Redoing the 2001 draft: picks 21-30

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Here’s the third and final segment in the 2001 MLB draft redo. Click for parts one and two.

21. San Francisco Giants
Actual: Brad Hennessey
Redo: Ryan Theriot (78th pick, Cubs)

As sad as it is to say, of the 20 pitchers drafted in the first round in 2001, only five have had better careers than Hennessey, who went 17-23 with a 4.69 ERA in parts of five seasons with San Francisco. The Giants have been hurting in the middle infield for the last five years, so Theriot seems like a nice fit here. Just him being his usual self would have been an upgrade on most of the second basemen and shortstops the Giants have employed since 2007.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks
Actual: Jason Bulger
Redo: Nick Blackburn (857th pick, Twins)

And, with a 4.33 ERA in 125 relief appearances as a major leaguer, Bulger had either the sixth or seventh best career, depending on where one wants to put Jeremy Sowers. Despite a miniscule strikeout rate, Blackburn was an above average starter for the Twins in 2008 and ’09, and it looks like he has a chance to be one again this year. I’m not sure he’d have been quite so good elsewhere — the Twins have rare luck with pitchers like him — but the Diamondbacks have certainly had need for innings eaters.

23. New York Yankees
Actual: John-Ford Griffin
Redo: Noah Lowry (30th pick, Giants)

The Yankees lost their first-round for signing Mike Mussina, but got another pick in return because the Mariners inked Jeff Nelson. They used that on Griffin, a Florida State slugger. He was actually wildly successful in two brief major league stints, going 7-for-23 with two homers, three doubles and nine RBI. Unfortunately, he was a born DH and no one ever thought he was worthy of an extended look. In his place comes Lowry. He was a quality pitcher for just 2 1/2 years before injuries ruined his career, but he could have helped the Yankees in the middle of the decade.

24. Atlanta Braves
Actual: Macay McBride
Redo: Zach Duke (594th pick, Pirates)

McBride didn’t have the arsenal to make it as a starter, but I think he would have ended up as a pretty good reliever if he could have remained healthy. Of course, he didn’t. The Braves get Duke instead. Sure, he’s just 47-73 in his career, but the Braves probably would have gotten more out of him than the Pirates did. And if not, well, it’s not like the Braves are really missing out on anyone else here. The 2001 draft bottomed out awfully quickly.

25. Oakland Athletics
Actual: Bobby Crosby
Redo: Aaron Heilman (18th pick, Mets)

Speaking of bottoming out quickly… Crosby, the 2004 AL Rookie of the Year, was a useful player for just a year and half. Those mid-decade A’s teams had solid bullpens, but someone like Heilman would have helped out quite a bit. He had a 3.27 ERA in 281 innings for the Mets from 2005-07, and perhaps the A’s could have tried him as a starter after trading Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.

26. Oakland Athletics
Actual: Jeremy Bonderman
Redo: Jeff Keppinger (114th pick, Pirates)

The much repeated story is that A’s GM Billy Beane was so upset about the Bonderman pick that he threw a chair. Bonderman was traded to the Tigers just a year later in a three-team deal that sent Ted Lilly from the Yankees to the A’s. Of course, Bonderman is long gone here. There’s really nothing but role players left to give the A’s, but Keppinger is a pretty good one, and he would have been nice to have around to cover for Mark Ellis’ various injuries. He’s a career .284/.338/.392 hitter in 1,824 at-bats.

27. Cleveland Indians
Actual: Alan Horne
Redo: Jim Johnson (143rd pick, Orioles)

Horne went unsigned by the Indians and enjoyed a nice career at Florida before getting picked by the Yankees in the 11th round in 2005. I gave Luke Scott to the Indians with their earlier pick in the first round, so bullpen help seems appropriate here. Maybe the boring name has something to do with it, but Johnson has been one of the game’s more underrated setup men. Throwing out the one start he made as a rookie, he has a 3.15 ERA in 183 relief appearances for the Orioles.

28. St. Louis Cardinals
Actual: Justin Pope
Redo: Skip Schumaker (164th pick, Cardinals)

Pope turned out to be a fine minor league closer after washing out as a starter with the Cardinals, but he never did get a look in the majors before retiring after the 2008 season. I’m replacing him with the Cardinals’ own fifth-round pick, Schumaker. He was never highly regarded in the minors at all — he didn’t post even a .700 OPS at any stop in his first 2 1/2 years in the St. Louis farm system — but he’s now in his fourth year playing pretty regularly for St. Louis.

29. Atlanta Braves
Actual: Josh Burrus
Redo: Casey Kotchman (13th pick, Angels)

Burrus was drafted as a shortstop, but he ended up in left field just a couple of years later and he didn’t have anything close to the bat to be useful there. Let’s put Kotchman here instead and on the sole basis that maybe if the Braves had him, they wouldn’t have traded Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira in July 2007. Of course, the Braves got Kotchman in return when they decided they couldn’t re-sign Teixeira and sent him packing to the Angels a year later.

30. San Francisco Giants
Actual: Noah Lowry
Redo: Bobby Crosby (25th, Athletics)

The 2004 Giants had Deivi Cruz and Neifi Perez at shortstop, and while Cruz was surprisingly solid — he hit .292/.322/.431 in 397 at-bats — the AL Rookie of the Year would have been an upgrade for a team that ended up losing the NL West by two games. Of course, Crosby was pretty worthless after 2004; he had a good half-season while healthy in 2005, but nothing else. Still, that’s not bad compared to some of the alternatives.

Here are the best of the rest:

Jonny Gomes (529th pick, Rays)
Kelly Shoppach (48th pick, Red Sox)
David Bush (109th pick, Blue Jays)
Ryan Raburn (147th pick, Tigers)
Scott Hairston (98th pick, Diamondbacks)
Rajai Davis (1,134th pick, Pirates)
Chad Tracy (218th pick, Diamondbacks)
Gabe Gross (15th pick, Blue Jays)
Mike Fontenot (19th pick, Orioles)
David Pauley (240th pick, Padres)
Dan Johnson (221st pick, Athletics)
Brooks Conrad (236th pick, Astros)
Jack Hannahan (87th pick, Tigers)
Jeff Mathis (33rd pick, Angels)

And that’s pretty much all of there is to show for the 2001 draft.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.