Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 Cleveland Indians draft analysis - Part 1 - Analysis of the picks

How is everybody?

Cleveland needs the draft.  Forays into the on-the-cheap free agent market have not worked.  Relief options are more appealing if they are cheap draftees (Cody Allen) than overpaid wishes (John Axford). 

People say that the draft is a crapshoot.  Actually, you have a 1 in 6 chance of rolling 7 in craps.  You have a 65% chance of your first rounder making the majors, higher if you draft in the top 10 slots.  The crapshoot analogy is well, not even an analogy.  It makes it sound like draft success is mostly dumb luck...which works out great if you want to defend your team's dumb picks.  However, except for that use, it is not worth much as an analogy to the baseball draft.

So, with that preface, here is my analysis.

Overall analysis:  Many, if not all, 'experts' pick the success of a team's draft by its overall haul of talent.  They especially value that talent if it fits with their pre-conceived idea of which players are most talented.    So Keith Law loves our draft.  His draft rankings of the prospects we drafted, however, are really off (and much higher) compared to what two other organizations (Baseball America and rate those same players.  So, who is right?  I don't know but I wouldn't necessarily trust Law.  Plus, Baseball America favors drafts that have a lot of picks towards the top end.   

So, Indians' fans should be happy that both Law and Baseball America rate the Indians' draft well.  It is clearly better than the other alternative.

Personally, I rate their draft as above average in terms of overall talent but below average in terms of the talent they could have gotten. 

What does that mean?  In any draft the talent you get is determined, to a large extent, by where you select and how many extra picks you have early in the draft. We had 3 picks in the top 38 which means we SHOULD have gotten better than average talent from this draft since we had more shots at it than most teams.  As far as talent we received vs talent we could have had, this always is in the eye of the beholder.  Still, when you look at the warts on the guys the Indians drafted (e.g., limitation in terms of useable and projectable tools, size limitations, etc.) you have to wonder if the picks we took were the right ones.  Not saying they weren't, just saying, on paper, there are a lot of questions in that regard that I have about this draft.

Let's look, in detail, at the Indians' draft.

1. Bradley Zimmer -  Zimmer, in a vacuum, is a good bargain picking at the #21.  He is a safe left-handed hitting college outfielder without much power who projects as a starter if he can stick in CF but as a 4th outfielder if he has to move to one of the corners.    Does that sound like anyone we know?  It sounds like a carbon copy of Tyler Naquin.    I have no idea why, with Brantley in the majors and Naquin at AA they would invest their first round pick in Zimmer.  While he was a good value, the fit is not there and we are talking about the first round.  Other talented players exist.

Analysis -  Good, safe pick likely to make the majors.  Terrible fit with this organization and, at some point, someone (Brantley, Naquin, Zimmer) will likely be let go to free agency or traded if Zimmer develops.  I don't think you draft guys when you know they will force someone else out of the organization. 

1S. Justus Sheffeld - 

Analysis - Good, solid talent.  However, this guy is swimming up stream.  He is a short, left-handed pitcher.  I thought it was really telling that someone on a message board invoked Ron Guidry.  Really, is that the best you can do, reaching back into ancient history?   So, while Sheffeld is not a bad pick by any means, he has to overcome his height limitations, meaning it is less likely he makes the majors, on average, than a taller pitcher.  Put in another way, you don't really want to draft a guy at or above his talent level when he has a glaring weakness.  Yeah, if teams undervalue him and you can steal him, you take it as his talent would overwhelm his warts if you get him at a much lower slot than where he was rated.  But Sheffeld was draft at or above (depending on which 'expert' you believe) he should have been based on his talent.  That makes this a very risky pick and probably not the best one at this point.

1C - Mike Papi - This guy seems like he has a great hit tool but the power is questionable.  He is also left-handed.  Again, if he can hit for power or play CF he is a decent pick.  However, without increased power he is yet another left-handed hitting 4th outfielder/platoon firstbaseman.  I think this is a very safe pick that will lead to someone being traded as we, once again, drafted to an area of strength even overdrafting this guy a bit to get a redundant prospect.  Let's hope the power develops.

2 - Grant Hockin - The experts agree on this one thing: this guy was overdrafted.  Plus, we overpaid him by about $150,000.  So we have a decent HS pitching prospect who we overdrafted and overpaid for.  You generally overdraft a guy because you can get him on the cheap and use the difference to sign more of your high end draftees whose talent is much better than the round they were drafted.  Here the Indians did the opposite: they overdrafted a guy and overpaid him, even if his talent equaled his draft slot, which, according to the experts, it apparently did not.

3. Bobby Bradley - I actually like this pick.  Bradley has potential as a hitter.  However, the same logic applies.  This guy is likely a DH waiting to happen and he hits left-handed.  I guess, by the time he develops into a ML hitter, our current left-handedness may have disappeared.  Plus, if you are a tools person, the guy does not have a lot of tools.  Still, if he can hit, this will be a good pick.   Good gamble by the Tribe.

4. Sam Hentges -  All I should have to say to Indians' draft gurus is Mitch Brown.  We love our Minnesota HS pitchers, don't we?  However, my history (Bunkelman, Brown) tells me that drafting young arms from Minnesota is not always a good idea.  Hey, I am not saying the guy is not a good prospect, just not at this point.  I see him as a 6th rounder so think he was overdrafted.  Plus, I wonder about his signability.  This leads to me thinking that we will overpay a guy we overdrafted.  Not a good combination.   However, I could be wrong both about his ability and his signability.   One glimmer of hope here: history has shown me that if you are going to overdraft a guy, do it with a guy from a cold weather climate.  The Indians did that.

5.Julian Merryweather - In the old days of the draft this would be a stupid pick.  However, as we look at conserving our budget I like this pick.  The guy has a big arm and, as a college senior, was very cheap.  However, at this point I would have picked the best pitchability college senior pitcher, even if his raw stuff underwhelms.    Just like Bunkelman in the past, there is a reason that guys who throw this hard last this long.  Still, to save money, this guy is not a bad selection.

6.Greg Allen - In a vacuum I would like this pick.  The guy has some talent as a top of the order hitter.  Still, Tyler Naquin, Tim Fedroff, Tyler Holt and company tell me that we are just making the same pick over and over again and, given how the results have turned out so far with Fedroff and Holt looking like AAAA players at best, I don't know if I would have gone this way.  To me, there had to be a college starting pitcher with Josh Tomlin upside left at this point. 

7. Simeon Lucas - Hey, we are down into the 200s at this point in terms of players drafted this year.  At this point it is all guess-work and long-term projection...with an eye on keeping the draft budget under control so we can have a little extra to sign more talent that wants over slot.  This is where the scouts earn their money.  I will trust that the Indians know what they are doing here.

8. Micah Miniard - See Lucas.  Note that the danger at this point is drafting a guy that is totally unsignable.  If the Indians can sign this guy for slot or less, I am on board with this pick.  If they drain their budget by signing this guy, I don't like this pick at all.  And remember, if they don't sign him their budget goes down by his slot amount which is never a good thing.

9. Alex Pantoja -  Look, the guy can pick it.  The question is can he hit.  To me this is like a $150,000 Latin signing except his English is better.  Good risk here, especially if he signs for slot.

10. Steve Patterson - Another college senior drafted to save money, the key is just not to draft organizational players in the 10th round.  This guy looks no different to me than the Roberts kid we drafted last year.   Like Merryweather, I would rather have had a big-armed college senior here.  Same cost, more upside. 

Rounds 11-40 - This is another place where the scouts make their money and Brad Grant makes his.  The key here is to draft pitchers with relief upside and sprinkle in just enough HS/JUCO guys where 1-2 of them may work out.  The Indians have been very good at this for years (see Vinnie Pestano and Cody Allen and, to a lesser extent, guys like Shawn Armstrong, Matt Langwell, Neil Wagner and many others who are either decent or fringe major leaguers).

The one thing the Indians seldom come away with is an impact player in these rounds.  I would like to see that once in a while.  We have had our chances (Tim Lincecum and Desmond Jennings come to mind) but have seldom been able to draft these guys and, when we did, haven't signed them...and that was BEFORE the budget restrictions.  Now it appears the Indians are looking for two things after the 10th round: pitchers projecting as relievers and...a miracle. 

That's it for now.  Next we will have a review of past shadow drafts and how they compare to corresponding Indians' drafts and, of course, the 2014 shadow draft.

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