FanPost

Historic MLB Draft Comparison and Analysis

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I've started and stalled out on writing this article a few times over the last couple years. Initially it was intended as a look at our farm system, designed to show that our problems the last few years were the result of both poor drafts (we are actually 10th best over the last 10 years, although Trout alone accounts for around 36% of the total drafted WAR in that time period. There will be more on our 2009 draft later) and a number of poor trades that stripped the farm any remaining valuable talent. Eventually though, it has morphed into something that gives us better insight into the reasons Jerry Dipoto tucked his tail between his legs and ran up north and the real problems with teams holding their draft teams accountable.

With that said...

Have you ever wondered how the Los Angeles Angels' Draft team compares to the rest of the MLB? Have you ever been curious about the effect a draft has on moving a team up in the standings? Do you find yourself convinced our front office takes players based on name alone and has never actually watched them play?

I compiled draft data from 2006-2018 and put it into a table to better analyze and compare how the Angels compare to other teams in the draft. Before getting into the data, a few qualifiers:

First: The data is obviously incomplete, these players are mostly still active. I actually started this project about 2 years ago and it was really interesting to see how the data set has shifted in that time. Some teams drafts look better, other teams got worse as early successes turned into bigger busts.

Second: This data set doesn't distinguish between players who were drafted (usually out of high school) and subsequently went unsigned that first team only to be drafted again and then have MLB success. For example: Chris Sale was originally drafted by the Rockies in 2007 but didn't sign, eventually being drafted and signing with the White Sox. The Rockies 2007 draft will still show his MLB bWAR because they drafted him, as will the White Sox 2011 draft.

Third: The data includes all picks cumulative WAR regardless of draft position. A team who drafted first overall should be expected to obtain more WAR than the team that drafted 30th.

Finally: The data also includes all draft pick WAR for that draft- base picks, supplemental picks, replacement picks, compensation picks, etc... The draft is inherently unfair/ unbalanced but there is no way to account for that. Some teams have more picks, some have less...all the WAR is counted.

Here are the ordered rankings of drafted WAR from 2006-2018

Rank

Team

Total WAR

30

Philadelphia Phillies

72.7

29

Detroit Tigers

100.9

28

Milwaukee Brewers

119.1

27

Cleveland Indians

132.8

26

Pittsburgh Pirates

134.5

25

New York Yankees

138.6

24

Seattle Mariners

139

23

Oakland Athletics

141

22

Chicago White Sox

143.8

21

Kansas City Royals

147

20

Texas Rangers

147

19

New York Mets

154

18

Baltimore Orioles

157.8

17

Cincinnati Reds

159.3

16

Houston Astros

161.9

15

San Diego Padres

166.7

14

Minnesota Twins

167.9

13

Miami Marlins

169.6

12

San Francisco Giants

178.2

11

Toronto Blue Jays

181.6

10

Los Angeles Angels

186.8

9

St. Louis Cardinals

187.7

8

Washington Nationals

187.8

7

Colorado Rockies

199.7

6

Los Angeles Dodgers

202.9

5

Chicago Cubs

211.6

4

Tampa Bay Rays

217.3

3

Arizona Diamondbacks

225.5

2

Boston Red Sox

243.1

1

Atlanta Braves

261.7

The Angels rank a respectable 10th. The main issue with this is over 36% of that WAR comes from one infamous pick. The Angels also got credit for 10.8 WAR from Matt Harvey, even though they failed to sign him back when he was good. If the Angels hadn't signed Trout, they could have easily found themselves at #28, tied with the Brewers with a total draft WAR of 119.1.

The Angels struggles with the draft really stand out when you look back at every year other than 2009. Aside from that year, where they were able to find over 100 WAR, the Angels have averaged a pathetic 7.68 WAR per year compared to a league average of 14.0.
Here is the Angels year by year draft WAR vs. the average draft WAR:

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Total
Los Angeles Angels 5 13.5 31.1 102.3 14.3 15.1 -2.4 0.6 2.7 3.7 0 0.9 186.8
Average 29.8 28.0 22.9 26.3 20.8 18.8 10.3 5.6 3.7 1.6 0.2 0.0 167.9


That said, let's take a look at who has been drafting for the Angels.

Eddie Bane 2004-2010
Known to many as the man who drafted Mike Trout, Bane helped start the fall of the Angels minor league system with his Boom or Bust draft approach. While Tony Reagins was quick to trade away talent, Bane became well known for his love of toolsy prep players- many of whom, like Randall Grichuk, Kaleb Cowart, Chevy Clark, Trevor Bell, Hank Conger, etc... never lived up to expectations.

Reagins getting taken to the cleaners in trade after trade as he sold low on the few successes only magnified the problems of Bane's approach.

Ric Wilson 2011-2016
Tony Reagins brought in Ric Wilson to replace Bane for the 2011 season and Jerry Dipoto kept him on when he took over as GM going into 2012. We all remember Wilson as the guy who was dancing in the draft room with Dipoto in 2015 when they figured out that Taylor Ward would be available to draft (2 rounds too early).
Angels draft celebration

Wilson oversaw some truly terrible drafts at a time when the Angels desperately needed to have an influx of talent to offset the losses of Tony Reagins and Dipotos insatiable appetite for trades. Instead, we saw the selections of CJ Cron, RJ Alvarez, Hunter Green, Sean Newcomb, Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss. Not only did Wilson miss with his first round selections, he also failed to identify late round talent with David Fletcher emerging as the only later round selection of any note from under his drafts. It's notable that Wilson's lone prospect to ever make a top 100 list was Sean Newcomb. He was really terrible.

While Wilson failed to bring in new talent, Dipoto continued to make trade after trade for washed up relievers and AAAA infielders until the Angels farm was ranked worst of all time. Dipoto abandoned the team (perhaps recognizing that there was no one left to trade?) and Eppler replaced Wilson in August 2016 with Matt Swanson.

Matt Swanson 2017-2019+
Swanson was the mid-west cross checker for the Cardinals before coming to the Angels as Scouting Director to take over for Wilson. Swanson is a relatively young guy who seems to have immediately found success with the Angels. In his first draft, the Angels signed Jo Adell and Griffin Canning; both top 100 prospects with Canning already looking to be a long term fixture in the Angels rotation.

We won't know how good Swanson is for a while but the early returns look promising, though there is a distinct possibility that Eppler, the Yankees former Pro Scouting Director, is the one actually calling the shots here. In any case, a win is a win and the Angels finally appear to have someone selecting names each June that has a plan.


Overall Draft Records

The clear loser in the draft over this time period was the Phillies. They were only able to find 72.7 WAR over the time period and have an average draft rank of 19th. Their struggles have shown in their record as the team has had a very difficult time lately.

The best drafting team is up for some debate but looking for teams that draft well year after year, rather than those that draft one high WAR superstar, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks come to the top with an average draft rank of 13th out of the 30 teams- showing just how impossibly hard it is to draft well every year, followed by the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Blue Jays.

Interestingly, though, for all the celebration of the Cardinals draft prowess, their drafts since 2010 have taken a big hit (dropping their average draft scores) and have all been below average. This appears to be a result of losing Jeff Luhnow to the Astros and replacing him with with Dan Kantrovitz and others. It's impossible to know without waiting to see if their new scouting director can put them back on track, but it appears that the Cardinals may no longer be the draft experts they once were.

The summary take away from this is pretty clear. A team can be expected to need roughly 90 wins to make the playoffs. For a team, their WAR calculation gives 52 wins. That means a team needs approximately 38 player win shares to make the playoffs, or 48 to be totally dominant. The best teams are finding 50+ career WAR per draft, occasionally more. Average teams are finding 25-30 WAR per draft and the worst teams are finding 10-15 WAR. One or two bad drafts put you at a disadvantage, but these short term struggles can usually be overcome through free agency.

It's a pretty obvious connection, but if a team can consistently add more talent year over year than their competitors, they will be dominant. Draft position plays a factor, but beyond the first overall pick, it is less significant that you might expect, as demonstrated by this table below that shows the WAR by draft position since 1965. There is generally good talent left available all through the first round of the draft and even well into the second and third rounds as well.

1st Round Slot 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Total WAR Since 1965 1055.5 703.9 587.7 572.7 404.3 574.9 393 287.9 273.7 488.8 257.5 308.5 342.3 298.7 281 293.4 320.5 165.3 376.2 398.1 158.8 409.4 187.3 125 219.9 123.5 121.7 150.4 267.9 351.5
WAR Per MLB Player 22.9 15.3 13.7 13.6 12.3 14.7 10.3 8 7.8 11.1 7.2 9.1 11.8 7.7 10.4 8.1 9.2 5.5 9.6 12.8 4.5 12.4 6.9 3.8 6.7 4.8 3.9 4.6 8.9 12.1


So what do we learn from this?

Drafting is a mix of experience and luck. It seems to have less to do with the team (organizational skill at scouting, philosophy, etc...) than it does the scouting director/GM. It's extremely difficult to determine whether a player will make it to the MLB and there are hundreds of players each year that appear to have the physical tools to make it that never do. All the pre-draft analysis, all the expert opinions and all the post draft "winners and losers" mean almost nothing. It is really all about seeing how these players do against upper level competition.

For this reason alone, many teams heavily weight events that showcase these players against each other. A bad series can tank a players ranking and a good one can push him up. The fact that Trout only participated in a couple of these showcases has been cited by many teams as one of the reasons they were reluctant to draft him. The best teams find talent across multiple rounds of the draft while avoiding the prospects that have all the hype and none of the production. Drafts simply can't be judged until years after they are over- which gives guys like Wilson undue job security.

Looking at the 2009 draft, for every Tyler Matzek that is hyped as "It's easy to argue that he's one of the -- if not the -- top high school lefty in this Draft class." There is a Trout that sees his hitting ability reviewed as, "He needs some work with his overall approach." MLB scouts have a hard time distinguishing talent from luck in short high school seasons and there is safety in picking players that are known (at least by prospect hounds) for their showcase performances.

Finally, I do want to point out that the Eppler Swanson duo has some very interesting tendencies that appear to be paying off. Where we saw Bane go all in on "toolsy" prep players and Wilson going for.... who knows what? He really was awful at his job... Like just remarkably bad. It really is depressing to look at how terrible he was at identifying talent. I mean, all this guy had to do what just copy the damn draft order published on 5 different websites and the team would have been so much better off. Instead he's jumping for joy for over-drafting Taylor Freaking Ward in the first round. What the hell? In any case, as I was saying...

Swanson has his own tendencies. He seems attracted to high ceiling prep players for the first couple rounds and then it's all pitching for the next 10+ rounds. As with any draft, we really have no choice but to wait and see how it plays out before we call him an idiot or a genius. At the very least they do appear to be willing to break the consensus and go with the player they believe to have the best physical skills and mental makeup- two factors that are critical to handling the MLB. While we wait to see how the drafts pan out, at least we can enjoy the results of his first drafts as they begin to hit the upper minors and break into Anaheim.

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