the Dodgers get past Philadelphia and into the World Series? Not unless he could pitch, something Loney (.263, -0.3) was better equipped to do according to scouting reports of him as an amateur.
  • 2009: It's frightening to think what the Rockies might have done with Granderson (.273 TAv, 3.3 WARP) over Dexter Fowler (.262, 1.6) and Longoria (.293, 6.5) over Ian Stewart (.260, 1.0). They finished three games back of the Dodgers (who would upgrade from Loney's .271, 0.8 to Votto's .326, 4.3) in the NL West but won the wild card. Colorado lost to the Phillies in reality, but it was a tight series; the added firepower of Granderson and Longoria might have pushed the Rockies over the top.
  • 2010: With McCann (.294 TAv, 4.5 WARP) over Yorvit Torrealba (.269, 2.3) and Kennedy over Correia (discussed above), the Padres hold off San Francisco before losing to Philadelphia in the first round, which makes up for the Phillies falling to Colorado a year earlier. Through no fault of his own, Sabean is denied a World Series. Good thing in reality he is better at drafting than are his counterparts.
  • 2011: As noted earlier, the Diamondbacks are a very different team without Kennedy and Daniel Hudson (acquired in a trade for Edwin Jackson that no longer occurs in our scenario thanks to the Rockies drafting of Granderson). Granted, they have Heyward, but he suffers a sophomore slump (.257 TAv, 0.2 WARP) and is a significant downgrade from Gerardo Parra (.275, 3.0) this season. Johnson is brilliant but makes only nine starts due to injuries.
  • 2012: The Tigers probably don't win without Jackson, Scherzer, and Porcello. Maybe Jim Tracy stays with a Rockies team that doesn't constantly lose while trying to overcome a series of bad free-agent signings.

Is this exercise without flaws? No. Does it make a lot of sense? Um... Is it fun to consider? Yes.

And if you're a Giants fan celebrating your team's second world championship in three years, be grateful that Sabean knows what he's doing on draft day. Also, be grateful that the Padres didn't take McCann in 2002 or Kennedy in 2006. Or Jered Weaver in 2004 instead of Matt Bush, which is a story for some other day.

14 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Bizball: 2012 Sees Low... (10/30)
<< Previous Column
Western Front: Better ... (10/23)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Western Front: Three D... (11/06)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Sobsequy: The Freaks a... (10/31)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Before They Were Prospects
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: The Ace Chase, the Rays' Face...
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Jon Lester's New Peers
Premium Article Prospect Mechanics
Moonshot: A New View of Plate Discipline, Pa...
The Lineup Card: Nine of the Worst Baseball ...

MORE FROM OCTOBER 30, 2012
Premium Article Bizball: 2012 Sees Lowest World Series Ratin...
Baseball ProGUESTus: A Brief, Incomplete His...
Painting the Black: Evaluating the Non-Tende...

MORE BY GEOFF YOUNG
2012-11-20 - Premium Article Western Front: Surprise, You Won 90 Games
2012-11-13 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Days in the Desert, Par...
2012-11-06 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Days in the Desert, Par...
2012-10-30 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Giant Draft Picks
2012-10-23 - Western Front: Better Than Setting Cash on F...
2012-10-16 - Premium Article Western Front: The Year Baseball Went Missin...
2012-10-03 - Western Front: If It Wasn't for Accountabili...
More...

MORE WESTERN FRONT
2012-11-20 - Premium Article Western Front: Surprise, You Won 90 Games
2012-11-13 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Days in the Desert, Par...
2012-11-06 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Days in the Desert, Par...
2012-10-30 - Premium Article Western Front: Three Giant Draft Picks
2012-10-23 - Western Front: Better Than Setting Cash on F...
2012-10-16 - Premium Article Western Front: The Year Baseball Went Missin...
2012-10-03 - Western Front: If It Wasn't for Accountabili...
More...