Author: Matthew Pouliot


Diamondbacks take Vandy shortstop Dansby Swanson with No. 1 overall pick

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After much deliberation in a draft with no obvious standout, the Diamondbacks chose Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.

The 21-year-old Swanson appeared to be the safest choice. One of the best players in college baseball this year, he hit .348/.441/.648 with 14 homers in 253 at-bats against a tough SEC schedule.

Despite the fine power numbers, it’s Swanson’s on-base ability that has teams most excited. He projects as a future No. 1 or No. 2 hitter and a quality defense shortstop. It might not be a package that takes him to several All-Star Games, but in a draft short on star potential, he looked like the right choice for Arizona.

Swanson is the second Vandy product chosen No. 1 overall, joining David Price. It’s the second time the Diamondbacks have had the first overall pick; they went with Justin Upton in that spot in 2005.

The best the top of the MLB draft has had to offer

Reggie Jackson - Oakland Athletics

As a little warmup for tonight’s MLB Draft coverage, here’s a quick look at the best players to come from the top 10 spots in previous drafts. I’m also noting who is picking in each spot tonight.

No. 1: Alex Rodriguez – 1993 Mariners (2015 Draft: Diamondbacks)

For the first 20 years of the MLB Draft’s existence, No. 1 overall picks were largely disappointing. The first ever in 1965 produced Rick Monday, and he was the best of the bunch until Harold Baines in 1977. It wasn’t until 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. that a future Hall of Famer was picked first overall. He was followed by Chipper Jones in 1990 and, the best of the lot, Rodriguez in 1993.

No. 2: Reggie Jackson – 1966 Athletics (2015 Draft: Astros)

The first overall pick in the 1966 draft, taken by the Mets, was catcher Steve Chilcott. He was the only No. 1 overall pick not to reach the majors in the first 25 years of the draft (the Yankees’ Brien Taylor (1991) was the second). The A’s followed that pick up with Jackson, the lone Hall of Famer to go second overall. Justin Verlander has a chance to join him someday, as might Kris Bryant and Byron Buxton way down the line.

No. 3: Robin Yount – 1973 Brewers (2015 Draft: Rockies)

This one is a pick’em between a pair of Brewers stars; Paul Molitor was chosen in the very same spot four years after Yount. Both went on to become first-ballot Hall of Famers. The third overall pick has been a great spot for third basemen, but little else. That was Molitor’s primary position before he became a full-time DH, and Matt Williams, Troy Glaus, Evan Longoria and Manny Machado were also drafted here.

No. 4: Dave Winfield – 1973 Padres (2015 Draft: Rangers)

The No. 4 spot is home to two Hall of Famers, Winfield and Barry Larkin, plus a guy in Kevin Brown who finished with comparable numbers to some Hall of Famers. It’s also been home to a ton of disappointments; Ryan Zimmerman is the only impact player to come from this spot in the last 15 years, though the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman could get there. 2014 first-round Kyle Schwarber is also awfully promising.

No. 5: Buster Posey – 2008 Giants (2015 Draft: Astros)

There aren’t any Hall of Famers here, though Dale Murphy has his backers and Dwight Gooden certainly had the talent. So, I’ll reach a little bit and anoint Posey the best of the bunch, even if that’s still a little premature. Gooden, Mark Teixeira, Murphy, J.D. Drew and Ryan Braun currently rank as the top five players by bWAR.

No. 6: Barry Bonds – 1985 Pirates (2015 Draft: Twins)

This was a no-doubter, even though the No. 6 spot also produced Derek Sanderson Jeter in 1992. The Yankees got more from their pick than the Pirates did, but that’s not really what I’m going by here.

No. 7: Frank Thomas – 1989 White Sox (2015 Draft: Red Sox)

This could eventually become Clayton Kershaw’s spot, but it goes to the first-ballot Hall of Famer for now. Picked ahead of Thomas in the 1989 draft were two guys who failed to make the majors (Jeff Jackson and Paul Coleman), two guys who might as well not have (Roger Salkeld and Donald Harris), a journeyman in Tyler Houston and No. 1 overall selection Ben McDonald.

No. 8: Todd Helton – 1995 Rockies (2015 Draft: White Sox)

This is the weakest spot in the top 10, with little beyond Helton to salvage it. Jay Bell (1984 Twins) rates as the second best No. 8 pick, and Jim Abbott (1988 Angels) is probably the third for now, though Mike Leake (2009 Reds) should eventually overtake him. The big hope here for the future is 2011 selection Francisco Lindor.

No. 9: Kevin Appier – 1987 Royals (2015 Draft: Cubs)

The No. 9 spot is without a single superstar, though the terribly underrated Appier was an excellent pitcher for a lot of bad Royals teams in his career. Barry Zito is the runner up here. Javier Baez might factor into the mix somewhere down the line.

No. 10: Mark McGwire – 1984 Athletics (2015 Draft: Phillies)

Again, there are no Hall of Famers here. McGwire, though, has the numbers, and Robin Ventura is an inner-circle Hall of Very Good guy. Plus, there’s Madison Bumgarner as a future possibility, not to mention two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Overall, 41 of 50 No. 10 picks have reached the majors, which is the most of any spot outside of the top three. In comparison, just 29 No. 5 picks and 30 No. 8 picks have reached the majors.

Is it time the Cubs think about Kyle Schwarber in left field?

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

Much like Kris Bryant before him, 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber has had his way with minor league pitching since the day the Cubs signed him. After hitting two homers for Double-A Tennessee on Sunday, he’s sitting at .333/.448/.657 with nine homers in 108 at-bats for the season. His career line of .341/.434/.641 in 370 at-bats is nearly a match for Bryant’s .327/.426/.667 line.

Meanwhile, Cubs left fielders have hit .217/.283/.370 in 138 at-bats this season. It’s not a total disaster, but it’s certainly not good. Most of the playing time has gone to Chris Coghlan, who has hit .194/.269/.370 overall. Chris Denorfia was expected to be his platoonmate, but he’s been hurt.

Given that the Cubs are all in, having already called on Bryant and Addison Russell, there’s going to be some point at which it might make sense to add the 22-year-old Schwarber to the mix. One slightly complicating factor: Schwarber isn’t currently a left fielder.

While Schwarber played 36 games in left (and 20 behind the plate) after being selected out of Indiana last year, the Cubs recommitted to him as a catcher over the winter. All of his starts this year have come behind the plate (21) or at DH (eight). He hasn’t excelled defensively — he’s given up 35 steals in 42 attempts over the course of 21 games — but neither has he been such a failure to cause the Cubs to doubt their decision.

The Cubs, though, did pick up Miguel Montero over the winter, committing $40 million to him through 2017. He’s been terrific this year, and there’s every reason to think he’ll be a solid starter through the end of his contract. The Cubs could always trade him when they think Schwarber is ready to play, but given that Montero is a better defender now than Schwarber is ever likely to become, there’s still a good chance Schwarber is going to end up in left field anyway. Unless someone else steps up, it might as well be sooner, rather than later.

The best and worst MLB lineups have had to offer so far

Dee Gordon

This is a quick look at lineup spots by team through the first five weeks of the season, which have been the most productive and which have been the least. I’m just using OPS, so don’t take this as a study of any sort.

No. 1 hitters
1. Marlins – .894 (.422 OBP)
2. Cardinals – .894 (.387 OBP)
3. Rockies – .880 (.359 OBP)

league avg – .727 (.326 OBP)

28. White Sox – .580 (.287 OBP)
29. Reds – .500 (.233 OBP)
30. Athletics – .487 (.223 OBP)

The Marlins and Yankees are the lone teams getting a .400 OBP from the leadoff spot this year, and while that’s always been the ideal to shoot for, there’s hardly any chance of any team staying that high all season. Last year, only the Cardinals (.369) and Astros (.353) had even .350 OBPs from the leadoff spot.

No. 2 hitters
1. Reds – 1.084
2. Blue Jays – 1.001
3. Angels – .939

league avg – .751

28. Rangers – .560
29. Braves – .551
30. Brewers – .489

The Reds started off with Joey Votto batting second, and he was awesome, amassing an 1.173 OPS with a .474 OBP, six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games. So, of course, they dropped him back to third. Fortunately, Zack Cozart and Marlon Byrd have been pretty great in the two hole themselves, but that’s not going to last.

No. 3 hitters
1. Diamondbacks – 1.074
2. Cubs – 1.056
3. Dodgers – 1.045

league avg – .803

28. Nationals – .614
29. Rays – .557
30. Phillies – .515

The Diamondbacks are exclusively Paul Goldschmidt: he’s started all 32 games batting third.

No. 4 hitters
1. Mariners – 1.155
2. Nationals – .986
3. Royals – .975

league avg – .778

28. Twins – .608
29. Phillies – .576
30. Angels – .574

And the Mariners are all Nelson Cruz: he’s started every game in the cleanup spot and blown away the field.

What’s shocking, or at least would have been over the winter, is that this is the first of four appearances for the Angels in the bottom trio. The cleanup spot used to be Josh Hamilton’s. Now it’s 16 games from David Freese, 12 from Matt Joyce and five from Kole Calhoun (whom they much prefer hitting leadoff).

No. 5 hitters
1. Rockies – .949
2. Athletics – .949
3. Cubs – .846

league avg – .737

28. Angels – .614
29. Phillies – .588
30. Yankees – .576

Just because of the difference in hitting environments, Oakland’s .949 is more impressive than Colorado’s .949. They’re primary No. 5 hitter, Ike Davis, is at .867, but Stephen Vogt has provided quite a boost, with five homers in eight games batting fifth.

No. 6 hitters
1. Yankees – 1.023
2. Royals – .930
3. Dodgers – .869

league avg – .722

28. Cardinals – .549
29. Red Sox – .546
30. Reds – .535

The Yankees being dead last at No. 5 and way out in front at No. 6 is some sort of bizarre fluke. Brian McCann, primarily the No. 5 hitter, has a respectable .704 OPS in 21 games there, but Carlos Beltran (.407 in seven games) and Chase Headley (.435 in four games) have been horrible, dragging it down. On the other hand, both Beltran (.848 in nine games) and Headley (.824 in nine games) have been just fine as No. 6 hitters and they’re further bolstered by Chris Young (1.271 OPS, four HR in seven games) and Alex Rodriguez (2.528 OPS, three HR in three games)

No. 7 hitters
1. Dodgers – .933
2. White Sox – .828
3. Orioles – .787

league avg – .658

28. Red Sox – .434
29. Rangers – .425
30. Angels – .423

It’s the third of four appearances for the Dodgers in the top three. This one is truly a committee. Juan Uribe has started 15 of 32 games as a No. 7 hitter, but he has a modest .668 OPS. Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson have combined for 15 starts and hit .444 with five homers in 54 at-bats.

Boston, which entered the year with seemingly the game’s deepest lineup, shows up near the bottom for the second straight spot, courtesy of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Allen Craig. Their No. 7 hitters have combined for seven RBI in 33 games, five of them coming in Daniel Nava’s six starts.

No. 8 hitters
1. Reds – .932
2. Dodgers – .898
3. Marlins – .846

league avg – .673

28. Diamondbacks – .474
29. Angels – .392
30. Cubs – .297

The Reds take the cake for the most inconsistency by lineup spot this year. They top the list at No. 2 and No. 8 while also being last at No. 6 and next to last at No. 1. They don’t have any lineup spot in the .700-.800 OPS range. Their presence here is Cozart doing Cozart things, with some help from Brayan Pena. Even Skip Schumaker went 3-for-5 with two RBI in his one game batting eighth and he’s 4-for-27 with no RBI over the rest of the year.

The Cubs at No. 30 gets a big asterisk here; they’ve exclusively gone with their pitcher batting eighth. For the record, their No. 9 hitters have a .630 OPS.

No. 9 hitters (AL only)
1. Angels – .721
2. Blue Jays – .671
3. Tigers – .648

league avg – .583

13. Royals – .484
14. Rays – .480
15. Indians – .476

We’re taking the NL teams out of this mix and just looking at the AL squads. Oddly enough, the Angels top the list; their No. 9 hitters, mostly Johnny Giavotella, have a higher OPS than any of the spots from No. 3 through No. 8.

So, the absolute best of the lineups to date:

1. Marlins – Dee Gordon
2. Reds – Joey Votto
3. Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
4. Mariners – Nelson Cruz
5. Rockies – Nolan Arenado
6. Yankees – Chris Young
7. Dodgers – Alex Guerrero
8. Reds – Zack Cozart
9. Angels – Johnny Giavotella