Just so you are forewarned: this will not be something that will happen on this blog very often. No statistics, not many examples of what I’m going to be writing about, not much research, really all opinionated theory. You probably found this if you wanted to read something like this, but if you somehow stumbled on it and were looking for something to project out how well guys who got drafted will do, this isn’t the post for you. It might come later, but not right now.
Something that MLB Network analyst and draft guru Jonathan Mayo said during day 1 of the draft really struck a chord with me, and it wasn’t a good chord. I don’t have the recall skills to directly quote him, but it was something to the effect of “in the first round, you draft talent, not needs.”
I’m no GM (of course I would like to be at some point in time), but I like to think I know some stuff about the game. I really think that at some point you need to draft to your team’s current and future needs, and the players who will fill these needs best are going to be in the first round. Granted, If you have a pick in the top 3-5, you go with the best guys on the board. Then if you’re in the later picks of the first round, you can aim for talent, but presuming you don’t have many needs at the major league level, you get guys to bring depth into your farm system. I.e. if you have five right-handed starters who are top-ten prospects, and you only have two lefties in your top 30, grab a freakin’ high school lefty there, and maybe draft one with the next pick you have, too. Don’t reach too far if you can help it, but try and keep a well-rounded farm system. Worst case is you have depth everywhere and you can play with some trade offers. As it gets into the later rounds, around day 3, probably even late day two, start to go for talent there.
Think of it this way, if you are drafting a fantasy team (I know, the fantasy baseball to real baseball comparison is a stretch, but it works here) in a deep keeper league, and you have Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, Manny Machado, and Pedro Alvarez. You have to decide a late round pick, when you go for sleepers/prospects, and you can go with Garin Cecchini or Mookie Betts. Cecchini is ranked higher and probably profiles as a better fantasy player, but Betts isn’t bad at all either. So who do you draft?
Betts. Mookie Freakin’ Betts. That is who you draft. not because he is better than Cecchini, but because you already have three third basemen, and you don’t need another one. Plain and simple. Why keep four third basemen when you can only play one or two at a time?
I’m not saying MLB teams did this. I looked at the first round again, and it seems like they did pretty well with drafting needs over talent in the first round. The Padres didn’t draft a catcher to sit behind Austin Hedges like I saw in one mock, and the A’s didn’t draft a shortstop to do the same with Addison Russell, which was from the same mock. I just want to tell Jonathan Mayo, “Bro… no,” at least if I were making decisions.
So there it is, for any questions/opinions, comment, tweet me (@tanman128) or the blog (@AnalyticsAnonWP), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for putting up with this – TM
Two Extra Points:
1. My draft strategy also entails where the player is in development. If you are about to hit the panic button, draft a top college guy. He should be up before the top high school guys.
2. Just want to say congrats to Tyler Humphreys, who was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the seventh round yesterday out of St. John’s River State College. We are good friends with he and his family, and I’ve played ball with his brother since we were ten. He led all JUCO players in the regular season with 18 homers this year, and plays a solid defensive third base.