Monday, June 04, 2012

Draft Day! Justin Verlander or Adam Johnson?

Today is the first day of the major league draft. There are several things to remember about the major league draft that makes it a little different.

The first thing to realize is that it will likely be about 8 years before we can fully evaluate the results of today's draft. Tom Kelly used to say that it takes 1000 major league at bats before you know what kind of player you have. Torii Hunter, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer all hit that 1000 at bat point about eight years after they were drafted. Joe Mauer is an exception who did better than that. Those were all high school players and college players will develop a little quicker than that. Todd Walker hit the 1000 at bat point 5 years after he was drafted and the Twins jettisoned him the next year.

The Twins 2004 draft gives you a pretty good perspective on what to expect. The Twins had three first round draft choices that year. There were two college players from that draft where we can make a pretty good estimate of the results, Glen Perkins and Matt Tolbert. There were also three high school players Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak and Kyle Waldrop who are still trying to establish themselves. That is pretty typical of most drafts. Some players will move quickly, but there will be others that will move much more slowly.

The second thing to understand is that the round a player was chosen is only a rough indicator of how likely they are to be successful major league players. Jacque Jones was a second round choice, but the 37th player chosen in the draft in 1996. Matt LeCroy, taken two years later in 1998, was a first round choice but the 50th player taken in the draft that year. Much has been made this year of the Twins 3 choices in the first round. Those choices are 2, 32 and 42. While they are all first round choices, that number two choice is dramatically different from the other two. To put that in perspective, look at the outcomes of each choice from ten years 1994-2003:

42: Marlon Anderson is the only player taken who reached 1000 major league at bats. Only four players even appeared in the big leagues. Since 2003, Clay Bucholz and Chris Perez have had some success.

32: No players taken 32 in those ten years reached 1000 major league at bats. Only six players appeared in the big leagues.

2: Six players have over 1000 major league at bats, five with over 3000 at bats. The other four players taken were pitchers Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, Mark Mulder and Adam Johnson. Every player taken appeared in the big leagues and only Adam Johnson would be considered a complete washout (although Ben Grieve and Ben Davis were not exactly huge successes).

So you have nine players taken with the second choice who had some success and only one player from 20 players taken in the other two positions the Twins will draft who even matched the worst of those nine players. It is that second round choice that makes this draft special for the Twins. They haven't drafted anywhere near that high since Joe Mauer was taken with the first choice in 2001. The only other time the Twins drafted higher than number 20 since then was 2008 when they took Aaron Hicks.

Here is how that 14th position played out from 1994-2003:

14: One player taken from 1994-2003 got more than 1000 at bats. Jason Snider and Billy Butler were chosen more recently and have reached 1000 at bats. Jeff Weaver and Ryan Wagner were the only pitchers taken from 1994-2003. Seven players total reached the majors.

If you think the Twins move players slowly, only four players taken with the 20th pick in the last ten years have made it to the major leagues. Three of them are Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee.

Here are the overall results of the 20th spot from 1994-2003

20: Two players with 1000 at bats, including Denard Span. Eric Milton and CC Sabathia were successful pitchers taken number 20. 8 of the ten players reached the big leagues.

To say the baseball draft is a bit of a crap shoot is an understatement. But it is not really true of the first few choices where the Twins are drafting this year. While success is never guaranteed, a second round choice should be expected to contribute at the major league level. When you get beyond the 20th choice, where the Twins have been drafting recently, any real major league success is a pleasant surprise.

Of course the Twins had several high draft choices at the turn of the century and they mostly washed out before they took Joe Mauer. Guys like Adam Johnson, Ryan Mills and BJ Garbe were all among the top ten players taken and none of them produced. Lets hope this year the Twins take a Justin Verlander (the number 2 choice in 2004) not another Adam Johnson, their last number 2 pick in 2000. Either way, the real fun is following these guys progress through the system and then seeing them emerge in the major leagues. And somtimes its the surprises that are the most interesting, like Justin Morneau, rather than the guys talked about on draft day.

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