• Feb
    20

    The Draft: Round By Round


    by Kerry Leibowitz

    The Draft:  Round-By-Round

    We took a bird's eye look at the amateur draft in the first installment of this series; now it's time to dive into some of the details.

    We hear all kinds of anecdotal stories about players who went on to successful big league careers despite being late round selections in the draft.  Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was a 20th round pick; Jeff Conine went in the 58th round; Mike Piazza, who will probably end up in the Hall of Fame some day, was a 62nd round choice.  But these are extremely rare exceptions to the rule, as we’ll see.

    It will likely come as no surprise to find that clubs have more success in the higher draft rounds, but how much more success?  Back in 2004, I broke down the results of the draft from its inception in 1965 through 2002 by round.  Players were rated using the same basic typology as in part one.  I originally ran through each round individually, but for this presentation I collapsed all rounds after the 20th, for reasons which will become apparent.

    Amateur Draft, 1965-2002

    Round

    Selections

    Big Leaguers

    Regulars

    Stars

    % No BL

    %BL

    % Reg

    % Stars

    1

    1168

    582

    185

    48

    50.2%

    49.8%

    15.8%

    4.1%

    2

    984

    325

    58

    19

    67.0%

    33.0%

    5.9%

    1.9%

    3

    984

    230

    46

    9

    76.6%

    23.4%

    4.7%

    0.9%

    4

    984

    199

    30

    8

    79.8%

    20.2%

    3.0%

    0.8%

    5

    984

    188

    32

    7

    80.9%

    19.1%

    3.3%

    0.7%

    6

    984

    149

    29

    3

    84.9%

    15.1%

    2.9%

    0.3%

    7

    984

    125

    16

    3

    87.3%

    12.7%

    1.6%

    0.3%

    8

    984

    94

    23

    0

    90.4%

    9.6%

    2.3%

    0.0%

    9

    984

    100

    13

    4

    89.8%

    10.2%

    1.3%

    0.4%

    10

    984

    98

    10

    1

    90.0%

    10.0%

    1.0%

    0.1%

    11

    984

    89

    11

    2

    91.0%

    9.0%

    1.1%

    0.2%

    12

    984

    71

    11

    2

    92.8%

    7.2%

    1.1%

    0.2%

    13

    984

    61

    7

    5

    93.8%

    6.2%

    0.7%

    0.5%

    14

    984

    52

    7

    1

    94.7%

    5.3%

    0.7%

    0.1%

    15

    984

    45

    8

    1

    95.4%

    4.6%

    0.8%

    0.1%

    16

    984

    49

    5

    0

    95.0%

    5.0%

    0.5%

    0.0%

    17

    984

    53

    9

    3

    94.6%

    5.4%

    0.9%

    0.3%

    18

    984

    50

    11

    0

    94.9%

    5.1%

    1.1%

    0.0%

    19

    984

    38

    5

    2

    96.1%

    3.9%

    0.5%

    0.2%

    20

    984

    51

    6

    2

    94.8%

    5.2%

    0.6%

    0.2%

    1-20

    19864

    2649

    522

    120

    86.7%

    13.3%

    2.6%

    0.6%

    21+

    22873

    443

    61

    13

    98.1%

    1.9%

    0.3%

    0.1%

    Total

    42737

    3092

    583

    133

    92.8%

    7.2%

    1.4%

    0.3%

     

    Note:  The first round includes supplemental draft picks.

     

    As I mentioned in the first piece in the series, I wouldn’t take the exact numbers too seriously.  The ultimate success rates of this time period are certainly marginally higher than what you see here—but only marginally.  As time went by, some players from the last few included draft classes that hadn’t reached the major leagues at the time I did the rating made their debuts.  And it’s almost certain that some players who hadn’t reached “regular” or “star” status by the time the rating was done did so subsequently.  But we’re not talking about quantities that would dramatically change any of the basic conclusions that can be drawn from the above data set.

     

    Note that roughly half the first round (and supplemental picks) hadn’t reached the major leagues at the time the ratings were made.  (That would likely creep up a few percentage points if a re-rate was in the cards.)  But take note of how quickly the “made it to the big leagues” rate falls off by round:  it’s only 1/3 of second rounders, roughly ¼ of third rounders and about 1/5 of fourth and fifth rounders.  It’s barely 1/10 of players drafted in rounds 8-10.

     

    Even more emphatic is the rate at which players have “meaningful” career contributions (i.e. reach regular or star status).  Only 20% of first rounders (and supplementals) make this grade; roughly 8% of second rounders; by the fifth round we’re down to 4% or so.  Beyond that and the numbers are infinitesimal.  If you really want to delve into needle-in-a-haystack territory, take a look at rounds 21 and up.  Only 74 of the nearly 23,000 selections made in round 21 or later over this 38-year period had achieved “regular” or “star” status by 2004, less than one-half of one percent of the population.  In fact, only about 2% of this group of players had reached the big league in any capacity.

     

    So, while the draft batting average is quite low overall—a fact that was made obvious in the first piece—it’s clear that the first round has, by leaps and bounds, the highest signal to noise ratio.  But, of course, it’s not that simple.  As we’ll see in the next installment, where a team drafts in the first round plays a major role in its likely success or failure.


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