June 8, 2004
High school or college, position player or pitcher, the one constant in the amateur draft is that no one seems to like Scott Boras' players.
That was rarely as evident as it was yesterday as two Boras clients, each considered the #1 draft prospect at one point during the college season, fell to #12 and #15 on a draft day marked by an all-out search for pitching.
The Padres, picking first, passed on Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew to instead take local high schooler Matt Bush, who signed almost immediately for $3.15 million. Bush was probably only the second-best prep shortstop prospect in the pool, and joins Adrian Gonzalez has a recent overall #1 who holds his spot in history more for financial reasons than talent ones. Drew, who was rumored to be the Padres' choice as late as Friday, slipped all the way to #15, where the Diamondbacks ended his torment. Given that the gap between #15 money and #1 money has range from $2-$3 million over the past few years, a heck of a negotiation awaits Drew and the Snakes.
Long Beach State right-hander Jered Weaver, who pitched his team into the NCAA super regionals over the weekend, watched an entire rotation of guys whose season is over go before he was claimed by the Angels at #12. Rice's Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend became the first three teammates to go among the first eight picks of the draft. As Boyd Nation pointed out, all are good prospects, but their college numbers have been inflated by a strong defense and Rice's weak conference schedule. Their development is going to be a very interesting story over the next couple of seasons.
The dominant draft story over the past few seasons has been the trend away from high-school players, particularly high-school pitchers. There was little change in the first round, as 13 high-school players, six of them pitchers, were taken. Here's how that compares to recent years:
Year HS H HS P Coll. H Coll. P JC H JC P 2004 7 6 4 13 0 0 2003 9 3 10 7 0 1 2002 9 7 5 8 0 1 2001 3 9 7 11 0 0 2000 10 8 3 7 0 2 1999 7 8 3 12 0 0 1998 10 3 6 11 0 0The first round was stagnant, but the later rounds saw even more college players drafted. Two years ago, 269 players went in the first 18 rounds--as far as they got yesterday--of a total of 548 players, or just shy of 50%. The past two years, in those same rounds, we saw 325 and 347 college players selected, 59.5% and 63.0% of the total.
I think the first day of drafting provides a clearer view of what teams' priorities are than the entire draft does. At some point, teams have to balance their drafts, especially by position, because they need to fill short-season minor-league teams. Some free agents will be signed after the draft, but for the most part, teams have to keep actual rosters in mind when selecting players on the second day.
This was described as a college pitchers' draft going in, and it played out that way. Thirteen of them were taken in the first round, the biggest footprint any category of players has had on the first round in recent years. The trend continued through the supplemental round and the early part of the second round. The first six supplemental picks were collegians, and nine of the first 11 were pitchers. Overall, of the first 49 picks in the draft, 24--nearly half--were college pitchers.
Other first-day notes:
After I wrote a similar wrap-up article one year ago, I was admonished--correctly--by a couple of readers that one year was not enough to declare a revolution underway. Yesterday's results are no more conclusive than last year's were, so I'll save the declarations. I do think, though, the the body of evidence that the process of selecting amateur baseball players has changed is growing, and cannot be dismissed as a fluke.
Each year, the pool is different, though, and the distinct lack of top-notch high-school talent was definitely a factor in this year's draft.
I want to credit two sources for the data in this article: Baseball America, which did their usual great job with draft-day coverage, and BP's James Click and Zack Wolf, who researched the historical information.