. . . A long time ago

in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Draft Notes '99


Steve dual role as Watto, the junk dealer on Tatooine who kept Anakin as a hostage, er slave, and the fearsome Sith and the embodiment of the dark powers of the force known as Darth Maul, loyal to the commissioner, er, emperor
Jim Frank Samuel L. Jackson, aka Mace Windu
Ken Senator Palpatine, aka the evil emperor. "Pays lip service to democracy, but practices the politics of deceit, manipulation and control." (quoted from a Pepsi can)
Bob Jar Jar Blanks, talks alot, swears alot, not of major consequence to the outcome
Chris Wise old master Yoda. Will soon lose all of his hair
Keith Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi knight, speaks with an Irish accent just like Liam Neeson
Greg Obi-Wan Kenobi, another Jedi. If you strike him down, he will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine
Joe Remembering his 1997 hairdo, I'm thinking Chewbacca, or maybe Hand Solo in regard to his 1998 comment about masturbation
Doug Anakin Skywalker, young Jedi who could be the one to balance the force -- full of midi-chlorians, but consumed by fear that could keep him from becoming a Jedi knight
Graham From April thru July, he was the Phantom Menace

For Graham, it was a draft where you could say, individually, there weren't many bad picks. But collectively, he made several mistakes. His selection of Rick Reed (Hunt*) in the fourth round worked out awfully, and his taking a 9 in Scott Erickson so early (12th) was probably unnecessary. Consider this trade Reed, Erickson, Mike DeJean, and John Franco for Mike Jackson, Juan Acevedo, Dwight Gooden, and Justin Thompson. Graham passed on each member of this second group for the first, getting two not-too-consequentially better starters and two drastically worse relievers.

Murmurs around the league were that he erred slightly in picking Biggio 2nd, Chipper 6th, Jeter 7th, Lopez 8th, and Thome 9th, because they all were reaches. I didn't think these were reaches as the draft was going on, but look at the facts: he took Biggio, then not another 2B was taken for 65 picks; he took Chipper, not another 3B taken for another 24 picks; he took Jeter, not another SS taken for 19 picks; he took Javy, not another C taken for another 19 picks; he took Thome, not another 1B taken for 58 picks. These reaches left Graham without a particularly strong hitter and a mediocre staff. I think Chipper's results were as good as any 6th round pick would be expected to put up, so he was certainly less of a reach, but Graham would've been better off on the whole if he held off on a couple of these picks and grabbed better pitching.

It's not too fair to harp on Graham's picks because he had the littlest scouting time, made some picks in route to moving to Colorado, and hadn't played any APBA in 4 years. And he did make some good picks. He got slugging CF's pretty cheap in Buford (15) and Bobby Kelly (14). His relief staff was solid -- though Rivera couldn't hold a lead. He was smart to grab the solid starting pitchers that he did in Glavine (1) and Randy Johnson (3), even Chan Ho at 11.

An interesting side note - I heard that Graham believed his struggles were due in part to not knowing the secrets of APBA. I may be taking his comments out of context here, but the supposed secrets were that RBI guys like Joe Carter are the guys who APBA's system favors. RBI guys in major league baseball get their RBIs based on the situations they bat in and whose batting around them. Joe Carter had a lot of .270, .315, .480 years, and he became known as an RBI stud because he was on a lot of good teams with a lot of good hitters in front of him and behind him. In the SL, Carter made but one roster (San Quentin in '95A), and he was a bust. The only "secret" is that .270, .315, .480 guys translate to .200, .230, .380 guys in the SL. These guys may find a way to drive in a lot of runs in the SL, but not near as many as the Belle's or Juan Gonzalez's. The moral is that might is right, and the Joe Carter's do not represent too much might. And the secret I'd like to share is that there are no secrets.

Graham needs a clean slate for SL 2000. If he applies what he learned in '99, then scouts a ton, he could be 25 wins better.

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Speaking of reaches, Doug had a few. Chuck Finley and Kerry Wood were some of the more glaring, and just about his whole relief staff went a round or two too early. Tony Womack was also a reach (not an 8-round reach as Doug suggests), but what was really detrimental to the Slugs was Doug playing this slug at secondbase. No-hit, little-field D34-types work out great as a late-inning pinch-runner for a team that gets guys on and needs an extra-run or a tying run or whatever, as he did with Steve's Porters in '98. But when Womack has to provide his own offense, steal his base, then wait for Gary DiSarcina (reach at 14, very comparable to 21st rounder Neifi Perez) and Carlos Hernandez (reach at 17) to hit him in, his steals are often wasted.

Inexperienced players, especially rookies, should absolutely avoid the negative extremes in the draft because the unknowns are too huge for them to handle. Wood's W in this league was the recipe for a monster ERA, just as it was with Dan Casper and Ramon Martinez in the '98 SL. Rick Reed's L had the same effect. Womack as a starting 2B was another negative extreme. An experienced manager like Greg, however, can tackle negative extremes more easily, such as with rag-arm Mike Piazza as his starting catcher. Extreme thought and care are given to such a situation, from the time he's picked, throughout the course of the draft as potential backup catchers are sized up, to the in-season subtleties like where he bats in the order to which pitchers he catches and if and when he's pulled for a substitute catcher.

Was Bichette the worst pick in SL history at 10? He was pretty bad -- Derek Bell taken in the 25th round may have been the most equal to Bichette in terms of SL talent. But Dan Casper had several more infamous picks during his illustrious history. And let's not even get into Charles Johnson, '97 or '99. I think Gwynn (16) was the best steal for the Slugs, while picks like Castilla (6), Mo (7) and Edmonds (9) gave Doug a chance to do good things. But too many weak picks ripened these Banana's before their time.

Will Doug return for SL 2000? Or will Dave Basler rescue this foundering franchise?

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According to Bob's hilarious 65 game quiz, he thinks his pitching should be better than what it was because he invested his first four picks on starters. Well, I agree that PedroJ (1) and Kenny Rogers (2) underperformed, but I disagree about how much you can expect from 12's like Denny Neagle (3) and Francisco Cordova (4). Without an added H or unbelievably low BB/9, these guys will just be average pitchers at best. While I find it extremely intelligent to go into the draft with the mindset of taking pitching, I think when you're in crucial rounds like 3 and 4 and your options are what they were for Bob, you have to grab a dominant reliever like a Hoffman or a Mike Jackson, especially if you've grabbed two quality starters already, or you take the opportunity to grab an offensive building block like ARod. Consider the makeup of Bob's team if he takes ARod in the 4th, passing on Cordova, then passes on Rickey in the 11th for Rick Helling. He's got about the same in terms of pitching (weaker, but not drastically weaker) and he has an MVP candidate at SS instead of the (vastly overrated) Jay Bell/Mike Bordick factor.

As I've said before, drafting has a lot to do with balance. Bob could have balanced the PLO a little bit better. His relief staff was lacking -- Quantrill was a good pick at (7), but Doug Brocail (9) was a reach considering he was about as good as Juan Acevedo (12), Donne Wall (14), John Rocker (19), or even PLO pen mate Rod Beck (17).

What I'm not saying about Bob was that he made a bunch of good picks. Every pick I didn't mention of Bob's was solid. Galarraga (8) was especially good since he was at or near the talent-level as almost every 1B taken ahead of him, and because he won many MVP votes. Grace was another good one (15) considering he too was comparable to say, Jim Thome (9). Of course, Grace performed like crap for Bob -- but the draft notes are more about the draft than the season so Grace still merits a mention. Ray Durham (14) wasn't that outstanding a pick at the time, I thought, but maybe he was. In the season, he didn't hit for average or get on base at a very high clip, but who did? What Durham did do was steal and slug remarkably well.

Bob is obviously a misunderstood genius. If he puts effort into scouting in 2000, there's no ceiling for his potential.

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Steve was in the unenviable position of drafting the last pick of the first round. Last year, Joe took the great, but not outstandingly great, tandem of Biggio and Garciaparra and no matter what he did after those picks, his team was in trouble. Why Steve choose to repeat Joe's gamut, . . . ? Griffey had his best SL year to date, and Pudge held runners in check at a phenominal rate, but you can't win a title with a piece of crap staff, which is what Steve drafted.

The staff would've been better, of course, without Steve's infamous "hostage taking." Steve is a like a used-car dealer with his sales pitches, and everyone is on to him. He has to know by now that everyone is on to him, and unless he offers fair value, he'll be stuck with his lemons, out of business, out of luck. The Eric Davis/Kenny Lofton situation turned out not to be too bad, as he was able to trade Davis and pick up a better pitcher in the deal. But Charles Johnson (12) was the worst pick in the draft. He probably would've only lasted a few more rounds at the most, but considering how few plate appearances he had and what Steve had already vested in with Pudge in the 2nd round, Steve's selection of Johnson is one that should never be repeated.

Alou was a good pick, finishing 6th in the league in production and 9th in RBI. Edgar (8) is always a good pick, in my opinion. Loretta (13) was good, and Todd Walker (19), Robby Alomar (20), Neifi Perez (21) and Matt Williams (23) were all bargains. Craig Wilson (26) would have been a huge bargain if Steve had made the playoffs and used him in 2/7 of the games, considering he played about 1/10 of the regular season games.

And as a side note, I drafted a team in the Spring League from the 9th position that was loaded in talent and won the league, so don't necessarily believe me when I eulogize Steve and his draft position. Every draft is different, every year's talent level is a little different, every team is built a little differently, and every pick is a unique opportunity.

Let me reiterate what we all need to learn from Steve. Take pitching, not hostages. Take pitching, not 7th hitters.

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Unlike in year's past, Joe didn't have any consequential lapses in judgement during the draft. Taking McGwire 1st was right, no matter how much better than the league Maddux's ERA was. If you don't take McGwire first, you don't belong in the SL. Nomar (last pick of the 6th) was a good selection, seeing as he matched up very closely with 5th rounders ARod and Larkin. Greg Vaughn (9) was a perfect fit for the Hurricanes, and Abreu (10), Tony Fernandez (18), Darryl Hamilton (19), John VanderWal (25) and Bill Muellar (26) were all good picks. I thought Ellis Burks (15) was a very smart pick -- a defensively adequate slugging CF who could've been a big asset to the latter end of Joe's lineup. But for whatever reason Burks couldn't buy a hit all season. Next to Charles Johnson, Burks was the league's least valuable player.

Sele (8) was picked a little early, considering how he matched up with Todd Stottlemyre (12). Pettitte (16) was only marginally better than the much-later picked Justin Thompson (25). Hocking (20) was a role player who didn't have much value, but you gotta take these role players at some point, so it's not too big a deal. Mike Williams (12), the J-4, 37-game, 16-reliever was also taken early. But none of these picks hurt Joe too badly. I think it's a sign of how good the SL is -- Joe's drafting improves every year, but his winning percentage doesn't grow by leaps since everyone else is improving too.

What was real disappointing was that Gary Gaetti never made his way onto Joe's roster.

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Ken of course caused a draft day ruckus in trading his 8, 9, and 10 for Chris's 6, 20, and 24. How fair a trade is Guerrero, Vizquel and Sheffield for Mondesi, Marrero and Steinbach? I don't know if Ken thought Mondesi's 3-39 in center for 100 games was going to be a dominant factor in the league or what, but I do know that if he hadn't made the trade, he could've contended better with Greg.

I'm not sure how Jeff Shaw (4) got picked ahead of Mike Jackson, or how Bret Saberhagen found his way into the 7th round. Ken obviously put a big emphasis on low BB/9 guys, which may or may not have helped him.

This is not to say Ken was not without his triumphs. Frank Thomas (18) was an absolutely tremendous pick, in the class of John Cangelosi in '96 and Rickey Henderson in '97 as one of the best late-round picks in SL history. Considering his power, Tony Batista (13) was another good pick. Knoblauch (19) didn't live up to his potential, but he too was a strong pick. I liked Brian Giles (17) as Ken's 4th OF (better than Hidalgo in the 15th) -- thought he was very similar to another steal, Greg's Matt Lawton (16), except for the platoon -- and when he was offered to me in a trade, I welcomed his talents onto my team.

Ken's still a very good scout, but I think his once-stellar GM skills have worked against him these last few seasons.

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Another exceptional draft for Greg. The only thing that may have separated him in the standings from the two teams that finished ahead of him were his draft position -- he didn't have a Maddux like Keith did -- and Ken's trade with Chris. Irabu (25) was probably his worst pick, a 9 L who didn't necessarily belong in the league. But Irabu only pitched about 100 innings in his 30+ starts, so he wasn't a big deal. Bip (22) played a bunch of positions and could steal a few bases, but he also was another suspect selection.

For every reach, there were three strong picks. Greg grabbed his offensive catalyst relatively late in Offerman (9), then stole Simms (12), Helton (15), Lawton (16), Jose Hernandez (20) and Gerald Williams (23). Larkin (5) was pretty shrewd -- as SS's went there were the elites in ARod and Nomar, who were very similar, Larkin who was better defensively and a better stealer, and Jeter who did a little of everything very well. Greg foresaw how his lineup would play out, and he realized he needed a second hitter who could complement Belle in the 3rd slot. He realized early that Larkin was his best bet and he seized him.

There's such a stat as stolen base runs, which I've referred to quite often in correspondences and SL articles. (SB x .3) - (CS x .6) = a player's SB Runs, with 10 SB Runs equaling a SB Win for his team, according to the formula. In the SL, I think it works totally different. Since Albert Belle's exist (big double play guys), teams need guys who can steal second at any given time in any given situation. The value of an everyday player like Larkin who can do this is much more valuable than what his stolen base runs are. Stolen base threats who come off the bench also are more valuable than what their stolen base runs are. Because they enter with the game on the line, where pinch-running for someone on first makes a stolen base a certain run if a base hit follows, like Larkin, these pinch-runners can also affect so many games. If Doug could've used Womack in this role and had him go 75 for 83 stealing, I think he could've contended for the playoffs, or at least won more games than his 2 SB Wins represent. Alas, Womack wasn't used in this role, a role that never presented itself for the Slugs.

But I digress. Strong pitching. A lineup without any holes. A strong bench. Another exceptional draft.

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Chris purveyor of the Spring League, knew as much about our league going into the draft as anyone. His worst pick might have been Higginson (12), very comparable to Jeromy Burnitz (21). I think his worst pick was Smoltz (2), a J-3 who will watch the first round of the playoffs and some of the series (should Chris advance) because of a final start injury. A lesser J-rating would have only meant one missed start. J-ratings are why I hated my Jamie Moyer pick in '98 -- he didn't miss any playoff starts, but he missed 7 regular season starts due to injury, making him the worst 4th round pick in league history. But Smoltz was also considered as early as the 10th overall pick, so it's not as though he wasn't the right pick to make -- he had a great regular season, by the way.

Like Greg, Chris made many, many solid picks. Delgado (7) had one of the highest OPS (on-base plus slugging, also known as production) in the league, Guerrero (8) won a lot of MVP votes, Vizquel (9) anchored his defense and hit for a decent average. Corsi (15) and Rocker (19) were excellent complements to Nen and Jackson in the pen, while Devo (21), Derek Bell (25) and Tim Wakefield (27) were great bargains considering their opportunity costs. Well, Wakefield wasn't really any better than any other late-round pitcher, but he sure performed.

Also in regard to the Spring League, I think Chris and myself got out of the box so well this year because we knew so much right away, about our own teams and about every other team in the league. We had nothing new to learn about our team, we had no trouble acclimating ourselves to our own lineups and the possibilites within. Play a bunch of games or a bunch of seasons or scout like you're the daughter of Atticus Finch, and you too may start out 30-10 or 29-11.

Watch out for Chris once again in the SL 2000.

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In the '98 Draft Notes, I referred to my season in light of a Buck Showalter quote. Showalter said, as he was losing game after game despite a huge payroll, that maybe the best thing that could happen to a team is to lose, becauses it forces re-evaluation. Lo and behold, Showalter's D-Backs (at press time) were ready to rebound like nobody's business and win the NL West. My rebound wasn't as dramatic as his, but I improved due to some re-evaluation.

One of the bigger concepts I went for was a lesser reliance on the bullpen. Come playoff time, a bullpen is the most restricted amid all of our regulations, so it turned out to be a good area to try and de-emphasize. The stolen base is also being de-emphasized to a point in the league, so it made sense to have my top catcher be Eddie Perez, not a Pudge Rodriguez. And with hit by pitches having the extreme disadvantage of causing injury, I wanted to avoid drafting non-J-0's (J-0's can only be injured for a maximum of the remainder of the game) who got hit a lot.

My bullpen was still quite strong, but that was dictated by my want not to be too caught up in an mid-round run of starting pitchers, pitchers who were too similar to choose from. I was disappointed in Sal Fasano (15) and Jim Leyritz (20), but as a whole my catching was adequate. I lost Larry Walker (3) and Tim Salmon (11) to some hit-by-pitch injuries, but Walker was healthy for the playoffs, and while I was worried enough about Salmon getting hurt again that I sat him for the team's crucial game 162 match-up with Chris, I did feel good enough about him to pinch-hit with him down 2 runs in the ninth, just in time for his two-run homer off Mike Jackson. I thought Gooden (19) was a bargain at the time, but he finished last in the league in ERA (if he qualified), and would have had terrible numbers even if I hadn't let him pitch all 9 innings of the 30-3 loss to Andrews.

Enough about my drafting prowess. It don't mean stink without the Spit Cup drink.

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Draft opinions of Keith Klein 9.15.99