MLB Draft Position Rankings #30-#16

With the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft now a week in the rear view mirror, I figured it would be a good time to look into something I’ve wondered about for a while: Do the top picks really end up being the top players? Well, I decided to run some numbers to see whether or not the answer to that question is yes, no or it’s hard to say.

My methodology wasn’t too complicated, since I was more interested in this more recent era of baseball and wanted a sample of about 15 players per draft pick so I compiled the stats of every player drafted 1 to 30 in the 1999-2013 drafts and grouped the players’ statistics & awards by draft position. The reason I didn’t bother with the 2014, 2015, 2016 drafts was that most of those players haven’t sniffed the MLB yet so their small to no samples of stats would probably just skew the numbers.

As for the rankings, I used a scoring system we’ll call a “Warwards” score which is a simple mix of WAR, awards and player status. WAR is just the players’ combined WARs and for awards I gave 1 point for each all-star selection, 2 points for each Gold Glove & Silver Slugger and 3 points for each MVP & Cy Young. As for player status I gave 2 points if the player has played at least 1 game in 2017, 1 point if the player has played in the MLB but not this season and 0.5 for any player currently on the top 100 prospect list. So with that being said up lets get right into it!

30th: Pick #26

Warwards Score

12.0

Hitters 8
Pitchers 7
WAR 5.0
All Star Selections 0
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .707
FIP 4.39

Pick 26 was far and away the worst pick so I’ll do my best to keep it short and move on. With a measly 12.0 WarAward Score, the 26th pick in the draft had less than half the score of the next worse pick. The 26th pick with the highest WAR between 1999-2013 was former mediocre Detroit Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman who would rack up 5.0 WAR while holding a career 4.91 ERA, 4.31 FIP & 2.2 K/BB ratio in 9 seasons in the major leagues.

Furthermore, Giants 30 year old reliever Bryan Morris is the only player from this draft position to have a game played in the 2017 season.  The hitters are truly terrible, with a combined WAR of -1.0 and only 2 out of the 8 of them have major league games played, Red Sox disappointment Blake Swihart being the only one with over 100 games played.

29th: Pick #30

Warwards Score

24.4

Hitters 7
Pitchers 8
WAR 15.4
All Star Selections 0
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .662
FIP 4.18

As you would expect, the lowest pick in the crop ranks pretty close to the bottom of the rankings. Just like the 26th pick, #30’s only active player, Adam Ottavino of the Colorado Rockies, is a mediocre-to-decent NL-West relief pitcher.  I will say Ottavino has actually come into his own the last few years, holding a career more than respectable 9.3 K/9 & 2.7 K/BB ratio. Control and swing and miss stuff are definitely important when pitching in Coors Field.

However, while he is most likely the best player in the group the Rockies’ reliever is not the player with the highest career WAR of the group. That would “honor” would belong to former San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Noah Lowry. The lefty racked up 10.2 WAR playing in the Bay Area for 5 seasons from 2003-2007 in 106 games and 100 mostly mediocre starts.

28th: Pick #27

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Warwards Score

33.4

Hitters 5
Pitchers 10
WAR 21.4
All Star Selections 0
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 1
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .650
FIP 4.00

Pick #27 is all about the reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. The former Tigers 4/5 starter turned Red Sox ace holds a career WAR of 16.5, which represent about 77% of every 27th picks’ combined WAR.  It’s also worth noting that in the time span we looked at twice as many pitchers (10) were taken compared to hitters (5).  Much like the bottom ranked 26th pick, the crop hitters taken at #27 are quite forgettable.  In fact, Milwaukee Brewers utility man Nick Franklin and his 1.3 career WAR is the only one of the 5 hitters drafted at this position to ever even play in the MLB for even one plate appearance.

27th: Pick #18

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Warwards Score

42.9

Hitters 7
Pitchers 8
WAR 24.9
All Star Selections 2
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 1
OPS .727
FIP 4.17

Despite only having 3 active major league ball players, the #18 is one of the draft picks that could potentially see a significant rise in these rankings a few years from now.  Both the top pitcher Sonny Gray (9.9 WAR) and top hitter Corey Seager (9.6 WAR) are in their 20s and should have most of their careers still ahead of them.

This is especially the case for 23 year old Seager, who is already one of the best shortstops in baseball having won the 2016 Rookie of the Year Award and a Silver Slugger in addition to finishing 3rd in the MVP race all in his first full season in the majors.  Seager will without a doubt be a player to watch (he already is) in the next few years if he is already making an impact in these rankings at such an early stage in his career.

26th: Pick #21

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Warwards Score

44.0

Hitters 7
Pitchers 8
WAR 33.0
All Star Selections 0
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .671
FIP 4.31

As is evident by the zero awards and all star selections, pick #21 is the epitome of mediocre and forgettable.  The amounts of pitchers and hitters are about even and there even the same amount of each type of player (3) that have yet and/or will never play in any MLB games.  In addition, both the top hitter and top pitcher in terms of WAR are the only active pick 21 major leaguers. That top hitter is Angels utility man Cliff Pennington who is now in his 10th season in the big leagues playing mostly as a bench player. As for the top pitcher, that would be 11-season veteran Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. As I said, doesn’t get much more mediocre than this crop.

25th: Pick #24

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Warwards Score

48.4

Hitters 8
Pitchers 7
WAR 35.4
All Star Selections 1
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .705
FIP 4.01

The crop at pick #24 is a little more noteworthy than pick #21 but really not by much. The draft position’s only all-star selection comes from former Dodger (and briefly Philly) Chad Billingsley who earned an all-star nod back in 2009 as a 24 year old starting pitcher.  Billingsley had a solid if unmemorable career as mostly a 3rd to 5th starter racking up 16.9 WAR and throwing to a respectable 3.70 FIP for his career.

The only other noteworthy pitcher also happens to be the only active one and that is Nationals reliever Joe Blanton who sports a 11.2 career WAR.  Blanton has been able to carve himself out a lengthy and ongoing 13 year career in the major leagues by having very good control as is evident by his solid career 2.7 K/BB ratio.

Moving on, with only a 7.8 combined WAR, the crop of hitters is very unimpressive.  The only active player of the group is St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk who was recently sent down to the minor leagues due to his struggles this season, having hit a measly .222 with a .653 OPS so far in 2017.

24th: Pick #22

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 9.39.23 PM

Warwards Score

60.7

Hitters 3
Pitchers 12
WAR 43.7
All Star Selections 3
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .689
FIP 4.45

For some reason, teams seem to almost always draft pitchers with the 22nd overall pick as 12 of the 15 players taken there that I looked at were pitchers (highest among any of the 30 picks). That leaves us with only three hitters and the only one of those three to ever even play a game in the MLB is Cardinals 2nd baseman Kolten Wong, who is a former top prospect turned underwhelming major leaguer as his .689 career OPS suggests.

Moving on to the pitchers, 9/12 have seen some major league action including 3 time all-star and former Twins shutdown closer Glen Perkins, who’s lost pretty much all of the 2016 season to labrum surgery and is still recovering, targeting a mid-June comeback. The player with the highest WAR of this crop of pitchers is Jeremy Guthrie with 17.7, but that’s more due to the 13 year length of his career than his actual production as he holds unremarkable career marks of 4.78 FIP, 4.42 ERA & 1.34 WHIP.

With that being said, there are 2 other active major league starters drafted with pick 22; Kyle Gibson & Marcus Stroman, the latter of which is just 26 years old playing in his 4th season and has some all-star potential. After a shaky 2016 season, Stroman seems to have turned the page in 2017 as he ranks 11th in the AL in ERA and 7th in innings pitched. You can expect the young Blue Jays pitcher to improve pick #22’s ranking in the coming seasons.

tie-22nd: Pick #16

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 9.32.52 PM

Warwards Score

64.9

Hitters 5
Pitchers 10
WAR 53.4
All Star Selections 1
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .780
FIP 4.61

We have our first and only tie of the rankings! Lets begin with pick #16:

The story regarding pitchers taken at #16 is definitely one of quantity and not quality. Of the 10 pitchers, 7 eventually made it to the majors but there isn’t really any proven noteworthy players as the most prominent name on the list is White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito who ranks 30th on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch List but hasn’t really proven himself in the big leagues yet.

The only pitcher of the group to play in the MLB this season is Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress who has decent career numbers with a 3.18 ERA & 3.48 FIP but has had control issues sporting a 1.43 WHIP and giving up 3.9 walks per 9 innings.

In addition to Giolito, there is another current top 100 prospect in Phillies’ shortstop J.P. Crawford who ranks 4th on the Prospect Watch List. The 16th pick’s top overall hitter and only  former all-star is former Yankee/Athletic/Indian (& a few other teams) rightfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher who racked up 21.7 WAR in his 12 year career with a more than respectable .799 OPS and a world series ring to his name. There are no 16th pick hitters currently in the major leagues, with former White Sox/Athletics/Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie seeing the most recent major league action of the bunch by playing in 2016.

tie-22nd: Pick #20

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.14.43 PM.png

Warwards Score

64.9

Hitters 5
Pitchers 10
WAR 47.9
All Star Selections 1
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .672
FIP 3.75

Ironically, on top of being tied in Warwards score, both the 16th & 20th picks are pitcher heavy with exactly 10 pitchers and 5 hitters a piece. In addition to those similarities, pick #20’s pitchers are equally as mediocre as pick #16, with the 10 of them combining for 14.8 WAR and former Expos/Nationals closer Chad Cordero represents about 51% of that WAR in addition to the pick’s only all-star selection. The 3 active pitchers of the bunch (Tyler AndersonJosh Fields and Chris Stratton) are all average at best.

Of the 5 hitters the two that are still on a major league roster ( Trevor Plouffe & Denard Span) represent 69% of the 20th pick’s combined WAR. The latter of the two, Denard Span, is the clear standout of the crop having racked up 24.7 WAR as an above average to very good centerfielder throughout his 10 year career. A fun fact about Span is that he had the most triples in the AL (2009) and the NL (2013).

21st: Pick #28

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.17.38 PM.png

Warwards Score

68.7

Hitters 7
Pitchers 8
WAR 49.7
All Star Selections 1
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .709
FIP 3.43

It’s worth noting that due of the fact that the 28th pick’s only all-star Gerrit Cole actually chose UCLA over signing with the Yankees who picked him 28th overall back in 2008, he will actually show up again later in the ranking. Other than Cole, who isn’t barely even a 28th pick, the rest of the pitchers here are forgettable at best, with 4 out of the remaining 7 never even seeing major league action and the other 3 combining for a measly 4.8 WAR.

As for the hitters, the only names worth mentioning are Ben Revere & Colby Rasmus. Rasmus, whose had quite an inconsistent career so far with 2 with an .840 OPS or better and 3 seasons below .690 OPS, seems to be having one of his good years, or at least a good start season he’s putting up a career high .864 OPS in the 26 games he’s played in his first season with the Rays.

20th: Pick #8

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 12.58.30 PM.png

Warwards Score

72.6

Hitters 6
Pitchers 9
WAR 44.5
All Star Selections 1
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 1
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .707
FIP 4.17

Pick #8 is the only top 10 pick to wind up in the bottom half of these rankings.  This is mostly due to the fact that pitchers taken with the 8th pick just didn’t have a high success rate in this time period with 6 of the 9 of them never even playing in the MLB (the most out of any pick in these rankings.  However, this group of underwhelming pitchers does have 1 decent standout in Mike Leake who has 16.0 career wins above replacement and is playing in his 8th season.

Mostly an average mid-rotation starter throughout his career with a 3.99 ERA in his first 7 seasons with the Reds & Cards, Leake has started of 2017 as one of the NL’s best pitchers ranking 3rd in the NL in both WHIP (0.95) & ERA (2.64) as well as top 10 on the senior circuit in innings pitched, opponent batting average, BB/9, K/BB ratio and wins. With that being said, his absurdly low .229 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and 3.58 FIP suggest that Leake will probably see some regression at some point this season but still project a career season for the Cardinals pitcher.

Moving on to the hitters, the 8th pick’s success rate is the polar opposite of that of the pitchers with all 6 hitters taken with an 8th overall pick have played in the MLB and 3 of them have some big league action this season. While 2 of those 3 have had underwhelming careers so far (Delino Deshields Jr. & Drew Stubbs), the 3rd and youngest member of that group has hall of fame potential.

That young player I’m referring to is 23 year old Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor who’s already one of if not the best overall shortstop in the MLB. Lindor is an absolute monster defensively as is evident by the fact that he won a gold glove and the platinum glove as the AL’s top overall defensive player in just his second season and first full season in the bigs.

On top of that, he has elite hitting for his position as his .818 career OPS ranks second among all shortstops with at least 300 games played since Lindor entered the league.  Solely because of Francisco Lindor, the 8th pick could very well join the rest of the top 10 picks in the upper half of these rankings a few years from now.

19th: Pick #23

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 12.55.08 PM.png

Warwards Score

84.9

Hitters 11
Pitchers 4
WAR 58.9
All Star Selections 2
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 3
Silver Sluggers 2
OPS .734
FIP 4.23

The 23rd pick in the draft is headlined by 4 players, with starter Phil Hughes (11.4 WAR, 1 all-star) and outfielders Jeff Francoeur (6.1 WAR, 1 Gold Glove), Jacoby Ellsbury (30 WAR, 1 all-star, 1 Silver Sluger, 1 Gold Glove), Christian Yelich (1 Gold Glove, 1 Silver Slugger) accounting for 85.5% of pick #23’s total Warward score.

Yelich in particular will most likely give the 23rd pick a boost in these rankings in the coming years as he is a  terrific all-around centerfielder providing elite-level defense and a solid .794 career OPS and .290 career batting average.  He’s already in his 5th season in the bigs at just 25 years old so you can expect big things from the young Miami Marlin in the coming seasons.

18th: Pick #14

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 6.15.29 PM.png

Warwards Score

91.9

Hitters 8
Pitchers 7
WAR 66.9
All Star Selections 4
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 4
Silver Sluggers 1
OPS .746
FIP 3.24

I’ll start by saying rest in peace to the most talented and fun to watch 14th pick in MLB history Jose Fernandez, he was truly one of the most electric and entertaining pitchers to ever play in the majors. The rest of the pitchers selected at 14 are extremely forgettable as they combined for -1.4 WAR meaning Fernandez accounts for literally 111% of the pick #14 pitcher WAR.

On the hitter side of things there are 2 former all-stars in Billy Butler and Jason Heyward. In addition to an all-star appearance, Butler also has a Silver Slugger under his belt and was one of the American League’s best designated from about 2009-2013, averaging a .303 batting average and .841 OPS in that time span.

Heyward on the other the hand is the polar opposite of designated hitter Butler as by far the best part of his game is his all-world caliber defense in the outfield made evident by his 4 Gold Gloves. However it is worth noting Heyward isn’t a one-dimensional defensive wizard as he is also decent in the batter’s box, sporting 162-game averages of 17 home-runs, 16 steals with a .345 OBP & .759 OPS.

17th: Pick #29

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Warwards Score

92.2

Hitters 7
Pitchers 8
WAR 66.2
All Star Selections 6
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 3
Silver Sluggers 1
OPS .780
FIP 3.21

Considering he represents 97% of the combined pitcher WAR and 51% of the 29th pick’s Warwards score, former ace and current veteran starting pitcher for the St-Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright is the biggest reason the second to last pick ranked in the middle of the pack 12 spots higher than its actual draft position.

From 2009 to 2014, Wainwright was one of the very best pitchers in the MLB posting stellar a 2.83 ERA and  4.82 K/BB ratio in that span while leading the NL in innings and wins in both 2009 & 2013 (won the Gold Glove both of those year) in addition to leading the senior circuit in shutouts in 2013 & 2014.

Unfortunately, the Cards’ ace missed almost the entire 2015 season due to an achilles tear and has not been the same pitcher in the 2016 & 2017 seasons posting a 4.67 ERA and a much lower than his career mark 2.55 K/BB. Hopefully Wainwright can regain his ace-caliber stuff at some point. Outside of Wainwright, there really isn’t any pitchers worth mentioning as 5 of the 8 selected at #29 never even played in the majors so we’ll move on to the hitters.

While the 29th pick hitters don’t have a name quite as noteworthy as Adam Wainwright, there are still a few names worth mentioning. First and foremost is former Chicago White Sox outfielder and underrated slugger Carlos Quentin. In his 8 year career, Quentin earned 2 all-star selections and a Silver Slugger while posting an excellent career OPS of .831.

In addition, the 29th pick possesses Brewers prospect Lewis Brinson the 13th best prospect on MLB’s Prospect Watch. In addition, there are 2 active hitters with San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik & Indians 3rd Baseman/Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Panik in particular has the potential to make a significant impact on the 29th pick’s Warward Score as he is just in his 4th season in the bigs and has already earned an all-star berth (2015) and a Gold Glove (2016).

16th: Pick #19

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Warwards Score

95.7

Hitters 5
Pitchers 10
WAR 71.7
All Star Selections 4
MVPs 0
Cy Youngs 0
Gold Gloves 0
Silver Sluggers 0
OPS .748
FIP 4.03

Impressively, all 15 of the pick 19 players have played in the majors at least at some point or another, including 10 total and  5 active pitchers. The three biggest names in this crop of pitchers, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller & Andrew Cashner have all had rather inconsistent careers with flashes of both greatness and ineptitude.

In Cashner’s case, in his 4 full seasons as a starter he’s had 2 great seasons in 2013 & 2014 (3.09 & 2.55 ERA) and 2 below average seasons in 2015 & 2016 (4.34 & 5.25 ERA). After signing a 1 year deal with the Rangers this season, its hard say what kind of season he’s having as he has a solid 3.39 ERA but the rest of his numbers suggest imminent regression with a 1.42 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9,  3.9 K/9, an awful 0.89 K/BB ratio and a 4.87 FIP.

Wacha has been similarily up and down, posting a 3.21 ERA from 2013-2015 with an all-star selection and an NLCS MVP. Since then he’s posted an unremarkable 4.97 ERA. Similarily, Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had a great start to his career, earning an all-star appearance in 2015 and pitching to a 3.22 ERA from 2012-2015 which then ballooned to a 5.78 ERA in 2016 & whats been played of 2017 combined.

As for the hitters, the only noteworthy name is former Blue Jays/White Sox/Royals outfielder Alex Rios who had a solid career earning back to back all-star selections 2006 & 2007 while posting 27.6 career WAR with an above average .755 career OPS.

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