LINK: Analyzing Draft History

It’s draft day, so I thought a draft related link post was in order. Baseball America has covered the draft from every possible angle you might imagine, but since I’m a nerd and I like numerical analysis, this draft history piece by Matt Eddy is my favorite part of their draft coverage. While Eddy isn’t the first to look at a series of drafts and see where the strengths and weaknesses have been, he updates the results to cover 1989-2008, and he breaks down the results in a way that is easy to digest.

I could excerpt a ton of different parts of the story, which is why you should just go read the whole thing. Here’s one part that stands out, though:

Despite the large disparity in graduation rates for college position players and high school ones, the gap in impact rates is much narrower. About 14 in 100 college players in our study have accumulated at least 10 WAR for their careers, while nearly 11 in 100 high schoolers reached that level. In fact, the star-of-stars high school position players (Top 5) produced more wins above replacement (1,091) than their college counterparts (1,016), which is remarkable when you consider their lower graduation rate, lower impact rate and the fact that prep stars spot roughly three years of experience to college players at the time of their draft selection, a phenomenon that ought to make collegians in the later years of our sample considerably more productive.

High school position players keep track with collegians if you expand the impact threshold to 20 career WAR (34 high school, 31 college), 30 career WAR (17, 17) or 40 career WAR (11, 11).

Eddy finds something similar when he looks at pitchers as well. Basically, the idea that college players are significantly better bets than high school players simply doesn’t seem to be true anymore, if it ever was. The flameout rate of high school players is much higher, but almost the entirety of the difference is made up of college guys who get to the big leagues but never amount to much. In terms of actually finding talent who produce significant value — and it’s not like +10 WAR is a crazy high bar — high school players have done nearly as well, despite the fact that (as Eddy notes) the three year head start they have should bias the results of active players towards the college guys.

Anyway, the whole thing is worth reading, as are the rest of Eddy’s articles on the draft’s history. And, despite what might have been written about the draft 10 years ago, don’t freak out if your favorite team takes a high school kid tonight. Even if they draft a high school pitcher. It’s okay, really.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Brian Reinhart
Member
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Jim Callis’ 2005 mock draft got posted on Twitter. It’s incredible.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/mock-draft/2005/26510.html

Unless I’m much mistaken, he nails the top 12 in order and more or less everyone else besides (even Chase Headley to San Diego at #35). And there are snippets like:

“The Mariners were expected to take Tulowitzki as recently as Friday, but they’re looking for a catcher and a power bat.”
“The Devil Rays’ scouting department likes Florida high school outfielder Andrew McCutchen, but upper management wants a more experienced player.”
“Last year, Pittsburgh took high school catcher Neil Walker in this slot. This time, Pirates scouts want the athletic McCutchen and apparently will be allowed to take him, though upper management would prefer a college player such as Texas A&M shortstop Cliff Pennington.”

maguro
Guest
maguro
2 years 11 months ago

Great stuff. I also liked this one:

“The Rockies preferred to take Tennessee righthander Luke Hochevar, a Colorado native. But after two days of discussions, Colorado couldn’t get any assurance that it wouldn’t be in for a lengthy negotiation with Hochevar’s adviser, Scott Boras. On Monday afternoon, the Rockies decided to pass on Hochevar, who is thought to desire a major league contract in the neighborhood of $5 million. Getting Tulowitzki is a nice consolation, especially after it looked like he would go third overall, and he gets the nod over Bruce and Maybin.”

Scott Boras really did the Rockies a favor there.

Choo
Member
2 years 11 months ago

So did Bavasi and the Mariners, in a draft absolutely loaded with present-day talent.

Steve K
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Steve K
2 years 11 months ago

Isn’t this sort of a selection bias though? Basically if you were considered very good in high school you get drafted and you are reducing the potential talent that even goes to college.

brendan
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brendan
2 years 11 months ago

this. Given that super-talented high school players can command high draft position and big money, they are discouraged from attending college. Since the very top selections in the draft are the most productive in terms of WAR, this should have a big effect, right?

Bob M
Guest
Bob M
2 years 11 months ago

You are also giving those college players 3 or 4 more seasons to prove their talent, against better competition. While you won’t have the truly elite talent, because they will be drafted out of HS, in theory the college players should be more predictable.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
2 years 11 months ago

Seems like college players could be better bets in middle-to-late rounds, when what you’re looking for realistically is role players—bullpen specialists, fourth outfielders with decent power, that kind of thing. That may already be the pattern teams are drafting with, I don’t know.

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