Mark Prior Breaks The Cubs Ability to Draft

The average bust rate for first round picks is right around 60%. Cold reality tells us that most of these shiny new first rounders will never touch the major leagues after taking batting practice or throwing a bullpen session for their teams over the next few weeks. Some teams have proven to be more successful avoiding the bust bug than others. In fact, most of the teams have proven to be better than a particular pair of franchises.

The Astros and Cubs haven’t had a first round selection reach the major leagues since 2001. That would be Chris Burke and Mark Prior respectively. The next longest drought is shared by two teams and dates back to 2004. With the Astros, you sort of expect such acts of futility. You know when video games advertise things like, “Scout the latest amateur prospects! Look for talent in international markets! Watch as your young players develop into tomorrow’s superstars!” Yeah, or you could do none of the above and mimic Ed Wade.

The Cubs are the surprise team. Jim Hendry has proven to be a fine general manager and was a pretty good scouting director. Hendry was promoted in October of 2001 and his team’s first round draft quality has slipped considerably. This is not to say they haven’t made good picks of the time at the draft, just none of them have worked out well.

In 2002 the team had four first round picks, three of which were of the supplemental variety. They took college pitchers Luke Hagerty, Chadd Blasko, Matthew Clanton, and Bobby Brownlie. In 2003, the Cubs would take high school phenom Ryan Harvey who drew pre-draft comparisons to Mark McGwire for his outstanding power. Left without a first round pick in 2004, the Cubs would take high school arm Mark Pawelek in 2005 and college bat Tyler Colvin in 2006. Neither has played in a game above AA to this point in their careers.

2007’s draft class might hold the key to ending the streak. One of Josh Donaldson and Josh Vitters should eventually reach the majors. If nothing else, at least Donaldson helped the Cubs acquire Rich Harden, which is more than most of the other failed first round picks can say.



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don
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don
7 years 3 months ago

Ed Wade’s first round draft picks include Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels. He has his faults, but the Astros draft problems while he was with the Phillies are not among them.

Jamie
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Jamie
7 years 3 months ago

thats mike arbuckle and marti woelver. not ed wade.

Mike
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Mike
7 years 3 months ago

Don, you beat me to it. Ed Wade has a pretty good draft history in the first round, so no reason to take a shot at him.

DK
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DK
7 years 3 months ago

Seriously… that’s not very versed writing. Ed Wade became the Astros GM in late Sept 2007. He just completed his 2nd draft as Astros GM and Jason Castro, the 1st round selection in 2008, seems to be on track to finish the season at AA Corpus Christi and make the majors as an everyday backstop within 2 years. He may even see a September call up this season.

Ed Wade has made several trades as Astros GM and it’s easy to say they were foolish, but I can see both sides of most of them. Now, did I like the Lidge trade? Not a bit — Lidge was a still a god to me — but it’s looking OK now (not because of Lidge’s struggles this season, but because Bourn is being a functional lead-off hitter). Did I think sending Chad Qualls, et. al to Arizona for Valverde made much sense? In terms of giving Chris Burke a new opportunity, yes, but I always thought Qualls was a ML closer. And the trade for Tejada’s contract? I understand moving some bodies and that Luke Scott didn’t fit in an OF w/ Pence & El Caballo, but including Troy Patton was brutal… and he’s killing it at AA in his comeback this season. It’s a shame that the Purpura/Garner era didn’t afford Luke Scott enough playing time to be the centerpiece of that deal instead of Patton. The Tejada deal was a couple of years in the making and a couple of years too late. And I like Jeff Keppinger… a lot… and the Astros have needed him this season, but for Drew Sutton as the PTBN? I’m still working on that one. Ed Wade and Uncle Drayton couldn’t possibly believe the Astros are going to compete this season, right?

Ben Zobrist’s explosion in Tampa continues to be a painful reminder of just how inept Tim Purpura was as Astros GM and that Gerry Hunsicker is pretty savvy and much-missed.

Nick
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Nick
7 years 3 months ago

I was expecting you to start saying WHY the Cubs were broken, but then you just stopped.

TD
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TD
7 years 3 months ago

Szamardzija? I know he was a comp pick, but they’d gone cheap in order to afford him.

Nate
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Nate
7 years 3 months ago

I believe Smardjiza was a 5th rounder.

Po
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Po
7 years 3 months ago

I would like to see what the Cubs track record is outside of the first round compared to other teams.

The Cubs seem to do horribly in the first round, but make up for it with the upcoming rounds.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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7 years 3 months ago

Thank you for noting the abysmal rate of success in the first round. I’ve been harping on this since 2003, when I studied the success rate of drafting.

Furthermore, the success rate plummets even within the first round, it’s like a micro-climate, the first 5 picks have the best success rate, then it just falls steeply from there, so much so that the picks at the end of the first round are not that likely to ever become a good major league player, and even worse when you get to the supplemental first round picks.

Outside of the first 5 or so picks of any draft, it is pretty much a crapshoot trying to find a good major league player who can put in 6 good years for a team before going free agent. Injuries, lack of development, personal problems, they all contribute to a very poor success rate for any prospect drafted after the first 5 or so picks of every draft. But it’s the only game in town, so what can teams do?

Overall, I found around a 10% success rate in the last third of the first round, and about half that in the supplemental first round. So the Cubs record is not that unusual, particularly for a team that is regularly in the playoffs or contending for the playoffs, you just get a lousy first round pick and then it gets worse from there.

It’s like trying to drill for oil in a tough region. You are going to get dry caps for the vast majority of them, but you continue because that’s the only way you will ever find an oil gusher.

That’s why I’ve been saying that the best way to rebuild is to sink the whole team, trade off any vet who can bring you a decent prospect, and have a top 5 losing record for 3-5 years until you find a top player or two to rebuild around for your next round of success. The Tigers and Marlins have followed that route (not surprisingly Dombrowski GMed both teams), the Braves did that under Cox as GM before their great stretch, and the Rays has been doing it for years to build up a great treasure trove of top talent.

walkoffblast
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walkoffblast
7 years 3 months ago

While the pirates continue to prove that this is no guarantee to work.

John Galt
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John Galt
7 years 3 months ago

“Jim Hendry has proven to be an idiot…”

Fixed.

Paulie L.
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Paulie L.
7 years 3 months ago

How has Jim Hendry been a fine GM? He backloaded himself into a corner this past offseason and is now stuck with several untradeable contracts. The Cubs have the 3rd highest payroll in baseball, one of the 5 worst minor league systems in baseball, are 30 games away from Milton Bradley kicking in his ’11 option which will guarantee about $120m in salary to an aging OF ’10 and beyond, and they haven’t won a playoff game since ’03.

Berkmaniac
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Berkmaniac
7 years 3 months ago

The Astros really were hurt by the time Tim Purpura served as GM. Hunsicker was a great GM, Wade has only been here a couple years. At worst, he has made some questionable decisions, but nothing too egregious.

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