The MLB draft is now just days away, which is reasonably exciting. Fans of rebuilding teams will get their first look at guys who could potentially change their favorite franchise, such as Carlos Correa or Kris Bryant. There's no better feeling as a fan than having a loaded farm system, following them as they get closer to the majors, and then watching them grow and develop into superstars. It may be tough to get excited on draft night, though, since the guys taken are always at least a couple of years away (and even longer for high school kids). What's more fun is looking back on a draft class and seeing all the hits and misses teams made. There's no better draft to do that with in recent memory than 2011, which you'll see below was fucking STACKED.
First, a few things about 2011 that made it unique draft. This was the last draft before the current CBA introduced the bonus pool system, which meant players who were on the fringe about entering the draft or waiting until next year decided to go for it in '11 (since they could be offered more money). This meant teams were willing and able to spend a ton of money. Six years later and the draft has lived up to the hype, but not in the way many expected. This was known as a pitcher's draft and the first four picks were all starters:
1. Gerrit Cole
2. Danny Hultzen
3. Trevor Bauer,
4. Dylan Bundy
Oof, Hultzen was a miss. Cole isn't a horrible selection but he was the consensus number one at the time. Bauer and Bundy have at least had flashes of pitching well in the majors. What came next was a shit load of impact position players (and some more pitchers) that are ultimately what made this draft the best of the past decade. Let's take a look at what the top 10 would be if we could re-do it:
*Disclaimer that this draft featured Jose Fernandez, who would have been a top three re-draft pick if he was still around. The kid was absolutely electric on the mound and every teammate he played with had nothing but incredibly nice things to say about him. In 76 career starts Fernandez posted a 2.89 ERA while averaging over 11 strikeout per nine innings.
Some players that just missed the top 10: Javy Baez, Trevor Story, Dylan Bundy, Trevor Bauer, Travis Shaw, Kevin Pillar, Ken Giles
Now here we go.....
10. Cody Allen, 2011 draft: 23rd round
The value of a relief pitcher is changing dramatically. It started with the 2014-15 Royals, who showed MLB that having multiple dominant relievers in a short playoff series is, in fact, a good thing. Terry Francona took things a step further last year, showing that these relievers can be even more valuable if you bring them into the game in the highest leverage moments, regardless of what inning that is. It was a strategy that brought his team all the way to extra innings in game seven of the World Series. 10 years ago having a reliever this high in a re-draft would seem preposterous, but not anymore.
9. Jackie Bradley Jr, 2011 draft: Supplemental 1st rounder
I'm a Red Sox fan and have had a love/hate relationship with JBJ over the years. He hit in Spring Training 2013, then stopped for a while, he hit towards the end of 2015, then had that crazy 29 game hitting streak last year, then went cold, and now he's heating back up. I think this was a long way of saying he's a streaky hitter. That's alright. When he gets hot he gets really hot. Plus he's one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. With the invention of Statcast we are more easily able to measure defense, and JBJ not surprisingly rates off the charts. His D gives him a solid floor and the stretches when he hits are what make him special.
8. Sonny Gray, 2011 draft: 18th overall
7. Gerrit Cole, 2011 draft: 1st overall
Doing a re-draft is all about timing. Had we done this after the 2015 season both Gray and Cole would have rated even higher on this list. That year Gray finished THIRD in the AL Cy Young voting. Cole finished fourth in the NL. Things have changed. Both these guys were seen as up and coming aces, but a combination of injuries and a lack of strikeouts have derailed their careers. I suppose they both still have upside when you consider how good they've been in the past, though they should likely be counted on more as #2 type starters now. Interestingly enough both of them should be available for trade this summer. Hello Cubs, Astros, and Yankees.
6. Michael Fulmer, 2011 draft: Supplemental first
5. Kyle Hendricks, 2011 draft: 8th round
Pretty crazy that both these guys ended up (at least so far) surpassing all the supposed stud pitchers that were drafted before them. Hendricks has been the better of the two in terms of peak value thus far, which is why he's ranked a spot higher. In 2016 he finished third in the NL Cy Young voting with a league leading 2.13 ERA. Now a lot of that run prevention came from the Cubs' historically good defense, but he's still a season removed from an ERA title. Fulmer didn't have a bad 2016, either. He was originally drafted by the Mets and was the main piece the team used to acquire Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers. He definitely isn't as much of a household name as Hendricks, Cole, or Gray but the stats are the stats. In 38 career starts he has a 3.17 ERA.
4. Anthony Rendon, 2011 draft: 6th overall
3. George Springer: 2011 draft, 11th overall
Between these two Springer is clearly the better player IMO. I just lumped them together since they are both playing out of their mind right now. Springer has become a top three leadoff hitter in baseball. He's the engine that has helped the Astros jump out to 13 game lead (!!!) in their division on June 9th. That's insane. Then there's Rendon, who admittedly has had a weird career. I don't feel great about ranking him fourth, but ultimately the upside is too much to ignore. Rendon got off to a slow start in 2017, however, since April 30th he is batting .339 with 11 homers.
2. Francisco Lindor, 2011 draft: 8th overall
Earlier this year I wrote that Francisco Lindor is winning the battle of the young shortstops. This is an impressive group that also includes Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts. Having to choose just one of this foursome is tough, but it's a question I find fascinating since each has had the argument be in their favor at one point or another over the past two years. Lindor's had quite the past calendar year. In that blog post from earlier this year I referenced how his Indians were in the World Series and he played incredible. He then led Puerto Rico to the WBC Finals where he was even better. At just 23 years old we know Lindor has multiple occasions of showing up when the lights are brightest. He's energetic, competitive, extremely likeable, and is the exact type player you want to build an organization around. Plus he's hitting for power now. There is a real argument for him to be made as the #1 pick in this re-draft.
1. Mookie Betts, 2011 draft: 5th round
Markus Lynn Betts will always hold a special place in my heart. He's the face of this post David Ortiz era of the Red Sox. Originally drafted as a light hitting second baseman Mookie has become arguably the second best player in all of baseball. In 2016 he hit a robust .318/.363/.534 with 31 homers and 26 steals en route to finishing second in the AL MVP voting. Mookie has also transitioned seamlessly from second base to center field and now to right field, where he led all of baseball in defensive runs saved last year (his first year at the position).