Gophers rehash their draft strategy

The Gophers approached this draft with the primary goal of acquiring young, improving, retainable players who will hopefully mesh nicely with our strong nucleus to restore the club to the elite level by 2011. 

Our returning offense was several notches below the level of 2008-09 but still seemed competitive, led by franchise-type players Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley in the infield.  Our returning pitching staff, however, was decimated by injuries and needed a complete overhaul. 

So the obvious strategy was to target young, improving starters with decent innings totals in the early rounds to get me through the 2010 season as a playoff contender and come back even stronger for 2011.  My next priorities were to assemble a decent bullpen, plug some holes in the outfield and fill the total void at catcher in the middle and late rounds.

With my first pick (No. 12 overall) I projected that I would certainly be able to land either Joel Piniero, Rick Porcello and Scott Feldman, which suited me fine, so I did not attempt to move up to entry the Tommy Hanson fray.  When Piniero went to the Dogs at No. 11, Porcello was a near-slam dunk for me at No. 12, and I was happy to get a 21-year-old righty with a bright future. 

The second round wore on and Feldman remained on the board, an ideal situation for me as I never imagined that I would be able to land both Porcello and Feldman, a 17-game winner for the Rangers in his first full year as a starter.  I held my breath as the Titans took the highly touted wrong-hander David Price at No. 22 and the Clips followed by taking highly limited Tampa teammate Wade Davis at No. 23.  I quickly exhaled and snagged Feldman.

With my rotation bolstered by 370 reasonable innings and lots of future value, my next goal was to acquire the best possible closer, which turned out to be Brian Wilson at No. 36.  Facing a lack of overall roster spots because I retained so many limited starters (Volquez, Hudson, Bedard and Maine), I was targeting relievers with 70-plus innings and decent futures, leading me to Wilson (a fairly balanced closer) in the third round and highly unbalanced but dominant closer Rafael Soriano in the fourth.  (I came within an eyelash of taking Sean White in the fourth, but a last-minute check of BP caused me to call a time out and steer clear of him.)

There were only two players who tempted me to deviate from my early-round plan.  They were reliever Neftali Feliz (whom I am very high on) and catcher Miguel Montero (who would fill a gaping hole behind the plate).  I was surprised that Feliz lasted until No. 17, but I knew I could not realistically afford to take him at No. 12 with my lack of starter innings, so I stuck with Porcello.  And Montero (as I suspected) went to the Bombers, who also lacked a catcher, at No. 25.  My pitching needs were too great for me to seriously consider Miguel at No. 24.  I was still busy drafting relievers when the only other slugging catcher (the aging Jorge Posada) was taken by the Warhawks at No. 39, at which time I resigned myself to taking decent stopgap catcher A.J. Pierzynski at a much later juncture.

Stunned that a guy like Scott Rolen (good offense, great defense, but kinda old) was still sitting there at No. 60, I decided to deviate from my plan and snag him as an upgrade at third over incumbents Macier Izturis and Chipper Jones. 

Turning to the outfield, I almost took Kyle Blanks at No. 72 but wound up taking a timeout, reconsidering and taking WIll Venable instead, a better defender with more at-bats.

When the Dogs got starter Randy Wells at No. 78 (a real bargain), I decided that Matt Palmer (a useful righty starter-reliever) was my guy at No. 84.

My decision at No. 96 (Round 8) came down to Delmon Young or Jeff Franceour, and I went with Young based on his age and BP’s recommendation.

My bullpen still lacked a reverse righty, so Kyle McClellan was the choice in Round 9.  The Isotopes’ selection of Carlos Ruiz at No. 112 forced me to snag Pierzynski at No. 120.

I had four more picks and still needed a second lefty reliever, a No. 5 starter and backups at catcher and first to round out my team.  I was happy to land C.J. Wilson (a lefty reliever with decent upside) in the 11th, but lukewarm at best over the Kevin Millwood selection at No. 152.  (I looked hard at Zito, Lannan and Garland before settling on Millwood.)  The selections of Taylor Teagarden and Luke Scott completed the 2010 Gophers draft.

Only time will tell, but I feel the Gophers had a successful draft as more things seemed to break for me than against me.  I had targeted

former Gopher great Bronson Arroyo as a potential No. 5 starter, but that was an unrealistic goal as he went on schedule to Margaritaville in Round 7 while I was tending to other needs.  Three other pitchers that I really coveted but was unable to land were J.A. Happ, Alfredo Aceves and Homer Bailey, but that is the way it goes in these drafts.  You can’t always get what you want.

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