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First Round (or top 7 Inaugural) Picks that were Duds

Last month we analyzed the best draft picks in AL Robinson’s history. We only touched upon the worse picks. “They” say you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. Well, if you learn more from other people’s failures, than this article will be an excellent teacher. All the players selected in the first round of an AL Robinson draft and were not protected are listed below. If I notice the player was protected, but never had a productive season, I include them, too. If the player wasn’t protected, but gave his Scoresheet team a solid season, then I put parentheses around the entry and not count it in the tallies at the bottom. The name in parentheses on each entry is the manager who drafted that player – just for the record.

 

1991:

The players left unprotected from the first round of 1991 really really bombed, because this was our inaugural draft R#1:

 

Ben McDonald – 23 sp AAA/MLB (Burgess) McDonald had an awesome arm. I guess he was the Felix Hernandez of his day and was the second player taken in our draft – after only Ken Griffey, Jr. He is a Louisiana State graduate who reportedly wrestled with alligators. In his first full pro season he struck out 144 walking 27 in 119 innings of AAA pitching. In his second year he struck out 211 batters in 161 innings walking 40. There must have been some arm troubles, because he pitched a few innings in lower levels during both that year and the next. Most of that next year 1990, though, was with the Orioles. It looked very nice on the surface: 119 innings of 2.43 pitching. but his strikeouts were about half what was hoped for. In 1991, Ben McDonald was only able to pitch 126 innings of 4.84 ERA. His original AL Roby manager (Dusty Burgess) died and his new manager (Rick Ethier) did not protect him. That, too, was a mistake as McDonald pitched worthy of protection for the next five seasons and had an excellent year in ’93 (220 innings; 3.39 ERA).

 

Kelly Gruber was actually the worse pick of the inaugural round one. After a career year in 1990 at age 28, thirdbaseman Gruber returned to average in ’91, then quickly sunk to lousy after that. You could forgive Torontonian Chris Matthews for drafting his favorite player.

 

OK, here quickly are the rest of the inaugural picks from the first 7 rounds who did not make their first winter’s cut (in order as they were drafted). I left off draftees 8-11, because from the 7th to 8th round seems be to where it jumps from occasional unprotected picks to generally unprotected picks:

 

Erick Hanson – 25 sp AL (Arnone) – was my top rated pitcher (see 1992 below)

Tom Henke – 33 rp AL (Sanderson) – still a dominant reliever only fewer innings

Gregg Olson – 24 sp AL (Burgess) – see 1994

Bobby Witt – 27 sp AL (Burgess) – surprising early decline of fastballer

Randy Milligan – 28 1b AL (Arnone) – from .900 in 362 AB to .780 in 483 AB

Gary Sheffield – 22 3b AL (Flint) – see comment below

Don Mattingly – 31 1b AL (O’Leary) – peak years were aged 23-26.

Alex Cole – 26 cf AAA/AL (O’Leary) - fooled by 50 shiny ABs in Col. Springs.

George Brett – 38 1b-dh AL (Sanderson) – crashed

Pat Borders – 28 c AL (Haynes) – local fav. in ‘90 hit .286/.319/.497 in 346 ABs.

Jerry Browne – 25 2b AL (Burgess) – high BB; mediocre IF; peaked 23-24.

BJ Surhoff – 27 c AL (Burgess) – if only he could hit and catch in the same year

Robin Yount – 36 cf AL (Sanderson) – dropped way off the year before

Eric King – 27 sp AL (Arnone) –not durable; unwanted after two off years in a row

Jesse Barfield – 31 of AL (Matthews) – ex-Jay who peaked 25-26

(Brian Harper – 31 c AL (Flint) – actually had his best year in ‘91 and was protected for ’93, but not ‘92)

 

Gary Sheffield: hit .194/.277./.320,  couldn’t field, and crossed leagues. I traded Jeff Montgomery and Bill Wegman for Robbie Flint’s 3rd and 4th pick plus Gary Sheffield! Then, I ended up keeping Todd Frohwirth instead of Sheffield. Duh! Well, I won my division (and all of the divisions since), but I wasn’t as much of a wiz then as I thought I was. Fortunately, we were all bonobos on that bus. Baseball statistical analysis has come along way, which is great, if you don’t fall too much in love with your numbers. Excuse the digression. Anyway, the point of this entire article is that we learn best from our mistakes. I guess that’s why I’m still hanging onto BJ Upton. Actually, I forgot this lesson immediately. That next year on the eighth round I drafted Sammy Sosa and dropped him the next winter when he crossed leagues!

 

What I did do right was draft the strongest top 7 in the inaugural year: R. Alomar, C. Ripken, rookies F. Thomas and J. Gonzalez, Greenwell, Montgomery, and Appier. Actually, in the short run George Tsuji’s was the strongest and won fhe first championship: Boggs, C. Finley, Puckett, Trammell, Jody Reed, Welch, Nolan Ryan. One other owner (Douglas Brydges) drafted all protectables in those rounds, but squandered the best of them away in bad trades and finished last.

 

1992:

As mentioned in last month’s Scoresheetwiz “When Stars Get Hitched”, there were three top overall (Phase II) picks, which ended up thrown back in the pool. The first followed our league’s first off season.

 

Kevin Mitchell (Matthews) crossed over at 30 three years after his MVP season. Every aspect of his game including health was in decline and it continued into 1992. Seattle sent him back to the NL, and his career revived to some degree for two years before falling apart again for good.

 

 

Erik Hanson in 1990 was an elite pitcher.  It was the season he turned 25 with a fastball, curve, and change-up pitched 236 innings – too much a little too soon? AL Robinson began in 1991, and with Roger Clemens complaining of a burnt out shoulder, I remember listing Hanson as my top pitcher. His ERA for 1990 and his partial seasons of ’88 and ’89 totaling another 175 MLB innings were each within a few points of 3.20. There were a few starting pitchers drafted ahead of Hanson, however: Ben McDonald, Clemens, Dave Stewart, and Chuck Finley in that order. Fortunately, I had Robbie Alomar and Cal Ripken among a few others listed above Hanson, so he fell late in the 2nd round to same manager (Frank Arnone) who made Clemens his number one pick, Randy Johnson his number 5 pick, Jack McDowell no. 6, (Eric King, 7), and Mike Mussina his third phase R#28. With the all those excellent pitchers, Arnone dropped Hanson, who showed signs of wear missing about 5 starts and his ERA rose to 3.81 – not far from league average. Remember, too, we could only keep 11 players in those days, although, I don’t think Arnone got much from Steve Buechele, Bill Pecota, or Mell Hall who he protected instead. Still, Hanson was stud enough for me to take him with the second pick of the draft in 1992. I had a division winning team and traded Scott Erickson for that pick and managed to snag a catching upgrade of Steinbach to Tettleton as well. Hanson’s ERA blew up to 4.82 and he was cut once again. I should have kept him, though. The next year his ERA was down to 3.42, while the league ERA climbed to 4.38. He pitched 215 innings. I could have used that more than Leo Gomez or Chad Curtis. Seattle then traded Hanson who went on to have just three mediocre seasons with three different teams as primarily a curve ball pitcher.

 

Mitchell and Hanson were the first two picks of 1992. Picks 3, 4, 5, and 7 survived the ’93 protection list cuts. Three of the other four unprotected first rounders in ’92 were Major League relievers:

 

Paul Gibson – 32 rp  AL (Ethier) took an immediate tanking

Tom Gordon – 24 sp/rp AL (O’Leary) It would be another six years before Tom Gordon became a consistent quality reliever.

(Rick Aguilera – 30 rp AL (Carter) Aguilera (2.83 ERA) was no flop, just not quite worth keeping with only 11 protection spots.

 

Jack Clark – 36 – DH AL (Tsuji) – injury riddled; had nothing left

 

1993:

The 1993 season began with R#14. Four incredibly promising 23 year-old pitchers were drafted in the first round of ’93. Three of them were busts. Alex Fernandez was the lone success among them.

 

Julio Valera – 23 sp AL (Matthews) Looking back in with what we know now about pitchers, Valera was a bit of a reach for an R#14. He had pitched 188 innings for the Angels and kept his ERA 27 points under 4.00 the league average, but his peripherals were a little below average.

 

Spike Owen – 32 ss NL (Haynes) probably didn’t deserved to be drafted that high. Ozzie Guillen would have been a better choice of shortstops.

 

Sam Militello – 23 sp AAA/AL (Carter) had an eye popping minor league history. His ERA in the minors had never been above 2.35. He pitched almost 10 strikeouts per 9 innings. His K:BB was just under 4. In his Major League trial of 9 starts, his ERA was 3.45. In retrospect there were two red flags. One, he was never a scout’s favorite. Perhaps, more importantly: two, his innings total jumped from 147 to 201 as a 22 year-old and there were signs of strain by the end of that year. 3.45 is a respectable Major League ERA, but his 42 K, 32 BB, and 6 HR did not resemble the same pitcher who had blown away all levels of the minors in just over two seasons.

 

Pat Mahomes – 23 sp AAA/AL (O’Leary) would later have a couple of useful seasons as a Major League reliever, but he his value was never reliably better than AAA as a Scoresheet player.

 

1994:

The first year we protected 13 players instead of 11 our first overall pick was:

 

Alex S. Gonzalez (McCullough) in 1994 at age 21 after a strong season in Toronto’s AA Knoxville, he was the number four prospect in all of baseball (according to Baseball America) – even ahead of Alex Rodriguez (taken R#16) and Derek Jeter (R#28). His career has been one of consistent mediocrity.

 

Mike Henneman – 32 rp AL (Arnone) - had a comeback in ’95

 

Gregg Olson – 27 rp AL (Tsuji) for the second time. This time Olson was washed up. Relievers abound on this list. Part of that is due to the reluctance to keep relievers, who then must be redrafted in bulk.

 

Damion Easley – 24 2b/3b/ss AL (Matthews) didn’t bloom until he was traded to the Tigers shortly before his 27th birthday. Clearly a late bloomer, he remained a solid regular for 6 six seasons and is continuing to thrive as a utility infielder.

 

Danny Darwin – 38 sp AL (Sanderson) I wonder if players this old are just as risky as 23 year old pitchers without the upside.

 

Rick Helling – 23 SP AA/AAA (Carter) You could almost repeat the Militello story about Helling, except Helling was a level and a year of pro experience behind and without any signs of wear. There was abuse, however: 188 innings in his first full professional season.

 

1995:

Darren Bragg – 26 of AAA (Matthews) was the second overall AL Roby player drafted in ’95. This was not too surprising considering he hit .350/.430/.542 in AAA the year before. However, that was in high altitude Calgary, and Bragg turned 26 during his September call-up. That might have been his best year. The best he did in the Majors were a couple of .770 (OB+Slg.) seasons in ’96 and ‘98. Did you know Bragg graduated from a prestigious private high school (Taft) in Connecticut?

 

Jimmy Haynes – 23 sp AA (Tsuji) – see Militello and Helling - another 23 year old with great peripherals in AA. He did fine in AAA and in his September call-up in ’95 (assuming that’s when his 24 innings came). At mid-season George traded him to Gil Lau for Ruben Rivera (see below). We all eagerly waited to see who would win this trade of A prospects. Of course, Haynes was protected until he lost his rookie status with an 8.29 ERA in ’96. The rest of his career has ranged from terrible to mediocre. They both lost.

 

Ruben Rivera – 21 of A/A+ (Scoresheet) was the number one prospect (Baseball America) available that winter – topped only by Alex Rodriguez. He remained in the top three the following season (after Andruw Jones and Paul Wilson) and was, of course, protected. In ’96, Rivera had 89 Major League at bats hitting just well enough to somehow upstage his less touted cousin Mariano who had just developed into the great reliever he is that year. So, Ruben Rivera got another low cost protection pass. If there is a caution flag at this point, it is that his 362 AAA at bats were far less impressive than his 89 MLB at bats. Unfortunately, injury prevented Rivera from doing little more than blow his rookie eligibility the following season – and become a cross-over. So, his protection was a blow to his owner in ’98 when Rivera hit a mere 172 ABs of .209/.325/.378. And, his production in AAA that year was even worse. Counting on Rivera to be over his injury hampering woes or whatever was holding him back, he was protected yet again (still a cross-over) for another season. He was healthy enough for 411 ABs, but his hitting did not improve, nor did he ever develop into a deserving every day player.

 

Damion Easley – 25 2b/3b/ss AL (McEleny) still not ready to be taken this high. Easley gets an award from this article for getting tallied three times: twice for being a bad pick and once for being a particularly good one.

 

Felix Jose – 30 of AL (O’Leary) – dropped off to useless.

 

May I include an 11th overall pick? Armando Benitez – 22 rp AA/MLB (Carter) – Cleaning house during the strike, I traded an old-but-still-awesome Wade Boggs for this pick. Just before the strike Benitez pitched 10 innings and struck out 14 giving up only 1 run. Was that a fluke? 106 AA strikeouts in 72 innings suggested it wasn’t. Well, it took awhile for Benitez to control his pitches in the Majors – especially that first year: 56 K, 37 BB, 48 Ing., 5.66 ERA and a trip to Rochester.

 

1996:

Kent Mercker – 28 sp-rp NL (McCullough) Perhaps, fearing overuse too soon in his minor league career 176 innings at 20, 173 the next year, the Braves converted Mercker to relief for several outstanding years before gradually returning him to the rotation from ’93 to ‘95. The results were mixed. He was traded to the Orioles for pitching prospects Joe Borowski and Rachaad Stewart. McCullough took Mercker with the third overall pick, however, Mercker was a disaster: 7.00 / 70 innings. He never did have an effective season as a starter, but returned to being a fine lefty reliever in 2003.

 

Will Cordero – 24 ss/of NL (Tsuji) – down hill from there

 

Phil Plantier – 27 of NL (Tsuji) – no comeback to early promise

 

1997:

Scott Sanders – 28 sp NL (Carter) 4th pick: 3.38, 144 Ing., 157 K, 48 BB, 7.3 HR/9, I seem to be better at picking pitchers in the later rounds than the first one.

 

Steve Avery – 27 sp NL (Lau) had three Cy Young candidate seasons from ’91 to ’93 as a 21-23 year old. What age was that? 23? Again? From 24-26 Avery was a 150 inning/year pitcher with a nearly average ERA in the last years of the “Launching Pad”. From ’97-’03 his ERA was in the 5.00s.

 

Willie Adams – 23 sp AAA/AL (Tsuji) 23 year-old pitching prospect. Enough said.

 

(Jose Mesa – 31 rp AL (Ethier) – pitched great – not a bust, but not protected)

 

Allen Watson – 26 sp NL (McCullough) – pitched as well as one should have expected – that is not very well. I guess McCullough expected a break out.

 

Heathcliff Slocumb – 31 rp AL- late signing cross-over (Carter) – After three excellent seasons in a row, he blows up. I guess the Red Sox overused him (75 games, 83 Innings)

 

1998:

Hideki Irabu is included as a reminder that not all Japanese players live up or surpass expectations. At 29, he did give the Yankees and George Tsuji a 4.03, 173 ing. year his rookie season when he was drafted fourth overall in 1998 in AL Robinson, so, perhaps, he shouldn’t be included in the tallies. However, he was such a big fat toad compared to his hype, that I am inclined to count him a dud.

 

Ramiro Mendoza – 26 rp/sp AL (Sowden) – After 133 innings of 4.24 ERA and some post season hype, I presume Chris thought he was being eased into a starting role, but the opposite was true.

 

AJ Hinch – 24 c A+/AAA (Scoresheet)– a catcher who had just destroyed A+ and AAA pitchers in his first professional year! He’s finally getting a chance to be a starter now 8 years later? Well, to be fair, the A’s did give him 337 ABs in his second pro year, and was protected for that next year, so this is an objective call. However, he hit only .231/.296/.341, then spent the next 7 seasons as an AAA/MLB-back-up yo-yo.

 

My first pick in ’98 was prospect Juan Encarnacion. In a mini Rivera-Haynes encore, I almost immediately traded him for the Stanford graduate Hinch, because I thought he knew how to hit and I wanted a young catcher. Thanks to Mike Mussina and Jack McDowell, I was keen to draft Stanford graduates and ended up with Helling, Hinch, and Jeff Austin. Well, Hinch wasn’t a total loss for me. In the fall of ’98 I traded him for a draft pick, which turned out to be Russell Branyan. Then before the ’99 season started, I added Matt White to upgrade Branyan to another rookie thirdbaseman named Troy Glaus.

 

Todd Jones – 30 rp AL (Creaney) – Four of Jones’ previous 5 seasons were excellent. It took eight more seasons to have another one. In ’98 his ERA was 4.97 – more typical of his recent period than the 3.09 ERA he had in ’97.

 

(Tim Wakefield – 32 sp (Tobin) I cannot  include in the tallies a 32 year-old pitcher who nailed his career ERA of then with 216 innings of 4.58 pitching. His best five year period, so far, have been the last five years. His best three year period was ’01-’03. He is now 40.)

 

James Baldwin - 27 sp AL (Milne) – looked good his rookie season in ’96.

 

1999:

Joey Hamilton – 29 sp NL (Scoresheet) Impressed by three years in a row as a starter with ERA in the low 4.00s after his first two seasons around 3.00, Gord Ash made a career mistake in the free agent market with Hamilton. Why would Cory Watson setting up his default draft choices for Scoresheet Canada veer from the national team? (Well, he could have picked Carlos Beltran, but somehow he fell to the last pick of the round. Thank you, fellow Roby-ites!) Is AJ Burnett JP Ricciardi’s career determining pick? Hamilton’s MLB ERA for his last 5 seasons was around 6.00.

 

(Bret Saberhagen – 35 sp AL (Lau) came back from the dead (mid ’95) in 1998 to put in 31 starts and an ERA just under 4.00. Saberhagen was good for 22 more starts in ’99 with an ERA of 2.95. Then he was lost to us for good, except for 3 unimpressive starts in 2001. Gil must have been quite satisfied with this result, but, of course, couldn’t protect him.)

 

Will Clark – 35 1b AL (Haynes) In 1998 I drafted Clark with my R#21, and he had his best year since he was 27 (.305/.395/.507 149 games). However, I found no room him over the winter and apparently didn’t try hard enough to snag a pick for him. Brent jumped on him with his first pick, but Clark missed half the season. Clark put in one more thrilling season in 2000, then retired.

 

2000:

Vinny Castilla – 33 3b NL (Bordage) not just any NL team – the Rockies – hence, the inflated stats. It fooled Tampa Bay, too, but that was not unusual. Castilla did have his worse year.

 

Ramon Martinez – 32 sp AL(-late signing cross-over) (Milne) – Although still an effective pitcher, Pedro’s older brother put in a rapidly dwindling number of innings since 1995. After four starts in ’99, he was finished as an effective pitcher.

 

(Greg Vaughn – 35 of AL (Tobin) – Although, three of the previous four seasons were significantly superior, I’d say Blair got pretty much what he should have expected from a 35 year old Vaughn: .254,.365,.499 in 127 games. Vaughn’s career averages: .242/.337/.470, so no complaining about his omission from the tallies.)

 

Mike Lamb – 25 3b AA (Carter) Hmmm. I didn’t know about hit rates, then. Still, that’s not enough to excuse taking a 24 year old player from AA with my first pick (even though he was excepted to and did start that new season as the Rangers’ thirdbaseman.)

 

I traded Wilson Alvarez for an early second pick that year (12th overall) and squandered it on Ed Yarnall – 24 sp AAA. He was done in with injury. Like everyone else I manufacture dreams in my own head for certain players.

 

2001:

Ismael Valdes – 28 sp NL (Cormier) – the curveball throwing Valdes was a minor star from 22-24, settled into mediocrity at 25 and 26, had shoulder issues at 27. Perhaps, Stephane should consider himself lucky Valdes returned to mediocrity in 2001. Perhaps, he didn’t consider back to back 3.98 ERAs in Dodger Stadium mediocre.

 

Jose Ortiz – 24 2b AAA (Bordage) – after a .351/.408/.575 season at Sacramento, many of us were drooling over the prospect of landing this Ortiz. A leg injury cancelled the first half of his rookie season, then the A’s traded him to the Rockies where he was given a starting job and hit .255/.314/.495. That’s not a complete flop and he was protected figuring he’d be healthier and generate awesome stats in Colorado. However, his power (.313 Slugging, .315 OB) completely evaporated and left the U.S. for a career in Japan – where he thrived for two years leading his league in OB+Slg. in ’04. Where was he last year?

 

Juan Encarnacion – 25 cf AL (Tobin) – a young centerfielder who hits .289/.330/.433 seems like a decent bet, but he fell to .242/.292/.408 and was dropped upon getting traded to the NL the following season. He’s still average.

 

Mitch Meluskey – 28 c NL (Lau) – Wow! a catcher who hit .300/.401/.487 in the Astrodome (and .353/.465/.584 his last year in the minors). What a great pick-up for the Tigers, I thought: the new Mickey Tettleton, at least. How lucky Gil was he dropped to the 7th overall pick! Meluskey spent all of 2001 on the DL and had only 36 more ABs in the Major Leagues.

 

(Jeremy Giambi – 27 of-dh AL (Carter) – the younger Giambi had an awesome run through the minors and a productive rookie season for the part of the ’99 season he spent with the Royals – which was most of it. The A’s didn’t give him

much playing time in the 2000, but after considerable house cleaning during the off season, I figured Giambi would get a better shot in 2001. I was right: 435 plate appearances hitting .283/.391/.450. Although, I couldn’t keep him and the other managers refused to give me a pick for him, he is not in the flop tally.)

 

2002:

The first overall pick of 2002:

Chan Ho Park sp NL (Cormier) turned 29 at mid-season of 2002 after five and a half seasons as an ace for the Dodgers. His previous two seasons averaged 230 innings and a 3.38 ERA. According to his age, Park was past the theoretical tender arm nexus, however, in reality his arm was finished. Stephane had three other first round picks that year hitting the bulls-eye on the fourth one: Mark Teixeira. [The other two are listed below:]

 

(Ellis Burks – 37 dh-of AL (Lau) Thirty-seven year olds are time bombs. Although, Burks gave Gil a fine season (138 games .301/.362/.541), he was right to drop him. 2002 proved to be Burks’ last good year.)

 

Dmitri Young – 28 of-1b-3b NL (Cormier) missed half the year to groin problems.

 

Rondell White – 30 of NL (Tobin) – White had an off year during his first in the AL. I’m not sure if he had trouble adjusting to the league or to New York city.

 

Frank Catalanotto – 28 of-2b AL (Cormier) just had his “career year”. 2002 was riddled with injuries to his back, groin, and a fracture in his hand.

 

Ben Grieve – 26 of AL (Tsuji) – George dropped Grieve, then redrafted him with his first pick (9th overall). How often does that happen? Unfortunately for George, Grieve continued to slowly slide down hill from his peak at 21 and 22.

 

Erik Hiljus – 29 AAA/MLB (Carter) – Don’t laugh. I did quite well my first dozen years or so just considering K:BB, ERA, Innings, and K/IP as all the pitching stats you really need to out draft the other managers. And, it worked – usually. At this point I was enjoying the best W-L record in all of Canada or the United States! Hiljus had just pitched three years in a row mostly in AAA with a consistent 4:1 K:BB and more strikeouts than innings. He put in 66 respectable innings for the A’s in ’01. I don’t know what went wrong. It must have been very frustrating to be sent back to AAA, yet again. Then in 2002, Hiljus stunk in 9 AAA appearances and in 9 MLB starts. His AAA season in 2003 was much worse than it was from ‘99-’01, and that was the end of his career.

 

2003:

Brandon Phillips – 21 ss-2b AA(NL)-AAA (Lau) – third overall pick and no. 7 overall prospect from any league (Baseball America). Unfortunately, not all prospects pan out. Phillips was passed by Peralta and the Indians traded for Belliard.

 

Omar Daal – 31 sp NL (Haynes) Daal put in a couple of fine seasons in ’98 and ’99, but was ineffective in 2000. Daal was mediocre in ’01 and ’02. I think Brent was mislead by Daal’s ERA which managed to stay in the 3.00s (3.90) in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s year of 2002. In 2003 it was 6.34.

 

Jaques Jones – 28 of AL (Bordage) has been a consistently mediocre outfielder except for a career year in 2002.

 

(Frank Catalanotto – 29 of AL (Lau) This was Catalanotto’s 2nd year in a row as an R#14. George Tsuji dropped him after a trio of injuries kept him out of half the season. Gil took his chances, had a decent-enough year, then dropped him again. Then George re-drafted him on the 5th round (R#18) of 2004. That was another injury filed year for Catalanotto, so in 2005, Brent Haynes drafted Cat R#29! Before the year was over, however, George in his division winning drive made a multi-player trade re-acquiring Catalanotto. Since, 2003 was a good year, it is not tallied.)

 

Rick Reed – 38 sp AL (Carter) Not only do we learn from our mistakes, but we tend to overcompensate for our most recent mistakes. My mistake the previous year with Hiljus was that he wasn’t fully tested (or had an unknown injury), then by golly, I’m going to spend my first pick on somebody who’s coming off six solid seasons in a row with the most recent on a well coached team (Minnesota) pitching 188 innings of 3.78. Kaboom! Reed pitches 135 innings of 5.07.

 

Ricardo Rodriguez – 25 sp AA/AAA/AL (Creaney) was the most ready of many strong candidates to step into the Tribe’s rotation. It seems overly optimistic to have drafted R.Rod with the first pick, but then Jack might have been feeling a little cocky after his wild card entrant snatched the championship from me. (Truthfully, I don’t think so, as Jack was as self-effacing as they come.)

 

2004:

This was the big year for cross-overs (Vladimr, Vazquez – we when thought he was a star, Schilling – when he was still a star, Javy – ditto, and a top notch prospect Delmon Young (in Canada prospects only become available the first January after they are signed). Incredibly, only one of the bottom five picks of the this all-star R#14 was protected (Miguel Batista) and even that turned out to be a mistake.

 

Mark Redman – 30 sp NL (Cormier) Pitching in a pitcher’s league in a pitcher’s park gave Redman the best ERA of his career in 2003. It was over a run higher back in the AL in 2004. That shouldn’t have been a big disappointment, but, it wasn’t first round worthy, so it is included in the tallies. That he crossed back over to the NL for ’05 clinches his place in the bad pick bin.

 

Rich Aurilia – 32 ss NL (Tobin) had a smooth peak at 27-29 then dropped off suddenly at 32 before coming back a bit at 33.

 

(Julio Lugo – 28 ss NL/AL (Carter) His 2004 was slightly the best year of his career. Not much impact, but he was certainly a very useful player.)

 

Kyle Lohse – 25 sp AL (Tsuji) – In 2003 Lohse “established” himself as a 4.00-something starter – with improved control. In 2004, that control reverted back to 2002 wonkiness and his ERA rose to 5.34. That’s a disappointment. Last year, Lohse demonstrated that the 5.34 ERA is likely the worse it will be as long as he’s healthy and not too old. He had to be re-drafted to find that out.

 

2005:

Allegedly another strong year of cross-overs, only two picks last year were clear winners: third pick Haren (Chorostecki) and eighth pick Kazmir (Tobin). While the top two picks Adrian Beltre (Lau) and Edgar Renteria (Colette) were both huge disappointments, they were both kept. If they both continue to fade away, then, they should be included in the tally of wasted R#14s with Beltre joining Mitchell, A.S. Gonzalez, and C.H. Park as top-overall-pick bummers. Fifth pick Carl Pavano (Haynes) even more clearly deserves to be dubbed a wasted pick, if he does not return to protectable form. Fourth pick Matt Clement (Tsuji) was also protected despite a disappointing season. He was useful, but needs to pick it up just a little this season to allay consideration for the dud pile.

 

Orlando Cabrera – 30 ss NL/AL (Ballock) – an elbow injury curtailed his season a little, but otherwise wasn’t much below his age-norm which peaked from 26-28. This is a tough call, but I’ll say it has to be a more clearly non-disappointing dropped first pick to exclude from the dud pile.

 

Juan Cruz – 26 rp NL (Chorostecki) – Put in a very nice season as a reliever for the Braves in 2004. He was a candidate for the A’s rotation in 2005. However, I wonder if there has ever been a pitching staff so deep in quality Major League talent – not in total talent, just depth of talent as the A’s recently. The upshot being Cruz was an outstanding starter in Sacramento for half the season and didn’t fare well when the Athletics called him up to relieve.

 

Bobby Madritsch – 29 sp AAA/AL (Pingree) – Personally, I thought there was too much enthusiasm last winter for this veteran of the Independent League. His year and a half in the upper levels of the minors were encouraging, but not slap-your-hands-together-and-rub-them-hard impressive. His 88 solid innings with the Mariners was enough for Art to take a chance on him, but it was an is-it-torn-no-rehab-woops-yes-it-is-torn labrum (shoulder) which wiped out Madritsch’s 2005 and likely 2006 seasons.

 

Dan Meyer – 23 sp-rp AA/AAA(NL) (Carter) – How appropriate to start and end this list with a 23 year-old pitcher. Actually, despite the litany of 23 year-old wiped-out pitching prospects, I feel foolish, right now, for dropping Meyer and protecting Josh Banks. Meyer is the one with the allegedly greater upside. He had an encouraging spring. Meanwhile, it is apparent the Blue Jays just aren’t expecting Banks to be an important part of their rotation any time soon.

 

The biggest problem with player analysis (and my selection and releasing of Meyer) is the information regarding a player’s health. First, the public is naturally the last to know and often mislead. Second, we are just groping to assess the impact of specific injuries to future performance. The health reports from Will Carroll and BP are a huge leap in the right direction. (You can start here http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4803 and use their links to go in any direction.) However, I wish the team assessments came out long before spring training to better coincide with my Scoresheet schedule.

 

 

The Flop Tallies ----------------------------

 

Age     Pos. Duds  Pitch. Duds    Total

21             3                   0                      3

22             1                   1                      2

23             0                 10                    10

24             4                   4                      8

25             4                   3                      7

26             3                   4                      7

27             2                   5                      7

28             6                   4                    10

29             1                   5                      6

30             4                   3                      7

31             2                   2                      4

32             2                   4                      6

33             1                   1                      2

34             0                   0                      0

35             1                   0                      1

36             2                   0                      2

38             1                   2                      3

 

Pos     Duds  Distribution

ss          6        2@21, 24, 30, 2@32

2b          4        all 24-25

cf           3        25, 26, 36

of-xcf    11        21, 10@26-31

3b          4        22, 25, 29, 33

1b          4        28, 31, 35, 38

dh          1        36

c            4        24, 3@27-28

sp        34        10@23, 19@24-29, 30, 31, 32,   38, 38

rp         13        22, 24, 24, 26, 26, 27, 28, 30, 30, 31, 32, 32, 33

 

What does this mean? By itself, not much. Last month I thought examining the bad picks in conjunction with the very good picks we might see who we are undervaluing and overvaluing. Just looking at this tally alone you see a startling 10 starting pitchers were 23 when they bummed out their eagerly anticipating AL Roby manager. 32 of the 34 starters were aged 23-32. The other two were 38. That’s a strong case for waiting for a starting pitcher to turn 33 before investing in one.

 

The other surprising find is how often these bummers were in their prime. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the number of picks in those age brackets or something we are significantly misunderstanding.

 

What other conclusions do these tallies suggest? Position prospects stabilize at 22 or 23? But, for even safer picks get your shortstop at 25, your secondbaseman at 26, your centerfielder at 27, and your catcher at 29? No top drafted catcher was a disappointment over the age of 28. I wonder if there were any? Excluding catcher positions at the left of the defensive spectrum noticeably have disappointments younger than those to the right, but, again, that could be a function of the age of players who play those positions.

 

Comparing with the best picks with the worse picks, I noticed that 23 year olds were the most plentiful age bracket for both! Overall, however, the typical excellent pick is about 23 or 24, while the median and average bad pick is about 28. (If you’re looking for precision, I did those numbers in my head, which might be a little fuzzy.) This supports the notion that we ought to be a little bolder with drafting young players. What I didn’t provide in last month’s “When Stars Get Hitched” article was a breakdown of age by position to compare with the tally above. So, here it is showing the comparable bad picks in red:

 

            Gems

Pos     Duds  Distribution

ss        10        18,19,20, 22,23,23,24, 26,26, 28

ss          6        2@21, 24, 30, 2@32

2b          6        22,23,23,24,24, 26

2b          4        all 24-25

cf         10        20,21,22,23,23,24,24,25,  29

cf           3        25, 26, 36

of-xcf    17        21, 3@23, 3@25, 26,27,3@28,29,30,30, 32

of-xcf    11        21, 10@26-31

3b          7        20,20,21,22,22,23, 25

3b          4        22, 25, 29, 33

1b          7        23,23, 25,25,26,27,27

1b          4        28, 31, 35, 38

dh          0

dh          1        36

c            9        20,20,   25,26,27, 29,29,29, 34

c            4        24, 3@27-28

sp        26        20,20,21,21,6@22,6@23,24,24, 26,27,27, 29,30,31, 34, 37

sp        34        10@23, 19@24-29, 30, 31, 32,  38, 38

rp           5        26, 28,28,28,29

rp         13        22, 24, 24, 26, 26, 27, 28, 30, 30, 31, 32, 32, 33

 

Despite my tally of 95 gems compared to 84 duds, there were more pitching duds than pitching gems – especially in relief. (There was, also, one DH dud and no DH gems.) If you can’t find a 33-35 year-old starter, it’s not too terrible to try a young starting stud. The scary number of starting pitchers who bombed at 23 (ten) is really nothing to get too hung up on. There were 10 starters younger than 23 who did very well. There were 6 more gems who were 23 the season they were picked for life including Johan Santana. Quite surprisingly, it is the number of starters who were in their prime years who bombed compared to starters who were drafted that old, then became stars.

 

Relievers are almost always bad investments if you are looking for long term protection, but 28 year-olds are the least dangerous bets.

 

Centerfielders were the best investments - the younger the better. After 25, you’re late to the game. Corner outfielders are fine any time in their twenties – especially 23.

 

Young corner infielders were much better investments than older ones. Twenty year old thirdbasemen are fine by me. Twenty-five is on the old side. You can wait for a firstbaseman to be 23, but don’t go near one who’s turned 28.

 

Except for a couple of 20 year olds – one of which – Carlos Delgado  - later switched positions, older catchers were better investments than younger ones. The ideal cut-off date is 29. From that age on, it seems to be safe to spend a high pick on a catcher.

 

Although, with the amount of catchers in the study being so small, you should not actually take that or any of these other quasi-conclusions to the bank. It’s just stuff to consider.

John Carter