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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