Down: Last Year’s Top Picks

Our astute reader Jonathan noted the following about our recent mock draft at Rotographs:

Zim bought in quite a bit on down seasons 2-5

Yes, Jonathan, you are right. After gladly grabbing Cano with the 7th over all pick, I took the following down picks:

2nd Round: Hanley Ramirez
3rd Round: Justin Upton
4th Round: Adrian Gonzalez
5th Round: Jacoby Ellsbury

I decided to party like it was 2012 all over again by trying to balance down side with the hopes of huge gains.

By comparing at 3 expert mock drafts from last year, here is where my 2nd to 5th round picks averaged being taken in the previous drafts:

Name: Average Draft Position
Upton: 8.3
Gonzalez: 10.3
Ellsbury: 11.0
Ramirez: 16.3

While I wasn’t at all considering last year’s rankings, I do see promise in each of these players for the following reasons.

Hanley Ramirez – The Ramirez pick happened for a couple of reasons. First, I had him in the top group of SS. With Tulowitzki and Reyes already off the board, it was a chance to still get a top SS. I took him over Castro for the added position flexibility for being qualified at SS and 3B.

While his 2012 season may have seemed a disappointment, he did come in 4th in our end of season shortstop rankings. While strikeouts are causing his AVG to drop, I will take the 20+ HR and SB for the SS position everyday. Also, his counting numbers will get a boost by being a part of the the Dodgers lineup.

Justin Upton – With Upton, I am taking the chance on some research I did for FG+ last season. I looked at players who played through injuries in one season and how they performed compared to their projections in the next season. Of the players I highlighted in the article, their SLG averaged being 50 points higher than their ZIPs projection. Upton played through 2012 with an injured thumb which probably caused the huge drop in power from 2011

Season: ISO. Average FB and HR Distance
2011: .240, 300 ft
2012: .150, 287 ft

I am taking a chance he was able to rest and heal the thumb and will be back to hitting like he did in 2011.

Adrian Gonzalez – Gonzalez’s stock has fallen, but it doesn’t mean he is completely useless. He ended up 10th in value at the end of 2012 among 1B and was within $2 of being 6th.

The one item everyone points out as a cause for his demise is his declining walk rate since 2010:

2010: 13.4%
2011: 10.3%
2012: 6.1%

The key to looking at those walk numbers is to take away the intentional walks and the intentional non-intentional walks (pitching around a hitter).

Season: NIBB%, INIBB%
2010: 8.4%, 6.9%
2011: 7.6%, 7.0%
2012: 5.4%, 5.5%

While the rate is down, it only drops around 1.5% instead of 3% once the completely free passes are taken into account.

Like Ramirez, I like the Dodgers offense and expect him to get a good number of counting stats.

Jacoby Ellsbury – I loved Ellsbury coming into 2012 and he reverted to is old injury prone self by losing time to a shoulder, wrist, and lat injury. This pick is based off of him being staying healthy, which is a big if. I could end up with top 10 talent in the 5th round or nothing. I believe the talent, besides health, is in his body. Just like Upton, he played through some injuries and really didn’t perform up to his talent in the second half of the season.

With my 2nd round to 5th round pick, I took some calculated chances. I believe the picks’ upside is worth it to me and I continued to take chances later in the draft. I could be right or wrong. It doesn’t really matter until the drafts start to get real in a couple of months.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

15 Responses to “Down: Last Year’s Top Picks”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    How can you possibly calculate INIBB%?

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  2. Vic says:

    What do you think the best possible stat line for Hanley could be?

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    • Jim says:

      .320/.410/.550, 35 HR, 45 SB, 130 R, 110 RBI.

      Not that I think that’s particularly likely, but I think that’s the best possible for him. If I had to guess a likely line for him, I’d go:

      .280/.330/.450, 25 HR, 20 SB, 90 R, 80 RBI

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  3. JonathanAicardi says:

    Thanks for the nod Zim. It’s an observation lacking any conclusion since it’s difficult to predict which players were “bought low” vs. being trapped by a legitimate decline in skills. In that ilk, the Upton pick looks pretty good based the injury you mentioned: career low flyball rate, low-end HR/FB rate and perhaps more importantly, performance trend vs time from the injury. Both of those skills seemed to come together by the end of the year (the production followed) and my guess is he’ll be back to his studly self in 2013. But even hurt, he still managed a near 20-20 with 100 runs and a .280 avg. If that’s a floor, you could do much worse in the mid-3rd round.

    Conversely, Adrian Gonzalez would concern me a lot more. His walk rate is less alarming than his fly-ball and HR/FB rates, which have been trending in the wrong direction steadily for a few years now. Some of that has gone to LD’s, which keeps his avg up, but now he’s playing in a park and a division where the few FB’s he does hit are more likely to be swallowed. That’s not to say these things can’t normalize to some degree, just that at 31, they’re less likely to than if he were 26, and you just don’t get rewarded for doubles in roto. He’s got a great line-up and he’s back in the NL where he was last a 40-HR guy, but that’s asking a lot to go right circumstantially, especially with Felix still on the board. I don’t know that A-Gon will be that much better than reasonable facsimiles like Konerko, Hart, LaRoche, Freeman and Craig, all of whom you’re looking at maybe 2-4 rounds later.

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  4. JonathanAicardi says:

    Hanley seems to be getting more aggressive out of the zone and is increasing his K rate little by little, so even if his contact rates aren’t seeing a huge drop it appears his selection has changed and led to more GB’s. That’s a problem because his high BABIPs from his heyday seemed to be tied to his ability to leg out groundball hits. That has dropped back to around league avg the last two years and I don’t think he’ll ever again hit .300+ unless something else changes.

    Still, the power’s there and he yet manages a solid # of steals. I can see a bump in runs scored and close to another 20/20 campaign, leading to something like 95/23/85/18/.265 (I expect him to run less in that lineup). As Zim alluded to earlier, what’s propping him up is the sheer putridity of your avg qualifying SS: 75/13/61/16/.270 in 2012.

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  5. Dave says:

    Hanley Ramirez over Castro is gonna look silly in hindsight.

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  6. dscott says:

    I have Castro over Hanley as well this year, even if the Cubs lineup makes you cringe…Castro’s a legitimate 300 hitter even if last year was a down year, and I’m still waiting for him to mature into a 20-30 HR hitter.

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  7. Donald Trump says:

    it would be very interesting to see a study of how this worked in the past, i.e. consensus top 20 picks one year who had dropped out of the consensus top twenty the following year… did they outperform their projection that year?

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  8. Tom B says:

    JUpton has been injured to close out the last three seasons. It’s not a matter of overcoming injury with him, it’s genetic. Those Uptons are frail boys.

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  9. scott says:

    i wouldnt go near hanley. he will be useful i just dont think he justifies his draft spot. not the player he was even in a better lineup. If you miss out on tulo reyes i think its smart to give up hope of having a top ss and just draft a stud at a diff pos.

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  10. Sterling says:

    I wouldn’t consider Ellsbury injury prone. He has lost the most time to injuries that others have cause. How often does a SS fall on top of a baserunner turning a double play and separate the runner’s shoulder? How often does a 3B headbutt an outfielder so hard it breaks his ribs off his spine? If these were nagging leg injuries, then I’d bail. I don’t think you’ll see Ellsbury slip anywhere near the 5th round in a draft held in New England.

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  11. rotobanter says:

    This was my other strategy – go in on guys like this and include other injury concerning options like Tulowitski, Longoria & Bautista. I thought my draft was going to look like: (1)Braun/Miggy/Trout, (2)Tulowitski/Longoria, (3)Longoria/Bautista, (4)Adrian, (5)Ellsbury – kind of what i was hoping for (all in strategy).

    I said “other” strategy because in our 2013 Slow Mock Draft, i wound up with an early pick (#2 overall so i went with Braun) and landed on Kershaw late in round 2 and Strasburg early in round 3 as well as Kimbrell early in round 5. I never go SP or RP this early, but realized aces like Kershaw, Verlander and more IP from Strasburg will wind up with top 5-10 value again and again while all these other guys are questions marks in one way or another.

    I think others had the same idea as me because Tulowitski, Longoria, Adrian, Bautista & JUpton (in this order)all went in rounds 1-2 before i landed Kershaw at 2.11.

    Nice strategy JZimm – your my Jordan Zimmerman of FB-related content.

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  12. rotobanter says:

    Sorry – Jordan Zimmermann

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