Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boz Calls for the Nationals to Draft Chipper Jones

Boz has a column this morning, which you probably already read, which argues that it's always a mistake to draft a pitcher with the first pick in the draft, and that the Nationals should consider passing on Strasburg over signability.

He's right of course that the track record for pitchers taken number one is not as good as for position players. If you could choose between a consensus top position player and a consensus top pitcher, I think we'd all agree that you'd be safer and happier with the consensus top position player, if nothing else because of the injury factor.

But the obvious point that he's missing is that we're not drafting number one in a year in which an Alex Rodriguez or a Chipper Jones or a Ken Griffey is on the board. Just because you take a hitter #1 doesn't mean he's going to be a star. If you reach for a guy who isn't really a #1 talent, you get Matt Bush. Regardless, there's no ARod on the board--not even close.

The consensus top talent in the draft by far going away is Strasburg, a guy who is seriously being discussed by serious, smart baseball people as perhaps the best pitching prospect ever.

To pass on the best player available--to pass on this best player available--over either fear of pitchers or fear of Boras would be a disastrous debacle. This would be Matt Bush, Daniel Moskos, and Brian Bullington rolled into one times ten.

Also, consider this: the 2009 draft is shaping up as an overwhelmingly pitching-heavy draft at the top. If you follow Boz's admonition to avoid a pitcher at #1, you aren't only skipping the consensus #1, you are also skipping the current consensus #2, North Carolina right-hander Alex White. So, looking at Baseball America's top 100 draft prospect list, that leaves you with USC SS Grant Green, UNC 1B/OF Dustin Ackley, or Cartersville (GA) High School OF Donovan Tate. Good players, but not special, #1 pick type talents.

Oh, but then there's one other problem: Ackley, Green, and Tate are all Boras clients. So I guess according to Boz we can't take them either. After these three, the next seven prospects are all pitchers--11 of 14 top prospects on the board.

To find a hitter not represented by Scott Boras you have to drop all the way to Luke Bailey, the high school catcher out of Georgia. That's not what you should be rooting for Boz.

One last point: as Keith Law pointed out on the Baseball Think Factory chat, it's a myth that Boras clients don't sign:
The vast majority of Boras clients taken in the first round sign. Only one of five didn't last year, and that wasn't over money but over the kid's desire to go to school (or just his flaky makeup, depending on whom you ask). The year before, there were four, and they all signed. In 2006, I count three, and all signed.
Mark it down: if the Nationals draft Strasburg and fail to sign him, it'll be on the Nationals, not Boras.

16 comments:

estuartj said...

I think you take Strasburg regarless of how signable you think he is. If you don't draft him you can't sign him, that part is obvious. If you do draft him and you can't sign him you get the 2nd pick in 2010 which isn't chicken feed (and isn't an instant 20 game winner either).

If he doens't sign you have shown every agent and player in the world that your organization is not to be screwed with in the draft. You would also get some good PR among GMs and Owners for standing up to Boras (and protecting the slot system?) that might help down the road with trades (if Jim Bowden hurt this must help, right?).

In the end I think Boras is a pro and doesn't want Strasburg back at SDSU or in Japan, he wants him in the big and hitting FA in 6 years. I think a 6 year deal for 20-25 mil gets that done, or does it?

estuartj said...

I forgot to add that the good PR among GMs and Owners will not come close to the grief you'll get from fans and commentators for failing to sign your #1 two years in a row, but you have to take the bad with the good...

Peter said...

Boz's points are well taken, but I disagree with him as well. You don't cast aside a once in a generation player called by one scout the "best prospect ever" because his agent is a meanie and he wants a lot of money. The Nats are already behind the eight ball when it comes to pitching prospects. If the Nats fail to draft and sign Strasburg this year, a year removed from failing to sign Crow, I will really start the doubt of the ability of Kasten et. al. to build a team.

Steve Shoup said...

Peter, Boz doesn't really take Boras to school in the article. He talks about investing that much money into a player where history tells you, that you won't get a good return. He doesn't say avoid Boras clients either, he just talks about him being a good negotiator and a tough guy at the table. In fact Boz reccomends going over slot...just not by over $40 million. I think this will get done and is just BS posturing. Look for a 4 year $15-17 million dollar deal. That way Strasburg can make $17-20 million (maybe even more) in his last two years of arbitration. The total may come close to 6 years $50 million but it will be based on performance and nothing else.

Steve Shoup said...

While Boz's point was sobering it shouldn't make us completely turn away from Strasburg. So history tells us that taking a pitcher number 1 overall doesn't lead to success well history also told us that the Red Sox and White Sox couldn't win a WS, or any team from Philly could win a Championship. History also told us that the 4 number 1 seeds never make the Final Four (happened last year) and the top 3 seeds in each region will never make the Sweet 16. History can change.

Now i'm not saying Boz is wrong. He is right, hitters are much safer picks, guys like Green and Ackley (the two best college hitters in the draft) are probably more likely to have a ML career. But if Strasburg stays healthy than he could be as good as Randy Johson (different pitcher but best hard thrower who wasn't on roids). A bigger point to Boz's article that most people have seemed to miss is him talking about the amount of money that Boras is asking for...b/c like he said even the best pitchers usually have a few bad to average years when they come up. Since 1989 only 9 of the 40 Rookies of the Year have been pitchers and 2 of those were Japanese imports who weren't really "rookies", 3 others were closers which is a much less valuable position than a SP. We shouldn't be paying millions of dollars a year for those first three years esp. if he won't be that effective.

Reposting what I wrote on NJ, b/c for some reason I lost my original post for this site.

phil dunton said...

Bos is right. Let's face the facts, pitchers are just to damn risky. If the Nats draft Strasburg, he will be having Tommy John surgery within the first two years. Then he will morph into a Ryan Wagner.

estuartj said...

So much of this depends on information we just don't have access to, what does the club project revenue to be over the next 3-6 years? What do they project the value of a starting pitcher to be? Do they project Strasburg to be an immediate starter or do they anticipate him needing at least some time in the minors?

There are still many questions about Strasburg's talent, for all the "he's better than Burnett" talk we don't know how his throwing ability will translate to the bigs, he can make college guys look silly, but can he miss bats as well in the bigs, and if we HAVE to start him in the bigs starting in '09 because he's making $8.3mil a year how does that affect his long term ability to be successful?

MRMonagle said...

As a Mariners fan, it is my #1 hope in this world that the Nationals pass on Strasburg for some strange reason. So I absolutely, 100% agree with Boz....

... in so far as I don't. The issue he's not really addressing is that there are good major-league pitchers who could have gone 1st overall, but didn't for signability reasons.

Just look at the aforementioned Matt Bush pick. Justin Verlander was taken second overall, and obviously could have been a #1 if San Diego hadn't been skimping on the dollar signs. Plus, I don't think we'll have anything bad to say about David Price in a couple of years (provided he stays healthy, which, of course, TINSTAAPP).

Scouting, training, and player evaluation are better than they were a few years ago. I don't think you can honestly compare Brien Taylor to Stephen Strasburg, unless it's to say, "That Brien Taylor, he's no Stephen Strasburg."

(Just stumbled upon this website - congrats, you're now my Nationals bookmark!)

John said...

The Nats have to take Strasburg- this should not even be a question at this point. With as many blunders as this ownership group (I can't blame the front office now that JimBo's gone) has made since taking control of the team, I don't see how they can pass on the consensus top pick, who has been lauded as the best prospect ever. A pitching prospect is riskier than a hitting prospect: but as Steven points out, it's not like there is a comparable, once in a generation, stand-out hitting prospect available. It's Strasburg or bust.

redcottageaudio said...

Let's not get over excited about "best pick ever". It was said by one scout.

Steven said...

Boz's position seems to be that the Nationals should pass on Strasburg and draft Ken Griffey. It's an absurd position. He needs to make the case for Donovan Tate or Grant Green or whoever he thinks is a better pick. Just arguing that Strasburg isn't good enough without any consideration of the alternatives isn't an intelligent analysis.

redcottageaudio said...

Well, I think it's more that if they have a budget (and I'm sure the Lerners do), can they get Strasburg within that budget. I'm sure the budget takes into account the that pitchers are a huge risk, and that he is a special talent sitting above a lot of not special talents.

So then the discussion becomes do we sign him for money that makes him a bad risk, get an extra pick next year or play it safe with a sub-standard pick.

A discussion Boz didn't have.

John said...

I may be overstating the case for Strasburg a bit, but my point is simply this: passing on a talent like Strasburg just because he is a pitcher, without a hitting prospect of similar potential available, would be a mistake. He is the best prospect available, by far, in this year's draft and the Nats have to take him.

Steven said...

If they don't have a "budget" to draft and sign the best player available the year after losing 102 games, then they have no business owning a major league baseball team.

redcottageaudio said...

Right, but the negotiations may leave us signing a contract that ultimately is unwise.

We need a blue chip prospect in the worst way so I think we will have to over pay but. I was saying that whether or not you draft Strasburg is more a question of debating how badly will you have to overpay for him, and at what point do you walk away based on money.

That is the debate Boz should have examined.

Steven said...

Well, and then I also would challenge the notion of what's "overpaying." The draft forces players into a negotiating posture where they have two choices: take what the team offers or find another line of work for a year. If they were allowed to market their talent to the highest bidder the way you would if you were a law school grad or business school grad or a 23 year old in pretty much any other line of work, I assure you he'd get multiple times more than slot. 6 years and $50 million might be the low end of his true market value.