The Place Holder All-Stars: NFBC Slow Draft, Part the Second

Truth be known, even we don’t find the subject of the second half of our recently-completed NFBC slow draft that riveting, but we promised, so here goes. We’ll forbear commenting except when and as necessary. Maybe we’ll provide you with some giggles, some ideas, or both. These are picks 26 through 50. Bear in mind throughout that, with a couple of exceptions, to be duly noted, our hope is actually not to have to use any of these players in our starting lineups this season. We’re listing them by the order in which we took them in the overall draft; numbers in parentheses are their Average Draft Positions in NFBC slow drafts so far this year.

384. Danny Espinosa (ADP 457). On its face, and perhaps even deep in its very soul, a feeble pick. But it illustrates how draft tactics have to change as a draft and your roster develop. We don’t see Espinosa as the starting shortstop for a contending team. He’s not great in the field (though he is pretty good at second base), and while he’s got more power than your average middle infielder, his .230 lifetime BA and .301 lifetime OBP assure that his offense is likewise nothing special. But it doesn’t matter what we think. The only thing that matters is what manager Dusty Baker thinks, and he evidently likes Espinosa—this despite the fact that the Nationals have Trea Turner (number 15 prospect in MLB, according to Fangraphs’ own KATOH projection system; number 13, according to Baseball Prospectus; number 9, according to Baseball America) ready to go. And—here’s the nub of the matter—we ourselves also have Turner ready to go. We figure that Espinosa either does well and keeps the job or does poorly and relinquishes it to Turner. The possibility of the former made us the only ones who wanted Espinosa this early. Did we, then, subsequently also acquire Stephen Drew (ADP 601)? We did not; it would have been like wearing suspenders, a belt, and a diaper.

397. Robbie Ray (ADP 376).

414. Keone Kela (ADP 437). We were happy to get him here, and don’t understand why people aren’t taking him earlier. Shawn Tolleson (ADP 143) was outstanding in his first season as a closer, but it looks to us as if Kela was even better setting him up, and you know how it is with injury-prone one-year closers of a certain age.

427. Justin Smoak (ADP 509). We’re planning to use Jake Lamb as our Corner Infielder, so we needed a Plan B. Smoak is Part 1 of Plan B. We wrote last season about the possibility, in deep leagues with frequent lineup substitutions (this league’s are semiweekly), of platooning two left-handed hitters at a single roster spot. As we envision it, with a modicum of foresight, you’ll wind up getting 500 or so plate appearances from that spot, for cheap. Smoak starts only against righties, and doesn’t get on base that much even against them, but has plenty of lefthanded power (14 HR in 288 PA) in a ballpark that rewards it and in a lineup that will put guys on base in front of him. So much for Plan B, Part 1. At this point, we were half-Smoaked, or perhaps half-baked.

444. Lewis Brinson (ADP 576). Another big-time prospect (Baseball America No. 16, Baseball Prospectus No. 15, KATOH No. 42), and especially attractive to us because he’s a strong possibility to take over center field for the Rangers if our man Delino DeShields goes down or falls short.

457. Adam Warren (ADP 454). The 31st round seems late to us for a guy who gets outs, gets strikeouts, and is next in line for the starting rotation of the Cubs, who, as everyone agrees, will go undefeated this season.

474. Preston Tucker (ADP 492). A very powerful lefthanded hitter who’s caught in the Astros’ playing-time logjam. His value increased significantly, in our view, with the news that Evan Gattis (the Astros’ DH) will miss some time at the start of the season with a sports hernia.

487. Josh Bell (ADP 523) and 504. John Jaso (ADP 537). Plan B, Part 2, Subparts a and b. One of these guys figures to be the strong side of a first base platoon for the Pirates, and thus a suitable starter for us when Smoak faces a left-hander or two. Jaso’s strong suit is OBP, which doesn’t help us, but he hits for a bit of average and a bit of power. Bell’s a good prospect: BA 37, BP 49, KATOH 33. He’s a switch hitter who pasted righthanded pitching (.344/.419/.501) in the minors last year.

517. Liam Hendriks (ADP 585). As many others have noted, he got converted from starter to reliever last season and looked like a different pitcher. His fastball was faster, he induced people to hit ground balls, and his sinker produced a lot of strikes. We note with pleasure that he attributes his transformation to Pilates. Many of the cognoscenti think he will be Oakland’s closer if injury-prone incumbent Sean Doolittle can’t keep the job, and some say he should have it regardless.

534. Emilio Bonifacio (ADP 666). We’re hoping to write about him next week. We think he’ll play, and that he’ll steal bases if he does.

547. Kevin Plawecki (ADP 527). The Mets are saying that he’ll play more catcher, even in the unlikely event Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t get hurt, and perhaps some first base as well. Before last season, he hit wherever he went, and our guess is he’ll do so again. We don’t think he’ll outhit our Grandal/Realmuto catcher duo, but we’re glad to have him as a backup.

564. Chad Bettis (ADP 619). That’s right—he’s a Colorado pitcher. We will use him when he’s on the road, where he did well last year and can be expected to do so this season. But we’ll tell you something—except for one unspeakable outing against the Dodgers in Coors (2 1/3 IP, 8 H, 1 W, 4 HR, 10 ER), he wasn’t bad at home either (3.66 ERA). Of course, if you’re sharp enough to identify and avoid the one game where Bettis is going to melt down like that, you’re sharp enough not to need or want advice from us.

577. Tony Zych (ADP 653). As we told you last week with a blush, we are counting on Steve Cishek to resurface as a closer rather than succumbing to the bends on his way back up. This has given us an even keener interest in his supporting cast in the Seattle bullpen than we’d otherwise have. Supposedly—it depends on whose depth chart you’re looking at—Zych is behind Joaquin Benoit and maybe Evan Scribner in the closer-in-waiting line. But we’re with Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs on this: Zych turned into something special last season, and we think he’ll vault over the competition if the nitrogen bubbles get to Cishek.

594. Trayce Thompson (ADP 574). Thompson languished in the minors for seven years before his surprising debut (.295/.363/.533 in 135 PA) last season with the White Sox, who sent him to the Dodgers in the Todd Frazier trade. The received wisdom is that the White Sox sold high—Thompson’s debut was too flattering, and he’s just your standard-issue 4A guy with power. Could be. We like him because we see him as a stealth candidate for a stolen-base breakout, and we’ll say something about him when we write about Bonifacio.

607. Mychal Givens (ADP 673). Nothing wrong with having a do-no-harm high-strikout reliever on your roster.

624. Cody Asche (ADP 484). We’re probably in wait-till-next-year mode if anything wicked befalls Josh Donaldson, whom we took with the seventh overall pick. But we thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a few extra third basemen hanging around, just in case. Asche played enough there last year to qualify at the position, though this year he figures more as a fifth outfielder/pinch hitter.

637. Jordy Mercer (ADP 544).

654. Joey Rickard (ADP ???). He’s so obscure that NFBC doesn’t even list him (we had to take “Place Holder 1” instead). He’s a contact hitter with speed (.321/.408/.467 with 23 SB at three minor league levels last season). The Orioles took him in the Rule 5 draft, we thought because they envisioned him as starting in one of the outfield corners. Then they acquired Hyun-Soo Kim. And then, about five minutes after we took Rickard, they acquired (it appears) Dexter Fowler. We’d have been better off with Place Holder 1.

667. Jorge Lopez (ADP 553). Brewers’ starting pitching prospect (Baseball Prospectus no. 71, Baseball America no. 59, nothing from KATOH), of the sort whose bodies litter the path to last place.

684. Austin Barnes (ADP 650). He backs up Yasmani Grandal, for both the Dodgers and us.

697. Tommy Hunter (ADP ???). He’s fetched up with Cleveland, he’s still hurting, and he may well have lost his mojo even when healthy, but he’s capable of being a dominant closer, and thus worth the 47th-round attention of people, like us, with Cody Allen on their roster, especially if, unlike us, they were able to pick up genuine closer-in-waiting Zach McAllister.

714. Colin Walsh (ADP 652) and 727. Garin Cecchini (ADP 649). Somebody has to play third base for the Brewers, and we predict (a) that it won’t be Aaron Hill, and (b) that it will be one of these guys, from either or both of whom you can expect, according to Steamer, about .240/.315/.350, which is marginally better than a dead roster spot or two.

744. Juan Nicasio (ADP 705). Last season, we predicted, with unseemly insistence, that Nicasio, newly liberated from Colorado, would pitch well for the Dodgers and inherit a job in their starting rotation when someone went down. Nicasio pitched ok, and several someones went down, but he never got near the rotation. We’re repeating the prediction, though, only this time around with Pittsburgh.

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.

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