I can’t speak for the other writers here, but I can tell you one thing with certainty: I put way too much time into thinking about the FanGraphs Franchise Player Draft. Even though it was a hypothetical draft and merely a fun exercise, I found myself sweating bullets as my turn came around to pick. What’s the best strategy in this sort of draft? Should I go with upside, or with certainty? How much risk is too much risk, and how much is not enough? Gah, so many questions!
As we went through this draft, every one of us writers had to ask ourselves the exact same questions, and judging from the final results, each of us chose to answer them slightly differently. That’s one of the beautiful things in a draft like this: there’s no real “wrong” strategy (outside of selecting Chone Figgins or someone of that nature). Everyone still picked a potential franchise player — it’s just that each person’s pick can tell you a little about themselves if you look closely enough. For instance, I think Cistulli may just be one of those people that goes “All In” and then turns to his table-mate and says, “Now…what game is this again?” Go big or go home — Carson loves prospects and upside, and picking Mike Trout at #3 was living life on the wild side.
So why did I choose Carl Crawford with the #7 pick? I thought this was a potentially controversial pick at the time, but I had a very deliberate, thought-out reason for selecting Crawford. Let me explain.
I had a relatively high pick in this draft — number seven — but it was low enough that all the no-doubters like Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ryan Zimmerman were gone. I found myself trying to choose from between 11 different players, so I chose to go with a very risk-adverse strategy. I figured that if I’m going to build a franchise around one player, I’d better be darn sure that I’m going to be getting someone that will give me great production over the next handful of years.
This strategy meant I put an exceptional amount of stress on two main variables:
How does this player project over the next five seasons? After five years, even our best projection models are all but worthless. Who knows how any player is going to be performing in five years? So much can happen over that time. Players can get injured; players can have their skills atrophy; players can bust out unexpectedly. So instead of banking on someone producing for me for the next ten years, I wanted someone that I knew had a good shot at producing at an elite level over the next five seasons.
How much risk am I taking on? The ideal player would be one with a huge amount of upside, but with a minimal amount of risk. Things aren’t always that easy though, and I decided I was willing to sacrifice some upside in order to take a player with a lower amount of risk.
Is this the best strategy to take? No, probably not. In retrospect, I wish I was slightly more conscious of upside and took on a bit more risk, but it is what it is at this point. In case you’re curious, here’s my thought-process on the other 11 players I considered taking:
• Ryan Braun: He’s a great player and a great hitter, but I couldn’t see taking him at #7. His defense is well below average in left field, and while his offense would still be spectacular at first base, I don’t see why I wouldn’t choose Adrian Gonzalez instead of him — a player that can put up equally good offense while also being an above-average defensive player.
• Jason Heyward: Amazing player, but his constant, nagging injuries really turned me off. It seems like he’s been playing in some sort of pain almost constantly, so it made him a less attractive pick in my mind. How many superstar talents have faded away due to injuries and never reached what we all thought they would?
• Jose Bautista: He’s been flippin’ amazing this year, but how certain are we that he’s going to be this good in two years? He came out of nowhere, so I felt that makes his future career path harder to predict. Brett Boone pops to mind (although obviously he wasn’t this good at his prime), so I wanted someone with a more establish track record.
• Matt Kemp / Jay Bruce: Both were top prospects, took a bit to get going in the majors, and are breaking out this year. I don’t have very well articulated arguments against either of them, except that if I was going to take an outfielder, I felt like there were even better ones to consider than them.
• Hanley Ramirez: One word: defense. If Hanley sticks at shortstop, then he’s a top pick in this draft. But he’s never been a strong defensive shortstop and if he had to move off the position for whatever reason (injury, decline, etc), who knows what you get? He could put up a .400 wOBA, but if he’s only putting up adequate defense at first base or a corner outfield spot, that’s not nearly the same.
• Felix Hernandez / David Price: I could have gone with either, but honestly, I felt like #6 was a bit high to select a pitcher. Also, it’s tough to choose which pitcher to take. If you’re going to take Price, why not Jon Lester? And if you’re talking about Felix, what about Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay? There are too many good options, with so much unpredictability swirling around them all.
• Miguel Cabrera: Again, Miggy is another amazing hitter, but I was turned off by his defense and off-the-field stuff. I hate the idea of drafting an all-hit, poor fielding first baseman, and his repeated problems with alcohol turned me off. I felt like his lifestyle potentially adds a lot of uncertainty in his projections, and it also doesn’t make him an ideal face for a franchise.
• Carl Crawford: He’s currently an elite player — one of the top handful of players in the majors in WAR over the last few years — and he’s in his peak. He’s very well-rounded — great at defense and offense, and he hits for average and a bit of power — and his skill set is one that generally ages well. The only real risk here is his knees, but judging from the info we have available, it seems like a relatively low-risk thing, especially playing on grass.
• Andrew McCutchen: Honestly, I should have picked him; I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t. I passed on McCutchen because I underrated him in the heat of the moment, and I felt like he was essentially a younger, less established version of Crawford. I decided to take my chances with the player that had already reached superstar status, while McCutchen is still approaching that level and still has the potential to be as good as Crawford.
But that’s bad logic for a number of reasons. McCutchen is a center fielder and as long as his defense is good enough for him to stick there — which it seems like it is — his offensive production would be worth much more than Crawford’s over in left field. McCutchen is also more patient than Crawford and is showing like he has real power potential. He’s breaking out this season, and I think it’s a very safe bet that he can be as valuable as Crawford over the next five years. And his upside — oh, his upside is so, so sweet.
Anyway, now is the point where you get to mock me mercilessly. Have at it.