What Are the Odds the Pirates Draft a Future Major League Hitter?

2013 draftThe 2013 draft is a few weeks away, and if you haven’t followed our draft coverage, I suggest you start now. Last night John Dreker and I recorded a segment for the upcoming podcast, looking at Baseball America’s latest mock draft, and talking about a lot of the players who fell in the Pirates’ range. At this point it seems very likely that the Pirates will end up with one position player in the first round, and possibly two depending on how things play out.

Baseball America has released two very interesting articles in the last week. Matt Eddy went back and looked at the top 100 draft picks from 1989 to 2008. The focus was on position players only, so the articles seem relevant to the Pirates’ situation this year. In the first article, Eddy looked at where each position usually ended up in the majors. For example, a shortstop in the draft isn’t always going to end up a shortstop in the majors.  In the time span that Eddy looked at, 35 college drafted shortstops and 44 high school drafted shortstops made the majors. Only 18 college and 11 high school shortstops remained at shortstop.

That was very interesting research, but it only focused on players in the majors. From that research we could conclude that a college shortstop has a 50% chance of sticking at the position if he reaches the majors, while a high school shortstop has a 25% chance of sticking. What we don’t know is how many other shortstops failed. Without that information it seems that if you draft a college shortstop, you’ve got a coin flip chance of landing your future major league shortstop.

Eddy came out with the second article today, this time looking at major league graduation rates, and impact rates in the majors. The focus this time was on how many players reached the majors from each position, and how many of those players went on to become impact players.

The Pirates have some short-term and long-term position needs. In the short-term they could use a shortstop, as could most teams. In the long-term the depth at third base in the minors is very thin, leaving Eric Wood as the best chance of a future replacement for Pedro Alvarez. Wood is a good sleeper prospect to follow, but he’s far from being penciled in to any future major league lineups. Using both articles by Eddy, we can get an idea of the odds of the Pirates getting a future major league position player in the 2013 draft.

Catcher

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position
81 32% 11% 22%

The main high school catching option for the Pirates this year is Reese McGuire. He’s a prep catcher, and in Baseball America’s latest mock draft he was profiled to go sixth overall. Jim Callis did mention that McGuire could be an option for the Pirates at number nine.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position
65 52% 12% 38%

You’ve got much better odds of getting a future catcher out of the college ranks. However, the chance of landing an impact player is about the same as going the high school route, and is actually slightly better. Granted, that doesn’t mean the impact player will remain at catcher. Some of the impact high school catchers include Joey Votto and Jayson Werth. Almost all of the college catchers who were impact players have been impact players behind the plate, at least for the start of their careers.

There aren’t any college catchers at the top of the 2013 draft.

 

Shortstop

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to 3B Moved to 2B
132 33% 8% 8% 7% 8%

Drafting a high school shortstop doesn’t mean you’re getting a future shortstop. In fact, the odds are alarmingly low. Out of the 132 shortstops drafted, only 11 made it as major league shortstops. The appeal here would be getting an impact guy. Several of the impact guys remained at shortstop for some of their careers. The list includes Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, and J.J. Hardy.

J.P. Crawford is a prep shortstop who could be an option for the 14th overall pick. He’s said to have the defense to stick at the position, and also has some hitting ability. But when you hear that, keep in mind the above numbers.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to 3B Moved to 2B
73 48% 12% 25% 5% 16%

The college shortstops have a much better chance of making it to the majors and being impact players. They also have a 1-in-4 chance of staying at shortstop in the majors. The appeal with high school guys could be that you have a better shot of landing a third baseman. If you’ve got a high schooler with a strong arm and a good ability to hit, but he grows out of the shortstop role, he could move to third. That’s less likely for college shortstops, probably because they would have already reached this stage while they’re in college.

The important thing to note about the shortstop position is that it’s usually where the best athlete plays. It doesn’t say much if a guy is a shortstop for his high school team. If a guy is a shortstop in college, it says a little more, since he’s the best athlete at a higher level. So it makes sense that a college shortstop would have such a strong chance at sticking at the position, since he’s already remained at the position despite being surrounded by top athletes.

There aren’t any college shortstops in the Pirates range though.

 

Second Base

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position
7 0% 0% 0%

It’s rare to have a high school second base prospect. That means they weren’t good enough to play the best position on the field in high school. That’s either a reflection on their talent, or means they have some phenomenal prospect on the same team at short. Either way, none of them have reached the majors.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position
22 41% 14% 36%

There haven’t been a lot of college second basemen drafted high either. The success rate is up there, but that makes sense. If a second baseman is going to be a top 100 draft pick, he’s probably a sure thing. There aren’t many options for a second baseman. They probably don’t have the arm strength to play on the left-side of the infield. They usually don’t have the power to play a corner position.

Either way, the top second base prospect in this draft is ranked 66th overall, so that won’t be an issue for the Pirates in the first round.

 

Third Base

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to 1B
61 28% 10% 13% 7%

High school third baseman have the “second base” factor, where they’re not good enough to play the best position on the field. They probably have power, arm strength, or both. However, they’re not athletic enough to play behind the plate. The end result is that only 13% remain at the position, while 7% move across the diamond to first.

The highest ranked high school third baseman is ranked 55th.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to 1B
47 57% 21% 34% 13%

College third basemen seem like a good bet. Over half of them have reached the majors, a third of them stay at the position, and one out of five go on to become impact players in the majors. That’s good to hear, since the Pirates will have a lot of college third base prospects to choose from.

The latest BA mock draft has the Pirates taking Colin Moran with the ninth overall pick. There’s also a mention that the Pirates could go with Eric Jagielo, third baseman from Notre Dame, with the number 14 pick. I doubt they’d take both guys, but the chances of ending up with one college third baseman in this draft seem strong.

 

Outfield

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact CF RF LF 1B
194 28% 12% 12% 8% 7% 1%

About one in four high school outfielders make the majors. The impact rate here is higher than any other prep position, other than first base which we’ll get to in a second. Most outfielders stay in the outfield, but move to one of the corners if they can’t stick in center. Usually if you’ve got a strong arm, you move to right field, and a weaker arm goes to left. Range can also be a factor, with more range going to left, and less to right. That’s especially true for PNC Park. The odds of an outfielder eventually going to first base are slim, probably because there’s more value keeping guys in the outfield.

Austin Meadows is a five tool prep outfielder who could drop to the Pirates. They don’t have a system need for outfielders. They’ve got Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte in the majors. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are options for right field. Down the line they’ve got Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell. Considering the above stats, they shouldn’t shy away from taking an outfielder if he’s the best talent. If you consider Bell and Polanco to be on the level of high school draft picks (which Bell was), then you’ll need two more outfield prospects to have an almost guaranteed chance at a major leaguer.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact CF RF LF 1B
153 47% 13% 16% 15% 11% 3%

College outfielders have a better chance of reaching the majors, and providing an impact. The only top college outfield prospects would be options at number 14. Hunter Renfroe went 15th overall in BA’s mock draft. Phillip Ervin is further down the draft board and out of the Pirates’ range. However, it would be good to see him selected, if only because it would inevitably result in people confusing him with Phil Irwin.

My stance on outfielders is that the Pirates aren’t set at the position until they’ve got three long-term options in the majors. Right now they have two in my opinion. So even though they’ve got Polanco and Bell in the system, they could still use more talent.

 

First Base

High School

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to LF
38 34% 13% 24% 11%

If you’re a high school first baseman, it means you’re not a good athlete. If you’re a high school first baseman who is a top 100 draft pick, it means you have a great bat. The impact players from this list include Derrek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder. This is the highest impact position for prep players, and it makes sense. You’re drafting guys with great bats, and you don’t have to worry about the defense coming along, since the value is going to come from the bat.

Dominic Smith is considered one of the best all-around hitters in the draft, and Callis said he comes with less risk than most high school bats. He also has strong defense at first. Callis mentioned him at number 14 for the Pirates, but in a “he’s a gifted hitter” way, and not in a “the Pirates are considering him” way.

College

Drafted In Majors Impact Remained at Position Moved to LF
44 43% 18% 36% 7%

The same situation applies with college first baseman as far as being drafted for their bats. The impact rate is extremely high, but you only have to focus on the hitting, and that’s already strong if a guy is going in the top 100.

D.J. Peterson is a college first baseman, although he’s listed at third base before first base. BA’s mock draft has him going 11th.

 

The Individual

The above numbers are really valuable, as they give some perspective on the historical odds of what each player could do. If the Pirates drafted Colin Moran, we know that he has a 34% chance of making the majors as a third baseman, and a 21% chance of being an impact player, based on the historical numbers. If they went with Austin Meadows, he’d have a 27% chance of making the majors in the outfield, and a 12% chance of being an impact player.

The key here is that the individual is still important. Looking just at the combined numbers provides one flaw. It gives the same value to all of the guys in the top 100. So Meadows, rated as the 5th best prospect by Baseball America, would have the same odds as Billy McKinney, who is a prep outfielder that is ranked 27th by Baseball America. But if you’re picking between the two, you’re definitely taking Meadows, since he has a much better chance of reaching the majors and becoming an impact player.

Comparing positions is a bit difficult. Deciding between Meadows and McKinney is easy. But how do you decide between Meadows and Moran, especially when you’ve got the need factors weighing in? Meadows is the higher ranked prospect, but the odds of success for college third basemen are much higher than the odds for prep outfielders.

The historical odds are very valuable, and I encourage you to read the articles written by Matt Eddy, if only because it’s fun to see where some of the current major league players were picked, and where they started their careers. That said, the historical odds should only be a reference. If you’re only saying “draft a high school shortstop in the first round because the Pirates need a shortstop”, then the odds would play a much bigger role. They’d tell you that you’ve got an 8% chance in that scenario to get a future major league shortstop. But that doesn’t mean you should pass on a top talent like Austin Meadows only because the historical odds say one thing. The odds should be considered, but the individual player is far more important.

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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  • vanderbilt

    Watched the story about Neil Walker last night on Pirates post game. never knew he started out as a catcher.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    I’ve been following his series too and I think it really confirms what we already thought about the top of the draft; a high school hitter has about a 1 in 3 chance of big league success regardless of position while a college bat has a 1 in 2 chance. Beyond that the chance of getting an impact player is not different between college and prep hitters. We have known from other studies (and my own) that college bats are the safest pick followed by prep bats and college arms (about even) and prep arms carrying the greatest risk with regard to making it to the majors and being useful. However, when it comes to getting stars there is no formula. Thus, its not as easy as just saying that we should only draft college players since their risk is lower compared to prep players.

    • stickyweb

      jalcorn,
      I disagree about there being no difference in the chance of getting an impact hitter between college and HS players. That’s true of Cs and OFs, but college 3Bs have a 100% better chance of being impact player and college SSs and 1Bs have 50% and 38% better chance respectively. That seems significant to me.

      Furthermore, the chance of a college player making the majors is substantially higher at every postion: C 62%, SS 45%, 3B 110%, OF 40% and 1B 26%. Reading this, I don’t see why you would ever draft a high school player. This completely destroys (albeit with a small sample size, where have we heard that before) the conventional argument that the college player may be closer to the majors when drafted but the high schooler’s ceiling is way higher (i.e. more of a chance of being an impact). The impact side of the argument falls apart here.

      As the article mentioned, the individual and the ranking affect the analysis too. For instance, you wouldn’t take the hypothetical college 3B ranked 99th ahead of Meadows just because college 3B have such a better chance of being both ML and impact player, but the decision never comes down to that. There’s always a college player within a few ranking spots of the HS player, so I’d say Moran over Meadows is a no brainer, without even considering need.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susanne.klichlangford Susanne Klich Langford

    You must be young Vanderbilt. The Neil Walker catcher thing has been beaten to death by Pirate bloggers I was waiting for you to ask “Do you think there’s a chance he will move back to catcher someday.” That is the most asked question in the history of Bucco Bloggers i think. Walker had one of the more interesting journeys to the majors of any top pick I have seen: Up and down hitting, slowly developing power, catcher, to 3B, to 2B…talk of the OF even. I still dont think he is done developing and there is a little more power there if he can get healthy. Great article Tim. Slightly surprising college 3B are the most reliable position in the high rounds. If I had to guess I would have said college OF. I think back in recent Pirates drafts and we have had a bunch of guys: Alvarez, Mercer, D’Arnaud, even Matt Hague played a little college 3B I think. The Bucs are a good example of this study in action. Hopefully they do the pitchers too. Would love to see that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susanne.klichlangford Susanne Klich Langford

    I think Moran looks like the guy to take. Although there is something strange about his swing I cant completely put my finger on. Maybe he has a lot of moving parts with his hands to go with the wide-spread stance. I could see some toning down needing to be done at higher levels. Others would know way more than me about this. I do think that he will hit for power though when I look at him. He has good size. His uncle BJ Surhoff developed power over time and they have similar builds…not that it means anything.
    -frederick langford

    • meatygettingsaucy

      I really want Moran to drop to us but it seems really unlikely, especially with the very likely occurrence that Manaea, Stanek, and possibly Frazier are all going to drop slightly. I could see Moran going as high as 4th and don’t see an organization like the Red Sox passing on him. If he is taken, I wouldn’t mind grabbing the top college arm (if he is BPA) then with the 14th pick grabbing Smith or Crawford if they are available.

      • Y2JGQ2

        I think i’d agree with you. I’d take Moran at #9 and JP Crawford at #14 assuming both are available. If Moran isn’t available maybe you take crawford under slot at #9 and then the notre dame 3B at #14. Or you take Austin Meadows at #9 and Crawford at #14 and roll the dice with two high schoolers.