Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for June, 2011

Thought Exercise: 2011 Expansion Draft

Posted by JD on June 27, 2011

Bill and The Common Man from The Platoon Advantage came up with an interesting idea: operating on the premise that MLB should expand to 32 teams, they decided to hold a mock-expansion draft using the rules from the 1997 expansion draft, the results of which you can find here. Seeing as how I love theoretical roster-tinkering, I practically leapt at the chance to be involved. And promptly screwed it up. We’ll get to that part soon enough, but first here’s a quick refresher on the ’97 draft courtesy of the Wikipedia:

1. The draft has three rounds.
2. Each drafting team selects 14 players in round one, 14 players in round two, and 7 players in round three (35 players per team).
3. Each existing major league team can only lose one player in each round.
4. All players throughout the organization are eligible for drafting with the exception of players drafted in either 2010 or 2011, players signed as international free agents in 2009 (who were under the age of 18 at the time), and players entering free agency at the end of this season.
5. Existing teams can protect up to 15 players in the first round. Three additional players can be protected after round one and after round two, bringing the total number of protected players to 21.

The last two rules are the most important because they take a whole bunch of important players off the table. Potential free agents Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Chris Capuano, and Francisco Rodriguez (among others), were off limits and didn’t need to be protected, as were prospects like Matt Harvey, Cory Vaughn, Juan Urbina, and Aderlin Rodriguez. With that being said, here are the 15 players I opted to protect in the first round:

1.   David Wright
2.   Ike Davis
3.   Angel Pagan
4.   Jon Niese
5.   Josh Thole
6.   Jenrry Mejia
7.   Jeurys Familia
8.   Wilmer Flores
9.   Kirk Nieuwenhuis
10. Fernando Martinez
11. Cesar Puello
12. R.A. Dickey
13. Pedro Beato
14. Justin Turner
15. Mike Pelfrey

I really struggled with the final three spots. I added Beato because of his early success out of the bullpen, Turner due to his fast start, and Pelfrey because, well, I still can’t bring myself to believe that he can’t be useful. I thought a young, arbitration eligible pitcher would be appealing to an expansion team and, while I’m still not sure I’d want to pay his arbitration award I’d rather have him as a trade chip then lose him for nothing. As for the other two, I know full well that one was acquired off waivers and the other was a Rule 5 draftee, but I like what I’ve seen from them so far. You can argue, fairly, that I over-valued their small sample of work, but I didn’t want to lose either of them without compensation.

And so it came to pass that Lucas Duda became an ex-Met. I’m torn by it. On one hand it’s not really the biggest loss: Duda is a nice player who, given his defensive limitations, is probably better suited to an American League club. On the other, his one true skill (the ability to hit for power) is more valuable than anything Beato, Turner, and maybe even Pelfrey bring to the table. If a club offered me Duda straight up for any of one those three players I’d probably do the deal, which unfortunately didn’t occur to me until after he was selected.

With round one finished, I opted to protect Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, and Ruben Tejada got the call. No regrets here. Each of these players is experiencing success in the short term, and each has enough future value to justify their on-going presence on the roster.

The price for this decision was lefty prospect Mark Cohoon. I don’t think there’s a single player among the 18 that I’d protected until this point that I would trade for him, but I realize that he is a prospect that some evaluators might value more highly. I’m very interested to hear from anyone who would have protected Cohoon in this scenario, particularly because I’d love to hear who you’d take off the list (and why). I just don’t know enough about him to consider him a big loss and would love to know why that isn’t the case.

After round two I chose to protect Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, and Darrell Ceciliani, and I lost Reese Havens. This was a mistake. I should have protected Havens instead of Lutz or Ceciliani, but I thought his injury history would be enough to scare the expansion teams away. I gambled and lost.

While the losses of Duda and Havens sting (I really can’t get worked up about Cohoon: after all, somebody was going to get picked), the bigger disappointment was in who didn’t get picked. You may have noticed that I didn’t protect Jason Bay or Johan Santana. This was intentional: I was hoping one of the expansion teams would bite and take at least one of their contracts off my hands. It’s tempting to say that I would have protected them under different circumstances (if Bay were performing better or if Santana were healthy), but the truth is I would have left them unprotected either way. Their contracts are just too large to justify, especially when you factor in their current financial situation.

To sum it all up, I lost two players that I should have found a way to keep and didn’t lose the two players who I wanted to see selected the most. Not exactly what I was hoping for when I signed up, but I’m still very appreciative (and honored) that Bill and The Common Man asked me to participate.

Posted in Major League Baseball, Mets | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Fish(es) That Got Away

Posted by JD on June 8, 2011

With the Major League Draft in full swing these past few days, Baseball-Reference.com has been running a special draft section on it’s front page. Today’s section included a link to the 1982 Mets’ draft. That was the Dwight Gooden draft, but I have no idea why they linked to it today. The Mets picked up several useful players in that draft: Roger McDowell, Floyd Youmans (later included in the trade that brought Gary Carter to the Mets), Gerald Young (included in the trade for Ray Knight), Barry Lyons, and Rafael Palmeiro. Well, that caught me by surprise.

It turns out that the Mets drafted Palmeiro in the eighth round (189th overall) out of Jackson High School in Miami, Florida. For reasons unknown to me (maybe the money wasn’t right?), Palmeiro opted to enroll in Mississippi State University. Three years later the Cubs selected him with the 22nd pick in the first round and a long and ultimately controversial career was launched. A career that could have included the Mets had it worked out differently.

While Palmeiro’s story is not an uncommon occurrence (draft picks fail to sign each year only to grow as players and re-enter the draft at a later date), it got me wondering how often it happened to the Mets over the years. Furthermore, how good would a team of these “fish that got away” turn out to be? So I went through each Mets draft from 1965 (the first year of the amateur draft) to 2010 and picked out a team of the best players who never signed. These were my criteria:

1). The player had to be drafted by the Mets but be signed and start their professional career with another franchise. Obvious enough, but I wanted to point this out because there is one key player who actually played for the Mets later in his career.

2). I used Baseball Reference’s version of WAR and ranked the players by position. I took some liberties here: while there were plenty of pitchers to chose from (though not many were lefthanded) it was a little sparse in the middle infield. I had to make some judgment calls and some guys are not in the positions you may remember them for, but they did have major league playing time in the positions I assigned them.

3). I went with the “standard” lineup configuration used by most clubs today: 25 players, 13 position players (eight starters and a five-player bench) and 12 pitchers (five starters, six relievers, and a closer).

The following is a lark, an exercise in “what if” and “what might have been”. Without further ado, here’s what I came up with:

Starting Pitchers

(Name, Draft Year, career rWAR)

Roger Clemens, 1981, 128.8
Burt Hooton, 1968, 34.6
John Tudor, 1975, 31.8
Scott Erickson, 1986, 21.9
Rick Helling, 1990 18.6

I figured I’d start with a bang. The Mets drafted the Rocket out of high school in the 12th round. After he turned them down he went on to star at the University of Texas before being drafted by the Red Sox. He ultimately went on to become one of my least favorite players of all time but man, I think I 128.8 wins above replacement could help me get over it. While the Boston years of his career would have left him second behind Tom Seaver on the franchise’s rWAR leaderboard, what really struck me is that each of the other segments of his career would have qualified for the top ten as well. Still, he’s a dick.

John Tudor was a personal menace to me. 1985 was the first year I really paid attention to baseball and Tudor went on an absolute rampage that season. I didn’t remember this, but he actually started that season 1-7. From that point on he sandwiched one loss between nine and eleven-game winning streaks, picking up ten complete game shutouts along the way. He had a 21-8 record, and the Cardinals went 24-11 in games he started on their way to a World Series loss to the Kansas City Royals. This was Dwight Gooden’s career year and he was amazing, but he was on our side: Tudor was his “evil” counter part in my mind. My mind’s eye surely exaggerated Tudor’s performance that season (even though he posted a ridiculous 0.938 WHIP), but it was fun seeing his name pop up here. For the record, the 1985/86 rotation would have had Gooden, Clemens, and Tudor on it if these hypothetical signings occurred. I can’t even process that.

Since we’re dealing with hypotheticals, why not throw in a pitcher who had a no-hitter in his fourth career start? That would be Burt Hooten, who might have ended the no no-hitter nonsense before it got a chance to really get going. Or not. We’ll never know.

Scott Erickson had a mop of mahogany hair and was one of People Magazine’s “Sexiest People” List. So there’s that.

Rick Helling makes a decent fifth starter, and swingman Jeremy Guthrie (who’s in the bullpen for now) can pick up the slack if needed.

Bullpen

Jeremy Guthrie, 1997, 15.7 (long man/sixth starter)
Darren Dreifort, 1990, 6.2
Mark Davis, 1978, 6.5 (lefty specialist)
Randy Wells, 2001, 6.7
Charlie Lea, 1975, 7.1
Todd Jones, 1986, 11.1
John Wetteland, 1984, 20.6 (closer)

That’s not a bad bullpen at all. Wetteland was one of the premier closers of his time, Jones has extensive closing experience, and Davis famously (infamously?) won a Cy Young as a closer. Billy Koch, another former closer, just missed the cut (6.0 rWAR) and could be “called up” if need be. Our team is in decent shape pitching-wise. How does it stack up on offense?

Catcher

Dan Wilson, 1987, 13.7

Wilson was part of the same draft class as Todd Hundley, who obviously signed and went on to set the franchise single season record for home runs. If I had to pick between the two I’d still take Hundley, but Wilson was an important piece of the Mariners’ division winners in the late 90′s.

First Base

John Olerud, 1986, 56.8

The Mets drafted Olerud in the 27th round (682nd overall) out of high school, but he opted to enroll in Washington State University. Had he signed with the Mets he would have been the perfect replacement for the aging Keith Hernandez.

Second Base

Mark Grudzielanek, 1989, 24.3

According to the Baseball Almanac, Grudzielanek’s nickname is “Grudzie”. I find this unacceptable and continue to refer to him as “Grudz”, which I find to be infinitely more gritty.

Third Base

Ron Cey, 1966, 52.0

Our earliest non-signer, Cey was selected in the 19th round of the second-ever MLB draft. He went on to be a six-time All Star for the Dodgers in the 70′s, a time when the Mets’ hot corner was a revolving door. Hindsight drives this list for obvious reasons, but none more painful than this one: had Cey been in the Mets system, the Mets might have kept Nolan Ryan. Sure, they might have traded him anyway, but for a couple thousand dollars more in 1966 they might have had an All Star third baseman and future Hall of Fame pitcher on their roster. It’s all “could-have-been” nonsense, but ouch.

Shortstop

Matt Williams, 1983, 43.9

This is admittedly the biggest position stretch on the roster, but Williams did have experience there: he played in 119 games for the Giants over five seasons and even appeared in two games for the Diamondbacks in 2001 when his career was almost over. Could he have played his whole career there? Maybe. But it sure would be nice to have a shortstop who hit 316 career home runs.

Left Field

Rafael Palmeiro, 1982, 66.0

I’m putting Palmeiro in left because he played 209 games there over his career. I think it’s fair to say that Palmeiro was a “compiler”, a player who built his gaudy career numbers by having many “good-but-not-great” seasons. That being said, his career numbers would absolutely dominate the Mets’ offensive leaderboards had he played for the club that originally drafted him.

Center Field

Darrin Erstad, 1992, 27.8

I have a feeling that Erstad would have been a fan favorite  in Flushing: a tough, gritty, tobacco-chewing, ex-football playing, wall-crashing center-fielder who would have arrived just in time to fill the void left by Lenny Dykstra. I’d bet he make a better financial advisor, though.

Right Field

David DeJesus, 1997, 21.3

A Brooklyn kid who played his college ball for Rutgers, I slotted DeJesus in right to accommodate Palmeiro in left. Could you imagine if the Mets had DeJesus from 2006-08? He would have been the perfect replacement for Cliff Floyd and the Moises Alou experiment might have been unnecessary. This one stings a little bit more because of how recently it happened, but I can easily see how having DeJesus would have resulted in playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008.

Bench

Aaron Rowand, 1995, 19.5 (outfield)
Garrett Atkins, 1997, 9.6 (corner infield, corner outfield)
Scott Servais, 1985, 3.3 (catcher)
Tracy Jones, 1982, 2.3 (outfield, pinch hitter)
Adam Piatt, 1994, 0.5 (backup infielder)

As you can see, the talent level drops off consistently. It was really difficult to find a middle infielder with a positive career rWAR (I almost had to go with Kurt Bevacqua, he of the -4.4 rWAR). That’s how Piatt “earned” his spot on the squad. Jones was part of the class of ’82 that started this exercise. He bounced around for a few years and was somewhat of a journeyman. In other words, Omar Minaya might have signed him if he was available last season. Scott Servais, not to be confused with Scott Service, was a prototypical back-up catcher and fills that roll here. Atkins’ career started strong (he even received MVP votes in 2006) but has been ending with a whimper: he hasn’t played in the majors yet this season. But we’ll find him a spot on our bench. Rowand was originally drafted by the Mets as a shortstop. I was sorely tempted to put him there but Matt Williams’ presence combined with Rowand’s lack of playing time at the position conspired against me.

So there you have it, the Mets’ ultimate team of “fish that got away”. It definitely has a bit of a patchwork feel to it, but it seems like it would be a pretty decent team. All told, the players listed above accumulated 650.6 rWAR over the course of their careers (with Roger Clemens accounting for a staggering 20% of that all by himself). Would they have replecated that as members of this fictional team, or even as members of the Mets? Probably not, but it’s fun to think about it.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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