In baseball terms, we’re in the worst part of the year: the time after the exciting part of the Hot Stove resolves itself, and before pitchers and catchers report. Baseball news is so sparse right now that Brandon Moss’ $12M deal over two years dominated the headlines recently. That’s all changed now, as MLB has announced the punishment the Cardinals will receive for Chris Correa’s actions.
I’m not going to give you a full backstory to the Chris Correa case. Chances are you’re already familiar with it. If not, the link above will get you up to speed. I also am not going to argue that the penalty was too harsh or too weak. We’ll keep that debate contained to the places it’s already spread to.
I’m here to give you an idea of the value the Cardinals have lost as a result. That’s the Cardinals’ second round pick (56th overall) as well as their Competitive Balance Round B pick (75th overall), which is in between the second and third rounds. They also were fined $2 Million, but to be honest I’m not all too concerned about that.
In 2014, this study showed that the picks the Cardinals lost were worth $4.5M and $3.9M respectively, with both numbers adjusted to Net Present Value (NPV). So with the fine, and three years of inflation we’re talking about something like $12M in value lost, though the majority of it comes in a market that is very constrained. Outside of trading for Competitive Balance Picks, there’s no way for the Cardinals to get more chances at acquiring amateur talent from the US and Canada.
The study linked above calculates the chances that different picks make the majors as at least a role player (>3 WAR while under team control), but it doesn’t give the chances for the picks that the Cardinals lost. The last group this is calculated for is all picks between 41 and 50 overall. For that group, there is a 15% success rate. Even if you don’t discount those numbers at all for picks farther down, that means there is a 72% chance that neither of the picks the Cardinals lost will even be capable of slightly above replacement level production. The 41-50 group also has just a 7% chance of being about a league average player (>10 WAR while under team control). That means there is a 86% chance that the transferred picks do not end up turning into at least one league average player.
Of course, the Cardinals and Astros have a reputation for being better than average in the draft. It’s probably a little more likely than average that these two teams find MLB-worthy talent in those picks. Let’s look at how the Cardinals have done with second round picks since John Mozeliak took over as GM, the 2008 season. Those range from 57 to 86, endpoints that compare well to 56 and 75, the picks the Cardinals lost.
Since 2008, the Cardinals have received extremely little production from second-round picks, though Carson Kelly could change that going forward. Charlie Tilson brought in a year and a half of Zach Duke. It doesn’t seem fair to him to say in hindsight that it’s only actually going to be half a year. Robert Stock and Jordan Swagerty are both out of the organization and failed to reach the majors. Oscar Mercado is starting to look like a bust. Andrew Morales hasn’t been on any prospect list I’ve seen this winter. Ronnie Williams is either the second or third best outcome from a Cardinals’ second round pick, and he just got his first taste of a full-season league last year at 21, and got weak results. He’s mostly projection at this point, and that’s even more true for Bryce Denton and Connor Jones.
Denton and Jones could take a step forward this year, or they could become fringe prospects or non-prospects. As we see here, the chances are better that they slip off at some point than end up with a role on a big league team. Having a couple more guys who in a year or two might be similarly valuable to those two now would have been nice, but it also shouldn’t significantly alter how you feel about the team’s farm. It stinks that the team automatically gets nothing from these two picks, but that’s probably what they were going to get eventually anyway. It’s an unfortunate result, but it’s a hit that the Cardinals’ draft and development machine can absorb.