Jose Fernandez, Brandon Nimmo and Draft Strategy

The Mets and and Marlins share a division, a time zone, and little orange in the uniforms, but not an organizational philosophy.

In the first round of the June 2011 amateur draft, the Mets selected a raw, athletic outfielder, out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Brandon Nimmo, with the 13th overall pick. With the 14th selection, the Marlins selected a raw, hardthrowing right-handed pitcher out of Tampa, FL Jose Fernandez.

On Sunday, April 7, with his 20th birthday less than a month behind him, Brandon Nimmo played his fourth game in a full-season league going 3-for-4 with a double and a walk in the Savannah Sand Gnats’ 4-0 win over the Rome Braves. Nimmo is 8-for-17 (.471) with a double, a triple and two walks, in his first four games of the year.   On the same day, Fernandez, who will turn 21 on the final day of July, made his major league debut, fanning eight Mets while walking one in five innings while allowing only one run. Sure, he looked like the real deal for five innings.

Fernandez became the third member of the first round of the 2011 draft class to make his MLB debut following in the steps of Trevor Bauer (#3 overall) and Dylan Bundy (#4 overall). It is not an exageration to say that he has already had more success after ONE start, than either of the pitchers who made the big leagues before him. Bauer has experienced control problems: in 21.1 innings in the big leagues, he has walked 20 batters and the Diamondbacks gaveup/traded him this past offseason. He walked seven in his five innings of work on Saturday night. Bundy made his MLB debut last september, but the Orioles optioned him to AA to begin the 2013 season. He had elbow “tightness” and has been placed on the minor league DL.

 

The Mets 2011 Strategy
At the time of the draft, the Mets made clear that the overall shape of the talent distribution affected the way they went about their early picks.

Referring directly to the Mets’ pick at #13, Paul dePodesta, New York’s vice president of player development and amateur scouting said, “I think we were ideally looking for a position player… This draft is definitely deep in college pitching, but there were only a few impact bats and if we were going to get one of them we were going to take him high.”

The Mets held true to their plan. After Nimmo, and high school RHP Michael Fulmer at #44 overall, the team drafted four straight collegiate arms: Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett, Tyler Pill and Jack Leathersich.

 

The First-Round Position Players
There were six position players drafted in the top half of the first round ahead of Nimmo: Bubba Starling (KC, HS); Anthony Rendon (WAS, College – Rice); Francisco Lindor (CLE; HS); Javier Baez (CHI-NL; HS); Cory Spangenberg (SF; CC), George Springer (HOU; College – UConn).

Starling played 53 games in the Appalachian League in 2012, and is beginning 2013 with Lexington in the South Atlantic League. Rendon was the top collegiate position player drafted. He worked his way through a-ball levels in 2012, and begins the 2013 season as a 22-year old in AA Harrisburg.

Lindor, who Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus thinks is the best defensive shortstop in the minors, hit .257/.352/.355 in 122 games for Lake County in the Midwest League in 2012. He too is starting in advanced-A in 2013.

At 19, Baez hit a loud .333/.383/.596 in 57 games in the Midwest League for the Cubs in 2012, before moving along to advanced-A where he hit just .188/.244/.400 in 23 games. He’s back in advanced-A to start 2013. Both Baseball America and MLB.com had him rated in their Top 20 overall at #16.

As a 21-year old, 2B Spangenberg put up ordinary, but not superlative numbers (.271/.324/.352) in the California League while playing his home games in Lake Elsinore, the fairest of the Southern Division parks.

Springer tore up the California League in 2012 while playing the hitters’ paradise of Lancaster at age 22, slowed down considerably in 22 games in AA (.219/.288/.342), and is repeating AA to start this year.

After Nimmo, no HS position player was drafted until the Red Sox popped C Blake Swihart at #26 overall. Old for a HS player, he played in the South Atlantic League with Greenville in 2012 as a 20-year old, where he hit .262/.307/.395 in 92 games. He is starting 2013 in advanced-A Salem. The Rays went for HS shortstop Jake Hager at #32 overall. As a 19-year old in the Midwest League last year, he hit .281/.345/.412 with and he too is starting in advanced-A in 2013.

 

The 2013 Issue vs. Building
Clearly, when the Mets drafted Nimmo, they planned for him to be in a-ball in 2013. They were interested less in building a team for 2013 than for 2014 and beyond, which to be clear is where Nimmo, who is unlikely to make his MLB debut before 2015 at the earliest, fits in.

The Marlins have decided that they can afford to ignore the financial ramifications that go with promoting Jose Fernandez and spend additional resources on 2013. Regardless how good he looked on one Sunday afternoon in April, that’s still a poor and expensive idea. Even if he is so mentally tough after his daring escape from Cuba, the Marlins have chosen to prioritize April 2013 wins or even excitement, if and when Fernandez runs into problems in a start, over fiscal prudence.

What are the Marlins building for?

The Mets are clearly building for 2014, 2015, 2016 and beyond.

 

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