What if we knew on June 7, 2010, what we know today? What if we were able to take so much of the guesswork out of the draft and know to avoid taking never-make-it-to-the-majors busts such as Barret Loux sixth (as the Diamondbacks did) and Karsten Whitson ninth (Padres), and to move up J.T. Realmuto …
What if we knew on June 7, 2010, what we know today?
What if we were able to take so much of the guesswork out of the draft and know to avoid taking never-make-it-to-the-majors busts such as Barret Loux sixth (as the Diamondbacks did) and Karsten Whitson ninth (Padres), and to move up J.T. Realmuto from the third round and Jacob deGrom from the ninth?
Yet, even with the knowledge you will still have issues. Do you put an elite starter such as deGrom or Chris Sale No. 1 or a top position player such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or Christian Yelich? With catching so hard to find, how high do you move Realmuto up the board — and Yasmani Grandal? And where would you slot Matt Harvey knowing all the good and all the bad?
I asked six veterans of the draft process for their thoughts and armed them with these rules: 1. You know all you know about a player. 2. You can project forward as best you want on, say, how Sale and Noah Syndergaard will pitch after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery or how much you believe pitchers such as Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker could have strong second halves of their careers after injury-plagued first halves. 3. Don’t worry about contracts or service time. You are drafting based on talent you have seen to this point and what you believe is coming.
Even with that, three of our experts took a starter, either deGrom or Sale, and three took Yelich. One had Realmuto ranked as the top position player to select. One had Harvey as high as 15th and another did not have him in his top 30. With the help of my august body, I will commemorate the 10th anniversary of that fascinating process with my re-draft (with actual round and pick in parentheses:
1. Christian Yelich (1st round/23rd-overall pick): I considered the pitcher vs. hitter equation, and just for durability of the position player and overall skill set I would go with Yelich, who seems to be getting better and is still just 28.
2. Jacob DeGrom (9th/272nd): Sale has a bit longer runway of excellence but now faces Tommy John rehab. DeGrom had his elbow surgery in the minors and has been brilliant since his promotion with no signs of letting up. There is an argument that Yelich and deGrom have been the best hitter and pitcher over the past two seasons (apologies to Mike Trout and a few others).
3. Chris Sale (1st/13th): Two brilliant years as a reliever followed by seven elite starter seasons before last year’s falloff and ultimate need for surgery. As one of my panel said, “Worth the high pick if he never throws another pitch.” The wonder with his thin build and whip-like style was when he would break down. He lasted longer than expected. Can he now return to being an ace?
4. J.T. Realmuto (3rd/104th): Catching has never been worse in the majors, and the distance from the best to the next best perhaps never as wide. Having a star in this position is a huge advantage. Plus, he is such a good athlete that he has a chance to age well even at this demanding spot.
5. Manny Machado (1st/3rd): For me this is a bit like the 2018-19 offseason, when Machado and Harper were both free agents and the debate was on who should get the most. I do worry about Machado’s attitude, that he appears to shut it down so much. But two-way star third basemen are more precious than corner outfielders who also may come with baggage. One panel member: “We talk about what he is not, but what he is is an automatic 30-plus homers and elite defense.”
6. Bryce Harper (1st/1st): He is never going to be as good as Trout (which was the hope on the front end), but Trout has emerged as one of the handful of great players ever. Harper is a consistently excellent offensive performer who has been durable the past two years.
7. Yasmani Grandal (1st/12th): I think the top six represent the elite portion of this draft, and what you do in this phase could go a lot of different ways: Syndergaard, Andrelton Simmons, Whit Merrifield. I return to how difficult it is to find high-end, two-way catchers and give the nod to Grandal.
8. Andrelton Simmons (2nd/70th): He is perpetually frustrating at the plate, but he might be the best defender in the game — at a prime position at shortstop.
9. Whit Merrifield (9th/269th): The ninth round in 2010 was a gold mine, with Merrifeld going three picks before deGrom. I believe Merrifeld’s versatility, contact skills and speed would be even more valuable on a winning team.
10. Syndergaard (1st/38th): Will he be the same power pitcher post-elbow surgery? Will he ever meld stuff and craft to their best use? Even if “no” to both of those questions, he has been an above-average talent.
11. James Paxton (4th, 132nd): If you could have Paxton or Syndergaard from here forward, who would you take? Syndergaard is healing from Tommy John surgery, but Paxton is always healing from something. Just on talent, they are pretty close.
12. Eddie Rosario (4th, 135th): This was a fascinating fourth round. Paxton, Rosario and with the 140th pick the Rockies took by far the best quarterback in the draft — Russell Wilson. OPS-plus from 2017-19: Realmuto (115), Rosario (114), Grandal (114), Merrifield (113).
13. Robbie Ray (12th/356th): You wish there was greater command to capitalize on the pure stuff, but above-average lefty starters are not an easy commodity to find.
14. Nicholas Castellanos (1st/44th): The fielding is not great, but he has a 120 OPS-plus over the past four years, is just 28 and excelled when thrust into a pennant race last year after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs.
15. Kevin Kiermaier (31st/941th): The center-field version of Simmons — terrific glove/disappointing bat. Raise your hand if you also knew that picked in the 31st round was (drum roll) Aaron Judge out of high school by the A’s.
16. Mike Foltynewicz (1st/19th): Some righty Robbie Ray comps here — there is talent, but the inability to completely harness it. Still, just 28.
17. Joc Pederson (11th/352nd): Just mashes righty pitching. Perhaps needs to be liberated from the Dodgers to find out if he should be playing every day.
18. Adam Eaton (19th/571st): Will he be most famous as a key supplementary piece to the Nationals’ title last year or as the guy who cost Washington Lucas Giolito?
19. Drew Pomeranz (1st/5th): There are a few good starter seasons, but what intrigues is what induced the Padres to give him a four-year, $34 million pact last offseason — his few months dominating as a lefty reliever for the Brewers in 2019.
20. Brandon Workman (2nd/57th): The past three years have been above average, with last year being one in which he was among the game’s best relievers. Does he have a 4-5 year run as a top closer still coming?
21. Matt Harvey (1st/7th): The hardest guy to place. What do you give for 2 ¹/₂ genius years and questions now if he will ever pitch in the majors again? When he was right, he could pitch Game 1 of a World Series for you. That goes a long way.
22. Corey Dickerson (8th, 260th): He was taken four picks ahead of Kole Calhoun in 2010, and it is a flip of the coin here in a draft that began with Harper, but had lots of good lefty corner-outfield bats (Rosario, Pederson, Eaton, Dickerson, Calhoun).
23. Kole Calhoun (8th, 264th): — See above.
24. Mark Canha (7th/227th): Has turned into a really useful, multi-positional player.
25. Jameson Taillon (1st/2nd): Taillon will begin our run for picks 25-29 of talented, but injured pitchers. Who knows if any of these guys will ever honor their talent with sustained health moving forward, but they are skilled enough to take a flyer here if they were still on the board.
26. Jimmy Nelson (2nd/64th): See above.
27. Taijuan Walker (1st/43rd): See above.
28. Vince Velasquez (2nd/58th): See above.
29. Aaron Sanchez (1st/34th): See above.
30. Jedd Gyorko (2nd/59th): After a good run as a multi-positional piece with power, he fell apart physically and production-wise last year. Also considered for the final pick of our imaginary first round: Alex Claudio, Adam Duvall, Sam Dyson, Evan Gattis, Tommy Kahnle, Merrill Kelly, Addison Reed and Drew Smyly.