Reviewing the Andrew Friedman Draft Era

Lately there has been some great discussion on where the Rays drafting acumen falls among their competitors. This has been spurred by the dearth of any positional prospects putting up big numbers or getting much love from prospect hounds, but is this stance accurate? Using Baseball-Reference’s excellent draft lists we can compile this stuff to get an idea of how the Rays rate among all MLB teams. For this exercise I will be looking at only the first ten rounds from 2006 – 13. Additionally, we will leave out the 2012 – 13 drafts, because it is unreasonable to expect any team to have advanced players that quickly. 

Knowing what has occurred is beneficial, but we can go a step further and introduce an idea of what should have happened. I’m going back to this post, and more specifically, the following formula to gauge the expected career WAR (xWAR) for each player:

Expected Lifetime WAR = (20.7 + (-8.5 * pitcher) + (4.6 * college)) * selection ^ (-.49)

Here’s each team from 2006 – 11:

The Rays not only lead the way in actual WAR accrued they also lead the way in expected WAR. To put this on somewhat of an even keel I’ve calculated d, which is the percent of actual WAR per xWAR. The league as a whole was around 21% for this time period with the Rays checking in at the third highest d rate of 38%. The Braves and Giants came in a bit higher from the rate-perspective and the Phillies, Twins, and Rockies bring up the rear. I have included players that went on to be re-drafted, as well, as including players that went on to be traded with their original team. You can quibble about this, but when trying to nail down which teams have an eye for talent I think it’s important to include these players. 

There’s over 1,800 drafted players so I’m not going to show how every team broke down, but I want to delve into the best and the worst to give an idea of how these things break down. Here’s the top-3 teams:

David Price and Evan Longoria were highly anticipated players with high expectations and so far they’ve done very well, but the Rays show that they can also find value. Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb are three players that didn’t have very high expectations and yet they’ve provided plenty of actual value to the team and should reasonably be expected to continue to build on this in the coming years.

The Braves and Giants feature similar success stories, but all three teams also have players that featured solid expectations that never manifested themselves. Tim Beckham has the fourth highest xWAR of all players drafted trailing only Bryce Harper (25.3 xWAR), Mark Appel (22.9 xWAR), and Carlos Correa (20.7 xWAR). Beckham features the ideal background for a top pick, in that, he was a high school batter. Interestingly, Longoria and Price also ranked highly at 13th and 10th, respectively. Here’s the top-15:

Name Sum of WAR Sum of xWAR
Bryce Harper  9.0 25.3
Mark Appel    22.9
Carlos Correa    20.7
Tim Beckham  0.1 20.7
Gerrit Cole  3.0 19.2
Kris Bryant    18.0
Dustin Ackley  7.6 18.0
Pedro Alvarez  4.5 18.0
Stephen Strasburg  9.1 16.8
David Price  18.6 16.8
Luke Hochevar  2.5 16.8
Mike Zunino  0.2 14.8
Evan Longoria  36.3 14.8
Mike Moustakas  4.3 14.7
Byron Buxton    14.7

We’ve seen the good, but now let’s take a look at the three worst teams by d-rate:

The success stories are brief and there’s more than a few players that had high expectations that went on to become below replacement level players. There’s still time for many of these players to turn it around, but several of these guys aren’t even playing baseball anymore. Greg Reynolds represents the biggest bust here. As a 2nd overall pick he was expected to be worth around 12 WAR, but instead provided -1.6 and it’s likely that his career is virtually over after another poor stint with the Reds in 2013. 

One last team I want to focus on is the one that has the best fans in baseball. The Cardinals are held up as the one team that does things the right way producing tons of talent through the draft to help offset some of the expensive vets that complete their roster:

Going back to the first chart we see that the Cardinals are 10th from 2006 – 11 in d-rate. We see some strong hits in Craig, Jay, Kelly, Lynn, and Miller, and even Chris Perez was a solid draft choice even if he didn’t sign with the team. However, we still see some misses with Brett Wallace, Zack Cox, and others. 

Most folks don’t want to admit what an utter crapshoot the draft is for even the best-run teams. There’s a lot of luck here as even well-regarded players never evolve into good, everyday players and that doesn’t even account for those that see injuries sap any chance of a productive career. Evan Longoria has been the best player drafted since 2006 with his 36.3 WAR, which is more than double than should have been expected. There’s luck in that too. If teams could predict which player would be the next Evan Longoria we would have seen more of them by now so be happy when things work out and suppress the outrage when they don’t. On that note here’s the top 20 players by accumulated WAR:

Name WAR xWAR d
Evan Longoria  36.3 14.8 246%
Clayton Kershaw  33.0 4.7 702%
Tim Lincecum  23.0 5.4 423%
Jason Kipnis  22.0 5.6 392%
*Mike Trout  20.8 4.3 487%
David Price  18.6 16.8 111%
Jason Heyward  18.4 5.7 324%
Max Scherzer  18.1 5.2 349%
Buster Posey  17.5 11.5 152%
Chris Sale  16.3 4.8 341%
Mike Leake  15.0 6.9 216%
Giancarlo Stanton  14.8 2.5 597%
Doug Fister  14.7 1.2 1176%
Matt Harvey  13.8 7.7 180%
Matt Wieters  13.1 11.5 114%
*Jordan Zimmermann  12.7 2.1 593%
Madison Bumgarner  12.1 3.9 306%
Justin Masterson  11.0 2.1 529%
Trevor Cahill  11.0 1.6 702%
Paul Goldschmidt  10.7 1.7

628%

All of these guys are tremendous players that have exceeded even very high expectations, but give credit to the player as much as you would the organization that mined the gem.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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