November 21, 2013
AFL First Pitch Forums Draft, Part Two
Last week I took you through the first 10 rounds of my NFBC draft from early November and asked if there would be any interest in going through the final 13 rounds that we conducted in Arizona (the final 27 rounds will start sometime in December and take place online) and it seems as though y’all are interested! For those who missed the first part or don’t want to click over and catch up on my team through 10 rounds, here is a review:
My Team So Far:
- C – none*
- 1B-3B-CI – Votto, Longoria, Lawrie
- 2B-SS-MI – Desmond
- OFx5 – Brown, Werth, Hamilton, Granderson
- Px9 – Verlander, Chapman
*Catchers were going like mad in this draft. There were 10 off the board by the end of round 10 and little did I know that it was just the beginning.
Getting two pitchers in the first five rounds afforded me the ability to wait a little for my second start and third pitcher overall which is good because I was thrilled with my last three picks (Werth-B.Hamilton-Granderson) and I would have hated to feel like I had to take a starter in one of those spots. It probably would’ve just made me regret the Lawrie pick a little more. I jumped back in the pitcher pool this round with Francisco Liriano, a risky proposition to be sure.
Coming into 2013 I was slightly intrigued by Liriano, but he had to show me something. A start or two wasn’t going to do it, I needed five or six before I would buy in. He had a 1.75 ERA after his first six starts and a 2.02 after 16. Even a 10-ER shellacking in Coors only pushed him up to 2.83. Allowing 11 ER in eight innings in his bookend starts during September left him just above 3.00 for the season, at 3.02 in 161 innings, but it was still an overwhelming success. Health is a bigger concern for me than continued strong performance. I would gladly take 175 innings, but that would be a four-year high.
I am displeased with the comments from GM Brian Cashman regarding David Robertson as their future closer. He hasn’t closed off the idea entirely, but he is skeptical of Robertson’s ability to handle it, whereas I see no reason not to anoint him with the role heading into the season. It’s not just because I took him with my 12th-round pick in this draft, but because I legitimately believe he deserves and can handle the job. It’s different when you have the job, but it is worth noting that Robertson has a 1.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 33.5 percent strikeout rate, and 3.5 K/BB ratio during save situations totaling 123 1/3 innings. By the time Opening Day rolls around, I think Robertson will be my second closer.
My plan throughout the round was to get someone for my middle infield. To this point I had only Desmond up the middle and I planned to pair him with Jurickson Profar at second base so of course he was taken the pick before mine! Baseball’s former top prospect was definitely learning on the job with just 166 PA at Triple-A before coming up in late-May and sticking with the Rangers the rest of the way. Even 2014 will be on-the-job training as he only logged 324 PA with inconsistent play thanks to a middle infield logjam in Arlington. I expect him to greatly improve on his 644 OPS, but he will do so on another team as I had to go with my backup plan, Anthony Rendon.
Rendon is already a better hitter than Profar as a polished college product who is also three years older, but his big issue is actually staying on the field. The injury track record that bit Rendon at Rice University and even throughout his limited minor league career is why I prefer Profar, but if that were magically not a factor then I would rate Rendon higher for 2014.
After seeing five or fewer pitchers go in eight of the first 10 rounds, the floodgates opened up with five-plus going in each of the next seven rounds totaling 48 in all (or 46 percent of the picks made). I already contributed to the trend twice since the 10th round and I had no intention of stopping. Zack Wheeler threw six shutout innings in his MLB debut, but then promptly allowed nine earned in his next 10 innings spanning two starts showing the good and bad of a rookie in short order.
He was good-not-great the rest of the way with a 3.11 ERA that was better than he really deserved. He was brilliant in August, but just mediocre in July and September. He was shutdown in mid-September after feeling some shoulder stiffness as he approached his innings cap. He was also my 14thround pick.
I went for another young pitcher in round 15. The round number actually matched his MLB innings total from 2013, but he might actually have a higher ceiling than Wheeler overall, though probably not for 2014. But who cares since I got both of them, right? Have you logged your guesses about the 20-year old righty I took with merely a cup of coffee of experience in 2013? It is of course Taijuan Walker.
After digging deeper into Walker’s work, I came away even more excited about his future – both immediate and long-term. I try not to get overzealous about young arms as they often massively disappoint and I think using 14th- and 15th-round picks falls in line with that policy whereas getting Gerrit Cole in the eighth would’ve been closer to the other end of the spectrum. Though I openly admit that I would have taken Cole at 8.2 had I known that was my last chance at him.
With 14 catchers off the board at this point I was strongly considering a Walker-Gomes combo with my 15th and 16th picks, but of course Gomes was gone before I even picked Walker. None of the other backstops really jumped out to me at this point so I figured I would just wait even longer. Instead I took one of Walker’s teammates: Nick Franklin, a personal favorite since I saw him in the Arizona Fall League a few years ago. He didn’t dominate in his rookie season, but the low bar of offense at shortstop gave his 686 OPS and OPS+ of 96 while his 12 HR, 45 RBI, and 6 SB in 102 games made him plenty relevant on the fantasy landscape.
- Notables: Nick Markakis (16.1), Masahiro Tanaka (16.4), Chris Archer (16.6), Danny Salazar (16.11), Jon Niese (16.13), and Archie Bradley (16.15)
- My pick: Franklin (16.2)
There goes Ryan Doumit and A.J. Pierzynski. Two more catchers off the board giving every team at least one one and four teams two before I get my first. Catchers, so hot right now. Catchers. Instead I went back to the mound with one of my favorite breakout arms from 2013 in Corey Kluber. At 27 he opened his third season in Triple-A with the same problems he had as a major leaguer to end 2012: gobs of hard contact. In 63 innings in the majors in 2012, he had a 10.9 H/9 and 1.3 HR/9, which continued in two ugly Triple-A starts, as he allowed 14 hits, nine runs, and a pair of homers in 12 1/3 innings before getting called up.
His command improved greatly at the big league level this time around, particularly his fastball and changeup. He was missing more bats and allowing fewer home runs en route to a strong season. There is still room for improvement, too, as the fastball was improved, but not yet great despite sitting 94-96 MPH (and a 98 peak) with good sink.
- Notables: Cody Allen (17.1), Danny Farquhar (17.2), Tanner Roark (17.4), Ervin Santana (17.5), Brad Miller (17.7), Brandon Beachy (17.9), and CC Sabathia (17.13)
- My pick: Kluber (17.14)
There was nothing special about my 18th round pick aside from that fact that I showed I can remove my biases against a player and still roster him. As much as fantasy sports are supposed to be fun, they are still about winning so I would have no problem rostering my least favorite player (Jonathan Papelbon) if I thought he was the pick at the time. I’m not a fan of Rasmus, but he has 55 homers in the last two years split as evenly as you can split an odd number over two years.
It was just a matter of “when” not “if” with this next pick. I am a huge advocate of Nathan Eovaldi. He has excellent stuff, a pitcher-friendly ballpark, and 260 1/3 innings of MLB experience under his belt at the age of 24. He had the best fastball in all of baseball last year at an average of 97 MPH on 1172 thrown, 43rd-most, which doesn’t seem that impressive until you consider that he threw just 106 1/3 innings last year. I think he is a stud in the making.
Eovaldi was the start of a youth rush for me. It wasn’t intentional, but this draft is filled with savvy players and I knew they could pounce on these late-rounders at any moment so I jumped on them when it felt right. Oswaldo Arcia’s power display in 2013 was impressive. He bounced between Triple-A and the majors all year long hitting 24 home runs in 533 total PA (10 in 155 at Triple-A). The 23-year old definitely has some swing-and-miss in his game which puts even his .251 average in danger of dropping lower, but I will take the power upside here.
This pick started a run of three from the same team. That definitely wasn’t intentional, especially when you see the team. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t play favorites. These were just my top picks at the time. Nick Castellanos kicked off a three pack of Tigers and was the second of four straight youngsters. He doesn’t even have a guaranteed spot for 2014 and likely needs some more Triple-A seasoning, but this felt like the right time. In a draft-and-hold league, some of these high upside youngsters go a little earlier whereas the steadier vets drop in the process.
The next Tiger was also a spec pick. They are very likely going to sign someone to be their closer with Joe Nathan and Brian Wilson being the early favorites, but neither of those are guaranteed options with Nathan’s age and Wilson’s 714 Tommy John surgeries (okay, just two). Wilson was great to close 2013, but it was 13 2/3 innings and he certainly didn’t have the dominant stuff of the yesteryear. As a Tigers fan I wouldn’t be cheering for Nathan or Wilson to fail if they were the Tigers closer, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t risky so I took Bruce Rondon here. He quietly closed the season very nicely with a 1.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 30 percent strikeout rate, and 10 percent walk rate in 14 2/3 innings over his final 15 outings.
- Notables: J.P. Arencibia (22.1), John Jaso (22.3), Drew Smyly (22.4), Martin Perez (22.9), Junior Lake (22.12), Joe Kelly (22.14), and Brian Wilson (22.15)
- My pick: Rondon (22.2)
Jaso was the catcher I planned to take in the 23rd round as my first backstop, but he went right after my Rondon pick. There were three other catchers taken before my 23r- round pick, but none were guys I was particularly interested in: Travis D’Arnaud, Josmil Pinto, and Devin Mesoraco. Instead I took Alex Avila. I still worry about him staying upright, but he showed in the second half that when he is even moderately healthy he can hit well.
He had a .303/.376/.500 line with nine doubles, a triple, and five homers in 149 PA after the break. Avila was the 25th catcher off the board. Maybe I just noticed it in this particular draft because I didn’t have one for some long, but it seemed like they were in unnecessarily high demand.
My Team through 23 Rounds:
- C – Avila
- 1B-3B-CI – Votto, Longoria, Lawrie
- 2B-SS-MI – Desmond, Rendon, Franklin
- OFx5 – Brown, Werth, Hamilton, Granderson, Rasmus, Arcia, and Castellanos
- Px9 – Verlander, Chapman, Liriano, Robertson, Wheeler, Walker, Kluber, Eovaldi, and Rondon
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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