I've been so busy tracking the signing deadline and Cape Cod League prospects that I totally forgot that I had received an advance copy of "The Machine" by Joe Posnanski (William Morrow, $25.99). After I put the deadline and my Cape phone calls behind me, I found "The Machine" buried under some magazines on my desk on Friday. Once I picked it up, I didn't put it down until I had read straight through it.
The best baseball writer around, Joe transports the reader back to 1975 for a detailed look at arguably the greatest team ever. Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Pete Rose were the backbone of that club, and Posnanski not only shows us their greatness on the field but also how their interactions also drove the Big Red Machine. He also gives us a glimpse of manager Sparky Anderson's burning desire to win and struggles to relate to his son, Dave Concepcion's yearning for stardom, Ken Griffey Sr.'s lingering resentment at how he was pushed out of the spotlight, Gary Nolan's transition from fireballer to soft tosser and several other side stories.
Posnanski also covers Rose's famous shift from left field to third in great detail. Anderson never thought slick-fielding John "Balsa" Vukovich would hit enough for the hot corner, and when the Reds stumbled to a 12-12 start, the manager made his move. He did, however, wait until GM Bob Howsam was out of town to do so, and Howsam thought it was a typo when he saw "Rose 3b" in the boxscore the next day. Anderson had wanted to shoehorn Dan Driessen's bat into the lineup, but instead it was George Foster who grabbed more playing time and became a star.
No Reds fan will want to miss this book. No baseball fan should either.
There are two ways to pull a lot of talent out of the draft: have extra picks or spend extra money. The four teams that had the best drafts acquired 12 additional picks as free-agent compensation between them, while the fifth exceeded its estimated slot recommendations in the first 10 rounds by a higher percentage than all but one other club.
1. Diamondbacks. No team got more quality hitters out of this draft than Arizona, which reeled in third baseman Bobby Borchering (first round); outfielders A.J. Pollock (first) and Marc Krauss (second); first basemen Matt Davidson (sandwich), Ryan Wheeler (fifth) and Paul Goldschmidt (eighth); and shortstops Chris Owings (sandwich) and David Nick (fourth). Lest you think they ignored pitchers, they got three interesting arms in lefthander Mike Belfiore (sandwich), righty Eric Smith (second) and no-hit king Patrick Schuster (13th).
2. Rockies. Colorado had three of the first 34 picks and came away with three of the top 16 players on our final draft board: lefthanders Tyler Matzek and Rex Brothers, plus outfielder Tim Wheeler. Kudos to the Rockies for taking the best player available (Matzek) with their first pick, even if he was considered an extremely tough to sign, then getting a deal done. They added extra hitting depth with third basemen Nolan Arenado (second) and Joseph Sanders (fifth), first baseman Ben Paulsen (third) and outfielder Kent Matthes (fourth).
3. Mariners. Seattle rivaled Arizona's haul of hitters by spending its first six picks on outfielder Dustin Ackley (first), shortstop Nick Franklin (first), catcher Steve Baron (sandwich), first baseman Rich Poythress (second), third baseman Kyle Seager (third) and outfielder James Jones (fourth). Righthander Tyler Blandford (fifth) could be a bargain if he ever figures out how to harness his stuff.
4. Brewers. Milwaukee found some much-needed pitching in righthanders Eric Arnett (first) and Kyle Heckathorn (sandwich), both of whom went 10 picks later than they should have. Outfielders Kentrail Davis (sandwich) and Max Walla (second) could be steals too, while catcher Cameron Garfield (second), righthander Brooks Hall (fourth), lefty Del Howell (15th) and shortstop Scooter Gennett (16th) add more depth.
5. Red Sox. Boston didn't have any extra choices but lived up to its reputation as the most aggressive team in the draft. The Red Sox heeded MLB's slot guidelines for three of its first four choices: outfielders Reymond Fuentes (first) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (fourth), and righthander Alex Wilson (second). Boston opened up its checkbook to sign shortstop David Renfroe (third), righthanders Madison Younginer (seventh) and Kendal Volz (ninth), and outfielder Brandon Jacobs (10th) for $3.675 million in bonuses.
Other teams that did well without multiple extra picks were the Padres (outfielders Donavan Tate and Everett Williams, righthanders Keyvius Sampson and Jorge Reyes), Nationals (righthanders Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and A.J. Morris, plus second baseman Jeff Kobernus) and Twins (righthanders Kyle Gibson, Billy Bullock and Ben Tootle, plus lefty Matt Bashore and second baseman Derek McCallum).
Matzek was the biggest coup in the first round. Some teams rated him as high as No. 2 on their draft boards, and though his asking price was "unprecedented money," the Rockies took him at No. 11 rather than let him slide to a large-revenue team. Because Colorado also got great talent values with picks No. 32 (Tim Wheeler) and 34 (Rex Brothers), it had the ability to walk away from Matzek without destroying its draft. And in the end, the Rockies got him signed for $3.9 million.
Miller at No. 19 and Gibson (assuming he makes a full recovery from the stress fracture in his forearm) at No. 22 also were among the best talent values in the first round for where they went. I'd also include Wheeler, Eric Arnett (Brewers, No. 26) and Jacob Turner (Tigers, No. 9).
Assuming he eventually signs, Aaron Crow (No. 12, Royals) also deserves mention.
The money paid to players is more reflective of their ability than their draft standing, as the below chart shows. It's not a perfect reflection, because some guys moved up in the draft based on their willingness to sign for a slot bonus:
|Draft Order Based On Guaranteed Money, 2009|
|Pick||Team||Player (Drafting Team, Overall Choice)||Guaranteed Money|
|1||Was||Stephen Strasburg, rhp (Was, No. 1)||$15,107,104|
|2||Sea||Dustin Ackley, of (Sea, No. 2)||$7,500,000|
|3||SD||Donavan Tate, of (SD, No. 3)||$6,250,000|
|4||Pit||Jacob Turner, rhp (Det, No. 9)||$5,500,000|
|5||Bal||Tyler Matzek, lhp (Col., No. 11)||$3,900,000|
|6||SF||Zack Wheeler, rhp (SF, No. 6)||$3,300,000|
|7||Atl||Shelby Miller, rhp (StL, No. 19)||$2,875,000|
|8||Cin||Grant Green, ss (Oak, No. 13)||$2,750,000|
|9||Det||Tony Sanchez, c (Pit, No. 4)||$2,500,000|
|10||Was||Matt Hobgood, rhp (Bal, No. 5)||$2,422,000|
|11||Col||Mike Minor, lhp (Atl, No. 7)||$2,420,000|
|12||KC||Mike Leake, rhp (Cin, No. 8)||$2,270,000|
|13||Oak||Alex White, rhp (Cle, No. 15)||$2,250,000|
|14||Tex||Slade Heathcott, rhp (NYY, No. 29)||$2,200,000|
|15||Cle||Wil Myers, c/3b (KC, No. 91)||$2,000,000|
|16||Ari||Kyle Gibson, rhp (Min, No. 22)||$1,850,000|
|17||Ari||Bobby Borchering, 3b (Ari, No. 16)||$1,800,000|
|18||Fla||Chad James, lhp (Fla, No. 18)||$1,700,000|
|19||StL||Daniel Fields, ss (Det, No. 180)||$1,625,000|
|20||Tor||Drew Storen, rhp (Was, No. 10)||$1,600,000|
|21||Hou||Max Stassi, c (Oak, No. 123)||$1,500,000|
|22||Min||Andrew Oliver, lhp (Det, No. 58)||$1,495,000|
|23||CWS||Chris Dwyer, lhp (KC, No. 122)||$1,450,000|
|24||LAA||A.J. Pollock, of (Ari, No. 17)||$1,400,000|
|25||LAA||David Renfroe, ss (Bos, No. 107)||$1,400,000|
|26||Mil||Chad Jenkins, rhp (Tor, No. 20)||$1,359,000|
|27||Sea||Jiovanni Mier, ss (Hou, No. 21)||$1,358,000|
|28||Bos||Nick Franklin, ss (Sea, No. 27)||$1,280,000|
|29||NYY||J.R. Murphy, c (NYY, No. 76)||$1,250,000|
|30||TB||Randal Grichuk, of (LAA, No. 24)||$1,242,000|
|31||ChC||Mike Trout, of (LAA, No. 25)||$1,215,000|
|32||Col||Jared Mitchell, of (CWS, No. 23)||$1,200,000|
|Kentrail Davis, of (Mil, No. 39)||$1,200,000|
|Zack Von Rosenberg (Pit, No. 175)||$1,200,000|
As you can see, the biggest upward movers are sixth-rounders Daniel Fields (from No. 180 to No. 19) and Zack Von Rosenberg (No. 175 to a tie for No. 32), followed by fourth-rounders Max Stassi (No. 123 to No. 21) and Chris Dwyer (No. 122 to No. 23). Third-rounders David Renfroe (No. 107 to No. 25) and Wil Myers (No. 91 to No. 15) also jumped into the first round.
The 14 biggest deals in the draft went to first-rounders, and 25 of the 32 first-rounders are included above. The biggest downward mover of the 29 who signed was the final pick of the round, Rockies outfielder Tim Wheeler, who tied for the 47th-highest guarantee ($900,000) after getting selected at No. 32.
Want yet another example of how out of touch MLB's bonus recommendations are with reality? The 32 highest bonuses in the draft averaged $2,439,406. The top 32 slots, according to the commissioner's office, were worth an average of $1,724,781—29 percent less than what the teams and players agreed they were worth.