Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Draft Day Tips for Major League Teams

It's draft day for the MLB, which means Stephen Strasburg is soon to be a very rich dude, and a bunch of major league teams are about to drop a ton of money on a handful of kids that -- according to history -- will probably flame out in the minors 5 or 6 years from now. However, there are several teams out there that have shown an increased capacity to make the most of their picks, often out performing teams with considerably more picks in early rounds. How do they do it? Here's a few basic principles the best drafting teams have in common.

1. Draft college hitters based off of their stats at the age of 20. By 21 or 22 years of age, just about any college hitter should be dominating, but it takes a really good hitter to do it at 20. However, beware big freshman numbers at the age of 19. Opposing pitchers might be caught off guard the first time around, so the second year stats are a better reflection of how well a hitter is truly capable of adjusting against a savvy opponent.

2. When it comes to college pitchers, stick to the basics. Strikeouts, walks, and ground ball rates (comment: college level ground ball rates are usually very hard to come by, so teams will need very dedicated scouts to assess this particular stat).

3. To expand on college pitcher stats, keep rule #1 in mind. If a pitcher is blowing away the competition at the age of 20 (David Price had a 13.9 K/9, Tim Lincecum a 12.9 K/9, and Mark Prior a 13.2 K/9 at the age of 20), it's a good sign there's more to come. If he is 21 or 22 when he puts up eye popping stats, chances are the ceiling is pretty low. Also be sure to give proper consideration to injury rates, which sideline a very significant number of young pitching careers.

4. Avoid college hitters with poor K/BB ratios. Seems like a very basic concept, but the Pirates sure weren't aware of it when they drafted Pedro Alvarez last year (20% K% at 20 years old versus a 12.4% walk rate) and paid him somewhere around $6 million dollars to post a .800 OPS at A+ ball.

5. Good luck with high school players. It seems like every team is hit-or-miss when it comes to 18 year olds.

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