Sometimes, the main point of my article is something that happened in a ballgame. Other times, the important part is being able to rant/vent about something. On occasion, I want to clarify something that's driving me into one of those backwards jackets. Today, it's about an overly-used lazy term that needs to be exposed for what it really is. Referring to the major league draft as a crapshoot really needs to stop, as it's a terrible analogy.
If you've read much of my draft analysis, you've probably noticed I abhor referring to the draft as a crapshoot. I have a string of reasons, but my main problem is it's a terrible comp. When I go to a minor-league game, it's often accompanied with a trip to a casino. As it happens, many minor league venues are located near gaming facilities. As playing craps is one of my dad's favorites, I end up being a railbird on occasion.
To be clear, craps does have strategy. If you know what you're doing, you can trim the house's 'rake' to about as close to zero as with any table game. Blackjack is the other main table game my dad plays, and that isn't too bad either. However, the house will win at both. Table games and slot machines, while fun for many, are designed for the facility to make money pennies at a time.
Nobody ever compares the draft to Baccarat, roulette, or keno. These are all games of chance, as with craps. However, none of these games get comped to selecting amateur baseball talent. I think blackjack would be a better comp, as knowledge of the basics help even the odds to a large extent. But, only to an extent where the return on a dollar investment is probably under a dollar.
For those of you who are too young to grasp gambling (yeah, kid, I heard you laugh uproariously), the premise of craps is throwing dice a rather lengthy distance, and gambling on the resultant throw. In many cases, you don't get to roll the dice. In almost every case over the long haul, the return on investment is, still, under a dollar. If you play long enough, you can burn through any amount of money playing craps. The only way you can influence the dice roll (especially when someone else is tossing them) is if you have an advanced level of Telekinesis.
You can wager on the number to be thrown, and you're hoping your number comes through before the table game version of Press Your Luck's whammy. However, with any table game, the ROI tends to be less than the dollar invested.
However, in the MLB draft, a front office has to be really bad to get less than what was invested over a few year period. Assuming that a team has a $5 million draft budget, if they get three wins above replacement from a guy in a season, that's a solid return on investment. Especially since some players that are drafted might be traded before (or instead of) reaching the majors. These players, like the Cubs' Tyler Bremer (traded in a pair of prospects for Jacob Turner), serve their purpose even if they never sniff the fields with upper decks.
Not only should a club make a change in its front office if they have a couple bad drafts in a row, that team should change things if they're bad in a region. If their guy in Pennsylvania is not bringing results, he should be either replaced or his staff. should be upgraded The league has clamped down on draft spending. In part, that is due to the MLBPA wanting more money spent on veterans. However, some it is because some teams don't want to spend much on the draft. Instead of ramping up their own efficiency, they want to limit the benefit gleaned from being good in the draft.
Not something that usually happens at the craps table. At the craps table, if the guy in the Blackhawks shirsey is winning us all money, I really don't care why he's getting it done. But if a couple owners have front offices that are getting $1.47 instead of $1.03 from their draft dollar, somebody's going to see it as a negative. And push for a change in the CBA in the name of equality.
Enough of gambling and analogies, now, it's time to look at the inexact science of player evaluation. Over the weekend, I watched a bit of the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss series. Vandy righthander Carson Fulmer was throwing mid-to-high 90s gas by people, and I came away unimpressed. His off-speed stuff seems pedestrian. He seems like a closer, albeit a good one. He's not enough to take at nine.
However, Kyle Funkhouser might be. The right-hander from Louisville has had on-again off-again command. The command is on now, and he is positioning himself to be gone before nine. He has mid-to-high 90s stuff, and has secondaries.
Ashe Russell is trying to make a believer out of me. The prep from Indianapolis (I should figure out where Cathedral High is in Indiana.) has three legit pitches, including a change. He has "if Team Theo goes prep arm, take him" written all over him. He was clocked at 97 this week.
The two question marks in the draft are prep Kolby Allard and college arm Brady Aiken. Aiken's story is well-chronicled, but Allard is probably the best high school arm. He will all-but-miss his senior season with a bad back. While those two are rather big gambles, the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox love high end selections. If you want the Cubs to get either, hope one of them strays from these two. Both fit their histories. So would California's Justin Hooper, a lefty from high school in California that's been clocked at 97.
I'm going with a bit of a top eight. These are guys that would be reasonable picks at nine for slotted value, or slightly over. They might be in a bit of an order, but don't read anything too official into the list.
1. Brendan Rodgers, SS HS (FL)
2. Dillon Tate, RHP UC Santa Barbara
3. Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia
4. Dansby Swanson, SS Vanderbilt
5. Alex Bregman, 2B-SS LSU
6. Ashe Russell, RHP HS (IN)
7. Ian Happ, 2B-OF Cincinnati
8. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville
Outside looking in
Justin Hooper, LHP HS (CA)
Colby Allard, LHP HS (CA)
Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy