While it has absolutely zero bearing on actual baseball, ESPN’s fifth annual Franchise Player Draft is a fun precursor to the first-year player draft. From former players like Mark Mulder, Curt Schilling, and Aaron Boone to experts like Jayson Stark and Buster Olney, and even Chicago guys like Jesse Rogers and Doug Padilla, the experts will select players around whom to build their team.
Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, and Felix Hernandez came off the board first, but Cubs fans will be happy to know that Anthony Rizzo was chosen 5th by genius blogger and beer aficionado Eno Sarris, who said of his pick:
This high in the draft, there’s no reason to reach for “coulds” or “maybes” when there’s a pre-peak stud that would fit in the middle of any lineup sitting right there for the taking. Among guys younger than 26, only Mike Trout has put up more wins above replacement since the beginning of 2014. The Chicago first baseman combines the ability to make contact with great power — nobody else has struck out less than 12 percent of the time this season and showed anywhere near as much sock. Of course, he leads the league in hit by pitches, and that could manifest itself in some injuries, but why worry about that now? Just enjoy the smiles, the walks and all of the homers instead.
There’s also a pretty cool little factoid from ESPN Stats & Info to chew on:
Rizzo is fourth in the majors with a 1.016 OPS. The Cubs have never had a player aged 25 or younger finish with an OPS over 1.000 in the modern era. In fact, he already has the fifth-best OPS in a single season by any Cub aged 25 or younger (.913 in 2014).
Manny Machado was the next name chosen, after which ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick chose Kris Bryant, who he hadn’t thought would still be available at that point. Crasnick explained his choice thusly:
I was pleasantly surprised to find Kris Bryant still available in the No. 7 spot. We’re talking about a kid who is 23 years old with extraordinary power (only Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper are in the same stratosphere among young players). And he hit .327 with a .426 OBP in the minors, so he’s more than just a masher. By all accounts, he’s a good person, a terrific teammate and a diligent worker, so I know I’m going to be able to plug him into the middle of my order at third base for the next 15 years and watch him dent scoreboards, drive in runs and sell a lot of tickets. I definitely hit the jackpot with this guy.
I know I said earlier that this has no bearing on the real-life version of the game, but think about this: when asked to select a franchise cornerstone, two of the first seven experts chose Cubs players. As of press time, Yasiel Puig (8) and Clayton Kershaw (10) were the only other pair of teammates* selected.
He’s worth every penny, but Clayton Kershaw’s $215 million contract is roughly 4.5 times the amount the Cubs have committed to Rizzo and Bryant combined. Add in Puig’s $42 million pact and you’ve got an even stronger argument that the Cubs’ duo is a far better value. Oh, it’s also younger (Puig is 24 and Kershaw 27 while Rizzo is 25 and Bryant 23).
So while the draft itself is insignificant, its results are quite telling. It’s hard to keep a focus on the big picture when you’re going through the emotions of each individual game, but when you sit back and consider that the Cubs could have two of the top seven players in all of baseball — and at a very low cost, no less — you should feel pretty darn good.
You can follow the draft live and see all the analysis as it continues until about 2:30 EST.
*Bryce Harper (2) and Max Scherzer (12) became the 3rd pair of teammates taken
In a huge surprise, ESPN Chicago’s White Sox beat writer Doug Padilla selected Chris Sale 20th. Cubs beat man Jesse Rogers took, you guessed it, Addison Russell with the 21st pick, giving the Cubs the second trio of teammates (the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson was taken 17th by Tristan Cockcroft).