Is the Draft really a Crapshoot?

Conventional wisdom has said for years that the MLB draft is essentially a crapshoot.   There are too many variables, and scouting is so inexact, that there is no way that any one team can be consistently successful. 


Also, as a lifelong A’s fan, I’ve always thought there were a lot of former A’s farmhands playing for other teams, and I’ve thought that meant that Billy Beane really is better at drafting than others.


So, with all that in mind, and the fact that my company “displaced” me  (read that as laid me off) last week, I spent some of my free time  living off my my severance package looking through the draft records, etc. to try and de-mistify the draft process.   

I used the USA Today roster of 2008 salaries, and then used The Baseball Cube ( and compiled a list of who was drafted by which team and also what round they were drafted.


So, is it really true that the draft is a crapshoot, or are some of the team professional gamblers while others haven’t even purchased their copy of Craps For Dummies?


Here is some of the information I came up with.


Of the 854 players listed on the USA Today roster of salaries, I looked at how many players were either drafted by a team, or signed as a free agent (either undrafted or foreign free agents).   If it were evenly spread out, and essentially random each team would end up with 28-29 players.


There are obvious things that will skew the numbers…compensation picks, the ability to sign as many/as few free agents as your budget allows,  etc.  But in general, it does seem that some teams are more successful at drafting than others.  It would be interesting to compare scouting budgets to these numbers, but I couldn’t find them.


Here is how it breaks down…

36 players - Arizona

33 players – Atlanta

20 players - Baltimore

27 players - Boston

33 players – Chicago Cubs

25 players – Chicago White Sox

18 players - Cincinnati

30 players - Cleveland

32 players - Colorado

32 players – Detroit

27 players - Florida

28 players - Houston

27 players – Kansas City

30 players – LA Angels

41 players – LA Dodgers

19 players - Milwaukee

28 players - Minnesota

29 players – New York Mets

30 players – New York Yankees

36 players – Oakland

27 players – Philadelphia

32 players – Pittsburgh

29 players – San Francisco

13 players – San Diego

37 players - Seattle

22 players – St. Louis

26 players – Tampa Bay

26 players - Texas

35 players - Toronto

26 players – Washington/Montreal


In looking at the breakdown, it would appear that the Dodgers, Seattle, Oakland, Arizona, and Toronto must be on to something, while San Diego, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, and Baltimore are just ON something. 


The Dodgers, Yankees, and Tigers seem to have been the most successful (and maybe most active) at signing Free Agents, with most of them being foreign drafts.


While I was at it, I also looked at where in the draft the players were picked to see if it really matters when you get drafted.   Here’s the breakdown on that information:

222 (26%) - Free Agent (both undrafted and foreign)

181 (21%) – 1st Round draft picks

78 (9%) – 2nd Round draft picks

104 (12%) - 3rd -5th Round picks

121 (14%) – 6th-10th Round picks

70 (8%) - 11th-20th Round picks

44 (5%) – 21st-30th Round picks

34  (4%) – 31st Round and above


Here are a few late round successes – Rajai Davis (Pit 38), Orlando Hudson (Tor 43), Julio Lugo (Hou 43), Mark Buehrle (CWS 38), Todd Coffey (Cin 41), Kenny Rogers (Det 39), Vance Wilson (NYM 49), Brad Ausmus (NYY 48), Scot Shields (Ana/LAA 38), Justin Speier (CUB 55), David Riske (Cle 56), Gabe Kapler (Det 57), Kyle Farnsworth (CUB 47), Jason Isringhausen (NYM 44), Jason Botts (Tex 46), and Rob Mackowiak (Pit 53)


I’ve also looked at other things, but this is already so long, I’m sure most people skipped the diary.  But, if Billy Beane happens to be reading this far into it, I am available to do projects like this for you on the side…especially since I’m temporarily unemployed.


Hope this is interesting and/or useful for people.  If people want me to break down the info in some special way…just ask, and I will check to see if I can answer it.

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