Five weeks ago, during an e-mail exchange with Todd Zola, I was half-joking in predicting that our “Industry Expert Slow Draft #1” would last a month. Turns out I was a little off. It’s lasted longer! Don’t get me wrong, the pace has been very relaxing, though I must say that while sitting down to write this article I needed to look up who my last pick was, as I completely forgot. We’re so close to the finish line though that I figured I’d begin to wrap up my pick-by-pick analysis now, before the calendar turns to March. Where did I leave off, 19th round? Ah, yes. Let’s get started.
19.2 Matt Capps
I know, I know. Capps is probably the least appealing closer out there, but he is a full-time closer, and that should count for something. The ERA and strikeout rate were mediocre last year, but the solid 1.20 WHIP and microscopic walk rate offers hope that maybe, just maybe, he can get back on track in 2012. I like him as a No. 3 stopper who can be had at this stage of the draft.
20.12 Bud Norris
Anyone who can whiff nearly a batter per inning is worth a pick in the 20th round, even if his control could use some work. He’ll be hard pressed to win more than 10 games pitching for an awful Astros club, but I never pay attention to wins anyway.
21.2 Mike Minor
There were a few safer options out there, namely Jair Jurrjens and Ivan Nova, but none of them carried the upside of Minor. He might want to think about adjusting his attitude, however, after reportedly telling the Braves that he’d like to be traded should the club send him to the minors to start the season. I have little doubt that he will remain in Atlanta’s 2012 rotation from start to finish, unless of course he turns into the next Carlos Zambrano and throws some sort of tantrum.
22.12 Delmon Young
Something tells me this guy could turn out to be quite a steal. Eight homers and 32 RBIs in 40 games with the Tigers last year is enough of a reason to take a chance on him as a fifth outfielder.
23.2 Carlos Ruiz
He’s boring, but I can see myself drafting Ruiz in a number of leagues this year as one of the last available quality No. 2 catchers.
24.12 Jose Tabata
If it were not for his injury woes last year, we could easily be talking about a top-50 outfielder. Instead, Tabata is barely getting drafted in standard 12-team mixed leagues. I’ll gladly take him here. He offers 30-plus stolen base potential, health permitting.
25.2 Mike Leake
Aside from an uninspiring strikeout rate, Leake was quite impressive in his second big league season, particularly in the second half (3.33 ERA 1.14 WHIP). Although he’s not 100 percent assured of a spot in the Reds’ starting rotation, considering that his competition consists of the erratic Homer Bailey along with Aroldis Chapman, who could very well return to the pen, I’d be shocked if Leake doesn’t make 30 starts this year.
26.12 Brandon Allen
27.2 Sergio Romo
We’re well into the middle reliever phase of the draft and after David Robertson got snatched up in the 20th and Jonny Venters went in the 22nd, I’m ecstatic to get Romo in the 27th. Should Brian Wilson miss any more time, this pick would look even better.
28.12 Phil Hughes
I’ll admit it. There are plenty of reasons to be down on Hughes coming off his disastrous ’11 campaign. But is it really fair to be this down on him, to the point where he slips to 363rd overall? Let’s face it, he came into spring training last year in terrible shape and wasn’t healthy all season. It sounds like he’s in much better shape this time around, and the word here in New York is that a solid spring will almost certainly earn him that No. 5 spot. Don’t forget that he was an All-Star just a couple years ago.
29.2 Raul Ibanez
Assuming he avoids the DL, this is a guy who will hit 25 homers playing half his games at Yankee Stadium. I have a really good feeling about him this year. Great fit for the Bombers.
One more round to go! Next week, I’ll take a look at my final roster and dish out some closing thoughts. Stay tuned.