Note: Shawn Cusack is a friend and frequent follower of our blog, and thought he would write something. If you recall, he’s the guy who put up the Billy Williams bobblehead doll for our contest in April. After reading our recent blog about the draft and MLB success, he decided to contribute this. Enjoy!
The Chicago Cubs are competing for one of the top three draft picks in next year’s amateur draft (more likely picks 2 or 3 as Houston sucks on a level even the Cubs can’t contend with). Over the past few weeks the question I posed to myself was: what is the difference in the first three picks by player performance? I naturally thought that there would be a huge gap between picks 1 and 2, just because all of the once in a lifetime amateur players are usually drafted first (Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, Bryce Harper). With the 2nd and 3rd pick being more likely for the Cubs, I was more curious about the difference between the those and the top pick. In here I will evaluate the top three picks of every draft based on WAR (Baseball-Reference).
It’s the most prized pick in the draft, but no one goes into a season hoping to get it. Some of the greatest players have come from the 1st pick. Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr and Chipper Jones were all selected first overall, however this pick does not mean a sure thing HOFer. The Cubs have had one 1st pick in their history and they selected Shawon Dunston with it, while Dwight Gooden slipped to the 5th pick. However in comparison to the first ten picks of the draft, the Cubs did do quite well. Picks 2-4 shared -3.6 WAR between the three, while Dunston had 9.1. In case you were wondering Gooden finished with 50.1, but should have had closer to 75 if drugs didn’t get in the way.
Some other notable 1st selections were Josh Hamilton, David Price, Joe Mauer and Adrian Gonzalez, along with other players who weren’t so notable such as Kris Benson, Tim Foli and Danny Goodwin (TWICE!) Danny Goodwin was selected number 1 overall in 1971, and didn’t sign, so he went to college and got drafted again number 1 in 1975. However, the only man to ever be drafted number 1 twice, has the lowest career WAR for any number 1 pick making it to the majors (-2.0)
Going through the decades, the WAR of each pick looks like this
2000-2010- 8.86 WAR per player, 97.5 WAR total
1990-1999- 28.81 WAR per player, 288.1 WAR total
1980-1989- 26.72 WAR per player, 267.2 total WAR
1970-1979- 8.26 WAR per player, 82.6 total WAR
1965-1969- 11.4 WAR per player, 57 total WAR
Understand that 2000-2010 will get significantly higher with Harper and Stephen Strasburg in the beginning of their careers, and players like Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Price should help overall WAR increase as well.
1990-1999 got huge support from Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez. It would probably be around 315 right now if Josh Hamilton had stayed clean early on. With most of these players out of baseball or nearly out of baseball, it seems as if only Rodriguez and Hamilton will be the ones that raise this over 300.
1980-1989 Ken Griffey led this group with 79.2 WAR. No one else had even half as much as Griffeys, with Darryl Strawberry finishing a distant 2nd with 39.2 WAR.
1970-1979 was the most disappointing decade among the top picks. Harold Baines led the group with 34 WAR. 3 of the players produced negative WAR (including Goodwin) and only 4 broke 10.
1965-1969 again, it wasn’t a spectacular bunch. Rick Monday led the group of 5 with 30 WAR. One of the three players never to make it came out of this bunch.
The runner up at sucking will get this pick. This is the pick the Cubs will most likely compete for. As of writing this, they hold a .5 game lead over the Rockies for it. The Cubs have had 3 2nd picks, taking World Series hero, Joe Carter, former Cubs legend (and current free agent) Mark Prior and some guy named Terry Hughes. While some good players have come from the pick, there are less and the star power is a bit less. The cream of the crop is Reggie Jackson taken in 1966. Other notable greats are Will Clark, Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett, as well as the less than spectacular Ben Davis, Tommy Boggs and Mark Lewis (who had the lowest amount of WAR among the major leaguers with -4.0) Here is the decades breakdown…
2000-2010- 8.51 WAR per player, 93.7 total WAR
1990-1999- 12.91 WAR per player, 129.1 total WAR
1980-1989- 11.52 WAR per player, 115.2 total WAR
1979-1970- 8.76 WAR per player, 87.6 total WAR
1965-1969- 8.67 WAR per player, 86.7 total WAR
Again, 2000-2010 is just getting underway with the likes of Dustin Ackley, Jameson Taillon and Mike Moustaskas still starting, and Verlander adding. Cubs legend Mark Prior is in this group contributing 15.9 WAR, so he actually was above average for all the 2nd picks in draft history.
1990-1999 JD Drew and Josh Beckett lead this bunch, with 73.5 of the 129.1 WAR coming from the 2. Between 1991 and 1996, the five players averaged a career 4.5 WAR. Ouch!
1980-1989 featured three of the 4 that never make it to the show. Will Clark was the best with 53.2 WAR (not including the ’89 NLCS)
1970-1979 actually outperformed the 1st picks by 5 WAR. Lloyd Moseby led the bunch with 25 WAR. Rather unspectacular bunch.
1965-1969 68.4 of the 86.7 came from the bat of Mr. October Reggie Jackson. The other 20 came from JR Richard, the other three all produced negative WAR.
This will be the Cubs prize if they can’t even perform well on a level of suckitude with the other two teams. Still nothing to sneeze at, as players such as Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Evan Longoria came from here. The Cubs have had 4 #3 picks picking future Cubs legend Josh Vitters, former Cubs legend Corey Patterson as well as Luis Montanez and Drew Hall. Dewon Brazelton fishes in last for major leaguers with -3.5 WAR.
2000-2010- 2.22 WAR per player, 24.5 total WAR
1990-1999- 9.37 WAR per player, 93.7 total WAR
1980-1989- 8.4 WAR per player, 84 total WAR
1970-1979- 20.27 WAR per player, 202.7 total WAR
1965-1969- 4.56 WAR per player, 22.8 WAR
2000-2010 features players such as Evan Longoria, Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. The three of them should produce quite a bit for years to come. We also all hope Josh Vitters provides many WAR for many years to come!
1990-1999 Troy Glaus, Jose Cruz and Mike Lieberthal are the prizes of this bunch. Corey Patterson was drafted in 1998 and produced 7.6 WAR. As of right now, none of the players are active in the major leagues which would be a first for the first three picks from the 1990s. Corey Patterson is in the Brewers minor league system so its possible he could still add or subtract from the WAR total.
1980-1989 Matt Williams is the only star player of the bunch with 43.5 WAR coming from him. Dick Schofield, Bobby Witt and Steve Avery also topped 10 WAR.
1070-1979 is NOTHING like the first two picks. 144.9 of the WAR comes from a pair of Brewer HOFers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Lonnie Smith also contributed 36.3 WAR. These three players helped the 1970s salvage something of the top 3 picks.
1965-1969 was the worst of all three rounds of all the decades averaging just over 4.5 WAR per playr (not counting the 2000-2010 3rd picks). Joe Coleman produced 20 of the 22.8 making him the holder of the highest percentage of WAR for his slot and decade.
The two things I learned, both of which were unsurprising, is the average WAR goes down by pick, and that the past 6-7 years have had a lot higher success, as only 4 of the picks as of now appear to be busts (Greg Reynolds, Josh Vitters though he’s still young and might get better, Tim Beckham and Donavan Tate). I don’t really know how to explain the suckitude of the 1970s, except that all the scouts were either stoned or at discos. Currently 47 players have more WAR than the 1970s top picks, and Babe Ruth has more WAR than the 1st AND 2nd picks.
Final note: We are more than aware that getting to pick first doesn’t guarantee that the player you pick will make the bigs or become a Hall of Famer. But it certainly improves your odds if you scout and evaluate intelligently, which is what we’re hoping the Cubs do from here on out.