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If MLB had a fantasy draft


Fish Tank Frenzy
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The Major League Baseball draft is an inexact science. Teams are wrong far more than they're right about the players they select. Baseball is one of the few sports that develops its own players. The other major sports use high schools and universities to develop players for their so-called major leagues. For baseball, high schools and universities are just the laboratory used to sort through who is worthy of an investment and an opportunity to make the big leagues.

 

Many factors go into a player's development once he signs a professional contract. When a player is selected in the draft, his selection is based upon scouts' evaluations of his physical attributes and skills. Scouts project what a player can become after considering his strengths and weaknesses and his ability to overcome those weaknesses through his time in the minor leagues. They essentially close their eyes and dream of stars.

 

In the end, some players fulfill their potential and some do not. Actually, most do not. If organizations knew in the beginning what they later find out about the players, they could sure save a lot of time and money.

 

Having been a general manager, and knowing some of the mistakes I and other GMs have made, it made me wonder what a draft would look like if teams actually had the crystal ball and could make their choices again, forgoing the mistakes and selecting only major-league players.

 

Here is how I would see the first round of the draft playing out this year if teams were able to pick players currently in the major leagues with the idea that they wanted to be successful using a five-year plan (this is the exact order in which the actual draft will take place):

 

1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Alex Rodriguez, SS

He has the most homers ever by a hitter before the age of 30. He will go down in history as one of the most prodigious offensive players ever to play the game. The good news from the day of the draft is that he will be a "real Diamondback" despite never being a "real Yankee." By the way, I would draft him as a shortstop.

 

2. Kansas City Royals: Albert Pujols, 1B

He is as focused on the field as he is committed off of the field. There might not be a better representative on or off the field for any organization. Plus, he's only 25 years old and is more mature than any player I've ever been around. He can pound the ball, too.

 

3. Seattle Mariners: Miguel Tejada, SS

He plays every day and plays well every day. It's hard to believe a shortstop who drives in 150 runs a season would be the third overall pick. He also plays with passion.

 

4. Washington Nationals: Johan Santana, LHP

He is so good that he not only dominates when he's on the mound but also makes more good hitters look bad than anybody else toeing the rubber right now. He can put a hitter in a slump faster than you can say "best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors." His youth moves him way up the board.

 

5. Milwaukee Brewers: Pedro Martinez, RHP

He can go by his first name only, which automatically means he's a star. When Pedro pitches, it's an event. He brings energy and enthusiasm to the ballpark. The Dodgers traded him to the Expos early in his career because they thought he was too slight and couldn't log enough innings. Now we know better. He is pitching like he has at least several good years left.

 

6. Toronto Blue Jays: Miguel Cabrera, OF

This kid is a phenom. He's just a baby and he's going to get even better. He is in front of some pretty good players because of his youth. He will produce big numbers for longer than anybody else in this draft. He has Hall of Famer written all over him.

 

7. Colorado Rockies: Vladimir Guerrero, OF

He is a baseball player through and through. He lives and breathes the sport. He is the proverbial five-tool player, but his passion for the game elevates him above his peers. He will log a couple more MVP seasons before he is done.

 

8. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Bobby Abreu, OF

He can do it all. Another five-tool star. He hits for average and power. He can steal bases and he can throw. He is in the midst of what will be a Hall of Fame career.

 

9. New York Mets: Chipper Jones, 3B

Considering he named his son Shea, it is only appropriate that the Mets select him. Hey, employ the "if you can't beat him join him" philosophy. He is the NL version of Derek Jeter, and he has power. He is an RBI machine. Thirteen consecutive division titles only happen when you have stars and leaders. He is a leader of leaders and a star of stars.

 

10. Detroit Tigers: Derrek Lee, 1B

He is so high in this draft because I believe in him. He has gotten better every year. The power numbers, batting average, RBI production and defense have exploded for this tremendous athlete. Triple Crown potential is real.

 

11. Pittsburgh Pirates: Manny Ramirez, OF

He is a hitting machine. He doesn't have the tools of some of the others on the board, but he is the purest of hitters. Plus, he works at his craft, which is a good example for others in the organization. He is one of the best right-handed hitters ever to play the game.

 

12. Cincinnati Reds: Tim Hudson, RHP

He has great stuff, but not the best in the draft. He just wins games like he has the best stuff around. He has a 98-43 record so far and he's just moving into the prime of his career. He is a winner who does the little things (and big things) to help his team.

 

13. Baltimore Orioles: Derek Jeter, SS

He hasn't put up nearly the numbers that most of the other players in the first round have. He is a baseball player, though. When the game is on the line and you need a base hit, Jeter is your man. If you need a stolen base, Jeter is your man. If you need a big defensive play to save the game, that's right ? Derek Jeter is your man. He delivers in critical situations with more regularity than any current player, it seems.

 

14. Cleveland Indians: Roy Halladay, RHP

He is the same pitcher now who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2003. His stuff is electric and his approach is relentless. And think about this: He's only 28 years old. He will earn a couple more of those trophies for the mantle before he hangs it up.

 

15. Chicago White Sox: Carlos Delgado, 1B

His swing is sweet and violent. It is smooth, yet explosive. He has great talent and a good head on his shoulders. He can bang it with the best of them, but he can also be patient and hit for average as well. Plus, he has that twinkle in his eye that stars feature.

 

16. Florida Marlins: Brad Lidge, RHP

He exploded on the scene last year and emerged as one of the most dominant closers in the game. He can get a strikeout at will, which is a great trait for a closer. He can also pitch multiple innings several days in a row.

 

17. New York Yankees (from Philadelphia Phillies): Eric Gagne, RHP

He is one of the most dominant closers to ever toe the rubber. His consecutive saves record might never be broken. He fell behind Lidge because of slight health concerns, but he has a belly full of guts and three excellent pitches that he can throw for strikes.

 

18. San Diego Padres: Jake Peavy, RHP

Someday, we'll be talking about this guy the way we talk about Curt Schilling. He is a gamer and a big-game pitcher who doesn't just win ? he shuts you down. He has Hall of Fame stuff and a Hall of Fame heart, now he just has to log innings.

 

19. Texas Rangers: Carlos Zambrano, RHP

There aren't many who compete like this guy. He's a workhorse and a bulldog, and he has power stuff. He has the potential to do what John Smoltz has done by winning a lot of big games as a starter and later making the transition to the closer's role. Too bad he can't pitch every day. He falls just behind Peavy because he needs to learn to control his emotions a bit better.

 

20. Chicago Cubs: Carlos Beltran, OF

This young guy is just heading into his prime, and he has all of the tools. He's a very good all-around player, and he's getting better. You can close your eyes and dream of 30/30 or 40/40 or 50/50, his tools are that good. He has the unique blend of speed and power, and he just needs to improve his rates (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) to go higher.

 

21. Oakland Athletics: Ichiro Suzuki, OF

He hits and he hits and he hits. His lack of power kept him down the board, but boy is he fun to watch. He can fly, and that allows him to shine on offense and defense. Plus, he has one of the best arms around (and it's an accurate arm).

 

22. Florida Marlins (from San Francisco Giants): Mark Prior, RHP

Despite the bad luck he's had staying healthy, his stuff is so compelling that you have to take a shot on him. He is a power control pitcher. That means he's a No. 1 starter who will log some serious strikeouts in his career. He just needs one healthy year to build on.

 

23. Boston Red Sox (from Los Angeles Angels): David Ortiz, 1B

Anybody nicknamed Big Papi must be a first-round pick. He has a flair for the dramatic and delivers in the clutch seemingly at will. He plays his best in big games, and that's a special trait to have. He is a power-hitting leader with charisma. People stay in their seats to watch him hit.

 

24. Houston Astros: Gary Sheffield, OF

He won't win any personality contests, but he will win some games for you ? a lot of games. He plays hurt and plays to win. He is an RBI machine. He delivers more in timely situations than Fed Ex.

 

25. Minnesota Twins: Aramis Ramirez, 3B

He is one of the best two-way third basemen of this generation. He's still young and improving. His talent was ahead of his maturity, but it's evening up now. The best is still in front of him, and the past has been pretty good.

 

26. Boston Red Sox (from Los Angeles Dodgers): Roy Oswalt, RHP

He has good stuff and a knack for always giving his club a chance to win. He has been a plus-10 (wins compared to losses) three times in his short career already. That is indicative of a No. 1 starter. He just shows up and has that trait you want in a pitcher: he pitches well enough to win.

 

27. Atlanta Braves: Adam Dunn, OF

He has a chance to be a monster. He is very selective at the plate and earns a lot of walks. That's good, but it's coupled with far too many strikeouts. He has great power, what scouts call light-tower power. As he matures as a hitter and understands that patience is good, he will also realize that with runners in scoring position he needs to be more aggressive at the plate. He might soon hit 50 homers and drive in 150 runs on a yearly basis.

 

28. St. Louis Cardinals (from Boston Red Sox): Mark Teixeira, 1B

He has the right disposition to play the game. He loves to play and works hard to get better. He will keep getting better and will continue to develop his approach at the plate. He will hit for average and power and will become a big run producer. Bet on his future.

 

29. Florida Marlins (from New York Yankees): David Wright, 3B

This kid has all of the makings of a star. He has the tools and the skills to be a power-hitting Gold Glove third baseman. He just needs experience. He has unique patience for a young hitter. Plus, he has that special twinkle in his eye and a humility that is uncommon with greatness.

 

30. St. Louis Cardinals: Joe Mauer, C

He will become one of the best two-way catchers ever. He just needs to stay healthy, which is a slight concern. The ball comes off his bat and out of his hand different than most players. Still dealing with some projection here, but sometimes you have to take a chance on potential greatness.

 

There isn't an owner in baseball who would be unhappy about the quality they could land in a draft like this. Alas, this would take all of the fun out of the process. So instead the scouts will close their eyes and dream about high school and college kids becoming superstars.

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