Draft Analysis by J. Russell PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sam Kossoff   
Friday, 27 May 2016 15:46

Ted Simmons is a great first pick. He will come in to the league as a really good hitter who will develop more power and eye while his contact drops a little. He's an average defensive catcher, and that is more than acceptable with his bat. He'll be an All Star for years to come and could find himself in the HOF one day.

Larry Hisle to the Cardinals at #2. Cards are still trying to find their mojo as they haven't won the division since '58. That's nine years in a row finishing at least 12 games out of first. There isn't much help on the farm right now either. This was a year they really could have used a great pitcher at the top of the draft, and I kind of expected them to go for Messersmith. They decided to go with another outfielder in Hisle. He will step in as one of their top three or four hitters and their probably starting right fielder.

So, last year the Pittsburgh Pirates tied for second in the NL in runs scored and finished dead last in runs allowed. Surely, if anybody needs more pitching, it is the Pirates. However, when you look at their top three starters, you have Sam McDowell, Steve Carlton, and Tom Seaver. All of them are still on track to be just as good as you'd expect. As a result, they should have the most devastating rotation in the league very soon. It drops off after that, but it is a great start. Their offense was carried last year by Rico Carty and Paul Smith. They let Smith go and extended Carty's contract. Going into next season, the offense looks like it needs help, and they certainly picked up that help in the draft with power hitting catcher, Koichi Tabuchi. He's also an excellent defender, but he may not be major league ready unless the Pirates are willing to take a chance. Considering the fact that they have nothing currently at catcher, it seems likely that he will be a big leaguer out of the chute.

Last year's Orioles finished second to last in the AL in both offense and defense, meaning they need help everywhere. They have an aging pitching staff behind young Nolan Ryan who is still coming in to his own. They've also got a handful of good, young hitters including Dick Allen, Tony Conigliaro, Sachio Kinugasa, and Bobby Murcer. Really, this draft pick needed to be about just picking the best player available, regardless of position. They are probably a year or two away from really contending yet. They went with five-tool player Bobby Bonds who should step right in as an all-around producer who could contend for Gold Gloves in the corner positions as well as home run and steals titles.

The Detroit Tigers really need help all over the field. They've got second-year Reggie Jackson who is still coming in to his own and some solid starting pitching. After that, things are a bit shaky. They picked Al Oliver with their first round pick, and he will step right in and join Reggie in the middle of their order. Was he the best player available? In this draft, with so much depth among guys who are of relatively equal value, it is hard to say. I honestly thought they would go with third baseman Bill Melton, just because they have some decent outfielders and could use the help in the infield. Still, it is not a bad pick, and he should help them out quite a bit.

Cleveland is another team who had an exceptional offense last year, leading the AL in runs per game, but an horrific pitching staff, finishing last in the AL in ERA. They were also last in BABIP, indicating major defensive challenges. Coming into 1968, they still have the Might Oh and the rising Peter Edward Rose. It falls off a bit after that with a couple of nice catchers in Duane Josephson and Manny Sanguillen and a man without a position in Cesar Gutierrez whose poor error rates make him a bit of a liability in spite of his other defensive skills. There could be a reversal for them this year as their pitching may be better than their lineup with Fred Newman, Luis Tiant, Jim Britton, and Juan Pizarro making a solid rotation.

So, with their first round pick, they went with offense in
Richie Hebner who may step into the lineup as their starting third baseman. Unfortunately, The Gravedigger is one of those guys with more ability now than later. As such, the Indians will have to hope they can strike in the next year or two and hope that he holds up. In my opinion, they might have been better off going with Bill Melton or Rick Renick if they were looking for an infielder, but Hebner should be very good this year.

The Yankees were pretty much the exact opposite of the Indians last year. They had very good performances from all five starters and finished second in pitching in the AL. The offense was a mess, though, and they got their best season from a 35-year old Mickey Mantle. Going into next year, it looks like Mantle is still their top hitter.

That is until they picked up Big John Mayberry in the draft. He is an immediate MVP candidate as a rookie and will be a huge run producer. Unfortunately, he is going to drop. He will remain a big power threat for a long time, but the rest of his game is going to fall off, presumably due to weight issues. However, for this season, he's a stud, and this owner is not happy about seeing him in my division.

Atlanta is in an interesting spot. They went unmanaged the first half of the season last year due to technical difficulties and looked like the worst team in baseball. They were 23-55 in the first half. Then they got some management and went 47-29 in the second half including an 18-4 record in September. On the season, they finished in the bottom half of the NL in both offense and defense but are clearly most in need of offense having only two players finish with an OPS over .750 and nobody over .800.

In the draft, they went with
Hal McRae. It is an interesting choice for first year manager, Joseph Dion. McRae is a stud against lefties, but he is not as strong against righties. He's no slouch, but his production is a little weak there compared so some other players. He still has a little room for growth, though. Defensively, he is no great shakes but isn't going to kill you either. That isn't to say it is a bad pick, because he's still going to hit better than most anybody they have right now. However, there might have been some better choices.

Last season's Twins finished similarly to the Braves in that they were in the bottom half of the league in both pitching and hitting. Coming in to this season, they have some nice pieces on the pitching staff in Pete Richert and Phil Niekro but will be missing Denny McLain for most of the season. They also have a couple of guys in the minors who are ready to help right now on top of some flame throwers in the pen. Offense is probably their biggest need as they fall off fast after Willie McCovey, Carl Yastrzemski, and Ron Santo.

Unfortunately, there was some sort of SNAFU in the front office, and they got auto-picked. As is often the case, they got screwed. It isn't that
Choji Murata is a bad player. He will probably be a serviceable starter. It just was a long way from what they needed. With a good deal of offense available in this draft, they could have shored up that lineup. As it is, they will have to keep looking.

The New York Giants led the NL in offense last year, scoring ten percent more runs than the second place team. Led by Jimmy Wynn, Willie Stargell, and Tony Perez, they look to continue to have a solid offense but definitely look to have some holes to fill. Their pitching was pretty average but still looks good on paper for this year. A sometimes shaky defense might be holding the staff back a bit.

In the draft, they decided to strengthen the lineup and the defense with
Don Money. Even though he has some room to grow, he should step in as the team's starting third baseman and should be solid offensively and very strong defensively.

Last year, the Dodgers had an average offense and an above average pitching staff. However, one of their better starters last year, Woodie Fryman, has lost some of his ability and can't be relied upon. So, the team decided to strengthen their aging rotation with Andy Messersmith. We had been wondering when someone was going to pick Bluto, and the Dodgers pulled the trigger. He will be able to come into the rotation as the #3 or 4 starter behind Masaaki Koyama and Bob Gibson to give the Dodgers a starting staff nobody is really going to want to face.

The World Series champion Cubs felt they needed to strengthen a club that had a great playoff run but an 84-70 regular season record. The Cubs have never been shy about making big trades, and this year was no exception. They traded their entire draft to the Boston Red Sox to move up four spots in the first round. You could make a strong argument that what this team really needed was offense as they finished dead last in the NL in runs, but they went against convention and decided to strengthen their strongest element, the pitching staff. They didn't need starting pitching as they are still very strong there. They felt that their bullpen needed help and picked up Rollie Fingers. He has a chance to be a fantastic reliever for a long time, even though he still has some room to grow. Combined with Lindy McDaniel and whoever doesn't make it into the rotation, Fingers makes them even more formidable. With their offense, they are going to be in some close games, and this should help keep them near the top.

The White Sox of 1967 had a good, all-around offense led by Don Buford and Doug Rader, even if nobody really stood out. Their pitching staff was above average, headed by Milt Pappas and his 21 wins with a strong 21 saves from Fred Gladding. In 1968, they still have a good pitching staff if they are a little shallow in the rotation. They get Kunio Jonouchi back off the DL, and he will help. The offense is likely to be even better as budding superstar Rick Monday is coming in to his own.

That offense was bolstered by the draft of
Merv Rettenmund who could actually vie for an MVP this season as the White Sox's right fielder. Unfortunately, his excellence is likely to be short-lived. The real world Rettenmund was an outstanding hitter until he was about 28 years old when something happened. That is likely to be reflected in his BOY life, but in the meantime, he could easily help get the Sox to the playoffs.

The Phillies find themselves in the unenviable spot of being the lowest drafting team not in the World Series, having lost to the eventual champion Cubs in the playoffs. Their success was carried by their pitching staff who led the NL in pitching with strong performances from Don Drysdale and the rest of the staff. The offense was another story as Al Kaline carried the whole team. At the same time, that team put together an excellent defense leading to an excellent .245 BABIP.

To help address the offensive issues, the team drafted LF
Carlos May who will walk in to the majors as a big-time threat, particularly against right handed pitching. He's not going to do much for you defensively, but he will definitely help them score more runs. If they can keep up the pitching excellence, they have a good chance to win the division yet again.

Last year's AL champions, the Kansas City A's had the best pitching staff and second best offense and defense in the league. That's just craziness. They put together a really strong team and had to be super disappointed at not winning the championship. They come back this year with the same excellent rotation plus Bill Upton blowing hitters away at the end of games. Plus, they only lost one significant bat in Lee Maye. All things considered, there really aren't a lot of holes here, and anything they pick up in the draft is gravy.

Coincidentally, they may be replacing Lee Maye with
Carlos May, who happens to have a brother named Lee. Maye platooned in LF against RHP, and that is exactly Carlos May's strength. He hits LHP well also, just not as well. He is another one of those guys who is better now than he is going to be in the future, but that's okay for a contender like the A's


Finishing up the first round is the Boston Red Sox, who took the A's to seven games in the playoffs last year. They really had a very mediocre team last year, finishing in the middle of the pack in pitching and hitting. They have been cobbling their squad together for years with platoon hitting and pitchers who were just good enough. That was true last year as well as they got 23 wins from surprising Roberto Valdes and 31 homers and 100 RBI from Nate Colbert in the only offensive performance of note. This is a good draft for them, however, as they really need offense, and this draft has plenty of it. That is why they decided to make a big trade with the Cubs to drop down to this spot while picking up the rest of the Cubs's draft.

With this first round pick, the Sox picked the might Samoan,
Tony Solaita, who probably would have been the player they would have chosen even if they hadn't traded down. The lefty-hitting Solaita might possess the biggest power bat in the game before he even steps on the field. He is a classic power hitter, but his OBP shouldn't kill the lineup as he also has a strong eye. The Sox are hoping he can live up to that potential and hoping they can continue to strengthen the offense with all of those extra picks.