Minor Achievements: It's time for a genuine draft
It's against my nature to make another "Miller Time" joke. Shouldn't we have those retired? But when Nate Robertson hit the DL last week after murdering my ERA (his last appearance was the worst start of the season; check out this week's Playing With the Numbers to see it in all its ugly glory), my loss became your potential gain. And, I figured, I'd have to make a new (but still awful) pun based on malted beverages brewed in Milwaukee.
When you find time to put down your frosty, go ahead and grab Andrew Miller (I wrote about him last week). Miller isn't a finished product, but he gets groundouts and whiffs, and has proved to be eminently drinkable since he replaced Rotgut Robertson in the rotation. Miller has been solid in two starts thus far. Buy a case and stash him in your fridge, er bench.
Josh Fields, 3B, CHA. Fields came to the show when Joe Crede was injured, and Fields will get a shot at earning a starting job on a more permanent basis. He is a fine athlete, and was batting .283-.394-.498 (14 doubles, 10 homers and a 60-39 K/BB ratio in 205 at-bats) at Triple-A Charlotte. He also has eight steals in 13 attempts. My take? I think the guy has some ability, but he's 24 this season, so his star potential is somewhat diminished, and his horrific minor league contact rate means he could surpass Adam Dunn as the majors' top whiffmaster. I note this while also noting that Fields is certainly no candidate to pull a Dunn and consistently hit 40-plus homers. If you need help in deep leagues, go for it, but I'm not a big Fields fan.
Curtis Thigpen, C, TOR. Thigpen is somewhat similar to a healthy, younger Jason Kendall offensively. Thiggy has a decent line-drive bat and good plate discipline, batting .299-.371-.416 at Triple-A Syracuse (nine doubles and three homers in 154 at-bats with a 21-17 K/BB ratio). Thigpen, 24, has solid defensive tools, but there is some question as to whether he can stay behind the plate. He is mobile and has enough arm strength to stick there, though. He's not going to be a star, but he could develop into a solid starter in most fantasy leagues. He's up right now because of the injury to Lyle Overbay, and I wonder how much Thigpen will play. Currently, he's being used as a spot starter/pinch hitter.
Yunel Escobar, 3B, ATL. Escobar has been playing third regularly (10 games) and some shortstop (three games). At Triple-A Richmond, Escobar batted .333-.379-.456 (10 doubles, three triples, two homers and a 27-14 K/BB ratio in 180 at-bats). He also had seven steals (10 attempts). Don't count me as a big supporter of this stocky Cuban. First, he's 24. Second, his limited pop means he's likely to be a utility guy. I don't think he'll consistently hit .320, and if he doesn't do that, he's an end-of-the-roster guy in most leagues. He has a solid swing, and he's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, so he could add power, but prospects usually show their pop by Yunel's age. In addition, Chipper Jones is probably coming back this week, and that could spell the end of Yunel's playing time.
I was doing my daily drudge work last Thursday, but I came home as giddy as a schoolgirl. That's because it was amateur draft time, and the first round was televised on ESPN2. I DVR'd the event and stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to watch all four hours. ESPN2 did great work, and MLB's folks did a fine job, too. It was good to see Baseball America's Jim Callis (although Mr. Callis looked like a zombie; he spent the previous night working the phones), and it was great to see Perfect Game's David Rawnsley. I appreciated his insight on Twins first-rounder Ben Revere, someone who wasn't on my radar this season.
Now, here are some suggestions for '08:
• Call it the "MLB Amateur Draft" instead of the "MLB First-Year Player Draft." The current title is unwieldy.
• The powers-that-be should give the first round prominence with a day to itself. Cancel MLB games on "Draft Thursday" (Thursdays are travel days with light schedules) and televise the first round from 7 to 11 p.m. Eastern. More fans will watch, and the draft will become a bigger deal.
• So we don't kill front-office staffs, make the draft a three-day affair with Rounds 2-25 on Day 2, and Rounds 26-50 on Day 3. This year, Day 2 was crazy fast. I'm sure teams made big mistakes because they had to keep up with 1,303 players being grabbed in 12 hours.
• Keep the draft at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Metro Orlando is the country's No. 2 tourist spot (behind NYC) and cheap flights here abound. I know I could coax my leaguemates down here for the event -- especially the ones with kids -- dad, son and daughter can be part of the studio audience while mom shops at Downtown Disney.
• Get things set up quickly so ESPN and MLB can promote the heck out of it next year. People will soon realize the draft's importance. Mr. No-Hitter, Justin Verlander, was drafted in 2004 and made the majors to stay in 2005. Ryan Zimmerman made the Nationals the year he was drafted (2004).
• Finally, someone get Bud Selig a new wig. I look at Donald Trump's hair and figure someone spray-painted a dead skunk and threw it on his head. But put Trump next to Selig, and the Donald looks like Orlando Bloom.
Over the next few weeks, I'll take a look at players taken in the first round, and some guys (such as Matt Harvey) who slipped out of the first round for various reasons (players listed by overall pick number).
1. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt (Devil Rays). This was a no-brainer. Price is 6-foot-5 and has a mid-90s fastball and a killer slider. He had a 194-31 K/BB ratio in 133.1 innings (13.1 K/9 innings), and he is so polished I could see him in the majors in 2008.
2. Mike Moustakas, SS, Chatsworth (Calif.) H.S. (Royals). Moustakas was always relatively touted, but he soared to the top of the charts with a record-setting 2007. He set state records for home runs (season and career), while batting .577 with 24 homers and a 2-28 K/BB ratio. Moustakas isn't huge (6 feet, 185 pounds), but his swing, power arm (he hit 97 mph as a pitcher) and power bat make him elite.
3. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress (Calif.) H.S. (Cubs). Best hitter in this draft? Vitters is 1A, Moustakas is 1B. Vitters is a righty (Moustakas is a lefty), and Vitters isn't a superb athlete, but he should hit for enough average and power to overcome any deficiencies. When he signs, Vitters becomes the Cubs' No. 1 prospect.
4. Daniel Moskos, LHP, Clemson (Pirates). Moskos is a lefty with three pitches, including a low-90s fastball and a plus slider. Color me unimpressed. Moskos isn't imposing at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and the Pirates have a hideous track record with No. 1 picks. Why didn't they grab a high-ceiling stud such as Matt Wieters? The Rats always go the cheap route, and they keep getting what they pay for.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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