The 2000 draft serves as an example of why knee-jerk reactions to the draft are often premature.
Rankings are always of interest to sports fans, but many analysts are uncomfortable with the notion of slapping grades on players whose real value won’t be known for a number of years. This is particularly true in baseball, where players selected in the annual amateur (Rule 4) draft are further away from the major leagues than those of any other major sport. The majority of players taken in the football and basketball drafts have spent time performing under the bright lights, and against the premier competition, of NCAA Division I athletics, and the transition from amateur to professional is a relative breeze. In baseball, only a small percentage of the 1,500 or so players chosen each year hail from Division I baseball programs.
More than a decade ago, some were critical of the Marlins for allegedly putting signability before talent when they tabbed Adrian Gonzalez with the number-one overall pick of the 2000 draft. Gonzalez was regarded as the most polished high school hitter of that year’s crop, but few considered him the best talent available. As it turns out, Gonzalez has contributed the third-most wins above replacement (28.43) among players who signed that year, trailing only Chase Utley (36.26) and Jason Bay (30.53). Given the health woes of Utley and Bay in recent years, Gonzalez appears likely to usurp them atop the list. Joe Borchard, who received that year’s largest signing bonus ($5.3 million) from the White Sox, has the third-lowest WARP total (-1.55) among players who have reached the major leagues.
Players Receiving Signing Bonuses of
$2 Million or Greater, 2000 Draft
Events that have happened already this season after not happening for all of 2011 help explain why we're still hooked on baseball.
There were 2429 major-league games played last season.* Most of the things that can happen in a baseball game happened in one of those. With a few exceptions, teams and players will do all of the same things in 2012 that they did in 2011—they’ll just do them in a difference sequence and more, or less, frequently than they did before. When and how often they do those nearly identical things will determine which teams win divisions and which players win awards. We’re suckers for those things, so another season of the same, reshuffled, is enough to suck us in. But we're not completely content with repetition. We also watch in hopes of seeing something we didn’t see the season before.
*There would have been 2430, but no one felt like seeing another Dodgers-Nationals game in September. That missed game may have deprived us of history: Matt Kemp finished the season one home run away from 40 home runs, and Dee Gordon finished the season one home run away from one home run. For the alternate-history buffs: the man who would have started that game against the Dodgers, had it been played, was Tom Milone. Milone had the fifth-lowest home run rate among Triple-A starters last season, so that extra game might not have made Matt Kemp baseball’s fifth 40-40 man. Then again, that home run rate might not have meant much, since there weren’t many Matt Kemps in the International League. More on Milone a little later.
A combination of injuries and an anemic offense led to another mediocre season by the Bay.
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines an overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.
Does Billy Beane's sh*t work in the trainer's room?
The Team Injury Projections are here, driven by our brand new injury forecasting system, the Comprehensive Health Index [of] Pitchers [and] Players [with] Evaluative Results—or, more succinctly, CHIPPER. Thanks to work by Colin Wyers and Dan Turkenkopf and a database loaded with injuries dating back to the 2002 season—that's nearly 4,600 players and well over 400,000 days lost to injury—we now have a system that produces injury-risk assessments to three different degrees. CHIPPER projects ratings for players based on their injury history—these ratings measure the probability of a player missing one or more games, 15 or more games, or 30 or more games. CHIPPER will have additional features added to it throughout the spring and early season that will enhance the accuracy of our injury coverage.
These ratings are also available in the Player Forecast Manager (pfm.baseballprospectus.com), where they'll be sortable by league or position—you won’t have to wait for us to finish writing this series in order to see the health ratings for all of the players.
The 2006 class is a tough one to beat among a strong recent group of rookie classes.
Earlier this week, the folks at Beloit College released their annual MindsetList, a document designed to explain the cultural differences between the incoming class of college freshmen and the older faculty hired to teach them. The idea is to highlight the small and large ways the world has changed in the last 20 years by mentioning things that were true during the life span of oldsters that were never true for those under 20, e.g., the existence of things like a telephone cord, a country called Czechoslovakia, and a baseball commissioner not named Bud. For me, a man who fervently hopes Jamie Moyer comes back next spring to ensure I won’t have to face being older than every major-league ballplayer, this is always a time to reflect on youth and age, both in life and in baseball—especially so this year, since the current Mindset List includes a reference to the term Annus Horribilus, which I happened to use in last year’s BP Annual, but which I now know dates me almost as much as saying “23 Skidoo.”