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Pitchers Drafted in Top 10: Not a Reassuring History

The Nationals have the Nos. 1 and 10 overall picks in the draft on June 9. So, I thought you folks would enjoy having the definitive FACTS on what has happened in 44 years of drafting to help you form your opinions.

Since the MLB draft began in 1965, there have been 246 hitters who were chosen in the top 10 overall picks and 199 pitchers. So 55 percent were hitters. On 25-man squad, if 14 are players and 11 pitchers, then hitters are 56 percent. That explains the draft ratio.

In the entire history of the June draft since 1965, NO PITCHER who was taken in the Top 10-overall picks has ever had a Hall of Fame career. Zero. None. Zilch. And none close.

The closest, and they aren't even remotely close, are Kevin Brown (211-144), Dwight Gooden (194-112) and J.R. Richard (107-71). No one else has more than 169 career wins; and of all pitchers drafted since '65, only 14 have won 125 games.


Among active pitchers, Josh Beckett (91-64) may have a chance to be a Hall of Famer someday. Or we can dream about young Tim Lincecum. But the pickings are very slim.

Here are the hitters drafted in the Top-10 overall who will be in the Hall of Fame or will at least "be on the ballot" or will "have the numbers" though they may have steroid issues and not get in: Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Joe Carter, Barry Larkin, Harold Baines, Will Clark, Matt Williams, Troy Glaus, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Todd Helton, Darryl Strawberry and Ted Simmons.

Here are the hitters in the too-young-to-call category, comparable to Beckett and Lincecum (the only pitchers): Mark Teixeira, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Markakis, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena.

This is really where the discussion probably stops. There are more than 30 truly special hitters and less than 10 comparable pitchers. And that's being generous to the pitchers.

We can quibble about categorization. How does "so-and-so" belong in such-and-such group. But the disproportion is staggering. And it runs through all of the first 10 rounds of the draft. Here are some other notable position players: Pat Burrell, Eric Chavez, J.D. Drew, Troy Tulowitski, Vernon Wells, Darin Erstad, Phil Nevin, B. J. Surhoff, Bob Horner, Andy Van Slyke, Robin Ventura, Jeff Burroughs, Tim Foli, Charles Johnson, Tim Wallach and Darrell Porter.

Here are the "best" of the other pitchers, in no particular order but including almost everybody in the first 10 rounds of the draft who ever made any impression on the game at all. Anyone with 125 wins by the end of '08 is included in parenthesis. David Price, Kris Benson, Ben McDonald, Barry Zito, Andy Benes (155-139), Kevin Appier (169-137), Ron Darling (136-116), John Danks, Jim Abbott, Tim Belcher (146-140), Mike Moore (161-176), Floyd Bannister (134-143), Justin Verlander, Mark Prior, Mark Mulder, Greg Swindell, Bill Gullickson (162-136), Steve Avery, Joe Coleman (142-135), Bobby Witt (142-157), Gregg (Otter) Olsen, Ben Sheets, Kerry Wood, Bill Koch, Alex Fernandez, Mike Morgan (141-186), Jon Matlack (125-126), Jack McDowell (127-87), Rich Dotson, Dick Ruthven, Steve Trout.

Oh, here are 10 more players with 1,300 career hits that I left out: Hubie Brooks, Lonnie Smith, Dmitri Young, Kevin McReynolds, Terry Kennedy, John Mayberry, Mark Kotsay, Lloyd Moseby, Jay Bell, Rick Manning.

In conclusion, if the Nats draft a Hall of Fame pitcher this year with one of their first two picks, they will be the first team in history to unearth such a Magnificent Creature in the first 10 rounds. Of course, "there has to be a first time." But it's far more likely that they will get a pitcher who will be a bust, or who will be very good for a few years, then blow up, like Prior or Mulder. Or they may draft a shooting star who keeps trying to recreate his career, like Kerry Wood. Or they may draft one of those strong-armed guys who goes 140-140, which isn't so bad.

As I have said, I would draft Stephen Strasburg at No. 1 overall as long as the price is sane. That's to say, as long as the price reflects the sobering reality of highly drafted pitchers in the last 44 years. What is that price?

By Thomas Boswell  |  May 6, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
 
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Comments

Boz - Please name for me the bat that impresses you from the 2009 draft pool.

Posted by: Brian_ | May 6, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Tom...

What, then, would you consider a sane price?

Posted by: comish4lif | May 6, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Rather than talking about Strasburg and the lack of success in picking pitchers, please enlighten us on which hitter in this year's draft is likely to be a HOFer? Do you think it is Green, Ackley, Poythress, Tate? If Tate looks like a HOFer, then they should pick him first! He'd sign for 'normal' first pick money, that's for sure.

Reprinting the same 'stuff' over and over again is like yelling 'you are gonna miss' over and over again to someone trying to make a free-throw. If you want to keep doing that, talk about stuff the Nats have already done, like passing on Joba Chamberlain to take a high-school pitcher still in low-A ball. Or Detwiler.

Posted by: Section314 | May 6, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I have the same question, which I posted as a comment to a Chico item about the draft a few days back: Can someone at the Post do some reporting on the OTHER options besides Strasburg? Is there a position player who might be a smarter move for us? Or at least a decent option? Please. I have a reporting job of my own or I'd do the reporting myself. Thanks. :)

Posted by: jdsp2000 | May 6, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of downplaying Strasburg worth, just to counteract the Boras silliness.

But just to be contrary: which draft picks would you be pretty happy if Strasburg turns out to be similar to?

How about Brandon Webb (8th round); Roy Halladay (17th overall); Cole Hamels (17th overall)....

Oh, wait, I've solved it. Just figure out who's going to be the 17th pick and grab that guy.

Posted by: joebleux | May 6, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Jim Riggleman, now Bench Coach of the Nats, was the lucky recipient of Kerry Wood who went 13-6 in his Rookie Year when Jim was Manager of the Cubs, which helped him to the 1998 playoffs that year.

Wood would then miss the entire 1999 season with an injury, so did the Cubs miss the Playoffs in 1999 and Jim was FIRED.

Strasburg can be that type of impact pitcher to take the place of Daniel Cabrera. The Nats just have to protect his arm.

Lannan
Olsen
Zimmermann
Martis
Strasburg

Like Boz says, there has to be a FIRST and Strasburg can be it!


Posted by: dmacman88 | May 6, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

What this really says is two things:

(1) Evaluating and drafting pitchers is a crap shoot. Hitters, not so much.

(2) If you pushed all these mostly flame-out top 10 pitcher draft choices out of the top 10, evaluating and drafting pitchers would still be a crap shoot. But it would be the twenty best teams in baseball taking the shot every year, not the ten worst.

At some point, someone will still have to draft these pitchers. And their agents will quickly conspire to ensure that the first ones drafted receive top choice money, while the others don't. And eventually you'd see MLB promoting two sets of slots, one for hitters and one for pitchers.

Posted by: GalRevelsInPee | May 6, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Why is it only a choice between Hall of Famer or not Hall of Famer?

What exactly is wrong with coming out of a draft with a Floyd Bannister or an Andy Benes or a Kevin Brown?

The MLB draft is not a guarantee regardless of whether it's a bat or an arm. Shawn Abner was a bat drafted #1 overall. He is not in the Hall of Fame. Tyler Houston was drafted after Ben McDonald and he's not getting anything in Cooperstown.

The MLB draft is and always will be a crapshoot.

Posted by: Brian_ | May 6, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Bos, we are drafting in 2009 - not throughout baseball history.

Don't you have to select the guy who you think has the highest ceiling? And isn't that Strasburg without argument?

Posted by: comish4lif | May 6, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Valid points. Someone who has some time should compare how many pitchers are in the hall of fame, and perhaps the draft position and high-school vs. college history of said pitchers & hitters.

For a long time, AFAIK, high-ceiling pitchers were drafted out of High School. That's far, far, far more of a crapshoot than out of college. What's the success rate (defining success as 'got more than 50 starts in the bigs') of drafted-from-college pitchers? What about those in the top 100, 30, and 10 picks in the draft?

Posted by: Section406 | May 6, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Yet there have been Hall of Fame-worthy pitchers drafted since 1965, just not in the first ten rounds. (TEN ROUNDS?? that *is* staggering.)

Seems like some kind of Ugly Duckling Syndrome, where not only are the really good ones impossible to spot early, but it's almost the opposite -- if they look good young, it's almost a lock they won't wind up having been the best pitcher in the draft that year, ultimately.

I don't follow the sport, but I understand that not drafting Reggie Bush worked out OK for the Texans, after all, under comparable circumstances.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

OR, it could be something about being a fairly high pick that messes with what otherwise might have been a better career. Pressure to produce, either from self or others, to justify the high pick. Lack of motivation due to big signing bonuses. Getting pushed too soon to the bigs.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Like Boz says, there has to be a FIRST and Strasburg can be it!"

I feel you may have missed the point...

Posted by: Section506 | May 6, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I thought (and possibly I am misinformed) that the sorta consensus on this draft was Strasburg then everyone else. By which I mean, it's not like there's a Matt Wieters sitting out there waiting to be drafted, in which case maybe you would have an argument about who to pick. Boz is right that high pitcher draft picks don't always pan out, but where there's a clear number one, don't you just have to pays your money and takes your chances?

In any event, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this draft for me will be seeing where young Mr. Crow goes and how much he signs for. I still don't understand the cost/benefit analysis his agents performed where they decided, in essence, that the possibility of a higher bonus in this year's draft outweighed the injury risk and the loss of a year's head start in getting to big free agent dollars. Just curious to see how much this gambit actually winds up getting him.

Posted by: Section220 | May 6, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

So Tom, maybe none of the teams with the top 10 picks should draft Strasburg. Then, he can be a Hall of Famer because he was not a top ten pick, right?

I mean honestly, this reasoning really makes zero sense. You've got to identify the best guy and pick him--you can't look retrospectively and say "since no pitcher has ever been a Hall of Famer at #1, we can't pick a pitcher and should pick our highest-ranked hitter instead." Here's a hypothetical for you: what if the Nats had pick #11 and were deciding between the same 2 guys: Strasburg and their highest-ranked hitter, both of whom are miraculously still available (maybe because the top ten teams are all following Boswell illogic). THEN, would it be ok for the Nats to pick Strasburg because it is not a top 10 pick?

Would Clemens have won fewer games and not be a Hall of Famer ("have the numbers putting aside steroids," which is your own premise) if he had been drafted #1 as opposed to #19? How about Mussina? What if he were drafted in the top ten, rather than at #20? How about Halladay? Would he be worse if he had been drafted at #1-10 and not #17? Or CC, at #20?

It would be one thing if the argument was that first-round pitchers, or highly-touted pitchers, or something like that, never pan out. But that's not true. It's just a question of doing a good job at drafting, whether the pick is #1, or #10, or #20.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 6, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Folks -

Isn't it fairly clear that Nostradamus Boz -- you know, the guy who had Millidge going down a few days before he did and the Z extension as "still a possibility" after opening day -- is taking Stan's arguments as to why Strasburg isn't worth $50M and articulating them for our amusement and Boras' consideration.

Heyman-Boras:Boswell-Kasten.

Brian: That is why Boz is engaging in suspended disbelief when he articulates some possibility that drafting someone other than Strasburg in THIS DRAFT could make sense. Because it doesn't.

Posted by: WebberDC | May 6, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

maybe guys like Strasburg, drafted high because they have overwhelming stuff *against lesser competition*, get to the majors and find a 97 MPH fastball is less intimidating to big-league hitters. There is, after all, no higher league, so the best hitters get bunched at the top, esp. college-aged guys.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

it could also be that some drafts have followed exactly this kind of logic, and teams have avoided using a top pick on pitchers because it is relatively more risky.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Boz switched from top 10 PICKS to top 10 ROUNDS midway through the post

There are in fact Hall of Fame pitchers from the first 10 ROUNDS: Goose Gossage & Dennis Eckersley to name two

Posted by: Brian_ | May 6, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Boswell - Your article confuses me. You spend 1000 (or so) words telling us that there is next to no chance that Strasburg will be a HoF pitcher but then spend the last 2 sentences saying, nevertheless, we should draft him. Why not trade the pick to say ...SAN DIEGO, who is dying to get its hands on a hometown hero, add picks and build up the farm system. If Crow or another prospect is still on the board at 10, by all means, but the team has so many needs and the cost of SS is not commensurate with what his likely output will be.

Posted by: terrapin31590us | May 6, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

You cannot trade draft picks

Posted by: Brian_ | May 6, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

If Dwight Gooden hadn't had a drug problem, he would have had a Hall-of-Fame career.

Posted by: fischy | May 6, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

This has to be the fourth or fifth time now I've read the same exact argument out of Boswell. Enough! You've made your point.

However, you continue to MISS THE POINT in that there's no fantastic, amazing, outer-worldly hitter in this draft! Repeating the comments above; what bat in this draft would you *possibly* consider above Strasburg? None, zero, no one is even close. Most of the mock drafts I've seen so far have shown two things:
1. nobody knows who's going #2-5
2. there's probably more arms going 2-5 than bats anyway.

The Nationals have a huge image issue following last year's failure to sign Crow. The abolutely cannot "blow" another draft by doing something as dumb as not drafting the guy who every scout in america is calling "the greatest talent of their lifetimes."

(oh by the way, I'll take a Mark Prior-like career right now out of Strasburg. At least Prior had a few successful seasons and got fannies into the seats in Chicago. Its a start...)

Posted by: tboss | May 6, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree with WebberDC...Stan's most important task this year is signing two draft picks in the first round. He clearly is not able to influence the 2009 team and nobody is coming to the games so Stan's role is talk down the prices of the draft picks if possible. He is doing this through Boz.

Where has Stan been anyway. He told me he would be around the Park (as always as he put it, like I must be wrong when I pointed out to him he has not been visiting the upper deck) but it sure would be hard to miss him in my new section these days (RF Box) but he has been a no show all year....I have some questions for him if you see him.

Posted by: JayBeee | May 6, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Of course, it would be Natsluck if Aaron Crow winds up in the HOF.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

how many catchers, or 3rd baseman, or right fielders all time? we are comparing one position against the field. one position that plays every 5th day and tends to be the most injury prone. how many #5 starters are hall of famers? how many #3 starters are hall of famers? this argument smells like swiss cheese. of course there are fewer.

draft strasburg, and he may be the third hall of famer behind lincecum and david price to be drafted top 10. so what.

or maybe we should only draft pitchers after the top 10 rounds have past! that's not even a successful approach in fantasy baseball.

sometimes collective wisdom is actually right. draft strasburg.

Posted by: longterm | May 6, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Boz has a typo at the end of his piece....he means top 10 picks not top 10 rounds.

Posted by: JayBeee | May 6, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

There are 67 pitchers in the Hall of Fame per Baseball Reference. In the history of major league baseball and its thousands of players, 67 pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.

Posted by: Brian_ | May 6, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU, CiL, for making the key point. If we're worried about the team becoming the permanent laughing stock of the league (See the column today by Boswell, Tom), imagine the snickers around the game when we pass on Strasburg because 'drafting pitchers early doesn't always work out.' I doubt the Padres or the Mariners would display similar reluctance.

Boz, the other problem with your argument is your traditionalist's reliance on wins as the only meaningful metric. This, from Wikipedia: "in 2004, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets had a losing record of 12-14, despite displaying an easy league best 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and was among baseball's Top 5 in ERA (2.70) and WHIP (0.98)." I'd take that kind of performance from Strasburg.

Posted by: Bethesdangit | May 6, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Boz wrote this column a month ago. Everyone laughed at him then. Has he gone so senile that he doesn't remember when he wrote this before? Or is he just allowed to recycle his stuff when he's tired?

Posted by: sbiel2 | May 6, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

So what are the criteria that should be employed in drafting a pitcher? I mean, besides avoiding somebody in the first 10 picks. (Or first 10 rounds??? Whatever...)

So since a team is supposed to develop pitchers rather than purchase them, don't the Nats have to draft a pitcher sometime? And in which round should the Nats draft? Are they just supposed to wait or something?

This argument makes no sense at all. The round in which somebody is drafted does not seem to have any real relationship whatsoever to how good that person will be.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | May 6, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Brian is right. it's a spectacularly bad idea to argue against taking Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick using Hall of Fame worthiness as your baseline.

There are only 67 pitchers, many with careers BEFORE THE DRAFT WAS EVEN IN EXISTANCE, in the 120-or-so-year history of the game in the HOF.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | May 6, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Well, as fun as it is to bash Boswell, you guys might also want to read the conclusion he makes:
"Sure, he's the best talent there. But is $30M the right price to pay when a #1 draft pick HAS NEVER PANNED OUT THAT WELL BEFORE." That's all. It's a very risky pick, is what he's saying.

Scouts say Strasburg could pitch in the majors now, but he's pitching against college kids. Some of them are better than Nook Logan, most aren't. In 3 months, he may be pitching against Carlos Beltran and Ryan Howard. Those guys aren't Finance majors at UC-Fresno.

Sure he's good. He's incredibly talented. He throws pitches that make dudes with radar guns and clipboards giddy. That DOES NOT MEAN he's going to Cooperstown. And taking him #1 means you're going to have to pay somewhere between 10 and 50 million dollars to even find out how he'll do as a professional.

THAT is what Boswell is saying.

Posted by: Section406 | May 6, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Terrapin,

Baseball, unlike other sports, does not allow teams to trade draft picks.

Yeah, that is dumb.

Posted by: greggwiggins | May 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Boswell isn't saying, "Don't draft Strasburg" -- he also isn't saying there is anyone else he would consider at No. 1, because he and we all know there isn't anyone.
What he is saying, as far as I can gather, is that:
1. historically, pitchers drafted in the top 10 picks don't live up to the billing
2. if Strasburg does, he would be the first
3. therefore, this pick, despite being the only one the Nationals can make, is not the certain success everyone seems to think, and is not the lock a hitter in the clear No. 1 spot would likely be.
The reason is simple, illustrated when my non-baseball fan of a wife told me she didn't want our son to pitch when he gets older, because "pitchers get hurt." Injury is the single greatest enemy to potential, and pitchers not only suffer more serious injuries, but even the small ones affect their peformance more because their job is specialized -- throw the ball.
So, yes, draft Strasburg, but when that happens, we all need to do two things -- curb our enthusiasm and cross our fingers.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | May 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

There is one other consideration with Strasburg that in almost all other cases isn't relevant: he appears ready to help you right now.

You can argue whether or not he has any innings left in him this season after playing out his college season, but I think it is almost universally accepted that a healthy Strasburg, pitching the way he is now, would make many team's rotation today (or next year). Since the distance between entering the organization and his Major League debut is short, you're mitigating some of the risk, beacuse that bonus is really being paid against the player's potential in the majors (think Smiley).

In a lot of respects, that makes Strasburg a lot more like a free agent signing than a draft pick... But I think Boz's argument holds there, too: there are very few guarantees when it comes to free agent (or draft pick) pitchers.

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

further: the ONLY reason to not draft Strasburg is if the Nationals do not think he's the best player in the draft.

in which case, they would be the only baseball entity that would hold that opinion.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | May 6, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't even think I can explain how ridiculous of a post this is. When you lose 102 games, and start out 7-17 this year, you take best player available. In this case, its a pitcher, there isn't another player in this guys stratosphere talent wise.

Of course its a crap shoot, as in any other sport. No one can tell how a young guy will respond to pressure, or how his body will hold up.

This sport dates back to the late 1800s, and probably more than 10,000 players have played this game, how many are hall of famers? The Nats are in this business to field a championship team, if you find HOF-ers in the process, then great, but you don't play the drafting game under that assumption.

Posted by: kingtutts | May 6, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I might be more inclined to read and give credence to comments by FJB/SB if they didn't tend to be framed as ad hominem attacks on others. If you disagree with Boz, that's fine, but it's a cheap shot to posit senility because he is of a certain age. It is possible to disagree with someone without making personal attacks. Just saying.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 6, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

JayB,

I saw your boy Kasten in the concourse around Section 225. It was on Thursday of the opening home series against the Phoolies.

I don't think he much appreciated me mocking him by yelling out "come on down Phillies fans!"

So he's tired, used car salesman hind parts are floating around from time to time.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 6, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

kingtutts:

I don't think there's any argument that you take the best player available. The question is whether the constellation that exists between the Nats' failure to sign Crow, the amazing hype that surrounds Strasburg, and the fact that his agent is Boras makes the probably magnitude of the contract more significant than the talent.

If I were in the baseball business, I would want a rather involved analysis on the cost and benefits, because from a branding standpoint, the Nats can't afford not to sign their number one picks... It isn't quite a blank check for the Strasburg/Boras team, but it is as close as it gets.

I don't blame anyone for being gun shy when you're talking about that kind of money... for a pitcher.

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

probably = probable.

I can't type.

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"Here's a hypothetical for you: what if the Nats had pick #11 and were deciding between the same 2 guys: Strasburg and their highest-ranked hitter, both of whom are miraculously still available (maybe because the top ten teams are all following Boswell illogic)."

Without evaluating Boz, this and several other arguments have a misplaced causality. Boz is not arguing that they do not have good careers BECAUSE of where they are picked.

Just that WITHIN the population of top-10 picks there is no pitcher with a very good career.

The moral of the story should be that pitching talent is much harder to evaluate accurately than hitting talent.

A team that is depleted should take the safer bet of hitting talent (because it needs to fill 1,000 holes), but a team that is flush should take the risk of a pitcher (because it really just needs one or two holes filled).

GM Section 506 would take Strasburg #1, regardless, but focus on hitting for the next four or five picks.

Posted by: Section506 | May 6, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

What almost everyone except 406 is missing in Boz's post is this: how much is it going to cost to sign Strasburg? Boras is dropping hints that he wants the same deal he got for Dice-K with the Sox (six years, $50 million). That's insane, for a kid who's never played pro baseball. That's when the historical evidence becomes important; history says pitchers pushed as top picks don't pan out as stars for any number of reasons. People now forget that Ben McDonald was heavily hyped as well when he was the #1 pick in 1989 ("the next Roger Clemens," I seem to remember reading; Boz, how about digging into the Post archives to see what you wrote then?). There is a point where Boras' salary demands could go beyond what Strasburg is likely to produce as a player. If that happens, then you walk away. Remember, the Braves decided they couldn't afford to draft Todd Van Poppel with the #1 pick in 1991, so they "settled" for Chipper Jones. I don't think that will happen. I think the Lerners will talk Boras down just enough to make a deal happen. But it's important to keep Boz's historical perspective in mind.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 6, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I think the answer to Boz's question (what is the right price for Strasburg?) is pretty straightforward. All of this stuff about the risks of drafting pitching is well known. Yet Tampa Bay was willing to pay David Price $11 million or so; the Cubs paid Prior $10.5 million. The only relevant questions should be, how much better is Strasburg than Price or Prior, and how much is that worth? I think most people speculating on the draft are right to think that Strasburg is significantly better than Price and Prior, and that he should receive $5-10 million more than them. I only hope that Boras and Strasburg can agree with this premise, and not insist on comparing Strasburg to established major league pitchers. There's too much uncertainty involved for that comparison to make any sense.

Posted by: jcj5y | May 6, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I see what your saying wigi, but the inherent fact is no matter what happened with Aaron Crow last year, there is no way, no way, that Boras will not get this kid signed to a major league deal. The 50 million figure was to set high expectations and let the Nats know that they are gonna have to pay bucks for him. But honestly, if Prior got 10, this kid will settle for 12-15, the MLB players union won't let it get higher than that.

What if he goes back to SDSU or to an independent league and blows out his arm or get exposed. His value plummets. And the Nats, Boras, and Strasburg all know this. The Crow debacle, well, that rests on the fact the Bowden was a jerk, and people don't like negotiating with him. He can blame the owners all he wants, but Rizzo or any other GM would've got that deal done. And I have no basis of fact for this argument, just gut reaction.

Posted by: kingtutts | May 6, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

1) Great point 406 - It is very unlikely that Strasburg has EVER faced a hitter as good as Nook Logan. Probably no one from that conference will be drafted and certainly won't make it to the bigs, besides Strasburg.

2) Big league pitching is not about stuff. It's about deception and control. Changing speeds, movement on your fastball, hitting locations, staying ahead in the count and throwing to a hitter's weakness.

Who knows if Strasburg can do those things to big league hitters. If not, they will absolutely crush his very fast fastball and he'll be out in a year.


Posted by: Avar | May 6, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"Boz switched from top 10 PICKS to top 10 ROUNDS midway through the post"

Millions, billions. Really, what's the difference?

Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Since 1968 (giving the first class in '65 three years to reach the majors) how many pitchers have been selected to the HoF? Answer= 44.

25 pitchers have been inducted who can by any reasonable stretch be called the draft years. Of those this is the list of the pitchers inducted by the writers: Gossage, Sutter, Eck, Ryan, Niekro, Sutton!, Fingers, Seaver, Carlton, Perry, Palmer, Jenkins, Wilhelm, Hunter, Drysdale, Marichal and Bob Gibson. 17.

I don't even want to count how many pitchers make up the set of top 10 draft picks since '65. It's 43 drafts so it's 429 players (Danny Goodwin if you don't know why its not 430). But, let's say it takes at least a 10 year career (and five more retired) to get to the HoF. That means 1994 is the latest any pitcher could have been drafted in the Top 10 and be in the Hall right now.

So we're down to 289 players. 40% of these picks as pitchers let's say. That's 116 players (rounded up). So you mean to tell me that not one of these 116 pitchers cracked the 17 who are in the Hall? Out of how many pitchers in the draftable era?

Basically, Bos is saying that it's not likely that SS will be a Hall of Fame pitcher. For his next prediction, Bos says sun will rise in East tomorrow.

Posted by: traderkirk | May 6, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

3

Keeping in mind, that the draft was instituted in 1965. There are exactly 3 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who were drafted and signed with the team that drafted them.
1. Nolan Ryan (12th rounder)
2. Dennis Eckersley (3rd rounder)
3. Rich Gossage (9th rounder)

Tom Seaver was a 1st rounder in the January phase by the Braves in 1965. But the pick was voided, so he signed with the Mets.

Bruce Sutter was a 21st round pick by the Senators in 1970 and didn't sign. Eventually, he signed with the Cubs 14 months later.

No other pitcher in the Hall of Fame was drafted. Others made their debut after the 1st draft, but had been signed in the years before there was a draft.

Posted by: comish4lif | May 6, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"Where has Stan been anyway. He told me he would be around the Park (as always as he put it, like I must be wrong when I pointed out to him he has not been visiting the upper deck) but it sure would be hard to miss him in my new section these days (RF Box) but he has been a no show all year."

Maybe that's because on all the seating plans I've ever seen for Nationals Park there is no section called RF Box. Are you sure you're going to the right ballpark? If you're still sitting over at RFK I can understand why you're not seeing any good baseball this year!

Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

kingtutts:

There's no question he'll get a major league contract. The question is whether it will be with the Nats, and whether the Nats think the cost is worth the risk.

As for Crow, I am on the record saying that the Nats did the right thing not signing him... but it puts pressure on the Nats to make hay with the two picks they have this year. They can't NOT sign them... the first because of who it (probably) is, and the second because they lose it otherwise. In both cases, the Nats have little leverage, and so the quality of your talent evaluation becomes more important, as a way to evaluate the risk.

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"What, then, would you consider a sane price?"

comish4lif,

More than Prior ($10.5M). Probably less than $15M. For four or five years? The 5th year is a big jump up season for salaries. I think Boras has only done one 5-year contract for a drafted player of his. But that was for Stephen Drew (SS) when Rizzo was in Arizona. So maybe it's possible.

Here is one factor that should be considered. Young players in the draft, including Strasburg, are the only baseball players who face a system that, in effect, keeps their salaries under some degree of control. The owners, of course, always want to hold down salaries. But, in this case, the MLB union does, too. The union only represents MLB players. They don't care about college or high school players. The union's memebers are MLBers who say, "Let these kids pay their dues, like we did. Let them makes the majors, play here for three years to reach arbitration, THEN start making millions. Every cent that gets paid to these 'bonus babies' gets taken out of our pockets."

-------

"What bat impresses you in the '09 draft pool."

Brian_

More of interest, what bats impressed the Nats at the beginning of the college season: Dustin Ackley (UNC 1st/of) and Grant Green (USC ss) were two of them.

Don't know if those views have changed.

My column on Strasburg in March only looked at the history of the first FIVE overall picks in the draft. For this blog, I thought that, since the Nats also have the 10th overall pick, that I'd expand the sample to include the first 10 overall.

I was surprised that there were STILL no future HOFers showing up, even after 10 picks, while the great hitters, like Bonds, McGwire, Jeter, Sheffield, Thomas kept showing up from 6th through 10th.

So, even if the Nats DO take Strasburg at No. 1, shouldn't they lean tward a hitter at No. 10 overall? I suspect they need pitching so badly that they may take two pitchers. But here is the beak down on No. 10 overall picks.

Hitters: McGwire, Ted Simmons, Tim Wallach, Kelly Gruber, Robin Ventura, Charles Johnson, Carl Everett, Eric Chavez, Carlos Pena, Cameron Maybin.

Pitchers: Tim Lincecum, Ben Sheets, John Garland. Just three pitchers of note since '65.

OK, I promise to leave draft HISTORY alone now. But I am surprised that, in all the years of hearing GMs and scouts discuss the draft, I never heard any of them say, "You know, at the very top of the draft, like the first 10 picks, your chances of getting a great hitter are MUCH better than your chances of drafting a great pitcher. In fact, nobody's ever picked a HOFer near the top of the draft."

Come on, after all this, don't you want to know the lowest first-round pick ever used to select a future Hall of Famer? And what overall-pick it was?

For NJers, I dug it out. Somebody must have figured this out somewhere sometime. But I've never seen it before.

Manny Ramirez was a 13th-overall pick. Jim Rice was a 15th overall pick. Lance Berkmann was a 16th overall pick.

Still no HOF pitchers.

Bingo: ROGER CLEMENS with the 19th overall pick in 1983!

(Okay, he may never get INTO the Hall of Fame. But you know what I mean.)

ABSOLUTELY THE END

Posted by: Thomas Boswell | May 6, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough. And it will be with the Nats. The Lerners will have a PR nightmare on their hands if they don't sign Strasburg. With all the hype on him, the city would never forgive the team.

Posted by: kingtutts | May 6, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"In a lot of respects, that makes Strasburg a lot more like a free agent signing than a draft pick.."

Mr. Boras is probably already on the phone telling Stan that this is how Nationals fans view Strasburg, bolstering his Dice-K argument. Way to go, dude.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Except 506, he's using an artificially-defined group by focusing on the top 10 picks. There are plenty of stellar pitchers who were picked in the top 20, some of whom I identified. You could also list plenty of highly-drafted hitters who flamed out, but of course Boz doesn't mention this. Drafting is an inexact science, period.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 6, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Bos also doesn't mention the #1 overall and top 10 busts that were hitters...

Posted by: comish4lif | May 6, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"Great point 406 - It is very unlikely that Strasburg has EVER faced a hitter as good as Nook Logan."

A hitter as good as Nook Logan? Gee, talk about your small sample sizes.

NOT!

Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

top ten isn't entirely arbitrary, since the Natinals have the 1st and 10th pick. But HOF is the wrong frame. Serviceable, durable #1 starter would do.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

and at $1,000 per fan, that's still only $9 million.
************************
Mr. Boras is probably already on the phone telling Stan that this is how Nationals fans view Strasburg, bolstering his Dice-K argument. Way to go, dude.
Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 5:04 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

nonof1: I am sure my (new) good friend Scotty Boras already thought of that...

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Boz,

Since pitch counts and building a guys arm strength is somewhat a new practice, wouldn't being a young top pick years ago lead to arm problems? Wouldnt that limit their wins? Isn't wins a terrible stat?

I assume alot of guys went the way of Mark Prior. Promising players that were run into the ground by their managers. I may be wrong, but that's my feeling why some of the number one's havent panned out.

Posted by: BillyBeane | May 6, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm watching on MASN and trust me, you aren't missing much.
**********************
If you're still sitting over at RFK I can understand why you're not seeing any good baseball this year!
Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I Just Said That!

**************
OR, it could be something about being a fairly high pick that messes with what otherwise might have been a better career. Pressure to produce, either from self or others, to justify the high pick. Lack of motivation due to big signing bonuses. Getting pushed too soon to the bigs.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 6, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Boz,

Thanks for posting and commenting - but here's the issue - I think your metric for "successful pick" = HoF is off. As traderkirk points out, there have been 430 players picked so far in the top 10 in the draft - 17 pitchers have made the HoF. So 17/430 suggests that it's not at all mathematically odd that there might not be any. Let's throw out half that number and say, for argument's sake, that 50% of players taken are pitchers. So that's 17/215.

What that means is that even if HoF players came ONLY from the top 10 picks, if being picked in the top 10 was a REQUIREMENT to make the HoF, the chances of any particular player selected actually making the HoF would only be 8%. If you include hitters in both pools, it jumps ALL THE WAY up to 10%! So, if NO other players were EVER eligible, a team would have a 1/10 shot of the given player they picked actually turning into an HOF player. Picking an HoF'er is NOT a given, nor is it even particularly likely, even in that scenario. Once you include all players taken, it becomes statistically incredibly UNlikely. Given the difficulties in predicting the durability of starting pitchers, that all means it is not at all odd that NO HoF pitchers come from the top 10 (or even top 19) picks.

So - what's the point, then? What do they call second marriages, "the triumph of hope over experience?" Well, maybe they should call picking pitchers that, too - you can't NOT take Strasburg, so you take him, make the best deal you can, and hope for the best. I think the Nats brass and the Nats fans would be ecstatic to get a Gooden or a Lincecum or a McDowell or a Verlander or a Sheets, even if Strasburg doesn't turn out to be an HOF player. So, to mis-quote Parcells, "let's not put him in the HOF just yet."

More to the point, with this particular draft class, I don't really think a historical argument of "Well, we took Ackley instead because hitters taken high are more likely to be HoFers" is really a sustainable argument - it's a statistical oddity, borne of the fact that hitting is a much more projectable skill and that positional players aren't as likely to suffer career-ending injuries.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | May 6, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I think they call it Infield Box but trust me it is in RF....

Posted by: JayBeee | May 6, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

295:

His argument might be that the shape of the probability curve in terms of success vs. draft position is the same (or similar) if the qualifying criteria is the Hall of Fame.

Posted by: wigi | May 6, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

"he's using an artificially-defined group by focusing on the top 10 picks."

It's not artificially defined at all, it's an ordinal-level variable: 1st, 2nd, 3rd... The order is defined by the way 32 teams, picking sequentially, ranked their opinion of value. And, there's real difference in meaning between being the 1st most valuable pick in the opinion of the first selecting team, and being the 2nd, and so forth.

Your argument simply would let us know that the second ten picks were a period in which we were better able to evaluate talent of pitchers.

That's what this all comes down to, really: with what accuracy are we able to evaluate long-term talent of pitchers verses hitters? And Boz proves we're better at evaluating hitters.

Posted by: Section506 | May 6, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

And, CiL, if you were truly thorough, you would set a range and test at 1 - 10, then 2 - 11, then 3 - 12, and so forth, and we could really find the sweet spot for evaluating pitching talent.

Posted by: Section506 | May 6, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

506, I guess I have better things to do with my time than be "truly thorough" on this issue. Seriously though, the whole analysis strikes me as ridiculous, for many of the statistical reasons pointed out. The only point that can be made, I think, is that there is no sure thing in the draft, and teams need to do as good job as possible in identifying talent.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 6, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Boz, you still aren't making a point here. Are you trying to say, 'darned if the Nats don't have the bad luck of having the first pick when the clear best talent is a pitcher and history proves highly-drafted pitchers don't do as well as highly-drafted hitters'? Plausible argument.

Also, there is no law that the Nats HAVE to draft Strasburg. They really should try to draft the best guy available. If Rizzo thinks that is, say, Ackley then pick him. If the Lerners back him up, and they don't appear to impose their vast baseball knowledge on the front office, the Nats could find themselves in a similar situation as the Twins did with Joe Mauer. Using the Ben McDonald example, there are probably several bats in this years draft, weak though it may appear on the stick side, that will have better careers than a guy that wins 60-something games with a .500 winning percentage. The fans will come when the Nats win, only the few dozen writing on this column even know who Strasburg is.

Rizzo is a lucky guy. He just has to pick the BEST guy in the draft with the first pick, not the one who is touted as being the best! I see nothing that makes me think the best guy isn't Strasburg. Nor do I see anything that appears to be a red flag. I'd pick Strasburg because of who he is, not because of what Ben McDonald or Mark Prior weren't!

Posted by: Section314 | May 6, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Also 506, you are assuming that the slot a player was drafted at is the same as his evaluated talent level. But this is not always the case, and this is another reason why "top ten picks" is artificial. For example, the consensus in 2007 was that Rick Porcello was a top-10 talent. But he wasn't picked in the top 10. The reverse can also be true--guys picked in the top 10 were not evaluated by many/most as top-10 talents.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 6, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

"I think they call it Infield Box but trust me it is in RF....

Posted by: JayBeee"

Sorry, there's no Infield Box on the seating chart either. Trust me, you must be in RF....K.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 6, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I know there's a new post but I can't let this lie. Most of you citing stats to disagree with Boz are lost. For one thing, of the 17 HOFers listed, at least half of them came into baseball before the draft, guys like Palmer, Hunter, Wilhelm, Perry, Marichal, Sutton, etc. So the number of Famer pitchers from the draft is even less than you think.

And those saying the standard for evaluating Strasburg shouldn't be whether he's a future Famer are also missing the point. Boras may be asking for significantly more money than ever before paid a draft pick. In essence, he's saying "this guy's the best that's ever come along." How else do you evaluate the guy other than if he can be a star, a Famer?

But Boz's real point is how much do you pay this guy, when you factor in history which says this is an imperfect science? What's the breaking point where you say "that's too much?"

Posted by: baltova1 | May 6, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I was an Orioles season ticket holder for 14 years and never saw a GM or team President floating around the stands.

I have seen Stan several times. Usually before the game he is on the concourse on the left field side then to the Club level and then watching the game at the opening of the President's Club.

I say thank goodness for Stan as he gets it. You may want to mock him, but the man is a winner in all senses of the word as well as being a good person.

No used car salesman as he has never been a BS'er. I kind of wish he let us into the real truth more often.

So how much should they pay Strasburg in a signing bonus? Is it 10, 15 or 20 million and will Boras hold him out till the last minute or sign him right away?

I think 11 to 15 million is the right number.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 6, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Boz, I'm so glad you wrote this, except for that ridiculous conclusion. The Nats need to understand that at any price, drafting Strasberg is an unnecessary gamble.

Posted by: paulkp | May 7, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

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