Rebuilding and the Draft, 2012 Edition
You may remember that last year, as the season was opening up, I wrote a post that analyzed the Mariners efforts at rebuilding. In brief, it was depressing. We determined that only two of the four drafts yielded much of anything and what few productive players we had went elsewhere pretty quickly. This year, I’ve decided to bump up the timetable on that a little bit and get it out of the way at the beginning of spring training in light of the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of external acquisitions. Oh sure, you thought that because spring training was starting and we were all starting to think about baseball coming back, you’d be able to get through mostly uplifting and optimistic articles. Not so, suckers.
We’re getting closer in relative terms, but as the old saying goes, old sins cast long shadows. I forget what WAR I was using before, but I’m using FanGraphs now, which I type out partially as an attempt to get myself to remember it next year. Let’s go and become despondent now, shall we?
Graduates: CF Adam Jones (1), LHP Ryan Feierabend (3), LHP Eric O’Flaherty (6)
Yield: 11.8 WAR (-0.1 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Jones, 9.2 WAR (0.1 with Mariners)
The bulk of it, I think I said last year. There were a lot of picks that could have been something but were derailed. This may include Feierabend, who still hasn’t seen major league time since 2008. It depends on how much you think of him. Maybe you don’t think of him. The notion of prospects panning out to nothing is no new revelation in the overall reckoning, even if it seems like more of an array of factors here, but looking over the list again, it’s interesting to me that there aren’t even guys we could have signed that would have done something. Scott Maine, whom we picked up in the 15th round that year and couldn’t come to terms with, has seen twenty total innings with the Cubs and been worth -0.1 WAR. He could yet turn into something, as he’s always run impressive strikeout rates, but his walk rate hovers around four per nine innings and that’s no good. The other guy who made it was Doug Mathis, now with the division-rival Rangers. He’s been worth -0.1 as well, though his skillset doesn’t involve strikeouts. Not having strikeouts as a pitcher is kind of a bummer.
To add a little bit to last year’s commentary, the first “hey, wait a second…” move to me of Zduriencik’s tenure was designating O’Flaherty for assignment, considering that we continue to look for a left-handed reliever in his absence. O’Flaherty probably won’t be as good as last year’s 1.6 WAR going forward (his strand rate was 92.3%! That was third-best among major league relievers!), but he seemed like a neat piece to have around, and a local guy to boot. Perhaps I’m being irrational again. But it does seem that relievers can be a bit of a blind spot for Zduriencik. That Lucas Luetge Rule 5 pick this winter has not made any more sense with time.
Graduates: UT Matt Tuiasosopo (3), C Rob Johnson (4), RHP Mark Lowe (5), CF Michael Saunders (11)
Yield: 1 WAR (0.9 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Lowe, 1.8 WAR (1.5 with Mariners)
Ahahahahahaha…. pfft haha… oh…. mercy. We lost value this year and Tui didn’t even have to play. He’s even gone to the Mets now! Rob Johnson started 67 games for the Padres and was even worse in the NL, which is perplexing. Lowe was actually a positive contributor for the Rangers in limited time, but then Saunders accumulated -0.5 WAR for us as his hitting managed to find a new low (defense was fine though). Saunders is still around, but even considering that, we’re close to that horizon where the players we drafted are no longer generating returns for us. Unless Lowe comes back, or something.
I overlooked it last year, but James Russell, who was pretty well liked as a draft prospect and didn’t come to terms with us because, you know, 37th round and all (we even picked him twenty rounds higher the next season!), went over to the Cubs three years later in the 14th round. He’s had a bit of a dinger problem in the major leagues and could have struck out more guys last year, but he was a close-to-neutral contributor then in spite of all the hits he gave up. Think about this for a moment. I am talking about a player that generated -0.2 WAR last year because in context, it does seem like something worth talking about.
Graduates: C Jeff Clement (1), LHP Justin Thomas (4), RHP Anthony Varvaro (12)
Yield: -0.7 WAR (-0.4 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Thomas, -0.2 WAR (0.0 with Mariners) or Clement, -0.2 WAR (-0.1 with Mariners)
I may have reached that magical point at which I can regard this and merely feel numb. Clement had his injuries and all, but it’s still strange to consider because I don’t know that any of us thought that he pick was going to turn out as bad as it did. He came out of a college program! He had the national home run record for a prep player! Be baffled with me! Hindsight can allow us to moan about “oh, we could have gotten Tulo and we were looking at him but we needed a catcher blah blah blah”, yeah, and Clement batted .275/.370/.497 in Tacoma in 2007. He was hitting .335/.455/.676 there in 2008 in limited time. Moving through the other names, Varvaro helped the Braves last year, but Thomas did not see time with the Pirates after giving up twenty-one hits in 13.0 innings while running a 5/5 K/BB in 2010. His minor league numbers were actually pretty decent that year. Not so much this year.
I can’t really go over this and pick out many names that blossomed as they were drafted again, which is turning out to be a recurring thing. The only one is Lance Lynn who accumulated 0.6 WAR last year in 34.2 innings for those guys that won the World Series. I’d give him good odds at being the most valuable pick we made going forward from that draft. I’ll bet that someone clever is going to swing by and say “If he signed with the Mariners, he never would have made it to the big leagues LOL.” I’ve certainly never heard that one before. You must have many wonderful insights.
Graduates: RHP Brandon Morrow (1), RHP Chris Tillman (2), RHP Nate Adcock (5), C Adam Moore (6), RHP Doug Fister (7), RHP Kam Mickolio (18)
Yield: 18.6 WAR (7.6 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Fister, 8.8 overall (6.4 with Mariners)
Last year, this was the best looking of the Fontaine drafts and this year, hey, it looks even better. And the Mariners will have even less of the overall value from it going forward. Great.
For about three days, that was where my evaluation ended. I don’t rightly know how to extend it because at this stage, the Fister trade looks pretty bad. But there’s a lot that would be hard to evaluate about it in so short a time span and every time I’ve tried to be angry about it, I’ve subsequently felt somewhat dumb. The negative aspects are pretty plain: Wells had vertigo, making evaluation of him tricky; Furbush gave up a lot of pulled contact as Marc and Matthew have discussed; Ruffin, while he has been ranked in the top 10 for a lot of prospectors, is still a reliever and maybe not even the best one in our system; and the line between projecting Francisco Martinez to be a contributor based on his tools and projecting Carlos Triunfel to be a contributor based on his tools is a finer one than I’m really comfortable with. Fister also blossomed into an unusually dominant pitcher and only got better after the trade.
But if I have to turn around and be objective about it, I should probably consider the other side. Wells isn’t always going to have vertigo (I hope?). Furbush has the fastball going for him and it’s not as though the rest of the toolbox is empty. Ruffin has his place in the system and will likely be a big part of a dominant team-controlled bullpen in the near future. And Martinez, well, I’m still less than enthusiastic about that type of player, but last year represented a step forward for him and he hit as many dingers in 33 games in Jackson as he did in 89 games in Lakeland the previous year. I don’t really know if Fister is going to continue to be that awesome, but we may yet get some value out of this thing. I swear I’m not just trying to convince myself of this.
Anyway, going back to the draft itself, much value here, and you can go back to last year’s post to get the bulk of it. It’s just depressing that Moore is the only one left now. I eventually came around to the idea of liking Moore before he got injured, but “extensive tear” in the meniscus is not something I ever want to hear about with a catcher. I don’t blame the M’s for pursuing Jaso and Montero to add depth.
Graduates: 3B Matt Mangini (1s), RHP Shawn Kelley (11)
Yield: -0.2 WAR (-0.2 WAR with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Kelley, 0.0 WAR
The new season means another opportunity to mess around with a year’s worth of selections. Did you know that our 2009 class, which includes Anthony Vasquez, has already been more productive than most of these groups? The book is hardly closed on 2007, after all, Carroll had a .378 wOBA for the Mavericks last season and managed to stay mostly healthy whereas previously it seemed as though he might be confined to a bubble at some point in his career, but there remains a good chance that the only contributors from this class end up being marginal ones. Except for Shawn Kelley, who will always be a major contributor in my fandom.
To go over the broad strokes… Aumont went away in a trade, became a starter and then not a starter again, and still suffers from command issues. Mangini has had injuries, worse plate discipline than expected, and only slugged particularly well in one season (he may be recently out of baseball). Almonte was a boom or bust tools guy that has not been so much on the boom end of the spectrum, except for some dingers and hilarious strikeouts. Carroll has been mostly injured. Gallagher was almost entirely injured. Dunigan has also been boom or bust and, like Johermyn Chavez, provides an interesting test of prospect evaluation. McOwen was looking like a 4th or 5th OF before his shoulder injury. Hill and Hume have both been injured recently. There were a couple of guys that were picked later who seemed like sleepers at the time, such as Colin Buckborough and Brooks Mohr, but both washed out with injuries after a couple of seasons. Various other reliever types who initially looked promising ended up in the Limbo of High Desert and were seldom heard from again. There was also Brodie Downs, who was our Tom Wilhelmsen/Steve Delabar before either of those guys were in the system. I’m not seeing any major missed signings looking over this, since we got Forrest Snow a few years later anyway. Early returns seem unimpressive, and may become “disaster” in time, but there’s a non-zero chance that this isn’t abysmal.
If you’re still with me by now, you might have something of an intellectual pain tolerance which means that you’re okay in my book. To put things quantifiably again, we’re looking at 30.5 total WAR from five years of draft classes and the bulk of that is squarely in two of them. Of that, we could call 7.8 WAR our own, a little over a quarter, which is nowhere near as efficient as some might like. I know I for one would like to see the Mariners play better baseball and make smarter moves. But next year I’ll have the 2008 draft to evaluate too and boy won’t that be fun. Maybe by that time we’ll have had one player from that class to make the majors. It better not be Josh Fields.
Anyway, the basic thrust of this article has been the same as it was the last time I did it. Rebuilding efforts require good young players. Zduriencik had little to work with, and still seems to be trying to build up that foundation. It’s kind of a slog to get through at times, but what we’ve seen so far from him on the draft front has proved more inspired than his predecessors, in a way that talking in relative terms doesn’t seem to do justice without hyperbole. There will eventually come a day when I don’t have to get up and do this because the Mariners won’t suck anymore.