While the 2008 MLB Draft may feel like it took place eons ago, only relatively recently have we seen most of these drafted players begin to emerge from the minors and contribute to a major league team. So you might be asking who drafted correctly?
To tell the truth, not many teams hit the mark exactly. For the most part, franchises have drafted young hopefuls that failed to reach the majors or have reached the majors but have provided little to no value -- at least in the first round or so. That's not to say this is concrete finality as to what draftees will do, but for the most part, it's easy to draw the line and figure out where things stand.
A few players shot straight to the majors, which is increasingly rare nowadays. The importance of working on skills in the minors and being fully prepared upon reaching the majors has only recently been uncovered. In fact, Jeff Zimmerman theorizes exactly that; aging curves begin to trend downwards as soon as players reach the majors. Receiving ample playing time in the minor leagues allows for mechanical adjustments without the pressure of contributing to a competitive major league team. Therefore, players that are rushed to the majors don't have the ability to work on their baserunning or slider.
This all makes me consider this question: How much of a player's arbitration and pre-arbitration time has been wasted? Since a prospect is only under team control for (usually) six years, those that are rushed to the majors have seen their contractual obligations wasted in return for impatient production on the major league club.
With all of this in mind, my re-do of the draft is based around projected six-year FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). Realistically, what kind of production can a team expect from their draftee? Using this methodology, I used each player's career fWAR and their 2015 ZiPS projected fWAR to formulate an average fWAR per season. When multiplied by six, this would result in the projected wins added over replacement over the duration of the drafting team's contract.
Original Pick: Tim Beckham, SS New Pick: Buster Posey, C
We all know how this pick turned out. Tim Beckham is still a prospect (or suspect depending on your outlook) whose career has stagnated after first reaching Triple-A Durham in 2011. When he finally seemed like he was on the cusp of a role on the major league team, Beckham tore his ACL. Either through injury or his lack of impact with the bat, it's safe to say there are no longer high expectations for Beckham.
On the other hand, Buster Posey has been the best player to come out of the draft, amassing 23.5 fWAR in his first five seasons along with a projected 6.3 wins in 2015. The skilled batter for the Giants debuted in his rookie season in 2010, winning Rookie of the Year, an MVP trophy, and three World Series rings along the way. Rated the No. 4 prospect before the 2008 draft by Baseball America, Posey has had an incredible career to date.
Drafted out of high school by the Angels in the 50th round in 2005, Posey is regarded as one of the safest picks in this year's draft. His projection as an offensive catcher with Gold Glove-caliber defense has boosted Posey's draft stock as much as anyone's over the weeks leading up to the draft. - Baseball America Scouting Report, 5/21/2008
Original Pick: Pedro Alvarez, 3B New Pick: Lance Lynn, RHP
Pedro Alvarez has power going for him, but not much else. His batting average sits around .235, and he has moved to 1B because he continually averages around 25 errors per season at third. Alvarez had some solid years though; in 2013 he smacked 36 home runs and compiled 3.1 fWAR. Other seasons though, have been complete busts. 2011 and 2014 were examples of what happens when you're a power hitter who doesn't end up hitting for power. Not a completely bad pick but not the best of what the Pirates could have gotten at No. 2.
Lance Lynn, who plays for the Pirates' rival Cardinals, is the second-best player to come out of the 2008 draft. His 12.6 combined fWAR from 2011 to 2015 is exactly what you'd want from a No 2. or No. 3 starter. Despite his falling K%, Lynn defied odds and totaled a 76 ERA- in 2014. While he has a rather large platoon split, other teams haven't been able to take advantage of it. Lynn was rated the draft's 83rd best prospect. Needless to say, Lynn's scouting report has dramatically improved since 2008.
Lynn is described as a big-bodied and durable starter who consistently produces quality starts game in and game out. None of the pitches in his repertoire are overwhelming, but he possesses three average to fringe-average offerings. - Baseball America Scouting Report, 5/21/2008
The Drafts That Exceeded Expectations
Teams picking at the ends of rounds can have a tough time getting value out of their picks. More often than not, their players can't be expected to be too much. However, occasionally teams extract impressive value out of their pick.
Original Pick: Eric Hosmer, 1B New Pick: Wade Miley, LHP
Eric Hosmer hasn't been the superstar of the future that the Royals were hoping for, and that's a hard truth to swallow once you look up his statistics. His defense has continually rated among the worst at 1B in baseball, although it has gotten slightly better the past two years. 2012 was a disaster for Hosmer as he established only an 80 WRC+, 20% below league average. Not to mention that 2011 and 2014 sum up to 1.0 total fWAR for the Royals. All in all, the only real production we've seen from Hosmer was his .350 wOBA 2013 season.
Wade Miley, the Red Sox southpaw, makes it to the third overall pick in the draft. The solid innings-eating starter provides value as a virtual lock in any rotation. He has the repertoire to succeed with five different pitches at his disposal, and all five are at least fringe average or better. Given his durability and sudden spike in strikeout rate, Miley can be a solid number three starter with the ability to be more if he can harness his previous year's control without sacrificing 2014's strikeout rate. All in all, Miley was rated the 39th best prospect according to Baseball America.
His top offering is an 80-84 mph slider that he can bury down and in against righthanders. He sits at 89-92 mph with his fastball and can reach 94-95 mph, though his heater flattens out at high-end velocity. His changeup is his third pitch, and his 75-77 mph curveball shows some potential. Miley has a sound delivery and a strong 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame. - Baseball America Scouting Report, 5/21/2008
Original Pick: Brian Matusz, LHP New Pick: Collin McHugh, RHP
Brian Matusz hasn't worked out as a starter. Once thought of as the next great starter to reach Baltimore, the southpaw struggled as a starting pitcher for four seasons until the Orioles finally decided to switch him to the bullpen where his pitches might play up. Thankfully, that has worked out the past two seasons, and we've seen Matusz post almost identical lines in 2013 and 2014, totaling a 3.51 ERA.
If this list was published last year, I'm sure that almost nobody would know who Collin McHugh is. And yet, here we are in 2015. McHugh burst onto the scene with the Astros after being claimed on waivers from the Rockies. A 3.11 FIP (and xFIP) over 154.2 innings is probably the upper limit of what can be expected in the future given that McHugh was 27 years old this season. Even so, he's under team control for another five years and ZiPS still values him for 2.2 WAR in 2015. Drafted in the 18th round by the Mets originally, McHugh wasn't an upper tier prospect entering the draft.
5. San Francisco Giants
Original Pick: Buster Posey, C New Pick: Craig Kimbrel, RHP
So far, this is the only pick where the team would actually lose out on value simply because their original pick, Posey, went as the first player overall. Needless to say, the Giants have done a considerable job drafting and developing players over the past decade, earning three championships in a span of only five years on the back of some spectacular drafts. Posey represents a large portion of that championship team as the Giant with the highest WAR in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 seasons once combined.
In hindsight, the Braves' pick of Craig Kimbrel in the third round of the 2008 draft was a steal. Now known as one of the most dominant relief pitchers of all time, Kimbrel has saved his way to 289 innings of 1.52 FIP baseball. In that time, he's amassed 11.4 fWAR in four and half seasons as the Braves closer, and his 2012 campaign goes down in the history books as possibly the best season by a pitcher in history because of an astoundingly low 21 FIP-. Losing Posey hurts, but a Romo-Kimbrel bridge in the later innings is a sweet consolation prize.
Original Pick: Kyle Skipworth, C New Pick: Alex Avila, C
Skipworth never panned out for the Marlins, even though Baseball America proclaimed both his power and hit tools ranked in the 65-70 range on the 80-grade scouting scale. Nevertheless, he failed to top a .245 batting average all throughout the minors and struggled immensely with plate discipline issues.
Avila, on the other hand, has proven to be an excellent grab for the Tigers. Drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Alabama, Avila spent only two seasons in the minors and quickly arrived in Detroit in 2010. Experts were blown away by the prospect's rise to power and he quickly emerged as the Tigers best catching option. Since then, Avila has accumulated 10.7 WAR over five seasons.
Original Pick: Yonder Alonso, 1B New Pick: Tanner Roark, RHP
At least Alonso has made it to the major leagues. Traded to the San Diego Padres, Alonso has played 1B for the team during the past three seasons but has failed to make much of an impact. The plate discipline came as advertised out of the University of Miami, but the power never developed as expected. Without power, the first baseman has gone through a difficult time gathering fans because the only thing he can do reasonably well is get on base at a reasonable clip.
Roark would now be known as the late round gem of the draft. Taken in the 25th round by the Rangers and subsequently traded to the Nationals, he took a slightly longer path to the majors. Luckily, time has served Roark well and when a spot opened up on the Washington rotation in late 2013, he aced the test with flying colors. In a full time role in 2014, Roark proved that he can be a solid option in the rotation with 3.0 WAR over 198.2 innings.
Original Pick: Gordon Beckham, 2B New Pick: Brett Lawrie, 3B
Beckham has become a pretty decent -- if unspectacular -- utility player for the White Sox. He made the jump from AA and AAA in late 2008 straight to the majors in 2009. Once there, he produced a wOBA of .353 and displayed superior defense en route to 2.5 fWAR and fifth place in Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, that has been his best season to date, and Beckham has only managed to produce another 2.8 WAR in the five more recent seasons. To my knowledge, he is the first player to make the full run through arbitration from this draft class.
Brett Lawrie, originally taken with the 16th pick by the Brewers, has been a solid position player over the past four years. Drafted out of high school in Canada, Lawrie was thought of as a great hitting prospect but one who lacks a position. There were rumblings of a move to catcher, but Lawrie has stuck to either 2B or 3B so far in his career and by UZR's calculations, he has been a strong defender at third. The current Athletic will attempt to work off the injury bug that continues to plague him. Baseball America rated him the 37th best prospect in the 2008 draft.
One scout compared him to Marlins slugger Dan Uggla for his strength, power and muscular, mature build, and several scouts have graded Lawrie's power as above-average if not 70 on the 20-80 scale. He's not just strong but also has a keen eye, offensive instincts, aggressiveness and quick wrists that drive the bat through the hitting zone. - Baseball America Scouting Report, 5/21/2008
9. Washington Nationals
Original Pick: Aaron Crow, RHP New Pick: Brandon Crawford, SS
Aaron Crow didn't end up signing with the Nationals, and instead went No. 12 overall in the 2009 MLB Draft to the Kansas City Royals. Pretending that he did sign here, it's likely Crow would have been given a longer chance at starting rather than the quick jump to relieving in Kansas City. That's not how the story went, and Crow only had the 2010 season at Double-A to prove himself. After that failure, he was reverted to a relief pitcher and has never looked back, providing the Royals only 0.3 WAR total before being traded to the Marlins this offseason.
Crawford is another piece of the puzzle to the Giants' two more recent World Series wins. The UCLA shortstop was seen as a player who moved well and fielded the position with ease, but the bat lagged behind. Since his college days, Crawford has improved his batting technique in order to be a usable everyday player. While he may never be more than a .250 hitter with modest power, his excellent fielding range more than makes up for it. Crawford was rated the 134th best prospect entering the draft.
10. Houston Astros
Original Pick: Jason Castro, C New Pick: Jordy Mercer, SS
Depending on what you believe is the norm for Jason Castro, this pick may not be entirely wrong. In fact, if he can replicate what he did in 2013, then it's fair to say that Castro would go further up this draft board. If you believe 2014 is more representative of his future output, then it's easy to see the Astros going with Mercer here. Coming out of Stanford, Castro was known to possess an above-average bat and somewhere around average receiving skills. Nowadays, Castro's bat is the problem because he fails to make enough contact, and his 2013 .351 BABIP might point to that breakout being a fluke.
Mercer isn't a force with the bat either, but it's his defense that lands Mercer on the map. In the same ilk as Crawford above, Mercer is an average batter who should be expected to produce a .260 average with 10 home runs annually. Ignoring Jung-Ho Kang's potential playing time interference this season (and future seasons), Mercer should do more of the same as a solid everyday shortstop who should land approximately 1.9 WAR a season. Baseball America rated Mercer the 64th best prospect entering the draft.
Remaining First Round:
|Draft Pick||Drafting Team||Original Pick||New Pick|
|11||Rangers||Justin Smoak||Nate Eovaldi|
|12||Athletics||Jemile Weeks||Josh Harrison|
|13||Cardinals||Brett Wallace||Brett Oberholtzer|
|14||Twins||Aaron Hicks||Danny Espinosa|
|15||Dodgers||Ethan Martin||Daniel Hudson|
|16||Brewers||Brett Lawrie||Tyson Ross|
|17||Blue Jays||David Cooper||Jason Castro|
|18||Mets||Ike Davis||Tommy Milone|
|19||Cubs||Andrew Cashner||Jake Odorizzi|
|20||Mariners||Josh Fields||Vance Worley|
|21||Tigers||Ryan Perry||Pedro Alvarez|
|22||Mets||Reese Havens||Christian Vazquez|
|23||Padres||Allan Dykstra||Jarred Cosart|
|24||Phillies||Anthony Hewitt||Danny Farquhar|
|25||Rockies||Christian Friedrich||Caleb Joseph|
|26||Diamondbacks||Daniel Schlereth||Yonder Alonso|
|27||Twins||Carlos Gutierrez||Ike Davis|
|28||Yankees||Gerrit Cole||Lonnie Chisenhall|
|29||Indians||Lonnie Chisenhall||Eric Hosmer|
|30||Red Sox||Casey Kelly||Conor Gillaspie|
As you might notice, many players' careers still need to play out in order to effectively judge just who will provide the most value during their first six years. Some noticeable players who aren't shown being drafted in the first round include Dee Gordon (43rd), Andrew Cashner (36th), and Charlie Blackmon (33rd).
* - Players who were drafted in 2008 but did not sign (Gerrit Cole, Aaron Crow, etc.) were not eligible to be re-picked in this exercise.
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