Occasionally, I have a yen for college basketball from the late 1980s and before. Sometimes I run into a gem. Occasionally, favorites disappear. I’m on the hunt for more late 1970s or very early 1980s DePaul games, when Ray Meyer ran the diamond-and-one zone trap most of the time. Here’s why I bring all this up: I recently ran into an early 1980s Duke game, and remembered Gene Banks. Suddenly, my draft prep had a new spirit animal.
Banks was a very good college player in an elite conference. Announcers raved about his intangibles. Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round (28th overall), he started 81 games in his second pro season. After four years with the Spurs, he played for the Bulls for two seasons. Then, he was gone. Banks was the guy the team trusted as a reserve, but he wasn’t purely a power forward or a small forward.
The reason this is all relevant: I began seeking a recent baseball comp for Gene Banks, a guy who was an early draft pick from an elite conference, but for whom it never quite worked out, reaching MLB, but not quite what was desired, all things considered.
Two separate people recommended Eric Sogard, who was a second-rounder in 2007. Selected 81st overall, BBRef has him as a 7.4 WAR player for his MLB career. Frankly, I’d accept that for the Cubs first choice at 21, although over a shorter period. As such, I dismissed the former Arizona State Sun Devil and current Cubs infielder.
The two I selected are likely vaguely familiar to some of you. Deven Marrero was another Sun Devil. Selected 24th overall in 2012, he’s played parts of five seasons in MLB. He might even show up again. His BBRef WAR is -0.2. He wasn’t a horrible selection, as he reached MLB, but he was a bit like Gene Banks. Not terrible, but you’d like more from the 24th overall choice.
Looking for a similar pitcher, Chris Stratton came off the board four spots earlier from Mississippi State. Stratton is still active and has thrown over 300 MLB innings with a negative BBRef value. He seems incredibly Gene Banks. As a team is selecting in the first two rounds, the Gene Banks type represents a bit too much likelihood of being a sub-replacement level type to be selected early. He might be perfectly useful in Round 4, but a bit unnecessary earlier. Between the two Gene Banks candidates? At 22nd overall in 2012?
Of course, the trendy-cool way to assess drafts is the same as it’s always been. Wait five or 15 years, and watch as a player’s career ticks through. If he was a 20 WAR guy, he was a good pick. If he was insignificant, he was a bad pick. Nuance is entirely disregarded. Reasons why players washed out are ignored. If a player got to the upper-minors as a usable piece? Unimportant.
As an example of why that’s absurd, here’s a look at a former Cubs prospect who recently had his MLB debut, and has a first-hit baseball on his mantel: Jason Vosler. A 16th Round pick in 2014 with the Cubs, Vosler fought through to Triple-A with the Cubs in 2018. He hit 23 homers between the two top minor-league levels that season. While he never reached MLB with the Cubs, he was flipped to San Diego in the Rowan Wick trade.
Had Vosler not been traded for Wick, he still would have been a more useful piece than a guy who never reached Advanced-A Ball. Why? Because his success had positioned the Cubs to likely offer him in valid trade discussions. A player who never has a good season? Nobody wants him. The player that excels at levels enough to keep moving up the pipeline is almost certainly more valuable than the player who washes out entirely.
Grabbing a Gene Banks-type along the line is fine. The players in the first three rounds? You’d like them to be more of a threat than Banks was in the NBA. Getting Vosler in the 16th Round was fantastic, and I loved that he notched a hit recently.
Here’s some video and other info about potential top draft picks.
Chase Petty is a first-round name, though perhaps a bit after the Cubs.
Well, not a bad outing for @ChasePetty11 today in New Jersey, huh? No-no, 18 K's, 1 BB. Several scouting directors in attendance. 94-99 mph all day, sat around 95 mph. Solid slider. #MLBDraft— Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayo) April 28, 2021
Jackson Jobe is another prep arm.
Jackson Jobe faced 15 batters tonight. Struck out 15. On 58 pitches. 48 strikes. One 2-ball count. One 3-ball count.— Nathan Rode (@NathanRode) April 30, 2021
That's OK I guess.@PBR_Oklahoma #mlbdraft
Timed this up.
HE DID IT AGAIN! @CadenGrice3 becomes the 15th Tiger in history to hit three home runs in one game!— Clemson Baseball (@ClemsonBaseball) April 30, 2021
This time 474 feet.
B5 || LOU 1, CU 9
Still my first choice. Now with delayed batflip.
Harry Ford is such a savage.pic.twitter.com/NgrB5yJXR1— (@mason_mcrae) April 30, 2021
As I was busy with so many games, all in the evening or night, I missed that Central Michigan’s Jordan Patty pitched a perfect game for Central Michigan. His name was familiar. He was on my Sixth Round Draft list.
⬆️— CMU Baseball (@CMUBaseball) May 1, 2021
Perfection for @Jordanpatty12 at Theunissen ‼️#FireUpChips ⬆️⚾️ || @MACSports pic.twitter.com/9M5Zv7siip
Content is getting a bit less as the minor-league season revs up, but I’ll see about more for next cycle.