Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Biggest Draft Busts in John Kruk League History (aaron_clarke)

Other than winning titles, perhaps nothing defines a general manager’s legacy and ability more than their draft history and ability, or inability, to bring in talent on a year to year basis.  This is a bit paradoxical given how difficult it can be to send the right name to the podium on draft day.
“Hell, I’ve always said drafting ain’t no exact science,” says longtime Scranton Miner lead scout Red McGirk.  “It’s a bit of a crapshoot.” When a man like Red, who’s got one of the best records in the business, says that drafting is a tricky proposition you can understand why every year there are at least one or two draft “busts”.  That said, there’s something to be said for solid scouting. “You should always get a solid player if you have a top ten pick,” says longtime, and respected Kansas City General Manager chadrader.  “It’s not that difficult to mitigate risk through some basic homework.” It’s true enough that drafting great isn’t an exact science, but when you end up on this list repeatedly (as one franchise has), it’s clear that something other than “luck” is involved. 

This list recounts the seven (7) biggest draft busts in John Kruk League history.   It includes players who played four (4) years or more of pro ball, so players that didn’t sign, or ones that signed and left shortly thereafter (unassigned draft picks) were not counted.  This also, by definition, rules out players drafted after Season 8.
#7 Draft Bust
CL Sean Schwartz Season 4 Pick 23 Rochester River Dwellers $1.9m signing bonus
Schwartz was a late first round pick, and while some might defend the pick, especially in the wake of an overall poor draft, you’d still like to see your first round pick at least sniff the big leagues.  That hasn’t happened with the Texas product out of Rio Vista.  Schwartz has played eight (8) years of minor league ball, topping out at AAA for the last five (5) years.  With 151 minor league saves you have to wonder why this guy can’t crack the squad.  Those “in the know” say it’s due to the fact he has only one pitch that’s big league caliber—a four seam fastball that’s average at best. Again, it wasn’t a great draft, but Richard Yamada who fell to pick 27 (now with the Boise Elite) would have been a wiser pick.  In addition to being a starter, he showed better velocity and pitches as a prospect.  While he hasn’t set the world on fire, he’s been a serviceable starter throwing for 800 innings and scratching out 44 wins.  His 463 strikeouts in 522 innings show that he’ll be in the league for a few years to come as a strikeout kind of pitcher.

#6 Draft Bust
2B Tony Strange Season 3 Pick 22 Salem Slugs $2.0m signing bonus

Tony Strange was supposed to man second base for the perennial World Series contending Salem Slugs.  Drafted at slot 22, he was supposed to be the type of guy who could hit for a bit of average and leg out some doubles and triples in between an occasional HR blast—in short an all-around offensive product.  And while Strange showed some of this in the minors (.297 average 96 HR) what nobody guessed was how awful he’d be in the field. “The guy had concrete in his shoes.  Couldn’t move to his left.  Couldn’t move to his right.  Couldn’t pivot,” recalls longtime Salem fielding instructor Clarence Johnson. “It was a complete disaster.” Strange played nine (9) seasons in the minors and never set foot in a major league stadium.  It’s easy to see why; the guy had 0 + plays in the field and 40 -  plays during his minor league career (mostly at 2B).
To fill the second base slot, Salem should have picked Herb Brooks.  Taken one pick after Strange, Brooks showed the same type of hitting style, but with much better footwork and range at second base.  Playing for the Vancouver Redlegs, Brooks has hit .285 with 80 HR and 283 RBI in the big leagues.  With 18 + plays and 14 – plays at second, he would have projected as the Slugs second baseman for the better part of the decade.
#5 Draft Bust
LF Jim Morris Season 2 Pick 16 Boston Dream Team $2.6m signing bonus
When Boston General Manager tribe_1 drafted Morris, most Boston fans were elated. “I remember being at the Boston fan club gala for the signing,” recalls season ticket holder Ray Rix, “and I remember saying, this is the guy we need to anchor down our missing LF slot.” What Rix, and everyone else didn’t know, was that Morris had “a little trouble with authority”.  It was this trouble that caused Morris to bounce around the minor leagues for ten (10) seasons without ever playing in the bigs.  “I always knew I could play, “Morris recalls, “I just never got the shot.” There were the two DUI incidents in Boston.  There was the dugout fight with AAA skipper Butch McClellan in the Iowa City organization.  There were the two separate physical altercations with the Iowa City police in Season 8.  All of these things led to Morris getting a reputation as a talented kid who didn’t have his head on straight, and despite batting .296 with 247 HR and 163 SBs in the minors, and having four (4) minor league all star appearances (including two silver slugger awards), Morris never made it to the big leagues and finally retired in Season 12. The man Boston should have selected to fill the LF gap was Delino Martin.  Martin was picked at the 18 slot and is currently manning left field for Kansas City.  He already has one gold glove and one all star season (.292 w/ 35 HR) under his belt.  He projects to be a .295 hitter with 20 HR and 25 2B on a regular basis.  He’s also a clubhouse leader.

#4 Draft Bust
SP Josias Cairo Season 3 Pick 17 Texas Fresh No Bonus
“Rtab had to be the cheapest son of a bitch in Kruk League history,” recalls current Texas General Manager Mister_Fresh.  With plenty of pitching on the board with the 17th pick, Texas General Manager rtab inexplicably reached and went with Cuban defector  Josias Cairo, despite the fact he projected as 2nd/3rd round talent.  Many insiders say to this day it’s because Cairo didn’t have an agent and it stood to reason he could be signed cheaply.  The Sacramento product soon proved rtab right by signing for the league minimum.
“It was weird,” recalls longtime Texas Pitching Coach Donte Wright, “don’t really know why he signed so easily.  What I do recall is that he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.  I distinctly remember him throwing three balls behind batters during a game in Season 4 spring training.  It was ridiculous.”
Cairo had a bit of a control issue, but still rose up through the minors due to his high draft status.  He made his major league debut in Season 9, and when the dust settled his line was 118 innings pitched with 76 strike outs and 89 base on balls.  His WHIP was 1.89 and his ERA was 6.75.
“He was awful,” says Wright. Making things more tragic, one of the biggest steals in draft day history could have been chosen instead.  Ken Wagner, the man anchoring the Wichita staff, fell all the way to pick 24 that year based on signability concerns.  Sporting a career record of 79-51 with 677 strike outs in 676 innings, and a 1.26 WHIP and 3.38 ERA, there is no doubt Texas would be a World Series favorite if Wagner were on the staff.  With 3 All Star game selections and one Cy Young Award, there’s no doubt the story of Wagner and Cairo proves that “you get what you pay for.” 

#3 Draft Bust

SS Keith Peters Season 3 Pick 4 Boston Dream Team $3.7m signing bonus
If you look back into the lore of John Kruk League, legend has it that the draft pick of Keith Peters ultimately cost then Boston General Manager tribe_1 his job.  When coupled with the Jim Morris pick (mentioned above), it was probably warranted. For most teams, Keith Peters never projected as number one talent, which is why it was such a surprise when he was picked so early.  Most scouts had him as late round one, but more likely, round two material.  What most people don’t know is how the pick came to be. “We had settled on drafting Antonio Miller,“ recalls tribe_1.  “and when Nashville stepped in and picked him ahead of us, well, we panicked.  We hadn’t done a lot of scouting because we were told there is no way Miller wouldn’t fall to us.  We had limited time to make a selection and simply took the guy we had targeted with our second #1 pick (pick #46).  Frankly, I deserved to be fired after that.  We should have had more complete scouting reports and fallback plans.”  Peters would never reach the starter status (let alone elite status) expected of someone picked in the #4 slot.  He would end up with a .240 average in the bigs and a total of 13 HR and 78 RBI.  The last laugh however, was really Peters. “How many guys can say they played three major league seasons and won three World Series Rings?” asks Peters. A good question and certainly the most impressive stat associated with his career. One of the guys Boston should have been eyeing with the 4th pick was Tony Leon.  Leon would eventually fall to pick #8 and hasn’t disappointed since.  With a .277 average and 206 career HR and 649 RBI, Leon is a cornerstone at 3rd.  While he probably couldn’t have played SS, he certainly would have been a better piece to the puzzle.  With one All Star Game appearance and one silver slugger award (3B) already, he’s just entering his prime.
#2 Draft Bust
SP Jeremy Judd Season 3 Pick 5 New York Brokers $3.6m signing bonus

Jeremy Judd was labeled a “can’t miss” pick in Season 3.  Possessing great stamina, good command, and plethora of “plus” pitches, Judd figured to rise up the ranks of the New York farm system and one day be their ace.  It never happened. Judd was busted for cocaine not once, but twice, before rookie league ball opened.  Scheduled for reinstatement in the league in Season 5 he was busted for performance enhancing drugs.  During his time away from baseball he ended up travelling the world, even penning a book called, “Off The Mound” and when the suspension was up Judd had no desire to come back. “He simply lost his desire to play baseball,” says former New York General Manager fighters. Judd would walk away from the John Kruk league having been on the payroll for four (4) years, but never throwing a pitch at any level, minors or majors.  Truly his case is one of the most intriguing “what if” scenarios.  Just like their counterparts in Boston, Ken Wagner was available.  Sliding all the way to pick 24 that year based on signability concerns, Wagner has dominated since hitting the majors.  Sporting a career record of 79-51 with 677 strike outs in 676 innings, and a 1.26 WHIP and 3.38 ERA, he would have helped New York in the NLCS games they’ve grown accustomed to playing in.

#1 Draft Bust
SP Ramon Sheffield Season 1 Pick 2 Boston Dream Team $11.0m signing bonus

Once again Boston makes the list, proving its ineptitude at drafting.  This mistake, however, was the granddaddy of all mistakes. “$11.0m dollars before throwing a pitch?  Are you nuts?” recalls then San Diego General Manager, and now ESPN correspondent dhomard.  “Right away he was set up with way too much pressure.” Scott Boras, Sheffield’s agent, wheeled and dealed and found a way to wrangle $11.0m out of Boston.  For starters, this severely handicapped the organization’s ability to build a farm system.  Boston couldn’t sign any players beyond Round #4.  They traded off some of their higher picks and were unable to compete in the international market.   Second, the buzz surrounding Sheffield and his contract made him a clubhouse cancer with veterans who were openly pissed off.  “Who the f*** is Sheffield,” team captain Fernando Rodriguez famously quipped when asked by a reporter about the newest Dream Team member.  Despite having two players hitting 50+ home runs that year, the Boston squad would stagger to an underachieving 79-83 finish.  sarmos78 resigned as General Manager.  Bip Moreno, one of the team’s stars feuded with management over his contract during Season 2 and was released in Season 3.   Not surprisingly the $11.0m signing bonus given to Sheffield in Season 1 would stand for seven seasons until PT Clark's deal in Season 8.
What did Sheffield do to earn his large guaranteed sum of money?  Well not much.  To add injury to insult, Ramon “Chandelier” Sheffield has been on the DL 7 times in his career.  He’s pitched a total of 308 big league innings, going 13-19 in that span with a 4.17 ERA.  Now in the Burlington organization he’s trying to resurrect his career, but someone still needs to revive the Boston organization which has never really recovered. “We bet it all on Sheffield, we really did,” recalls then General Manager sarmos78, “he had one hell of an arm, all the promise in the world.” Looking back almost every scout agrees Sheffield’s delivery motion and the amount of innings pitched before pro-ball were warning flags. “He was an injury waiting to happen,” says longtime Scranton pitching coach Dan Hill, who’s now with the Boston organization.    
The safer pick would have been starting pitcher Al Seguignol of the Arizona Apache.  Unlike Sheffield he’s been reliable—1259 innings pitched and a 75-65 record with a WHIP of 1.23 and ERA of 3.98.  Damasco Ramirez of the New York Brokers, would also have been a solid pick.  He’s pitched 200+ innings the last six seasons in a row, throwing 21 complete games in that stretch and winning 81 games.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

99-Game Power Rankings

We are almost two-thirds of the way done with the season and teams are starting to separate themselves.  Seattle is looking very dominant.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Albatross Report (zzookeepp)

1.  SS(?) Kid Golub - Souffle ($100.5M over 5 seasons, 5 left)
With a contract valued at $100.5M over 5 years, no bidding war got crazier this offseason than that for The Kid. While his embarrassing offensive performance thus far is no doubt an underachievement relative to his ratings, it should be obvious to most observers that he will never be much of a game-changer offensively. He can't run bases, he won't hit much for power, and while he will always be tough to strike out, his contact and batting eye probably won't get him on-base much more than .350 throughout his career. And defensively, he's actually below average for a shortstop. Shortstop is the only position at which his offensive capabilities would be considered above average. In total, he's a player that has many strengths, but those strengths don't combine to fill an obvious role in a quality ML lineup. By my estimate, The Kid is overpayed by ~$15M per season. In the words of Mojo Nixon, 'you could buy a lot of Mad Dog with that.'

2.  SP Dorian Baker - Streakin' Ricans ($24.4M over 4 seasons, 3 left)
When Feamster signed Baker back in s11, you could hardly find a better starter on the free agent market. He could pitch 9 innings every 5th day with control and consistently tough stuff. But that man was 38 years old. Emphasis: old. Now he's 39, and take a good look at his control, splits and pitch command: it's not pretty, falling with nearly ever update. Baker can still hold his own against big league hitters, but come playoff time this year, he'll be struggling badly. Think it's worrisome now? At age 40, Baker will be a glorified long reliever making starter $$. And at age 41, the final year of his contract? By that time, San Juan will be eating this contract, either with a release or by putting Dorian out to pasture at AAA. 

3.  SP Don Lee - Rebels ($80.1M over 5 seasons, 5 left)
Don Lee was a very hot topic this offseason, sparking a bidding war that both excited some owners and confused others. Count me among the moderately confused. Certainly, I like Don Lee a lot… control, splits, great fastball and pitch command. But I could really only see him as a long reliever and occasional spot starter. Witness his performance over this season so far, and you can see he struggles to make it past the 5th inning. For this kind of $$$, I'd expect at least 200 innings, and I'd prefer 220+. Lee will be lucky to get to 175. The bidding war for Lee probably reflects the unusually poor free agent pool this offseason. Frankly, he was the best out there, so by that criterion, he might be worth this much money. But come next season, the fans in Memphis might be thinking off all the great free agents they will pass up because of this contract. 

4.  Don Casian - Music City Stars ($60M over 5 seasons, 5 left)
The Don is a consistent power hitter who will do well playing any corner position. At age 31, however, he is already showing clear signs of decline, particularly in power. Casian will be a strong asset for his team this year and next, but come age 33, this contract will start to smell bad. When considered alongside the very reasonable contracts offered to Rey James and Carson Sherman, both of whom are comparable corner outfielders to Casian, $12M/year is a lot to pay. Further consider that this contract awards Casian a no-trade clause, so The Don can rest assured that he will celebrate his 35th birthday amidst that urban jungle of neon lights and making a cool $10M. Nashville is a surprisingly expensive team for a borderline wild-card squad. This sort of contract would be better suited to a team anticipating a legitimate run at the World Series. 

5.  Felipe Valdes - Group W Bench ($39M over 3 seasons, 3 left)
Group W sought a starter with enough durability and stamina to withstand their demanding 4-starter rotation, and took a moderate albatross off the hands of the Major Duckies. Zzookeepp remarked in confidence to Aaron Clarke, 'If I'm paying $13M for a starter, he'd damn well better give me 220+ innings!' And in accordance with Murphy's Law, Valdes promptly hit the DL. At age 30, Valdes can be reasonably expected to finish this contract with an above .500 win%, but he is highly unlikely to repeat his past performance as the record-holder for single season victories (25). He might be overpaid by $5 or 6 million, but considered alongside Don Lee, Valdes looks like a bargain. 

6.  Mac Perry - Slugs ($39.5M over 5 seasons, 5 left)
Mac Perry has still got it! Age 34, this gentleman is on pace for 200+ innings of Cy Young Award-caliber pitching and shares the league lead in wins (11). Perry is an essential part of the early season success of the Slugs, but the lefty is already showing some signs of decline. Further consider his below average makeup and health, and Perry looks like a timebomb. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. But considered over 5 seasons of heavy use, you can bet Mac Perry will dislocate his shoulder and accelerate his natural age-related decline considerably. The odds might even favor the reoccurrence of this scenario twice or thrice. With a back-loaded contract, it's a safe bet that after another season or two, 2_dogs will shop Perry. He might have to throw in a couple bottles of snake oil to close that deal. But in the meantime, the good people of Salem can enjoy the show.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Early Season Leaders

Wins - Mac Perry (SAL) - 11
Saves - Gary Simms (SEA) - 22
SO - Richard Franco (ELP), Aramis Andujar (SXF) - 105
OAV - Pepe Benitez (SEA) - .180
WHIP - Pepe Benitez (SEA) - 0.82
ERA - Dave May (HOU) - 1.72

HR - Donnie Jones (VC) - 30
RBI - Gil Gordon (ROC) - 72
AVG - Donnie Jones (VC) - .355
OPS - Donnie Jones (VC) - 1.275
SB - Polin Zorrilla (MEM) - 34

Week 3 Power Rankings

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

S12 Power Rankings - Part Deux

1 (4) – Philadelphia Starz (33-17, 2nd in AL North)
      Pitching: 5
      Batting: 2
      Fielding: 11
Making the move up to the top spot in this week’s power rankings thanks to a current 8-game win streak is the Philadelphia Starz.  They have been impressive both pitching and hitting and they are leading what is currently the best division in the league, claiming three of this week’s top four spots.  Keep an eye on Eddie Hayes, who has stolen 26 bases this year without getting caught, leaving him only 4 short of 500.

2 (7) – St. Louis Archies (35-15, 1st in AL North)
      Pitching: 11
      Batting: 1
      Fielding: 18
St. Louis is also playing extremely well lately, winning eight of their last ten.   Statistically the best hitting team in the league, the Archies are hitting .296 overall.  S10 ROY Dennis Lo continues to have a great start to his career.

3 (1) – Seattle Thunderbirds (29-21, 2nd in NL West)
       Pitching: 1
       Batting: 12
       Fielding: 4

4 (NR) – Scranton Miners (27-23, 3rd in AL North)
      Pitching: 13
      Batting: 6
      Fielding: 1
It cannot please anyone to see the six-time World Series champs slowly creeping up the power rankings.  After a horrible start, Scranton is right back in the AL North mix, led by superb fielding and the 6th-best hitting squad league-wide.  C Dave Allen leads the league in hitting, in addition to being one of the best defensive catchers out there, and Goose Holmes may be on his way to another Gold Glove at SS.

5 (NR) – El Paso Group W Bench (32-18, 1st in NL South)
      Pitching: 2
      Batting: 17
      Fielding: 16
Much of El Paso’s success this year can be attributed to the pitching combination of Jolbert Morales and Richard Franco, who lead the league with nine wins each.  They could use the hitting to pick-up a bit, but El Paso will be tough to push out of the NL South’s top spot.

6 (6) – New York Brokers (32-18, 1st in NL East)
     Pitching: 3
     Batting: 8
     Fielding: 21
Apparently the most consistent team in the league, New York is the only team to stay at their original position in the power rankings.  The pitching and batting are there, but the 21st-ranked fielding team may need to figure something out on that front to keep up this pace.  S3 Cy Young winner Benito Beltran is certainly doing his part, having the best year of his career at 39 years-old.

7 (10) – Houston Oilers (31-19, 1st in AL South)
      Pitching: 8
      Batting: 18
      Fielding: 7

8 (2) – Salem Slugs (30-20, 1st in NL West)
       Pitching: 7
       Batting: 10
       Fielding: 14

9 (NR) – San Juan Streakin' Ricans (27-23, 2nd in NL East)
      Pitching: 14
      Batting: 13
      Fielding: 6

10 (9) – Vancouver Redlegs (31-19, 1st in AL West)
        Pitching: 26
        Batting: 12
        Fielding: 13

Dropping Out:  Texas Fresh (28-22), Sioux Falls Soufflé (25-25), San Diego Friars (25-25) 

Monday, August 1, 2011

S12 Power Rankings - First Edition

1.  Seattle Thunderbirds (17-10)
      Pitching: 1
      Batting: 11
      Fielding: 2
Every bit as dominant as predicted to start the season, Seattle leads the league statistically in many categories across the board.  After a promising rookie campaign, Hideki Li is tearing it up to start his sophomore season.  Things could get tricky with Salem, also fighting for the NL West title, currently one game ahead.

2.  Salem Slugs (18-9)
      Pitching: 3
      Batting: 14
      Fielding: 8
Here are those Salem Slugs, right behind Seattle showing the dominance of the NL West.  Although one game ahead in the standings, Salem, along with every other team, is a large margin behind Seattle in the power rankings.  Mac Perry is having a great year at 34 years-old and he will have to keep it up for Salem to have a chance in the division.

3.   Texas Fresh (19-8)
       Pitching: 18
       Batting: 4
       Fielding: 6
12-2 at home, Texas is currently the best team in the AL and riding great hitting to sit at first in the AL South.  Much like the NL West, this division will be highly contested with The Houston Oilers, a very solid team, currently three games back.  Eswalin Martinez, a solid ROY candidate, could be a big boost down the stretch if he continues his current ways.

4.   Philadelphia Starz (17-11)
      Pitching: 6
      Batting: 2
      Fielding: 14
Philadelphia is in a very tough and what appears to be an evenly-matched division between a number of teams.  St. Louis is currently one game ahead and Scranton, currently six games back should not be counted-out yet.  The fielding will have to get better to win the division, particularly Javy Sosa, who already has four errors.

 5.  Sioux Falls Soufflé (16-11)
      Pitching: 8
      Batting: 26
      Fielding: 4
Sioux Falls is currently leading the NL North but they have lost four-of-five and have been very up-and-down this year.  New franchise player Kid Golub has picked things up after a terrible start, but Aramis Andujar, who the Soufflé emptied their farm system for during the offseason, needs to pick things up.

6.   New York Brokers (18-9)
     Pitching: 5
     Batting: 8
     Fielding: 18

7.   St. Louis Archies (17-10)
      Pitching: 7
      Batting: 1
      Fielding: 15

8.  San Diego Friars (16-12)
       Pitching: 2
       Batting: 31
       Fielding: 16

 9.  Vancouver Redlegs (18-9)
      Pitching: 25
      Batting: 7
      Fielding: 12

 10.  Houston Oilers (16-11)
        Pitching: 19
        Batting: 25
        Fielding: 10