You Are The GM: Reader Responses, Part Twoby Craig Burley
May 31, 2006
Last week in Reader Responses, Part One of our "You Are The GM" series, we looked at your responses to our draft challenge and the specific comments you had about our imaginary prospects.
This week, we'll take a look at the general comments you had to make about team drafting strategy, and I will give my own comments on the seven players on our "draft board".
Comments About Strategy
There were a lot of general comments from the readers about team drafting strategy that I thought were superb. Here are some of the best ones:
"I am going to approach this by throwing team composition out the window. Also, considering the fact that the Dodgers farm system is one of the deepest in baseball, there isn't any real need to select players by any certain position. I am simply going to take the best player available when our selection comes up."
"With that in mind, the only consideration is the ballpark. Dodger Stadium used to be a pitcher's park across the board, but in recent years has become much more tolerant toward home runs. Due to the fact that the ballpark is prohibitive to all types of hits except home runs, the stadium demands a certain type of ballplayer—one who walks, and one who hits home runs. You need to adopt an Earl Weaver mindset, because the same factors apply that applied to him in Baltimore. It would be ideal to have players who can run and steal bases as well, but if five-tool talents grew on trees, everyone would have one."
"Defense is a concern as well, because you want to limit baserunners when the Big Fly comes, but that goes without saying. Since most middle infielders don't have much home run power, the GM is forced to look for corner players who walk and hit home runs, and up-the-middle players who walk and steal bases."
"The same rules apply for pitchers. It is very tricky to get pitchers who possess both excellent control but also limit home runs, as usually guys who are around the plate all the time tend to get jacked more often." -Andrew Denny, Los Angeles Dodgers
"I like the thought of a guy who can just plain hit and hit with power. I would not use a top selection on a pitcher—I think that the secret to pitchers is to just get a whole bunch of them who look like they can pitch and then work with them and hope that you can find a Roy Halladay every three to five years." -Steve from Toronto, Toronto Blue Jays
"So why Armstrong? In the last 6 months the Reds went out and got Dave Williams and Bronson Arroyo. If they hadn't been added, I would most likely go with Bender, because league-average innings were what the team needed most. But with Arroyo and Williams added to Harang, Claussen and Milton, I think league-average innings are in there somewhere in sufficient quantities. Now the Reds need that potential ace. A cheap-ass, um, I mean a small-market club like Cincinnati can't just go out and buy one, they need to grow their own." -Arthur Copeland, Cincinnati Reds
"Before we get to May 30th, I (Brian Sabean) go and find (fill in name of overpaid, over the hill outfielder) and sign him before the arbitration period is up, forfeiting my first round pick in the upcoming draft." -Matt Shone, San Francisco Giants [Author's Note: But Matt, you can't give away the #9 overall pick that way! Only the bottom 15 first-rounders can be dumped like that. You're stuck with the pick ... just draft Grand and give a lowball offer to Scott Boras. I guarantee you won't sign him.]
"So I guess that my rankings reflect an aversion to risk (college over HS), a preference for guys with decent attitudes/work habits, and guys who have multiple talents and athleticism over single dimensional types." -Jim from New York, no team given
"With the desiccation of the Mariner's farm system, getting back to producing Major League talent as soon as possible is the first priority. A baseball club with this large of a revenue stream should be a consistent contender, and that is exactly what is expected among the Seattle populace. The Seattle fans are notoriously fickle and any more losing seasons could decrease stated revenue dramatically. This is something my ownership group will not allow."
"Also under consideration is the attrition rate of Seattle's Minor League Pitching. Injuries have super-nova'd many a bright career so selecting someone with as little risk as possible is preferable. Partially due to that and partially due to poor drafting, this organization's pitching depth is abominable. Foppert doesn't seem to be recovering from TJ well, Bobby Livingston is still questionable as a Major League talent, Clint Nageotte may project as a No. 4. Travis Blackley must prove that a torn labrum will not finish his chapter in this organizational book. " -Nathan Hoover, Seattle Mariners
"I would go out of my way to talk this kid [Grand] up in the presence of other GM's in the hope that my biggest rival gets saddled with him." -"Dodger Dan" from Concord
"As the GM of the Phillies, obviously there are some areas in need of some serious TLC, and some we'll be able to say just "Set it and Forget it". The most pressing needs for the organization right now are third base, catcher, and starting pitcher, in no particular order. David Bell's contract can't expire soon enough, and Mike Lieberthal's talent level has reached the point of no return. The pitching staff is decent if unspectacular, but needs a definitive ace. Within the 3 to 5 years it will take for this prospect to develop, the center and right field positions may also need some work as well. Although Bobby Abreu is the team's superstar, he is 32 and appears to be on the decline statistically. And in center Aaron Rowand is placekeeper whose offense isn't strong enough despite being a plus defender. " -Blaise Richards, Philadelphia Phillies
"The Braves desperately need a good starting pitcher. Cutter is the only one that has stepped up to being a starter at his level." -Jonathan Sale, Atlanta Braves
Looking at Jonathan Sale's comment, it's obvious how quickly things can change for a major league organization. It was only four years ago that the Atlanta Braves had so much starting pitching that they could afford to take a Hall of Fame starter and turn him into a relief ace. "Drafting for need" may end up being a golden path to solving yesterday's problems!
So what did I think of our prospects?
A number of you asked "how did I do?" as you were signing off. I think you all did great, actually, because as I pointed out there are no wrong answers in this drill. All the players are highly thought of, no one's future is ever predestined, no two teams' circumstances are the same. The amateur draft is an extremely inexact science, let alone this boiled-down version of it.
For my team, the Toronto Blue Jays, I would have ranked the players as follows:
I don't dislike any of the seven players. Given the place in the first round that we're picking in, it's quite a good selection of guys to choose from. Let me give some quick-hit comments on the players before getting back to the more general discussion.
FILIGRANA - I think the scout here has projected Filigrana awful aggressively. Projecting a 30 to a 60 is an awful long way to project any tool. I think defense at first base is important; also a team like Toronto has the flexibility (with the DH) to put a moose somewhere else. But Filigrana looks like a guy who may spend a long time in the minors developing. If I drafted him, I would want to move Filigrana to centerfield to take advantage of his speed and defensive instincts; his below-average arm makes that enough of a potential concern that I don't really see a fit.
CUTTER - I just have this blind spot about high school pitchers. I know, at some level, that I should be drooling over Cutter's physical skills, which in my opinion sound the best of any of the seven guys under consideration. I have a huge bias in favor of lefties with good fastball velocity, too, who are rare and who are disproportionately represented among elite pitchers. No excuse for me not to have Cutter #1 (I think my favorite submissions were the ones with the stones to put Cutter first) but that "high school pitcher" thing ... I guess if Billy Beane can get over it, I should too. Cutter's my favorite guy here, in terms of wanting him to succeed.
EMPUJADA - The other guy I really want to see succeed. Limited upside means he won't be high on my draft board compared with the others. The biggest flags I see here are the altitude and competition in the Mountain West. It's not just Utah; practically all the parks in that league are at altitude and you need to take a lot of air out of those numbers. Also, his strikeout numbers are high, and very high for a weak league at altitude playing with metal; this guy might not be able to survive the switch to wood. I'd want to know more about why he's missing so many pitches, though fear of his power probably means he gets very little to hit! Given his raw tools numbers, I'd be concerned that he's really a second baseman. But I *love* his intangibles.
BENDER - First, the weaker league means you should take a cut off those numbers. A cold-weather league like the Big Ten is also quite generous to pitchers. Bender's got a nice complete package, but the fact that he has trouble going deep in starts is a huge red flag for me (I have to admit, I tried not to do it, but this is one guy whose whole career arc kept popping up in my head for me). This guy has a starter's repertoire but maybe not a starter's body or arm. On the other hand his fastball isn't bad, velocity-wise, for a lefty. I'd be happy enough with this guy, but he needs a lot of things to break right to be a star; the three guys above him need less.
DOUBLE - Batting average! Speed! That's a killer combination. Way, way too many people ignore batting average as the central driver of offensive production for most players, and Double not only has a pretty good average against top-grade competition, he projects well enough according to the scouts. Double's speed is a plus-plus tool and added to his good defense rating, we could be looking at a Gary Pettis or Elliott Maddox defensively, one who is pretty close to the majors and all. But all in all, there is NO WAY I would have him third on my board based on this data if it weren't for organizational need. The Blue Jays need, desperately, a young outfielder who can play center and preferably lead off because in 2-3 years they won't have either thing. The problem that most people had with Double, and why nobody else picked up on this guy, is that the scout just doesn't like him and underrates him, and I should have found a way to tip everyone off about it. My bad.
ARMSTRONG - Big dude, throws really freakin' hard, his arm isn't falling off and he can obviously pitch some. Him going this high is a no-brainer for me. That "80" projectable fastball ... that's probably based on the idea that a strong kid will get stronger and that a good coach will find a way to coax that extra velocity out of him. Those are gambles I like to take, because I think there's something specific I can do as the organization to help it happen. The fastball is the central skill of the major league pitcher, and for the most part it can't be taught. Armstrong is the ultimate building block.
GRAND - You write up a guy like this, knowing all the flaws you've built in, but it doesn't matter. You fall for it anyway: hook, line and sinker. Knowing all the negatives here, I look at Grand and see a big, aggressive power hitter, and I fall all over myself. Even knowing how much he sounds like the next Dave Kingman (at best) or Russ Branyan (more likely). Also, I rated Grand #1 based on the fact that the Blue Jays are thin in the system at third base ... which was dumb, because this guy resembles a third baseman as much as I resemble a supersonic plane. Everything about him screams football. But GMs everywhere do the same; they see that Big Tool in a player and they get weak in the knees. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I am actually shocked at how easily suckered I was by the Big Tools ... the three guys I liked most all had that one outstanding, central skill (Double the speed, Armstrong the fastball, Grand the power) and I fell for it. In hindsight, reading your responses, I think I've been had. I better turn in my Moneyball Merit Badge.
Tools Fanatics would like Grand, Cutter and Armstrong, followed by Filigrana and Double, with Bender and Empujada at the rear. Pure Spreadsheeters would probably like Bender and Empujada, followed by Armstrong, then Double and Grand, with Filigrana and then Cutter at the bottom.
Next week I will return for the final time to our prospects and we'll look into our THT Crystal Ball and see how each of these guys turned out.
Craig Burley can be contacted via e-mail.