The Pirates Have Spent Big in the Draft, But Has it Paid Off?
Last week, during the round table discussion at Bucs Dugout, a question was raised about how each team’s draft results compare to their total spending. I’ve previously looked at the 2008 draft, noting the success stories from each round, and comparing that to what the Pirates got. Looking at the $/WAR for each team sounded interesting. It’s not a perfect method, but it would be one of the best ways to quantify draft scouting.
In theory, if a team had good scouts, they’d have a lower $/WAR than a team with poor scouting. If two teams had a total WAR of 1.0, and one team spent twice as much to get there, we’d conclude that the team spending more got there because of money, that the team spending less got there because of scouting, or both.
Before we get to the results, there are a few notes on the process. I included every player who was drafted and signed by a team, even if that player was traded and had their WAR with a different club. The focus here is on finding talent, regardless of where that talent ends up playing in the majors. I didn’t include players who didn’t sign with their drafting team. Some of the notables were Jason Kipnis (Padres), Aaron Crow (Nationals), and Louis Coleman (Nationals). I also didn’t count players with a negative WAR. There’s been some debate about this over at Bucs Dugout in other draft studies. The reason I didn’t include those players is because it penalizes teams for graduating players to the majors who didn’t do so well. The Rays and the Blue Jays haven’t graduated anyone to the majors from the 2008 draft yet. However, they’d be ranked more favorably than a team like the Astros, who would have ended up at -1.0 WAR thanks to the -1.9 from supplemental pick Jordan Lyles. A team that graduates bad players to the majors shouldn’t be penalized more than a team who graduates no players to the majors, so I removed the negative WAR players.
Last week there was some debate about Baseball Reference WAR numbers versus FanGraphs WAR numbers. I used the Baseball Reference numbers out of convenience, since they’re all set up on one simple page for each team’s picks. The FanGraphs numbers would give the Pirates better results. Pedro Alvarez has a 3.8 fWAR, compared to an 0.8 rWAR. That would make some impact, but would only bring the Pirates up to 14th. The problem with this is that the fWAR for every other player would be different. Posey has a 12.1 rWAR, but a 13.7 fWAR. Alex Avila would go from 7.5 to 8.6. Andy Dirks would go from 2.8 to 2.0.
The Pirates did get some value from the draft by dealing Robbie Grossman for Wandy Rodriguez. It would be hard to calculate the value received here. For one, you’d have to take the same approach with every other team. Two, the deal wasn’t straight up, but was a 3-for-1 deal, so you’d have to determine how much of Wandy Rodriguez’s value should be attributed to Grossman. It would be better to avoid trying to quantify that, and just keep it in the back of your mind when looking at the results.
The results aren’t encouraging for the Pirates. By this measure above, they’re 19th in the majors. You could alter the numbers by giving more weight to the 2012 season from Alvarez, or by considering the return for Grossman. However, you’re not going to end up in the top 10, and you’re probably only ending up slightly above average. That’s not what the Pirates need. Small market teams need to build through the draft. The Pirates were doing the right thing by spending big in the draft, but the players they spent money on haven’t produced the results you need. The Tigers spent almost a third of what the Pirates spent, and have seen almost ten times the wins. The White Sox, Diamondbacks, and Nationals all spent around half of what the Pirates spent, and have seen about 6-8 times the wins.
With the amount they spent, the Pirates would have to have six wins to crack the top ten in $/WAR (an increase of 4.8 wins), and they would need 16.2 wins to crack the top five (an increase of 15 wins). Imagine how different the Pirates would be with an extra 5-15 wins from this draft. Imagine that while considering that most of the draft results for teams around the league have come over the last two years. Then think about how close the Pirates have been the last two years, and how those extra wins could have helped them. It’s too early to get any solid results from the 2009 draft, but if you look at the lack of potential impact players from that draft, you could probably expect the same results. These results don’t speak well for the draft scouting department.