I just couldn't believe it when Ken announced he was taking Manny with the 16th pick in the draft. Obviously, he was more willing to host the Winter Meeting in January 2002 than drink from the Spit Cup in 2001.
Seriously. here's the list of guys with more than 100 runs created and 14+ runs created per game in 2000 MLB ... Helton, Delgado, Giambi, and Manny. So it's not like Manny wasn't a great offensive player -- so in this article, I won't even mention how disappointing his SL 2001 was -- and of those 4, Manny's 2-36 defense was comparable to the other good defensive player in the group, Helton, the 1B-4. But while Delgado played 162 and Helton 160 and Giambi 152, Manny played a mere 118 games.
More to the point about Ken's decision, Helton and Delgado were gone, taken with the 4th and 5th picks, but Giambi was available. As were some excellent looking relievers like Derek Lowe and Todd Pearl*, in addition to starters like Darryl Kile and Mike Mussina. Granted, the starters probably weren't all that inviting, and maybe Ken was a little shy about a 2nd round reliever, as he had taken one the year before in Keith Foulke, which may have led to his worst season yet. So maybe in his view, his options were more limited. But consider that Edgardo Alfonzo was also available. It would have been hard for Ken to see that Alfonzo would be the MVP runner-up, but with slim secondbaseman options, and with the very comparable Jeff Kent just taken, Alfonzo had to have been high on Ken's board.
Alfonzo's 8 defensively was better than Ramirez's defense, and Giambi's 1B-3. Other stats pertinent to the discussion for Alfonzo were his 150 games played and his 10.0 rc/g. The rc/g is significantly lower than Manny's 14.3, but is comparable (I think) to Manny in terms of what a replacement 2B-8 would create vs. Alfonzo and what a replacement OF2-36 would create vs. Manny ... and comparable to a replacement level 1B-3 vs. Giambi. Factor into that equation that Manny only plays 72.8% of the time, while Edgardo plays 92.6% (and Giambi 93.8), and the replacement level OF must now be better than average to make up for the time lost.
Ken's 4th outfielder taken was Johnny Damon ... generally a better than average replacement. But we'll talk more about that later.
27.2% of Ken's games, Manny had to sit. In the 42 games on the schedule vs. division rivals Dave and Joe, Ken's most important games on his schedule, Manny would need to sit a little more than 11 of those games to maintain his season play/sit ratio. In the 40 games vs. Greg and I, the teams with the league's best records, where a main cog in the lineup may be needed most, Manny would have to sit nearly 11 of those games. And even if you maintain the proper ratio with Manny throughout the season, sitting him diligently even when he was healthy, in the event of a late-season injury, his J-2 could allow him to miss more games than intended -- which it did for Ken, meaning Manny played just 116 games, or 71.6% or Ken's games -- because J-2s are always hurt longer than J-1s like Giambi and Alfonzo and others who played at least 141 games.
In Manny's favor are the playoff rules regarding J-2 usage. In the first 4 games of a playoff series, Manny betters his regular season play/sit ratio as he and other J-2 players are allowed to play 3 times, or 75% of those games. And in the final 3 of a 7 game series, Manny and other J-2s can play all 3, 100%. For a full 7 game series, this translates to an overall improved percentage of 85.7%.
While these usage rules are favorable to Manny's situation, they also are beneficial to Alfonzo and Giambi, who as J-1s can play every playoff game for their team. Compound that with the fact that if Manny or another J-2 is injured, his injury will generally be for the majority of the series, while the J-1 like Alfonzo or Giambi would usually be hurt for just a fraction of the series. Even if there is no injury, would a team want to sit their main lineup cog, the supposed 16th best player in the league, even a single game in the post-season? Absolutely not.
Whether playoff usage rules help Manny's case or not, it's a subject for further debate. But can a team even think about playoff usage rules when they are taking the 16th pick in the draft? When a team is taking it's best offensive player? When the GM/Owner/Manager is hosting the combined Winter Meeting and first rounds of Draft Day because he had 72 wins the previous season? Well ... maybe, but it would be much more wise to think regular season success first.
Of course, Manny rocked Chris and Greg's world in the playoffs. In any event, Ken followed up the Manny pick by taking Vlad in round 3 and filled out his outfield by the third selection of round 5 when he took Jim Edmonds. Johnny Damon, a 2-28, D32, 17 speed, with 8.1 rc/g was deemed worthy of a 12th round pick, to be used as Manny's most often replacement, as Ken's reserve CF, as one of Ken's best pinch-runners, and used as an occasional DH. I will not suggest that Damon was not worthy of a 12th round pick. But to use Damon for 44 games in the OF replacing Manny, 8 times replacing Vlad, and 10 times in the games Edmonds sits, plus as the CF any time that Edmonds is replaced during a game, plus any time Vlad is replaced, it adds up to almost a half season of using Damon in the OF. As a 2-28, he is a huge defensive liability, and with 8.1 rc/g ... a number that is that high mostly based on his .327 batting average and 46 steals in 55 attempts ... he is best used as something other than a starting OF. And consider that in those 62 starts, Ken's bench becomes much more limited ... in my opinion, this all reinforces that it is difficult to justify Manny's selection so early.
So (I always like asking these types of questions) what could Ken's team have looked like if he took Giambi or Alfonzo instead of Manny? If he took the firstbaseman instead of Manny, he could have passed on Klesko in the 15th (a very good pick, by the way, who performed well for Ken) for a Matt Lawton, who created 8.0 runs/game in MLB, not as good but comparable to Klesko's 8.4. More importantly, Lawton played 156 games ... meaning Giambi and Lawton combined for 308 games at a very high level, while at a slightly higher level, Manny and Klesko combined for 263 games.
If Ken took Alfonzo, he could have passed on the duo of Biggio (16th round) and Vina (25th) and taken an OF plus backup 2B duo of Michael Tucker (8.1 rc/g, 2B-5) and someone like Mark Kotsay (2-37, 6.0 rc/g) or Juan Encarcion (2-35, 5.7 rc/g). Not as appealling as the Giambi-Lawton crew, but look at what Tucker and Alfonzo did in SL 2001:
G PA AB H 2B3B HR TB R RBI SO BBIBBHPSHSFDP AVE OBP SLG PRO ISO SECA TA RC RC/GSBCS SB% EA 150 692 592 209 54 3 34 371 123 102 82 94 2 2 1 3 7 .353 .441 .627 1.068 .274 .438 1.204 171.1 11.7 5 2 71.4 MT 102 322 262 82 19 3 15 152 50 46 51 47 1 12 0 1 4 .313 .438 .580 1.018 .267 .469 1.177 72.0 10.4 8 2 80.0
I am not suggesting Ken or anyone should have foreseen these awesome numbers. But we have to recognize that Edgardo and Tucker were very good players, because bad MLB players don't put up numbers like this in the SL.
My mention of Damon, Klesko, Biggio and Vina aren't a rip on Ken's draft as a whole, just as the pick of Manny doesn't mean Ken on the whole didn't draft well. You don't win the Spit Cup without a great many correct decisions on Draft Day. But, with a decision like taking Manny at 16, you can put yourself in a hole that is hard to rescue yourself from.
Is there a conclusion of great significance to the article? No, I was just trying to examine why a player with a limited ability to contribute would be valued so highly, and to pose questions to consider for future SL drafts. I could have made IRod (5th round, 37th pick, 91 games), or Mark McGwire (5th, 42nd, 89), even Barry Bonds (1st, 6th, 143) the subject of the article instead of Manny. I guess Manny was just the pick that blew me away the most.
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