The First Draft of 2001, part 4    (01/29/01)

Now on to rounds 16-20

16th round:
1. Woodman: T. Percival, Ana, RP
2. Sandbox Sports: R. Helling, Tex, SP
3. Sandbox Users: P. Burrell, Phil, 1B
4. Creative Sports: JD Drew, StL, OF
5. Dr. Stats: M. Cameron, Sea, OF
6. Bart Lynch: S. Estes SP, SF
7. Wall St. Sports: A. Belle, Bal, OF
8. Long T. Salmon, Ana, OF
9. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: D. Justice, NYA, OF
10. Baseball HQ: J. Burnitz, Mil, OF

As I suggested before, taking Rusch in round 15 was probably an error on my part.  Not so much because he's a bad pitcher - he's not - but because he's a high risk play in a year when his pitching style might not fare well and because he occupies a roster spot that might be better occupied by a player with greater potential or poised for a breakout year.  The players I was thinking of specifically were Lance Berkman, Pat Burrell and JD Drew.  And, as I feared, all three went before the pick got back to me.  All three players will become perennial All-Stars.  The question is when.  My thinking is that it may not be this year, simply because Berkman will be battling Daryle Ward for playing time and Drew and Burrell do not have very good contact rates.  With an expanded strikezone being implemented, my guess is that it'll be much more difficult for the latter duo to realize any strong growth.  Of course, I'm rationalizing because they are not on my roster, but I did get a quality replacement in Tim Salmon so hopefully I won't be hurt too much.  From a historical standpoint, the Salmon pick does not portend to be a sleeper.  Of the top 5 hitters in each league in 1988, only one, Dwight Evans, was over 30; the year before, 4 of the top 5+5 were over 30.  However, of those top hitters in 1988, only Bobby Bonilla had what could be considered a breakout year.  Everyone else had established a fairly consistent level of production.  So we'll see.  Regardless, I'll be quite satisfied if he produces similar numbers to last years.

17th Round:
1. Baseball HQ: T. Gordon, ChiN, RP
2. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: K. Appier, NYN, SP
3. Long M. Morris, StL, SP
4. Wall St. Sports: P. Astacio, Col, SP
5. Bart Lynch: J. Lima, Hou, SP
6. Dr. Stats: R. Mateo, Tex, OF
7. Creative Sports: G. Jenkins, Mil, OF
8. Users: A. Eaton, SD, SP
9. Sandbox: R. Greer, Tex, OF
10. Woodman: B. Petrick, Col, C

I would have liked to pick up Tom Gordon in one of the last rounds but closers are a valuable commodity in any league and even injured ones get a lot of attention.  I went with Matt Morris here for 3 reasons: 1) He has the 3rd lowest career ERA (3.05) among active starters who've thrown at least 350 innings.  Only Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux have lower career ERAs; 2) his recovery from Tommy John surgery had a most beneficial side effect - he now throws harder than he did before.  So now, rather than a low 90's sinker and a 94 mph 4-seamer, he throws a 94-95 mph sinker and a 97 mph 4-seamer, very much like Kevin Brown.  But unlike Brown, Morris has a very good curve ball and a solid change-up.  Give him a more vertical strikezone, a good offense, defense and bullpen and this has all the ingredients of a dominating year.  Which brings me to reason #3: If he's this good, why wait any longer to get him?  I didn't.

18th round:
1. Woodman: A. Beltre, LA, 3B
2. Sandbox Sports: W. Williams, SD, SP
3. Sandbox Users: R. Wolf, Phil, SP
4. Creative Sports: P. Konerko, ChiA, 1B
5. Dr. Stats: D. Fletcher, Tor, C
6. Bart Lynch: B. Ausmus, Hou, C
7. Wall St. Sports: J. Varitek, Bos, C
8. Long M. Meluskey, Det, C
9. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: R. Cedeno, Det, OF
10. Baseball HQ: J. Randa, KC, 3B

This round was somewhat of a disappointment because I thought I was going to get Jason Varitek for my catcher.  I needed one and Varitek had as much upside as any catcher not named Rodriguez or Piazza.  Last year, he was plagued by injuries and his production suffered.  This year he'll be batting in a more formidable line-up and health-willing should be able to post extremely good numbers for a catcher.  After my disappointment of missing Varitek, I went with Mitch Meluskey.  The downside is that he'll be going from a great hitters park to a tough pitcher's park for his home games.  The plus side is that he'll get more playing time now that he's the primary catcher and that Comerica Park is not too bad for lefty hitters, his best side; it's tough on homers, but actually a good doubles and triples park.

19th Round:
1. Baseball HQ: J. Ortiz, Oak, 2B
2. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: B. Molina, Ana, C
3. Long C. Floyd, Fla, OF
4. Wall St. Sports: M. Lowell, Fla, 3B
5. Bart Lynch: Fullmer, TOR, 1B
6. Dr. Stats: A. Galarraga, Tex, 1B
7. Creative Sports: E. Burks, Clev, OF
8. Users: K. Caminiti, Tex, 3B
9. Sandbox: J. Bell, Ari, 2B
10. Woodman: G. Kapler, Tex, OF

This is one of my favorite picks simply because there is no greater dark horse with as much potential in this draft than Cliff Floyd.  The guy has such ridiculous power and good base running/stealing ability that early in his career scouts were calling him a "Willie McCovey with speed".  His problem has been health.  In 1995, his second full year in the majors, he was involved in a gruesome collision with Todd Hundley while playing first base.  His wrist on his glove hand was shattered in several places and many thought he would never play again.  After 2 operations to repair the damage, he came back, but without the power that had been his calling card.  And unfortunately, injury has continued to follow him - he's played more than 121 games in a season just once in his 8 year career.  He's had his knees scoped a couple of times, which has robbed him of some of his speed, but not enough to prevent him from stealing 24 bases last year while getting caught only 3 times.  Rather than becoming a Willie Mac with speed, he's become a Larry Walker without the MVP year.  The numbers bear this out: Floyd and Walker have an almost identical career OPS (.834 to .832) at Floyd's age after adjusting for their home ballparks.  One positive that has come from all the injuries is that because he could not depend solely on his natural talent to carry him, Floyd has learned to be a much more disciplined hitter.  This winter, he finally had the scar tissue removed from the wrist that was mangled in 1995.  With a clean bill of health and increased flexibility and quickness in his wrists, Floyd may finally harness the talent which produced 26 homers, 31 steals and a .329 average in a mere 380 ABs as a 20-year old pup in AA.

20th round:
1. Woodman: R. Kohlmeier, Bal, RP
2. Sandbox Sports: M. Williams, AZ, 3B
3. Sandbox Users: C. Lee, ChiA, OF
4. Creative Sports: R. White, Mon, OF
5. Dr. Stats: R. Reed, NYN, SP
6. Bart Lynch: S. Ponson, Bal, SP
7. Wall St. Sports: J. Moyer, Sea, SP
8. Long H. Nomo, Bos, SP
9. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: B. Penny, Fla, SP
10. Baseball HQ: G. Anderson, Ana, OF

Yes, Hideo Nomo.  But the reasoning for taking him makes sense, when you consider that:
1) his strikeout to innings ratios have remained strong, even in down years.  With the strike zone expanding upwards, he should be able to reign in his hits/innings ratio because his bread and butter - high fastball and forkball - have more room for error.  The only question then is does he still have his good fastball.  If so, then...
2) he is playing on a much better team, at least in terms of bullpen strength.  Yes, the Tigers had a good bullpen last year, but the Red Sox bully had the lowest ERA in the AL and Fenway is more hitter friendly than Comerica.  And although the perception is that it's a hitter's paradise, Fenway boosted run scoring by just 1% last year.  In fact, it was one of the toughest places in the majors to hit home runs, which, not coincidentally, was Nomo's greatest weakness - homers.  So having a better bullpen to back him up and pitching in a tough place to hit homers, all he needs is...
3) Better run support, which he should get.  Last year, the Red Sox offense was one of the worst in the AL.  However, it was also one of the hardest hit by injuries.  Given a reasonable amount of health and the addition of Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox should at leat be able to climb to the middle of the pack in run scoring.  Given all that, Nomo should be a solid starter to have.

Next up: Round 21-25.  The end of the draft.