Sunday, February 12, 2012

High School to the Majors: Positional Players

Recently, I ran across a criticism of the Pittsburgh Pirates, specifically how they handle prospects.  The criticism alluded to the fact that the Pirates generally are conservative with pushing prospects, especially high school draftees.  The general statement bemoaned the fact that expecting a player to make the major leagues within four full years of being drafted is nothing more than a foolish wish.  Under Neal Huntington, college players drafted have beat that four year limit.  Pedro Alvarez made it to the big leagues by his second full year as a professional.  Chase D'Arnaud made the show last year in his third full year.  On the high school level, the criticism is fairly accurate.  In 2008, Huntington's first draft class, the Pirates paid two high school players - Quinton Miller and Robbie Grossman - either seven figures or nearly seven figures.  Miller has been a bust and while Grossman has turned himself into a top prospect (on Keith Law's top 100 list for example) but will start next year in AA and is unlikely to arrive in Pittsburgh by the end of the year.  That will give him one more year to make the show by his fourth full year in the big leagues.  This reality can be particularly disheartening as Pirates fans watch high school phenoms such as Jason Heyward and Mike Trout fly to the major leagues, with the former taking his first at-bat for the Braves at age 20 and the latter taking his first at-bat for the Angels still as a teenager.

I decided to take a more in-depth look at how quickly prospects, specifically those drafted out of high school, move through the minors.  To do so, I used the following criteria.  First, I used fangraphs to identify each batter (I will do pitchers later) that had his rookie season.  My time period was the last five years, from 2007-2011.  From there, I determined which of those batters were high school draftees that made it to their rookie season within five years of being drafted.  That means every player on my list played a maximum of four full seasons in the minor leagues.

2007
Player Name Draft Bonus Draft Position Draft Year Current Team
Delmon Young
3.70M
1(1)
2003
DET
James Loney
1.50M
1(19)
2002
LAD
Billy Butler
1.45M
1(28)
2004
KC
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
950K
1S(36)
2003
BOS
Elijah Dukes
500K
3(74)
2002
NONE

2008
Player Name Draft Bonus Draft Position Draft Year Current Team
Ian Stewart
1.95M
1(10)
2003
CHC
Jay Bruce
1.80M
1(12)
2005
CIN
Blake DeWitt       
1.20M
1(28)
2004
CHC
Ryan Sweeney
785K
2(52)
2003
BOS

2009
Player Name Draft Bonus Draft Position Draft Year Current Team
Cameron Maybin
2.65M
1 (10)
2005
SD
Andrew McCutchen
1.90M
1 (11)
2005
PIT
Travis Snider
1.70M
1 (14)
2006
TOR
Colby Rasmus
1.00M
1 (28)
2005
TOR
Dexter Fowler
925K
14 (410)
2004
COL
Jordan Schafer
320K
3 (107)
2005
HOU
Kyle Blanks
140K
(42) (1241)
2004
SD

2010
Player Name Draft Bonus Draft Position Draft Year Current Team
Jason Heyward
1.70M
1(14)
2007
ATL
Austin Jackson
800K
8(259)
2005
DET
Ryan Kalish
600K
9(283)
2006
BOS
Mike Stanton
475K
2(76)
2007
MIA
Peter Bourjos
325K
10(313)
2005
LAA
Logan Morrison
225K
22(666)
2005
MIA
Michael Brantley
150K
7(205)
2005
CLE
Josh Thole
UNKNOWN
13(389)
2005
NYM

2011
Player Name Draft Bonus Draft Position Draft Year Current Team
Eric Hosmer
6.00M
1(3)
2008
KC
Mike Moustakas
4.00M
1(2)
2007
KC
Brett Lawrie
1.70M
1(16)
2008
TOR
Hank Conger
1.35M
1(25)
2006
LAA
Ben Revere
750K
1(28)
2007
MIN
Freddie Freeman
409.5K
2(78)
2007
ATL
Domonic Brown
200K
20(607)
2006
PHI

The list is ordered according to bonus amount.  In those five years, there were 31 players who made it to the big leagues out of high school with only four years or less of minor league experience.  16 of the 31 (51.6%) were first round picks.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia was drafted in the first supplemental round.  15 of those 31 received more than one million dollars (48.3%) for their signing bonus.  Those draftees making the show quickly are expected.  They were drafted in the position they were drafted and given the bonuses they were given for a reason: talent.

On the flipside, there were only a few players that came out of nowhere.  Kyle Blanks, Domonic Brown, and Logan Morrison all were drafted in the 20th round or later and given bonuses under a quarter of a million dollars.  Outfielder Michael Brantley also signed for only 150K, although he was drafted in the 7th round.

Basically, the Pirates do seem a bit behind in producing major league positional players quickly once they nab them out of high school.  They are represented by Andrew McCutchen, although that's not unexpected because he was drafted in the first half of the first round.  Still, it seems to me that there are so few players that have zipped to the major leagues.  Again, only 16 who received a bonus under one million dollars in the last five years.  It looks like the Pirates drought will continue into the near future, but considering having a player make this list seems to be a rarity rather than the other way around, I'm not too upset.  However, considering the Pirates have spent more on pitcher, I can't say my sentiment will be the same when my pitching study is complete.

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