Thoughts on Brackman, the 30th pick

NLDS Game 1: Brew Crew, Phils phace off
NLDS Game 1: Two familiar faces square off

When Andrew Brackman may his professional debut last week, things didn’t go quite exactly as planned. The lanky righthander lasted just 2.1 innings and gave up six earned runs on seven hits and two walks. The three strike outs were the only encouraging thing about his start, the first he’s made since Tommy John surgery.

Of course, as is custom in Yankee Universe these days, a few fans flipped out at this turn of events. Some went so far as to call Andrew Brackman a bust based on the seven outs he recorded in late September in Hawaii. Other writers questioned, yet again, Brian Cashman‘s suspect (to them) choice of Brackman. Did the Yankees waste their first-round pick, these pessimistic commentators wondered?

The answer is a rather qualified “of course not.” It is entirely unreasonable to assume that a young, unpolished pitcher making his first start in 18 months would have his best stuff. It’s also entirely unreasonable to write off Brackman based on one start.

But — and this is a but too far away for it to be valid — if Brackman doesn’t pan out, no one should be surprised. When the Yankees drafted Andrew Brackman in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft, Brackman became the 30th pick of the draft. History is littered with failed 30th picks. In fact, of the 44 30th picks in history, just one of them is a Hall of Famer, and few others had long Major League careers.

As Baseball Reference’s handy draft database shows us, 30th picks are largely forgettable. Anyone remember Chance Caple, Matt Burch or Eric Hurley? Nick Bierbrodt certainly did wow anyone in his short Major League career.

Of the 30th picks, then, clearly the most successful was Mike Schmidt. He was the sixth pick in the second round of the 1971 draft, just the seventh amateur draft in history. Of the other 30th picks, Chris Sabo, Travis Fryman, Brian Jordan and David Wells had long and somewhat fruitful careers. In recent years, only Noah Lowry and Jack Cust have become regulars out of the 30th pick, and Cust didn’t earn a starting job until he landed on his fifth team in 2007, a full decade after he was originally drafted.

So what, then, are the lessons we can take away from the not-so-stellar pedigree of the 30th draft pick? Well, for one, we shouldn’t place undue expectations on Mr. Brackman. He may have been a first round pick, but beyond the top spots of the draft, in baseball, that’s a largely meaningless distinction. Some 62-round selections have Hall of Fame careers; some number one picks fizzle out. Being a first-round pick doesn’t guarantee any modicum of success.

It also means that we can’t accuse the Yankees of wasting a first-round pick. The team opted for the best talent they thought was available at the 30-pick level. If that talent doesn’t pan out, Brackman won’t be alone among the ranks of fellow draftees. In fact, if he succeeds, he’ll join a rather elite group of 30-pick players who had productive careers.

Finally, this hype is also a warning about the power of the Internet. Prior to a few years ago, most baseball fans would be hard-pressed to name their favorite teams’ draft picks. Today, with Minor League stats readily available and draft previews landing nearly a year ahead of time, fans know more about the draft picks than ever before. But still the can’t-miss guys miss, and the obscure players strike it big. You just never know which player selected late in the draft will be a big star. Courting disappointment and proclaiming draft picks “wasted” is meaningless.

NLDS Game 1: Brew Crew, Phils phace off
NLDS Game 1: Two familiar faces square off
  • steve (different one)

    wow, how did i miss that original Brackman thread? there is a whole lot of stupid in that one.

    yes, we should pass up the smaller chance at Randy Johnson for the larger chance at Andy Phillips.

    that is a fantastic drafting strategy for the New York Yankees.


  • tommiesmithjohncarlos

    Ben, you make several valid points. However, your argument is undermined by one simple fallacy of logic: You’re letting Cashman off the hook by claiming that outside of the very top of the board, the draft is a crapshoot and that there are few sure things.

    However, Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox have never once had a pick in the first ten rounds of the draft, and they’ve still managed to produce 30 future hall of famers in the past 5 years. Results speak for themselves.

    For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

    • JRVJ


      I also agree you make solid points, but there’s a logical flaw in your examples, which is that you are treating ALL 30th picks equally (i.e., you imply that a 30th pick reflects the 30th best draft option in that year’s draft).

      Signability of draft picks has changed the rules of the game significantly. Because of this, Brackman was probably not the 30th best draft option in that year’s draft, but much higher.

      Your argument makes more sense in recent years, when signability becomes an issue…..

  • E-ROC

    I don’t think you could’ve said this idea anymore clearer. Put this column in all caps and send it to Steve Lombardi.

    • JRVJ

      Why does anybody read Lombardi?

      Sure, his love for the Yanks is clear, but the guy is not very bright and provides terrible analysis.

      • Eric SanInocencio

        I wouldn’t say terrible. Its his opinion, and whether or not its correct in your mind its printable work. He makes good cases and is passionate about the Yanks. His perception of negative has mostly to do with his feeling about Brian Cashman’s tenure as general manager.

        Since many (I do agree Cashman has struggled to obtain pitching) don’t share his views, he’s been labeled in this manner. He still shares good stories and should be included amongst Yankee related blogs.

        Back to the post, Brackman was the most talented player available. I remember listening to that year’s draft online, and being supremely pissed that the Tigers popped Rick Porcello just a few picks before. Had he fallen to New York, that would have been fabulous.

        Even though statiscally he didn’t dominate at NC State, Brackman was considered in the top 3-5 in terms of talent all year by the mainstream scouting and media community. To get that at 30 is great value.

        We can make the argument this year that the Yanks didn’t reach as highly as they should have with the Bleich and Bittle selections. Brackman was the right choice, and the perfect example of trying to secure talented youth and upside, even if he busts in the future. If it does work out, you’ve nailed an ace for 400K his first four years in the major leagues. In free agency, that costs 150 million.

        • Count Zero

          He makes good cases…

          I beg to differ. He has put up stuff worthy of a post on FJM many, many times — if anybody actually cared about him or what he writes. He kind of has half a grip on stats, and misuses them as often as he uses them correctly.

          We won’t even discuss his infatuation with Cashman…

          Given that your post is pretty sensible, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you haven’t read a whole ton of his posts. :-)

      • Yankee1010

        I think it’s rubbernecking. If you like the combo trainwreck of the absence of logic and delirium, he’s your man.

        Can you imagine having to live with him? Good God. May God bless his wife and kids.

  • Ol Dirtay

    Not to mention that it’s incredibly easy for a 6’10” pitcher to keep his mechanics clean after 18 months of not throwing. Fools…

    • Old Ranger

      Good shot…swiped my thunder, but good. 27/09.

  • Mike A.

    Be bold when it comes to draft. You draft conservatively and you get a bunch of mediocre players, it’s not rocket science. Surefire mediocrity doesn’t change the fact that it’s still just mediocrity.

    If the Pirates were bold in 2002, they’d have BJ Upton instead of the $25,000 waiver fee they received when the Indians claimed Bryan Bullington off waivers.

    If the Royals were bold in 2006 they’d have Tim Lincecum and a pinnacle of hope for future instead of Luke Hochevar.

    The Yanks were bold when they took CJ Henry over Craig Hansen in 2005, and although that didn’t work out as planned, the logic was correct.

    I’d rather take my chances that Andrew Brackman will be a frontline starter than hope Todd Frazier can stay at short, or that Brett Cecil won’t need to move to the bullpen. Go big or go home.

    • Reggie C.

      ………. or you can tank entire seasons like the Tampa Rays for several consecutive seasons and build a farm system on the backs of #1/#2 picks.

      • Reggie C.

        Btw.. Any idea when Brackman pitches again. I’m cool with a blow-up or two … actually i’m only cool with one blow-up. A second blow-up and the bust label sticks!! (hehehe)

        • Mike A.

          Not sure, but it should be in the next day or so.

          And having so many top picks like the D-Rays had all those years guarantees nothing.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos

            True. The Pirates, Royals, and Nationals/Expos were just as putrid as the Rays this past decade and had just as many top-5 picks, and yet they have almost nothing to show for it.

    • TheLastClown

      Well well said. If they’re well-calculated, I like risky moves, and I’m not upset when you draw the short straw on that risk. It happens, but you’ve gotta take a shot.

      This is essentially why I’m not so upset that the Yanks didn’t make the playoffs.

    • Eric SanInocencio

      I’d argue that the premium closer prospect who was in the conversation to go number one overall (Hansen) would have been a bolder selection than a high schooler from Oklahoma. Bold is nice, but bold in regards to talent. By your logic you can consider Bleich bold because no one heard of him either.

      • steve (different one)

        I’d argue that the premium closer prospect who was in the conversation to go number one overall

        maybe if that conversation was with Peter Gammons 1 minute after the draft.

        • Mike A.

          There were some rumblings that the D-Backs might take him. They had a list of 4 they were considering for the top pick: Hansen, Pelfrey, Gordon and Upton. They wised up and took The Justin Upton.

        • Eric SanInocencio

          No seriously, check the reports. Hansen was most certainly in the question of top overall selection for a majority of that season. Although he’s seen limited to no success as a pro, I can’t see how a guy that has a mid to upper 90s fastball is a “safe pick”.

          Daniel Moskos fits the bill better. That’s why I argued heavily for the selection of Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein over Jeremy Bleich. You should always take the best talent, and there is no excuse in the Yankees case because money isn’t an issue. That’s why Brackman was the right choice.

          • Mike A.

            There you go. Bold is Matt Wieters, safe is Danny Moskos.

          • steve (different one)

            i kindof remember the Mets toying with the idea of picking Hansen at 9.

            i was mostly just busting your chops, b/c you are right, Hansen was hyped through the roof.

            but the thought of taking a college reliever from the Big East with the #1 overall pick is just staggering.

            Hansen is terrible.

          • Eric

            College Relievers are usually thought of as “safe picks” because they are good bets to get to the majors very quickly, and pitch out of the bullpen as soon as a year after being drafted.

      • Mike A.

        Nah, by being bold I mean taking a risk. Gamble on the upside of Upton, Henry, Brackman instead os taking the “sure thing” like Bullington, Hansen and, admittedly, Kennedy.

        The goal shouldn’t just be to take the guy with the highest probabilty of making the bigs, it should be taking the guy the chance to have the biggest impact.

        • Tremont

          Mike, how does drafting Matt Wieters qualify as taking a risk? He was the best college bat in the draft and an excellent defensive catcher as well. By risk, did you mean that he would be a tough sign?

      • Yankee1010

        Hansen would not have been taken #1 overall by anyone. At least by any team with a clue.

    • Ed

      “The Yanks were bold when they took CJ Henry over Craig Hansen in 2005, and although that didn’t work out as planned, the logic was correct.”

      Craig Hansen has had a negative VORP every season he’s been in the majors, meaning his presence has been a detriment to the team. You could argue that picking CJ Henry and getting nothing out of him was more valuable.

      I don’t want to think about this enough to figure out how the trades the players were involved in factors in.

      • steve (different one)

        just looking back to see where the players who went ahead of Hansen were, here is the scouting blurb on CJ Henry:

        COMMENT: Built similar to Alex Rodriguez. Similar kinds of ability. Puts some strength into a slightly uppercut swing. Home run power from alley to alley. Quick and agile in the infield w/ sure hands. Likes to run. Good instincts on the base paths. Makes everything look easy.

        • Eric SanInocencio

          Better jumpshot than pitch recognition, not sure about baseball, will have to move to outfield immediately. Hopes to bring Memphis back to the title game.

  • Mike A.

    Ben, you shoulda went with Danny Goodwin as the example of a first overall pick flaming out instead of Bullington. Dude was the first overall pick in two drafts and still flamed out.

  • Efrem Goldman

    When will RAB start selling tee shirts with Brackman’s # on them?

    • steve (different one)

      never. but they have started selling embroidered “RAB Hearts AB” trousers, size 28W-48L

  • Mike W.


    Did I miss your Bill Madden rant in one of the threads today or did you decide to skip it today? (lol, j/k)

    • Mike A.

      I don’t even want to know what he said today. I wonder how much money Gerrit Cole’s father lost on Monday after the $700B relief bill didn’t go through. Had to be millions, right?

      • Mike W.

        Very long article in the News today about what he thinks the Yanks should do in the offseason. As I was reading it at my desk this morning, funny enough, I am thinking in my head, “If Mike A. is reading this right now, he is going to have a coronary”… lol

      • Yankee1010

        Oh, it’s loaded with Madden-esque insight. Someday, the Daily News will realize he knows *^&% about baseball. Not any day soon though.

        He advocated trading Hughes and Cano for 1 year of Matt Holliday. A LF with a 2005-2007 Road OPS of .809. That seems like a good idea.

        He also wants one of the following: if Posada can catch, either Millar (will be a 38 year-old next year and had an OPS of .717) or Blalock (injured for quite a while) to play 1B. However, he wants Posada to play 1B. That way, they can have a whole year of Molina behind the plate with Zaun there to spell him. By the way, I’m not making this up.

        He then wants them to sign Lowe (I’m not completely agains it – as long he’s not THE free agent signing) and Oliver Perez (the NL leader in walks who would now face the superior AL).

        One Hell of a team, Madden.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos

          I read both that and the DN plan to fix the Mets. I won’t bother to regurgitate any of it here, because to do so would be insulting both to the English language and to sentient life all over the universe.

          It’s a shame that trees had to die and a carbon footprint had to be expanded to help enable the steaming pile of shit that is today’s New York Daily News Sports Section to be created and foisted on the world. As much as I love Obama, if John McCain added a “Let’s Lobotomize and Chemically Castrate Bill Madden, John Harper, and Joel Sherman” to his list of campaign pledges, I’d be tempted to vote for him, even though he’s a vampire.

  • radnom

    The Yankees have very few roster spots open for rookies at any given time. What we need is players you can not get on the open market (front line pitchers). We are not the Minosota twins. I would rather take gambles every year and have 1/10 of them pan out into something great (Joba). We don’t need those other 9 to contribute, the ML roster is plenty full.

  • dan

    I think the only people who can really criticize the Yankees’ draft philosophy are the people who don’t know their history over the last 10-15 years and the people who don’t know the realities of the draft. Newspaper writers sometimes think it’s the same exact thing as football or basketball, where 80% of first round draft picks (or some %) work out.

    • dan

      Incredibly, 4 out of the Padres 6(!) first round picks are doing well. Of course, their first overall (Schmidt) had TJ surgery like 2 hours after he signed, IIRC.

      • Mike A.

        Yeah, but that’s the problem. Only Schmidt and Canham have even a chance to be above avg players. The rest are just up-and-down guys, fill-ins, etc.

        • Eric SanInocencio

          Schmidt’s a touch and feel lefty who won’t crack 90. I watched him in the SEC. He has 4th at best written over him. You are giving him too much credit.

      • Eric SanInocencio

        Matt Bush. Enough said.

        • Mike A.

          Ooo that’s an even better one. Safe is Bush, bold is Verlander. The Tigers got creamed after the draft for taking Verlander so high.

          • Eric SanInocencio

            I can go all day. It never works, the cheap and safe route. Even if it does, as you mentioned earlier, you end up with a rotation full of 4th and 5th starters. Always take the best player. You watch, the Rays will regret passing on Alvarez for Tim Beckham. Mark it down. Take the best.

            • Eric

              Beckham was neither cheap nor safe. I would have picked Alvarez (though with Longoria and Pena, perhaps the Rays didn’t want another corner infielder), but you could make a case that Beckham has a higher ceiling by virtue of his position and toolsiness. Taking a high school player #1 overall is pretty risky.

  • Steve S

    I say the only problem with Brackman was the the ML contract and the necessity to use a roster spot (beyond this year). But I realize it was a necessary evil but I hope it doesn’t cause him to get rushed.

    • Eric SanInocencio

      The “Willy Mo” problem. Could hurt, good point, The timetable does rush things.

    • steve (different one)

      i agree it is sub-optimal.

      i also think that Brackman’s demand of a ML deal is *part* of why he fell to #30.

      i’m not disagreeing with anything you said (you said it was a necessary evil), i was just thinking about the Pedro Alvarez debacle and it made me think how much value Boras places on ML deals.

    • Mike A.

      Even with the ML deal, he’ll still have four years worth of options to spend in the minors (2009 thru 2012). Because he missed all of 2008 with injury, the Yanks can (and will) ask the league for another option, and they’ll get it. Same thing they did with Henn back in the day.

      The only sucky thing about the ML deal is that it eats up a 40-man spot, but whatever.

  • K

    IMO Brackman was a terrible pick. He was drafted knowing full well he would need surgery and was given a major league contract. He’s a lottery ticket. The Yankees drafted him based on the hope that he’ll turn into right handed Randy Johnson. Stupid, stupid pick.

    • steve (different one)

      so you are saying the Yankees took a gamble, a longshot even, that they might wind up with a RH version of one the greatest pitchers of all time?

      how is that stupid?

      in order to make your point, why don’t you suggest who they should have taken at that pick?

    • Mike A.

      He’s a lottery ticket.

      Isn’t every pick though?

    • Yankee1010

      Apparently there were safer versions who compare to Hall of Famers available.

      I understand why people don’t like the MLB contract with Brackman, but that’s the only way they were going to get a guy who was a top-5 pick going into the year. Possible aces aren’t dropping to the end of the first round without problems/signability issues. And the Yanks should keep on taking them (even after what happened with Cole).

      Would people prefer the Yanks go back to picking guys like Walling, Ford-Griffin, Sardinha, Skaggs, Parrish, etc.?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      The number of great major league pitchers who were drafted with the club knowing full well and good that the prospect had arm troubles serious enough to necessitate surgery is far to long to list here. In fact, TJS is now so routine and it’s effects seen as so beneficial that many teams push their prospects to consider having the procedure done as a preventative cure-all for any type of elbow problem, at the beginning of their career. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

      Not every arm injury is the same. Taking Brackman knowing that he’d need TJS is akin the Bills taking Willis McGahee knowing that his knee needed to be rebuilt. They gambled and won, because they were smart enough to know that the surgery in question had a good chance of success and the talent level was undeniable.

      • dan

        good point about McGahee. But I wouldn’t go as far as saying TJS is a cure-all. If someone keeps doing the same things wrong that got him hurt, then no surgery can save him

  • Joltin’ Joe

    Uh, Ben, are you talking about Eric Hurley of the Texas Rangers? I would hardly call him unforgettable – he’s a pretty good prospect. Be careful what you write my friend.

    • dan

      I’ve never heard of him, but he’s done pretty well for himself making the majors at 22.

  • dan

    It seems that some people are assuming that “high upside” means “low-probability” and that it’s a bad thing. While that is sometimes the case, it isn’t a given. The fact that Brackman is high-upside doesn’t just mean that he has a low chance of becoming Randy Johnson (who does have a good chance?), it means that HE IS REALLY REALLY GOOD.

    The fact is, we don’t know the chances that any player will make it. Safe picks have just as good a shot as sucking as do high upside picks. Just look at the examples in this thread alone. The Twins were ripped for taking Joe Mauer and 9 teams passed on the flamethrower that is Tim Lincecum. The high upside picks are high upside because scouts believe they can be the better players. They’re not saying “Brackman could be Randy Johnson but he’s probably gonna suck.” Everyone has like a 75% chance of sucking. We should take the players who have that remaining 25% devoted to being really good players.

  • Tom Gaffney

    aAAAaaahh!! Trade him. Trade him now! Clearly he’s a bust and a waste of our money and will never pan out! 2.1 innings is a huge sample size. Get him out of here!!

    Seriously, though, the guy’s 8 feet tall. It’s going to take a while for him to develop. Giants take longer to work their mechanics out. Look at Randy Johnson. We shouldn’t have given him a major league deal. I think that was a mistake.

    Who is this Schmidt fellow, anyway?

  • JohnC

    I do think rackman was the right pick at the time. The Tigers knew the yanks were planning to take Porcello if he got to them so they grabbed him before he got that far. But in this year’s draft it was inexcusable passing up Tim Melville for Jeremy Bleich or Ryan Westmoreland for Scott Bittle. Yanks have the money. Be bold with it for a change!

  • Tremont

    You guys are really oversimplifying the risky/safe debate. An organization should treat their player development as if it were a stock portfolio. Sure you want some high upside stocks, but you also need some steady earners. If most of your risky stocks go bust (a la the internet bubble), you’ll need those safer stocks to keep you afloat.