Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vikings 2010 Draft Analysis: Meh.

The Vikings are a championship-caliber team that doesn’t need to add a lot of players. Having a lot of draft picks doesn’t help in 2010. Having BETTER draft picks helps in 2010. Let’s look at the Vikings draft, pick-by-pick. For comparison purposes, I’ve added the position ranking, overall player ranking, and projected draft round(s) from To make things easier, the format is like this:

(Actual round, Actual overall pick) Player: Position rank / Overall rank / Projected round.

(2, 34) Chris Cook: CB #7 / #51 / 2nd.
From everything I’ve read, it sounds like the Vikings were prepared to take CB Kyle Wilson at #30, when the Jets nabbed him at #29. Next guy on the list was CB Patrick Robinson. The Vikings gambled he’d be there at #34, and made the trade with Detroit to move down 4 picks. New Orleans drafted Robinson at #32. Cook seems to be the last of the top-tier CBs in the draft, although he’s viewed as a tweener. I’m guessing the draft room felt they had no choice but to grab Cook at #34, which seems to be a small reach – nothing I saw had him rated that highly. Most publications had him as a low-2nd / high-3rd pick. Regardless, the Vikings worked him out prior to the draft and everyone knew Cook was high on the Vikings’ wish list. Not a bad pick, but not inspiring. Grade: C.

(2, 51) Toby Gerhart: RB #4 / #59 / 2nd.
I know I’m in the minority, but I hate this pick. Not the player, but the pick. By trading up to get him, the Vikings essentially used a 2nd AND a 3rd round pick to draft a backup RB. He will never be a starter unless Peterson is hurt or traded. I just don’t see spending 2 picks on a career backup. Especially one that has a lot of mileage on him (tons of carries at Stanford). Yes, the Vikings need to replace Chester Taylor, but a decent backup could easily have been found later. Anthony Dixon (6th round) and Joe McKnight (4th) would have filled the bill, and the Vikings could have used the 2nd and 3rd round picks to get the eventual replacement for Pat Williams and OL depth. Grade: C.

(4, 100) Everson Griffen: DE #3/ #30 / 1st-2nd.
Although I gave the Cook pick a ‘C’ grade, the trade itself worked out great. Jahvid Best is probably available at #34, so I don’t believe Detroit had to trade up to get him. As stated earlier, we needed better picks, not more picks, and that’s exactly what the Vikings did here. By swapping 4th round picks with Detroit, the Vikings moved up 28 slots in the round to land 1st-round talent Griffen. No one available at the end of the round comes close to the value the Vikings received with Griffen. As far as being a player, the book on Griffen is he doesn’t bring it every play or every game. Anyone think that will happen with Jared Allen around? This is a brilliant pick. Grade: A+.

(5, 161) Chris DeGeare: OG #10 / #215 / 6th-7th.
The Vikings drafted DeGeare because of his versatility – he can play OG or OT. Think of him as the Artis Hicks replacement. Still, this was clearly a bit of a reach. Had the Vikings not traded to get Gerhart and used the 2nd round pick on an OL, they could have had either Vladimir Ducasse or Charles Brown. Grade: C.

(5, 167) Nate Triplett: OLB #33 / #397 / Undrafted Free Agent.
It’s great to draft the local kid, but this was one of the worst picks in the draft. No one had Triplett as even draftable, let alone as a 5th rounder. For comparison, fellow Gopher Simoni Lawrence went undrafted but was ranked much higher than Triplett, at #233 overall and as a 6th-7th round choice. Grade: F.

(6, 199) Joe Webb. WR #16 / #140 / 4th-5th.
Interesting choice. Uber-athlete who has played QB and WR. Seems like a practice squad candidate who will have a chance to develop. Also looks like a good value pick. Still, this pick wouldn’t have happened if the Vikings had selected WR Carlton Mitchell of South Florida instead of wasting a pick on Nate Triplett. And personally, I would MUCH rather have seen Myron Rolle picked by the Vikings. Grade: B.

(7, 214) Mickey Shuler. TE #15 / #232 / 6th-7th.
Solid pick this late in the draft. Has the chance to be a contributor. Solid blocker, largely unused as a receiver at Penn State. Grade: B.

(7, 237) Ryan D’Imperio.
No ratings provided. Why? Because he was a college LB the Vikings intend to turn into a FB. Sounds like an undrafted free agent signing instead of a draft pick. At this stage of the draft, why not pick a high-upside guy that was either injured or underperformed? Grade: D.

Overall Grade: C. No starters out of this group. Cook, Gerhart, and Griffen are likely to contribute immediately. DeGeare will make the team and provide depth. The other four are camp cuts and possible practice squadders. No idea why Triplett was drafted. None.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Thoughts - 4/15/10

The Franchise started slowly today, but finished REALLY strong. If you’re in a fantasy league, pick up or trade for Francisco Liriano now, before the price gets too high.

It’s awesome for MLB to retire #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. I’m OK with having Jackie Robinson day every year. But do we really have to have every player wear #42? Instead, can we have a ceremony or tribute before the game? Maybe wear an arm patch? It’s kinda tough to tell who’s in the game without a lineup card if everyone is wearing the same number. Drives me nuts.

Gopher hoops signing of 6’10”, 300# center Maurice “Mo” Walker is (literally!) huge. Highest-rated recruit in this class so far. Everyone keep their fingers crossed we can land 5-star PG Cory Joseph. I’ll drink the Kool-Aid. I think he’ll be a Gopher.

The primary reason for tonight's post: Tim Tebow and CBS Sports jackass Pete Prisco.

I’m the father of two students currently attending Florida State. My cousins attended Florida State. My sister got her Master’s degree from Florida State. No one from my family has ever attended the University of Florida. I am a Seminole fan, and not a Gator fan. I have zero allegiance toward the University of Florida or their teams. I have ample reasons to despise the Gators. That being said…

I’m a big fan of ex-Gator Tim Tebow and I freely admit it.

His football accomplishments are remarkable. A couple high school state championships (and drubbings of our local high school team). A couple national championships at Florida. A Heisman Trophy. Better collegiate passing statistics than Peyton Manning. You’ll hear Tim Tebow mentioned in any discussion involving “greatest collegiate player ever”. Regardless of whether you or I believe he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback, several NFL clubs do - most mock drafts have Tebow selected somewhere in the late-first to mid-second round. Yet this kid is nothing short of vilified by a lot of people, including certain members of the press. Why? Because he’s a squeaky-clean winner? We have a need to tear down a real hero?

Tebow is a model citizen, solid student, strong leader, and excellent teammate. His work ethic and desire to learn and improve border on legendary. By the ripe old age of 20, Tebow had done significant missionary work as well as raise money for worthy charitable causes. Tim Tebow is an extraordinary young man, and deserving of our respect, appreciation, and admiration. I hope he’s wildly successful in the NFL.

So what the hell is wrong with Jacksonville-based CBS Sports writer Pete Prisco? Check out his Tweets on @PriscoCBS. For the past few weeks, he averages an anti-Tebow tweet every other day or so. Why? Did he ignore your autograph request? Did he crush your alma mater in football? Seriously, with the thousands of players in college and pro football, why the hyper-focus and sophomoric ridicule of an outstanding young man from your hometown? Pete Prisco: Zero clue and zero class.

Finally… (Despite the small sample set,) with a 7-3 start, consecutive series wins AT the Angels, AT the White Sox, and home against the Red Sox, you just have to believe the Twins are a very legitimate World Series contender. Pitching, hitting, and defense all look great. This could be a very special season.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Franchise Is Back! I Think...

I believe we saw some hints that Francisco Liriano might be the star we've waited for the past couple years. His stat line isn't all that impressive: 6IP, 4H, 5BB, 3K, 3ER. 92 pitches (56 strikes / 36 balls). Looking deeper...

- 4 hits. That's it. 0.67 hits/inning is excellent.
- 15.3 pitches/inning. Not great, but not bad considering the walks.
- 94-95 MPH pretty consistently.
- A "quality start" - 3ER in 6IP.

- 5 walks. Yikes! That works out to 7.5BB/9IP, which is horrid. That rocketed his WHIP for this outing to 1.50 -- not good.

- I thought he looked MUCH better than the 5-13, ERA of nearly 6 pitcher we saw last year.
- He walked a lot, but it looked like he was nibbling more than he was wild. A lot of the balls he threw weren't too far out of the strike zone.
- Wild speculation here, but it seems like he gained a lot of confidence from his winter and spring success, and that didn't translate into attacking the batters last night (as evidenced by the 5 walks.) His stuff is fine. Now go after them.

- I'm cautiously optimistic. I think we're looking at double-digit wins from Liriano, who will put up some nice numbers this year. If he's not snapped up in your fantasy league, go get him now. He might not be a top-tier SP, but I think he'll prove to be rock-solid.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Target Field Impressions (From 1500 Miles Away)

Finally got the MLB package, just in time for the first-ever Twins game (albeit exhibition) at Target Field. Our friends at Comcast gave me the wrong channel number, and I stumbled upon the game in the 3rd inning, with the Twins down 3-2. Random thoughts on the game and the ballpark, from 6 1/2 innings of standard-definition viewing:
- Ball park is as beautiful as advertised. Dick & Bert talked about there isn't a bad seat in the house. I believe it. What a venue.
- I wonder how many people will go there just to eat! Sounds like the food choices are awesome. Nice touch.
- Ball sure seems to carry out to left field. Considering most of Mauer's 2009 HRs were to left, makes me wonder if 30+ HRs are in store for St. Joe.
- I'm glad they didn't put in some of the stupid "features" like a hill in the outfield or a thin notch in the outfield fence. It's not an endurance contest or a pinball machine.
- I still think they should have installed a retractable roof. For a largely taxpayer-funded facility, who are the ones that suffer from rainouts? The taxpayers. And if it's under 40 degrees, snowing, or raining, wouldn't it be nice to have the roof? It should be rarely used - but it should be there for those times it's really needed
- Thought Slama looked pretty good. The more I think about it, the more I am impressed with the walk he issued to the first batter he faced. 1st base is open, so loading them to create the double-play opportunity is a pretty standard move, but the WAY he pitched was impressive. Around the plate, but nothing great to hit. Almost got the strikeout. The batter was either going to walk or would have to hit a tough pitch to get on. Nice. The nubber he gave up to the next batter could have been the inning-ender if it had been a few feet longer or shorter. Would love to see more from Slama, to see what he can do.
- I didn't see Pavano's first 3 innings, so didn't see the two homers. I thought he looked rock-solid from the 4th through the 7th. I love this guy. Nothing fancy, no rocket-arm. Just 3 runs in 7 innings. He will keep us in games. With our offense, we will win a lot of those. LOVED re-signing him. Can't wait until he sticks it to the Yankees.
- Thought Waldrop looked like a real prospect. He was wild, but had decent velocity and good movement. Now go after the hitters!
- Poor Neshek. 5 runs in 0.1 inning - OUCH! But everyone has days like that. Hope he bounces back strong. Guys that are that fan-friendly deserve to be successful.
- Loved the ovation for Jacque Jones. Minnesota nice.
- And St. Joe got his obligatory double. Honestly, what a treat to have that guy in a Twins uniform for the next several years.
- Did they really say Cuddyer will play CF if Span rests or misses a few games? Here's to hoping D-Span plays 162 games this year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

2010 Predictions

Twins-Specific Predictions
- Twins MVP: St. Joe Mauer. Duh. No-brainer!
- Twins Top Pitcher: “The Franchise”, Francisco Liriano
- Twins Best Rookie: Danny Valencia
- Twins Most Improved Player: Delmon Young

Bold Predictions
· Perkins will never pitch for the Twins again. (OK, that’s not a bold prediction…)
· Twins will trade for a closer before June 1st. Thinking Jason Frasor of Toronto.
· Twins will trade for a starting pitcher before the trading deadline. Ben Sheets or Rich Harden come to mind.
· 3 Twins rookies will see their first MLB regular-season action before the September call-ups: Butera (duh), Valencia, and Revere.
· Francisco Liriano will be a Cy Young candidate.
· Delmon Young will (finally) justify the Garza/Bartlett trade by hitting .310 with 20 HRs and 15 SBs. He’ll even be owned in most fantasy leagues!
· St. Joe won’t win the batting title again, disappointing us with only a .330 mark, 25 HRs and 105 RBIs. Still garners lots of post-season awards.
· Twins fans everywhere will be thrilled we re-signed Pavano for $7m.
· Kyle Gibson, Billy Bullock, and Ben Tootle will have us believing our 2009 draft was one of our best ever.

A.L. Central Prediction (Standings):
(1) Twins 88-74
(2) White Sox 84-78
(3) Tigers 83-79
(4) Indians 74-88
(5) Royals 63-99

Three Keys to Success for the Twins:
(1) Closer. Losing Nathan could be worth five more losses if no one steps up.
(2) Outfield defense. Doesn’t have to be great, but needs to be at least average.
(3) Health. M&M boys, pitching staff need to stay healthy.

Rest of the League Predictions
- A.L. MVP: St. Joe Mauer.
- N.L. MVP: Albert Pujols (just rename it the Pujols Award already)
- A.L. Cy Young: King Felix Hernandez
- N.L. Cy Young: Roy Halladay
- A.L. Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz
- N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward
- A.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Howie Kendrick
- N.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Clayton Kershaw
- A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Francisco Liriano
- N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Carlos Beltran
- A.L. Playoff Predictions: Twins over Yankees. Rays over Angels.
- N.L. Playoff Predictions: Phillies over Rockies. Dodgers over Cardinals.
- World Series Prediction: Rays over Phillies

Fantasy Baseball Draft Recap

I’m in a 12-team Yahoo H2H 6x5 league, where we’ve added OBP as a category. That by itself makes hitters more valuable than pitchers, since they score in an extra category. Here is the team I drafted, and the logic that went into it:

Round (Pick):
1 (9): Troy Tulowitzki – SS. There are only 5 high-quality shortstops this year, and Jose Reyes is hurt. I felt I wouldn’t get one of the top SS if I didn’t take Tulo here, so I reached. Might have been a smart move – Derek Jeter went #8 overall, and Ben Zobrist went #14 overall. Rollins was long gone by the time my 3rd round pick came around.

2 (16): Matt Kemp – OF. I predicted this would happen because he didn’t have the stellar batting average. This guy is an MVP-candidate this year. Mega-steal here.

3 (33): Adrian Gonzalez – 1B. I love 5- or 6-category guys, and he’s really a 4-cat guy, but… Great value at 33, 40+ HR capability (especially if he’s traded out of Petco), and .400+ OBP.

4 (40): Mark Reynolds – 3B. I’ve been regretting this pick since the draft. The 44 HRs and 24 SBs were both career highs, so a regression can be expected. And the guy is a .260 hitter with a weak OBP, which will hurt. Really wish I’d taken Pablo Sandoval. Reynolds, Youkilis, Sandoval, and Zimmerman went in 4 consecutive picks.

5 (57): Justin Verlander – SP. Strikeout artist with good ERA and WHIP. I had him rated #48 overall, a bit higher than Yahoo (#65).

6 (64): Curtis Granderson – OF. Move to Yankee stadium should generate more HRs. Wondering if he’ll steal fewer bases, given the lineup behind him. Another pick I kinda regret, because his BA and OBP are less than stellar. Career BA and OBP are 20+ points higher than what he posted in 2009, so should be an OK pick.

7 (81): Adam Lind – OF. I felt the real value in OF was from round 5-8, and Lind was the 2nd of 3 straight OFs I picked. Still the composite draft average on Lind (averaging the rankings from 8 sites) was #47, so getting him at #81 is a coup.

8 (88): Nelson Cruz – OF. Hits HRs. Steals bases. Scores and drives in runs. Hitting 7th won’t help his numbers, so he’s potentially trade bait. Only hit .260 last year, but I suspect we’ll see big improvement over that.

9 (105): Cole Hamels – SP. Last year he was a Top-50 pick, but had a bad year. Sounds like he’s very focused and primed for a big year in 2010.

10 (112): Tommy Hanson – SP. I tend to shy away from SP with ½ year MLB experience, but I couldn’t pass up the value. Yahoo had him rated #87. I had him at #92, based on the composite average.

11 (129): Gordon Beckham – 3B. This was the key to my entire draft, and was a “must have” pick. If someone else nabs him, I’m screwed. As the newly-anointed starting 2B for the White Sox, he will gain 2B eligibility from Yahoo about a week after the season begins. He should put up Top-3 numbers for 2B, which is another position with just a handful of guys worth having.

12 (136): Lance Berkman – 1B. Yeah, the guy is old, declining, and starting the year on the DL. He’ll still hit .280+, 20+ HRs, and put up an OBP over .400. At this stage of the draft, that’s nice value and provides good depth.

13 (153): Miguel Montero – C. The other real key to my draft. After St. Joe, V-Mart, McCann, and maybe Wieters, there are no catchers worth owning. Except Montero. Yahoo had him rated #175, so I delayed as long as I could. Even so, he was the 8th or 9th catcher off the board. Made me nervous!

14 (160): Billy Wagner – RP. I’ve always liked Billy, and he’s hitting triple-digits on the radar gun again. Because RPs seem to be easy to find, I usually don’t draft one much earlier than the 12th round or so. Billy is the only RP I picked before round 17.

15 (177): Carlos Beltran – OF. Seriously? If the guy wasn’t hurt, he’s easily a Top-50 pick, and maybe Top-25. Reyes is hurt and is still a Top-40 pick. Beltran is a legit 6-category contributor, and should be back around the end of May. Go get him. NOW.

16 (184): Carlos Zambrano – SP. I’m also a believer in getting a couple stud SPs and adding guys with upside. Big Z fits that category. He’s talented, and finally healthy. If he can keep his WHIP down, he could be studly.

17 (201): Frank Francisco – RP. I had this guy last year, and other than a few ugly outings, the guy was money… when he wasn’t hurt. 3 DL trips. I was thrilled to see him still on the board here.

18 (208): Francisco Liriano – SP. I think he’s a Cy Young candidate this year, based on his Winter and Spring results. Not the same pitcher we saw last year. He was a Top-80 pick going into last season. Getting him in the 200s is an uber-steal, IMO.

19 (225): Brandon Lyon – RP. Seemed to be the best available RP with a closer gig, only to lose the job in Spring training to Matt Lindstrom. (And yes, I’ve already dropped Lyon for Lindstrom.)

20 (232): Bobby Jenks – RP. Another guy coming off a rough year who has been pretty solid in years past. If he pitches like the Jenks of old, could be good for 40+ saves and a lot of Ks.

21 (249): Jason Frasor – RP. Guessed right! Made this pick before he had been officially handed the job, but he finished last season as the Jays closer, and has been awesome this Spring, other than one rough outing.

22 (256): Ian Desmond – 2B. Made this pick purely as a throw-away. I have to have SOMEONE at 2B until Beckham gains eligibility, and Desmond seemed to have the best potential

Lessons learned from this draft? SS, 2B, and C are razor-thin, so either get them early or reach for a Beckham or Montero in the later rounds. Lots of OF value in the 5th-8th rounds. Wait as long as you can for RPs, but don’t hesitate to get at least one you can count on. Lots of high-upside pitchers are available in the later rounds. One guy I’ll nab if a roster spot opens up: Brian Matusz.

I’ve won this league 3 years running, but this year will be tough. Overall, the league did a pretty solid job of drafting, other than the new guy that took 5 catchers. Seriously.