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Monday, December 5, 2022

Morning Report: Getting Real About the Draft

Billy Beane once said the draft was like Christmas morning.  It’s fun because it’s possible to dream about what your team’s draftees can become.  It’s way too easy, though, to develop unrealistic expectations about it.

That’s even true of the first round.  In spite of the canard that the draft is a crap shoot, the real stars overwhelmingly come off the board early.  As an illustration, there were 73 players on the All-Star rosters in 2018.  Of those, 54 became pros through the draft.  Just under half, 26 to be exact, were first round picks.  The other 39 rounds produced 28 All-Stars, and nearly half of them, or 12, were picked in round 2 or 3.

So does that mean a team just has to hit on all its first round picks?  Well, no, because nobody does.  Not because the draft is a crap shoot, but because . . . math.  There are 30 first round picks.  If even half of them become stars, in the course of ten years that’s 150 star players.  That’s in addition to the growing number of stars coming from the international sphere, plus whatever the other 39 rounds of the draft produce (which in the case of 2018 was just over half the All-Stars, in addition to the 26% who weren’t drafted).  There are only 750 roster spots in MLB.  It’s not Lake Woebegone.

I went back and looked at the Wins Above Replacement, baseball-reference.com version, produced by all the first round picks from 1998 through 2007.  That’s long enough ago that the careers of most of these players are done or getting into the later stages.  I did not look at the handful of players who didn’t sign, partly because that would have led to some double counting.  I also did not include the supplemental first round, instead counting just the top 30 picks.  This obviously is a rough exercise, but I don’t think precision is that important to get an idea of what sort of expectations are realistic in the first round.  The results:

  • 197 picks produced fewer than 5 bWAR.
  • 58 produced between 5 and 20 bWAR.
  • 40 produced over 20 bWAR.

So if you define “star” (very roughly) as a player who produces over 20 bWAR, fewer than 14% reached that level.  Almost exactly two-thirds could fairly be called “busts.”

But there’s more.  The “successful” picks aren’t distributed evenly through the round.  If you break the results down by groups of ten, here’s what you get:

Rounds 1-10

  • Below 5 bWAR:  52
  • 5-20 bWAR:  23
  • Above 20 bWAR:  23

Rounds 11-20

  • Below 5 bWAR:  68
  • 5-20 bWAR:  17
  • Above 20 bWAR:  14

Rounds 21-30

  • Below 5 bWAR:  77
  • 5-20 bWAR:  18
  • Above 20 bWAR:  3

So, a couple of conclusions.  One is that the elite players not only go heavily in the first round, they go heavily at the top of the first round.  The draft is high-risk and high-attrition, but it’s not a crap shoot.  Most often, scouts correctly identify the elite talents.  Another is that, if you’re drafting in the middle of the round, as the Pirates have been doing most years lately, or toward the end, your odds of getting a good player in the end aren’t that great, just something like one-in-three to one-in-five.  Probably not what Quinn Priester wants to hear.  Even with a top ten pick, they’re less than 50-50.  You can’t sensibly dismiss a general manager’s or scouting director’s drafting because he botched one pick.  (Ten years worth of picks, on the other hand . . . .)

Quick Note on the Pirates’ 2019 Draft and the College World Series

The Pirates have four draftees whose schools are in the CWS.  They won’t be able to sign until their schools are out.  The four:

J.C. Flowers, RHP, Florida State (4th round)
Ethan Paul, SS, Vanderbilt (9th)
Jake Snider, CF, Louisville (20th)
Marshall Gilbert, C, Mississippi State (29th)

PLAYOFF PUSH

Altoona is in second place in their division, seven games back with seven games remaining in the first half.

Bradenton was eliminated from the first half playoffs. For some unannounced reason, the first half is only 66 games and the second half is 74. By my math, that’s not half.

Greensboro was eliminated from the first half playoffs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-7 in 11 innings to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night. The Pirates will send out Joe Musgrove for the second time in this series. He was ejected from the first game back on Monday after the benches cleared in the first inning. Musgrove made his previous start against the Braves as well, allowing three runs over eight innings last Wednesday in Pittsburgh. The Braves will counter with 28-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran, who has a 3.03 ERA in 77.1 innings, with 74 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He has thrown shutout ball in each of his last two starts, pitching five innings against the Detroit Tigers or June 2nd, and six innings against the Miami Marlins five days ago.

The minor league schedule includes a rehab start from Trevor Williams with Indianapolis. He lasted pitched for the Pirates on May 16th, going 3.2 innings with one run allowed. The next day, he was placed on the injured list with a right side strain. Bradenton’s Cody Bolton returns from his short trip to the injured list to pitch tonight. He went six shutout innings in his last start exactly two weeks ago. He allowed one hit, two walks and struck out ten batters in that outing. Bolton ranks second in the Florida State League in ERA (1.81), second in WHIP (0.90) and ninth in strikeouts with 62.

Altoona’s James Marvel has allowed nine hits in each of his last two starts, though he has limited the opposition to four runs over 12 innings in those games. Greensboro doesn’t have a starter listed, but it could be Luis Nova, who threw six shutout innings five days ago. They other option is Conner Loeprich, who started game two of a doubleheader six days ago.

MLB: Pittsburgh (30-37) @ Braves (39-29) 12:10 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (4.40 ERA, 58:20 SO/BB, 78.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (35-28) vs Buffalo (29-34) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (NR)

AA: Altoona (31-31) vs Portland (22-39) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.68 ERA 56:19 SO/BB, 71.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (36-29) @ Charlotte (34-31) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (1.81 ERA, 62:12 SO/BB, 54.2 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (41-24) @ Kannapolis (27-37) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Nova (0.00 ERA, 6:0 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

DSL: Pirates1 (5-5) vs Red Sox2 (4-6) 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (8-2) vs Royals2 (4-6) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis, Luis Escobar uses a quick pitch to get an out, but more importantly, check out his changeup for those who have not seen the pitch before

Hunter Owen took over the Eastern League lead with his 14th home run

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/12: Pirates sign eight draft picks.

6/12: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.

6/11: Pirates sign six draft picks.

6/11: Dovydas Neverauskas recalled from Indianapolis. Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis

6/11: Cody Bolton activated from injured list. Hunter Stratton added from Extended Spring Training. Dean Lockery and Matt Morrow assigned to Extended ST.

6/11: Kyle Mottice assigned to Extended Spring Training

6/11: Chris Stratton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab

6/10: Pirates sign Quinn Priester

6/10: Jordan Lyles placed on injured list. Montana DuRapau recalled from Indianapolis.

6/10: Robbie Glendinning and Jesse Medrano activated from suspended list. Allen Montgomery assigned to Greensboro.

6/9: Shea Murray assigned to Bradenton. Hunter Stratton assigned to Extended Spring Training

6/8: Pirates recall Corey Dickerson, Jung Ho Kang and Michael Feliz. Nick Kingham designated for assignment. Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis. Rookie Davis placed on injured list.

6/8: Brad Case assigned to Bradenton. Luis Nova assigned to Greensboro.

6/7: Matt Morrow and Dean Lockery added to Bradenton roster. Robbie Glendinning and Jesse Medrano suspended (by league).

6/5: Jesus Liranzo sent outright to Indianapolis. Trayvon Robinson placed on injured list.

6/4: Deon Stafford and Hunter Stratton suspended (by league). Shea Murray assigned to Extended Spring Training. John Bormann and Luis Nova added to Bradenton roster.

6/3: Cody Bolton placed on injured list

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note. On this date in 2001, the Pirates traded infielder Enrique Wilson to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher Damaso Marte. Wilson spent 3 1/2 years with the Yankees, while Marte was dealt to the White Sox before the 2002 season. They would sign him again in 2005 and then trade him to the Yankees along with Xavier Nady in 2008.

The two former players born on this date played a total of eight games with the Pirates. Pitcher Darrell May made two starts and three relief appearances for the 1996 Pirates. He played seven years in the big leagues despite being taken in the 46th round of the 1992 draft.

Catcher John O’Connell played for the Pirates in 1928 and 1929, though he played three games total. His big league career consisted of one late inning replacement in 1928 and catching the last two games of the 1929 season.

The Pirates defeated the Royals by a 5-3 score on this date in 1997, the first interleague game in franchise history. You can view the boxscore here.

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Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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