June 6, 2013
Dissecting the Draft
Three Roads from Which to Choose
Over the past six entries in this Dissecting the Draft series, we’ve focused on the first-round selection— seventh overall—in our “shadow draft” in order to lay the foundation for an overarching strategy. We first identified 14 potential targets and broke them down into tiers. After examining each target in greater detail, we arrived at the below breakdown, consisting of three Tier 1 targets and nine Tier 2 targets. We have removed from consideration two of our 14 targets due to injury.
The below lists are arranged by preference based on Adjusted Overall Future Potential—a culmination of scouting grades for each player, adjusted for certain additional factors.
Our final step before Day 1 of the draft is to chop up this list and break it down such that we are left with distinct courses of actions that will begin with this first selection and lead to a particular strategy for the remainder of our later round selections. We’ll accomplish this by (1) considering which players are likely to be off the board in the first six picks ahead of our slot, (2) examining the overall landscape of the draft class, (3) examining any “wants” for our organization in our early selections, and (4) grouping our remaining targets into profile types and examining whether any particular profile types set us up to better leverage our options later in the draft while obtaining as many “wants” as possible.
Likely Off the Board?
Players in Group (1) will be removed from our analysis, and to the extent it’s a Tier 1 talent that ends up dropping to us, we’ll simply grab him and reassess the rest of our strategy between Day 1 and Day 2. Between Group 1 and our remaining targets, the hope is that we have seven options that excite us, which gets us close to the point where we can make a selection with confidence while avoiding the need to second-guess our options leading up to our selection.
Group (1): Right now this group consists of three players—Appel, Gray, and Bryant. These are the top collegiate talents in the draft class, and each has been tied to multiple teams selecting ahead of our pick.
Group (2): Stewart is roundly regarded as the top high school arm in the draft class, but his leverage as a high school player with a scholarship to play both football and baseball at Texas A&M means it’s far from a slam dunk that he will be an easy sign, which could scare some teams off up top. So he’s out of Group (2). Shipley is the next-best collegiate arm, and fits well in this group. Assuming Gray and Appel are off the board, Shipley would be the next likely college arm to be selected, and he has been strongly tied to a couple teams ahead of us looking for arms. Frazier, while a Tier 1 talent on our board, doesn’t fit the traditional “elite pick” mold, which could cause teams to shy away at the top of the draft. Ball has been linked some to the top six picks, but the heat hasn’t been heavy. So Shipley is the only Group (2) target we have.
Group (3): Frazier, Ball, and Stewart all fall into this category, with heavy ties to teams in the top six and the talent to justify selection there.
Group (4): The remainder of our targets—Smith, Crawford, Stanek, McGuire, and Denney—would likely be looking at pre-draft deals in order to come off the board ahead of us.
Removing the Group (1) guys all but certain to be off the board before us, we’re left with (ordered by AOFP):
We should be assured a shot at one of our top four targets (up to Ball), so the question becomes whether there are any factors that should push one of Stanek, Smith, McGuire, Crawford, or Denney up the board at all, or reasons for us to pass on one of Frazier, Stewart, Shipley, or Ball if they are available. These factors could include signability, proximity to the bigs (i.e. required developmental investment), and the overall composition of the rest of the class in the context of our draft “wants.”
Because you are at the mercy of what’s available, it’s important to be realistic with your “wants.” I have historically set a loose goal of around four or five items that I’d like to address. If a class appears to have a number of players I like that are signable but will likely require more money than they are likely to see at slot value where they best fit, perhaps one of my “wants” is to obtain one of those players after the third round. Now, I may not get the chance to do that if they are all off the board before that point, but I’m going to operate such that if circumstances allow I’m going to be able to execute on that particular “want.”
In the first piece introducing this series, we took a look at the current state of our “shadow system.” This year, we are in an admirable position where the draft class composition lines up well with what I’d like to accomplish. Our “wants” will be fairly straight-forward—obtain top-five-round-caliber players with the following breakdown: (1) two middle-infielders, (2) a catcher, (3) a college pitcher, (4) a corner infielder, and (5) a “best available” selection that has at least two plus tools (this can satisfy one of the previous “wants” simultaneously).
I do not care how we acquire our wants. It might be through one or two over allotment signings later in the draft, or the board might play such that we are able to tick through the list with each of our first five picks. Also, it might be that the board plays such that we are only able to obtain a few of our “wants,” though I’d consider that a failure in game-planning on my part.
So we have a loose feel for who we might be choosing from with our first pick (I’d assume, our most impactful pick), and we have a general idea as to what else we’d like to accomplish with this draft. The next step is to see what the draft class has to offer us.
Breaking Down the Class in Broad Strokes
One final note regarding the tables—while the table I’m working with lists specific players by name, the below tables only show total tallies for each grouping. This is because I do not wish to publicly tie players to signability concerns that I anticipate could cause them to drop and become available for over-allotment amounts. After the fact, I’d be happy to open up the books on the specific players in these groupings if that’s something you, the readers, would find interesting.
The first table breaks down potential targets by position and level—high school position players, high school pitchers, college position players, and college pitchers. With regards to college pitchers, the number in parentheses indicates the number of target pitchers that are relievers. The first column contains the round, our overall pick represented by our slot in that round, and the approximate amount MLB has allocated to sign a player in each of those slots.
An example of some general takeaways I’d glean from this table: (1) I shouldn’t be pressured to pop a high school position player in the second round since there appears to be so many likely options in that area in round three, and even into rounds four and five, (2) the college pitching is fairly deep through the first six rounds, and (3) an ideal unfolding of the draft could see me in a position to get one or two highly-regarded high school talents with over-allotment bonuses in the third- to fifth-round range.
One other note to keep in mind when considering this table and the table below—because these estimates are off my own evaluations and valuations of the players, I’d expect to have some players higher or lower than the industry on the whole, which means that this table is a solid guideline, but subject to significant swings once the draft is rolling.
This next table breaks down by round and categories for our “wants” (as well as a couple additional cross-sections of the class):
As a general guide, it looks like I have the most flexibility among catcher targets in the second to fourth rounds, high school arms in the second to fourth rounds, college arms in the second to sixth rounds, and infielders in the fourth and fifth rounds.
The depth at catcher, as well as the fact that McGuire and Denney are down my board, leads me to believe I should drop them from consideration. Likewise, Stanek is a bit further down the board and covers a grouping that is deep in this draft class—it would make sense to go in another direction if there are comparable options, and we have such comparable options. Crawford addresses a “want,” but so do Shipley, Smith, Frazier, Ball and Stewart. Crawford will require more developmental attention than my other listed targets here, and I have some solid middle-infield options later in the draft, though I’ll need to stay on top of them if I’m to tick that “want” off of my list. Ultimately, the upside isn’t high enough to justify the extra developmental time, so Crawford is also cut.
Our New List and Final Groupings
These are the five players we would be in contact with tonight, trying to get a sense for signability. Additionally, I’d have the coverage scouts on the phone with the potential over-allotment signings I have tabbed in the bolded numbers in the table above to try and gain as much info as possible as to who else might be interested and whether those players would be open to signing for a price that fits our needs. A few other considerations as they relate to the above five players:
These final five options break down into three potential courses of action: (1) Frazier, the high school outfielder with potential impact tools across the board, (2) an arm (be it Shipley, Stewart, or Ball), somewhat limiting the utility of the “value arms” we could find as late as the fourth round, or (3) Smith, the power corner bat that would address our desire to grab impact tools as well as a corner infielder.
From a strategic standpoint, if Frazier is not available, then Smith might make the most sense, allowing us to turn our attention to middle infielders, catchers, and arms over our next four or five picks. Were I currently stationed in a draft war room, I’d bandy these three potential courses of action around for a few more hours. As it stands, it’s late and this piece needs to be filed.
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.