THT’s Franchise Player Draft: Picks 9-11

Two MVPs, two World Series rings and two Rookie of the Year winners makes this one of the most interesting trios of this draft. (via Keith Allison, Arturo Pardavila III and Michelle Jay)

Pick No. 9: Kiri Oler selects Jose Altuve

With the ninth pick of the Hardball Times Franchise Player Draft, I selected Jose Altuve. The reasons for my selection are outlined below. Please sing them in your mind to the tune of “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole. Take deep breaths. You’re gonna need them.


J is for justice for all. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Jose Altuve is short. Like real short. Not just short for a baseball player kind of short, but short for an adult male human kind of short. On top of that, Altuve also hails from Venezuela. Rather than showing up to baseball’s Christmas dinner with a hearty serving of generic white dude and a side of average baseball body, Jose Altuve arrives with spicy chimichangas to break up all the fruitcake. Altuve provides a rally cry for people of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities looking to get into baseball, whether they be kids signing up for extracurriculars, adults looking to work in sports, or potential fans needing a way to fill their summer nights. Altuve sends a positive message for baseball and humanity in general: you don’t need to look a certain way to belong here.


O is for “Oh, snap! This guy can really play some baseball!” The intangibles that Altuve offers are important, maybe more important than anything he does on the field. As we all know, this is just a kids’ game being played by adults. But without the things he does on the field, the intangibles have no impact. Fortunately, Jose Altuve’s Baseball Reference page is lit up with boldface text. I don’t know how it becomes routine, ho-hum, even boring for a player to lead the league in hits and/or average every year, but Jose Altuve does. Meanwhile, despite being blessed with shorter stems than the average flower, he’s a busy bee on the basepaths, stinging defenses with his speed and aptitude for the stolen base. Finally, if you’re not into the old school counting stats, check this out: he lead the league in garden variety WAR, and offensive WAR in 2017. Oh yeah, he also won MVP that year.


S is for spotlight. Shine literally all of the spotlights on Jose Altuve, and every single time he will descend from the heavens glittering like a disco ball. While some players create a Dark Souls-esque landscape for their organization’s PR department to navigate, projecting Jose Altuve to the public is a pleasant game of Splatoon, where gameplay simply involves plastering the internet with photos of him standing next to Aaron Judge, quotes where he professes his love for Justin Verlander, and GIFs of him dancing in the dugout. If that’s not enough, one could always resort to video clips of him actually playing baseball. Then there’s always the timeless, viral question: “How many Altuves?” But really though, how many? The world may never know, but we’ll never get tired of asking. The face of a franchise should dazzle, and Jose Altuve undeniably has infinite sparkle.


E is for Éngineers Teamwork, if you’re into corporate buzzwords, or Éntourage Entrepreneur, if you prefer alliteration. At the patronly age of 27, you might think Jose Altuve is a little old to be building a franchise around, but with age comes wisdom. In his tenure with the Astros, Altuve defaulted to the father figure for a group of talented players young enough to have never heard the Backstreet Boys song Altuve karaoked to viral acclaim back in 2016. The Astros forced Altuve into a leadership position by going all-in on their homegrown players, and tanking so hard there were literally no other veteran players to guide the ship. Altuve lit a fire under his teammates without burning the boats à la Hernán Cortés. Truthfully, it’s impossible to know the exact impact Altuve has on his teammates, but he nonetheless he has experience, and with reps come strength.

Pick No. 10: Paul Moehringer selects Kris Bryant

In a fantasy draft like this, my outlook on what a first round pick should be is very simple. A good first round pick will not guarantee you a World Series trip or win, no matter how good he is. However, a bad first round pick may very well guarantee that you will never go.

The idea isn’t so much to get the question right ,as there are multiple right answers, but not to get the question wrong. With a top-10 pick, I should be able to land a Hall of Famer near or at his peak with plenty of years still to play.

The goal is to select the best player in baseball from this day forth. What are the components that make up this? Talent. Probably someone that needs to be a perennial MVP or Cy Young candidate for multiple seasons at a minimum. Youth. Someone in his mid to late 30s is likely out regardless of talent. And durability, the ability to withstand injuries and be resistant to them.

Of these three components, people put too much emphasis on is age. If this draft were held at the start of the 1970 season and I could pick any active player in baseball to build my team around, it would be the 26-year-old Joe Morgan. After the ’95 season and it would be the 31-year-old Barry Bonds. Quite often I think prospects become overrated and overhyped to the where even successful major league careers can still seem like a disappointment compared to what people thought they would be.

With all of this in mind, what I wanted with this pick was an MVP-caliber player who still should have several MVP seasons left in him. A player you could realistically win a World Series with while he is your best player. Someone who would be a critical component for all 30 teams in baseball.

There aren’t many players who check off these boxes and even fewer at this spot, but one player who does is Kris Bryant. He’ll be just 26 years old next year, which means he should have at least three or four more prime seasons left. It’s a prime that has already produced one MVP award and has helped lead the Cubs to three straight NLCS appearances and a World Series title.

Talent-wise, short of Mike Trout I’m not sure if there’s a more naturally gifted player in the game today and at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Bryant should also be able to hold up for years to come barring debilitating injury.

One other aspect that Bryant brings to the table that few other players do is his versatility. Although primarily a third baseman, since coming up in 2015, Bryant has played in at least 10 games at five different positions.

For most teams in the majors, including the Cubs, Bryant would present the best option at all four corner infield and outfield positions. This would allow my team to keep its options open at all four positions and essentially have a built-in backup at three other positions.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

In way it’s kind of like having a power hitting Pete Rose on the team. Without Rose’s ability to shift from the outfield to the infield and back again, the Reds would not have been able to shoehorn George Foster in the lineup and may not have won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and ’76..

It’s nice bonus that no other player at that skill level can bring to the table and it was enough for me to put him over every other player still out there.

Was Bryant the best possible pick at this spot? When we look back on this draft again in a few years’ time, the answer will most likely be no, but I certainly don’t think he will be the worst or even close to it. As long as that remains the case, I’m satisfied with this selection.

Pick No. 11: Mina Dunn selects Corey Seager

The 11th pick falls near the middle of this 32-pick draft, but is not close enough to the end where anything — youth or talent — has to be compromised. We are not far enough down that I considered pitchers or prospect lists or star veterans aging out of their prime, but the no-brainers like Mike Trout and Carlos Correa are long gone. The good news is we still sit within top-tier range, so Corey Seager is still on the table.

Looking for a multi-tool position player under 25 who hadn’t been picked narrowed the field. Of that smaller pack, Seager stood out. Among shortstops through their 23-year-old season, he ranked ninth all-time in WAR and only behind Francisco Lindor among current shortstops. I’ve never been able to let go of the “always recruit up the middle,” wisdom, especially with deference to shortstop and center field where one might find the strongest arms and best footwork, so that helped his case, too.

I considered Lindor (before I realized he was chosen at pick No. 6) who is only a few months older than Seager.  I considered Seager’s teammate, Cody Bellinger, but was swayed by the thought of building on a first baseman with only a partial season in the majors. I considered many players, but always came back to Seager as in some bad romance novel.

Seager does not have Bryce Harper’s shampoo-commercial hair or Mike Trout’s love of weather. (And, you know, admittedly he comes up just shy of their talent.) But Steamer projects him to slightly regress in essentially every category in 2018, and that still lands him among the best in the sport as a 23-year-old. He belongs among the top names in baseball’s youth movement.

When you get a chance to build around a 23-year-old with two impressive years under his belt and as broad a skill set as this, you do it. This also means that we all know how good he is and why. But Seager is exciting enough as a player that it’s fun to talk about it anyway.

Favoring youth is usually a consensus in these things, as is seen in the first batches of picks, and Seager’s resume is full for his short time in the show. In his age-22 season, Seager earned Rookie of the Year and consideration as an NL MVP finalist, finishing only behind Kris Bryant and Daniel Murphy. In two years, he’s rarely deviated from elite play. And despite the slight dip in his 2018 projections, his floor is still high for the future.

His WAR alone is persuasive. Across his two full seasons, he places fifth in WAR overall. In Seager’s rookie season, he reached 7.4 WAR, good for fourth overall. In 2016, his defensive WAR led the only three players who had higher WAR than him by a sizable margin. In 2017, he placed 12th overall, with 5.7 WAR. When considering only players under 25, he drops down to sixth. Of all the players who had higher WAR than him in 2017, he had the third highest Defensive WAR, behind Lindor and Anthony Rendon. The shoulder injury he played through in the last few months could account for some of the missing 1.7 WAR in 2017.

Seager is in the new wave of shortstop: tall and impactful on offense without sacrificing defense. He’s 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and he’s reached the 20 home run mark in each of his full seasons. His wRC+ hits great territory in the same time frame, averaging 132 between the two years. Despite his size, his footwork and the control of his giant frame is impeccable. You can see it in the numbers. In 2017, he put up 10 DRS and 9.5 UZR, earning him consideration as a Gold Glove finalist.

Corey is the batting leader on the best team we’ve seen in years, a team that includes Bellinger and Justin Turner. Remember the kid who let out a scream in the batter’s box upon launching a home run in Game Two of the World Series? That’s who will corner the franchise.

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Big Mikemember
6 years ago

… and sanity returns to the draft as four young perennial MVP candidates get drafted behind two guys (at 4 and 7) who’ve never played in the majors.

6 years ago
Reply to  Big Mike

Right, these are all perfectly defensible picks. In other words, boring. It’s an imaginary hypothetical fantasy exercise in nothing, people. Give the comments section something to get indignant over (and then regret in five years, maybe). Show us something new.

6 years ago
Reply to  Big Mike

The Torres pick was bananas, but Ohtani is a different animal because he’d have obviously been in the Majors if not for abnormal barriers. Lumping him in with Torres is insulting.

6 years ago
Reply to  TKDC

You’re right, Ohtani is a different animal than Torres, and an argument that they were both equally bad picks is overly simplistic. They were both terrible picks within the context of the rules here (or great picks, because they are driving by FAR the most discussion), but at least Torres is a SS… Ohtani is a pitcher, pitchers break. The logical extension of “I want Ohtani over Kershaw, Bum, Syndergaard, Stras, Scherzer, Severino, etc. because he’s 23 and they are all older than that”, is just to take Hunter Green. 23 yo with no track record and a 100 MPH fastball vs 18 yo with no track record and a 100 MPH fastball. This would obviously be a terrible decision, because even if you get your best case scenario and it “works out”, you’ve still undertaken an unacceptable risk factor AND exhibited waste by bidding against yourself in an auction.

Don’t get me wrong here, when stacked against an available Machado, Lindor, Seager, Bogaerts, Altuve, Russell, Simmons, etc. Torres is also a laughably bad pick, because there is a high chance that he is never as good as any of them. But the idea of taking a young SS is still magnitudes more defensible than taking a young pitcher.

6 years ago

Thank you Mina for introducing some sense. And congrats on getting a top 3 most valuable player at #11

6 years ago

“A good first round pick will not guarantee you a World Series trip or win, no matter how good he is. However, a bad first round pick may very well guarantee that you will never go.”

I can’t help but think this advice applies in many ways to all aspects of life. There’s rarely a perfectly clear “right” choice and sweating over split hairs is probably energy wasted; the most marginal value lies in avoiding the Mark Appel’s of life.