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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Feeling a Draft

Next month the Sox will make their highest draft pick since 1967 when they picked third (Mike Garman so y’know it’s not an automatic).  Many names are flying around, some familiar (Jack Leiter, Kumal Rocker) others not (Henry Davis, Jordan Lawlar, Marcelo Mayer) but at draft time I always like to look to past as prelude to the future.  Rather than try to tell you something about players I have at best seen in passing I’ll tell you to go Sox Prospects or Baseball America for all the gory details about the various guys.  The MLB draft is a bit different from other sports with picks not allowed to be traded yet as this gander at projected Red Sox’ selections reveals.  Six “experts” and they’ve got four different guys going to the Sox at number four.

However, thanks to Baseball-Reference we can look back at the number four pick (and a couple others) to get some idea of what the Sox might be landing;

#4 Pick

Top Five:

Barry Larkin*
Kevin Brown
Dave Winfield*
Thurman Munson
Darrell Porter
* Hall of Fame

Average WAR per MLB Player - 13.0
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Gregg Olson (Oriole reliever)
Positive WAR - 36 of 56
Red Sox picks - One (Ken Brett, 16.3 WAR, one Fantasy Island appearance)

So yeah an opportunity to land a superstar here exists.  In recent years the Sox have had a couple of high picks with one of them being a success (Andrew Benintendi) and one being a tremendous bust (Trey Ball).  On the Ball pick my recollection is not that the Sox went off the board but with the high school pitcher went with the highest variance option.  Without knowing much here and recognizing that the Sox may not have much say in the matter of the five guys I’ve seen bandied about it seems like Davis is the guy who might most fit that description.  Again, go to SP or BA for a LOT more detail than I can add.

#40 Pick

Top Five:

Kevin Tapani
Larry Gura
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Milton Bradley
Huston Street

Average WAR per MLB Player - 5.5
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Luke Hochevar
Positive WAR - 10 of 56
Red Sox picks - Six (Jackie Bradley Jr., Kris Johnson, Steve Dillard, Brad Baker, Fred Wegner, Curtis Suchan)

Sox did well last time they picked here with Bradley being a very successful selection.  Already you can see how dramatically the available talent drops off but if the Sox can get any of those top five types that would be a huge win.

#75 Pick

Top Five:

Tino Martinez
Grady Sizemore
Yunel Escobar
Jason Thompson
Wade Davis

Average WAR per MLB Player - 6.3
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Scott Radinsky
Positive WAR - 11 of 56
Red Sox picks - Four (Tino Martinez - unsigned, Brian Rose, Mitch Johnson, Frederick Marden)

I’m pretty surprised to see how productive this pick has been. Of that 1985 draft where the Sox selected Martinez only five players the Sox picked made the bigs.  Three of them (Tino, Ed Sprague and Lance Blankenship) were unsigned after the draft, one was let go by the Sox as a minor league free agent (Todd Pratt) and one was traded after just 41 games with the Sox (Brady Anderson).

#105 Pick

Top Five:

Cliff Lee
Hank Blalock
James Baldwin
Bo Jackson
Tom Murphy

Average WAR per MLB Player - 5.5
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Bo Jackson
Positive WAR - 8 of 56
Red Sox picks - None

I should note here that the “Average WAR per MLB Player” is just that, it is not average WAR for everyone drafted in that spot.  While the average WAR is staying consistent through rounds 2 through 4 the number of players who reach the bigs is declining.

#136 Pick

Top Five:

Angel Pagan
Don Aase
Nick Pivetta
Trevor May
Luke Hudson

Average WAR per MLB Player - 1.4
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Luke Hudson
Positive WAR - 6 of 56
Red Sox picks - Two (Don Aase, Harry Michael)

And in round five things go off the rails a bit.  At this point you are fishing and hoping. Not many players that find their way to the bigs go through the fifth round but every year someone decent gets picked.  Cavan Biggio and Rhys Hopkins are recent examples and you can go back for guys like Bret Boone and John Valentin.

#166 Pick

Top Five:

Wade Boggs*
Steve Cishek
Mike Young
John Maine
Ron Roenicke
* Hall of Fame

Average WAR per MLB Player - 5.8
Drafted Player Closest to that Number - Mike Young
Positive WAR - 15 of 55
Red Sox picks - One (Wade Boggs)

I was going to stop after round five but the Sox huge success in round six made me add one more round.  Obviously Boggs is the exception in this round but this is why scouts and farm directors do what they do.  Finding a Boggs here is the kind of thing that makes a career.

One thing to remember as the draft rolls around is how hard it is simply to MAKE the big leagues. Twelve of the 56 guys picked #4 have never made it.  One thing I think the MLB Network does really well in their draft coverage is that when they talk about comps for the drafted players it’s not all superstars “oh hard throwing lefty who is tall, Randy Johnson.”  They aren’t afraid to make that comparison as “Mark Rzepczynski.”  Maybe that’s not the sexiest comparison in the world but it’s an accurate one that forecasts success (and man, I missed by only the second Z of spelling that correctly).

Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 09, 2021 at 03:21 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. villageidiom Posted: June 10, 2021 at 11:25 AM (#6023570)
#4 Pick

Top Five:

Barry Larkin*
Kevin Brown
Dave Winfield*
Thurman Munson
Darrell Porter
* Hall of Fame


Diving in a little further on these drafts:

Barry Larkin

3 picks before: BJ Surhoff (Brewers), Will Clark (Giants), Bobby Witt (Rangers)
3 picks after: Kurt Brown (White Sox), Barry Bonds (Pirates), Mike Campbell (Mariners)

All but Brown made the majors, and of the rest only Campbell had negative WAR. (Canton's Bobby Witt was next lowest, at +15 WAR.)

Kevin Brown

3 picks before: Jeff King (Pirates), Greg Swindell (Indians), Matt Williams (Giants)
3 picks after: Kent Mercker (Braves), Gary Sheffield (Brewers), Brad Brink (Phillies)

All of them made the majors, and only Brink had negative WAR. (Next lowest was Mercker at +12 WAR.)

Dave Winfield

3 picks before: David Clyde (Rangers), John Stearns (Phillies), Robin Yount (Brewers)
3 picks after: Glenn Tufts (Indians), Johnnie LeMaster (Giants), Billy Taylor (Angels)

Tufts and Taylor never made the majors, LeMaster had negative WAR, and Clyde was a replacement level pitcher. 1973 was a different time.

Thurman Munson
Darrell Porter

1968 and 1970 were a different time, too. After looking at those drafts I've decided they're not worth typing up. The only bright spot is STF's namesake. Instead I'll skip past the top 5 to the 6th best...

Ryan Zimmermann

3 picks before: Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), Alex Gordon (Royals), Jeff Clement (Mariners)
3 picks after: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Ricky Romero (Blue Jays), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)

All made the majors, Clement being the only one with negative WAR. (Next lowest was Romero at +10.)

It seems like the modern drafts are stacked enough that at #4 there are multiple players on the board who will eventually be top MLB players. Of course there's also a limitless supply of players who will never make MLB. These days it appears that teams are far better equipped to tell the difference between the two - at least when compared to 50 years ago or so.

Even without knowing much about the 2021 draftees I like Boston's chances at landing someone who will be a MLB contributor.
   2. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: June 10, 2021 at 01:23 PM (#6023589)
Jack Leiter, Kumal Rocker


If either one of these guys drops to the Sox the team would have to be crazy to pass on them, no? Are their onerous contract demands that would prevent a team from picking them?
   3. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 10, 2021 at 01:40 PM (#6023593)
If either one of these guys drops to the Sox the team would have to be crazy to pass on them, no? Are their onerous contract demands that would prevent a team from picking them?


That, but mainly TINSTAAPP. Look at the names surrounding these picks, listed above. You've got Swindell, Romero, Witt...but then everybody else who really succeeded was a bat: Braun, Upton, Gordon, Tulowitzki, Porter, Munson,Zimmerman, Matt Williams, Surhoff, Will Clark, Bonds, Sheffield, Yount, Winfield..there are a ton of All-Stars, and several HOFers, in that group. It is just a lot easier to project a bat than to project (and then develop) an arm.
   4. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 10, 2021 at 02:31 PM (#6023604)
If either one of these guys drops to the Sox the team would have to be crazy to pass on them, no? Are their onerous contract demands that would prevent a team from picking them?


I don't know what's going on with Rocker. He has been dropping regularly. I don't know why but just about every mock I've seen the last month and a half has had him going 5th or 6th. Leiter seems a virtual certainty to go 1 or 2 with Callis reporting yesterday that the Pirates are going to go with a hitter.

It's tough. From a fan perspective Rocker/Leiter are the "names" but pretending I know a damned thing about these guys is not something I'm prepared to do. If Bloom takes Davis (who Callis says will be there for the Sox if the Bucs don't take him #1) I can't say with any real confidence that it's a "bad" pick. In the NFL if you wanted Davis over Rocker you'd trade with the Orioles at #5, let them take their guy (who Callis says is BC outfielder Sal Frelick) and then take Davis at 5 and improve yourself elsewhere. That's not an option so you take the guy you think is best.
   5. SandyRiver Posted: June 10, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6023615)
Finding a Boggs here is the kind of thing that makes a career.

Didn't some other local pro team make out decently with a 6th rounder?
   6. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 10, 2021 at 04:18 PM (#6023623)
I guess? I mean Mike Krushelnyski had a nice career but most of his best years were after he was traded to the Oilers.
   7. villageidiom Posted: June 10, 2021 at 04:19 PM (#6023625)
Didn't some other local pro team make out decently with a 6th rounder?
Before that he was an 18th rounder, but he didn't sign.
   8. Darren Posted: June 11, 2021 at 10:52 AM (#6023760)
If either one of these guys drops to the Sox the team would have to be crazy to pass on them, no? Are their onerous contract demands that would prevent a team from picking them?



That, but mainly TINSTAAPP.


I thought it had more to do with their performance. There are concerns over Leiter's control and his giving up long balls; Rocker's velocity has been inconsistent.

I always feel excited for the draft but at the same time sort of at a loss. I mean, we have so little information compared to what the teams have, I can't ever feel like a certain pick is a good or bad one. (Except for Trey Ball, I really didn't like that one.)
   9. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 11, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6023791)
I follow baseball more closely than any of my friends, and am the "go to" person when there is a big trade, or a prospect is coming up for the Red Sox from the minors, etc. We all have friends like that for different things (politics, hockey, the best way to visit Europe, whatever), but here's the thing: I know nothing about any of these high school and college players. I wish I could generate 1/20th of the excitement for the baseball draft that I do for the NFL draft, or even the NBA draft. But I cannot, because these are all just...names.

So it comes down to this: If my Red Sox take a pitcher in the first round, I'm probably disappointed with the pick. If they take a college bat, I'm probably fine with it. If they take a high school bat, I'm skeptical, but shrug my shoulders, knowing that unless the pick becomes a successful major-leaguer, I'll have long forgotten who they drafted back in the day.
   10. Bad Fish Posted: June 12, 2021 at 11:20 AM (#6023892)
The draft for both football and basketball are meth, the baseball draft is silo weed (wild hemp or marijuana, I guess. I graduated from high school in Vermont a zillion years ago, I had a friend who would collect it by the trash bag full, worked ok in cookies and brownies, you had to be a pretty dedicated stoner to smoke it). Or maybe, FB and BB are Gamestop and bitcoin, and baseball is an indexed fund?

Anyway, The payoff is years away, if at all. It's hard to get excited about it. Also baseball, unlike other sports, have other business considerations regarding player staffing of their minor league teams that football or basketball don't have to worry about because their minor leagues are subsidized by taxpayers at state colleges all across the country. There is little excitement about drafting semi-pro guys who have almost no shot of making the big stage.

I'm actually surprised to see such positive MLB impact for the high draft picks, and I find it interesting that there seems to be almost no variability from 40 - 100 in the overall quality of the average pick, but after around 100 the draftees are basically semipro players whose prime function is to fill out minor league teams.

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