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So, who did the best in the draft?

Jun 9, 2011, 11:06 AM EDT

Gerrit Cole - UCLA AP

I was asked to be on a radio show last night to talk about the baseball draft. This despite telling the host up front that I know next to nothin’ about the draft. When I pressed the guy for an answer on which way he wanted to go with it, he said that he wanted to do a “winners and losers” style thing, in which I make some sort of pronouncement about who “won the draft.”

I have no idea how to answer that, so I declined the invite.  There are people who do know a lot about amateur players and even they struggle with it.  Jonathan Mayo is one of those experts, and he has an article up over at today in which he talks to scouts who — after all of the “it’s hard to predict the future” caveats were offered — suggested that the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Rays did the best. Their drafts, as well as the Padres and the Red Sox, who were also said to have done well, are analyzed.

There is a lot of good information to be gained in that sort of exercise. But still, I keep coming back to an article Kevin Goldstein wrote over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday in which he listed off a ton of superstars whose selections in the first round were mocked. Joe Mauer. Adrian Gonzalez.  Prince Fielder. There are a lot of those kinds of guys.

I don’t want to throw my hands up in the air, plead draft agnostic and say “we can’t know!” because, sure, we can know an awful lot if we bother to learn about amateur players (which I admittedly haven’t).  But it seems like a tall order to make any pronouncements like the radio host wanted to have someone make. And I suppose the inability to make that kind of stark judgment — that need to know something right now about what just happened — is one of many reasons why the baseball draft will never be as big a media event as the NFL’s and NBA’s.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Good things come to those who wait.

  1. halladaysbicepts - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    “So, who did the best in the draft?”

    Check back in about 5 years. No one knows which MLB prospects will ever pan out. It’s all a crap shoot.

    Out of all the (4) major sports, MLB drafts are big unknowns. That’s why they don’t get hardly any type of coverage.

    • losburrosinblue - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      That’s the best thumbs up to thumbs down I’ve ever seen on one of your post, bicepts…

      • halladaysbicepts - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        Give it time…by close of business today, the thumbs down will be a bigger number than the thumbs up. It’s inevitable.

    • natstowngreg - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      A good case can be made that the NHL draft is the most unknown. In part, because there is almost no media attention. Second, because many picks (even in the 1st round) go back to college or junior hockey or the Eurpoean leagues. Some 1st-round picks don’t even sign contracts with their teams until a couple of years after they’re drafted.

    • 78mu - Jun 9, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Not only is it stupid to rate a draft after 5 days instead of 5 years, I’m not sure scouts are the best to ask for their opinions. Hasn’t anyone read Moneyball? BB was ready to fire all the scouts.

      Even the NFL draft, the most widely researched and analyzed of professional drafts is a big cr*pshoot for at least 3 years. And the NFL is not drafting any kids right out of HS.

  2. Jonny 5 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    I’d like a review of previous drafts during draft time every year. Because I’d like to know who really did good, and who really did bad. We don’t know until like 3 years down the road on who struck out, and who struck gold. So that’s what i’m saying. I’m sure there are places to gain this info that i’m not aware of. Anyone? Who did best in 2008 – 9 drafts?

    • xnumberoneson - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      You can easily google and look at past drafts, but even then, how can you really measure who did well and who did not? If a team drafts one superstar and a bunch of guys who never make it, is that a good draft? If your top pick fails, but you get guys in the middle rounds who turn out to be decent major leaguers, is that a good draft? I suppose you could use WAR as a tool to evaluate drafts several years later, but that’s not necessarily fair to teams who drafted a bunch of high schoolers who are still working their way up through the minors. For example, looking only at the first round of the 2006 draft, I see some established stars (Longoria, Kershaw, Lincecum) along with guys whose ML careers are just getting started. Can you even fairly judge that draft five years later?

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:47 AM

        Absolutely. Some teams feast on high school kids, some don’t give them much of a look. I was hoping other people could have done the work for me.

        Can you even fairly judge that draft five years later?

        Probably not. But someone somewhere has tried. Right?

    • royalsfaninfargo - Jun 9, 2011 at 1:52 PM

      This is a pretty good roundup of the best players to be drafted from 1990-2005. Not perfect but a good overview.

  3. Max Power - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    I think the really important question is: Who won the mock draft?

    • cur68 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:29 AM

      I dunno diddly about no draft but is your real name “Max Power” or did you just come up with that for HBT? If it is your square handle then you sir should get a PhD or MD; “Dr. Max Power, Evil doers beware!” I’d kill to be named “Max Power”. You gotta good middle initial?

      • b7p19 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:33 AM

        Clearly this poster is a big “Simpsons” fan. I remember an episode where Homer changed his name to Max Power. You’re forgiven though, cause I don’t think they record any Simpson episodes in French.

      • cur68 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        I worked with a doc named “Kenny McCormick” just like the South Park kid. It’s entirely possible “Max” is really Max. Gotta ask to know. As for Simpson’s en Francais; let me assure you, it is indeed offered in French. C’est vrai. Did you know “D’oh!” transcends language barriers? It’s the same en Francais et en anglais. C’est vrai aussi.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:50 AM

        Does Peter Griffin sound even more nutty when speaking French? I’m trying to picture him doing “Surfin’ bird” in French.

      • cur68 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        Dunno J5, I’ve never watched Family Guy in French. I’m going to have to now just to see if Stewie is as stuffy in that format.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Stewie in French………. That’s awesome. Although picturing him without a tiny black mustache seems impossible to me right now.. And just when I thought Brian couldn’t seem more smug…..

      • cur68 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        My god! The thought of Brian in French…shudder…I’d want to threaten him with a rolled up newspaper, just to, you know, remind him who’s boss. I gotta check the listings for Family Guy in French now. This could be good…

    • Jonah - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      True story: Came REALLY close to convincing my wife to make my son’s middle name “Maxpower”. Who really checks on a person’s middle name anyway, right? And if you did, it would clearly be an awesome revelation.

      Good piece btw, Craig.

      • cur68 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:23 PM

        Man I hope churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged see’s this; he’s got a GREAT baby name story for you.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM

        My good friend named his kid Samuel Adam ___________. And he’s a bigger beer buff than he is history buff.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:46 PM

        Who thumbed down that man, a pox on you all!

      • The Rabbit - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        My son and I just had the name discussion. In the past, he’s used ballplayers as inspiration. Not that he’s a Sox fan but I did ask him not to use Saltalamacchia as a middle name.
        This time, his new kid’s first and middle names are the full name of a scientist from Stargate.

    • Max Power - Jun 9, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      I got it off a hair dryer.

  4. gamecockinfl - Jun 9, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Rays had to win if just by sheer numbers. Throw enogh $%#^ against the wall, something good has got to happen. Plus they got some pretty good players.

    • sportsdrenched - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      Throwing stuff against the wall is pretty much the MLB Draft. And like you said. The Rays Win.

      • spudchukar - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Yeah, if it is a crapshoot, then the more rolls of the dice the better the odds.

  5. offseasonblues - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    Comparing the drafts is an apples and oranges thing.
    It seems to me that the NFL and NBA are drafting from a pool of players roughly equivalent to AAA. They’ve had 4 years of high school to show whether they should be “drafted” to a college program where they progress (or don’t) from rookie league to single A to AA to AAA. They are far more of a known quantity, and they’ve been playing a game that, as far as I can tell from the little attention I pay to those sports, is designed to train them for a professional career.

    Meanwhile, HS and college baseball programs use aluminum bats for goodness sakes!

    MLB has to pay its draftees during their development and do the weeding out that high schools and colleges provide for basketball and football players.

    (Those future NBA and NFL players should be paid too.)

  6. Charles Gates - Jun 9, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    I disagree with the sentiment that ‘we won’t know who won the draft for 5 years.’
    The best way to judge a decision is to weigh it against what information was available at the time the decision was made. I liken this to poker, where player A goes all in against a player B that has a one outer to win the pot. Even if player B hits his/her card, it doesn’t mean the decision was right (let’s ignore pot odds for a minute).
    There’s information asymetry in the fact that teams know things about prospects that the ‘experts’ don’t, but outside of that, the net of ‘reached a little for that pick’ vs ‘got a good value there’ gives us a general understanding of how teams got the most value out of the draft — value by today’s standards.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      +1 to this, but unfortunately most people like to base their appraisal of a decision based on the outcome, not the information at hand (and there’s lots of proof to this sadly).

    • spudchukar - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      I used to agree with you Chuck, but then I watched “The Cincinnati Kid”.

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