June 12, 2007

From the Major League Baseball June Draft to the 25-Man Roster

Baseball’s annual draft of amateur players, which took place on Thursday and Friday of last week, is the most removed from current rosters of all of the amateur drafts of the top American professional sports leagues, the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and even Major League Soccer.

The NBA’s Portland Trainblazers and Seattle SuperSonics eagerly await selecting Ohio State’s Greg Oden and the University of Texas’ Kevin Durant. Both Durant and Oden are considered franchise players who could single-handedly bring success to the franchise. The NFL’s Cleveland Brown selected Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the 22nd pick in April’s football draft; Quinn will compete for playing time this season.

Read ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, the sports pages of the local newspaper, and one does not find pundits grading how MLB clubs did in last week’s draft. I was in Pittsburgh on Thursday night and watched the local news report on the Pirates’ draft. The theme was “signability” which is Major League Baseball short-hand for “agent Scott Boras represents this player and will demand more money than we want to commit to a draft-pick”. The Pirates had passed on Georgia Tech catch Matt Wieters for this reason and chose Clemson pitcher Daniel Moskos.

This particular broadcast questioned the Moskos pick in the context of the Pirates passing on a player for financial reasons. This has nothing to do with Moskos and everything to do with both a team’s desire to work with Boras – the Phillies now shy-away from Boras clients after selecting Boras-client J.D. Drew in the 1997 draft – and Pittsburgh’s deepening frustration with the decisions made by the current ownership group.

It did not help that Moskos is the eighth pitcher that the Bucs have selected with their first-pick since 1998; none of the first seven have yet enjoyed Major League success. But do not blame Moskos for this legacy.

With few exceptions, first and second round selections receive a bit of press in the days after the draft. The Phillies have invited their first-round pick to Veterans Stadium, and now Citizens Bank Park, where they tour the clubhouse, meet the local press, and if they are a hitter, take some batting practice. Then they are shipped off to the low minor leagues and the life of long bus rides and McDonald’s meal money, out of the spotlight.

Sometimes we see these players again in the big leagues. More often than not, they fade from view.

I was curious about the relationship between the draft and whether a player’s selection in the early rounds might say something about the likelihood of his reaching and succeeding on the major league level. But rather than look at past drafts and the future success of the draftees, I looked at two current rosters to see where the players were drafted. I chose the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox. As of yesterday, Monday, June 11, each club had the best record in their league.

Each Major League club has a 25-man active roster. These are the players designated as available to play. The list excludes individuals on the Disabled List. For example, Pedro Martinez is excluded from the Mets’ 25-man roster as he recovers on the DL.

This is the Mets’ 25-man roster with players listed by last-name and the round in which they were drafted. Those players drafted in the same round are listed in alphabetical order and not by the order within the round.

Castro 1
Green 1
Heilman 1
Sele 1
Wagner 1
Beltran 2
Glavine 2
Wright 2
Schoenweiss 3
Smith 3
Maine 6
Ledee 16
LaDuca 25
Easley 30
Feliciano 31
Gotay 31
Delgado -
Franco -
Gomez -
Hernandez -
Mota -
Perez -
Reyes -
Sosa -
Valentin -

This list shows that 16 of the 25 players were drafted. The average round in which the 16 drafted players were selected is the 9.75th round. This is weighted of course by LaDuca, Easley, Feliciano, and Gotay being chosen in the 25th through 31st rounds. The median selection round is the 2nd; 11 of these 16 players were taken no lower than pitcher John Maine in the sixth round.

Nine players were not drafted. This is due to the structure of the June amateur draft which applies only to American and Candian players as well as those who came through American and Canadian high schools, junior colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. Amateur players in the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Valenzuela, Cuba, and so forth are not subject to the draft. Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, and Jose Reyes were open to be signed by any team in the Major Leagues.

This is the Red Sox’ 25-man roster with players listed by last-name and the round in which they were drafted. Again, those players drafted in the same round are listed in alphabetical order and not by the order within the round.

Beckett 1
Drew 1
Ramirez 1
Snyder 1
Varitek 1
Pedroia 2
Schilling 2
Cora 3
Lopez 4
Papelbon 4
Mirabelli 5
Timlin 5
Crisp 7
Wakefield 8
Youkilis 8
Pineiro 12
Hinske 17
Lowell 20
Donnelly 27
Lugo 28
Matsuzaka -
Okajima -
Ortiz -
Pena -
Tavarez -

The Red Sox have 20 players who were selected in the June draft. These players were taken, on average, in the 7.85th round. The median round of selection is the 4th with 15 of the 20 having been taken no lower than Kevin Youkilis and Tim Wakefield in the 8th.

David Ortiz was signed out of the Dominican Republic. The Red Sox bid on the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka before signing him.

This is no academic study and there are initial trends. The first, second, and third rounds yield more Major League-caliber talent than the later rounds. That being said, there is talent to be had. Paul La Duca is no slouch at catcher and he was taken in the 25th round. 165 other players were taken before the Red Sox selected Wade Boggs.

Given the importance of the amateur draft, we might also note how it does not apply to Latin American players. Pedro Martinez was one of the top pitchers of the late 1990s and early 2000s and David Ortiz is one of the top hitters today. We do not see their likeness in the draft and yet they compose one-third of the Mets’ first-place roster.

A rough estimate would suggest that a third of an active 25-man roster is made of players drafted within the first four or so rounds; one-third are players drafted between rounds four and 30; one-third are non-drafted players, primarily those signed out of Latin America.


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