Success Rate of MLB First-Round Draft Picks by Slot
The MLB Rule 4 amateur draft was last week and fans will clamor for any sort of information regarding their team’s new, shiny, sometimes 18-year old future stars. The draft gives fans a chance to dream on what will be in seasons to come, each team’s fans are hoping for their very own Mike Trout. But for every Mike Trout, there are plenty of players like Hank Congers or Zack Cox who were also selected at pick number 25 and who aren’t exactly rewriting the record books.
In doing research for my latest post on the awful Jim Bowden, I found a concerning lack of recent research on draft success. We have plenty of anecdotes, and plenty of information on top prospects busting, but very little in the way of what to expect from a team’s first-round draft pick. I found a good piece from 2012 from The View from the Bleachers on Success Rate of MLB Draft Picks by Slot and referenced that, but there’s definitely more here.
There have been nine drafts since the last draft referenced in that post. Scouting, sabermetrics, and our general collective baseball knowledge feels like it has been increasing exponentially in that time. Does draft success bear that out? Well, not exactly.
The first thing to set up here is to establish a “successful” player. I pondered it for a minute and settled on basically the same approach that Michael used way back in 2012. If the player hasn’t made the majors, or if they had a WAR of less than 1.5 when they got there, that first rounder is a bust automatically. These players might be useful, but hardly the type that an organization should target in the first round. With that in mind, I established a simple calculation to assign a players success.
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