MLB Draft 2012: Who Would Your Favorite MLB Team Take in Fantasy-Style Draft?
Everyone has seen sports video games in which you can draft your own team from the entire player pool? Well, what would happen if all the current major and minor leaguers were placed into a pool and drafted by the league's 30 general managers?
How would age come into play? How would they consider defensive prowess, off-the-field concerns, injury history or leadership reputation? How would players like David Ortiz or Jesus Montero be valued considering their probably DH status? Also, would teams be pressured to reach for fan favorites?
The baseball world would speculate for months leading up to the draft on where top prospects would be drafted, in relation to the established stars of the game. It would be projection paradise. Now consider this scenario...
This is the setting for the 2012 MLB All-Player draft...
The first-round draft order has been set by most losses over the last three years combined. So the Baltimore Orioles with their 287 losses would choose first overall, and the Yankees, with 191, draft last in the first round. The draft will proceed as a snake, so the Yankees would pick last in the first round and first in the second.
Money-wise, all current contracts are broken down to their average annual salary and ranked by position. The first player chosen at a position would receive the highest annual salary for players at that position. The second player of the same position would receive the second highest, and so on (utility player contracts are listed under the position where they played most in 2011)
For the sake of my sanity, I only projected the first round but feel free to speculate in the comments about future picks, possible reaches or value picks. Also consider whether some teams might be willing to take older players, deciding to "win now," and others might sacrifice immediate wins to stockpile long-term talent.
How would a team begin to approach such a monstrous task as ranking all eligible players for such a draft?
For sake of simplicity, considering first round approach, I viewed the first round from three possible approaches. Each approach has valid arguments for and against.
1) Grab an ace: There are, perhaps, nine legitimate, proven, "safe" top of the rotation aces in baseball. And perhaps one might argue for another six or seven as true No. 1 starters. Justin Verlander showed in 2011 the value of a shutdown front-line starter, so some teams might begin building their team with someone they know can provide dominance every five days.
2) Best player at a shallow position: Conventional wisdom looks at the player pool and sees extensive talent in the outfield, at first base and on the mound, so players like Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria might rise to the top of many draft boards because of their production relative to the average at their position.
3) Best player, period: This is the team that ranks all eligible players, regardless of position, and for the first round, simply takes the best guy on the board. It may be Matt Kemp, it may be Longoria or Albert Pujols or Clayton Kershaw. They don't consider position in the first round but want the best player, perhaps taking into account career trends over the next three or five years.
The Radio City Music Hall is packed with many more standing outside when Bud Selig walks to the podium...
No. 1: Matt Kemp, Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles take Matt Kemp with the first overall pick. Entering his 27-year-old season, Kemp is coming off .324, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 115 R and 40 SB in 2011. He's a career .297 hitter, has played in 155 or more games every year since he was 23 and has had no major off-the-field issues.
Rather than vow to repeat his success in 2012, Kemp told Yahoo Sports that he thought he was capable of going 50/50.
This is the kind of attitude, the kind of "great is not enough" pursuit of the extraordinary, that a team can build around. Kemp would provide the type of marketable "face for the franchise" that Baltimore has lacked in recent years.
No. 2: Miguel Cabrera, Pittsburgh Pirates
Miguel Cabrera is 29 years old. Since he was 21, he has produced minimums of .292, 26 HR, 103 RBI, 85 R and .879 OPS. Add to that he has played at least 157 games in each of those seasons. Only once has he failed to hit 30 HR in that time, and his strikeouts have decreased every year since 2007.
The Pirates were pressured to take Andrew McCutchen here. Pittsburgh fans have been waiting for his potential to play out in 30/30 numbers since his arrival, and the Pirates do not select again until the tail end of the second round, where McCutchen might no longer be available. But the Pirates organization went with the man they felt was the best hitter in the game and a passable defender at first base.
Of note, Cabrera's struggles with alcohol and behavioral issues did not affect his value, as some might have expected.
No. 3: Clayton Kershaw, Kansas City Royals
Once the decision was made to go with a starting pitcher in the first round, the Royals' conversation undoubtedly would have included Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and perhaps, others. In such a conversation, Kershaw may have gotten the nod with his age being the final tipping point.
In 2009, at 21 years old, Kershaw produced a 2.79 ERA in 171 innings, with a 9.7 K/9. In 2010, his ERA was 2.91 over 204.1 innings and a 9.3 K/9. His K/BB also went up from 2.03 to 2.62. But 2011 was Kershaw's coming out party. The 23-year-old led the league three times over with a 2.28 ERA, 248 Ks and 0.977 WHIP.
Halladay, Verlander and Hernandez all boast their own resumes, but Halladay is into his mid-30s, Verlander is 29 and Hernandez even is two years older than Kershaw. This was a move by Kansas City to lock in one of the elite pitchers in the game, who could remain so for the better part of the next decade.
No. 4: Ryan Braun, Houston Astros
The defending NL Most Valuable Player, Braun is coming off a season in which he hit .332 with 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R and 33 SB. He's 28 years old and has four straight seasons of 150 games played, 25-plus HR, 100-plus RBI, between 14 and 33 steals and 90-plus runs scored.
The Astros show confidence that Braun's performance enhancing drug charge was a true mistake, and Astros fans would be happy to see their team steal the face of a division rival. Braun's range could also make him an option to move to Minute Maid Park's spacious center field.
Another team going for the best player available, the Astros can plug Braun into the No. 3 spot in their lineup for the foreseeable future.
No. 5: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Some might cry "reach," but Stephen Strasburg had two things going for him in this spot. First off, he's a fan favorite and someone who will pack Nationals Park every time he takes the hill. Second, he already has his Tommy John surgery (a nearly accepted part of a modern pitcher's career now) out of the way.
In 92 innings going into 2012, Strasburg had a 2.54 ERA, 0.978 WHIP and 11.3 K/9. Strasburg is just 23 years old and has many years of elite production ahead of him.
The Nationals make a major stance of support behind their former top overall pick by taking Strasburg as the second pitcher off the board, ahead of the defending AL MVP Verlander, Roy Halladay and others.
No. 6: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
An easy pick for Seattle at No. 6, they get their ace back, a fan favorite, and the logical next pick for a team looking for an ace. Hernandez won the Cy Young at 24 years old. Going into 2012, Hernandez had an 8.2 K/9 over 1,388.1 innings.
One cause for possible concern is Hernandez' workload relative to his age. Roy Halladay, the pinnacle of elite pitching longevity, didn't throw his 1,389th innings until 2007, when he was 30 years old. Hernandez threw 191 innings at 20 years old and has three straight seasons over 230 innings.
The Mariners made this pick with plans to surround him with a better offense than they have to this point in his career. No doubt their pick in the late second, and possibly also their pick in the early third, would both be impact bats.
No. 7: Troy Tulowitzki, Cleveland Indians
Troy Tulowitzki is one-of-a-kind in the shortstop world. With Hanley Ramirez seeing his stats decrease over the past three seasons in just about every category, and his defense leads some to believe his future is not at shortstop, Tulowirzki is the only remaining elite power-hitting shortstop who provides adequate defense.
Over the past three seasons, Tulo hit 27 or more home runs, knocked in 92, 95 and in 2011 had 105 RBI, scored 80 or more runs and batted a combined .305. There are some injury concerns in his past, but he has made at least 500 plate appearances in three straight seasons and four out of five.
Tulowitzki goes into 2012 at 27 years old and likely still has four years of prime and another two to three minimum of quality production for the Indians.
No. 8: Robinson Cano, New York Mets
Robinson Cano will continue to wear "NY" on his cap everyday; it will simply be orange rather than white. This could have been the Mets pick whether their plan was to fill a weak position or take the best player available.
Cano has produced three consecutive years over .300 with at least 25 HR and 100 runs scored and has topped 100 RBI in the last two. Since 2007, Cano has played in at least 159 games every season and provides adequate, if underappreciated defense at second base. Cano also has 40-plus home runs in five of the last six seasons, meaning he's in scoring position early and often.
The Mets have to feel good to plug the 29-year-old into second base everyday and know they can also put him in the middle of their order and get elite production.
No. 9: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Don't be so quick to write this choice off as a homer pick by Arizona. At 23 years old in 2011, Justin Upton hit 31 HR, stole 21 bases, knocked in 88 RBI, scored 105 runs and hit .289...at 23 years old.
Yes, Diamondbacks fans would be thrilled to retain their slugger, but the pick makes good sense for a team looking for a player to build around. Upton is a .300/30 HR-capable player for the next eight to 10 years and has not had any major injury or off-the-field concerns to temper expectations.
Upton could reach 40 HR, or 30 steals on a regular basis during his prime, but even without any more progression, his 2011 numbers would serve the Diamondbacks just fine.
No. 10: Albert Pujols, Chicaco Cubs
Albert Pujols will be coming back to the National League Central. If there was ever a team that would be motivated to "win now," it would be the Cubs, whose diehard fanbase has lived through years of either inept teams or bad luck.
Theo Epstein and the Cubs organization would doubtless be thrilled to see Pujols fall to them at No. 10, but his age (he is the first player over 30 selected) and his injury-shortened 2011 were the likely culprits of that drop for one considered the best hitter of his generation.
Pujols is among the elite fielding first basemen in the game, and that was surely a consideration for a National League team considering the services of a first bagger of his age. Clearly, they think he can play the corner deep into his 30s.
No. 11: Evan Longoria, Oakland Athletics
The confines of the Oakland Coliseum demand extreme power from its hitters, and Longoria certainly fits the bill. In four seasons of big-league ball, Longoria has averaged 141 games, 28 HR, 100 RBI and 85 R scored.
Longoria will be 26 in the 2012 season and is already among the top defensive third basemen in baseball. He has had as many as 15 steals in a season, so he brings some speed to the game as well, giving the manager even more options.
In the end though, Longoria will be in Oakland to hit the ball hard and drive in runs. Oakland can feel comfortable building around him and has the option to DH him some days rather than being without him in the lineup.
No. 12: Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
Adrian Gonzalez was a king in San Diego during his five years with the Padres before joining the Red Sox in 2011. In San Diego from 2006-2010, Gonzalez mashed 161 HR, 501 RBI, batted .288 and scored 464 runs.
Gonzalez has won three Gold Gloves at first base and sports a career .884 OPS in nine years. In 2011, Gonzalez batted .338 with 27 HR, 117 RBI and led the league with 213 hits, scoring 108 runs. 2012 is his 30-year-old season, but his defensive prowess indicates he may be a useful first baseman for the near future.
Padres fans will be thrilled to have their favorite slugger back, but the spacious PetCo Park, which tends to swallow power, will welcome Gonzalez's ability to hit with power to all fields.
No. 13: Dustin Pedroia, Miami Marlins
Dustin Pedroia returned from an injury-shortened 2010 to have one of his best seasons of professional baseball. In 2011, Pedroia tallied 21 HR, 26 SB, 91 RBI, 102 runs scored and a .307 batting average.
The 2008 A.L. MVP becomes the second second baseman off the board at No. 13. He has a reputation for playing hard, motivating teammates and will be the new face of the newly minted Miami Marlins and their brand new ballpark.
Pedroia is 28 years old, provides two-time Gold Glove defense, including the 2011 award. He has proven to be stable off-the-field, without excessive drama and should be a cornerstone of the Marlins for the coming years.
No. 14: Jacoby Ellsbury, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays pull a surprise at No. 14, with fan favorite Jose Bautista and former ace Roy Halladay still on the board, they grab 2011 AL MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury. And why not?
In 2011, Ellsbury did it all for the Red Sox, batting .321 with 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, and 119 runs scored. He added the 2011 AL center field Gold Glove to his resume and will be just 28 years old during the 2012 season.
Some fans would likely have been hoping for Bautista or Halladay, but Ellsbury will provide box score stuffing offense with reliable defense for the near future.
No. 15: Tim Lincecum, Minnesota Twins
Another team passes on Roy Halladay, this time with the Twins opting for the two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. At 27 years old, Lincecum posted a 2.74 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 2011.
Lincecum has a career 3.06 ERA and 9.9 K/9 and won his Cy Youngs at 24 and 25 years old, leading many to expect a historic career. In 881.2 innings through the last four seasons, Lincecum has 977 strikeouts, 1.173 WHIP and a 2.81 ERA.
Some may raise concerns over diminished velocity in recent years, since his first few, but with those kind of results, the Twins can feel comfortable they are getting an ace to lead them into their new era.
No. 16: Prince Fielder, Chicago White Sox
Prince Fielder stays in the AL Central and moves to play first base in Chicago. Prince hit 50 home runs at 23 years old. He hit 46 HR and led the league with 141 RBI at 25 years old.
At 27 years old, in 2011, Fielder hit 38 HR with 120 RBI and a .299 average. He has at least 30 HR and 85 runs scored in five straight seasons, and he even plays adequate defense to give Chicago options, though Fielder will likely see some time as the DH depending on how the rest of the draft progresses.
Since 2006, Fielder has played in at least 157 games and has appeared in at least 161 games in three straight. Chicago drafts Fielder with the knowledge he will be there day in and day out for years to come.
No. 17: Joey Votto, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies break hearts across Cincinnati with this pick, as the Reds were up next on the draft board, but the Rockies steal the 28-year-old first baseman.
Votto was good in 2008 and 2009, but he took it to a new level in 2010, and over the last two seasons, compiled 66 HR, 216 RBI, 24 steals, 207 runs scored and an .984 OPS with a .316 AVG over 311 games.
Votto added the 2011 NL Gold Glove at first base to his trophy case, and the Rockies will benefit from his elite defense in addition to the predictable offensive production.
No. 18: Jose Bautista, Cincinnati Reds
Jose Bautista enters 2012 with 97 home runs and 127 RBI over the past two seasons. He's also 31 years old. The Reds would surely like to use him at third base, but his defense may force a move to the outfield, but the friendly home park will welcome Bautista's power.
Bautista is also a career .252 hitter who was not considered anything special until 2010, so some may have shied away from him, but the Reds make the pick, clearly as believers in the recent production.
If he continues to hit 40-plus home runs in Cincy, this pick may be considered superb value.
No. 19: Roy Halladay, Milwaukee Brewers
The 35-year-old Roy Halladay has thrown 220 or more innings every year since 2006 and has over 2,500 innings on his arm to this point. For the last five years, he has led the league in complete games, and in those five years, he has a 2.80 ERA, 1.098 WHIP, and 5.3 K/BB.
There is clearly some gas left in the arm of the decade's most successful pitcher, but Halladay fell to No. 19 because of his age and his workload, so the Brewers will likely be one of the teams drafting to win right now.
From the Brewer's perspective, Halladay has won 16 or more in six straight seasons, with four straight years of 200-plus strikeouts.
No. 20: Curtis Granderson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Curtis Granderson goes to the Dodgers at No. 20 after a career year for the Yankees in 2011 which saw him hit 41 HR, with an American League high 119 RBI and 136 R. Add his 25 steals and you can see why Granderson was deemed worthy of the Dodgers' first pick.
While the run production is unmatched by his prior seasons, Granderson has five straight seasons over 20 HR and has scored 90-plus runs in four of five years, over 110 in three of those.
Granderson has also been over 135 games since he became a full-time player and has not showed any signs of declining skills to this point. L.A. will hope he can fend off the effects of age as he moves deeper into his 30s.
No. 21: Hanley Ramirez, Detroit Tigers
If Hanley Ramirez can prove his issues from 2011 were an aberration, this may be the steal of the first round.
In the four years before 2011, Ramirez hit .319 with 107 HR, 330 RBI, 443 runs scored and 145 SB, and he played over 140 games each year. In 2011, HanRam managed just 92 games, batting .243 with 10 home runs.
This is a gamble for the Tigers, and Ramirez's defensive struggles may induce a move to third base in the near future, but he's only 28 years old and could still provide years of elite production if health is no longer a concern.
No. 22: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
Another hometown pick, Jered Weaver was a former Angels' first-round pick and has established himself as one of the elite starting pitchers in the game.
Over the last two years, the 29-year-old has a 2.70 ERA and 1.041 WHIP over 460 innings with 431 strikeouts as well. He's 31-20 over that time. He will stay with the Angels—the only team he has ever played for.
Weaver is still trending the right way, with his ERA going down and his innings going up each of the last three seasons, as well as lowering hits and earned runs each of those years. He has lowered his WHIP each of the last five seasons.
No. 23: Andrew McCutchen, Atlanta Braves
With Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton and hometown favorite Brian McCann still on the board, the Braves reach to grab Andrew McCutchen, who a lot of people have been expecting to break out a la Justin Upton for the last two seasons.
However, in 2011, McCutchen established career highs in HR (23) and RBI (89), sacrificing his previously excellent average and dropping to 23 steals, after 33 in 2010. Clearly, the Braves still expect "The Cutch" to eventually produce the 30/30 type numbers expected of him.
McCutchen will also be just 25 in the 2012 season, and many believe he will win a few Gold Gloves in center field before his career is done.
No. 24: Jose Reyes, San Francisco Giants
The Giants take the defending NL batting champ with their first choice to be the catalyst for what they hope will be a new, explosive offense after years of lackluster run production.
Reyes had 39 steals, 101 runs scored and 16 triples to go with his .337 batting average in 2011 and had over 500 at-bats for third time in four years. The concern with Reyes has always been health, and the Giants take a risk building their team around Reyes.
Reyes will be 29 during the 2012 season and has the skills to play effective defense at shortstop as well.
No. 25: Cole Hamels, St. Louis Cardinals
The 28-year-old Cole Hamels is coming off the best season of his career, finishing with a 2.79 ERA, 0.986 WHIP and 194 strikeouts. Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia are among more accomplished starters still on the board, but Hamels' age likely factored into the decision here.
Hamels comes with rare playoff experience for a pitcher his age, including two World Series starts, a win over Tampa Bay in a series the Phils went on to win and a loss to the Yankees in the 2009 series. His 13 starts over 10 playoff series are certainly an added draw to a team with a storied franchise history.
No. 26: Giancarlo Stanton, Tampa Bay Rays
The slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton hit 34 home runs at 21 years old...If someone allows that number alone to simmer in their mind, they might be amazed he lasted this long in the draft, but he struck out 166 times in 2011, batting .262, so there's still work to be done.
Stanton's 70 walks were a sign that perhaps his eye is developing, and his 87 RBI and 79 runs scored could grow with adequate support around him in a balanced lineup. Stanton's career is trending toward perennial 40-HR, MVP-candidate seasons.
This is another pick who could prove to be tremendous value for the Rays if Stanton can strike out less and reach base more when he's not circling them at a jog.
No. 27: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
With former Ranger Josh Hamilton also on the board, Texas retains their second baseman with the 27th pick in the draft. He will be 30 during the 2012 season.
In both 2009 and 2011, Kinsler went 30/30 and scored at least 100 runs in each. He has had some injury concerns in the past, with 2011 being the first time he topped 145 games played in a season, but he has had just one season under 120 games in his six years.
Kinsler is not considered an excellent fielder but has been adequate for Texas and is athletic enough to continue to play there later in his career. He also can spend some days at DH to help keep him healthy.
No. 28: Carlos Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
Carlos Gonzalez erupted in 2010 with a .336 average, 34 HR, 117 RBI and 26 SB with 111 runs scored at 24 years old. He followed that up in 2011 with 26 HR and 20 SB to go with over 90 runs and RBI.
Gonzalez will be just 26 years old in 2012 and has 30/30 potential with an average close to .300. An extraordinarily high BABIP and fly-ball rate both suggest his 2009 power numbers would be difficult to repeat, but he's an excellent defender, who can play any of the outfield positions.
A true five-tool player, Gonzalez' athleticism will prove valuable to Boston on both sides of the ball for a long time to come.
No. 29: Mark Teixeira, Philadelphia Phillies
Mark Teixeira has 30 home runs in eight straight seasons. He topped 100 RBI and 85 runs scored in all of those years, and he's a career .281 hitter. He's a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base and will be 32 years old in the 2012 season.
Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter. He's a career .269 hitter before the All-Star break and holds a .294 mark after the break. He also brings 31 games of postseason experience to the Phillies with a .207 playoff average.
Teixeira's consistency makes this a bit of a safe pick for Philadelphia, which sets them up to take some risks later on. His exemplary defense will also be a pleasant change for a fanbase which has seen Ryan Howard playing first in recent years.
No. 30 and 31: Ryan Zimmerman and Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
The Yankees held the last pick of the first round, and therefore, the first pick of the second round as well and immediately solidified the left side of their infield for the rest of the decade by selecting Ryan Zimmerman at No. 30 and Starlin Castro at No. 31.
Zimmerman took over full time at third base in 2006 at 21 years old and since then has batted .287 with an .831 OPS, along with a Gold Glove. In 2009, he had 33 HR, 106 RBI and 110 R scored. Though Zimmerman battled some injury issues in 2011 that limited him to 101 games, there's tons of upside for the 27-year-old.
Castro came up in 2010 and batted .300 over 125 games. He followed that up with a .307 average in 2011 with 91 runs and 22 steals. He also hit 10 home runs in 2011, leaving hope of further power to develop down the road. Castro will be just 22 in the 2012 season.
These two should provide an excellent foundation for the Yankees moving forward.
You Tell Me...
Who's likely to go earlier than they should? Who will fall farther than necessary? When will the top prospects be drafted and how will they compare to the older established stars?
Every general manager would likely have a different, and ever-changing, approach as the draft develops, and they get a feel for the approaches of other teams.
Who do you think is in the best position from their first-round choices to build a winning team—both immediately and long term? Which general manager would you want drafting YOUR team in this scenario?
Thanks for reading.