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Drafting With History…

The MLB player draft begins on Monday.  Of all the major sports, this is the draft that’s paid the least amount of attention nationally.  In part, that’s because unlike the other sports, most of these guys wont see the big leagues for a couple of years, and it’s also because baseball has an asinine policy against trading draft picks, and that limits the amount of fun a team can have, and finally, it’s probably because unlike all the other sports, baseball’s draft takes place in the middle of their season – weird, I know.

Baseball’s been desperately trying to catch up to the other sports with its draft euphoria, but despite the excellent work of men like ESPNs KLaw, baseball’s draft coverage still lacks the ad naseum nature of draft coverage found in the other sports (particularly football, but basketball is no daisy and if you live on the better side of the border, hockey’s draft coverage is pretty obnoxious).  So, with that in mind, Sports on the Brain now begins a retrospective draft piece for your perusing pleasure.  It’s what my darling wife refers to as “one of those nerd pieces,” and frankly after spending about five hours scouring baseball reference’s draft pages, I can’t really disagree.

So, lets go through the first round of the draft, but not with actual youngsters, because that’s just so prosaic and, really, where’s the fun in that… No, lets look at the draft, but if with each selection the drafting team could pick any player drafted in that spot since the draft began in 1965.  Thus, with the first spot, Pittsburgh has the choice of every player ever drafted first overall.  That means that they could take Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasbourg, David Price, Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, or…

With the 1st pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Alex Rodriguez SS/3B 1993 HS 2353 .956 622 103.8
Analysis: Sure, he’s a weenie and I’ve taken a million pot shots at him over the years, but come on… There’s only one shortstop in history who has hit 50+ home runs and that guy did it multiple times.  Even after he moved to third, he remained baseball’s best player by posting 1.031 and 1.067 OPSs in MVP seasons for the Yankees.  You can quibble about his clutchness and you can laugh at him being fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz, but you cannot question that he’s the best first overal pick of all-time.  Honorable Mention: Chipper Jones (1990, 80.7), Ken Griffey Jr. (1987, 78.5)

With the 2nd Pick, the Seattle Mariners select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Reggie Jackson  OF  1966  Col  2820  .846 563 74.6
Analysis: Much like the NBA in recent years, drafitng second isn’t all its cracked up to be.  Sure, we all still have high hopes for Dustin Ackley, Pedro Alverez, and maybe even Mike Moustakas, but Greg Reynolds over Evan Longoria is a huge miss, while Alex Gordon, Rickie Weeks, BJ Upton, Travis Lee, Ben Davis, and Ben Grieve are all somewhat less than we thought they’d be.  There is however one name who stands above the fray.  A man capable of rising to any occasion and worthy of succeeding on the grandest stage and earning a grand nickname… Sure we have to go all the way back to the second year of the draft, but Mr. October is a pretty easy choice.  Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander (2004, 20.5), Josh Beckett (1999, 25.8), Will Clark (1985, 57.6)

 With the 3rd pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Robin Yount  SS/CF  1973  HS 2856 .772 251 76.9
Analysis: I really wanted to pick Paul Molitor here.  Four years apart in the 70s, the Brewers drafted shortstops with the third pick who went on to become Hall of Famers.  They were both phenomenal hitters, but Yount played almost 1500 games at short and then moved to center for another 1100 games, providing the defensive backbone of the Brewers for 20 years.  Meanwhile, Molitor played mostly at third, before becoming my favourite DH of all time.  Either would be a great choice for the D-Backs, but if you can take an MVP shortstop/center fielder, you do… Honorable Mention: Evan Longoria (2006, 19.6), Matt Williams (1986, 43.9), Molitor (1977, 74.8)

With the 4th pick, the Baltimore Orioles select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Barry Larkin SS 1985 Col 2180 .815 198 68.9
Analysis: The run on Hall of Fame shortstops in the draft continues, as Baltimore decides to take Larkin’s all around talents over the power of Dave Winfield.  if not for the tragic accident that took Thurman Munson from the world at the age of 32 he might have been the choice here.  Honorable Mention: Kevin Brown (1986, 64), Winfield (1973, 59.7), Munson (1968, 43.4)

With the 5th pick, the Kansas City Royals select…

Player Pos Year Type Games Wins ERA WAR
 Dwight Gooden RHP 1982 HS 430  194 3.51 49.9
Analysis: With the fifth pick, Kansas City takes the first pitcher off the board.  Sure, they know that his peak will be short, but like a supernova it will burn bright and the Royals could use that heat to generate some interest for a team that hasn’t been in contention since Arnold Schwarzenegger was just a horny body builder. Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun (2005, 17.2), Mar Teixeira (2001, 37.8), JD Drew (1998, 46.9), Dale Murphy (1974, 44.2)

With the 6th pick, the Washington Nationals select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Barry Bonds  LF 1985 Col 2986 1.051 762 171.8
Analysis: The sixth slot actually offers Washington some of the best choices thus far: Zach Greinke’s a Cy Young winner, Gary Sheffield’s a borderline hall of famer with a career .907 OPS, Andy Van Slyke was a five time Gold Glover in center with a 119 OPS+, and there’s some kid named Jeter who might have a future at shortstop… But even with those guys, this was the easiest choice in the entire draft.  When you have the chance to pick the modern day Babe Ruth, you take him and worry about his ottoman latter.  With Bonds in left and Harper in right, the future would finally be bright in the US capital.  Honorable Mention:  Nobody really… but: Derek Jeter (1992, 70.8)

With the 7th pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Troy Tulowitzki SS 2005  Col 608 .853 103 20.5
Analysis: The first controversial pick in the draft, as with their second pick Arizona decides to secure the center of their defense for the next decade.  Tulo’s obviously a great pick, who oozes upside, but taking him over the bat of Frank Thomas shows a marked departure from how the game was evaluated even five years ago.  Defence matters, and with Tulo at short and Yount in center, the D-Backs are set up the middle.  Honorable Mention:  Frank Thomas (1989, 75.9)

With the 8th pick, the Cleveland Indians select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
Todd Helton 1B 1995  Col 1977 .976 340 58.5
Analysis: Not the sexiest pick in the draft, but for almost a decade Helton did the most important thing in the game (getting on base) better than just about anyone in baseball. Overpaid for the last few years, but always underrated.  Honorable Mention: Jay Bell (1984, 34.8)

With the 9th pick, the Chicago Cubs select…

Player Pos Year Type Games Wins ERA WAR
 Kevin Appier RHP 1987 JC 414 169 3.74 49.9
Analysis: Another underrated player, Appier will provide the Cubs with a dependable every fifth day option.  Not exactly an ace, but not far off either.  Honorable Mention: Barry Zito (1999, 31.8)

With the 10th, the San Diego Padres select…

Player Pos Year Type Games Wins ERA WAR
 Tim Lincecum RHP 2006 Col  135 61 3.00 20.3
Analysis: There were some good options on the board for the Padres in the 10th spot, but for a team that plays its home games in Petco, taking a two time Cy Young winner who’s still 26 is an easy choice.  If he looks good in a bow tie and is nicknamed the Freak, well that’s just gravy.  Honorable Mention: Robin Ventura (1988, 55.5), Mark McGwire (63.1)

With the 11th pick, the Houston Astros select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Greg Luzinski 1B 1968 HS 1821 .840 307 28.2
Analysis: The 11th selection has not been a good one historically, with no Hall of Famers and nobody having more than Luzinski’s 28 WAR.  I was tempted to roll the dice with the upside of Justin Smoak or Andrew McCutchen, but decided that since Houston has so many glaring needs, taking a sure – if unspectacular –  thing was the right call.  Honorable Mention: Smoak (2008, 0.9), McCutchen (2005, 9.5),

With the 12th pick, the Milwaukee Brewers select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Nomar Garciaparra SS 1994 Col 1434 .882 229 42.6
Analysis: Among my top twenty all time sports “wishes,” is that ARod never goes to the Yanks (and thus shifts to 3rd) and Nomar never breaks hist wrist and the shortstop generation that showed so much potential in the late 90s had actually played out with those two and the Captain battling to be the best.  The Brewers desperately need a shortstop, so this is a pretty easy choice.  Honorable Mention: Jered Weaver (2004, 23.1), Billy Wagner (1993, 29.3), Kirk Gibson (1978, 37.1)

With the 13th pick, the New York Mets select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Manny Ramirez  LF 1991 HS 2302  .996 555 66.8
Analysis: Sure he was an idiot, and his insistence on using steroids even after they were being tested for is a little concerning, but Manny would fit right in with the Queen’s crowd and he’d solidify the middle of the Mets lineup for a decade.  Honorable Mention: Paul Konerko (1994, 23.5), Frank Tanana (1971, 55.0)

With the 14th pick, the Florida Marlins select…

Player Pos Year Type Games Wins ERA WAR
 Don Gullet LHP 1969 HS 266  109  3.11  17.6
Analysis: Gullet didn’t have the longest career, because injuries hampered him, before driving him from the game, but when he was healthy he was awesome.  Joe Posnanski describes him in The Machine as the only pitcher Sparky Anderson actually liked.  Seems like a Marlin kind of player.  Honorable Mention: Derek Lee (1993, 30.0), Tino Martinez (1988, 25.7)

With the 15 pick, the Milwaukee Brewers select…

Player Pos Year Type Games OPS HR WAR
 Chase Utley  2B 2000 Col 1015 .892 178 39.1
Analysis: Injuries have somewhat dulled his star a little, but there was a five year stretch there where Utley was one of the five or six best players in all of baseball.  That’s the kind of value that makes GMs look like geniuses with the 15th pick.  With Nomar in the fold, the Brew Crew could move Rickie Weeks to the outfield and have themselves a pretty dynamic lineup (Weeks, Utley, Nomar, Braun, Fielder).  Honorable Mention:  Chris Carpenter (1993, 27.2), Jim Rice (1971, 41.5).

That concludes the first half of the draft, check back soon to which team draws the short stick in the draft (cough-theJays-cough), what Tampa Bay does with their three first rounders, and whether the Red Sox will sell their souls to the devil and select the one and only… Roger Clemens!

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