Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Chris Gruler debacle: Cole Hamels could have been a Red

Chris Gruler, the Reds 2002 first round pick, seen
here with the GM who drafted him, Jim Bowden

What if the Reds could go back to 2002 and reconsider using their first round pick on a high school pitcher named Chris Gruler? What if they could select a bona fide superstar instead? Well, thanks to Keith Law of ESPN.com we can at least dream about such a scenario.

Law recently had the brilliant idea to revisit the 2002 'Moneyball" Draft and redraft using the benefit of hindsight. The results of his mock draft are simply fascinating.

The Redlegs boasted the no. 3 overall selection that year, and the following is who Law projects they would draft if they had the chance to do it all over again today:

We can only ponder
what may have been
with Hamels in a
Reds uniform
3. Cincinnati Reds

Cole Hamels, LHP, Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) HS
Hamels isn't the top pitcher per either flavor of WAR -- it's notable, by the way, that the top five pitchers from this draft in WAR are all high school products -- but it's pretty close either way, and I'm very bullish on Hamels' ability to continue to produce at high levels well into his 30s. Hamels likely would have gone higher in the 2002 draft were it not for an arm fracture he suffered earlier in his high school career, an unusual injury that scared several teams off on medical grounds, yet despite that and some trouble staying healthy in the minors, he's been extremely durable since reaching the majors in 2006.

Unfortunately, the Reds didn't choose Hamels, but opted for a right-handed pitcher out of Liberty Union (Cali.) High School instead -- Chris Gruler. Gruler turned out to be a colossal bust in the professional ranks. A series of injuries and poor play on the mound led to him never advancing beyond the Single-A ranks. The now 28-year old Gruler appeared in just 27 games in his four-year, minor league career -- compiling a 3-5 record, 5.05 ERA and 1.532 WHIP overall.

Hamels slipped all the way down to the 17th overall pick into the awaiting arms of the Phillies. The southpaw has posted a 76-55 record, 3.39 ERA and 1.142 in parts of seven big league seasons which also includes two All-Star nods and two, top six finishes in the CYA voting.

Other notable players Cincinnati passed over in that Draft include: Matt Cain (SF), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Prince Fielder (DET), Brian McCann (ATL) and Zack Greinke (KC).

The only saving grace for the Reds now is that 2002 was also the year they drafted Joey Votto (second round/no. 44 overall). Unlike Gruler, the selection of Votto has turned out quite well. Law projects that the Washington Nationals would gobble him up with the 5th overall pick if given the option today.

See who Law thinks is the no. 1 overall player from that draft, as well as the 29 other first round picks by following the link to his work.

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