Our report on the first half of our NFBC Slow Draft received reviews that were decidedly, um, mixed. But mixed reviews didn’t deter the producers of Batman vs. Superman from offering a sequel, and they’re not deterring us. We won’t revisit the background information about the draft or the strategy with which we approached it; it’s there at the start of the first installment. We’ll just report our selections, and comment when comment seems called for. And remember, folks, this is the second half of a 50-player draft. If everything goes perfectly, which of course it won’t, almost none of these guys will crack our starting lineup. Many of them are strictly spare parts. So “Ewww! Eduardo Escobar” is uncalled for.
Draft Position 374. Scott Schebler and 377. Francisco Liriano. Liriano, at least in 2017, is the kind of pitcher you take when you have a deep bench. We suspect that his career as a starting pitcher is over. He was very bad with Pittsburgh in the first four months of last season—his ERA third time through the order was 10.04–and while he helped Toronto a lot in the August and September, he still had trouble getting past the fourth inning in his 8 starts: ERA, innings 1 through 4, 1.97; ERA thereafter, 5.28. We’re not counting on him. But we got him cheap (his NFBC Average Draft Position is 324), he can still get strikeouts, he’s already penciled in to the Blue Jays’ rotation, and maybe we’re wrong about him.
404. Tony Wolters and 407. Lewis Brinson. Having assembled the suspect catching staff of Derek Norris and Devin Mesoraco, we needed to get someone else we like, and we did. We predict that Wolters will wind up getting the bulk of the playing time at catcher for the Rockies this season. The team has a full complement of young, promising starting pitchers who will require delicate handling, and Wolters is an excellent defensive catcher and pitch framer, whereas Tom Murphy, with whom he shares a job, is subpar. The Rockies’ lineup is otherwise so loaded that they may well decide to favor the better defender. And Wolters, aided by that old Coors magic, can hit a bit: .360/.427/.570 against right-handers at home last season.
And Brinson? Wish we could explain what a shrewd pick this was, but we can’t and it wasn’t. Yes, he is by most reckonings a top-20 prospect with a big power/speed upside. But what really happened was this: it was after 10 PM, the pick had to be made by 6 the following morning lest it default to some ghastly alternative whose identity eludes us now, and the Birchwood Brothers’ front office was short-handed that night. The BB on duty spent a full hour deliberating between Joaquin Benoit and Wilmer Flores, only to land on Brinson for reasons he can’t reconstruct.
434. Kendall Graveman and 437. Josh Hader. Our theory is that the Oakland bullpen of Madson-Doolittle-Casilla-Dull, plus our man Liam Hendriks and perhaps top prospect Frankie Montas, about whom more later, will get itself straightened out and be as formidable as we and others thought it would be last year. This will help Graveman, against whom hitters had a slash line of .247/.300/.349 his first two times through the order and .332/.372/.508 the third time through. He doesn’t get strikeouts and he probably won’t get wins, but as a stopgap you could do worse.
As for Hader: our strategy of eschewing high-end starting pitchers meant that we needed more quantity than we might otherwise have required. And we had now reached the Santiago-Sabathia Triangle, where unsuspecting owners founder on reefs of veteran starting pitchers on the downside of their careers. Hader looked to us like the best rookie pitcher who (a) hadn’t been taken yet and (b) might actually start.
464. Ozzie Albies and 467. Bruce Rondon. This was before the Brandon Phillips trade, which has probably torpedoed Albies’s chances of getting the Atlanta second base job soon enough to do us any good. Rondon was one of three guys we flagged last July as likely closers in 2017. One of them was Cam Bedrosian, who got there ahead of schedule, and the other was Felipe Rivero, whom we wanted and didn’t get. Subject for further discussion: if you think that closers other than Mariano Rivera belong in the Hall of Fame, and you think that Billy Wagner is one such closer, what do you do with K-Rod?
524. Bradley Zimmer and 527. Pedro Alvarez. We’re surprised that Zimmer (ADP 548) isn’t more popular. He’s a three-true-outcomes type with serious speed (46 SBs at 3 levels last season) and a good glove. He was superb in the Arizona Fall League. True, he strikes out way too much. But you don’t have to clear away too much underbrush to see a path to his getting some playing time in Cleveland. Say that Tyler Naquin is who he was for the last six weeks of last season. Who’s going to stand in Zimmer’s way in center field? Not Austin Jackson or Abraham Almonte, we think.
584. Adam Frazier and 587. Josh Phegley. We’re probably too credulous, but we believe the Pirates when they say Frazier will occupy the super-sub role vacated by Sean Rodriguez, in which he’ll hit .280, steal 10 bases, and probably qualify at multiple positions. We needed a fourth catcher, and Phegley’s apparently recovered from his knee problems. We envision the .250 and 10 home runs that we got from him in 2015 and thought we’d get from him in 2016.
614. Hunter Dozier and 617. J.T. Chargois. We see Dozier the way we see Zimmer: as a Grade A prospect who’s got a better shot a playing time than the market is giving him. All it’s going to take is a disappointing performance from Jorge Soler, a right-handed power hitter who’s disappointed before and who’s playing in the worst park for right-handed power hitters in the American League. Chargois? You could choose a pitcher completely at random and have a good shot at coming up with the Twins’ closer, and that’s sort of what we did.
644. Keone Kela and 647. Frankie Montas. We wonder if Sam Dyson might be 2017’s version of the 2016-model Shawn Tolleson, i.e. a Texas closer who loses his job because he’s not as good as he looked the season before. His peripheral stats sort of resemble Tolleson’s of 2015, though Dyson had more success before his breakout season than Tolleson did. If Dyson flops, Matt Bush probably gets the first crack at closing, but Kela’s next in line.
We have no idea what to make of Montas, and neither, apparently, does anyone else. For a guy who can throw 102 MPH, he certainly gets traded a lot. On the other hand, he’s a guy who can throw 102 MPH. He’s injury-prone, sure, and he has intermittent control problems, including in the Arizona Fall League a couple of months ago. Everybody seems to want to try him as a starter, but everybody also seems to think that he needs one more pitch to do it, and still thinks he’ll be a lights-out reliever with what he’s already got.
674. Allen Cordoba and 677. Sean Newcomb. How could we not take a shot with Cordoba? He’s only 21 and the Rookie League is the highest he’s gotten. Yet the Padres took him in December with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft. This means that they’re out at least 25k and perhaps 50k if he doesn’t stay on their roster all season. Can he possibly do so? Well, he was third in the Appalachian League in batting average and steals, and put up numbers very similar to those of Ozzie Albies in the same league in 2014, though Albies was 17 when he did it. His more direct comparables from Appalachian League seasons past are Aaron Barbosa (?) and Candido Pimentel (??), so who knows? If he can beat out Luis Sardinas and Erick Aybar–not an insuperable task, we think, if, as appears, Aybar can no longer steal bases–he’ll be the Padres’ shortstop, and we found out last season how much Padres manager Andy Green likes to run.
704. Jesse Hahn and 707. Matt Davidson. Davidson is our candidate for the 2017 Brandon Phillips Award for Former Top Prospect Who Flops Repeatedly And Then Delivers After Everyone’s Given Up On Him. (The 2016 winner was Nick Franklin.) Davidson should get a shot at the third base job when the White Sox get around to dealing Todd Frazier.
The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.