Why did the Phillies protect shortstop Juan Bell, who, according to one American League general manager, was the major league's worst player in 1992, while the White Sox didn't protect his brother, George, one of baseball's top run producers? That question was one of a thousand being asked before the start of the National League expansion draft last week in New York City. Almost eight hours later, after the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, who will take the field for the first time next April, had selected a total of 72 players and made six trades, there were hundreds of new questions—including, Who the heck is Andres Berumen?
Here are 10 of them.
1) How good are the Marlins and the Rockies?
They're bad. And even with trades and free-agent signings yet to come, they won't get much better. The Chicago Bulls will win more games this year than cither of these teams. Both will finish last in 1993, though Colorado will win more games than Florida. The starting pitching for each is unproven and will be overmatched. And consider these two first-round picks: Marlin centerfielder and leadoff man Chuck Carr is with his fifth organization in seven pro seasons; Rocky centerfielder and leadoff man Alex Cole is with his fifth team in eight years.
But then, expansion teams are always bad. The object of the draft is to help build a foundation of good pitching prospects, which Florida general manager Dave Dombrowski and his Colorado counterpart, Bob Gebhard, were both able to accomplish.
2) Isn't the Marlins' relief corps already better than a few others in the majors?
Yes, including those of the Rangers, the Mariners, the Red Sox and maybe the Angels. The most important player drafted was the Angels' Bryan Harvey, who until he was injured midway through last season was the second-best closer in baseball, behind the A's Dennis Eckersley. Harvey, who had surgery on his right elbow, says he will be 100% by Opening Day. His setup men in Florida will be veterans Cris Carpenter and Jim Corsi.
The prevailing view is that good late-inning relief is of little use to expansion teams because they'll often be so far behind that a bullpen is superfluous. The Marlins have a different philosophy. "[Oakland manager] Tony La Russa told me that nothing is more devastating to a club than losing a game late—except when you have a quality closer," Dombrowski says. "Then when you lose a game late, everyone knows it's a rarity, and they bounce back from it."
3) Which expansion team did better with its top pick?
Colorado's first pick, former Brave righthander David Nied, 23, was, according to one National League scouting director, "the one slam-dunk guy in the draft." Meanwhile ex-Blue Jay outfielder Nigel Wilson, 22, who was taken first by Florida, has drawn mixed reviews. Supporters say he will be a big-time power hitter in a few years. But, says one American League scouting director, "he's just a bat. He's a leftfielder, not a centerfielder or rightfielder. He can't throw."