One of the bad things about faces of the franchise is that eventually they get old and injured and need to be replaced. There are some teams dealing with this now and others that need to keep it in mind when making selections at tonight’s 2013 MLB draft.
Nearly every team in baseball has some sort of need heading into the draft. There are a few, though, that have relatively complete and deep minor league systems. But the teams that currently employ aging players starting to decline and the ones we’ll be focusing in on here.
The main reason why the following teams need to be smart with first-round choices is because they don’t have a clear-cut replacement for their big-name star. That’s a problem, but one that can be fixed with the right prospect.
So, here are three teams that will be drafting to replace a longtime start at the MLB draft. We’ll analyze each team’s current situation, what the future holds—meaning how the farm system looks—and what they need to do in order to be successful going forward.
New York Yankees
Yankees fans have gotten a glimpse of what life post-Derek Jeter is going to be like. Jeter hasn’t take the field for the Bronx Bombers since Game 1 of the last year’s ALCS, stumbling try to make a play defensively and breaking his ankle in doing so.
New York has managed to play well this year even with the absence of Jeter and bunch of other major contributors. But that’s collectively and doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has been doing their jobs. The Yankees have gotten close to no production from the shortstop position.
Without Jeter manning shortstop on a regular basis this year, the Yankees have the fourth-worst WAR in baseball at his position, according to FanGraphs. If you take a look at the actual rankings, you’ll notice that the Yankees’ WAR at shortstop is actually negative, which implies that they’d be better off playing a replacement player.
Essentially, though, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez and Reid Brignac are all replacement players—they’re all replacing Jeter. But even once the 38-year-old captain returns to the team, he doesn’t have much longer until he’s going to retire. Jeter maybe plays two or three years and that’s only if his ankle doesn’t continue to be a problem.
While New York must be worrying about its current production as shortstop, the future has to be close to the front of general manager Brian Cashman’s mind. But the Yankees don’t have much of a future at shortstop. What I mean by that is that there isn’t a prospect in the organization that looks to be capable of being the full-time guy.
The Yankees have three picks in the first round of the draft and you can bet that they’ll be taking a shortstop or a middle infielder with at least one of them. A shortstop is, by far, New York’s biggest need at the moment. Don’t expect Jeter to play until he’s 50 years old.
Projected Pick: Tim Anderson, 2B/SS, East Central CC or Hunter Dozier, 2B/SS, Stephen F. Austin
Philadelphia starting pitchers have been very so-so this season. Cliff Lee has been outstanding, per usual, with a 7-2 record in 12 starts and posting a 2.45 ERA while rarely ever walking anyone. Kyle Kendrick has exceeded expectations with a 6-3 record and a 3.12 ERA.
But the other regulars, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been non-existent. Let’s tackle Hamels first. Hamels is a regular Cy Young candidate. This year, he might be one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball. The guy is 2-9 this season with a 4.56 ERA, but his 4.04 FIP and 3.76 xFIP suggest he’s better than that.
Halladay has been absent for most of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in mid-May. He told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he still expects to at some point in 2013. Whether he does is important for the Phillies’ playoff hopes, but that isn’t the real point.
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has to know that Halladay is toward the end of his career. I mean the guy is 36 years old and is now coming off shoulder surgery. A smart person would think that his shoulder probably isn’t going to be great going forward.
The Phillies may very well deal Lee at midseason as several teams think he’ll be on the block, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. That would bring in a couple of top pitching prospects, but that still might not be enough to fill voids left by Lee and eventually by Halladay.
Three of Philadelphia’s top prospects are pitchers, and while they look to be big pieces of the puzzle, they’re still a ways away from being able to win 17-plus games per year. The Phillies have the 16th pick in the draft, and if Amaro is smart, they’ll take a pitcher with a high ceiling. They need an ace in the making.
Projected Pick: Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays made a bold move this offseason, trading for longtime Mets’ shortstop Jose Reyes, among a slew of other players in hopes of contending in 2013 and beyond. The Reyes trade hasn’t gone the way Toronto originally played, unfortunately.
Toronto’s shortstop hurt his ankle after awkwardly sliding into second base in a stolen base attempt. He hasn’t played since that mid-April night and likely won’t until after the All-Star break. He only played 10 games and Munenori Kawasaki and Macier Izturis haven’t been the best replacements.
The Blue Jays are just one slot ahead of the Yankees in terms of production at shortstop, according to FanGraphs. Toronto should be better once Reyes eventually returns. The Jays have him under contract until at least 2017, if not longer. But paying him $22 million per year might not be too fun.
A decision of whether to exercise Reyes’ 2018 $22 million option might be a little bit easier if there is a top prospect waiting in Triple-A. If Toronto takes a shortstop with the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft, which should give the prospect more than enough time to develop in the minor leagues.
The prospect will probably be ready for his MLB debut sometime during the 2016 season since most prospects only need a couple of years of minor league experience. If that’s the case, Toronto could decide to trade Reyes elsewhere, pay a little bit of his large salary and start the future earlier than originally anticipated.
The lone shortstop in Toronto’s system that has a chance of being the future starter is Christian Lopes. A seventh-round pick two years ago, Lopes hasn’t been overly impressive in the lower levels in the minor leagues. For now, it seems unlikely that he’ll end up being the long-term solution. The No. 10 pick, though, could be.
Projected Pick: J.P. Crawford, SS, Lakewood HS (Calif.)