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June 22, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Scoresheet: Draft Prep 2

by Rob McQuown

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One of the best aspects of playing Scoresheet baseball is the accessibility of the people who run the game. Jeff Barton, whose comment to Part 1 helped level-set expectations for what the best teams might have, is an active participant on the game forums and blog, where veteran owners also weigh in with their hard-earned experience. Since this is the time of the year when Scoresheet has a few “abandoned” teams looking for friendly homes, it is good to keep in mind that while good teams are indeed quite good, the bar isn't usually set unbelievably high, and while there's a pride of accomplishment in turning a franchise around in Scoresheet baseball, the task isn't nearly as daunting as that faced by real-life GM's who take over for predecessors who may have set the team back for many years.

For example, as noted yesterday, the team in the “300” league is charmed, and was fortunate enough to receive a trade offer of Jason Heyward for Javier Vazquez last year, which helped another team win a championship but became an even better deal for Team McQuown with Vazquez becoming a “crossover” in the offseason and Heyward being, well, Heyward. Long story short, without any other trades which could be called “great”, the team was in such a bad situation that one expert forum respondee noted, “I see only three definite keepers, trade all the slots you can. Definites: Votto, CarGo, Ethier.” [keeper slots can be traded for players or picks]. The team has had 2 straight awful weeks, and still remains in first place this year, however. “Results may vary”, as they say, and even yours truly and the team's co-manager didn't see the turnaround happening so quickly. (kudos need to go to co-manager Brian Joseph - Baseball Daily Digest Editor and he who was smart enough to see a great year coming from Barry Zito, not to mention Mike Leake's immediate impact).

Some feedback yesterday (both in personal replies and forum-wide responses) was that players who are thought to have “high upside” are usually highly coveted in leagues. The logic is that while teams have only 35 players to start the season, there are 3 3-player drafts in-season, and the “cost” of carrying a non-producer isn't all that high, assuming he has a possibility to become a top-tier keeper. Such advice should be taken quite seriously. And that's always a concern when ranking players who aren't super-young against players who haven't yet begun to limit their potential (“the sky's the limit!”). An extreme example of a player who has set his limitations is yesterday's #20, Andres Torres. Clearly, “what you see is what you get” with Torres - at best - and thus, he's “not for everyone”. Styles do vary, however. When preparing yesterday's piece, two veteran owners were consulted as to whether Moustakas or Harper was the better pick for #1 overall, and the responses were divided, with the moral being that it's possible to experience long-term success either way.

Probably the best advice on the “upside” versus “safety” style point is to “know thyself” (and thy leaguemates). If you know you are going to pay “retail” for youth and potential, might as well draft that way. Keep in mind that plenty of players flop, and among those who succeed, “success” can produce very limited utility in a Scoresheet league (see the Chris Sale commentary, for example). Relievers – while integral to making a championship run – are virtually unkeepable in Scoresheet, with only the elite handful of closers warranting such treatment each year. In MLB, this leads to some pitchers with electric stuff sliding in the draft, such as happened with Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow the year they were drafted. In Scoresheet, it's essentially a death knell to a player's value when the words, “moving to the bullpen” are applied to one's pitching prospect.

The broader advice is to keep in mind that unless you're discussing the elite, proven hitting talents, it usually takes multiple roster spots to produce an “expected value” of one star-level keeper. And sometimes, as with the Moustakas and Hosmer examples, the best values can be had by trading for still-young prospects who aren't performing at their peak levels yet. Some examples at this juncture might include injured high-schoolers Donovan Tate and Jared Mitchell, 2b conversion project Dustin Ackley (who has a .390 OBP in AA in his first exposure to pro ball, in spite of a meager .252 batting average and .372 slugging), and Tim Beckham. While some owners are will be possessive of their former draftees, in spite of their struggles, occasionally one of these guys will be available for a big discount in trade.

Today's mix includes some more of the risky “upside” guys, and also some “help a contender” picks.

  1. Joaquin Benoit (rp – TB) – Commented on in passing yesterday, one forum respondee noted that he wasn't available in his league, due to being “gone in the first supp after throwing four innings of 95 mph heat or somesuch”. Well, he's up to 18 innings now, and even rebuilders might want to consider him as trade bait, though it's obviously much safter to arrange such a deal in advance. The “4 innings” comment bring to mind, the next guy...

  2. Alexi Ogando (rp – TEX) – Nobody does a better job of providing one-organization insights, top-to-bottom, than Jamie Newberg does for the Rangers. Subscribing to his e-newsletter is quite informative, and almost makes a Rangers-neutral baseball fan hope for good things for that organization. Anyway, he wrote glowingly of how seeing 15 minutes of Ogando in spring training vaulted him into his Rangers top-10 list, despite the fact that he'll be 27 in October. He's gone in the “BP Kings” league, where Jeff Erickson had stashed him away, presumably after Ogando's multi-year visa problems had been cleared up. He throws so hard that it's not really productive to look at his scant total of 30.2 innings of minor-league stats this year, except for the fact that he's allowed only 11 walks. Expect this control to resume soon in the majors (he's walked 4 in 3.1 IP so far), and for his near-100 MPH heat to sear Texas opponents in the middle innings. He rates to be a highly effective reliever who piles up the innings.

  3. Karsten Whitson (rp – SD) – A high-school pitcher who can touch 96 at times, and has the 6'3” height and big frame that scouts love, Whitson is firmly in the “upside” category. Some scouts even gush that he might have more velocity in his future as he fills out (or as Kevin Goldstein puts it, “a combination of right now velocity and a body that screams projection”). For Scoresheet – or dynasty fantasy leagues – the fact that San Diego took him bodes very well, indeed. With the (more than) 10% run suppression at Petco, even a mediocre 4.00-ERA level pitcher becomes a good 3.60-ERA guy. Pitchers who have the talent to be stars anywhere, such as Whitson, suddenly become much more likely to become rotation anchors.

  4. Josh Sale (of – TB) – You never know what you're going to get with a high-school bat, and Sale has a good chance to end up being a dead roster spot. Those warnings aside, scouts are rating his power near the top of the 20-80 scale, and the best in this draft class. For teams which are looking more than 1-2 years in the future, Sale is an intriguing proposition. The comparisons to Travis Snider (as both a powerful lefty bat and a sub-par fielder) may scare off potential owners, but – per Baseball America – Sale was a single-digit handicap golfer through age 15, suggesting some great hand-eye coordination. Tampa Bay has earned their reputation as a good developmental organization, so he should be in good hands, and if things go right, should be in the middle of their lineup by 2014. But he's a “swing for the fences” pick in more ways than one.

  5. Michael Choice (of – OAK) – While the “new look” Oakland Athletics haven't resembled the “Moneyball” archetype lately, Michael Choice certainly does. Somewhat lost in the discussions of his power, small-school pedrigree, flawed swing – and how all these things make him similar to former UT-Arlington player Hunter Pence – is the fact that he drew 76 walks and was hit by 11 pitches against just 196 official at-bats this spring for a staggering .568 on-base percentage. It's always difficult to weight the impact of a flawed swing, but assuming he'll be able to work through it, it's not hard to envision a Jason Bay type hitter with Pence's good fielding abilities. In addition, he seems very likely to sign, making him lower risk.

  6. Matt Davidson (3b – ARI) - Hitting .294/.373/.494 in the tough Midwest League, and just turned 19 in March. Another cap-tip to Jeff Erickson, on stashing him away in “BP Kings” also.

  7. Kolbrin Vitek (3b? - BOS) – One of the best college hitters in the draft, he's already signed, which reduces risk. He's already playing 3b (after playing 2b in college) in the New York-Penn League (short season).

  8. Kyle Gibson (sp – MIN) – Dropping to 22nd in the 2009 draft due to injury concerns, Gibson has top-of-rotation stuff, and appears to be fully healthy in 2010. He's already earned one promotion, and – as typical for Twins pitchers – is sporting a gaudy 73-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

  9. Anthony Ranaudo (sp – BOS) – Considered as possibly this year's “Kyle Gibson” pick, Ranaudo was the consensus top college pitcher before the season began, and yet slid to the Red Sox at #39. His velocity was back in the SEC tournament, but he's yet to fully iron out the inconsistencies in his delivery which came about due to his early-season injuries. Count on Boston to get the best out of him, though the tough AL East may make him less interesting as a keeper than as a “trade when he gets hyped” pick.

  10. Kenneth “Trey” McNutt (sp – CHN) – A young fireballer with the prototypical build (6'4” tall, 205#), McNutt has been terrorizing the Midwest League this season at age 20. His velocity has increased to consistently in the mid-90's, though he's working more with a 4-seam fastball so he doesn't have the coveted grounder-and-strikeouts combo which so many like to see.

  11. Tyler Chatwood (sp – LAA) – This is a player who is likely to drop the second (or even third) round. But Chatwood's improved his velocity since last year, hitting mid-90's when he needs to. His most impressive quality is the groundout-to-flyout ratio of about 3.0. He doesn't have the height scouts like in pitchers, but he's a 20-year-old who was just promoted to AA after acing the California League. As easy as it is for hitters in the California League, for a pitcher to post a 1.77 ERA there is worthy of attention.

  12. Dellin Betances (sp – NYA) – Remember him? Supposedly, his entire power arsenal has returned with him from Tommy John surgery. He's only 2 starts back, but immediately becomes one of the top starting pitching prospects available.

  13. Brett Jackson (cf – CHN) – He may strike out too much, and his power hasn't shown through much yet in 2010, but his swing and tools had people evoking the name of J.D. Drew when he was drafted, and his 42 walks against just 242 AB make that comparison almost viable. With 27 extra-base hits already, it seems likely that the home run power will eventually arrive for Jackson.

  14. Alex Liddi (3b – SEA) – His power is down considerably from 2009, but the Italian prospect is just 21 in AA ball, and has handled this most-difficult transition while maintaining high offensive levels (.290/.354/.472). He'd be rated slightly higher if he wasn't on track to call Safeco his home ballpark.

  15. Adam Ottavino (sp – STL) – Not to recreate Italy's 2009 WBC team here, so Francisco Cervelli won't be next. On draft day, 2006, most were saying that the Cardinals got a steal with Ottavino dropping to them at pick 30, his stuff was that great. Well, he still has that mid-90's 4-seam fastball, and low-90's 2-seamer. He appeared to have mastered his control problems in Memphis before his promotion, walking just 12 in 47.2 IP. Could be a nice present/future pickup for a team still in contention, yet needing another starter.

  16. John Ely (sp – LAN) – It's almost impossible to envision keeping him, with his average fastball velocity being under 88 MPH. But his peripherals have been great, leading to a 4.02 SIERA. It seems entirely reasonable to expect the league to “catch up” to him in the 2nd half, especially since batters have caught up to him in games he's started (.283/.338/.467 on 3rd plate appearances against him). But his impeccable control should allow him to be somewhat better than a disaster most of the time. He seems more promising for a “filler SP” than the venerable Jamie Moyer, pitching in Citizen's Bank Park, though Moyer has been nothing short of amazing so far in 2010.

  17. Dayan Viciedo (3b – CHA) – He could be gone in some leagues, and he will be avoided entirely by some owners – the ones who go by the “OBP is life” axiom. But he really has amazing power. Consider that he's the same age as some of the 2010 draftees, and was posting a .525 slugging percentage in AAA. If he doesn't develop, he could still end up batting like Tony Batista did early in his career (when his bat speed was at its best), and Batista hit .267/.316/.489 through age 26. That doesn't sound like an All-Star, but there's still much potential for growth in the young player, and his home ballpark will do nothing but aid his power stroke.

  18. Nick Castellanos (3b – DET) – He fell to #44, after Kevin Goldstein had him mocked at #9. A drop like that is usually due to one of two things – either teams think he's going to college (i.e. will have unreasonable bonus demands), or they project that he has a flaw in his game which won't be correctable. There are all sorts of “upside” comments about this guy from various scouting sources, such as “pro body”, “hell of a hitter”, gold medal at the Pan-Am Junior Championships, and one Tigers blogger calling him, “our new best hitting prospect”. The biggest risk a Scoresheet owner is taking here is that Castellanos is from Florida, went to University of Miami games as a kid, and has committed to attend there, being the #4 prospect in the latest ESPNU player rankings. The Tigers have shown willingness to pay above-slot bonuses before, so don't expect them to relinquish the “take” from their 2nd-round pick without a battle.

  19. A.J. Cole (sp – WAS) – Admittedly, this author has a strong bias against taking high school pitchers in a format such as Scoresheet, so to have 3 in the top 40 picks is saying something. Cole has the complete package, and Nats GM Mike Rizzo knows his players. He dropped to pick #116, and has to be considered under 50% to sign, however.

  20. Brandon Workman (sp – BOS) – Ho hum – 6'5” tall, 225# University of Texas righty power pitcher who touches 96 MPH and sits around 92. “Command is better than ever”. 2-time All-Star in Cape Cod League. Undoubtedly part of the reason he fell to the BoSox at #57 is that he was UT's #3 starter, and hence didn't face off against other #1 and #2 starters (in college, these are much more firm than in the pros). Like Ranaudo, he may be more of a “trade when he gets hyped” pick than a build-around guy, though both should be quite good in spite of the division and ballpark.

  21. Late addition: Marc Normandin has some thoughts on Andy Oliver which should be read, as he's probably available in most leagues, and should be considered for teams needing a starter.

 

Notable omissions: Stetson Allie – might have the best pure stuff in this draft, but seems a cinch to end up in someone's bullpen. Yasmani Grandal – his catching defense doesn't rate as good enough to risk an early Scoresheet pick... not that his defense really matters in the majors, but if it either keeps him locked in the minors as he learns, or gets him moved to first base, he's essentially a wasted pick; he's unlikely to hit enough to be a useful first baseman. Kaleb Cowart – It's over-generalizing to suggest that “2-way player” means “move along, nothing to see here”, but it's almost that bad. Expect Cowart to attend Florida State and pick a lane by the time he's again drafted in the first round in 3 years. Gary Brown – quoting BA, “the only drawback in Brown's offensive game is his miniscule number of walks and below-average home run power” - 'Nuff said.

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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