Scouting the Scouting Directors, Part 2

Freddie Freeman was one of Roy Clark's most productive selections from the 2007 draft. (via Doug Anderson)

Freddie Freeman was one of Roy Clark’s most productive selections from the 2007 draft. (via Doug Anderson)

The Best Individual Drafts

In Part 1 yesterday, I didn’t mention the work of scouting directors with three years or fewer on the job. That’s because directors with such limited work are prone to wild swings and outrageous bWAR+ figures based on a single player. One way to remedy this is to look at individual drafts. Let’s look at the top individual drafts now. (Since most recent draftees haven’t even started their major league careers, these data will exclude drafts from 2009 and later.) Here are the 10 best using those criteria. This is for total talent drafted (signed and unsigned), relative to league:

  1. 1976, Bill Lajoie – 578.59
  2. 1975, Bill Lajoie – 506.76
  3. 1983, Eddie Kasko – 476.21
  4. 1975, Mel Didier – 459.43
  5. 1999, John Mozeliak – 447.61
  6. 1990, Brian Sabean – 427.91
  7. 2007, Roy Clark – 410.14
  8. 1993, Roger Jongewaard – 404.30
  9. 1977, Danny Menendez – 398.72
  10. 1989, Chet Montgomery – 391.61

Yet again, Lajoie leaps to the top of the charts. One thing this study has shown, no matter the criteria, is that Lajoie’s run in Detroit in the mid to late 1970s was unparalleled. His 1975 draft netted Lou Whitaker, a huge fish, but also found 24.8 bWAR from Jason Thompson. It looks even better when compared to the rest of baseball, as 1975 was one of the least productive years in the sample, major league-wide. Lajoie followed it up with a 1976 draft that included Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Dan Petry and an unsigned Ozzie Smith.

Kasko’s 1983 draft in Boston is almost entirely the result of Roger Clemens. The only other player to provide more than two career bWAR is Kirt Manwaring, whom the Red Sox didn’t even sign. Mozeliak’s 1999 draft similarly gets a large boost from Albert Pujols, though he also drafted and signed Coco Crisp and his 29 bWAR. Didier’s 1975 draft in Montreal landed Andre Dawson — the only player signed that year by the Expos — though he also drafted Mike Boddicker (31.8 bWAR, unsigned). Jongewaard’s 1993 draft was Alex Rodriguez plus three cup-of-coffee players.

Brian Sabean’s 1990 draft for the Yankees featured a whopping three players over 20 career bWAR, including two (Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada) who were part of the core of the Yankees 1990s dynasty. Carl Everett was the third. Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer were also drafted and signed. Danny Menendez’s 1977 Expos draft was similarly well-rounded, featuring Tim Raines, Scott Sanderson and Bill Gullickson, all 20+ bWAR players.

Montgomery, the add-on, also received production from several players. Brian Giles, Jim Thome, Curt Leskanic, Jerry Dipoto and Alan Embree all contributed at the major league level, with Giles and Thome putting up huge numbers.

Now let’s strip out the unsigned players. Here are the top 10 individuals seasons strictly for players signed by the drafting organization. Yet again, this excludes drafts from 2009 to 2016:

  1. 1983, Eddie Kasko – 666.76
  2. 1975, Bill Lajoie – 660.63
  3. 1980, Joe Bowen – 535.32
  4. 1966, Al Campanis – 523.29
  5. 1993, Roger Jongewaard – 494.47
  6. 1997, Tim Wilken – 487.04
  7. 1999, John Mozeliak – 485.93
  8. 1978, Tom Giordano – 459.77
  9. 1977, Danny Menendez – 459.34
  10. 2003, Ron Hopkins – 455.27

Lajoie’s 1976 just misses the cut this time, with the unsigned Ozzie Smith no longer counting in his favor. But taking out Smith still leaves his 1976 draft as the 11th best, a scant .12 bWAR+ below Hopkins’ 2003 draft.

We see a few new names leap into this list. Bowen’s 1980 draft ranks high partially because he drafted and signed Eric Davis and Danny Tartabull, but also because the 1980 draft provided the lowest amount of bWAR for any year, across the majors, from 1965 through 2007. Campanis hit paydirt in 1966 with Charlie Hough, Bill Russell and a few other marginal big leaguers. Like Bowen’s 1980, Campanis’ 1966 benefits from a low level of talent available, since 1966 provided the third smallest total bWAR in the sample. In short, Bowen and Campanis were the guys with an .850 OPS in a suppressed run-scoring environment.

In 1997, Tim Wilken drafted four players who reached the majors – Orlando Hudson, Vernon Wells, Michael Young and Mark Hendrickson. That’s a very good quartet, and they collectively justify Wilken’s spot here. Tom Giordano’s draft in 1979 was a little more top heavy, anchored by Cal Ripken and Mike Boddicker. Ron Hopkins makes the list mostly on the backs of Ian Kinsler, John Danks, with a cameo by Scott Feldman.

Identifying Specific Types of Talent (Hitting, Pitching, Defense)

Since the data break out WAR by offense, defense and pitching, we can isolate which scouting directors have been best at identifying and drafting players who excel in each of those categories. As with the other chunks of data, let’s put this all on a year and major league-relative scale. This time, we’ll break it out by pitching WAR, hitting WAR and fielding WAR. We’re also going to look at total talent drafted, regardless of whether the player actually signed with the drafting organization. Finally, we’ll exclude scouting directors with less than four years running a draft, and all scouting directors who started their roles for the 2009 draft or later.

First, let’s look at which scouting directors have drafted the highest offensive WAR, adjusted for league and year:

  1. Kris Kline – 318.40
  2. Dick Wiencek – 280.37
  3. Bill Lajoie – 259.06
  4. Mickey White – 215.94
  5. Neil Mahoney – 212.98
  6. Jason McLeod – 205.59
  7. Joe McIlvaine – 203.50
  8. Mike Rizzo – 182.65
  9. R.J. Harrison – 181.90
  10. Mike Arbuckle – 178.75

A lot of our usual suspects show up here. This makes sense, as a hitter will amass much more WAR than a pitcher or glove-first position player, skewing the overall draft results in favor of scouting directors who fared better with hitters. Kline gets an extra boost from the Bryce Harper effect, while Mickey White gets more due thanks to his early ’90s drafts in Cleveland. Lajoie’s record is as awesome as ever. The new name here is R .J. Harrison, the scouting director in Tampa from 2006–2015. During his tenure, he selected future major league position players Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Stephen Vogt, Kevin Kiermaier and Andrew Toles.

We haven’t talked much about Mike Arbuckle, so let’s focus on his work in Philadelphia. Arbuckle’s talent acquisition from 1993 through 2001 included Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd, Pat Burrell and an unsigned J.D. Drew. And those are just the position players. If you enjoyed Phillies baseball on any level from approximately 1996 until 2012, you owe a great deal of that enjoyment to Arbuckle.

Now let’s see which scouting directors have drafted the highest pitching WAR, adjusted for league and year, once again excluding directors who started after 2009 and those with less than four years on the job:

On Baseball, Game Design, and Output Randomness
Considering baseball through the lens of game design.
  1. Joe McIlvaine – 260.56
  2. John Schuerholz – 247.01
  3. Terry Ryan – 232.72
  4. Roland Hemond – 229.21
  5. Logan White – 211.24
  6. Mickey White – 210.71
  7. Joe Klein – 210.35
  8. Al Campanis – 208.24
  9. Bob Engle – 203.31
  10. Al Goldis – 189.80

Given McIlvaine’s prominent role in building the ’80s Mets, it’s no shock to see him atop this list. It’s worth noting that these data include both signed and unsigned players, though, so he’s receiving a Rocket-sized boost from Roger Clemens. But there’s also Rick Aguilera, Doc Gooden, Roger McDowell and John Wetteland.

We start to see some new names on this list. In Schuerholz’s time as the Royals’ scouting director (1977–1981), he drafted and signed David Cone, Mark Gubicza and Atlee Hammaker. He also drafted but could not sign Frank Viola and Craig Lefferts. That’s three pitchers with 38 WAR and above in five seasons, plus two more in the 8 to 10 WAR range. Terry Ryan’s run at the helm in Minnesota (1987–1991) was similarly productive, netting Brad Radke, Scott Erickson, LaTroy Hawkins, Denny Neagleand an unsigned Aaron Sele. He selected at least one 9.6 WAR or higher pitcher in every draft he managed.

Hemond’s biggest problem was failing to sign his draftees, but he certainly knew how to identify pitching talent. His profile with the Angels (1965–1970) is much like Terry Ryan’s, full of strong contributors even if it is lacking in top-end talent. Jim Barr, Ken Forsch, Bill Bonham, Dave LaRoche and Mike Krukow all had productive careers.

The Whites both appear on this list, with Logan making it on the strength of Clayton Kershaw, David Price (imagine that duo in LA had they signed Price), Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and an unsigned Kevin Gausman. Mickey’s bounty includes Zach Duke, Jeremy Guthrie, Paul Byrd and Steve Kline.

Joe Klein and Al Goldis receive their first mentions. Klein is here on the strength of two years in Texas (1981–1982) and two years in Detroit (1992–1993), just long enough to draft Kenny Rogers, Ron Darling, R.A. Dickey and Keith Foulke, the latter two going unsigned. Goldis had a respectable career (scouting director for the White Sox 1989–1990, Brewers in 1992, and Cubs 1993–1995) but he especially excelled at identifying major league pitchers. Kerry Wood, Alex Fernandez, Matt Morris, Scott Karl and Bob Wickman punctuate his list.

And finally, here’s a look at which scouting directors have drafted the highest fielding WAR, adjusted for league and year, again excluding directors who started after 2009 and those with less than four years on the job:

  1. Marty Maier – 198.72
  2. Bill Lajoie – 195.68
  3. Bob Fontaine Sr. – 178.74
  4. Mike Arbuckle – 177.63
  5. Mel Didier – 174.42
  6. Fred McAlister – 173.46
  7. Terry Reynolds – 161.80
  8. Al Campanis – 157.15
  9. Gary Hughes – 154.40
  10. Wayne Britton – 152.74

Maier and McAlister combined for 19 of the Cardinals’ 23 drafts between 1981 and 2003 and racked up much more defensive value than their peers. That happened thanks to McAlister’s selections of Terry Pendleton, Tom Pagnozzi, Brian Jordan and Lance Johnson, and Maier’s choices of Brendan Ryan, Placido Polanco, Adam Kennedy and Daric Barton. Maier served as McAlister’s assistant director and he clearly learned from his mentor. It’s also worth noting that John Mozeliak managed the Cardinals’ drafts from 1999–2001, and also would have made this list if he had amassed more than the years with the formal scouting director title. Historically, the Cardinals have been able to find defense at a much higher rate than other teams.

Bob Fontaine Sr. found lots of defensive value at third base with Doug DeCinces in San Diego (he did not sign) and Matt Williams in San Francisco. But the real reason he ranks so high is that, like Lajoie, he drafted Ozzie Smith. Unlike Lajoie, Fontaine managed to sign him. Similarly, Wayne Britton (Red Sox, 1993–2001) cracks the top 10 mostly thanks to Adam Everett and Mark Texeira, an unsigned selection.

Didier makes the list mostly because of two very good defenders, but it’s to his credit that those two players also hit well enough to make the Hall of Fame (Gary Carter and Andre Dawson). Gary Hughes, another Expos scouting director (1986–1991, Marlins 1993–1995), receives his first mention. Hughes didn’t have any one supreme defender like Ozzie Smith, but rather a series of five to 10 defensive WAR players like Charles Johnson (with both organizations) and Rondell White.

References & Resources

  • Seamheads/The Baseball Gauge
  • Baseball-Reference
  • Baseball America

John LaRue is a graphic designer, former minor league baseball media relations director, and data visualization enthusiast. His work has been featured in The Best American Infographics 2013 and I Love Charts: The Book. Follow him on Twitter @tdylf.
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Carl
Guest
Carl

John,

Great series of articles. I’d love to see analysis of those who founds gems outside the first round. Drafting a guy who can throw 100 like Kerry Wood with a top-5 draft choice is hardly genius. A Scouting Director who can find gems outside the top would be of real value.

Rally
Guest
Rally

Do the rankings relative to league account for draft position? I don’t think it matters too much in the later rounds, but getting a 30 WAR player from the end of the first round is much more impressive than getting one from the #1 overall pick.

Snider Fan
Guest
Snider Fan

I’ve read that the Dodgers’ 1968 draft was the best ever, and wondered why it didn’t make your list?

I agree penalizing scouting directors for players not signed is somewhat unfair in that the GM bears a lot of that responsibility.

sumitsmith
Guest

That’s because directors with such limited work are prone to wild swings and outrageous bWAR+ figures based on a single player. One way to remedy this is to look at individual drafts. Let’s look at the top individual drafts now. (Since most recent draftees haven’t even started their major league careers.