Friday, July 10, 2015

Thoughts on the 2005 Draft

The 2005 MLB Amateur draft is by now legendary for producing more superstars than any other draft in recent memory.  In terms of talent production, I am not sure if it ranks #1 in the history of the draft, but it has to be top 3.  I don't think any draft since has been productive.  What rankles many Giants fans is that their team had no first round picks in that draft.  In fact, they had no 2'nd or 3'rd round picks either.  Brian Sabean and Giants ownership was desperately trying to win one for Barry and their top 3 picks in the 2005 draft were sacrificed for dubious veteran FA's who ultimately failed to deliver on the dream of a championship in the Barry Bonds era.

I have to say that I have mostly tried to ignore articles about the 2005 draft.  First of all, I figure they are too painful to read and secondly, the Giants have won 3 championships since then, so it's all water under the bridge anyway.  This year marks the 10'th anniversary of that legendary draft and a flurry of articles looking back at it are out there for reading.  A few days ago, I reluctantly clicked on one such article about how the 2005 draft would go if you redrafted it knowing what you know about the players now.  As I scrolled down the list of superstars, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton and many more, I got more and more disgusted, until I came to #23 and the name was Sergio Romo.  Wait, what?  Sergio Romo would be the #23 pick in the legendary, stupendous 2005 draft if it was held today?  There are 30 picks in the first round, right?  That means that at least one author thinks the Giants got first round value in that draft and then some!  That is not exactly the disaster we've been led to believe all these years.

That got me to thinking about where the Giants would have drafted in the first round had they owned a selection and what players they might have gotten.  First, I looked up the final 2004 MLB Standings which determine draft order.  The Giants tied with the A's for the 9'th best record in baseball which means they would have drafted either #21 or #22.  Well, that would put them out of the running for the big names I mentioned above.  Next, I looked up BA's Draft Database for 2005.  Here is a list of 2005 first round draft picks in order of career fWAR up to this point, along with their draft position:

1. Andrew McCutchen, 11'th pick, 37.8.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, 7'th pick, 34.4.
3. Ryan Braun, 5'th pick, 34.1.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 4'th pick, 33.4.
5. Alex Gordon, 2'nd pick, 29.9.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury, 23'rd pick, 28.8.
7. Justin Upton, 1'st pick, 24.9.
8. Matt Garza, 25'th pick, 20.7.
9. Jay Bruce, 12'th pick, 17.8.
10. Colby Rasmus, 28'th pick, 15.4.
11. Mike Pelfrey, 9'th pick, 11.5.
12. Cameron Maybin, 10'th pick, 9.4.
13. Cliff Pennington, 21'st pick, 8.5.
14. Ricky Romero, 6'th pick, 8.2.
15. Chris Volstad, 16'th pick, 3.1.
16. Brian Bogusovic, 24'th pick, 2.9.
17. John Mayberry, Jr, 19'th pick, 2.3.
18. Joey Devine, 27'th pick, 1.5.

All other first round picks including #4 Jeff Clement either failed to play in any MLB games or generated 0 fWAR or less in their careers.  BTW, if you generate a negative WAR for your career, would it be better if you had never played?  Now THAT is harsh!

Now, Sergio Romo is the only player the Giants drafted in 2005 who made it to the major leagues.  He has a 7.8 cumulative fWAR to his name so far.  There were just 14 first round picks from the 2005 draft who have earned a higher cumulative fWAR.  There are 3 or 4 other players drafted in later rounds who have earned more than Romo's 7.8, but that only pushes him down to #23 or so.  Since the Giants would have drafted at #21 or #22, getting the 23'rd highest value in the draft is pretty much what they should have gotten had they kept the pick and a lot better than what a lot of teams got.  Most of those superstars on this list would have been long gone by the time the Giants drafted anyway.

I'll take it a step further here.  Just looking at that list, I can find more than 1 player with a higher career fWAR who I might not prefer to Sergio Romo.  As we have discussed many times, fWAR probably undervalues relievers due to leverage issues.  For instance, I am not at all sure I would prefer Matt Garza, who has the 8'th highest fWAR in the first round to Romo and I am quite sure I would not prefer Ricky Romero or Colby Rasmus.  I would probably take Romo over Pennington, Maybin, and Pelfrey too.  So, I think there is a good case that Romo has been more valuable than all but 8 or 9 first round picks!

Now, could the Giants have gotten a good or even great player in the first round which would have no bearing on whether they picked Romo in round 30-something?  Yes, that is true.  The two who stand out who were drafted at or after picks #21 and 22 are Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza and yeah, it would have been nice to have either of those players plus Romo, but do we know the Giants would have taken one of those two players had they kept the pick?  Chances are, they would have taken one of the many other players who failed to register an fWAR at all!

In summary, while it is debatable whether the Giants and Brian Sabean should have signed all those free agents and punted the first 3 picks of the 2005 draft, but it is wrong to think that they would almost certainly have done better in the draft had they not.  As it stands, the Giants got mid-first round value out of the 2005 draft and a key contributor to 3 championship teams.


  1. Thoughts on the reports that its between the giants and dodgers for Eddy Julio Martinez?

    1. Hate to get my hopes up, but the Giants have already lost their access to any high profile international FA's for the next two years, so might as well maximize their take this year. I assume the money, including the dollar-for-dollar penalty, is not a barrier.

    2. Being rumored for 2 high profile Cubanos. Very interesting. The pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez would be great as well.

  2. Speaking of accumulated WAR, Panik came up last June and finally took the 2B starter's spot on a permanent basis in August. In 155 games played (not all of them starts) with 640PAs, according to FanGraphs he's accumulated 4.7 WAR.

    That's just amazing. It's hard not to gush on like school girl with her first boy-band crush about him.

    And by WAR, only Posey is ahead of him.

  3. Really great thoughts on the 2005 Draft DrB! I would love a Matt Garza-type of a pitcher and imagine pairing him up with Cain, MadBum, and Timmy in our recent run. I think two of the 2005 picks that are really catching my eye aside from the career fWAR that you listed is Brett Gardner and Michael Brantley, both outfielders. I think that we pretty subpar in terms of developing hitters especially outfielders in that time so we might actually not develop them as well as what the Bankees and the Indians. I think Romo is possibly the most underrated selection of that Draft and his slider just keeps on sliding. Great work once again!

    1. You are always going to find players down in the draft who, for whatever reason, surprise everybody and make it big. Neither Gardner nor Bradley were drafted in the first round, and there were a whole lot of busts take ahead of them, so it's not obvious the Giants would have taken them at #21 or 22 either. Just the fact that Romo has ended up as the 23'rd most valuable pick in the entire draft tells you that it was actually a fairly barren draft once you get past all the superstars who would have been long gone by the time the Giants picked.

      I believe at the time, Brian Sabean said the Giants analyzed the draft crop and felt their chances of getting a good player in the #21/22 range was small which is why they were willing to lose the picks to sign some veteran FA's. I think this analysis confirms that he was right about that. Yes, Garza and Ellsbury would have been available, but other teams passed on them, so it's not a slam dunk that either of them would have been the Giants pick anyway.

      As for the development thing. I have never really bought into the notion that the Giants are poor at developing OF's. They just haven not emphasized OF's in the draft that much, preferring to use high picks on pitchers, MI's and Catchers, mostly pitchers.

    2. What's your thoughts on the development of the past OFers in the system DrB? It seems that we are doing better trading or nabbing in the FA market for guys like Aoki, Pagan and Pence than we do in developing them (ehem, Gary Brown).

    3. I think the perception that the Giants are poor at developing OF's is mainly a sample size issue. The just have not drafted and signed that many true OF prospects. Hopefully that perception gets turned around soon now that they have a larger sample of promising OF's in the system.

      I don't think they necessarily need to develop more OF's if they continue to produce homegrown players at other positions. There will always be a place for trades and FA's no matter how good a farm system is.

    4. I agree with DrB regarding OF. Your best bullets for development are your first round picks, anything after that are much longer long-shots. Look at the picks with first rounders, mostly pitchers, with a sprinkling of position players. Torcato, McDowell, Fairley, Posey, Brown, Panik. That's two out of five, which is excellent on that dimension, pretty darn great when you consider the quality of Posey and Panik.

      Average position of 23 overall, which has odds of around 10% of becoming a good player, generally. #23 pick, only 4 of the 51 picks every accumulated at least 18 WAR (which is my threshold for being a good player). If you drop Posey out of it because he was a #5 pick overall, compared to the others being in the 20's, you got one (Panik) out of five, since 20% success rate.

      Complaining about the Giants lack of success is the final line for the people I call Naysayers (not including you among those Wrenzie). First, they complained that Sabean don't know how to draft anyone good. Then after the successes with pitchers (Cain and Lincecum), then it became Sabean don't know how to draft any position players. With Posey and Belt successes, it is down to drafting OF for the Naysayers to complain about Sabean.

  4. Another thing which can help ease the pain, as you alluded to, is say the Giants drafted a McCutchen or Tulo, would their record have been too good in 2008 to draft Buster Posey at #5, which led to 3 world titles (and perhaps more)? Crazy how life is sometimes.

    1. Well, you would not pass on drafting a Tulo or Cutch just to have a shot at Buster Posey 3 drafts down the road, but yeah, things did end up working out in the long run. Kind of like Zito's contract ended up working out too, but not in a way you would want to try an duplicate.

  5. Good look back. The frustrations of deliberately losing the pick 3 years in a row (remember, most these FAs would not have been offered arbitration by their old teams - the old system of A/B FAs) to sign Durham, Michael F Tucker, Visquel, Benitez and Matheny was abandoned the next year for the legendary drafting of Lincecum-Bumgarner-Posey and all the riches that have come after.

    With a little bit of analysis, this was obviously ownership dictated - to sacrifice tomorrow for today. So Sabean & co took the heat. That Vlad quote was all about him defending the decision, and he got roasted by the Lunatic Fringe for it.

    I do think you need to take your shots, even if these picks are in the 20s and 30s and much lower percentage chance of success. One time for the right player, OK - I would say that was Ray Durham. But the drop of Michael Tucker, a mediocre at best OF who could have been signed at any time, that was just being cheap. However, I don't think ownership is going back to that, not after seeing the bounty of draft and development that followed in 2006 onward.

    The Greybeards operated with one hand tied behind their back with regards to draft and development. So the old vets jokes poured in. Just to add on a little about 2005 - there were only 2 big hits in the 2nd round - Yunel Escobar and Chase Headley, along with a couple 7.5 WAR guys Travis Wood and Nick Hundley. 3rd round the Yanks got Brett Gardner. Again, this is not a high percentage chance, but I do think you have to stay in line and take your turn most the time. Obviously it didn't hurt the franchise, and they rebuilt on the fly amazingly well.

    In 2004 losing Michael Tucker at the 30th pick - the Royals picked up a guy who never played in the show Matt Campbell. Gio Gonzo and Houston Street were picked later in the supplemental, but again, there's a lot of misses too. Oddly, the 2nd round has better hits, with Pence, Pedroia and Yovani Gallardo as well Kurt Suzuki, Jason Vargas and Seth Smith. Giants took Eddy Martinez-Esteve at the end of the 2nd that year.

    2003 the A's took Brian Snyder with the pick the G's gave up for Durham. The Gints also got David Aardsma as the pick for losing Jeff Kent - maybe that move had something to do with Sabean's thinking 2 years later actually. The Giants also took Craig Whitaker with their regular pick at the end of the round (34th overall) and Seattle had a rare draft win 3 picks later with Adam Jones (that they traded away as usual). The Giants took Nate the Great in the 2nd, he almost turned out. The A's won the round with Andre Ethier but then traded him away...

    Drafting is hard as hell.

    1. My main point was not that it was OK for Sabes to punt the picks. It was that 1. Most of all those superstars that came out of that draft would not have been available to the Giants at their pick and 2. The value the Giants ended up getting out of that draft is right about what you would expect from where they drafted(23'rd from a draft position of #21 or 22).

      I have no problem with the argument that it is not a good idea to punt draft picks. I am in that camp myself. But, when some folks point to the 2005 draft and get all purple in the face over how it was an unmitigated disaster for the Giants and an example of Brian Sabean's incompetence, I think they are just wrong. I read a comment on another site just a couple of days ago by someone who said they reviewed the Giants 2005 draft and wasn't it terrible that they only got Sergio Romo out of it? Well, yes, they only got Sergio Romo out of it, but he was a heckuva pick and gave more value than that commenter obviously was giving him credit for. 1 player can make a draft. It's usually the first round pick, but in this case, it was a 30-something round pick.