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AL Robinson 2009 Draft Analysis Rounds 21-27
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Rewarding Risks and Weird Whims: clever strategies and mistakes to avoid

This phase was much more fun for me. When the first phase came, I had just finished making my player assessments and was going to use my brilliantly prepared data sheets to choose my players. Somehow, it was still overwhelming. I discussed last week the additional complications. However, no matter how smoothly the first phase goes, there are far more players getting drafted by other teams who were strongly under your consideration and therefore affect your drafting plans. Here in the middle phase, when we are deeper in the draft, we each have more specific notions of who we want, so it is much easier to stay organized.
 
As with the first 7 picks, he players below are listed in the opposite order of the draft. We all live in southern Ontario, but you can review our particular team loyalties in my write up on those first 7 roundsHere are protection lists and the entire AL Robinson Draft Grid, so far.
 
Below are my picks for most rewarding risks and weirdest whims of the middle phase:
 
Gil - Team 3 - Dancin' Demons -
Gil continued to pick up productive veterans. Getting Mark Ellis and Jason Varitek on rounds 26 and 27 was amazing. Since there were no outstanding secondbasemen or catchers available, he simply waited until the others had been picked, then swooped down and picked the last of the decent ones.
 
I was sincere in my recommendation of Cesar Izturis to back-up Edgar Renteria. Given both Renteria and Brendan Harris (R25) are 4.68 ranged shortstops, the Orioles' Izturis would have been a better fit. Additionally, Harris is out of a starting job. Renteria will be 34 in August. Under those circumstances, I'd want such an old shortstop backed by a full timer, unless that 34 year old was Cal Ripken.
 
Gil's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Shoppach R24, Wheeler R22
Worse whim (R21-R27): Yabuto R27
 
George - Team 7 - Wrecking Crew -
Twice George drafted a guy I thought was already drafted. We discussed the confusion over Zumaya. For some reason, I had on my list and in my head Aaron Hicks as already taken. I am alert to his progress as the owner of Ben Revere his rival as the Twins' top prospect and, I think, top outfield prospect in the A.L. although George's LaPorta is closer to the Majors. George has been very aggressive this month on prospects (LaPorta, Hosmer, Hicks, & Aumont), and high risk/reward types (Kennedy, Zumaya, and Harrison). According to my calculations of risk, reward, and round, the best of these bets was Hicks.
 
The worse was Matt Harrison. On the plus side Harrison is only 23 and seems to have a rotation slot on his Major League team. On the minus side, 23 is a tender age and the team he is pitching for is Texas. Harrison's strike out rate last year after 15 starts was a below average 4.52 per 9 innings - and now the league will know him a little better. With 3.33 BB/9, his K/BB was an ugly 1.35. He didn't help himself by keeping the ball in the park either, giving up 1.29 HR/9. Baseball America didn't think enough of him to place him in either the Rangers' or Braves' Top 10 Prospects lists. Baseball Prospectus did give Harrison three stars and ranked him 9th on the Rangers' list.
 
George's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Mussina R21
Worse whim (R21-R27): Zumaya R22
 
Goff - Team 2
 
I'm going to hedge my bet on Goff's most rewarding risk by guessing either Jerry Blevins (R23) or Travis Buck (R25). There is a reason the A's are always contenders despite their lack of financial power and poor record with injuries. They have terrific player development. Both of these players were high on my list.
 
Moving up at a moderate pace through the Mariners' farm system without appearing on either of the two most renown Top 10 lists for either the Mariners or Indians is Luis Valbuena. Perhaps, anticipating a shift in the Indians infield and a strong showing in Venezuela this winter, Goff is hoping to scoop us all with this pick in round 27. That's fine. It's fun to do that and I did it last year in R26 with Alexei Ramirez. However, I just don't think this is such a good bet. Valbuena's 5 year North American Organized baseball track record must have a bit more relevance than 37 games in Venezuela. Besides, it isn't going to happen this year - barring injury - with the Indians' acquisition of Mark DeRosa, so Goff will likely have to give up another pick to protect him for next year - if he's lucky.
 
Stephane's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): A. Huff R25
Worse whim (R21-R27): Vidro R24
 
Blair - Team 9 - Huron Hornets -
 
Blair drafted centerfielders with his first and last pick of this phase. Again, I will hedge my bets by endorsing both of them. Drafting young starters around R21 such as CF Carlos Gomez is precisely the most effective way to build your team up in this league. You know Art and probably Gil or George, and now evidently Ryan, and I can tell you from past experience that Goff and Glenn - and maybe even I - will not let a really good prospect go too deep in the draft. However, even most very good prospects end up unprotectable after their rookie season. That is the best time to pick them up. You don't waste a pick on someone who won't play and, if your timing is right, he turns into the outstanding player the experts excepted. R27 centerfielder Coco Crisp is a perfect back-up in that he has a much better chance he will, at least, be decent and at 29 isn't out of range from a career year happening.
 
While Blair loaded up with his 7th and 8th outfielder, shortstop remains a hole. Well, almost: Adam Everett has smoothly slid from hitting around .700 (O+S) in '03 and '04 to hitting around .600 the past two seasons. His outstanding glove doesn't make up that hole in his bat. That glove is all he has. Blair appears to be big on role players. Perhaps, Marcus Thames and Josh Bard have nice platoon advantages, but they are part timers who probably could have been picked up later. I could be wrong, but I wonder if Blair would have been better off drafting three of the better below average starting shortstops and hoping one of them has a good year this year. The talent pool for shortstops this year has mostly evaporated. Blair likely would have been even better off trading for Miguel Tejada with Milton Bradley as I was offering before the protection lists were handed in. You see? I try to be helpful.
 
Blair's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Marlon Byrd R21
Worse whim (R21-R27): Jacques Jones R25
 
John - Team 8 - Slick Silk Sox -
 
It is difficult to rate my own picks, but based on the comments during our draft, the only player I picked who ignited a bunch of "oh, I was going to draft him" cries was Dallas Braden on R22. In fact, all week I was planning to make him my first pick of the night (R21). However, the day before our draft Russell Branyan had a huge night. Then I checked our rosters to see how many managers needed a firstbaseman. I counted that, at least, three of us would be in the hunt. There was only one other first-baseman who could possibly help: Lyle Overbay. Meanwhile, Branyan is the guy I had in mind as my first-baseman all along, but figured he might be overlooked. Now that he was in the news, the pressure of not getting him - or Overbay - was too much, so I spent that first pick on Branyan.
 
The pick that elicited the most derision was clearly Nomar Garciaparra at R25. "Is that your pick for real?" I was asked sincerely. Well, he did play shortstop last year and his range is a playable 4.69 - especially if he hits .750 O+S as I "have" him projected. The problem is that I "had" him projected at .780. I can't remember if that was a sleep deprived miscalculation or left-over from when he was last in the A.L. Either way, it was a bit of a weird whim. I lost out on Brandon Inge because of it, a catcher I thought might have a renaissance year not having to catch.
 
John's 2008 most rewarding risks (R21-R27): Cliff Lee R24, Alexei Ramirez R26
Worse whim (R21-R27): Gobble R25
 
Art - Team 5 - T.O. Mainahs -
 
Art took a starter, a catcher, a secondbaseman, and four relievers. One of the relievers Craig Breslow (R23) I was particularly high on. I like him as much as my R23 reliever Juan Cruz, except I happened to be looking for a right-hander.
 
The one pick classifiable as weird was Junichi Tazawa (R24) - well, weird for anyone but Art. He is a Red Sox and a prospect. How could he resist? He is 22 and not a top notch prospect. From the report I read in Baseball Prospectus, there are much better Japanese pitchers who have yet to find success over here.
 
Art's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Downs R22
Worse whim (R21-R27): Rogers R21
 
Brent - Team 4 - York County Lumber -
 
Brent's middle phase started and ended with high injury risked pitchers Casey Jannssen - still officially a candidate here for the Jays rotation - and Carl Doesn't-He-Ever-Give-Up?-He-Get-Injured-So-Often Pavano. In between, Brent snatched up the last decent regulars at the infield corners (Lyle Overbay R23 & Joe Crede R25), and the last decent regular shortstop (Julio Lugo R26) - if he wins the job. Lugo did come to Spring Training, you know, "in the best shape of his life". We smug analysts always laugh when we here a player described that way, because it is said so often. However, many times it actually signals a good start to the new season. If he plays well enough, he will play, so it is too hard to pick either of these three as clearly a smarter value pick over the others, so I'll declare it a three-way tie.
 
If every Red Sox pitcher is 100% healthy, Brent's other pick was the 8th best reliever in Boston's pen: Javier Lopez. I figure, if Penny returns to his prime, Smoltz would have to join Masterson in the pen. Even if you don't count Smoltz, 6 of the top 18 A.L. relievers according to my rankings are Red Sox! They are Papelbon, Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Masterson, Okajima, and Saito. There are enough health concerns with Smoltz and Penny that Lopez should still make the team. However, his standing on the team is precarious enough that combined with his lack of star potential and Brent's need to build his team more to contend, I declare this choice to be Brent's weirdest of this phase.
 
Do you remember one year the Montreal Expos had almost all of their relievers with ERAs in the 2.00s? It was 1992: Mel Rojas 1.43, Sergio Valdez 2.41, Jeff Fassero 2.84, John Wetteland 2.92, and Bill Sampen 3.13. That was a great pen - Felipe Alou's first year as manager. However, the league ERA was 3.48. Only Wetteland, Fassero, and Rojas were reliably good relievers. The other two were just good enough to fool the league that season, before they were "solved". Their 1994 pen was almost as good. That year was the season baseballs started flying out of parks to a league ERA of 4.27. The Expos had: Tim Scott 2.70, Wetteland 2.83, Rojas 3.32, Gil Heredia 3.46, and Jeff Shaw 3.88. Fassero was now a starter (2.99). Scott, Heredia, and Shaw may have had somewhat more substantial careers than Valdez and Sampen, but they peaked in '94. This bullpen contributed towards the best record in baseball that season, although there were no play-offs that year to pass the championship from one Canadian team to the other. I'd say it is pretty safe to say Boston's bullpen this year is even better - probably the greatest ever assembled, although, the chances of them all having a vintage year is remote.
 
Brent's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Mora R24
Worse whim (R21-R27): Dan Johnson R26
 
Jim - Team 10 - Grey Royals -
 
Jim started and ended the draft with two young players who have a chance to step up and be protectable at the end of the season: Ryan Rowland-Smith (R21) may be the Mariner's 6th starter at present, but the starting five are the most fragile quintet in baseball (Felix-Bedard-Washburn-Silva-Morrow). R-S will likely have about 20 starts this year. He'd be in the rotation, but as a converted reliever, I'm sure they are trying to increase his workload gradually. Next year, I'd expect 30 starts from him. Any starting 24 year old position player, especially one such as Felix Pie, who was a former Top 50 prospect is a good player for a building team to draft - especially in this league - especially down on round 27.
 
Gratefully, we all have different ways of evaluating players. Jim had some outstanding picks last year and his team had a fantastic return from having been buried and paved over with a shopping mall the year before. Even with prospects, Jim has surprised me by receiving help from guys I had never heard of.  My primary sources for prospects come from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. This year they have remarkably similar rankings. There are still a good dozen players still undrafted who could be found on either list  - including ones not far away from the majors. Carlos Rosa is on neither list. He's not even close to being the top undrafted pitcher on either BA's or BP's top 10 Royals prospect lists. And, who would want to draft any Royals pitching prospect in the first place, other than George? (OK, maybe Glen, too.)
 
Jim's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Litsch R25
Worse whim (R21-R27): Broussard R26
 
Ryan Wagman - Team 6 - Tao of  Bureaucracy -
 
Under Brad Arsnberg the Blue Jays have had a knack for dredging up unheralded pitchers for their rotation and turning them into fine starters. Neither Shaun Marcum nor Jessie Litsch had significantly more impressive credentials than Scott Richmond. To get Richmond on round 27 is a rewardable risk for a last place team.
 
Spending one's R21 pick on the fragile 32 year old closer George Sherrill, who has reached 40 innings only three times, while never pitching more than 53 in one season - and had ERAs well over 4.00 in two of those three seasons is not a good play in Scoresheet. This looks more like a Rotisserie player's perspective on relief pitchers. The Save is a function of when a pitcher is used and how often those situations arise. Scoresheet and many cold hearted analytical baseball experts (and I like to think I am one) agree it really has little to do with a demonstratable skill. Thankfully Scoresheet is in that camp and gives it only a little due, if any.
 
Michael's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Crisp R26
Worse whim (R21-R27): Wilkerson R21
 
Glen Dundas - Team 1 - Thunder on the Mountain -
 
Often what separates the best managers from the average ones are what they pull out of the draft in the later rounds and supplementals. Glen is a perennial play-off team and frequent champion in my ex-other league AL Brett. It is a challenge to call any of his picks in this phase weird. They were all good players whom I was strongly considering to draft myself. Thus, we will have to look at the picks in the context of the team - in this case a last place team. In that light, I'd have to say the Royals prospect who was a number one pick and who was their best pitching prospect and was in BP's Top 100 and does appear to be making progress was the most rewardable risk in Glen's mid phase draft: Luke Hochevar (R21).
 
Again, a last place team drafting 39 year old Ken Griffey, Jr. is a bit weird. Older non-protectable players on last place teams are only useful as trade bait. It is probably more difficult to find a desperate buyer for an outfielder than any other position. So, Glen, if you are making a run for the division this year, what a climb it would be!
 
Glen's 2008 most rewarding risk (R21-R27): Devine R24
Worse whim (R21-R27): Igawa R25

John Carter