One of the big things that Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington gets credit for is his approach with the MLB Draft. The Pirates have spent the most in the draft over the last four years, including a record amount in 2011. There have been four drafts now under Neal Huntington, yet only two players have made the majors so far: Pedro Alvarez and Chase d’Arnaud, and neither player can be counted on as an everyday starter at this point.
There’s a perception that the Pirates should have seen more results so far from their drafting approach. The obvious impact should have come from Pedro Alvarez, who had a decent rookie campaign, only to struggle in 2011. However, the feeling exists that the Pirates should have more than Alvarez in the majors, and not just in the d’Arnaud form, but in the form of a pitcher in the rotation, or another starter on the field. It’s even to the point where people are disappointed that 2009 first round pick Tony Sanchez isn’t in the majors.
This perception grossly overestimates the timeline to the majors for most draft picks. You’re not going to go through the majors and find many teams who have a ton of guys from the 2008 draft in the majors. Those who do have a few guys in the majors have them in the d’Arnaud form: poor initial results.
Take one look at the Pirates this year. We’re seeing Brad Lincoln, Alex Presley, Jared Hughes, and Jeff Locke make their way to the majors, or become established in the majors. All four guys were drafted in 2006. The go-to argument against Huntington is that some of the best players on the team, like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, were drafted by Dave Littlefield. Yet those two were drafted in 2004 and 2005, and didn’t debut until 2010 and 2009 respectively.
It has taken four to five full seasons in the minors for most of the players on the 25-man roster to arrive in the majors and become established starters. Yet people get upset when Pedro Alvarez isn’t a complete product after just three professional seasons, and people wonder why the Pirates don’t have more established guys from the 2008 draft after just two full seasons coming in to 2011.
To get an idea of how the Pirates stack up with other teams, and how we can’t expect results this early from the 2008 draft, I went through every team in the majors, looking at how many players they drafted in 2008 that have seen the majors, and how those players have done. Note that this is just a blanket analysis. It’s not meant to suggest that a player is a success or a failure based on their numbers. It’s not suggesting that some players won’t get better, some players won’t regress, or that teams won’t see more players graduate to the majors. It’s simply giving an idea of how many players each team has sent to the majors, and how those players have done so far.
Los Angeles Angels (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Tyler Chatwood has made 24 starts this year, his first year in the pros, with a 4.63 ERA and a 71:68 K/BB ratio in 134 innings. 13th round pick Michael Kohn has spent two seasons in the majors out of the bullpen. He had a 2.11 ERA in 21.1 innings in 2010, but has a 7.30 ERA in 12.1 innings this year, with walk rates of 6.6-6.8 BB/9 each year.
Houston Astros (Players in the Majors: 3) - First round pick Jason Castro made his debut this year, with a .205/.286/.287 line in 195 at-bats. Supplemental first round pick Jordan Lyles has pitched 90.2 innings, with a 5.26 ERA, and a 63:23 K/BB ratio. 6th round pick J.B. Shuck has a .212/.328/.250 line in 52 at-bats.
Oakland Athletics (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Jemile Weeks made his debut this year, with a .306/.344/.416 line in 346 at-bats at the age of 24. 2nd round pick Tyson Ross pitched 39.1 innings in 2010, with a 5.49 ERA. In 2011 he’s pitched 36 innings, including six starts, with a 2.75 ERA and a 24:13 K/BB ratio.
Toronto Blue Jays (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick David Cooper has 40 at-bats in the majors, with a .175/.271/.325 line. 7th round pick Eric Thames has a .260/.309/.457 line in 300 at-bats.
Atlanta Braves (Players in the Majors: 1) - 3rd round pick Craig Kimbrel has pitched two years in the majors, and is currently the closer in Atlanta, with a 1.78 ERA in 70.2 innings, along with a phenomenal 116:28 K/BB ratio.
Milwaukee Brewers (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Brett Lawrie has a .322/.387/.678 line in 121 at-bats in the majors this year. He was traded to Toronto for Shaun Marcum. 3rd round pick Logan Schafer has just one at-bat in the majors.
St. Louis Cardinals (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Brett Wallace has spent parts of two years in the majors, currently with a .262/.337/.366 line in 325 at-bats this year with the Houston Astros. Wallace has been traded three times. Supplemental first round pick Lance Lynn pitched 34.2 innings this year, with a 3.12 ERA and a 40:11 K/BB ratio.
Chicago Cubs (Players in the Majors: 6) - First round pick Andrew Cashner pitched 54.1 innings out of the bullpen last year, with a 4.80 ERA and a 50:30 K/BB ratio. He’s pitched 6.1 innings this year, with a 1.42 ERA and a 3:1 K/BB ratio. Third round pick Chris Carpenter has pitched 9.2 innings this year, with a 2.79 ERA and an 8:7 K/BB ratio. We know what 6th round pick Josh Harrison has been doing. 13th round pick Tony Campana has a .262/.297/.311 line in 122 at-bats. 15th round pick Casey Coleman has a 5.50 ERA in 126 innings between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, working mostly as a starter. 37th round pick Erik Hamren has a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings, with a 9:7 K/BB ratio.
Tampa Bay Rays (Players in the Majors: 0) - No players in the majors.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Players in the Majors: 5) - First round pick Daniel Schlereth has a 3.92 ERA in 82.2 innings over the last three seasons as a lefty reliever, along with an 8.8 K/9 and a 5.8 BB/9. He was traded to Detroit in the three team deal that brought Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson to Arizona. Supplemental first round pick Wade Miley has made five starts this year, with a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings, along with a 19:14 K/BB ratio. 2nd round pick Bryan Shaw has a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings in relief, with a 20:7 K/BB ratio. 5th round pick Collin Cowgill has a .216/.284/.270 line in 74 at-bats. 27th round pick Ryan Cook has a 9.82 ERA in 3.2 innings.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Players in the Majors: 4) - 2nd round pick Josh Lindblom has a 2.25 ERA in 24 relief innings, with a 16:8 K/BB ratio. 4th round pick Dee Gordon has a .283/.292/.336 line in 152 at-bats. 11th round pick Nathan Eovaldi has a 3.09 ERA in 32 innings, with a 23:17 K/BB ratio. 25th round pick Jerry Sands has a .193/.290/.311 line in 135 at-bats.
San Francisco Giants (Players in the Majors: 4) - First round pick Buster Posey has a .294/.353/.462 line in 585 career at-bats in the majors. Supplemental first round pick Conor Gillaspie has a .231/.375/.231 line in 13 at-bats. 4th round pick Brandon Crawford has a .192/.276/.263 line in 156 at-bats. 6th round pick Eric Surkamp has a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings over two starts, with a 6:4 K/BB ratio.
Cleveland Indians (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Lonnie Chisenhall has a .234/.265/.416 line in 154 at-bats. 3rd round pick Cord Phelps has a .143/.239/.238 line in 63 at-bats.
Seattle Mariners (Players in the Majors: 0) - No players in the majors.
Florida Marlins (Players in the Majors: 2) - 2nd round pick Brad Hand has a 3.91 ERA in 50.2 innings as a starter this year, with a 28:32 K/BB ratio. 27th round pick Elih Villanueva has made one start, with a 24.00 ERA in three innings.
New York Mets (Players in the Majors: 3) - First round pick Ike Davis has a .271/.357/.460 line in 652 at-bats over the last two years. 6th round pick Josh Satin has five at-bats in the majors. 22nd round pick Chris Schwinden has made one start, with a 9.00 ERA in five innings.
Washington Nationals (Players in the Majors: 3) - Third round pick Danny Espinosa has a .224/.307/.409 line in 6161 at-bats in the last two years. 10th round pick Tom Milone has a 6.30 ERA in 10 innings over two starts. 19th round pick Steve Lombardozzi has no hits in 11 at-bats.
Baltimore Orioles (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Brian Matusz has a 5.26 ERA in 263.1 innings, with a 7.3 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9 ratio over the last three years. Fourth round pick Kyle Hudson has a .176/.176/.176 line in 17 at-bats.
San Diego Padres (Players in the Majors: 5) - Supplemental first round pick Logan Forsythe has a .213/.281/.287 line in 150 at-bats. 2nd round pick James Darnell has a .161/.212/.258 line in 31 at-bats. 3rd round pick Blake Tekotte has a .176/.263/.265 line in 34 at-bats. 5th round pick Anthony Bass has a 1.82 ERA in 34.2 innings, with a 19:18 K/BB ratio. 42nd round pick Brad Brach has a 6.23 ERA in 4.1 innings.
Philadelphia Phillies (Players in the Majors: 3) - 3rd round pick Vance Worley has a 2.70 ERA in 123.1 innings, mostly as a starter, with a 108:40 K/BB ratio. 11th round pick Michael Stutes has a 3.62 ERA in 54.2 innings, with a 52:25 K/BB ratio. 14th round pick Michael Schwimer has a 4.50 ERA in 6 innings.
Texas Rangers (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Justin Smoak has a .225/.314/.385 line in 737 at-bats. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners last year in the Cliff Lee trade. 43rd round pick Cody Eppley has an 8.00 ERA in 9 innings.
Boston Red Sox (Players in the Majors: 2) - 3rd round pick Kyle Weiland has a 6.75 ERA in 16 innings. 6th round pick Ryan Lavarnway has a .304/.407/.391 line in 23 at-bats.
Cincinnati Reds (Players in the Majors: 3) - First round pick Yonder Alonso has a .344/.392/.544 line in 90 at-bats. 3rd round pick Zach Stewart has a 4.56 ERA in 53.1 innings. He has been traded twice, first in the Scott Rolen trade, and the second time for Edwin Jackson. 9th round pick Dave Sppelt has a .266/.293/.342 line in 79 at-bats.
Colorado Rockies (Players in the Majors: 1) - 2nd round pick Charlie Blackmon has a .255/.277/.296 line in 98 at-bats.
Kansas City Royals (Players in the Majors: 2) - First round pick Eric Hosmer has a .287/.335/.462 line in 457 at-bats. 2nd round pick Johnny Giavotella has a .221/.255/.336 line in 131 at-bats.
Detroit Tigers (Players in the Majors: 4) - First round pick Ryan Perry has a 4.06 ERA in 155 innings as a reliever, with a 7.3 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9 ratio over the last three years. 5th round pick Alex Avila has a .271/.362/.458 line in 771 at-bats over the last three years. 8th round pick Andy Dirks has a .256/.303/.421 line in 195 at-bats. 10th round pick Robbie Weinhardt has a 6.39 ERA in 31 innings.
Minnesota Twins (Players in the Majors: 0) - No players in the majors.
Chicago White Sox (Players in the Majors: 3) - First round pick Gordan Beckham has a .250/.319/.386 line in 1262 at-bats over the last three years. 3rd round pick Brent Morel has a .251/.282/.355 line in 423 at-bats over the last two years. 5th round pick Daniel Hudson has a 3.12 ERA in 317 innings as a starter, with a 7.2 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9 ratio. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson.
New York Yankees (Players in the Majors: 0) - No players in the majors.
In total there have been 72 players that have reached the majors from the 2008 draft, out of over 1500 players that were drafted, including 322 in the top 10 rounds. Looking through the list, very few players have come up and made a significant impact. That’s not to say that we won’t see more players make the jump. It’s not saying that some of these players won’t turn their early numbers around. It’s just pointing out how early it is.
The 2008 draft picks just finished their third full season in the minors. Three years can seem like a long time, but when it comes to prospects, that’s not that long. At a level per year, you’ve got most college guys in AAA, and most high school guys in high-A or AA at best. Even on a faster scale, you’ve got college guys in the majors, and to expect them to hit the ground running from day one is ignoring the majority of the above list, with plenty of top talents struggling in their first years in the majors.
The Pirates don’t look that bad off. Out of the top ten rounds, they have Pedro Alvarez (1st round) and Chase d’Arnaud (4th) who have reached the majors, Jordy Mercer (3rd), Justin Wilson (5th), and Matt Hague (9th) in AAA, and Jeremy Farrell (8th) in AA. High school picks Robbie Grossman (6th) and Benji Gonzalez (7th) are in high-A. They also have 14th round pick Mike Colla in AA. Out of this group, we know the potential upside with Alvarez. D’Arnaud and Mercer both have the potential to be average or better starters at shortstop. Wilson has great stuff, and could either be a #3-5 starter, or a power lefty reliever, depending on how he manages his control issues. Hague profiles as an average first baseman at best. The best of the group is probably Robbie Grossman, who made some big strides this year, and will really show what he can do in the jump to AA next year.
There’s obviously a desire to evaluate the drafts under Neal Huntington, and the best way to do that is to see what type of major league impact each draft has. However, we aren’t to the point where we can seriously evaluate the results of the 2008 draft class, mostly because the 2008 draft class is unfinished. Most of the top college players are in AA and AAA, just getting ready to make the jump to the majors. The high school players are in high-A, and probably won’t make the jump until 2013 at the earliest.
Those kind of comments are always met with groans from the people who are impatiently waiting to place a final grade on a draft. However, that’s just the facts. That’s not saying we can’t evaluate drafts along the way, but we need to put things in perspective. I think it’s very telling that the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins, two teams known for their drafting and development of prospects, haven’t seen any players graduate to the majors from the 2008 draft. That just shows how early in the process we are. We can evaluate the draft along the way, but if your evaluation consists of looking at how many players are in the majors, and giving a grade based off of that information, then you’re basically looking at the 2008 draft at half time, and assuming the game is over.
Keeping things in perspective, we can look around the majors and see that it’s not uncommon for teams to have two players in the majors, with no established starters. There are teams who have seen early results, just like there are teams who have seen no results. Ultimately, Huntington will be graded the most on the results of the drafts, since that has been the biggest area of focus by the Pirates. We’re just not anywhere near the point where we can start thinking about final grades for the 2008 draft. And if we’re not close for the 2008 draft, then we’re definitely not close for 2009 or beyond.