Evaluating A Draft Pick

The Yanks recieved a fair amount of criticism when they drafted Romine.

I really enjoy the MLB Amateur Draft.  That seems like it should be obvious, but in some ways, it’s not, because it is kind of a tough thing to like.

The NBA and NFL drafts have a more immediate impact (especially the NBA), not to mention trades, subplots, and intense media coverage.

The MLB draft though never even used to be televised and even now only a small part of it is.  I would watch it online, via MLB.com’s DraftTracker.  Before they limited it to 50 rounds they used to just draft until teams stopped making picks.  Not only would fans lose interest, but so would teams.  Yeah we picked 40 rounds already; we’re done with this draft.  You guys go on ahead though.

But I still liked it then and I like it now.  Sure, there are no trades, but there are scouting reports to read and guys who are signability cases to follow.  It’s not just about talent after all.  As with most things, it’s also about money.

Yet when the Yankees drafted SS Cito Culver in the 1st round this year, it reminded me what it is about the other professional drafts that I don’t like.  And I think I can sum it up best like this: most people have no idea who is a good pick.

I’ve always kind of poked fun at my friends who get really into the NFL draft each year.  I find it particularly amusing when they say things like “I can’t believe so and so fell to us in the 3rd round.  According to Mel Kiper Jr’s Big Board, he was a 2nd rounder!” or “Why would we draft him?  I’ve never even heard of him!”

Guys like Mel Kiper Jr, while I’m sure they are all very dedicated to their jobs, are hardly the end-all authority.  Every team has its own scouts and talent evaluators, who have the time and resources that few others have to devote to the draft.  There are some media-types these days who scout pretty much full time and generally it is some variation of their collective assessments that we, the fans, end up getting.  Yet we hold those assessments as the standard because they are the only ones with have complete access too.

The writers at noMaas.org had a great piece along these lines following the Yankees’ selection of Culver.  The example they cite is Austin Romine, who many pegged as a reach as a 2nd rounder, but who is now one of the best prospects in the Yankee system.

So, what I am getting at is I am fine with the Yankees’ draft and Culver in particular.  The Yankees had Culver as the player they wanted the most and they didn’t think he’d be there when their next selection came up (and remember – due to the sandwich round, their 2nd pick was much later).   So they drafted him.  Could they have gotten him 10 picks later?  20 picks? 30 picks?  Who knows.  But if the Yankees decision makers, who know more about Culver than probably anyone else, think he was the best player, then I am fine with that.

Now, let me just say I have no problem with people criticizing the Yankees’ draft.  However, I want to know the criteria that’s being used to judge it.  More often than not, the one doing the criticizing is simply basing their judgement off of what someone else said.  Who do you trust more to evaluate talent?  ESPN or the Yankees?  And if it’s the former, can you explain why, or is it just because that happens to be the source you have?

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2 Responses to Evaluating A Draft Pick

  1. I just think it's sad that it is literally impossible to know the quality of a draft until at least, the very least, 2-3 years after the draft, but that doesn't stop people from attacking teams. I literally read as much as I possibly can find on all of the players in the draft and I have no idea who is going to pan out and who isn't. Also, comparing one team's draft haul to another's at this point is also pointless as most players haven't even signed yet. Especially with the pitchers, a team can take a pitcher who is considered a strong talent and if that guy can't stay healthy, he can be considered the best pick ever at the time, but still never even come close to panning out.

    The point is, if you want instant gratification the MLB draft is not the way to go. It takes years to find out anything substantial about any of these players.

  2. Matt says:

    I enjoyed reading this, Brian. So many draft views lack pragmatism. Even in an instant gratification draft like the NFL, how many times does Kiper Jr. say "can't miss" or the "safe pick, " and then the player fades (or the other way around, the NY Giants 2007 draft received a C+ from Mel and then the top six picks all contributed in a Super Bowl win).

    I enjoy reading about the Yankees picks but will save judgment until they make it/don't make it to Trenton, Scranton, and the Bronx.