The MLB draft
By Gary Hill
I have spent the last two days with my ear pressed to my computer speakers listening to hours of dialog from what sounded like one big conference call. It was hour after hour containing hundreds of exchanges that all sounded the same. The first voice representing Major League Baseball would state, for example, “Pittsburgh Pirates”. Another voice would crackle to life through the phone line and parted the silence with words such as “The Pittsburgh Pirates select draft number 112624 Waguespack, Jacob, Right-Handed Pitcher, Dutchtown High School, LA”. The first voice overtook the line again, “The Pittsburgh Pirates select Jacob Waguespack, Right-Handed Pitcher, Dutchtown HS, LA”. Forgive me if the exact details of the Waguespack pick are a little fuzzy, but picks tend to blend together when you listen to 1238 of them in rapid fire succession. Lives were changed and organizations were built on these brief exchanges.
The MLB draft is an amazing creature. The NFL essentially selects its players from a narrow list of Division I football institutions. The NBA expands the reach by throwing in medium and small colleges and universities and by sprinkling in a European flavor. Major League Baseball drafts its players from all corners. Players are chosen from baseball powerhouses such as Arizona State or from tiny spots such as Wheaton College in Massachusetts; they are chosen from high schools in the middle of Los Angeles or from high schools planted in the fields of Iowa; they are taken from community colleges in the deep south or prep schools in the Northwest. Scouts fan out across the country in search of the next Albert Pujols or Roy Halladay. They watch thousands of games played by thousands of players. They turn over rocks in Texas and plow the fields of Kansas in their search. All of their work culminates into a day where each organization in baseball will claim 40 or so new names. The vastness of the draft is probably why the term “crapshoot” is often associated with it. The stories are told of Albert Pujols lasting until the 13th round or how Mike Piazza was taken until 62nd round, which is impossible today since that round no longer even exists. However, a closer look reveals that teams do a remarkably outstanding job of netting most major league talent early. On Major League rosters right now (including the DL) there are 931 players. Of the 931 players 700 were drafted. Two-hundred and thirty-one players were either signed as an amateur free-agent (ex. Felix Hernandez), a non-drafted free-agent (ex. George Sherrill) or a free-agent coming over from another league (Ichiro). I have broken down the rosters of all MLB teams as they are at this very moment and dispersed them by the round they were chosen. Here is what it looks like:
Round- 1- 153
There were more players taken in the first 5 rounds (406) than the rest of the draft combined (294) on MLB rosters right now. Players drafted either in the first round, the supplemental first round or the second round make up 38% of all drafted players in the majors. Their skills of nabbing impact players are even more impressive. I am planning on going more in depth on this point in the near future, but I will give you a quick preview point. There were 32 players on the 2011 AL All-Star Team who were drafted last year. Eighteen of them were chosen in the first round.