Monday, February 3, 2014

Thoughts on Drafting Part III

Someone asked for a post on the Giants and high school draft picks.  To even try to write an evidence based post on the subject as whole is a most daunting task that would take weeks of painstaking research.  I'll leave that kind of in-depth digging to the Fangraphs crowd, or Shankbone and ogc.  What I thought I would do is list just all of the Giants first and supplemental first round draft picks from the Brian Sabean era then break it down a little. You might be surprised at what we find.  First the list(I will list them by year, name, position, College or HS, and overall pick.

1997 Jason Grilli, RHP, C, 4
1997 Dan McKinley, OF, C, 49
1998 Tony Torcato, 3B, HS, 19
1998 Nate Bump, RHP, C, 25
1998 Arturo McDowell, OF, HS, 29
1998 Chris Jones, LHP, HS, 38
1998 Jeff Urban, LHP, C, 41
1999 Kurt Ainsworth, RHP, C, 24
1999 Jerome Williams, RHP, HS, 39
2000 Boof Bonser, RHP, HS, 21
2001 Brad Hennessey, RHP, C, 21
2001 Noah Lowry, LHP, C, 30
2001 Todd Linden, OF, C, 41
2002 Matt Cain, RHP, HS, 25
2003 David Aardsma, RHP, C, 22
2003 Craig Whitaker, RHP, HS, 34
2004 No Pick
2005 No Pick
2006 Tim Lincecum, RHP, C, 10
2006 Emmanuel Burriss, SS, C, 33
2007 Madison Bumgarner, LHP, HS, 10
2007 Tim Alderson, RHP, HS, 22
2007 Wendell Fairley, OF, HS, 29
2007 Nick Noonan, SS, HS, 32
2007 Jackson Williams, C, C, 43
2007 Charlie Culberson, SS, HS, 51
2008 Buster Posey, C, C, 5
2008 Conor Gillaspie, 3B, C, 37
2009 Zack Wheeler, RHP, HS, 6
2010 Gary Brown, OF, C, 24
2011 Joe Panik, SS, C, 29
2011 Kyle Crick, RHP, HS, 49
2012 Chris Stratton, RHP, C, 20
2013 Christian Arroyo, SS, HS, 25

 A total of 32 first and supplemental first round picks under Brian Sabean, 17 college, 15 HS, 9 college pitchers, 8 college hitters, 9 HS pitchers, 6 HS hitters.

4 "Star" players:  Cain HS Pitcher, Lincecum College Pitcher, Madison Bumgarner HS Pitcher, Buster Posey College Hitter.

Non-Star MLB Career:  Grilli college pitcher, Jerome Williams HS pitcher, Boof Bonser HS pitcher, Brad Hennessey college picher, Noah Lowry college pitcher, David Aardsma college pitcher, Conor Gillaspie college hitter.

As you can see, the picks have been surprisingly evenly split between college and HS, hitters vs pitchers.  Yet, they have had much more success with graduating pitchers.  Most of that is due to the pitchers being taken higher in the round in most cases.

Historically, the Giants have taken very few HS players after the first 2 rounds until the 2011 and 2013 drafts when the number went up significantly, although college picks still are the bulk of the picks after the first two rounds.  That is probably because most HS players drafted in later rounds will go to college instead of accepting the money offered to later round draft picks.

Before you jump all over this list, you might want to check out lists of first round draft picks over the same time frame for the KC Royals who generally drafted higher with a slightly bigger emphasis on HS talent and the Atlanta Braves, an organization with an excellent scouting reputation who mostly drafted lower than the Giants and took almost exclusively HS talent.  You might be surprised at how terrible the Braves results have been.

Also, Google Baseball First Round draft Pick rankings and look for an article in Bleacher Report ranking all 30 teams over the past decade.  The Giants ranked #5 out of 30 with a grade of A-.  You might be surprised at some of the teams who graded out as F's!


  1. The Giants have had two big stock up on draft picks - 1998 and 2007. 1998 was due to losing the following: Doug Henry, Roberto Hernandez and Wilson Alvarez. The ownership group didn't really want to pay premium bonuses though, so you get Tony Torcato instead of CC Sabathia. THAT is penny wise pound foolish.

    In 2007 they didn't make the same mistake. Comp picks for Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou and Mike Stanton. Although only one impact player, selling off the others for 2B who have had major impact in 2010 and 2012 makes it a huge win in my book, beyond the amazing things Madison Bumgarner has done so far.

    One thing to note - Sabean was the scouting director/VP/right hand man in 1993-96 drafts as well. And the other thing is that a lot of arms have been turned into players and a lot of draft picks have been shipped, some with better results than others. Joe Fontenot (1995 RHP HS 15) was part of the package for Rob Nenn. Grilli and Bump for Livan Hernandez. Dante Powell (1994 OF C 22) for Alan Embree. Dan McKinley was part of a package for Jerry Spradlin. Jacob Cruz (1994 OF C 32) as part of the package for Shawan Dunston and Jose Mesa. Chris Jones for Ricky Pickett. Ainsworth as part of the package for Sidney Ponson. Williams and Aardsma for LeTroy Hawkins. Bonser as part of the package for AJ Doubleplay. Alderson for Sanchez. Culberson for Scutaro. Wheeler for Beltran. Gillaspie for Jeff Soptic.

    1st round picks that just fizzled or moved on, no trades: Tony Torcato, Arturo McDowell, Jeff Urban, Brad Henny-Henn, Noah Lowry, Todd Linden, Craig Whitaker, Burriss, Wendell Fairley, Jackson Williams.

    So the Giants have been able to get value out of their picks. Most of the attention is paid to the AJ-Nathan and now the Wheeler-Beltran, and not nearly enough to all the value that has been created with the other trades. Every GM, given enough rope, will make a bad trade now and then. Sabean's are held against him to the point of high comedy.

    There's definitely 3 periods to me - the first is drafting while competing (97-02), the 2nd is desperate competing (pinching even more pennies on development by deliberately giving up picks in 03-05) and then the current period from 2006 where ownership realized they had to invest.

    One study I did revealed that the Giants are just doing business as usual with Barr as director, basically not altering their ratios much at all between HS (about 15-20%), JC (10-15%) and heavily college. That's the entire draft though, not the first rounds. JC ball picks are down across MLB, I think there has been a fundamental shift in how college ball recruits, but that might be a wild ass guess.

    Nobody has been able to stock up on the draft by manipulating picks. The Rays had the last great chance at it before the CBA closed their empty the bullpen loophole. It got rave reviews at the time. Its not looking good now. Neither was the Red Sox foray into aggressive high risk HS guys, as you noted.

    The Giants have a good record, especially if you understand the concept of not having good draft position while competing. When out of it, they hit on the string of picks that powered them to championships. That is the envy of baseball. Its too bad that's not acknowledged more, but some people just can't be happy with what they got. The grass is greener on the Gigantes side of the fence.

    1. Your last paragraph, I think, is the crux of the whole argument. Sabean-detractors want to say that he has had his draft success due to having all the high picks, but then they fail to notice that he hit a HR with EVERY ONE OF THOSE PICKS. Timmeh, Bum, Posey, Wheeler (regardless of the trade). Not a bad pick in the bunch. In the same time period, look at San Diego. The White Sox. Seattle. These teams had a string of high picks as well, but where are their rings?

    2. Plus the four teams who could have HAD Timmeh, Bum, Posey: KC, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and I think Pittsburgh. They all bypassed them to select other guys (though I understand why Longoria, but still, not better than Lincecum, IMO).

  2. I am still holding out on my belief that 2013 will be the wave of the future as far as the number of HS drafted and signed. Under the new CBA, unless you truly believe that you can move into the first few rounds, there is no incentive to hold out. The money is just not available. Therefore, more HS will (should?) sign if offered $100K.

    The 2014 draft will be interesting as based on your reports, there appears to be a number of top players falling into the 2nd or even 3rd round who in other years would be 1st round picks. Will these players hold out? Could we see a lot more unsigned players this year?

    Anon #1

    1. Well, as we have tried to point out here, drafting HS players is not automatically a good thing. I'm not sure why that little myth is still being perpetuated. If you have a HS kid you really believe is worth a first rounder, then go for it. I also think it is a good thing to take risk on upside late in the draft and for $100 K. Other than that, there is not one shred of evidence that drafting HS players pays off better, even in the long run than, drafting college guys.

  3. It seems Sabean improves with age...the second half has been rather productive.

    1. That may be because the Giants made an effort to rebuild their scouting staff. Following the conclusion of the 94' strike, the Giants decimated their scouting department, most of which had been holdovers from the Rosen/Haller years. If I had to allocate blame for the de-emphasis of scouting, I'd put it mostly on MaGowan, who seemed a little too pleased with himself when justifying the punting of first round picks.


    2. You also have to consider draft position. It was not until 2006 that the Giants started a string of top 10 overall picks, so it's not surprising that the second half of Sabean's tenure has been more productive. It's to his credit, though, that the Giants nailed each one and turned it into 2 championships. You don't want high draft picks just for the sake of high draft picks. You want that to pay off in future wins. Not every team with a string of high draft picks has been able to to that.

  4. Great Post, thanks Dr.B