Last Tuesday evening was the annual Denslow Cup draft. Luckily I was back home in Farmington so that Griff and I could get together and drink some beers and eat some BBQ courtesy of my mom and buddy/Sombrero enthusiast, Benji. The Cup’s draft day is one of my favorite days of the year, and this was absolutely no exception. I was totally amped all day and could barely hold my hand still to click the mouse to select my first pick. As usual, we played in a 7 X 7 league with R, RBI, BA, Slug %, OBP, SB, and HR as our offensive categories and W, SV, WHIP, ERA, K’s, K/BB, and IP as our pitching categories. We have tried to incorporate stats we view as essential to Big League success such as K/BB and OBP in an effort to discourage profiting from players who don’t contribute proportionately to their actual teams. Anyway, I wanted to present my team, the Milk Steak Knives (named after both the Cup’s founder, Robert Vincent Unsell, and Charlie Kelly’s favorite dish), to our readers and offer some justification for my picks.
1st Round (7th overall): David Wright
David is my favorite player. He contributes across the board, and while his contact percentage and BB/K ratio have been in decline ever since they decided to rebuild the Polo Grounds in New York, he offers .300/.400/.500 upside with 20 SB and 30 bomb potential while playing a premium position. Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano, and Troy Tulowitzki were already off the board, however, and I would have taken any of the three ahead of David had they fallen to me. Nevertheless, I am proud to have David anchoring my offense for another season.
2nd Round (18th overall): Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia is one of those players who are so much better in an OBP league, that it is almost impossible to get his ranking correct before the draft. Fortunately, he fell to me in the second. Pedroia has MVP upside and plays a premium position. In a league that counts OBP, he is probably the top 2B on the board. With a contact ratio likely to top 90% and a BB/K above 1, he very well might have the top hit tool grading in the American League. With 20/20 potential, I absolutely was sweating as my pick approached in the second round. Two infield spots knocked out in the first two rounds. Well on my way to the Cup.
3rd Round (31st overall): Jose Bautista
This was a very tricky pick, but I think I got it right. Around this time most managers had at least an infielder, and many were beginning to pick up their second. The top starters were off the board for the most part, and a couple of catchers had even been selected. This is why I tried to take premium guys at premium positions early; it allows me to draft the best player available whenever the other drafters notice that they are devoid of infielders. In the same round, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Aramis Ramirez were selected. Bautista probably won’t approach 50 jacks again, but he has a damn good shot at 40. He has a very good eye and gets on base at a great clip. He has a shot at 100 RBI and 100 R, and he very well might steal 10 bases. The reason I was so thrilled to get him, though, is because now I have the resources to dictate the trade market on a premium position, because I have 2 of the top-4 third basemen in the game and they might hit 80 jacks between them.
4th Round (42nd overall): Jayson Werth
Once again, I was able to take the best player available without giving a lot of thought to his position. Werth moved to a tough hitters’ park and is coming off of a career year. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and only made contact in 73% of his AB’s in 2010, but what the rest of the Denslow Cuppers must have missed in letting this force fall to the 4th round is the tremendous strides he made against right-handers last season. He actually hit .300 against them, up from .256 in 2009, which is close to his career average. Considering that he hits lefties arguably better than anyone else in the game, and is a strong enough athlete to likely hold off the decline for a year or two longer, I was thrilled to be able to take another strong outfielder with my fourth pick. I have a hunch this is going to be my strongest pick of the draft. He has tremendous on-base skills and a very good shot at a .900 OPS (.875 in ’09 and .919 in ‘10).
5th Round (55th overall): Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy is my favorite shortstop. I love what he does on the defensive end. I love that he played in the WBC, although we clearly mismanaged that situation letting Jeter log as many innings there as he did. Rollins, as a former NL MVP, has as much upside as anyone in the game, and after two tough seasons, came very late for a player of his caliber. Specific reasons to love this pick are the small but steady gains Jimmy has made in his contact ability over the last five years as well as the career high 1.25 BB/K he posted in 2010. I really think that 20 bomb/30 SB upside is realistic, and a .300 BA is possible with those eye and contact numbers. Hell, with a 1+ BB/K and a 90%+ contact ratio, a .400 OBP is to be expected, although I am counting on a little regression there.
6th Round (66th overall): Cole Hamels
Starting pitching was unusually deep this year, so I was planning to hold off on it until after I had filled up my 2B, 3B, and SS spots. After selecting Jimmy, I was very glad to see Hamels available in the 6th. Aside from shitty run support in 2010, Hamels had a banner year with 211 K’s in 209 IP’s and 3.5 K/BB. The Phillies will open the season as a good offensive team and will only get better as Chase Utley and Placido Polanco get healthy. I see no reason to expect anything worse than Cole’s 2010 numbers considering he is still only 27. He should be a terrific anchor to my staff.
7th Round (79th overall): David Price
Price throws too many fastballs to miss enough bats to reach 200 K’s at this point in his career, but he is ace-caliber on a very good team and still only 25-years-old. There is little reason, aside from an innings spike in 2010, to assume anything worse than 185 K’s, 15 W’s, and sub-4.00 ERA.
8th Round (90th overall): Billy Butler
Wow. I almost couldn’t believe Butler made it 90 picks into the draft. This one is really easy. 87% contact rate, 0.88 BB/K, and 24-years old. I’m expecting a small power gain getting him to 20 jacks with a .310 average, .385 OBP, and 480 Slug%, which make him a force in our league and hands-down the best pick of the 8th round, unless Yovani reaches 15 wins with a sub-3.00 ERA.
9th Round (103rd overall): Francisco Rodriguez
Time to grab a closer, and with his contract, I don’t see him losing his job in the 9th inning at any point in 2011. In fact, after Heath Bell and Brian Wilson, I viewed K-Rod as the safest closer option headed into the draft. Also, before he lost his mind, 2010 was a terrific rebound season for him with over 10 K’s/9 and 3 K’s/walk.
10th Round (114th overall): Torii Hunter
Torii is on the decline, but he is still a terrific offensive player who is going to likely provide a .280 BA with 20-25 jacks, 10 SB’s, around a .350 OBP and .450 Slug%. If he can get to 600 AB’s, which is not very likely, he has 25 bomb, 15 SB, 100 RBI, and 100 R upside.
11th Round (127th overall): Nick Markakis
At this point in the draft, I noticed that I pretty much flock to the same core of players most years. Pedroia, Jimmy, Wright, Hamels, and Markakis are on my team at some point just about every season. Markakis is not very likely to develop into the 30-jack COF everyone thought he would become when he was 22. However, what he is at 27 is a guy capable of a .300/.375/.475 slash line with 100 R and 100 RBI upside. This kind of pick in the middle round is the kind that wins leagues.
12th Round (138th overall): John Axford
Axford is another relatively safe closer, although his spring has done very little to reinforce that notion. His control is certainly not top-shelf, but his fastball is blazing and he struck out over 10 guys per 9 IP in 2010. The goal with closers in a 12-team league should be to snag a great one relatively early and a middle-tier and lower-tier one with upside. Checkmark by the second of the three.
13th Round (151st overall): Colby Lewis
Lewis had a quietly awesome year in 2010. He struck out 8.6 guys per 9 IP and only walked 2.6. He plays in a terrible pitching environment, but is going to get an absurd amount of run support. He plays in an organization that encourages starters to work deep, and there is a quality guy at the back of the pen to hold on to leads. Lewis has a chance to move into the upper echelon of AL SP’s in 2011. Also, I had to draft at least a Ranger or the people I sit by in school would have been bummed.
14th Round (162nd overall): James Shields.
14th round for Shields? Yes, please. The dude is front-line on one of the best teams in baseball. In a horribly unlucky 2010, Shields posted a 5.18 ERA with almost 8 K’s per 9 IP’s and only 2 walks. He’s awesome and came remarkably late for someone of his caliber. He could very well end up being the best pitcher on my staff. Also, he is only 29.
15th Round (175th overall): Joel Hanrahan
Here is my third closer. The upside is definitely there. He is having an awful spring, but he struck out 12.9 guys per 9 IP’s in 2010 and posted nearly a 4.0 K/BB. That is top-tier stuff, but he will have to throw up some zeroes in April to prevent Evan Meek from wiggling into the mix for saves in Black and Yellow Land.
16th Round (186th overall): Neil Walker
Walker has 25-bomb upside, but he probably isn’t at that level yet. However, he provides me a lot of flexibility on the trade market as well as some security in case Pedroia has lingering issues from his injury last season, although it is not looking like he does. Regardless, Walker is a 2B with pop who hits in the good part of the lineup, even if it is for the Pirates.
17th Round (199th overall): Dexter Fowler
Fowler has tremendous on-base skills and speed. He has yet to put it all together, but he is only 25, and he plays in Colorado. At this point in the draft, my team is not very fast, so I was happy to grab Fowler this late.
18th Round (210th overall): Nate McLouth
McLouth was one of the best outfielders in baseball in 2008. He nearly had a 25/25 season while hitting over .275 and posting nearly an .850 OPS. He was traded to Atlanta in 2009, and he really sucked. He is having a tremendous spring and is no longer playing for Bobby Cox, so he essentially has a fresh start. If McLouth begins the season looking like he did in 2008, I might be able to swing a deal for one of my starting outfielders thereby opening up a spot in my lineup for McLouth.
19th Round (223rd overall): Scott Baker
Baker always posts a terrific K/BB ratio and plays for a good team, but he never seems to put it all together. Nevertheless, he had a terrific spring and locked down his job in the rotation in Minnesota. This is not the kind of arm that should be available in the 19th round, so I was stoked he fell to me.
20th Round (234th overall): Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz is almost always my catcher in any league that counts OBP. He has 90% contact ratio and 1.00 BB/K upside and enough lift in his swing to launch 10 to 15 jacks. He is very stable and won’t hurt me anywhere.
I am very satisfied with my team headed into Opening Day and don’t see any glaring weaknesses anywhere. I hope everyone else has/had as much with their draft/drafts as we Denslow Cuppers do with ours. Good luck in 2011!