Back to the Drawing Board (Part 1)
My wife says I have an obsession about balls. Let me heavily clarify: she’s noticed that when I’m around any form of ball, whether it be a tennis ball, football or Koosh ball (remember those?!), I’m likely to initiate a game of catch with the nearest human. I have a theory that this is a very gender-specific trait. I can recall long hangout sessions with my dude friends when the conversation carried on as we tossed some sort of ball back and forth for hours.
Such an obsession has also developed for drafting… anything. I love fantasy sports for many reasons, but every year, my favorite day is draft day. The nerd in me (there’s a lot) loves the organization of it, the mental game, the patience, the tension. As an industry, we love mock drafts because it gives us a practice run of feeling those things. It’s somehow inherently good. In the Pitcher List Discord, we’ve drafted favorite movies, TV shows and nastiest pitches all because we love to rank anything and everything.
So seeing as we’re three weeks removed from the last fantasy baseball draft and 46 days from the MLB Amateur Draft, I’m filling the void with a hypothetical redraft of all of Major League Baseball. Think of it as a baseball apocalypse. The owners and the MLBPA reach a sudden standstill and can’t even make it to the end of the current CBA. The players demand a redraft of the entire league and the owners agree. Obviously, this would never happen in a thousand lifetimes, but that’s the fun of it. I can already feel the Twitter arguments brewing. It shall be a mad and glorious discussion!
Several schools of thought went into this list. They are as follows:
- Talent (Duh.): Both current ability and future potential
- Salary: All salary numbers according to Spotrac.
- Age: A franchise will value younger players more highly.
- Park Factors: Which players would perform best in what places?
- Organization Tendencies: The Yankees don’t mind breaking the bank; the A’s do.
The draft order was based on reverse order of last year’s regular season standings, so for once, the Orioles win something!
1. Baltimore Orioles: Mike Trout, OF, 27 ($36 million)
Even though Trout is the newly-minted highest paid player in MLB, he’s worth every dime. Ten years from now, as contracts continue to grow, he may even end up being a bargain for the price. And considering Baltimore shelled out big money to strikeout legend Chris Davis, Trout would be far worthier of the team spending spree. He is quite simply the best baseball player in the league, and will retire as one of the all-time greats. At Camden Yards, and the collection of short porches in the AL East, he might be even more lethal at the plate. Being awful finally pays off for the O’s.
2. Kansas City Royals: Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, 21 ($5-17 million)
Acuña just signed one of the most team-friendly extensions in recent history, which will carry him through his twenties. It’s hard to blame the guy for banking $100 million, but his current talent, age and potential for growth suggest he’ll be worth far more. Right-handed batters fare quite well at Kauffman Stadium, and manager Ned Yost is no stranger to letting guys steal freely. Acuña would flourish in KC.
3. Chicago White Sox: Christian Yelich, OF, 27 ($7-15 million)
This was far more difficult than I had expected when starting this re-draft. The ball doesn’t exactly fly out of Guaranteed Rate Field, but Yelich is such a pure hitter that it may not matter. He was able to post solid numbers in Miami, so he’s almost park-proof. Pair that with another very team-friendly contract that keeps him underpaid through his age-30 season, and Yelich makes for a perfect franchise cornerstone for the ChiSox.
This has to be a pitcher. The Marlins built a stadium in Miami that skews so strongly to pitchers that the team would be wise to make it the focus of their new squad. As it stands, the Rays got an absolute steal with their 5-year, $50 million extension for Snell, the reigning Cy Young winner. Detractors like to point out that Snell outperformed his xFIP during his Cy Young campaign last season, but even with bad luck, he still would’ve been a top-level arm. He’s one of the most entertaining and nasty young arms, and he’s just getting going. Having him under team control through his age-30 season should keep plenty of baseballs in the yard in Miami.
5. Detroit Tigers: Mookie Betts, OF, 26 ($20 mil-Arb)
The Mook Man should probably be higher—from a talent perspective, he’d be a steal for the Tigers at fifth overall—it’s just that he is on the cusp of a MAJOR payday. He’ll make $20 million this season with one year of arbitration eligibility, and then he’s going to demand big money. Not that he’s not worth it, but he’s a notch below Mr. Trout. His batting average was inflated last season, but he’s still likely to hit at or around .300 for the next half dozen years. I foresee a Machado-sized contract coming for Mookie, and despite Detroit being a pitcher’s park, he would thrive anywhere, especially when the weather warms up to above freezing.
6. San Diego Padres: Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, 26 ($4-13 million)
Ramirez is playing downright awful right now, but he did so last April as well and still managed one of the best power-speed seasons in history. At 26, Ramirez is one of the most complete players in the majors and will be woefully underpaid for the remainder of his current contract. He offers a greater speed threat than San Diego’s current stud, Manny Machado, but at a far discounted price and less of a headache. Adjustments at Petco Park have made it a slightly more hitter-friendly stadium, and JoRam should have plenty of pop to make noise in San Diego.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Cody Bellinger, 1B, 23 (600K-Arb)
This may be a recency bias, but Bellinger sure looks like the next great hitter. He has shown to be streaky as a young player, but has remained durable and flexible to positional adjustment. His arbitration is likely to be an expensive one, but his age and lack of experience will keep his price lower for longer. If the Reds could sign him to one of the team-friendly extensions going around, Belli would be obliterating balls out of The Great American Ballpark in Cincy for a decade. It’s possible this looks like a reach if Bellinger begins to crash back down to earth, but something seems to have clicked with him. If so, the rest of the league is in trouble.
8. Texas Rangers: Francisco Lindor, SS, 25 ($10 mil-Arb)
In the dog days of summer, the ball absolutely flies out of the park in Arlington. Lindor may not be viewed as pure power hitter due to his size, but the man has pop. His defensive prowess and speed on the basepaths make him one of the most well-rounded players in the league. Pair that with the fact that he’s only 25, hits from both side of the plate and is just a darn likable player, and you’ve got a new cornerstone for the Rangers.
Still no deGrom or Scherzer. I know, I know, but deGrom will be 31 soon, and Scherzer will be 35 this summer. DeGrom may not seem ancient, but I think GMs would be wary of re-starting a franchise with guys on the wrong side of thirty, and frankly, I think Bauer has Cy Young potential this year and for the next half dozen. Some folks might be turned off by the fact that Bauer is somewhat of a clown on social media (and in real life), but the talent speaks volumes. In a spacious Oracle Park, and an organization that values young pitching (or pitching of any kind), Bauer would excel. He’s due for a pay day soon—and he hasn’t been shy about wanting his money—but the Giants wouldn’t be too scared to spend money to compete.
10. Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, 20 ($4 mil-Arb)
This just makes too much sense. Born in Montreal during his dad’s stint with the Expos, Vladito belongs in the Great White North. In reality, a brave GM would probably take him earlier than this. Contract issues won’t present themselves for some time, although he’ll likely be tough to retain at a reasonable price if the hype is to be believed, as it seems almost certain that he will be a perennial all-star. He’s shown so much talent and raw ability at all levels at such a young age that the possibility of being a bust seems almost non-existent. Never say never, but the fact that he’s never seen a pitch in the bigs wouldn’t stop Toronto from getting their “homegrown” guy.
Thor comes home! Watching Syndergaard pitch is an absolute delight. Nobody throws effortless heat quite like this guy, and I think he’ll continue to get better the longer he can stay healthy and fine-tune. His injuries might draw some concern, but much of the setbacks came from mismanagement by the Mets organization. Hopefully, they’ll take care of their golden boy as he works into his prime. Citi Field is a pitcher’s park, and the organization has valued pitching for the last decade. This pick brings them into the next decade with a strong foundation.
12. Minnesota Twins: Juan Soto, OF, 20 (600K-Arb)
This exercise has led me to understand just how much good, young talent there is in the league. It’s exciting. Soto, just 20, could well be a top 3 or 5 pick in this draft, but I could see organizations shying away from the youngest players, just as they shy away from the oldest. With that said, Soto at his worst is still an extremely patient hitter who will get on base at an elite clip. At best, he’s pre-prime Joey Votto with more power. For an organization that has been waiting seemingly forever on the development of former top prospect, Byron Buxton, Soto is a godsend.
13. Philadelphia Phillies: Trea Turner, SS, 25 ($4 mil-Arb)
Turner’s latest injury doesn’t exactly help his image as an health risk, but I’m still a big believer in this guy’s skill set. He had four steals in four games before breaking his finger. I’m no mathematician, but extrapolate over that full season, and that’s 162 steals! In reality, 50 steals isn’t out of the question for Turner if he can stay on the field. Add in his solid contact skills, decent plate discipline and a bit of power, and he’s a darn fine player to build around in Philly.
14. Los Angeles Angels: Alex Bregman, 3B, 25 ($650k-28 million)
The Angels really get the raw end of this whole deal. Weeks after signing Mike Trout to the richest contract in North American sports, Alex Bregman falls to their lap at 14. Not that Bregman is a bad player by any stretch, but he’s no Mike Trout. He does, however, have an incredibly complete hit tool for someone his age and he does a little bit of everything, albeit not at the level of Trout. His contract is going to balloon in 2023, but he may also be even higher up the ranks of MLB’s best players by then.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Judge, OF, 26 ($685k-Arb)
Judge is a behemoth and a joy to watch play. He looks too big to be an effective ballplayer, but he moves extremely well and obviously has mammoth power. He’s another player with years of arbitration left, and although not quite as young as everyone thinks, he would still be a force at Chase Field, humidor be damned. There may be some injury concerns—big players do tend to be hurt more—but I think he’ll regularly be around for 145 games. He’s also an extremely marketable player and a fan favorite. That matters.
This is way harder than I expected. The pool of young talent in Major League Baseball right now is overwhelming, and that’s awesome. This started as what felt like it would be a quick write-up that quickly ballooned into 2,000 words, so part two will be available tomorrow. For now, let the debating begin!
Click Here to jump straight in to Part Two.
Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire.