Draft Notes

Baseball America‘s top 10 draft-eligible players were drafted 12th, 4th, 15th, 9th, 3rd, 7th, 2nd, 1st, 8th and 6th, in that order. It seems as though the key to being picked really high is to be good, but not too good, which is of course why the draft is totally screwed up.

The two guys who were considered by many to be the top available players, Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, ended up going 12th and 15th, and they would have likely fallen quite a bit farther down the draft board if they hadn’t been snatched up there by teams (presumably) willing to shell out some big money to meet their bonus demands. I just can’t imagine that happening in the NBA or the NFL, mostly because those two drafts actually do a decent job of handing the best players to the worst teams.

– After all of the Moneyball hoopla of the past year or so, the Oakland A’s ended up picking two high school players with their first 13 selections, including taking a high school pitcher with their fourth-round pick. Shocking, I know.

Meanwhile, Billy Beane‘s former right-hand men, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, went in completely different directions from each other. Ricciardi, working with a similar budget to Beane’s (a small one), chose almost exclusively college players, while DePodesta, working with a nice, fat budget, used his first two picks and four of his first six picks on high school players. Which is, of course, just another reminder that half of the book’s title is MONEY.

– So which teams followed the Moneyball “script”? Well, you already know about Oakland and Toronto, but some of the other teams might surprise you. Here is a list of the percentage of college/junior college players each team drafted:

TEAM                PCT
Cardinals           91.5
Blue Jays           90.4
Athletics           88.6
Diamondbacks        82.0
Rangers             80.4
Giants              79.6
Astros              79.6
Indians             74.0
Red Sox             73.5
Padres              73.5
Yankees             69.2
Rockies             68.0
White Sox           66.7
Marlins             66.0
Mets                66.0
Orioles             65.3
Tigers              64.0
Angels              62.5
Mariners            62.5
Phillies            62.0
Devil Rays          62.0
Expos               60.0
Cubs                59.1
Reds                58.0
Dodgers             57.7
Royals              56.6
Pirates             50.0
Twins               50.0
Braves              40.8
Brewers             40.0

I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers extremely interesting. You think maybe we can put an end to these articles that pop up in newspapers across the country every few weeks, bashing the A’s for taking tons of college players and mocking the whole Moneyball thing?

It’s not surprising that the Blue Jays, run by Ricciardi, took a larger percentage of college players than the A’s, but I think most people would be pretty shocked to see the St. Louis Cardinals at the very top of the list. The Cardinals used all of their first 26 picks on college players and took a total of just four high school players with their 47 picks, which works out to 91.5% college players. It shouldn’t be all that surprising though, because according to Baseball America, the Cardinals took 74.5% college players in 2003, 84.0% college players in 2002 and 80.0% college players in 2001.

They also recently hired Ron Shandler and some of the guys over at Baseball HQ, so they may be a little more Moneyball than most people think. Of course, the next time I see an article with quotes from scouting directors mocking the Cardinals’ drafting methods will be the first time.

The Arizona Diamondbacks also loaded up on college players for the second straight draft. After using 16 of their first 17 picks on college players last year, and drafting a total of 80.4% college players, the Diamondbacks took Drew (out of Florida State) with their first pick and used all of their first 19 picks on college or junior college players. They ended up with 82.0% college players, which ranked 4th.

Billy Beane’s former scouting director, Grady Fuson, is now running the draft in Texas, and the Rangers ranked 5th with 80.4% college players. Even Brian Sabean and the Giants were getting in on the act, taking 79.6% college players.

There were still plenty of teams taking high school players, and teams like the Twins, Braves and Brewers have got to be loving this drafting-a-bunch-of-college-players thing. If you are going to focus on high school players — and clearly, from this year and past years, several teams are — the more teams that adopt a similar approach to Oakland (and Toronto and St. Louis …), the more high school players there are left for you to snatch up.

DePodesta and the Dodgers were one of those teams drafting plenty of high school players, taking just 57.7% college players, which ranked 25th among MLB teams. I’ve got to think this has to do with LA’s large budget, but also with their scouting director, Logan White, who seems to have earned DePodesta’s trust.

– As is the case with many of you, I found Craig Burley’s adjusted NCAA stats and player rankings incredibly interesting and I used them to look up a whole slew of players who got drafted. For instance, over at my blog I used the adjusted stats to look at the college players the Twins picked. I also found myself checking up on Craig’s top-ranked players to see which teams picked them and where.

Now, Craig’s rankings were not actually meant as rankings of how good the players are or how good Craig thought they would be in the majors. We leave that sort of stuff to Baseball America and the other MLB draft experts. Instead, Craig’s rankings were solely based upon what hitters and pitchers did during the 2004 season. They basically show how valuable each player was in 2004.

Here’s a look at where Craig’s top 25 hitters were taken …

***Some of Craig’s top-ranked hitters were not draft-eligible and thus not taken.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.
RNK   PLAYER              COLLEGE             MLB TEAM       PICK
2     Ryan Jones          East Carolina       Athletics      667
3     Chip Cannon         The Citadel         Blue Jays      237
4     Kurt Suzuki         CS Fullerton        Athletics      67
7     E. Martinez-Esteve  Florida St.         Giants         70
8     Matt Vanderbosch    Oral Roberts        Red Sox        275
9     Matt Macri          Notre Dame          Rockies        140
10    Riche Robnett       Fresno State        Athletics      26
11    Landon Powell       South Carolina      Athletics      24
12    Stephen Drew        Florida State       Diamondbacks   15
15    Mike Ferris         Miami of Ohio       Cardinals      60
16    Danny Putnam        Stanford            Athletics      36
19    Brian Bixler        Eastern Michigan    Pirates        52
20    Brendan Winn        South Carolina      Red Sox        935
21    Jeff Fiorentino     Florida Atlantic    Orioles        79
22    Chris Westervelt    Stetson             Dodgers        328
23    Dan Batz            Rhode Island        Dodgers        178
24    P.J. Hiser          Pittsburgh          Indians        857
25    Nick Blasi          Wichita St.         Athletics      367

Of Craig’s top 25 hitters, 18 were drafted.

Craig’s #1 guy, Jed Lowrie, was not draft-eligible, and I am absolutely amazed that the #2 guy, Ryan Jones, lasted all the way until pick #667. Jones wasn’t highly thought of in regard to his “tools” and he wasn’t a great hitter in previous years, but East Carolina played a tough schedule, they play in a pitcher’s ballpark, and the man hit .402/.504/.834. .402/.504/.834. I guess what I’m saying is that he’s probably one of the best 667th picks in baseball history. I will never be convinced that there were 666 players worth taking a chance on over Jones.

Of the 18 top-25 hitters who were drafted, the Oakland A’s took six of them, and Beane’s former partners in crime, Ricciardi and DePodesta, took another three, total. Theo Epstein and the Red Sox took two of them. All of which means 11 of the 18 top-ranked hitters who were drafted were selected by the four most … I dunno, let’s say stathead-friendly teams. Not surprising, of course, but still interesting. I would say that Craig’s system of ranking players and Oakland’s system of ranking players is probably very similar.

Now let’s look at Craig’s top 25 pitchers

***Some of Craig’s top-ranked pitchers were not draft-eligible and thus not taken.

RNK   PLAYER              COLLEGE             MLB TEAM       PICK
1     Jered Weaver        Long Beach St.      Angels         12
2     Jason Windsor       CS Fullerton        Athletics      97
3     Justin Hoyman       Florida             Indians        47
4     Wade Townsend       Rice                Orioles        8
5     J.P. Howell         Texas               Royals         31
7     Michael Rogers      North Carolina St.  Athletics      49
8     Philip Humber       Rice                Mets           3
9     Vern Sterry         North Carolina St.  Padres         222
13    Jeremy Sowers       Vanderbilt          Indians        6
14    Jonathan Ellis      Citadel             Padres         162
16    Mark Roberts        Oklahoma            Rangers        231
18    Matt Fox            Central Florida     Twins          35
22    Thomas Diamond      New Orleans         Rangers        10
23    Jason Urquidez      Arizona St.         Reds           318
25    Brett Smith         UC Irvine           Yankees        42

15 of Craig’s top 25 pitchers were drafted. While the A’s did grab two of them, they didn’t dominate the list like they did with the hitters. The Padres, Indians and Rangers also grabbed two each. I was pleasantly surprised that my beloved Twins, with their high school-dominated draft, even managed to grab the #18 pitcher on Craig’s list.

Overall, 33 players from Craig’s two top-25 lists were chosen in the draft. Here’s the team-by-team breakdown:

Athletics          8
Indians            3
Rangers            2
Red Sox            2
Orioles            2
Padres             2
Dodgers            2
Blue Jays          1
Twins              1
Rockies            1
Giants             1
Cardinals          1
Mets               1
Yankees            1
Reds               1
Royals             1
Diamondbacks       1
Angels             1
Pirates            1

What does all of this mean? Well, it seems like a whole bunch of teams are starting to warm up to the idea that drafting tons of college players is a good thing to do, but it also seems like Billy Beane and the A’s are the only ones doing so based on adjusting the hell out of players’ college stats.

Actually, now that I think about it, I have never seen both Craig Burley and Billy Beane in the same place, at the same time. Coincidence?

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