In an ideal baseball world, the number one pick in the draft is the best player available and most likely to succeed in the future. The number two pick is also star material, but not quite as good of a player as the number one pick. The number three pick should be pretty good as well, but not quite as good as the first and second picks… and so on. However, reality does not work that way. Sometimes a team makes a bad decision and passes up the best available player. Reality is not a video game and there is no “power meter” telling teams who the best available player is when it comes time for them to make the choice.
As an outsider to the scouting and drafting process, all I can really do is look to history to evaluate each player’s chances of making it in the big leagues. Looking at the 48 previous MLB drafts, I evaluated the chances of each player being successful based on two factors: 1) hitter or pitcher, and 2) draft order. Pitchers have traditionally been harder to scout and more risky choices than position players, so whether the pick is a hitter or pitcher has a big effect on the chances of success. Even though the draft order is not flawless (how do you explain Mike Piazza being picked 1,390th, while Bryan Bullington was taken 1st?), generally speaking the sooner a player is taken in the draft, the better his prospects. Finally, I measure “success” as being selected as an MLB All-star at least once.
Looking to history, the top ten most sure-fire draft picks would be:
- a first pick hitter, like Bryce Harper (52% chance of success)
- a second pick hitter, like Pedro Alvarez (46%)
- a fourth pick hitter, like Ryan Zimmerman (37%)
- a tenth pick pitcher, like Madison Bumgarner (36%)
- a first pick pitcher, like Stephen Strasburg (33%)
- a third pick hitter, like Manny Machado (32%)
- a fifth pick hitter, like Buster Posey (32%)
- a tenth pick hitter, like Jason Castro (29%)
- a fourth pick pitcher, like Jason Grilli (28%)
- a fourteenth pick hitter, like Jason Heyward (28%)
So going by historical chances of “success” based on draft order and player position as outlined above, I can predict the following ten players from the 2013 Draft as being the most likely to succeed in the Major Leagues:
- Kris Bryant (46%)
- Phillip Bickford (36%)
- Mark Appel (33%)
- Clint Frazier (32%)
- Kohl Stewart (28%)
- Reese McGuire (28%)
- Jonathon Crawford (25%)
- Colin Moran (24%)
- J.P. Crawford (22%)
- Hunter Harvey (17%)
Kris Bryant has almost a 50% chance of being a future star. Probably one of the group consisting of Bickford, Appel, and Frazier will make an All-Star Game.
I have no explanation why, but third picks have traditionally been bad at making All-Star games. Third pick Jonathan Gray doesn’t crack the top 10 here with a 15% chance of making an All-Star game. Likewise, 22nd pick Hunter Harvey has a better chance than you might think (17%).
Nothing is certain in prospecting, but it looks to me like loading up on Kris Bryant cards now might not be such a bad idea. Only time will tell.