Over the past few weeks, Joe Barbieri and I have presented the first 100 picks of the drafts from 2000-2009. While we made some comments and provided some context on the picks from those individual drafts, now it’s time to put it all together and look at our 10-year sample with the idea of looking for big picture takeaways.
Too many times you hear fans lament, “Why did we draft Player X when they could have had Player Y instead!” Everyone’s a genius with the benefit of hindsight. One of the things we hope to achieve here is to get away from the idea of looking at individual names and instead look at production. Complaining that the Mets took Brandon Nimmo instead of Jose Fernandez is less helpful than looking at the production of Nimmo and determining if that was acceptable for where the Mets picked.
So, we’re not going to list names here. All the names have already been presented and it’s easy enough to go back and look if you’re curious.
The challenge is how to accurately rate things, especially when we’re dealing with guys who are still producing at the major league level. There’s no easy answer for that, at least not one that has occurred to us. What we’re going to do is utilize a star rating. And we do this knowing that it’s guaranteed that there will be movement in the categories as draft picks complete their careers. There’s no way around that if you want to look at recent drafts. It’s our belief that the benefits of using more recent drafts outweigh this particular negative.
The rating system is as follows:
0 Star –- Failed to reach the majors
1 Star –- Reached the majors but did not reach 500 PA for hitters or 50 games or 150 IP for pitchers
2 Stars – Amassed between 500 and 1499 PA for hitters or 50-149 games or 150-449 IP for pitchers
3 Stars – Topped 1500 PA for hitters or 150 games or 450 IP for pitchers
4 Stars – Amassed 10-19.9 bWAR
5 Stars – Amassed at least 20 bWAR
So, what can we glean from this?
In rough terms, here’s what the stars mean. A 1-Star guy made the majors and not much else; A 2-Star guy hung around long enough to amass at least one year of full-time play, even if it was spread over multiple years; A 3-Star guy amassed the equivalent of at least three years of full-time play; A 4-Star guy was likely a multi-year starter and a 5-Star guy was likely an All-Star caliber player. Here was the breakdown:
0 Stars – 19
1 Star – 15
2 Stars – 12
3 Stars – 22
4 Stars – 12
5 Stars – 20
In our sample, if you had a top 10 pick, you were just about equally likely to draft a guy who didn’t make the majors as you were to draft a 20 bWAR guy. Now, it’s possible that some of the guys currently rated as 4 Stars might finish their careers with enough to bump up to 5 Stars. But it’s close to a lock if a guy drafted with the first 10 picks hasn’t made the majors yet, he’s not going to appear in 2018 or later. So, our bust-to-20 bWAR ratio might end up 19-23 or so rather than at its current 19-20 ledger.
Each of the 10 drafts in the sample had at least one 5-Star guy drafted in the first 10 picks. Additionally, nine of the first 10 draft slots saw a 5-Star guy selected, with only pick #8 failing to produce a 20 bWAR selection in our sample, at least so far. The first two slots in the draft have provided the most value. However, the third slot is tied with the eighth slot for the least value returned.
Our working hypothesis is that teams have gotten better drafting throughout the years. We want to examine that to see how true it is, that is if it’s true at all. As judged by our 2018 eyes, the first 10 picks of the 2000 Draft were not good. But the star value accumulated in 2001 was equal to that of 2009. The apex was in 2005. The drafts in 2006-2008 were a step below 2005 but consistently better than the 2001-2004 crowd.
Of course, it’s only 10 picks each year and it’s hard to tell if it’s improved drafting or just the quality of players available in a given year, since we know that not all drafts are created equally. We also have to acknowledge that signability plays in here. A handful of players were selected in the top 10 because they were willing to sign for fewer dollars. Did five players in the first 10 selected in 2000 not reach the majors because of poor drafting or because teams were looking to save money?
As we move forward in our analysis, we’ll be able to determine more about the relative quality and depth of a particular draft class. This should help us reach better conclusions, although our information will always be imperfect. The drafts are always filled with guys who get hurt and never recover. Is it fair to call a pick a bust if a guy with a golden arm got hurt and was never able to return to former glory?
If you have anything you’d like to see us consider, just let us know.