Back to the Drawing Board (Part 2)
If you missed part one of the first round, get caught up!
What a great time to be a fan of baseball. Spending (maybe too much) time plotting out the first round of this hypothetical redraft, it got me thinking about how lucky we are to be fans of the game as it is right now. The sport is certainly not without its blemishes, (pace of play, service time rules) but the talent being fielded on a nightly basis is so much fun. We’re spoiled.
A quick reminder of my rationale:
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.
And we’re back to it!
The Draft (cont’d)
16. Washington Nationals: Carlos Correa, SS, 24 ($5 mil-Arb)
The former first overall pick is a helluva talent, but he still hasn’t quite taken off as many people have expected. Injuries have been a part of that, but Correa has also had rough stretches at the plate that have diminished his numbers. With all of his experience, he’s still only 24 years old with a couple years of arbitration left. He’ll likely be eligible for a big time payday just as he’s hitting his prime, but the Nats could extend him at a discount. There’s really no hole in his game, although he’s never shown the base running ability that many expected. All in all, he’s a solid player who could grow into a superstar. With a World Series ring already on his finger, he could bring some postseason experience to an organization that’s fizzled there more than once.
I initially had Nola going quite a bit earlier, but he is not pitching well out of the gate, and historically his fastball doesn’t show the dominance of a Jacob deGrom or a Max Scherzer. However, he’s much younger, much cheaper, and has one of the filthiest curveball in recent memory. PNC Park is one of the toughest hitters parks in the Bigs, so building around a young ace makes a lot of sense for the Pirates. His contract will carry him through his age-30 season at a very reasonable price. If he rights the ship after a rough April, he should be taken much earlier, but he fits well in Pittsburgh.
18. St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew Benintendi, OF, 24 ($700k – Arb)
Benny is one of my favorite young players in the league. He feels very much like a pre-prime Christian Yelich. Sure, he’s not trapped in an extreme pitcher’s park like Yelich was early in his career, but there aren’t many holes in his game. People might be shouting for the likes of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Nolan Arenado at this point, but all those players are older and far more expensive than Benintendi, so why not take advantage? If he continues his development and turns into the next Yelich, the Cardinals get an absolute steal; if he levels off where he’s at right now, he’s still a fine ballplayer.
The Mariners are no stranger to aging stars, and even so, it’s not quite fair to call label deGrom that way. He just isn’t as young as people think. The elbow scare from this week might be enough to scratch him off many organization’s draft list, but he’s also been the most dominant pitcher in MLB over the past 18 months. deGrom seems to think there’s nothing to worry about with his elbow, so Seattle pays their ace at pick 19. Safeco Field is historically a great park for pitchers, and deGrom would deShine here. He’s not likely to give the organization another decade of top productivity, but a half decade is reasonable.
20. Tampa Bay Rays: Javier Baez, MI, 26 ($5 mil-Arb)
Javi burst onto the scene last year with a runner-up finish in the NL MVP race and one of the great power-speed seasons of the last five years. He was an MVP for many fantasy owners last year, and has started hot to show that last year was no fluke. The Rays are getting a young, versatile infielder who still has a couple years of arbitration remaining, a major plus for a small market team. If they’re smart, they’ll lock down Baez through a team-friendly extension. Not only does he offer flexibility in the infield and power at the plate, but he’s also one of the game’s great personalities. For a franchise that has a hard time attracting people to the ballpark, Javi may well put some butts in the seats. He’s a treat to watch.
21. Atlanta Braves: Manny Machado, SS, 26 ($30 million)
My personal bias may be showing here; I am not a Machado fan. I think he’s shown that he can be a bit of a handful, but I also don’t buy into his overall game. He’s a fine hitter; no one can deny that, but he’s shown to be susceptible to major slumps, and I don’t think that’s a $30 million player. The baseball absolutely flies out of SunTrust Park for right-handed batters, so Machado would likely see an influx in dingers here. Obviously, the price tag is major, and the Braves have been smart about how they spend their money, but Machado would likely be too good to pass up at this point. He probably wouldn’t fall this far, but I think maybe he should.
22. Colorado Rockies: Bryce Harper, OF, 26 ($22-26 million)
Drafting a pitcher here would be silly, as no one has truly managed to tame the beast that is Coors Field. Arenado would be an obvious fit here, but he’s older and quite a bit more expensive than Harper. Despite Bryce’s massive contract, his annual salary tops out at only $26 million. Coors Field inflates the numbers of hitters, and will allow Harper to age gracefully throughout the remainder of his huge contract. He’s a polarizing figure, but when he sent his first dinger into orbit, fans will fall for him hard. The park may help to hide some of the growing blemishes in his game.
23. Cleveland Indians: Corey Seager, SS, 24, ($4 mil-Arb)
It’s not often that a position player loses a season to Tommy John surgery, but the hope is that the younger Seager brother is through the major injuries. He’s yet to blow away the league with his hit tool, but lefties in Progressive Field have a great deal of success, and Seager has a solid approach. It’s possible that Seager takes a big step in the next couple years. He has room to put on weight and add pop, and if he does, he may be a hit in Cleveland. If he doesn’t take the next step, he’s still a solid defender who will get on base at an above average clip. He hasn’t shown any speed in his young career, but every other facet of his game is solid.
Sale has done little more this season than frighten fantasy owners with his diminished velocity and effectiveness, but I think he pulls out of it. He has a long history of dominance, and the return to form should be imminent. He’s older than the Dodgers would like, but has shown to be one of the filthiest aces around. The way the organization manages their pitching staff would benefit Sale, who would likely see more rest than the average horse. The Dodgers are certainly no strangers to spending money, so Sale’s price tag shouldn’t scare them off. The thin man would attract a lot of fans to Chavez Ravine.
25. Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B, 27 ($13 mil-Arb)
The Cubbies get to keep their boy late in the first round. But something seems up with Bryant. He fought through injury last season, and it showed. Since winning the MVP as a 24-year-old phenom, Bryant went from great to good to just meh. The hope is that he’s still revving back up to perfect health, but few players ever reach the point of being well-rested. It’s possible that Bryant doesn’t handle the haul of a 162-game season as well as other players. Still, the highly-touted hitter has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career. He’ll be due for a big payday soon, but he’ll likely figure things out again and be worth every penny.
26. Milwaukee Brewers: Trevor Story, SS, 26 ($5 mil-Arb)
Much like his fellow Rockies, Story’s numbers are deflated outside of Coors Field, but Miller Park offers a similarly friendly park without the altitude help. Story’s a free swinger, but he showed last year that he can hit for power and average while still being trouble on the base paths. Pair that with the fact that he’s still a few years away from a big payday, and he could be a great value for the Brew Crew. They can plug him in the 3-hole for the next ten years and start to build a team around him.
ShoTime takes a long ride up the state of California and lands in Oakland. There’s a lot to love about Ohtani: He’s only 24, comes cheap (Billy Beane’s top priority), and is one of the most unique two-way players since George Herman Ruth. However, he still has a long way to go in recovering from TJ, and will just now be returning back to swinging a bat. It’s possible that he take a long time to return to form at the plate, so the A’s would be investing in the future here. He’s still a pre-arbitration player, so Oakland is likely to manage control of Ohtani through his late twenties. If he develops into an all-star, he’d make for great trade bait. We all know the A’s aren’t going to pay him, as exciting as he may be.
28. New York Yankees: Nolan Arenado, 3B, 28 ($35 million)
A lot of people will argue that Arenado belongs in the top ten of this draft, and the Rockies are about to start paying him like a top ten player. I’m just not buying it. He has one of the most dramatic home/away splits of any Rockies player. He’s an elite fielder, a plus, but being away from Denver altitude will hurt Arenado’s numbers. The pairing in the Bronx makes sense because Yankee Stadium still skews heavily toward hitters (although power skews more to lefties) and the massive paycheck wouldn’t scare away Cashman and co.
29. Houston Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B, 28 ($6-26 million)
Another hometown return as Houston selects their pint-sized franchise player late in the first round. After this season, Altuve will finally be paid like the player he’s been for the last half decade. After a rough 2018, Altuve feels like a very old 28, and due to his stature, his power is likely to fade sooner rather than later. He’s still an incredible payer at hitting for contact and running the base paths. Minute Maid might help inflate his power for a little longer, and Altuve can remain a fan favorite.
30. Boston Red Sox: Ozzie Albies, 2B, 22 ($1-7 million)
This might seem an odd pick; the Red Sox have never shied away from spending money, and Albies doesn’t exactly scream “flashy and exciting” like some of Boston’s current superstars. However, Albies just signed one of the most team-friendly contracts currently in the Bigs, and the Red Sox would be wise to lock up the cheap, young talent that is Albies. He’s only begun to show his skill set, and has plenty of room to grow, but he offers almost no risk because of his price tag. Hitting from both sides will allow him to batter the Green Monster and knock homers over the short right field wall. The cheap first pick will allow them to spend big in other rounds.
So that’s it! 4,000 words later and every Major League team has their franchise cornerstone. Unfortunately for the Orioles and a few other franchises who upgraded, it’s all just pretend. But feel free to take a second, stare off into space, and contemplate how good it all could’ve been. Now back to work, day dreamer; your team probably still sucks.
Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire