Draft Notes '98

My apologizes to all, but the original notes contained a glaring error (maybe not that "glaring" since it took 6 months before anyone noticed). As I was editing that, I edited a few more things, but generally tried to keep the same poetics of the first article.— Keith

In the 1.0 version of this article, I said John had the first big decision of the draft with the 3rd overall pick. I basically said he was wise to pick Randy Johnson over Larry Walker, and I alluded to his taking Johnson as the pick that ushered in the 5-round run of pitchers that followed. It just shows how good of a draft analyst I am because John actually took Johnson 4th, after Dan had taken Walker. Well, my point is still that John had a decision to make, he chose pitching, and because of it, everyone else had to react to it and solidify their own rotations with 3 or 4 or 5 starters taken in the following few rounds. With Walker taken, it was an easier decision, but what it led to was still big in the whole scheme of the '98 draft. The premium is on the quality pitcher in draft leagues, or at least it is at this point in the SL. A pitcher's success is based solely on the empirical data that is his grade, his control, and his peripheral grades. A player's success has a more infinite amount of variables, primarily the variables of his 36+ APBA numbers whose results change based on the situations in which he hits and his place in the batting order. These numbers and the player's steal and speed ratings collectively represent that player's offensive value. Players also have 3 or more defensive ratings which affect how they are valued. What do these values mean for players versus pitchers? It means a player's value is entirely more subjective than a pitcher's, and consequently, judging two given players is infinitely more difficult than judging the finite worth of two pitchers. It was therefore "right" of John to take Johnson fourth, and it was also "right" of a pitching run to follow. It will happen this way in every subsequent Summer League because the most critical rounds are rounds 1 through about 8 (you might not win the league with good picks in these rounds, but you will eliminate yourself with bad picks). I'll sum up by saying this is where John's '98 came crashing down -- Castilla was overvalued at 3, Ho Park the same at 5, and Rivera was underused for a 4. Garret Anderson at 17? Though less of a critical round, I still say Yikes!! Will Clark was an excellent 25th pick, Sandberg an amusing 26th. John picked quickly, sometimes without the benefit of a computer or notes, to keep the draft moving, which is commendable.

Grabbing offense isn't an unpardonable sin. Sacrificing pitching for the likes of Knoblauch at 2, Grissom at 9 and Steinbach at 16 is damnable. When Dan did go for pitching, why he thought Mike Magnante was a good fit at 7 is being anyone. Other questionmarks include his selecting Sanchez at 20, Molitor at 21, and Tom Goodwin at 22, but those are slight to his overall pitching neglect. Dan swapped positions with Keith in the 13th and 26th rounds when Keith, who was picking right before Dan on the 13th round swing, called Dan, who answered the phone "I'm taking Lofton." Keith was considering Lofton, though he really wanted Weiss, in the 13th and wanted some token of appreciation for not taking the player Dan coveted. By the 26th, they had vastly different needs, so the swap was no big deal—Keith really only got a good story to tell. My diatribe above about Johnson vs. Walker didn't mean to suggest that Walker, the league MVP, was a mistake. He was "right" at 3, he would've been "right" at 4 if Johnson was gone, he would've been "right" at 5 if Maddux was taken 4th. The point is that it is hard to routinely outscore an opponent if Ramon Martinez has to throw 9 innings every fifth day, especially if you botch 2nd and 7th round picks.

Joe cemented his team's fate by taking offense with the 9 and 10 picks overall. Because Biggio and Garciaparra aren't Larry Walker, Joe was left with little opportunity to combine a solid pitching staff and a good offense. Interestingly, he tried to right his ship with defense, choosing defensive studs like Pudge at 4, Salmon at 6, Snow at 8, Edmonds at 11, and Fryman at 13. This left Joe with a middle of the pack offense and a below average staff. Mesa was a good pick at 7, as were Hoffman at 10, Chili Dawg at 22, and Summer League favorite Darren Daulton at 24. It's very interesting that Pudge was a 1st rounder in '97, then he has the same defensive year and better offensive numbers in the '97 MLB and his value dropped in the '98 draft, from #5 to the 28th pick overall. Maybe Keith will actually admit he overvalued Pudge in '97—or maybe he'll just point out the vastly improved catching in '98.

Bob had the first pick and made everyone wait a good 10 hours before he took Clemens. Perhaps taking the lead from mentor Ken, he tried "cornering the market" on catchers (Piazza 3, ChuckJ 5) and CF's (Finley and Brady with the 8-9 swing), which had little effect on the draft, as these things usually don't. Shored up a non-existant bullpen with his Orosco-Franco-Benitez 14-15-16 picks. A remarkably balanced effort from an SL novice; not an outstanding team, but certainly not weak. He showed good judgment when he became incensed over Steve's early trade offers. The hardest thing about becoming a SL owner is learning how to be a SL GM. The bar is set so high by the proponderance of great GMs in our league that the problems caused by making a bad pick are so escalated. That's why I shower praise to Bob as I think he drafted better than '97 rookies Steve and Joe did in their inaugural year. I also know that drafting after Bob was tremendously more frustrating than drafting after Dan in terms of them taking players I was considering with my upcoming pick.

As this author is always critical of Ken, take this with a grain of salt. By round 12, "Cornering" Ken had 5 OF's and 2 SS's to go with his 5 Pitchers. To think he could win with a weak number one starter leading an average staff is one thing, but to think he needed Rickey (9) and ARod (7) so early is really something that's merits questioning. I recently commented to Ken that the SL is a run-oriented league and he objected. If he didn't think so, he was obviously again trying to corner the market, this time the stealing market with Rickey and ARod, and in doing so made a major miscalculation of their worth. I did like Larkin at 12 as well as Ward at 11, but in the whole scheme of the team, they didn't provide the balance that Ken required after investing so highly in ARod and Rickey. Sandy Alomar at 14, John Valentin at 15, Lopez at 16, and Dave Hansen at 20 (returning from a 5 season absence from the SL) were other good picks.

Insiders have slight issues with Mondesi going at 5 and 5th starter Estes going so early at 6, but when Greg doesn't make a real questionable pick until 24 (Andruw Jones), it's obviously a good draft. The problem was his team had little holes (not as much speed or stealing as he requires, a poor throwing catching unit, a modest pen), which prevented Greg from having a dominant regular season. As he toasted from the Spit Cup after taking 4 of 6 from Keith, he didn't seem too upset as his 83-79 regular season record. Version 2.0 wants to say that Greg is adamant that Jones wasn't a bad pick, as he had a role that Greg saw he needed filling. Since Steve also had the same role, Greg's taking Jones may have been logical at 24, but it doesn't mean it wasn't a questionable pick. Every year, there are guys who GMs don't even bother scouting -- when they are picked, the enlightened GMs shake their heads in wonderment. Those are bad picks. Questionable picks may be more like Jones, guys who really don't merit a place in the SL, but they are the guys who GMs scout because they know situations may apply where they could be taken. Hence, the questionable part of it is, after the pick is made, the asking how or why a GM puts himself in a position where he has to take a Jones. Greg may have stuck by his pick well after the season has ended, but it interesting to note that he didn't stick by him during the season, dropping him to pick up Roger Cedeno -- though if he had taken Cedeno to start the year, he would've had 150% of his steals, not the free agent 100%. Anyway, the important thing is Greg has the Spit Cup.

Steve came out well from the pitching run, then got himself five good players in rounds 6-10. He slipped some with Mark Clark (11), Renteria (13), Ripken (14), and Deion Sanders (21), but it was a vast improvement on Steve's '97 effort. Burks was a questionable pick at 12, just because he was the 3rd J-2 outfielder that Steve drafted. When he got around to taking OF back-ups, he got a good (Curtis - 26), a bad (Deion, not Bad Chad), and an ugly (Gilkey - 27). A remarkable turnaround after a questionable '97 draft. Steve's strong showing proves that this is not the narrow and shallow Nims-Klein League, but it is the breadth and spectacle of the Summer League. Walt Whitman would have devoted a few chapters of Leaves of Grass to the SL if we had just started 150 years earlier.

Keith wishes he didn't value Myers (2) and Moyer (4) so much, as they were detrimental to the Project come playoff time. Moyer went 0-4 in the playoffs and missed 7 regular season starts because of injury. DeShields (15th round, 128 overall) was by far the lowest pick to receive MVP votes. Cameron was a dud at 16. Keith grabbed a decent, but not-spectacular bench in rounds 18-25 (Sheffield, Hammonds, Stanley, Alexander, Devo, Belliard, Myers). I suppose with 9 teams, though, a spectacular bench is an investment with little-to-no payoff down the road, as it can cost you a valuable pitching core. The successes and failures of my '98 season, which were born on draft day, have me thinking I should change many of my draft ideas in '99. Does this mean I'm already expecting a poorer showing in '99 and am making excuses? No. I won't be surprised if I do worse as the league is catching up to the upper echelons, which I tenatively am a part of. Instead, I am cognizant that excuses don't mean squat -- I make an excuse about Bere, no matter how reasonable I see it, yet Greg still holds the '95A trophy, Greg makes an excuse about a shortened series in our expanded playoffs, but Chris still is revered as the '96 champ -- and I am only saying that to win in '98, there were some decisions that I made in spite of my team's best interests. It's an "excuse" but it isn't regarding anything anyone else should be concerned with. Buck Showalter was fond of saying after his abysmal season with the Diamondbacks, despite their high payroll, that maybe the best thing an organization can do is to re-evaluate itself. Wish me luck in '99 with my re-evaluation.

Chris drafted an outstanding team. Everyone wanted Lankford before Chris took him at 6. Burnitz was a great pick at 8, as was Caminiti (9) and Spiers (11). Chris waited on his SS and 2B picks, with everbody convinced he would draft a mid-round 2B and play Spiers at SS. He patiently drafted great complementary guys like Jeff Reed (16) and Delgado (20), then expertly snared defensive studs Boone (25) and Deivi Cruz (27) late in the draft to shore up his middle infield. Will Chris draft this well in the future? Well, he has improved his drafting just about every year. A scary thought for '99.

Bobby Knight alledges that Kevin O'Neill confided in him a few years back, "I know I can recruit, I just wish I could coach." These Draft Notes are about recruiting, yet they also deal with coaching, because when a GM drafts a great player that the manager can't or doesn't use properly, well . . . that's Draft Notes fodder as vilified Steve can verify.


Draft opinions of Keith Klein 9.17.98, revised 3.8.99