Evan Longoria is another Major League draft success. (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

Draft Day Dreams


For those of you paying attention – and really I know none of you are – I have taken over as Editor of Call to the Pen.  As such the content that I am now contributing is much different than what I had done in the past as a staff writer.  Every Sunday since the season started I was posting an article titled Studs and Duds.  While I may bring the article back every now and then, I’d like to use the time to cover my thoughts on baseball in general.  Since I will mostly be focusing on news articles throughout the week, this gives me the opportunity to provide my own thoughts an opinions.  

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is a draft unlike any other sport.  In the NFL, player drafted 1 through 10 are expected to be immediate contributors.  The first few picks of the NBA draft are “lottery” picks, and as such those players often become the face of a franchise.  In baseball, the leap from the amateur game to the professional game is so big, the chasm between metal bats and wooden bats so wide that any pick (even the number one overall pick) is not always a lock to ever see Major League action.

Stephen Strasburg is a draft pick who clearly has panned out. (Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

And that’s what makes the draft so intriguing.  MLB has not done a great job in promoting its draft until recently.  Fans had very little interest in the draft for the very reason outlined above.  Now, as coverage of the draft improves and interest rises, players who otherwise may have been ignored or cast aside as nothing more than a college or high school player hoping to make it are being thrust into center stage.  Nothing has changed about these players’ chances, but the hopes of a franchise now seem to rest on draft day dreams more than ever.

Carlos Correa was the number one overall pick in this year’s draft.  He is going to the beleaguered and soon-to-be American League franchise Astros.  Houston selected Correa when most analysts had figured they would take Stanford’s Mark Appel.  Appel fell to the Pirates at number eight overall while Correa, projected as a probable 5-10 pick, jumped to the Houston Astros.  Correa was one of the few players invited to attend the draft day festivities, and the look on his face when selected, the joy in his eyes, told the story of someone who doesn’t care about the odds.  His dream is to play for a Major League club – to play professional baseball.

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft has a maximum of 50 rounds.  With 30 teams, that’s an enormous number of picks, and the odds for any of the players picked (even those in the first round) making a Major League club are long.  With that in mind, I wanted to look at top-ten picks over the last ten years (starting with 2010 and going back to give players time to develop in the minor leagues) to see how many of them have panned out and made  big league roster.

2010

As you can see, two of the ten players picked in the first round of the 2010 draft have been promoted and made the Major League teams.  Granted, more of the players drafted in the top-ten can and likely will be promoted, but as of right now only 20% have made a Major League roster.

2009

By contrast, going back one more year allows more development time and we now see six of the top-ten drafts picks in 2009 have made a Major League roster.  Of note, two of those picks that have made the Major League team are for the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals have drafted perhaps better than any other franchise over the last five years.

So in the past two years, 8 out of 20 picks have made it to the show – 40%.

2008

The odds of players being called up continue to increase the farther we go back.  Only two players drafted in the 2008 Draft have failed to reach the big leagues.  And of those who did make their respective parent clubs, all are still on a Major League roster.

Interestingly, 2008 is the first draft where we see the number one overall pick fail to have made the big league club.  Tim Beckham is currently playing for Triple-A Durham, so he’s just one step away.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t found a lot of success so far.  He’s currently hitting .204/.290/.278 in 13 games.

2007 

Again we see 80% of the draft class reaching the Major League level from this draft.  All but Daniel Moskos have managed to stay in the Majors since their call-up.  Moskos pitched in 31 games for the Pirates last season and posted a 2.96 ERA.  However, he has started this year back at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Of the two players who have yet to make the Major Leagues, Josh Vitters appears closer.  Vitters is currently playing third base for Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs organization.  Casey Weathers is still toiling away at Double-A.  He is now part of the Cubs organization as well after being traded by Colorado along with Ian Stewart for Tyler Colvin and D.J. Lemahieu.

2006

Only one player from the 2006 draft has failed to move on from minor league ball.  This draft class may be the best

we’ve seen so far though.  In it, there are two Cy Young award winners and one of the best third baseman in the game.  Beyond that, this draft class also saw current up-and-comers Brandon Morrow, Drew Stubs, and Luke Hochevar drafted.

Billy Rowell has been far from the player the Orioles thought they were getting – proof that the draft can be a crap shoot at times.  Rowell has already spent six seasons in the minors and has yet to play a game this year thanks to a 50-game drug suspension.  His minor league slash line is nothing to write home about either: ..261/.329/.389.  He has not yet made beyond Double-A ball.

2005 

Again, we’re looking at just one player from this draft class to fail to make his Major League club.  However, Jeff Clement has not been able to stay in the Major Leagues.  He played for the Mariners in 2007 and 2008, and he played for the Pirates in 2010.  But since then, he has spent the last two seasons back in the minors.

Wade Townsend, the only player from the 2005 draft not to have moved on from minor league action, is out of baseball completely now.  He struggled with injuries including Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery and has not played since 2010 when he pitched for an Independent League team.

2004

The 2004 draft yielded one of the biggest draft day busts in history; Matt Bush.  Bush couldn’t hack it with the Padres farm teams, got in too much trouble with the law, and was released.  He was picked up by the Rays, but again got in trouble with the law.  He recently injured a motorcyclist in an accident in which he was drunk and fled the scene.  He and Wade Townsend – who did not sign after this draft – were the only two not to make a Major League roster.

Interestingly, three players failed to stay in the Majors after being called up.  Thomas Diamond, Jeremy Sowers, and Mark Rogers have all seen more minor league time than Major League time.

2003

The 2003 draft had three mis-fires.  Kyle Sleeth has been out of baseball since 2007, Chris Lubanski has not played this season, but is still part of the Phillies organization, and Ryan Harvey is now playing with the Independent League Lancaster Barnstormers.

Everyone else in this draft is still playing Major League ball.

2002

The 2002 draft was an interesting one.  The number one overall pick, Bryan Bullington, did make it to the Majors, but he didn’t stick around.  He bounced around to three different teams, spent a lot of time in the minors, and is now pitching in Japan.  A total of four picks in this draft were able to make a Major League team, but have since been playing minor league ball or are out of baseball all together; Bryan Bullington, Adam Loewen, Scott Moore, and Drew Myer.

Chris Gruler’s career was cut short by injury and he retired in 2008.  He last played in 2006.  Clint Everts is still playing, and still looking for a shot.  He is with his fourth organization and is currently pitching for Triple-A Las Veags.

2001

2001 was perhaps a worse draft year than 2002.  Three players never made the Majors, and four more players are no longer in the Majors. That’s a total of seven players from the 2001 draft who did not pan out – including Mark Prior who was once one of the best in the game.

Dewon Brazelton, John Van Benschoten, and Chris Burke saw Major League action, but all are out of baseball.  Van Benschoten last played in 2011.  Josh Carp, Chris Smith, and Colt Grifin are all out of baseball as well without ever making a Major League team.

***

So if you’ve stuck with me through these ten years of draft history, you’ll see top-ten picks have a decent shot of making a Major League team.  72% reached the big leagues.  However, if you factor in players who are no longer with their Major League clubs, the odds of a draft pick in the top-ten panning out fall to under 60%.

The Major League Baseball draft will always been the most interesting of drafts for the unknown.  Anything can happen between high school and college ball an the minor leagues.  Whether it really is the transition of hitters using metal bats for the most part to wooden bats in professional ball, or pitchers adjusting to the best talent out there, draft picks in baseball flame out more than any other sport.

Remember, we took a look at top-ten picks only.  The odds of players panning out in the Majors drops off the table as we go beyond the top-ten, let alone going beyond the first round.

Carlos Correa has the best odds from this year based on what we’ve seen over the last ten years.  His smile on draft day was well-earned.  From 2001-2010, only two number one picks failed to make it to the show.  His dreams may be realized, but hundreds of other players who celebrated over the three days of the first-year player draft will never see Major League action.

That is both the intrigue and the heartache of a game so agonizingly difficult yet so wonderfully easy.  The simplicity of playing baseball is the thing that draws kids and adults to the game, but at the Major League level, the talent of the athletes playing the game will weed out those who can’t hack it.  And draft day dreams are crushed in the process.

Tags: Bryce Harper David Price Evan Longoria Justin Verlander Matt Bush MLB Draft Stephen Strasburg