Prospect Draft Twilight Zone
Tonight, I’m taking my wife on a hot date to Ikea in Atlanta to pick out furniture for my son’s room. If you ever wondered if the four children I have was the result of my wife finding baseball bloggers irresistible, it’s not. Blame it on Ikea and their nice, cheap furniture. Without it, she probably would have wanted to stop after two.
Speaking of Ikea and a trip to the city… If I die in a fiery car crash, just remember to NEVER draft a pitching prospect early unless said prospect is clearly the best player available — by a decent margin. For the past two days, I’ve been beating myself up for drafting not one, but TWO pitchers with my top picks in the Baseball Prospectus prospect mock draft.
In my last newsletter, I mentioned having the seventh pick with the top six position players being selected as a crummy scenario I was hoping to avoid. Guess what happened?
Without providing names, it was the first time drafting two consecutive pitchers with my first two picks… EVER!
Ultimately, prospect drafts are as much about value as strategy. As a strategy, I’ll never draft a pitcher early in prospect drafts unless he is an obvious choice for best player available. In this instance, both picks were the best player available.
Let’s throw a hypothetical out there…..
1. You have the ninth pick in a prospect draft where Buxton, Tavares, Bradley, Sano, Bogaerts, Correa, Baez and Lindor are the first eight players taken. Who do you take?
Polanco was a shooting star in 2012, but combined for a .791 OPS with 12 home runs and 38/49 stolen base attempts in High-A/Double-A. In the Eastern League, his OPS fell 74 points and he was successful on just 65% of his stolen base attempts (13/20). Yes, the Pirates prospect is one of the better power/speed prospects in baseball, but do you take him over a Taijuan Walker who’s arguably the game’s second best pitching prospect?
As for Walker, he threw 156 1/3 innings in 2013 between Double-A, Triple-A and MLB. His numbers slipped in the Pacific Coast League, but he still managed a 64/27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 1/3 innings pitched while allowing less than a hit per inning. At 20/21, he held his own against a more advanced level of competition than did Polanco at nearly a year his junior.
The fantasy owner who swears off drafting a pitcher in the first round would take Polanco in spite of the fact Walker is the more valuable asset. This is a mistake, and if done over a number of years, will lead to a less successful team. So, for as much as I loathe taking pitchers this early, I’m forced to take the best player available since there’s not an equivalent offensive talent.
Does it seem like common sense? Sure, but in a prospect draft where the best fantasy prospect guys in the industry are picking, four inferior bats came off the board between my first round pick and the second pitcher taken.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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