Thursday, June 7, 2007

If I Could Afford New Walls, I'd Be Throwing Folding Chairs at My Walls Too

A light-hitting, speedy centerfielder? As if it was that hard to dig up a Jason Tyner or Denard Span will turn out to be anything more than a fourth outfielder? The Twins "first round pick" Ben Revere is also a prep player, which means he isn't going to be ready for the show for a number of years. Maybe, after budgeting for Santana, Mauer, Morneau and possibly Nathan, the Twins will resign Torii Hunter to a long enough deal where Revere is ready to step into center field for the big league club by the time Hunter leaves, but I doubt it, in case you were planning to use that in defense of the pick. Even if you were, and even if Revere could be ready in a breakneck three or four years, it still doesn't hold up as justification as the vast majority of teams buy into the logic that it is always best to draft the best available talent in the first round and pay little mind to organizational needs.

This pick blew my mind. There are the "signability" concerns that a lot of teams bow to, but still... Ben Revere? Seriously? Haven't the Twins shown themselves to be experts at packing their roster with a bunch of singles hitters on the cheap?

Rooting for the Twins is a bizarre thing. When it comes to pitching, the organization puts others to shame. The Twins do a truly stunning job of drafting, developing and pilfering major league arms. The organization grooms its hurlers to throw strikes and limit walks and Rick Anderson deserves a lot more mention than he gets, both locally and nationally (although he might prefer his relative level of anonymity).

When it comes to hitting, the organization shows time and time again that they just don't get it. The piranhas have no bite, and they're often strung four-deep in the line-up. It takes what, three singles to score a run? Two with a sacrifice or two thrown in? The odds of three batters reaching base in an inning are what, somewhere around one-in-four? And there is some cause of confusion over the Twins not scoring enough runs most of the time and the general inconsistency of the offense?

The idea that an offense built around getting on-base and hitting for power is some new fangled stat-geek idea is flawed. It's Earl Weaver baseball: "Pitching, defense, and three run homers." And the Twins already prioritize the the first two!

Don't give me that small market nonsense about the Twins not being able to afford to play that brand of baseball because its too expensive, because I'm not complaining about us not giving Alex Rodriguez a guaranteed $250 million. I'm talking about not taking Baseball America's 135th ranked player in the draft who doesn't even weigh 160 pounds with the 28th overall pick!

Who were some of the players the Twins could have had? Six players from Baseball Prospectus' top 30 were still on the board at the time of their pick:

13. Matt Harvey, RHP, Fitch HS (CT)
21. Corey Brown, OF, Oklahoma State
22. Josh Smoker, LHP, Calhoun HS (GA)
28. Kyle Russell, OF, Texas
29. Kyle Blair, RHP, Los Gatos HS (CA)
30. Andrew Brackman, RHP, North Carolina State

Those are two power college bats the Twins passed on to draft a leadoff hitter that no one, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus or any other industry or media outfit, thought worthy of a first round pick. The Twins also passed on three pitchers with a lot of upside (Brackman is a 6'11" converted basketball player who is very raw for a college player but has still touched 99 with his fastball and has as much upside as any player in the draft).

But hey, the Twins did get the fastest player in the draft. There's just that whole retooling of Revere's entire approach at the plate to get him to utilize his speed that needs to be done and the reality that with his tiny frame Revere will never hit for any semblance of power at the major league level. Who's to say that the Twins couldn't have gotten Revere with their next pick (number 92 overall). According to Baseball America, that still would have been a slight reach of a round or so too early.

To add insult to injury, the Twins took another speedy, punchless centerfielder with their third pick! Here's what had to say about Angel Morales:

"Morales is an extremely fast outfielder who likes to run and is fun to watch patrol center field. He still needs to learn how to use his speed to help his offensive game. If he can do that by playing small ball -- more line drives, hitting the gaps, bunting -- he could evolve into a pretty good leadoff type. Right now, except for the pure speed and the plus defense, everything else is a projection."

Watch out AL Central! The Twins have cornered the market on the Alex Sanchez/Joey Gaithwright clones! Can you hear the Tigers shaking in their shoes as they pony up the cash for yet another blue chip that falls to them because they're willing to invest a little money on someone with "signability" concerns. Here's what Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein had to say about the prospect that fell to the Tigers at 27th overall who BP had ranked second in the entire draft class:

"Porcello has a big, projectable frame, touches 98 and sits in mid-90s; excellent arm action in terms of both speed and smoothness; mature changeup for age; excellent athlete who fields position very well."

For all his "signability" concerns, I doubt Porcello's bonus comes out costing much more than the Twins paid for a month's worth of good starts from Ramon Ortiz. I can't fault the Twins for not taking Porcello, because the Tigers picked before the Twins did and MLB does not allow teams to trade draft picks, but I can get up on my soapbox and scream to the heavens that this is the kind of pick that the Twins should be making. Kevin Goldstein on the Tigers' scouting director David Chadd:

"Scouting director David Chadd loves pitchers with Porcello's profile, and he's not afraid to take the best player on the board on worry about money later -- see Verlander, Maybin, Miller in the last three years."

It's days like today that really test my allegiances as a fan. I don't care if the team I root for wins. The players are almost always trying their best, and if a team simply doesn't have the talent to contend that year but everyone goes out and puts up a good fight, that's all anyone can ask. But on an organizational level, when a team shoots itself in the foot, repeatedly, I'm left with one thought: If they're not going to learn from their mistakes, I'd better learn from mine.

I know the Twins have been an awesome team for the past half decade. I don't really care that much. I don't care if they're good. I don't care if they're awful. I just want them to try and be the best they can, at all times. Obviously the team thinks that's what they're doing in drafting slap hitters like Revere and Morales, but I just don't see it.


John said...

Holy moly, step back from the ledge a bit Kyle. I hope this is tongue in cheek. You know this is the MLB draft, not the NFL draft, right? Is this anger about this pick, or is it a projection of anger about the current team?

This guy will be playing for us, at soonest, in 2011. By then, Tyner, Punto and Castillo will all be long gone. Span, judging by his developmental curve, will be too. The Twins might very well be searching for a speedy CF or 2B.

The Twins HAVE developed hitter recently, like the entire middle of their order. That includes a batting champion and an MVP, neither of who will be the No 3 hitter tonight, and all of whom were drafted by this organization. And they’re waiting (and waiting and waiting) on Kubel, too. Has any other major league team drafted/developed hitters like that this decade?

A lot is being made of the 135 rank that Baseball America had of Revere, but the Twins didn’t have another pick until #92 in this draft. The difference between the 50th and the 150th pick in this draft is negligible to begin with. That ranking doesn’t mean the pick would’ve been there. It doesn’t mean he’s worse than the guy at #134. And in the baseball draft, time after time, we’ve seen that it certainly doesn’t mean that he’ll be any worse in the majors than the guy picked at 29.

Listen, I’m frustrated that the Twins don’t have a major league ready power hitter to plug into their lineup in Rochester, too. I’m even more frustrated that they don’t seem to have one who will be any kind of impact before 2009. But this draft wasn’t going to change that, especially when they’re picking #28.

John Sharkey, Esq. said...

I was mildly annoyed by the pick, largely because I'm not much of a fan of the Juan Pierre-types. There were certainly higher-ranked CF still on the board (the guy from Tennessee, for example), but I think it's fairly clear that money was a big factor here.

I don't know if they'll do a Hunter deal or not (I'd like them to, but I would be surprised to see it happen). Even so, the Santana/Mauer/Morneau deals are going to be expensive as hell.

I would have liked Russell there, but if the choice was between a top-30 prospect and a chance to keep the big 3 proven big-leaguers in town, I'll take the latter.

If they don't get those contracts done, on the other hand, I will have some philosophical difficulties...

John said...

I'll raise an issue on the money thing....

This year the Twins:
- raised their payroll $10 million
- didn't sign a left-handed bench guy
- didn't sign a veteran MI
- drafted some guys who should come pretty cheap.
What's more, I've heard Ryan mention that he doesn't have any money left. And when talking about trade deadline deals, he falls back on the old "I can ask for more money if it's the right guy" statement, which seems to mean "I have no damn money".

So are we kidding ourselves when we're wondering if the Twins can trade for a decent bat this year. Is the cupboard bare when it comes to dollars for free agents? Because if that's the case, there is just no way they get a bat.

Kyle Eliason said...

I'm fully aware of the time involved with a prospect becoming ready for the show, and also the higher level of risk in baseball as opposed to other sports.

You point out that the Twins have developed Morneau and Mauer. Mauer was a no brainer, and they did a good job getting Morneau in the third round. Cuddyer was another bat they developed in-house. However, the last three first round position players the Twins drafted?

Moses... bust.
Ploufe... bust.
Span... bust.

I'm fried because its the way the Twins assemble their offense, their organizational philosophy, that leads to things like drafting Revere in the first round.

From a team that uses Jason Tyner as a freakin' DH, this really shouldn't surprise me, but I'm still taken back.

On how many blogs did I read that $3.1 million for Ortiz wasn't a lot of money and its not like the team could get anything of value for that much money anyway, but what is that, mid-first round slot value for a signing bonus?

I could care less about what the Twins have in Rochester right now. It's the kind of players they're targeting for the future that's a clear sign that they don't really know how to construct an offense in the modern era. The front office still thinks its 1968.

I don't care how this draft effects the Twins immediate future. I'm concerned about the general direction the team is being taken in.

How much was spent on Rondell White, Ramon Ortiz, Tony Batista, Juan Castro, Kyle Lohse, and Sidney Ponson over the last two years?

Sure the Twins don't have any money now, but I'd rather have one of Matt Harvey, Corey Brown, Josh Smoker, Kyle Russell, Kyle Blair, or Andrew Brackman than any of what we got from the aforementioned wastes of money.

And this isn't hindsight either. Tons of people with half a brain knew that Whitie, Batista, Castro, Ponson, and Lohse were wastes of money and denounced the signings and offerings of arbitration.

If you're a small market team with limited resources you need to use them wisely. Bringing in a 34 year-old who gave up more than 30 homeruns in 180 some innings pitching in the cavernous confines of RFK while facing pitchers instead of designated hitters for $3.1 million dollars, if you're the kind of team that can't afford to sign a real, legitimate first round pick, is just plain stupid, and there is no getting around that.

John Sharkey, Esq. said...

I do think your point on the Ponsons and Batistas of the world are spot-on re: signing draftees. Funneling that money down into the player development system would seem to be an ideal allocation of resources for a smaller-budget team. Spending the cash on veterans may be a safer bet on the whole, but not when it's used for the kinds of vets the team has been bringing in.

Anonymous said...

When people say, "we should have taken ______" I just remember that many of the local scribes and wags wondered if the Twins made a mistake in signing hometown boy Mauer over certain sure thing Mark Prior.

Now I'll admit that had Prior been in the Twins system he might not be looking at the end of a very short career. But we'll never know will we.

Today we all agree that Mauer was a no-brainer after last year and the batting title and all that. How many people felt that way in April of 2004 when Mauer was on the DL and Prior was coming off a big season for the Cubs?

Kyle Eliason said...

If the Twins had taken Prior they might have another World Series banner hanging in the rafters right now. I don't know that any team would have beaten the Twins in a seven game series in the 2003 playoffs having to face Santana and Prior four times in any seven game series.

Regardless, Revere is only a first rounder because the Twins were poor and foolish enough to take him too early.

Anonymous said...

So let see:

Slap hitter one: Revere is tearing up the midwest league>

"Slap hitter" two Morales: Has four home runs at Elzabethton, tied for sixth in the league and is hitting in the nieghborhood of .350.

And that "bust", Span is going pretty well in the big leagues right now.

And that team that just can't develop hittes is 4th in the big leagues in runs scored with Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, and now Span being home grown contributors

At what point does the blogsphere admit it doesn't really know what its talking about? Anyone who starts quoting Baseball Prospectus ought to be ignored. Those guys are mostly clueless.