Earlier today, an article was pushed to the front page that was written six-plus years ago. It was a draft-related article that you can read here if you missed it. One of the main takeaways was a baseline for what to expect from a draft. Or rather a series of drafts. Here is a relevant quote:
So, we can ballpark it that an average team should send 27 draft picks to the majors in a six-year span and that 6 of those should total 5.0 bWAR before their career is done.
This was originally written around the time of Omar Minaya’s dismissal. The record of Minaya’s drafts was far from complete back then, so let’s revisit those drafts and see how things stand now. As of today, 31 players drafted and signed by the Mets when Minaya was the GM have made the majors, putting him ahead of the sample from the original article. Also, eight of those players have amassed at least a 5.0 bWAR lifetime, again putting him ahead of the sample. And that does not count Ike Davis at a 4.9 or Dillon Gee at a 4.8 bWAR.
When the piece was written in late 2010, Minaya’s six drafts had produced 13 players to reach the majors.
Let’s compare that with Sandy Alderson, who also has had six drafts under his belt. Already, 17 players drafted by the current GM have reached the majors.
At the time of the original article, many people were down on the performance of Minaya, specifically his draft record. But in hindsight we see that not only were his drafts not bad – they were actually above average compared to our sample. Right now some people are down on the performance of Alderson, specifically his draft picks.
Yet we see that Alderson is ahead of the pace established by Minaya.
We want instant gratification when it comes to the farm system and for the most part, that’s simply not how it works. You can point to the Cubs or the Astros and wonder how come the Mets aren’t in that class. A big reason is that they didn’t have multiple top five draft picks, like those clubs had. And when you make the very best the minimum acceptable standard – well, you’re going to be disappointed quite a bit.
There are people out there who think that a good farm system has top-ranked prospects at every position ready to step in at any moment in time. But those people aren’t being realistic with their expectations.
Coming into the season the Braves were ranked as having the best farm system in baseball by John Sickels, Baseball America and Keith Law. Yet when first baseman Freddie Freeman went down with an injury that was going to sideline him for 10 weeks – they didn’t have someone to promote to fill his spot. Shoot, they turned to veteran James Loney and when he flopped in the minors, they went ahead and traded for Matt Adams. They also have four pitchers on their MLB roster with an ERA over 5.00 and the only reason it’s not five is because Bartolo Colon recently went on the disabled list. Yep, they were still trotting out Colon as his ERA topped 7.00 rather than turn to their farm system. Only a trip to the DL made them make a move.
Yes, it would be nice if the Mets had some pitching help in Triple-A to use right now, or pretty much any point since the season started. We saw far too much of Tommy Milone, Rafael Montero, Neil Ramirez and Josh Smoker for anyone’s taste. But just because the Triple-A pitching cupboard was bare does not equal the farm system being a disaster. At least it doesn’t under any reasonable accounting. If the Braves have the best farm system and they weren’t able to produce quality, major-league-ready pitchers or first baseman on demand, why should we expect differently from another system?
So, before you crucify Alderson for his draft record, take a second to check and see where your expectations are for a minor league system. Then check to see where you were at a similar point in time with your opinion of Minaya’s draft record. There are people out there who criticized Minaya in 2010 and now see him as far superior to Alderson. Minaya didn’t deserve the criticism he took for his draft results, even if some of his picks were complete flops. And it’s likely that Alderson’s draft record will look significantly better in 2024 than it does today.
For more information on the draft, check out the piece posted at FanGraphs by Jeff Sullivan today. He took all draft picks, going back to the year 2000, for all clubs. He found that the average number of guys to reach the majors per team in this time period was 71. The Mets were below average but you have to remember that the Steve Phillips era from 2000-2003 was not good. Only 14 players reached the majors from these four drafts. And 2004 wasn’t any better, as only three players drafted and signed by the Jim Duquette Mets made the majors from that year, with Mike Carp and Nick Evans leading the way with identical lifetime 1.5 bWAR marks.