Overall Draft Picks and Cumulative WAR: Is it really better to draft early?

I was inspired to write this fanpost after Kris Benson (former 1st overall pick extraordinaire) announced his retirement. Despite being drafted so early his career was less than stellar for one reason or another. This is a study (using Baseball References handy Draft section) to determine how likely it is that a player will succeed in the Majors based on his draft position.

I know this is hardly the greatest study in the world, but its January, what else is there to do?

Firstly i will look at the cumulative WAR of every pick from 1st overall to 33rd overall (the Mets had the 33rd pick in 2008 and it was still in the 1st round), ever in the June Amateur Draft.



Click for bigger pic. cause SBN f'n sucks.


Now I will look at picks of particular interest, starting with the first overall pick;

Drafting 1st overall is undeniably awesome, of the 46 players drafted 1st overall, 41 made it to the Major Leagues in some form or another. Of the five that didn’t, two are still prospects (Tim Beckham and Bryce Harper), one could still make it (Matt Bush, 1st pick in 2004 is currently in the Rays organisation and transiting to pitching) and two never made it. This is an unbelievably high success rate, having the 1st overall pick practically guarantees having a player who will contribute at the highest level.

Notable Players drafted 1st overall: Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe Mauer

There is an unusual dearth of success in players drafted 5th overall, usually players who fail to live up to expectations because of injury or ineffectiveness. Still plenty of useful players here, but unlike picks 1-4, very few stars, especially stars with a long shelf life.

Notable Players drafted 5th overall: Dwight Gooden, Vernon Wells, Mark Teixeira

The talent explosion in pick six is all down to Barry Bonds and his 171.8 WAR, HFS. Remove that and you get 295.4 WAR which is more in line with expectations.

Notable players drafted 6th: Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Andy Van Slyke

Pick 10 has a lot of underrated players which makes for a very high WAR total. The top 10 players, by WAR, taken as the 10th overall pick have only two major awards between them; both of which are Lincecum’s Cy Young Awards.

Notable Players Drafted 10th: Mark McGwire, Robin Ventura, Ted Simmons, Tim Lincecum

I think the less said about the 11th pick the better, 2nd lowest cumulative WAR of all the picks in this study and just a bad time to draft anybody. Gotta feel sorry for the Astros who will have the 11th pick in 2011, that has to be a double jinx right?

Notable Players drafted 11th: No-one.

The 30th pick is crazy for one reason: Mike Schmidt and his 108 WAR. There is something mind blowing about players who amass more WAR in their careers than some teams manage in a season. Also; all seven left handed pitchers drafted 30th overall played in the majors at some point and together had 109.5 WAR. This is also the last pick, inside the top 45 or so, to have 200+ cumulative WAR.

Notable players drafted 30th: Mike Schmidt, David Wells


This proves that it is very difficult to guess where you'll get value in the draft it really is just one big crapshoot. For every Joe Mauer there is a Danny Goodwin (the only player to drafted 1st overall twice) and for every Derek Jeter there is a Johnnie LeMaster.

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