A historical look at the Yankees’ 2010 draft selections

Joe on the Pinstriped Podcast w/ Craig Mahoney
Sergio Mitre cleaning up starters' messes
AP File Photo

One of the greatest things about baseball is it’s history, and the record of that history. Especially now in the internet age, where we can go back and look up almost anything our heart desires. Like this box score, for example. There’s nothing overly exciting about that game, other than the fact that it’s 90-years-old. Just having that kind of information at our fingertips is amazing, no other sport can make that claim.

Nowadays we use all of this historical info for more than just entertainment. Just as an example, we reference those fancy WPA graphs each day, and those are based on nothing but historical record. We’re looking at what happened in the past to try and get an idea of what can happen in the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly useful information.

Let’s apply the same concepts to the draft and the Yankees’ top ten selections this season. Using B-Ref’s draft database and it’s new WAR data, let’s go back and see how the players taken at these spots have historically performed to get an idea of what kind of players the Yankees can expect to land. Granted, the draft has evolved thanks to introduction of agents and the relatively new concept of signability, so this exercise is in no way a prediction of what will happen.

The 2010 Draft Order can be found here, as always. The Yanks didn’t gain or lose any picks as free agent compensation, so they have a pick per round this year. Nice and easy. And off we go…

First Round, 32nd overall
The best player ever taken with this pick is former Met first/third baseman Dave Magadan, who produced 22.2 WAR over a 16-year career that featured a .288-.390-.377 batting line in close to 5,000 plate appearances spread across the late-80’s and 1990’s. After that comes utility guy Lee Lacy, who played every position under the sun and hit .286-.336-.410 with four teams, leading to 18.2 career WAR.

Overall, the 32nd overall pick has produced 22 big leaguers (out of 45 total picks), though just 13 of those 22 managed to post a positive WAR in their careers, and just 11 produced more than 2.0 WAR. Those 11 players averaged 9.1 WAR in their careers, so they were definitely productive players. However, you’re talking about one solid regular for fewer than every four picks made.

Second Round, 82nd overall
We’re not going count Phil Nevin here, because even though the Dodgers made him the 82nd overall pick in 1989, he didn’t sign and went on the star at Fullerton before being taken with the first overall pick in 1992. The best player who was drafted at this pick and actually signed is former Yankee David Weathers, who racked up 9.9 career WAR with nine teams across 19 seasons. Just 15 of 45 players drafted with this pick have reached the big leagues, and just five of them put up more than 2.0 career WAR. That’s close to an 89% bust rate, historically.

Third Round, 112th overall
This pick has produced a trio of long-time big league starters in Scott Erickson, Paul Byrd, and Rick Waits, who posted career WARs of 21.9, 16.1, and 13.3, respectively. That’s great value from a triple-digit pick, though just one other player drafted here has been above our arbitrary 2.0 WAR threshold. It’s a 91% bust rate, though three of the hits have been big time hits. In case you’re wondering, that fourth player is former Met nutjob Turk Wendell.

Fourth Round, 145th overall
The 145th overall pick has been absolute wasteland. The best player taken with this pick is the late Josh Hancock, who posted 0.6 career WAR before being killed in a drunk driving accident. Of the ten players to reach the bigs after being taken with this pick, just two finished their careers with positive WARs. For all intents and purposes, the bust rate of this pick is 100%, historically. If the Yankees manage to turn this pick into a productive big leaguer, they’ll be a first.

Fifth Round, 175th overall
Much like the Nevin situation, the best player ever drafted with this pick was Rick Burleson, who didn’t sign with the Twins in 1969 and ended up going fifth overall the next year. However, this pick still produced a quality big leaguer in Storm Davis, who was the definition of a league average pitcher during his 13-year career (99 ERA+). It drops off considerably after his 14.5 career WAR, with the next highest total belonging to Blue Jays’ 2007 pick Marc Rzepczynski (1.3 WAR in 61.1 career innings). Davis is the only player above 2.0 WAR from this class, but Rzepczynski should get there eventually. The success rate here is miniscule.

Sixth Round, 205th overall
This pick has been more fruitful than the two before it, with the best all-time being Jason Schmidt by far. He spent a few years as the best pitcher in the National League, racking up 24.9 career WAR. It drops off considerably after him, but Tom House (4.5 WAR) and Al Nipper (4.4) had decent careers. Phillies’ righthander Kyle Kendrick came into the season with 1.0 WAR and counting. Overall, the bust rate is the same 89% as the 82nd overall pick.

Seventh Round, 235th overall
Just one player who actually signed after being taken with this pick has gone on to post a positive WAR total, and that’s former Yankee Pat Kelly (3.7). Even counting Ron Schueler, who didn’t sign and was instead taken in the third round the following year, just five players taken here have even managed to reach the bigs. If we consider Kelly to be the only one to go on to a productive big league career, we’re still basically looking at a 100% bust rate.

Eighth Round, 265th overall
Believe it or not, this pick includes three players with double digit career WAR, but of course none of them signed and all three went on to be drafted higher in subsequent years. Two of those three players are Darrell Evans and some guy named Mark Teixeira, who have made multiple appearances in the All Star Game. The best player ever drafted and signed with this pick is journeyman catcher Tom Lampkin (6.7 WAR), and the bust rate is just about 93%. Really not all that bad considering how deep we’re going.

Ninth Round, 295th overall
Well, here’s where it gets interesting because we run into our first bonafide superstar. Schmidt, Erickson, Magadan … all good players in their own right, but none of them hold a candle to the best player ever taken here. His name? Lynn Ryan. You might know him better as Nolan. The Mets took the Ryan Express 295th overall in 1965, and all he did was go on to win 324 games (and lose 292) and strike out 839 more batters than anyone else  in history (and walk 962 more than anyone else as well). He amassed 80.5 career WAR, placing him among the top 20 pitchers in history.

He should be considered the exception and not the rule, and the next best player ever taken 295th overall was a pretty damn good player as well: current Indian Mark Grudzielanek. His 24.2 WAR and counting is a fine mark, but former Yank David Dellucci is the only other player taken here to eclipse the 2.0 WAR threshold. The bust rate is a little more than 93%, more if you want to disregard Ryan as an extreme circumstance.

Tenth Round, 325th overall
There’s been one good player taken in this spot, and he was a pretty good one: Steve Finley. He was a above average player for a long time, amassing 40.5 career WAR. Only six players have ever reached the big leagues after being taken 325th overall, but only Finley cleared 1.0 WAR. For all intents and purposes, it’s a 100% bust rate.

The Yankees have the ability to use these draft picks to acquire players with more talent than their draft position warrants given their ability to spend and overall aggressiveness in the late rounds. If nothing else, this is quite an eye-opener. Once you get down to the 82nd overall pick, you’ve basically got no better than a one-in-ten chance to land a decent big leaguer.

Joe on the Pinstriped Podcast w/ Craig Mahoney
Sergio Mitre cleaning up starters' messes
  • DSFC

    Good Lord, I had no idea Mark Grudzielanek was still playing.

    • austin

      im pretty sure he made top 10 on sports center yesterday

  • Rick in Boston

    Mike – thanks for doing these type of posts. It really does put into focus how tough it is to draft quality MLB talent.

    • Thomas

      Yeah, I remember reading an article about draft picks a few years ago. It said all-time about only 50% of all 1st rounders made the majors (I think it has improved slightly since and over the past decade is 60-65%) and that is considered by many scouts a success. Not being a star or regular, not even being someone who sticks in the majors as a backup, but just reaching the majors is a success and that is for first rounders.

      Even with all the improvements and more advanced scouting, the draft is still a total crap shoot.

  • Thomas

    I love the box score. Just look at some of these names:

    Shoeless Joe Jackson (Shoeless is actually in the boxscore)
    Nemo Liebold
    Buck Weaver
    Dickey Kerr
    Shano Collins
    Wally Pip
    Babe Ruth
    Duffy Lewis
    Del Pratt
    Ping Bodie
    Truck Hannah
    and best of all Happy Flesch, seriously.

    Names today suck in comparison to the 20s.

    There is an Eddie Murphy, too.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      It looks like Babe Ruth was starting to come out of a slump there as well. Typical Yankee slugger.

      • Thomas

        I like Pip’s B-Ref sponsor line of “A different kind of baseball immortality, but immortal nonetheless.”

    • Rose

      The best is Eddie Murphy pinch hiting for (Steve) Harvey McClellan. lol

    • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

      Felsch, not Flesch. Still awesome though

      • Thomas

        Ahh, damn. Happy is still a crazy nickname/name. I wish it was Flesch and Felsch, he was going to be my new favorite baseball name. However, I guess Urban Shocker still has the top spot.

        • Rose

          Not a fan of Rollie Fingers? haha

    • Rose

      Can’t believe Shoeless Joe only struck out 158 times in 13 seasons haha. Ridiculous. He stole more bases than he struck out…

      • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

        It would be a amazing if a player now did that, but Deadball really was a different game.

        Two guys led the NL in strikeouts in 1918 with 49 apiece. That same year, the Reds struck out 303 times as an entire team. That’s a season and maybe a month for Mark Reynolds

        That’s why Walter Johnson racking up 3500+ strikeouts in that era is one of the more amazing feats to ever happen

        • Rose

          That’s true. I just looked at Babe Ruth’s 1330 K’s over 22 seasons as a comparison. That’s still really low.

          He lead the league in strike outs with 58 in 1918 haha. Jeez

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Tony Gwynn struck out 434 times in 20 seasons (10,232 PA). His career high in K was 40.

            • Rose

              Now that is ridiculous haha

  • Gio

    I don’t get the title – a historical look at future draft selections?

    • Thomas

      It is a look at the who were the best players ever drafted at the picks the Yankees will have in 2010. Before I read the article, I also was confused by the title.

  • Reggie C.

    Jason Schmidt a 6th rounder? I wonder if he’s possibly among the best 6th round picks ever.

    • Rick in Boston

      The Yankees best was Mike Pagliarulo (9.8 WAR).

      Without really diving into it, my quick answer would probably be Sal Bando (60.6 WAR).

      • Thomas

        Yeah he is the best I saw. The only others breaking 40 WAR were Tim Hudson, Hal McCrae, and Devon White. Two good players taken recently in the round were Zobrist and Matt Kemp.

        • Thomas

          Sorry, Moyer was the other one over 40, not McCrae (he was at 26.2).

          The 3 over 40 were Hudson, White, and Moyer.

    • Thomas

      Quickly going through from 1965-1980 the best taken were:
      Sal Bando (over 60 WAR)
      Mike Boddicker
      Bob Boone
      Cecil Cooper
      Bill Doran
      Jim Sundberg
      Ed Whitson

      So there have been some good ones in the past. The problem is the boom bust level is huge. Most players are lousy failing to make the majors or putting up a 2 or less WAR. Most of those that don’t suck are really good like the ones above. There are very few solid, but unspectacular players (5-15 WAR careers).

      • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS


        Devon White (41.3)
        Jamie Moyer (46.9)
        Tom Gordon (34.4)
        Tim Hudson (41.0 and not done)
        Matt Kemp (9.5 with plenty of time to go)

        other notables:
        Ben Zobrist
        Andrew Bailey
        Joe Nathan

        • Thomas

          I found it somewhat funny that both Gordon and Quantrill were taken in the 6th round.

  • http://newyorkstateofsports.com Matty V

    Very interesting study.

  • brian paul

    Ruth is only hitting .246 on the season. He’s been overhyped. Send him back to the sox. When will this team realize it can buy players, but never chemistry!

  • dkidd

    my favorite thing about that box score is the name of the home plate umpire

    • Thomas

      That’s awesome. I am disappointed I missed the awesomeness of the 2 umps and managers names.

  • cssc

    For some reason I thought the picture was referring to Ryan Howard…not one of my finest moments.