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June 21, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Scoresheet: Draft Prep 1

by Rob McQuown

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This author's introduction to Scoresheet baseball was charmed, taking over an abandoned team in the “NL 300” league last July which had the first pick in the June draft. For those who play Scoresheet, it's well-known that the draft which follows the MLB Rule 4 Draft is the strongest, as this is when the new talent is made available. Watching the league's first overall pick from last year, Stephen Strasburg, pitch, “charmed” may be understating things. For those unaccustomed to playing Scoresheet baseball, some background is required:

The aforementioned “NL 300” league purportedly contains only National League players (those players whose rights are owned by a National League MLB team). Scoresheet also offers AL and BL (both leagues) teams. The standard configuration is 12 teams in an NL league, which is what “NL 300” has. It's a strong league, having been around for many years, and the rules allow for 2 “crossover” players to be kept in addition to NL players. The standard configuration allows teams to keep many players from year-to-year, with no salary considerations. However, players with MLB experience (beyond “rookie” status) must be kept using one of the team's top 13 picks, while “rookies” can be safely protected using the latter picks. A hypothetical pre-2010 keeper list for a strong NL team might look like:

 

  1. Brian McCann

  2. Albert Pujols

  3. Chase Utley

  4. Aramis Ramirez

  5. Jimmy Rollins

  6. Matt Holliday

  7. Josh Hamilton (crossover)

  8. Jason Bay

  9. Jake Peavy (crossover)

  10. Johan Santana

  11. Tim Lincecum

  12. Dan Haren

  13. Scott Kazmir

  14. (first round of draft)

  15. (second round of draft)

[etc.]

  1. Pedro Alvarez

  2. Madison Bumgarner

  3. Jason Heyward

  4. Alcides Escobar (still qualified as a “rookie”)

  5. Derrek Norris

 

By the time of the late June draft, Scoresheet teams have pretty much stratified into the “haves” and “have-nots”, as in MLB. In this draft, contending teams are often scrambling to find one more useful relief pitcher (“saves” aren't a category in Scoresheet, the ability to get out batters is all that matters) – someone like Joaquin Benoit will likely get snarfed up early in AL Scoresheet leagues, for example, as he's been absurdly effective so far for Tampa Bay, and has enough of a history of success to conclude that he's unlikely to fall apart completely. Or maybe they're feverishly trying to fill a hole caused by injuries (yours truly would have been in this boat at the catching position – having Salty and Hanigan – if not for a trade last week). For a simulation game like Scoresheet, one may wonder why priorities would be different than those suggested by minor-league expert Kevin Goldstein, but a variety of factors make it so, not the least is the fact that MLB teams have around 100 slots in which to develop minor-leaguers.

Scoresheet drafts are held at a leisurely pace, relatively speaking. The upcoming draft for “300” begins in the late afternoon June 22, and runs through June 25. This installment will address the top-tier talent, with looks into deeper picks coming later. Talent for rebuilding teams can come from one of three sources:

  • MLB players who have taken a huge step forward in 2010, yet weren't drafted in the first of the 3 drafts (in May). These are exceedingly rare, and might include only an odd nugget like Neil Walker or Alexi Ogando. Most often, if these players are considered by a rebuilder, however, it's solely for the purpose of “flipping” them quickly to a contender for more picks and/or prospects.
  • MiLB players who have taken a huge step forward in 2010, yet remain undrafted.
  • 2010 Draftees.

Culling through these various options, a top-20 list follows, with representation from both leagues. This be a good starting point for draft preparation, allowing for the fact that some players are gone in some leagues, and that some current-season players are bound to be taken. To start with, however, scan Kevin Goldstein's 1st-round Mock Draft. It's assumed that most higher-profile prospects are gone, but if they are available, feel free to comment below if they are available in a certain league's draft and timely replies will be forthcoming. This includes anyone, but such players as Pedro Alvarez, Carlos Santana, and even Simon Castro, Jordan Lyles, or Julio Teheran, just to name a few who really *should* be long gone in most leagues. Advice about general tactics, such as the types of players to focus on, will be included with player comments:

  1. Bryce Harper (of? - WAS) – Prospecting always involves tradeoffs. On the one hand, it's bad to “constipate” the few roster slots which can be used on non-producing players by taking guys in the low minors. The other side of that argument is that prospects have value just by people thinking they have value, and sometimes a couple hot months in A-ball can raise a prospect's trade value to the point where someone is willing to give up a solid major-league contributor for him. Additionally, there's the obvious point that once players reach their superstar upsides, they very rarely get traded, at least by most successful owners. So, to get access to elite talent requires gambling on “potential”. As a non-catcher, Harper's a lot less likely to “constipate” a minor-league system. Everything indicates that he wants to get on the field and start mashing baseballs, ala Jason Heyward. He's a much safer pick than almost anyone else his age.

  2. Mike Moustakas (3b - KC) – probably gone in most leagues, either due to the patience of an owner keeping him after last year's debacle, or someone grabbing him in the first draft. But as a 21-year-old third baseman with a Tav (remember, this is translated to MLB levels) of .281 and translated stats of 271/.314/.528, the pedigree of being the 2nd overall pick, and a contact rate of 84% to go with that immense power, it's worth checking to see if he's available.

  3. Neil Walker (2b/3b - PIT) - His Scoresheet range rating at 2b is 4.21, making him very playable at a position where 4.25 is average. He's hitting .292/.338/.438 so far, and before his call-up, he trailed only Carlos Santana and Logan Morrison among all minor-leaguers in terms of Tav, with a Davenport Translation of .312/.376/.541 (yes, ahead of Posey and Stanton and Alvarez). At this point, he looks every bit like he's going to be a decent major-league hitter. If he's able to accomplish the transition from 3b to 2b defensively, he could be a star-level player, and an easy keeper. He involves risk, but he should be easy to move in a trade, as the 2b rating is now “locked in” for 2010. He's worth very early consideration (as high as #2 in the draft) for teams which are interested in continuing to compete, yet want a potential keeper as well.

  4. Jose Tabata (PIT - OF) is another player in the mold of Neil Walker, in that he was once much more highly-regarded as a prospect and saw his “stock” drop entering the 2010 season, then suddenly started hitting again in Indianapolis. While the stolen bases help very little in Scoresheet, and while he's not a center fielder – which will limit his range ratings – Tabata was also 9th in DT among minor-leaguers this year before being promoted. His translated line was .305/.364/.425. For a 21-year-old at AAA, those stats strongly suggest star potential, even if relegated to left field. With his speed, it's hard to think of a player to compare him to – his preseason PECOTA comparables included Tony Fernandez (#2) and Kevin Mitchell (#4), though just intuitively, it seems like a pre-”problems” version of Lonnie Smith might be an interesting comparison as a hitter (Tabata is a much better fielder than “Skates”). Smith hit .320/.386/.446 from ages 24-27, resulting in Tav's over .300 each year, so that's not meant as any sort of slight on Tabata.

  5. Eric Hosmer (1b – KC) – The bar is set incredibly high for Scoresheet relevance at the 1b position, but the players who can clear that bar are exceptionally valuable, as they are middle-of-the-order difference makers. Like organization-mate Moustakas, Hosmer has shrugged off a terrible 2009 season and is hitting .356/.425/.529 as a 20-year-old in the tough Carolina League (high-A). He's striking out in less than 10% of his plate appearances, making him a strong candidate to continue hitting for a high average even as he moves up, ala James Loney. His upside includes far exceeding Loney's power output, as well.

  6. Mike Trout (cf – LAA) – Trout doesn't fit the mold of ultra-high-batting-average hitters, but he led his (Arizona) league in slugging last year, and is hitting .370 as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League this year. He bats righty, is listed at 6'1”/217#, and has nowhere near the otherworldly contact rate that a Juan Pierre did. What he does have in common with Pierre, however, is blinding speed. And he slashes line drives all around the park, with enough pop to more than keep defenses honest. Don't be overly surprised to see him promoted aggressively, with a September call up being only as “impossible” as the impossible test in Portal.

  7. Christian Colon (ss KC) – For Scoresheet purposes, it doesn't matter that he's not projected to be a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, only that the Royals insist that they are keeping him at the position, and that he can hit. From the scouting reports, he sounds he shares the hard-nosed attitude of recent former Cal State Fullerton grads Kurt Suzuki, Aaron Rowand, and Mark Kotsay. Finding middle infielders who can hit is always problematic in Scoresheet leagues. Anyone can play first base, outfielders can play any of the three positions, a bad defensive third baseman isn't overly crippling, but finding tolerable fielders in the middle infield who can help an offense is a very rare combination. That – and the lesser likelihood of position players to get hurt - makes Colon rate out above some of the starting pitchers who probably have higher upsides in the abstract.

  8. Drew Pomeranz (sp – CLE) – Kevin Goldstein accurately predicted Pomeranz going to Cleveland 5th, noting: “Six weeks ago, Cleveland couldn't have dreamed of Pomeranz being available here, and they'll be happy to scoop him up.” He has a great combination of “stuff” (he throws hard for a lefty, touching 94, and his curve is even better than his fastball) and readiness, having played in a major college program. Cleveland promises to have plenty of opportunities for starting pitchers in the upcoming years, and the ballpark and division aren't overly taxing on pitchers.

  9. Manny Machado (ss – BAL) – There's a difference of opinion as to whether he'll be able to stay at shortstop, a situation which usually means that a player will not, which is consistent with Kevin Goldstein's expert prediction. Machado is a great “upside” pick, but be prepared to invest 3 years of patience in him, in case he starts off slowly, as did other high-school shortstops Mike Moustakas and Tim Beckham. Don't be deceived by the A-Rod comparisons, but it's entirely possible that he'll be able to rake at full-season ball (class A) in 2011, at the tender young age of 18. If he does, his Scoresheet league trade stock will shoot through the roof.

  10. Drew Cumberland (ss – SD) – Not young for his league, he's an appropriate 21 years old at high-A. Cumberland has always been regarded as having elite talent, but has suffered through injuries. He is a good-fielding shortstop, and brings a lefty bat with speed to a position where most players are right-handed. Playing his home games in Petco will cut down on his power a bit, but he's a slasher, and should still collect extra-base hits.

  11. Jonathan Singleton (1b – PHI) – He's 18 in full-season ball in the Sally League, hitting .373/.460/.672, with a tolerable strikeout rate. He can't be happy about the Ryan Howard extension, but the Phillies have shown ample willingness to trade their prospects.

  12. Zack Cox (3b – STL) – It may not be possible for Zack Cox to convert to second base defensively, and he may not ever hit 30 homers as a third baseman. But his bat is SEC-tested, and he was annointed “best pure hitter” in this draft by many sources. As a draft-eligible Sophomore, he's young for a college player, yet that's also the greatest source of risk for this future star – that the Cardinals may be unable to sign him and he'll return to terrorizing college pitching for another season.

  13. Brandon Belt (1b – SF) – Might actually end up getting over-drafted in many leagues, as his surface stats are aided by playing in the California League, and he's a year old for high-A ball. But, on the other hand, it's his first season of professional baseball, and he's regarded as a tremendous defensive first baseman, and has stolen 15 bases already. Oh, and by the way, he's hitting .393/.503/.641.

  14. Jameson Taillon (sp – PIT) – BA writes, “owns the two best pitches in the draft”. Draft picks don't get any riskier than high-school pitchers, but the comparisons to Josh Beckett seem founded, and if he can throw strikes, he could scale the ranks as fast as fellow Texans Beckett and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw started 21 games for the Dodgers just 2 years after being selected, which would be the 2012 season for Taillon.

  15. Chris Sale (sp – CHA) – Often, lefties carry a mystique which gets them taken higher than they deserve in the draft. And Sale fits that mold. Baseball America rated him 5th, and Kevin Goldstein rated him 4th in this draft class (going by his mock draft). But this is where considering the needs of a Scoresheet team can be helpful. When a scouting report says, “sits comfortably at 90-92” for a college pitcher, that's not going to go up as he ages, and while that's not bad for a lefty, it doesn't scream “rotation anchor”, either. His fantastic control mean that he's likely to be on the fast-track to Chicago, where he'll... um... pitch in one of the best hitter's parks in the American League, likely backed by a porous defense. All-in-all, he's a weak Scoresheet selection for such a high pick in the draft. With those disclaimers, he did sign quickly, and fits the profile of a pitcher who could be helping the White Sox in 2011, though with Daniel Hudson apparently ready to replace Freddy Garcia, it's not like Chicago has a pressing need for another starter anytime soon.

  16. Wil Myers (c – KC) – For patient owners, he deserves to be higher on this list. The only question with him now is how long it will take to train him into a major-league defender. The organization seems intent on leaving him at catcher, a decision which is made much easier with the wealth of other good corner players in the system (Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer, and the unfortunate Kila Ka'aihue).

  17. Austin Romine (c – NYA) – Not the hitter Jesus Montero is (who is?), but rumored to be all-but-untouchable in trade discussions nonetheless. This perhaps tips the Yankees' hand, suggesting that Montero might end up at another position, with Romine replacing Posada when his contract is done. Not that it matters much for Scoresheet purposes, but Romine's defense is considered excellent. He currently has the 11th-best Tav among young (under 23) AA players, so he should hit well for a catcher, also.

  18. Matt Harvey (sp – NYN) – He threw a 96-MPH fastball with the 157th pitch of a college game. As MLB.com reports, "You hope it's a strength, no question," said Mets area scout Marlin McPhail, who attended that game. In this age of pitch counts and limitations, McPhail quickly added: "We prefer not to have to see that." Obviously, with his fastball, pedigree, and durability, the only limiting factor for Harvey will be the rate at which he can develop his breaking pitches. Could be a year, could be much, much longer.

  19. Deck McGuire (sp – TOR) – It's painfully difficult to recommend pitchers in the AL East, given the abundance of offensive firepower. Add to that the fact that most don't consider McGuire to be an “upside” guy, and having him rated this high may seem questionable, at best. But it's also difficult to ignore Toronto's amazing track record at developing pitchers in recent years. And McGuire is rated very high in the “safety” department, given his level of polish and the advanced competition he's seen.

  20. Andres Torres (of – SF) – As featured in the Hot Spots: Outfield Value Pick list, Torres has latched on to a full-time gig in San Francisco and isn't in any real danger of losing it. He's a 2.12-range outfielder who should get on base over 35% of the time and steal a lot of bases with some extra-base pop. At age 32, he's not for everyone, but he can certainly help a team win.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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