Rebuilding and the Draft, The Grand Overview

Jay Yencich · February 15, 2012 at 11:11 am · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

This quarter in grad school, I’ve been attending a series of lectures by writers. Outside of “the first book takes ten years on average,” the most common refrain I’ve heard is “I throw out far more work than I save.” I don’t think I’ve actually heard anyone claim that their ratio of published work to discarded work is actually pretty good. If you’re lucky, some of the stuff will get cannibalized and turn into something relevant later. Heck, I did that just last week with something I wrote two and a half years ago and didn’t know what to do with.

The baseball journalism shtick operates under similar parameters. Except in some cases it can be worse. Sure, you may not be as concerned with the aesthetic value of what you’re doing, but you’re bound to a news cycle where, true enough there are opportunities for digression into history (2003 Tigers!), but you’re mostly trying to get things out on a schedule. If someone else has had the same idea and managed to beat you to it, that’s a lot of work that you can’t really do anything with. There are about 150 drafts on the server that will never see the light of day, and as I revealed some time ago, I had three pre-written draft articles for last year that I had to throw out when Hultzen got picked.

At some point yesterday, a question was posed in the comments section as to whether or not anyone else had done studies of this ilk on other systems. I don’t know why anyone would bring that upon themselves, but okay. The way I see it, if you’re bad, it’s depressing. If you’re good, you might not have anyone who cares. You probably have other things to enjoy. Like baseball!

But FanGraphs author Jim Breen cared, and thought enough of it to post, first, a Building Through the Draft: Best of the Best article the covers the top 5 success stories (this was Monday), and a piece on the other half of the story, Building Through the Draft: Worst of the Worst, which includes a table of all thirty teams and their production going back to 2002. We are the worst. We were so bad. I, meanwhile, was working on my own variation of the thing and only went with the time span I allotted for my own Monday article. And I spent three hours on that last night. Hours I should have been devoting to other things.

Still, for my own peace of mind, I don’t feel like throwing it out, even if Breen was presumably using FanGraphs WAR data and I went with B-R out of convenience or laziness/time-saving. The parameters, I expect are similar: I’m only considering players that were signed as it doesn’t take too much to spend a 50th round pick on a talented kid you know you will never sign. If I had the capacity to set up a table to re-order things either by team name or WAR, I would, but instead I opted to go by team name. I’ll trust that all of you know how to use a find function on your web browser.

Since Breen already did his thing, I won’t be going too in-depth with the analysis here, like considering what players actually accumulated WAR for their drafted team as I did with the M’s. If someone else wants to pick up that, they’re free to do so. This should provide us enough material for our purposes. I’ve mentioned names that caught my eye in parentheses, but I won’t promise that I found all of them. And because I’m talking about the WAR generated by each class and presenting an average of the classes, that’s somewhat different. Right?

As a final point of clarification before the numbers: this is overall WAR generated, not WAR generated with the drafting team. This is more of a look at the method of drafting and signing than the utilization of the talent, which isn’t really something that the draft people can do anything about.

Angels: 1.0 WAR (Brandon Wood sucks)
Astros: -2.3 WAR
Athletics: 11.4 WAR
Braves: 3.7 WAR (Jo-Jo Reyes sucks)
Brewers: 12.4 WAR (Rickie Weeks)
Cardinals: 18.2 WAR (Brendan Ryan!)
Cubs: 9.3 WAR
D’Backs: 12.7 WAR (Quentin)
Dodgers: 33.0 WAR (Kemp, Billingsley)
Giants: 11.7 WAR (Aardsma, that guy with the beard)
Indians: 8.4 WAR
Mariners: 12.2 WAR (Jones)
Marlins: -1.8 WAR
Mets: 1.1 WAR
Natinals: 5.4 WAR (Chad Cordero)
Orioles: 20.1 WAR (Markakis)
Padres: 2.3 WAR
Phillies: 19.4 (Bourn, Brad Ziegler)
Pirates: 13.9 WAR (Maholm)
Rangers: 47.1 WAR (Kinsler, Danks)
Rays: 0.7 WAR
Red Sox: 26 WAR (Papelbon)
Reds: 1.8 WAR
Rockies: 1.7 WAR
Royals: 4.9 WAR
Tigers: -2.6 WAR
Twins: 12.4 WAR (Scott Baker)
Blue Jays: 33.5 WAR (Aaron Hill, Shaun Marcum)
White Sox: 6.5 WAR (Ryan Sweeney)
Yankees: 8.1 WAR
Average: 11.07 WAR

Angels: 29.3 WAR (Jered Weaver)
Astros: 26.9 WAR (Zobrist, Pence)
Athletics: 26 WAR (Street, Suzuki, Braden)
Blue Jays: 12.7 WAR (Lind)
Braves: -0.8 WAR
Brewers: 14.6 WAR (Gallardo)
Cardinals: -2.5 WAR
Cubs: -0.5 WAR
D’Backs: 16.9 WAR (Drew, Mark Reynolds)
Dodgers: 6.7 WAR
Giants: 1.3 WAR (Jonathan Sanchez and some negatives)
Indians: 2.8 WAR
Mariners: -2.3 WAR
Marlins: 5.2 WAR
Mets: 5.2 WAR
Natinals: 3.5 WAR
Orioles: 2.9 WAR
Padres: -0.2 WAR
Phillies: 5.8 WAR
Pirates: 2.9 WAR
Rangers: -0.8 WAR
Rays: 6.3 WAR
Red Sox: 25.8 WAR (Pedroia)
Reds: 0.1 WAR
Rockies: 10.1 WAR (Ianetta)
Royals: 7.9 WAR (Butler)
Tigers: 26.1 WAR (Verlander)
Twins: 3.1 WAR
White Sox: 5.0 WAR (Gio Gonzalez)
Yankees: 5.7 WAR
Average: 8.19 WAR

Angels: 3.4 WAR
Astros: -0.6 WAR
Athletics: 7.2 WAR
Blue Jays: 11.4 WAR (Ricky Romero)
Braves: 24.7 WAR (Yunel Escobar, Tommy Hanson)
Brewers: 22.8 WAR (Braun)
Cardinals: 7.9 WAR (Rasmus, Jaime Garcia)
Cubs: -0.3 WAR
D’Backs: 16.5 WAR (Upton)
Dodgers: -4.1 WAR
Giants: 3.6 WAR (Romo)
Indians: 1.9 WAR
Mariners: -1.2 WAR
Marlins: 5.3 WAR
Mets: 6.3 WAR
Natinals: 26.4 WAR (Zimmerman)
Orioles: 2.5 WAR
Padres: 14.4 WAR (Headley, Venable, Hundley)
Phillies: 5.1 WAR
Pirates: 11 WAR (McCutchen)
Rangers: 2.8 WAR
Rays: 4.8 WAR
Red Sox: 24.1 WAR (Ellsbury, Buchholz)
Reds: 12.9 WAR (Bruce, Axford)
Rockies: 23.7 WAR (Tulo)
Royals: 9.7 WAR (Gordon)
Tigers: 15.1 WAR (Matt Joyce, Maybin)
Twins: 19.8 WAR (Garza)
White Sox: 2.7 WAR
Yankees: 16.6 WAR (Gardner, Jackson)
Average: 9.88 WAR

Angels: 2.0 WAR
Astros: 1.4 WAR
Athletics: 16.5 WAR (Cahill, Bailey)
Blue Jays: 0.2 WAR
Braves: 0.9 WAR
Brewers: 0.4 WAR
Cardinals: 8.3 WAR
Cubs: -0.2 WAR
D’Backs: 13.3 WAR (Scherzer, Brett Anderson)
Dodgers: 16.7 WAR (Kershaw)
Giants: 20.6 WAR (Lincecum)
Indians: 1.2 WAR (David Huff and his -2.9 WAR)
Mariners: 11.8 WAR (Fister, Morrow)
Marlins: 2.3 WAR
Mets: 6.1 WAR
Natinals: 0.7 WAR
Orioles: 0.7 WAR
Padres: 9.2 WAR (Latos)
Phillies: 0.2 WAR
Pirates: -0.3 WAR
Rangers: 0.6 WAR (Holland)
Rays: 27.0 WAR (Longoria)
Red Sox: 14.2 WAR (Masterson, Bard)
Reds: 11.4 WAR (Stubbs)
Rockies: -1.7 WAR (Greg Reynolds is disappointing)
Royals: 3.4 WAR (Hochevar)
Tigers: -1.3 WAR (Andrew Miller sucks)
Twins: 1.1 WAR
White Sox: 0.1 WAR
Yankees: 19.1 WAR (Kennedy, Joba, Robertson)
Average: 6.20 WAR

Angels: -0.3 WAR
Astros: 0.0 WAR
Athletics: -0.7 WAR
Blue Jays: 4.3 WAR
Braves: 10.5 WAR (Heyward, Kimbrel)
Brewers: 0.4 WAR
Cardinals: -0.2 WAR
Cubs: 0.9 WAR
D’Backs: 2.4 WAR
Dodgers: 0.0 WAR
Giants: 5.7 WAR (Bumgarner)
Indians: -0.2 WAR
Mariners: 0.4 WAR
Marlins: 9.2 WAR (Stanton)
Mets: 2.9 WAR
Natinals: 4.3 WAR
Orioles: 9.9 WAR (Wieters)
Padres: 3.8 WAR
Phillies: -0.5 WAR
Pirates: 0.6 WAR
Rangers: 4.7 WAR
Rays: 10.6 WAR (Price)
Red Sox: -0.7 WAR
Reds: 1.1 WAR
Rockies: 0.4 WAR
Royals: 3.3 WAR (Holland, Moustakas)
Tigers: 3.3 WAR (Porcello)
Twins: 0.2 WAR
White Sox: -0.8 WAR
Yankees: 0.8 WAR
Average: 2.54 WAR

Things I learned from all this:
* The Angels drafted Brandon Morrow, Anthony Vasquez, Brian Matusz, and Buster Posey, but as a pitcher. WACKY
* The Astros, for as much as their farm system has sucked, hit it big on two guys in 2004.
* The Athletics have had eleven graduates from the 2004 draft. Most of them good.
* The Blue Jays 2006 draft has gotten 0.2 WAR out of Graham Godfrey, who went to the Athletics within a year, and 0.0 WAR out of Travis Snider. Buh?
* For a team that had a track record for building internally and player development, the Braves drafts were mostly awful and I don’t know how much one should credit them for Escobar, who was not a prep player. Fortunately for them, the ’07 draft had Heyward, Kimbrel, and Freeman. They could have had Brandon Belt too.
* The Brewers drafted Andrew Bailey before the A’s did. Now you know where those rumors this offseason were coming from. Expect Jake Arrieta or Jemile Weeks rumors eventually.
* The Cardinals missed on Ian Kennedy and Max Scherzer in 2003, but to date, Brendan Ryan has accumulated more WAR than either of them. Let’s see how long that lasts!
* Everyone remembers when the Cubs drafted Tim Lincecum in the 48th round in 2003, right? Boy, we sure did miss an opportunity there. The Cubs 2005 draft was worse than ours by a good margin as their only graduate has a negative contribution.
* I included Clay Zavada from the D’Backs 2006 draft on technicality, since he left and came back. Otherwise, they’ve been more productive than I knew.
* The Dodgers missed out David Price and Hochevar. I can’t imagine it’s common to miss out on two guys who later became 1/1s. Their 2005 class is the worst overall as far as negative contributors.
* The Giants were one of a couple of teams that drafted Doug Fister, but beyond that they struck me as among the most efficient teams as far as signing the guys that got to the majors.
* In the Indians 2004 draft class, B-R has 45th rounder Tony Sipp accumulating 0.2 more WAR over his career than first-round pick and 6th overall Jeremy Sowers.
* The Marlins, despite being around only since 1993, have drafted and signed two of the seven major leaguers to have gone by the first name “Logan.”
* Lastings Milledge has been worth -2.0 WAR, but he was big deal for the Mets back in the day. Most of their first-rounders/first overall picks have been awful or not nearly as good as anticipated. Eddie Kunz, Nathan Vineyard, Kevin Mulvey, Mike Pelfrey (the best!), Philip Humber (the second-best!), Milledge…
* Brad Peacock, a key piece in the Nationals trade for Gio Gonzalez, was a 41st round pick. He was drafted as a catcher. He’s a pitcher now. He is one of only two Peacocks to reach the major leagues.
* The 2005 Orioles draft has Nolan Reimold and Garret Olson canceling each other out. In ’04, they had Will Venable and Jaime Garcia and could sign neither.
* The Padres’ 2005 draft produced two major leaguers named Cesar. There have been twelve major leaguers that have gone by Cesar ever, thirteen if you go with Tavo Alvarez whose first name was really Cesar. The Padres’ 2005 draft has produced 16.7% of our major leaguers who have gone by Cesar.
* The Phillies’ 2006 class is Jason Donald and four negatives right now. They also drafted Rob Johnson before he had any ties to the Mariners. Weird.
* The Pirates’ rebuilding efforts would have been aided by the addition of Lonnie Chisenhall, their 11th rounder in 2006. Like us, they’ve only really started drafting well recently.
* The Rangers could have signed Drew Pomeranz and Cory Luebke too (along with Brad Lincoln, who was a big deal at one time). Of the contributors the Rangers have had from the 2006 draft, three of the five were from after round 20.
* Twelve picks from the Rays’ 2003 draft have graduated. Of those, only four ever were signed by the Rays, Jaso, Delmon Young, James Houser, and Chad Orvella. Their 2005 draft had six graduates, the only one of which they signed was Hellickson. They missed out on Ike Davis and Tommy Hunter. In 2006, it was Mike Minor.
* All of the positive contributors from the Red Sox’ 2005 draft were signed by them, in addition to Craig Hansen, who was the 26th overall pick that year, and has had the worst WAR. Otherwise, none of the other negative WARs signed (This includes Pedro Alvarez and Jason Castro, for the moment).
* John Axford went from a 7th round pick by us in 2001 to a 42nd round pick by the Reds in 2005. He’s been good too.
* The Rockies surely would have liked to have signed Chris Sale, who may not have liked to have been signed by the Rockies. 2005’s WAR is all Tulo.
* Likewise, Alex Gordon is the only player from the Royals’ 2005 draft to reach the majors.
* In a draft where they picked Andrew Miller first, Brennan Boesh has been the Tigers most productive pick. Miller has been so bad as to negate any gains in that draft all on his own.
* The Twins were the first team to draft Yonder Alonso, 16th round 2005.
* Outside of the Mariners, the White Sox have had some pretty dismal drafts. Breen indicated that over a larger timespan, they did better than us, but for the purposes of this sample, they were worse.
* The Yankees drafted Doug Fister. WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN MONTERO FOR HIM.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? A few perhaps, but I’m leaving it more as a data playground for people to run around in since Breen did his thing already. The 2004 draft was probably one of the most boom or bust affairs I think we’re likely to see for a while, though its overall quality was substandard. The Mariners’ 2003 draft, while productive, is only a little bit above the average at this point while, as I suspected, their 2006 effort was well above average. I’ve also concluded that I’m right not to go further than 2007 at this point, what with the diminishing returns.

I probably won’t do this again next year because I would have to re-calculate everything and it would take me something like six hours to do it all, but I hope that this has provided some amusing diversion to you on this Wednesday.


14 Responses to “Rebuilding and the Draft, The Grand Overview”

  1. MKT on February 15th, 2012 12:40 pm

    Fascinating stuff, this article and Breen’s. What makes it tough, as both you and Breen point out, is that getting a player from the draft to the majors is like carrying water with a leaky bucket, there are a number of events which can punch holes in the bucket on the way home from the well. To simplify a bit, the process is:

    1. Accumulate good draft picks (combination of having a losing record, accumulating compensatory picks by losing Class A and B free agents, and refraining from signing top free agents)
    2.. Draft a player
    3. Sign that player
    4. Develop the player into a major leaguer
    5. Promote him to your team (as opposed to trading him for Bedard or whoever)

    Teams might be quite good at say steps 1-4 but still fare poorly in Breen’s measure (but not Jay’s) if they tend to trade their prospects away. Or a team might be mediocre at steps 2-4, but still look decent if they were “good” at step 1 (accumulate a lot of good draft picks by losing games and free agents) and “good” at step 5 (hold onto young players instead of using them as trading chips). Such a team could indeed be said to have built itself through the draft, but would in some ways still be lacking, i.e. mediocre at steps 2-4.

    Or a team could be “good” at step 3, signing its draft picks — but might be spending more than it should be in the process. So it would be good at step 3 in the sense of accumulating talent, but not so good in the sense of cost efficiency ($ per eventual WAR).

    A complex, multi-dimensional process. I’m thinking the best way to dis-entangle it is to split the evaluation into the five steps and evaluate how good a team is at each performing each of those steps. Or do the WAR calculations (both total and average as Breen did) but in addition do four different adjusted WARs: the first one adjusted for where the team was after step 1; the second one adjusted for where the team was after steps 1 and 2; etc.

    Yeah, a lot of work so I’m not saying that Jay should shoulder the task. I’m just thinking aloud about what are the factors that could cause a team to have high or low numbers — and which might help us identify exactly where a team’s player development process is weak. Jay’s numbers make it clear that it’s not just at step 5 where the Mariners are failing to develop home-grown talent. (Or were; Zduriencik’s regime is certainly showing signs of having turned the ship around.)

  2. Johnny Slick on February 15th, 2012 1:24 pm

    Yeah, there’s not any one metric that would absolutely point to value. However, an overall WAR that’s barely half what the 3rd worst team put up over the past decade (this is per Fangraphs, not Jay’s slightly different breakdown only because I’m too lazy to add up all of Jay’s numbers for myself) is probably going to be very, very terrible by any other metric you use as well.

    So yeah, to the larger point of how you should measure this stuff, sure, there’s debate. To the specific point Jay’s been making, which is that the Mariners were horrendous in the draft during the Bavasi era, that seems to be pretty incontrovertible to me.

  3. rsrobinson on February 15th, 2012 1:24 pm

    I’m pretty sure that a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at the draft board could have produced a higher WAR than Bavasi’s drafts.

  4. Jay Yencich on February 15th, 2012 1:28 pm

    I would have no time to do this at any point in the future, which is the main reason I didn’t try to distinguish between talent drafted and talent utilized. It would have taken me days to get something like that together. But there is something to be said for separating the two. The scouting department shouldn’t be punished for the front office trading their guys, because to the eye, then there’s no difference between that and if they hadn’t drafted any good players at all. I realize that there can be some murky territory where a player is drafted by one team and does the bulk of his development elsewhere, but I don’t know how to resolve that particular issue without making mostly arbitrary cut-offs, so I’ll just stick to us needing to know the total WAR produced and how much the original team got.

  5. Angst500 on February 15th, 2012 1:51 pm

    Here is a visual representation of the WAR data:

  6. Nate on February 15th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Jay, I’m curious to see what you wrote about “Mariners select A. Rendon in the Draft”, and then threw it away.

    I still think we’re going to regret that decision someday. Even though I like Hultzen.

  7. Jay Yencich on February 15th, 2012 2:14 pm

    Here is a visual representation of the WAR data:

    Hot damn! Thank you!

    Jay, I’m curious to see what you wrote about “Mariners select A. Rendon in the Draft”, and then threw it away.

    I still think we’re going to regret that decision someday. Even though I like Hultzen.

    I did that post at LL, because people were asking about it over there.

    Alternate Realities: the #2 Pick This Year

  8. smb on February 15th, 2012 4:31 pm

    “The Angels drafted Brandon Morrow, Anthony Vasquez, Brian Matusz, and Buster Posey, but as a pitcher. WACKY”

    I second that, very wacky! I think the thing that strikes me immediately is the number of “good” players on that list (ones who have, or seem to be entering a solid ML career) who didn’t come up and succeed with the team that drafted them. I mean I know that happens a lot in baseball, I just didn’t know it happened quite THIS often. It’s almost like if there’s a guy you really, really like, you shouldn’t take him because you’re more likely to get and keep him on your 25-man if you let someone else draft him and just focus your attention on prying him away via trade or other means. Wild and wacky!

  9. MrZDevotee on February 16th, 2012 8:06 am

    I must be an overly optimistic (ignorant?) thinker on the surface– the Breen “Worst of the Worst” article was absolutely depressing. We were absolutely horrible, which I already knew, during those years. But we were WAY MORE absolutely horrible than my memory had been willing to admit. Now I have hard, real evidence wedged into the space between my ears. (Call it “revisionist history”, but in the CORRECT direction…) I for one will now pretend to have never seen that link, thank you very much.

    Real nice, Jay! (still blubbering and wiping away tears)

  10. Adam S on February 16th, 2012 8:44 am

    Nice. Will take a while to digest.

    One question/comment about the methodology. It doesn’t seem right to credit (debit) a team for negative WAR accumulated in this context. A top draft pick who bombed and never made it above AA counts for more than one who was performed well enough in AAA to get promoted to the majors but performed poorly.

  11. Johnny Slick on February 16th, 2012 8:49 am

    Not to be Mr. Obvious here but it is reeeeeally common for teams to draft undergrads and high schoolers who have already declared in later rounds because there’s always the chance, however slight, that the player could either decide he just didn’t want to go to college (anymore) or had something else happen that required him to earn a paycheck. It’s not out of the ordinary to see guys like Brandon Morrow or, I’d imagine, Tim Lincecum drafted more than once for that reason.

    They’re still better bets than, I don’t know, teams drafting Charlie Ward (I think the Mets picked him up back in the day) or Josh Booty.

  12. djw on February 16th, 2012 7:44 pm

    Really, really interesting. I had no idea quite how common complete-bust drafts actually are.

  13. MrZDevotee on February 16th, 2012 8:04 pm

    I’ll take this kid in the draft though: (guess who)

    “From the first pitch on, I’m thinking ‘hit it,’ because the quicker you get outs, the fewer pitches it takes, the longer you stay in games.”

    “That’s the kind of pitcher I am. I don’t have knee-buckling stuff, I don’t throw pitches that make people go ‘whoa!’ but I can make hitters hit my pitch.”

    (Hint: He WASN’T as anticipated a pick as Anthony Rendon or Gerritt Cole, and those words are from a FIRST YEAR pro baller… Smart kid!)

  14. SonOfZavaras on February 16th, 2012 10:40 pm

    I’m gonna guess Danny Hultzen (who would be kinda downplaying his stuff for how good it really is).

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