THT’s Franchise Player Draft: Picks 3-5

Bryce Harper and Joey Votto are joined by a surprise draftee: Gleyber Torres. (via Keith Allison, TSN and Michelle Jay)

Picking up after our first two selections were revealed yesterday, we continue our draft with a trio of quite intriguing selections–one expected, two somewhat surprising. Below, the rationale behind each pick is explained.

Pick No. 3: Jack Moore selects Bryce Harper

With an early pick in this hypothetical draft, the first thing on my mind is certainty. There are, at least in this context, loads of players with enough potential to build a franchise around. But how many of them have already realized it? And how many of those are young enough to stay at that level long enough to give my franchise one or two significant windows of contention for a World Series run?

That quest for certainty limited me to a few things: I wanted somebody who has already produced well in the majors, is at or under the age of 27, and, finally, is a position player. Looking at these conditions, and looking at the fact that Mike Trout and Carlos Correa, two players who fit these criteria perfectly, were taken ahead of me, my choice is clear: Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper, through age 24, owns a .285/.365/.515 career batting line with 150 home runs. He has compiled a ridiculous 27.7 Wins Above Replacement, bested at his age by only by 12 position players since integration. The only active player above him is Trout, who would have been my selection—and likely anyone’s—had he fallen to number three. Of the other 11, seven are Hall of Famers—Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Cal Ripken. The other four—Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, Albert Pujols and Andrew Jones—are likely Hall candidates. (Perhaps Jones is an exception, but I am a fairly large-Hall person, and I think he belongs on the strength of a 10-year peak in which he recorded a 117 OPS+ and was one of the best defensive outfielders of all time.)

But perhaps the most important thing here, and something that gets lost when we focus so much on surplus value, is that players of Harper’s skill level are extremely scarce. I believe Trout is the only player in the league who is definitively better than Harper right now. I believe there are others who can outperform Harper over the course of a single season—this list would at least include Correa, Jose Altuve, Kris Bryant, Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto and Francisco Lindor, and probably a few others. But few players have the ceiling Harper possesses—just look at his 9.5 WAR 2015—and fewer yet are younger than Harper.

Nothing gives me more confidence in this pick than Harper’s 2016 season. By his standards, it was a disastrous campaign. Even though he walked nearly as often as he struck out, Harper’s signature power wasn’t there, as he posted just a .198 ISO and managed only five home runs in the second half of the season. And yet Harper still finished the 2016 season with a .243/.373/.441 batting line, 24 home runs and 3.5 WAR—a borderline All-Star level performance. If this is Harper’s floor, as long as I surround him with even a semi-competent roster, his presence will make my team competitive.

Harper is a generational talent. He has one of the most explosive swings the game has ever seen, and at just 25 years old, it’s entirely possible his best is yet to come. Not only that, he is an all-around producer. He has fantastic power, great plate discipline, solid contact ability, above-average speed, plus corner outfield defense, and a laser arm. Harper is someone who excels at everything he is asked to do and then some. That’s exactly what you look for in a cornerstone franchise player, and why I was more than happy to see him still around for the third pick in our draft.

Pick No. 4: Bruce Markusen selects Gleyber Torres

In selecting a player to start a franchise with, I found myself gravitating toward certain standards. I prefer a position player over a pitcher for two reasons: 1) a position player theoretically can contribute to team success over the course of 162 games, or at least 130 to 140 games based on a more conservative estimate. Furthermore, pitchers tend to become injured at a more frequent rate than a regular player. Position players, by their very nature, are simply more reliable than pitchers.

With a preference for position players established, I believe there is no better player to start with than a shortstop. If a young player begins his professional career as a shortstop, he can move almost anywhere on the defensive spectrum, with the possible exception of catcher or pitcher. A shortstop has the arm strength to play third, the range to play second, and the reliable hands needed at first. And more often than not, he has the foot speed to play the outfield. If you can handle the requirements of shortstop, you can handle the demands of just about any position on the diamond.

These were just some of the factors I considered in choosing current minor leaguer Gleyber Torres, who has played only a handful of games as high as Triple-A. Regarded as a five-tool talent, Torres began his pro career as a shortstop in the Chicago Cubs minor league system before coming to the New York Yankees organization as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Not long after the trade, the Yankees switched Torres to third base while also giving him time at second base, not because they felt he could not handle the physical demands of shortstop, but because of the long-term presence of Didi Gregorius in the Bronx. With Chase Headley at third and Starlin Castro at second base, the Yankees believed–and rightly so–Torres could help them more immediately at one of those positions. New York could make Castro trade bait, thereby opening up that position on the infield. But Headley is older than Castro and generally less productive as a power hitter, so Torres seems to fit best as the third baseman of the near future.

In general, teams expect more power and offense from a third baseman, which can be one of the most difficult positions to fill on a team. But Torres, who put up an OPS of .863 in a partial season at Triple-A, has the kind of offensive ceiling that makes him viable even at third without losing any of the athleticism and quickness needed in playing the hot corner. According to the consensus of most scouts, Torres projects as a player who can hit 25 home runs, steal 15 to 20 bases, and play anywhere from above-average to Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. That sounds like another Manny Machado to me, which is awfully good, but comes with the added bonus of Torres (who turns 21 in December) being four years younger.

Then again, I’m taking a chance with Torres. He’s never played a game in the major leagues. Additionally, his development as a prospect has already been slowed by an injury-marred 2017 season, which saw him tear ligaments in his non-throwing elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. As a result, he might have to begin the 2018 season on the disabled list. Even if all goes well during spring training, he’ll start 2018 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, and not in the Bronx, where either Headley or Todd Frazier (who is a free agent) figure to open the season.

Still, I’ll roll the dice. By July, I figure Torres will be in New York, playing either third base or second base, and making a late run at the Rookie of the Year Award. And then in 2018, he can begin a full-time assault on the title of the game’s best player–and perhaps make me look less foolish in my choice of a youngster who has never seen a major league pitch.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Pick No. 5: Stephanie Springer selects Joey Votto

We shouldn’t conflate the word franchise with the word team. In building our franchise, we need to look beyond the team on the field, beyond even the 40-man roster. Our franchise baseball player is not merely a figurehead or a face, but a keystone of the organization as a whole. So when we are building a franchise, we need to consider the development of younger players; the communication between the players, coaches and the training staff, and the interactions between uniformed personnel and the front office (and others who aren’t on the field).

However, that’s not to say that we can lessen our standards for our franchise player’s impact in the batter’s box or on the field. We consider his value to the team over time, whether it’s proven or potential. We either select a known quantity or someone we can dream on. We might even look at where our franchise player will fit into the lineup.

I want someone who can write that lineup. I want someone who can explain to other players why the lineup is constructed the way it is. That’s why I selected Joey Votto.

Votto has appeared in the previous iterations of this exercise – but that was years ago. You could argue that his best playing years may be behind him – but 2017 was another banner year for him. He remains a leader by a number of different metrics: He had a career low strikeout rate of 11.7 percent (a six  percentage point drop from his career rate) and a major-league-leading walk rate of 19 percent. His wRC+ (his favorite stat) was 165. He was a close second in 2017 NL MVP voting, garnering as many first place votes as the winner and losing by a historically slim margin. Indeed, he is projected to continue performing at his current level for years to come.

Regardless, though, he’s 34. Why would you build a franchise around an aging player?

That’s where we circle back to our broader definition of a franchise player as the keystone of our entire organization. He is going to play an integral role in the development of younger players, at both the major league and minor league levels. Joey Votto — he who carried a copy of The Science of Baseball during his minor league years — has seen good years and bad as a baseball player. As stellar as his career has been overall, even he has had his low points. Younger players will respect his experience and authority; even division rival Kris Bryant has noted Joey Votto’s prowess.

We need to convince younger players that an analytical mindset goes beyond a computer. We often rely upon coaches and trainers who have already embraced sabermetrics as the liaisons between the players and analysts. However, getting buy-in from players can still be a challenge. Acceptance and understanding of analytics is integral to any franchise moving forward. Adoption of sabermetric principles doesn’t come easily to everyone. And that’s okay. But we need a salesman in the dugout. Joey Votto is perfect for this role.

In fact, his time in the dugout could easily extend beyond his playing days. While technically this wouldn’t fall within the scope of a franchise player,  he would no doubt be as valuable to the franchise in a managerial role. We know more teams are hiring retired players who are analytically minded, to serve as a liaison between players and the analysts. Why wait until the next Dan Haren or Brian Bannister retires? One could make the argument that Joey Votto may be the ideal candidate for bringing back the role of player-manager.

So while Joey Votto may be one of the older players on this list, his brain is as sharp as ever. He is evidence that mindfulness at the plate can lead to tangible results, and this is what the other players in the dugout need. He could be the player who turns a franchise into one that truly embraces an analytical and intellectual approach at all levels of an organization.

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6 years ago

Wrong Jones, Jack.

6 years ago

Respectfully, Torres (I mean, I guess I get the logic, but if you want a young shortstop, pretty sure Lindor’s track record makes him the easy choice over Torres) and Votto are pretty terrible choices.

6 years ago
Reply to  jgaryw

I agree on Torres but disagree on Votto. Votto would be similar to drafting Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers in a franchise draft. They only have a few years left in the tank but they also bring a culture and indentity to their teams which can’t be captured in a metric. They make other people around them better and you can’t say the same about Harper or a 20 year old SS.

Luke Hoopermember
6 years ago

Expected Acuna to be the first minor leaguer off the board.

Certainly an interesting 3-5. I enjoyed reading the logic behind the votto pick even if I still think it’s not a good pick.

Stephanie Springermember
6 years ago
Reply to  Luke Hooper

Thanks for reading.

6 years ago

I like the Votto pick. Ideally your best player should exemplify the type of player and person you want in your organization, especially for a new franchise that will be searching for an indentity.

6 years ago

You could have gotten Votto in the second round.

6 years ago
Reply to  Luke Hooper

Lot’s of folks would pick Eloy over Acuna.

6 years ago

(Just hoping to be screenshotted in four years)

6 years ago

I don’t think that Torres is a bad pick if you’re rolling the dice later in R1. But #4? You’re literally betting on a prospect with zero track record over proven, elite, young players like Lindor and Seager.

I think Torres COULD be as good as Lindor or Seager…does anyone think his ceiling is HIGHER than that? If not, why would you not just take Lindor or Seager….

6 years ago

“Of the other 11, seven are Hall of Famers—Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Cal Ripken. The other four—Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, Albert Pujols and Andrew Jones—are likely Hall candidates.”

I’m pretty sure there are 8 Hall of Famers in there considering Griffey Jr. has already been enshrined.

6 years ago

I just registered for Fangraphs to comment how crazy it is to choose Torres over Seager or Lindor. Seager was an MVP candidate at 23 and watching Lindor, he’s the leader of his team, a passionate player and with a single season floor near 4 WAR. Torres best outcome is to turn into a player like one of these two and as the franchise player that you’re building around you can’t expect Torres to lead his team before he even steps on an MLB field as a rookie. Unless you are confident he is young Mike Trout this is a disastrous pick

6 years ago
Reply to  OC

Agreed. This draft got ridiculous in a hurry.

6 years ago

Add me to the list of “WTFs” re: Torres. Votto I can vaguely understand, given the logic the writer gave – and I just love the “School of Edgar” type hitters. But Torres? There are probably a couple dozen major leaguers I’d rather have, and probably a small handful of prospects as well. Not to mention Ohtani!

I mean, at the very least: Machado, Lindor, Seager, Judge, Bellinger, Rendon, Stanton, Ramirez, Arenado, Betts, Sanchez, Ohtani, Altuve, Sale, Strasburg, Severino?!

Bruce Markusen
6 years ago

Wow, I thought this was supposed to be a fun exercise, and not something that was to be graded with scientific precision… Anyway, I’ll defend my pick by pointing out that Torres is only 20, whereas Lindor is 24 and Seager is 23. Those guys have already exhausted some of their major league playing time, while Torres has his entire major league career ahead of him. When Torres was in the Cubs’ system, he was regarded as their No. 1 prospect, and that ranking hasn’t changed much in a very deep Yankee system… Is the pick of Torres a gamble? Absolutely, given that he’s never played a game in the majors. But I thought part of the fun of this project was taking a chance and not going with the chalk. So kill me.

6 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Markusen

Doesn’t take that much science. I’m a Yankee fan who thinks Gleyber will be great. In fact, I hope he turns out to be Seager as you really can’t hope for much more out of a franchise SS….and that’s why Seager would have been a superior choice. 20 vs. 23? Gimme a break, it’s not like Seager is a 34 year old 1B.

Nathan Lazarus
6 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Markusen

I like the Gleyber pick—I wouldn’t take him with Seager, Bryant, Lindor and Ohtani available, who are in the prospect age range, but I think your point is well taken that prospects are quite valuable. Fangraphs did this exercise in 2011, so the draftees have had six and a half seasons to lead their fantasy franchises, and the veterans have flopped.

The top old guys included Longoria and Votto, but also Tulo, Ryan Zimmerman, Pujols and Crawford. I would’ve sounded crazy saying that Pujols, who had produced 5 wins every season for a decade, would never do so again. Carl Crawford isn’t playing anymore, and Pujols probably shouldn’t be. Other established players who busted include Braun, Hanley, Adrian Gonzalez, Kemp, Roy Halladay (R.I.P.), Mauer, McCann and Lincecum. While that group will retire leaden with awards, in the context of a franchise player draft, they were busts.

The first young guys off the board were Trout and Harper, but they were followed by Heyward, McCutchen, Hosmer, Stanton, Starlin Castro, Strasburg, and Colby Rasmus. Carson was eviscerated in the comments for picking Trout—Paul Sporer commented “taking someone who have never played a major league game…I’d have never taken Trout @ 3.” Castro, Rasmus and Hosmer have been better than the old guy busts, and the rest rank pretty highly in conversations about the best players in the game the last 6.5 years.

So don’t trust the comments. Also, thanks to past Fangraphs writers for not taking a chance on Jesus Montero, who was the next best prospect available and would have undermined my point.

6 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Markusen

I am fine with taking a gamble on a minor leaguer. But not one whose best season, he hit .270 with 11 HRs in A ball. He is a fine prospect, and you may yet get the last laugh, but Torres has not proven a thing yet.

kenai kings
6 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Markusen

Yes. You can count on most readers of FanGraphs to take the fun out of it. But isn’t that the purpose of FanGraphs… analyze baseball to the point where enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark are subservient to some metric?

6 years ago
Reply to  kenai kings

Sorry, we Fangraphsians have a very particular language, I’ll translate so the rest of us can understand…

“Hey, you, audience of people who care enough to read the comments on baseball related articles.

Despite the countless hours of time and mental energy that you put into your fandom, you aren’t real fans. In fact, you are making the game worse.

Don’t try to decipher the nuances of what makes a valuable player or a good team. Just root for the guy who hits the longest home runs or throws the fastest fastball.

As with all things, baseball was better in the 1950s, when you could literally get a corndog at a ballpark for a penny. Now, you can’t get a corndog at a ballpark no matter how much you’re willing to pay, its all Sushi and fancy pizzas and stuff.

The golden rule of life is that thinking about things always makes them worse.”

Sorry, had to take the fun out of it.

6 years ago

Torres is most likely going to play second now that the Yankees traded Castro. He’s supposed to be ready to play by Spring Training (he’s already been hitting off a tee and practicing fielding), but they might start him in AAA for a couple weeks to get the extra year of service time out of him. Expect him up by May, or June at the absolute latest.

6 years ago
Reply to  Wraithpk

If they are going to get the extra year of service time out of him, it will probably take more like 2 1/2 months in the minors, not just a couple weeks.

Adam Dorhauer
6 years ago
Reply to  LenFuego

2 1/2 months is approximately the time it would take to cost Torres an extra year of arbitration eligibility by preventing him from qualifying as a Super Two player. To get an extra year of service before he qualifies for free agency, they only need to keep him from getting 172 days of service in his rookie year (because he’ll finish his sixth season with years of service instead of 6.000), which only takes a couple weeks.

6 years ago
Reply to  Adam Dorhauer

I was vaguely aware of that but was obviously thinking more about the arbitration eligibility. Thank you for providing the clarification, and educating me politely.

6 years ago

Here’s my top 35 (don’t know why I didn’t stop at 32). Thoughts? This was harder than I thought it’d be.

1) Lindor
2) C. Seager
3) Trout
4) Correa
5) Harper
6) Bryant
7) Kershaw
8 ) Sale
9) Rendon
10) Severino
11) Judge
12) Betts
13) G Sanchez
14) Arenado
15) Nola
16) Berrios
17) C. Bellinger
18) Fulmer
19) Altuve
20) Strasburg
21) Swanson
22) Bregman
23) Ohtani
24) Cole
25) Torres
26) Stroman
27) Benintendi
28) J Ramirez
29) Goldschmidt
30) Buxton
31) Moncada
32) Acuna
33) Bogaerts
34) Springer
35) R. Ray

6 years ago
Reply to  RealCarlAllen

With all due respect, I’m not sure how you can take the time to make this list and not have Trout number one.

Big Mikemember
6 years ago
Reply to  kevo8

I love Lindor, he’s everything baseball is about, but come on – his ceiling is at Trout’s floor.

6 years ago
Reply to  Big Mike

Lindor is an elite SS both defensively and offensively. I think Trout will transition to COF in the next few years (and if he doesn’t, he probably should) that’s all.

No doubt Trout is the best hitter of the generation. But it’s a lot harder to find an elite SS than a great hitter. Is Trout so far above and beyond all other hitters that he breaks this philosophy? Maybe. But I’ll take my chances at finding a great hitter later in the draft, while other teams are like “Uhhhh Jean Segura?”

6 years ago
Reply to  kevo8

Mike Trout is indisputably the best player of our generation. It’s a very easy case to make. But if I’m building a franchise (and I can choose from literally anyone) I’m taking Lindor. Lindor is a SS, and it’s MUCH harder to find a “do it all” SS than a great hitter.

Right now, Trout is a good enough CF – let’s say he’s average defensively there. But you could argue (and Fangraphs would agree) that he would be better suited in a COF spot, if not now then soon. So, age 28 or 29 Mike Trout is still the best hitter in the game, playing LF. Not to undersell that, I still have him at #3, but I’d rather start my franchise with a SS.

In 2017, there were 25 OF that put up a 115wRC+ or better. There were 3 SS. Lindor gives me elite defense at the hardest position, AND elite offense.

The depth of talent in the outfield (and the drop off between the top and the middle) is far greater at SS than in the outfield.

If you run a hypothetical “franchise” draft, you’ll find that by round 3 there are no great shortstops left, but lots of great hitters.

Maybe Trout is the exception to my philosophy: he’s SUCH a great hitter that it doesn’t matter what position he plays? I see what you’re saying. But to suggest that Trout is a “no-brainer” I would disagree.

(and to be fair, I spent more time on the bottom half than the top half. Most of us would agree on the 10 or so top players, just with different orders)

6 years ago
Reply to  RealCarlAllen

Trout is a no-brainer here. You’re overthinking the positional adjustment. Yes, in a vaccum, a SS is slightly more valuable than a CF. But Trout is *so* much more valuable than anybody else, it doesn’t matter.

Trout easily projects to outvalue every other human on the planet over every foreseeable period of time. You want the best player next year? Trout. You want the best player from 2021-2024? Trout (maybe not over the field, but over any other individual) This valuation takes into account both his CF defense and the difference in value between a CF and a SS.

Trout just outdid anything Lindor or Correa have ever done and he only played 114 games.

Trout is entering his age 26 season, he plays a prime defensive position, he’s higher on the WAR/Age curve than literally any other player in history, and he has as sustainable a health profile as exists in the world of professional athletes. Any other choice is either overthinking things or merely for the purpose of being contrarian.

6 years ago
Reply to  Dknapp26

I agree, the fun here is in the rest of the picks…

Machado, Bryant, or Arenado?
Correa, Seager, or Lindor?
Mookie or Harper?

There’s lots of fun to be had here with disagreement, but if Trout isn’t #1 in this exercise, you’re doing it wrong.

6 years ago
Reply to  Dknapp26

No argument from me that Trout is the better hitter, and better player. Is he THAT far above the field as a hitter that his position doesn’t matter? Possibly. You say I’m overthinking it, maybe you’re underthinking it. Here’s my point:

Trout plays outfield. I would say that he should be a corner outfielder now if not soon (do you disagree here?). If I pass on Trout, I would need to take a corner outfielder later in the draft. Let’s say I take the 15th best available COF. Who would I get? Someone like Justin Upton, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Conforto maybe? Undoubtedly an enormous drop, but still fine hitters.

Now, look at the pool of shortstops. Tim Beckham, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Freddy Galvis fall in a similar range as the above COF. My contention is Lindor + Ozuna/Conforto/Upton is preferable to Trout + Beckham/Story/Galvis/unknown non-elite prospect.

Do you disagree and think you could get a better quality shortstop later in the draft? Am I incorrect in thinking I could get Ozuna/Conforto/Upton later in the draft?

Or most importantly, would you take Trout + any of those shortstops mentioned over Lindor + Ozuna/Conforto/Upton to begin with?

6 years ago

What in the blue blazes were those 2nd two? controversial just to be so, i assume