Grading the Pirates’ 2008 Draft

Back in February I took a look at the early results of the 2008 draft. At the time, only eight players from the entire draft had a career 2.0 WAR or better. I pointed out that the 2012 season should start to see results from this draft, especially for the Pirates, who had some poor results heading in to the year.

Pedro Alvarez managed to turn things around, and the club traded Robbie Grossman as the key piece in the Wandy Rodriguez deal. A few other middle round guys made their major league debuts, such as Jordy Mercer, Justin Wilson, and Matt Hague. I wanted to take another look at the results from around the league, getting a feel for how the Pirates’ draft stacks up compared to what the rest of the league has produced.

The following is a breakdown of the early results from the 2008 draft, with round-by-round results, and comparisons showing what the Pirates did in each round. Credit to Baseball-Reference for the WAR numbers.

Pedro Alvarez has a 0.8 WAR so far in his major league career.

Round One

Players in Majors: 25 (out of 46 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: Buster Posey, Brett Lawrie, Ike Davis

3.0-4.0: Gordon Beckham, Wade Miley

2.0-3.0: Lance Lynn

1.0-2.0: Yonder Alonso, Logan Forsythe, Lonnie Chisenhall

Last year there were 22 players who made the majors, so three more were added this year. The WAR list was populated this year. Last year Posey, Davis, and Lawrie were the only players with a 2.0 WAR or greater. Now they’re all on the 4.0 or greater list.

Pedro Alvarez has a 0.8 WAR to date. He’s hurt by his 2011 season, when he posted a -2.2 WAR. His 2012 WAR was 2.6, which was a huge improvement. As long as he keeps playing like that, he’ll be among the top producers in this group.

Round Two

Players in Majors: 13 (out of 31 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: Robbie Ross

The second round didn’t look good last year, and it hasn’t picked up much this year. The only player with a WAR over 1.0 so far has been Robbie Ross, a left-handed reliever for Texas who made his debut this year.

The Pirates didn’t sign their second round pick, Tanner Scheppers.

Round Three

Players in Majors: 13 (out of 35 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: Craig Kimbrel, Danny Espinosa, Vance Worley

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: N/A

All three players in the 4.0 or better group were on the list last year. No new players have been added, although a few more players from the third round made their major league debuts in 2012.

The Pirates drafted Jordy Mercer in the third round. He made his debut this year and put up a 0.3 WAR as a bench player.

Round Four

Players in Majors: 5 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: Brandon Crawford

1.0-2.0: N/A

Jason Kipnis would be on this list as a “4.0 or better”, but he did not sign with the Padres in 2008.  Rather, he went back in the draft and signed with the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. Brandon Crawford also moved up this year. One of the bigger names from this round has been Dee Gordon. Gordon has a -0.8 WAR so far, after putting up a -1.3 WAR in 2012.

Chase d’Arnaud is one of the six players to reach the majors. He had a -0.8 WAR last year, and brought that up with a 0.2 WAR this year. Like a lot of the fourth rounders, he hasn’t done much in the majors.

Round Five

Players in Majors: 7 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: Alex Avila, Daniel Hudson

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: Collin Cowgill

Last time I mentioned that the fifth round had two of the biggest steals of the draft in Hudson and Avila. That remains the case this year. Hudson went down with an injury, but his 2011 season was enough to push him over the 4.0 WAR mark. Avila looks like one of the better young catchers in the game.

The Pirates drafted Justin Wilson in the fifth round. He made the majors at the end of the year and had a 0.1 WAR.

Round Six

Players in Majors: 5 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: Josh Harrison

There hasn’t been much of an impact in the majors from the sixth rounders. Last year Josh Harrison had the highest WAR and playing time of the group. That remains the case this year, as he cracked the 1.0 WAR mark, with a career 1.2 WAR. The Pirates acquired Harrison from the Cubs in the Tom Gorzelanny trade.

The Pirates drafted Robbie Grossman and traded him as the main piece in the deal for Wandy Rodriguez.

Round Seven

Players in Majors: 4 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: N/A

Jordan Danks is one of the highlights of this group, although he hasn’t done much in the majors, with just 67 at-bats.

The Pirates drafted Benji Gonzalez, who probably won’t make it out of A-ball.

Round Eight

Players in Majors: 4 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: Andy Dirks

1.0-2.0: N/A

Last year Andy Dirks was the only player from this group to reach the majors. He followed up with a good season with Detroit this year.

The Pirates took Jeremy Farrell, who has stalled in Double-A.

Round Nine

Players in Majors: 4 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: N/A

The ninth round hasn’t produced much. Matt Hague was drafted in this round, and is one of the four players to reach the majors. He has a -0.3 WAR so far.

Round Ten

Players in Majors: 6 (out of 30 drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: Tommy Milone

1.0-2.0: N/A

Tommy Milone made the majors last year, and jumped up to a total 2.4 WAR after being traded to Oakland and spending time in their rotation. Milone really benefitted from that trade, as you can see by looking at his home/road splits and his strong numbers at home in Oakland. The Pirates took Drew Gagnon. He didn’t sign, and was drafted again in 2011 in the 3rd round by Milwaukee. This year he had a 2.83 ERA in 149.2 innings between low-A and high-A, with a 6.9 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9.

Rounds 11-20

Players in Majors: 14

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: David Phelps (14th)

1.0-2.0: Nathan Eovaldi (11th), Tony Campana (13th), Louis Coleman (14th)

Last year only eight players had made the majors from this group. Six more were added in 2012, and two more to the WAR list (Campana and Coleman were both in the 1.0-2.0 range last year).

Players the Pirates Signed: David Rubinstein (11th), Calvin Anderson (12th), Mike Colla (14th), Chris Aure (15th), Wes Freeman (16th), Jarek Cunningham (18th), Quinton Miller (20th)

The only players who have a shot at the majors are Colla (middle reliever), Cunningham (has raw power, but lacks plate patience), and Miller (good arm, poor results, could still make it as a reliever).

Rounds 21-30

Players in Majors: 8

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: Ryan Cook (27th)

1.0-2.0: N/A

Two players were added to the “majors” list, and Ryan Cook became the only player on the WAR list, with a 2.4 WAR. He’s another player who found an opportunity after being traded to Oakland.

Players the Pirates Signed: Brent Klinger (21st), Brian Leach (25th), Edwin Roman (27th), Kyle Saukko (28th)

None of these players remain in the organization.

Rounds 31-50

Players in Majors: 7

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: N/A

3.0-4.0: N/A

2.0-3.0: N/A

1.0-2.0: N/A

Four players from rounds 31-50 were added to the majors this year, but no one has made a significant impact. The Pirates drafted Matt Curry in the 37th round this year, but he went to TCU.

Players the Pirates Signed: Mark Carver (33rd), Matthew Payne (34th), Tyler Cox (35th), Kyle Morgan (36th), Alan Knotts (38th), Albert Fagan (39th), Chris Simmons (41st), Cole White (42nd), Mike Williams (44th), Allen Ponder (45th), Owen Brolsma (48th), Zach Foster (49th), Craig Parry (50th)

Zach Foster is the only player who remains in the organization. He’s an organizational arm.

Overall Results

Players in Majors: 115 (out of 1504 players drafted)

WAR Breakdown

4.0 or better: 8 players

3.0-4.0: 2 players

2.0-3.0: 6 players

1.0-2.0: 9 players

Comparing this to last year, 37 new players from the draft were added to the majors (the Pirates added three with Mercer, Wilson, and Hague). Six players were added to the 4.0 or better range, with most of those players moving up from the lower ranges. Last year there were 16 players with a 1.0 WAR of better. This year that number is up to 26. The Pirates added one of those players in Josh Harrison, although Harrison wasn’t drafted by the team.

Last time I pointed out that the Pirates should have had one of the 16 players with a 1.0 WAR or better. They didn’t, mostly due to the lack of success from Alvarez. He’s still not on the 1.0 WAR or better list, but that’s not as disappointing this year considering the season he just had. As long as he keeps that up, the Pirates are fine in that department.

In the middle rounds, a few more players have emerged around the majors. The Pirates haven’t had any of those players. They have a few guys with the potential to play a bigger role in the majors. Jordy Mercer could have a shot at being a starting shortstop. Justin Wilson could still make it as a starter, or a power left-handed reliever. The guy with the biggest potential impact was Robbie Grossman. The Pirates paired him with Rudy Owens and Colton Cain to get a more immediate impact in Wandy Rodriguez.

Typically you want to see three players from each draft make the majors and have an impact. Alvarez is number one. You could count Wandy Rodriguez, although that gets tricky, since that trade also involved a 2007 draft pick and a 2009 draft pick (though Grossman was the key piece). The Pirates need at least one more player to emerge. The best bets are Mercer and Wilson.

Considering how MLB is set up, and how small market teams need to build through the draft, you’d like to see the Pirates do more than that. Their chances of the 2008 draft producing more than three regular producers don’t look good. Right now the field is down to Alvarez, Mercer, d’Arnaud, Wilson, Hague, Colla, Cunningham, and Miller. Mercer, d’Arnaud, Wilson, and Hague all have major league experience, but haven’t stepped up yet. They’re also getting a little old. The upside with Colla and Miller doesn’t suggest that they’ll be impact players. Cunningham is a wild card because of his power, but it’s rare for players to go from “good power, low average, high strikeouts” in the minors to being a productive all around player.

Right now it looks like the best bet is that Alvarez becomes the impact player they envisioned, one of Mercer or Wilson becomes a regular producer, and the Pirates benefit from Wandy Rodriguez for a year or two (if he opts out in 2014, they’d be assured of a compensation pick, since he’d be turning down more than he’d possibly receive with a qualifying offer). That’s not a horrible draft, and it’s not a great draft. It’s about what’s expected. Most of the funds in this draft went to Alvarez, Grossman, and Miller. They didn’t start spending like crazy on middle rounders until 2009. All things considered, the 2008 draft is looking like an average to above average draft right now. That’s if we went on a simple five point scale of “poor, below average, average, above average, and great”. There’s still time for things to play out, but by this point we’re starting to get a strong feel for where the results will end up. They won’t drop to below average, but they also won’t jump up to “great”.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 john.alcorn@chp.edu

    I’m curious why you chose baseball reference WAR which is quite different than fangraphs? BR uses different replacement level values and total zone for defense. I’m also not sure how they weigh baserunning. I would think that fangraphs would be preferable since they have greater expertise on the subject.

    The reason I ask is because Pedro has a fWAR of 3.8 vs a brWAR of 0.8, a very big delta.

    That said, 2008 was considered a deep draft due to the college bats available. Its pretty interesting to see your analysis confirm the reality that draft success rates are very low even in a deep pool.

    What may be interesting is to compare the total WAR per team based on draft money spent. The Bucs were 2nd or 3rd in 2008, I believe.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I use BRef WAR mostly out of convenience. BRef has draft pages set up where they show all of the players in the majors from each round on one page, plus their total WAR. I don’t think FanGraphs has that.

      For Alvarez, I don’t think looking at his total WAR tells the story, whether it’s BRef or FanGraphs. He was very bad in 2011 and he was good in 2012. The only thing that matters is how he performs going forward. If it’s more like the 2012 season, or improvements on that season, he’ll be in great shape. If he regresses more toward the 2011 season, that will be a problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim….Three impact players? Sure, it’d be nice to have, but historically, figures don’t bear that out. Many GMs have come out and said 1-2 players per draft. If we get Alvarez, a reliever and a utility guy we’ll be doing well historically.

    Here are two great articles on that subject:
    http://viewfromthebleachers.com/blog/2012/08/23/success-rate-of-mlb-draft-picks-by-slot/

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-772wlhxPhPNjUyY2JiMmItYzJlYi00Yjk5LThlOTUtODkwN2IzMTU5ODIx/edit?hl=en_US&pli=1

    Lee Foo

    .

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Test….the system ate my respons?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      it finally showed up.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 john.alcorn@chp.edu

    He was also very good in 2010 in more ab’s than 2011. I think those two are the push and 2012 represents real gains. Of course striking out at 30% leaves very little room for error. Its not a great recipe for sustained success. Pedro fits the profile of a player that will age terribly, its probably a good thing that Boras balks at extensions. The Bucs can get his good prime and let him walk away in 4 years.

    His peer group at 30% is Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Drew Stubbs, and Carlos Pena. Pena, Reynolds, and Dunn all offset the K’s with much higher BB rates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Lacrosse team’s indoor SEAL training:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z8iDLp9Mfs

    Foo

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    Good post. I totally agree – good not great. Average, especially since our draft position was excellent.

    What teams were the best in 2008 i.e. had the most players, the highest WAR, etc…?

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      Great question. I went thru the data and here’s the top 5 teams by bWAR:
      Giants 13.7 (12.1 from Posey)
      Nats 9.6 (shown as 12.0, but Crow did not sign w/ them)
      Tigers 9.2
      White Sox 9.1
      D-backs 7.8

      Three teams have had no players arrive from the 2008 draft yet — Rays, Mariners, Twins

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Tony….from that article I linked:

      “Teams choosing in the top 5 had nearly a 50/50 chance of finding a successful player”

      Not impact, ‘successful’.

      Picking in the Top 5 helps, but it is not a sure thing. All you can do is pick the best player at the time and hope and pray.

      Look at 2009. Of the top 5, only Strasberg is successful (and HE’S been injured). Ackley is a poor hitting, poor fielding 2bman. He was supposedly a ‘sure’ thing.

      Then there’s Tate, Sanchez and Hobgood.

      A lot of the draft experts kept saying we should’ve taken Matzek. I’d rather have Sanchez by comparison.

      Foo
      .

      Foo

      .

  • gashuffer

    of the 20+ players not in the bigs —what are some of the names
    that didn’t,won’t ,burned out or busted?