With tomorrow night being the beginning of the amateur draft, we’ll be reviewing two offseason features about the Yankees and the draft. Today, let’s take a broad look at the Yankees’ draft history in an article originally published in January:
With a quiet and boring offseason ongoing into the new year, there hasn’t been much material to work with. I could continue beating the dead horse that is the austerity budget, but let’s look at something a little bit different today. The (Rule IV) amateur draft may be six months away, but let’s take a look at the Yankees’ track record historically since the draft’s inception in 1965. Why look at this information now? With draft compensation tied to some free agents, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs discussed the implications of sacrificing a first rounder for an open market prize. His article is influenced by Sky Andrecheck’s interesting analysis which maps out the expected WAR of players by selection. After reading both of these articles, I decided to see how well the Yankees have done historically.For this analysis, I used Baseball-Reference’s draft search in order to compile player name, draft year, draft round, overall selection, and rWAR (B-R’s WAR metric) data. Using rounds 1-25 (roughly 750 selections), here’s the distribution:
Even if a player never reached the majors with the Yankees, he is included in this (notably Fred Lynn, who did not sign).
This distribution emphasizes the value of earlier selections, especially the first round, as expected. However, there are quite a few notable outliers: Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, half of the core four, were 22nd and 24th round selections respectively. Don Mattingly was a 19th rounder. There will always be exceptions, but in reality, guys late in the draft have very slim chances of reaching the big leagues. In my sample, just 11.2% of draftees from the 10th round or later ever had a chance to see any major league action. Comparatively, 30.2% of players make it from the first 10 rounds, and 40.5% of those from the first five rounds climb the ladder as well.
There have been some first round successes, notably Derek Jeter and Thurman Munson. Of their 48 total first rounders all-time (including sandwich round), 54.2% have reached the majors. The average rWAR for those who made the show is 8.1. There are a few first rounders with plenty of time to boost this average (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy), plus others who are still working their way through the minor league system.
Despite the trio of Hughes, Joba, and Kennedy showing success at the major league level, the Yankees truly have been in a drought in terms of developing stars out of the first round. I’m not saying a team should draft a big time player with its first choice every season, but the Yankees haven’t done much in the past 20 years, since Jeter in 1992 to be exact. Other teams, like the Rays and Giants, have had very good success with their first rounders of late. Yes, they’ve had higher picks, but there’s no denying the Yankees difficulties to find the right player in the draft.
Although some of the better known busts include Brien Taylor and Eric Duncan, many of these first round duds have come in recent years. Because of this, let’s break down the draft results under current scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, under helm since 2005. His first round picks and their rWAR:
|2006||Joba Chamberlain (Supp.)||RHP||6.5|
|2008||Jeremy Bleich (Supp.)||LHP||—|
|2011||Dante Bichette, Jr. (Supp.)||3B||—|
Of this group, only Kennedy has truly reached his potential (3.76 and 3.94 career ERA & SIERA). Despite flashes, Joba was mishandled and can’t stay healthy, but nonetheless is an effective reliever when on the field.
Henry never amounted to anything, but he was the centerpiece of the trade for Bobby Abreu. Plus, since it was Oppenheimer’s first year, I’ll give him a pass. The Kennedy and Joba selections were a very good start to Oppenheimer’s tenure, but it’s been downhill since. Only Andrew Brackman has reached the majors of the rest, but showed nothing. He was in the Reds’ organization in 2012, but could be an Indy league player soon enough. Giving him a major league contract out of the chute looks pretty bad in retrospect. Gerrit Cole has been effective in the minors, albeit for the Pirates since he didn’t sign with the Yankees’ and re-entered the draft in 2009. Bleich, the other choice in that first round for the club, is off the radar nowadays.
As for the past four first rounders, time will tell. Right now, things look brightest for Heathcott. Hensley has plenty of upside, but is still a teenager and has a ways to go. Slade put up some nice numbers in 2012 after regaining his health, and there’s debate whether or not he could have an impact in the majors in 2013. After a nice rookie year in the minors, Bichette stumbled last season. He’s still just 20, and has plenty of time to recover. The biggest dud of these four is shortstop Culver: he simply has shown no ability to hit.
Despite the majority of his first rounders being flops, I’ll give Oppenheimer some credit on his later selections that have made it: Austin Jackson (2005, 8th round, 14.8 rWAR), Brett Gardner (2005, 3rd round, 14.2 rWAR), and David Robertson (2006, 17th round, 6.8 rWAR). Some other good late rounders who are just breaking in or are considered good prospects include: David Phelps (2008, 14th round), Mark Melancon (2006, 9th round), Mark Montgomery (2011, 11th round), and Tyler Austin (2010, 13th round).
Ultimately, it’s up to Oppenheimer and his staff to do a better job in the earlier rounds. The Yankees can’t (and aren’t) counting on later selections to pan out, the distribution for the team historically and around the league clearly shows the value of the first round selection. Plus, because of the new draft spending caps, the Yankees can’t simply overpay a player in a later round with signability issues. This causes added pressure to do better in the early rounds, an area which Oppenheimer has struggled. Not all of the blame can be placed upon Oppeinheimer and scouting – player development must come into question, too. Incredibly, Robinson Cano is the only upper-echelon player the organization has developed in recent memory. All this considered, with the path that the Yankees are taking with the austerity budget, it’s imperative to improve amateur scouting and development, and soon.
Photo by maggieandcharles (originally posted to Flickr as Andrew Brackman) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons