Cardinals Among MLB's Best at Drafting
The last 11 Cardinals drafts were Walt Jocketty's
The last 11 Cardinals drafts were Walt Jocketty's

Posted Aug 21, 2006


Looking at Major League contribution by those selected in the amateur drafts from 1995 to the present illustrates the Cardinals' draft results have been among the best in all of MLB, debunking a major complaint against the team's current management.

1. Overview

A frequent discussion point among Cardinal fans (and likely fans of any team) is the productivity of their farm system.

Many analysts, such as Baseball America or John Sickels, rate the quality of a team’s prospects and/or the organization as a whole—as do a number of fans on internet boards.

Judging prospects in the pipeline is a subjective process. While minor league performance does tend to predict major league performance—as Bill James noted about 20 years ago—it is still a subjective process. “Can’t miss” prospects miss and 13th round draft picks become among the best in baseball.

With the benefit of time, the drafting performance of teams can be objectively judged—by looking at the players a team drafted and the eventual success (or lack thereof) in the major leagues.

The web site baseball-reference.com has pages with the amateur drafts of each of the 30 teams, showing players which have played in the majors by a certain time frame (in this case, by the end of the 2005 season). The page lists the draftees by year, the year they debuted in the major leagues, and summary career statistics; hits, home runs, batting average, on-base plus slugging, and stolen bases for batters, and won-loss, earned run average, walks and hits per inning pitched, and saves for pitchers.

Using the 30 web pages, I built a database of the players drafted by each team from 1995 forward, segregated into batters and pitchers. This article is based on that database.

The drafting performance of teams can then be judged by comparing the summary stats of the teams; which teams produced the players with the greatest summary statistics, say hits, home runs, at bats (which I estimated from hits and batting average) or wins and losses.

So instead of opinions as to which team has done the best in the draft, by adding the results, you can obtain an objective ranking of teams. This is a relatively simple approach; other approaches using Win Shares or WARP would perhaps provide a different ranking of teams, with a fair amount of additional effort.

There is one significant limitation to this approach; the time lag from the time a player is drafted until they reach the major leagues, and the subsequent time to compile the counting stats such as hits, at bats, wins, losses, etc. On average, the “gestation period” (as I like to call it) for players can be four, five, and six years. For example, most players drafted in 2002 are just breaking into the majors in 2005 or 2006; there were only 24 players drafted in 2003 in the majors by the end of 2005, six from the 2004 draft, and only three from the 2005 draft.

Accordingly, this approach is useful to measure the 1995 to 2000 drafts, and less so for the subsequent drafts. The later drafts can only be judged in this fashion several years down the road.

2. The Cardinal Drafts, 1995 to Present

Walt Jocketty made his reputation as the Farm Director of the Oakland A’s from 1980 to 1993. He moved to Colorado in 1994, and became the Cardinals' GM in late 1994. The 1995 draft was his first; thus I selected 1995 as the beginning point of my database. My question was, how have the Cardinals done compared to the other major league teams since Jocketty took over the Cardinals?

First, let’s examine the significant batters and pitchers the Cardinals have drafted.

Table 1 presents the batters drafted by the Cards from 1995 onward that compiled at least 100 hits in the majors by the end of 2005, along with the totals for all of the players drafted:

Table 1  
Draft Year Round Player Debut   AB       H   HR 

BA

OPS SB

1995

19

C. Richard 2000 880 227 34 0.258 0.777 18

1995

34

K. Robinson 1998 670 179 3 0.267 0.644 35

1996

3

B. Butler 2001 552 137 11 0.248 0.664 4

1997

  1  (20)

A. Kennedy 1999 2,982 838 48 0.281 0.733 107

1998

  1  (  5)

J.D. Drew 1998 2,666 765 142 0.287 0.907 72

1998

9

J. Wilson 2001 2,719 715 35 0.263 0.672 26

1999

7

C. Crisp 2002 1,627 467 35 0.287 0.756 54

1999

13

A. Pujols 2001 2,958 982 201 0.332 1.037 29

2000

4

Y. Molina 2004 520 133 10 0.256 0.662 2
                   
Totals for all draftees       16,067 4,570 530 0.284   355

Table 2 shows the pitchers with at least ten decisions by the end of 2005, along with the totals for all of the pitchers drafted:

Table 2  
Draft Year Round Player Debut

W 

L 

 ERA  WHIP  Saves

1995

1 (12)

M. Morris 1997 101 62 3.61 1.27 4

1995

17

B. Reames      2000 7 13 5.13 1.56      -

1995

54

C. Politte 1998 20 21 4.06 1.32 15

1996

1 ( 3)

B. Looper 1998 25 29 3.57 1.38 103

1997

2

R. Ankiel 1999 13 10 3.90 1.36 1

1998

4

B. Smith 2001 7 8 4.95 1.45      -

2001

2

D. Haren 2003 20 22 4.13 1.29      -
                   
Totals for all draftees                         202 174      

3. Major League Team Draft Performance, 1995 to Present

How do the players the Cards have drafted, in total, compare to the other 30 major league teams?

Let’s start with the batters.

Table 3 shows the top five and bottom five teams for the period, ranked by at bats:

Table 3  
Top Five Teams
Team AB  H      BA HR SB
Toronto 20,921 5,667 0.271 658 333
St. Louis 16,067 4,570 0.284 530 355
Philadelphia 14,957 3,973 0.266 423 325
Colorado 14,795 4,457 0.301 448 474
Texas 14,677 3,901 0.266 615 94
Bottom Five Teams
Team AB  H      BA HR SB
LA Dodgers 5,575 1,322 0.237 95 109
San Diego 5,547 1,411 0.254 119 54
Pittsburgh 5,221 1,326 0.254 134 100
NY Mets 5,023 1,300 0.259 135 116
San Francisco 3,269 807 0.247 59 61

So while the perception among many is that the Cards have had underperforming drafts, the opposite is true—only the Blue Jays have done better in drafting batters, when ranked by at bats (the Blue Jays have drafted 13 batters with greater than 100 hits, Craig Wilson, Ryan Freel, Brent Abernathy, Casey Blake, Josh Phelps, Vernon Wells, Michael Young, Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Jay Gibbons, Alexis Rios, Reed Johnson, and Russ Adams).

And the other argument is, of course, if the Cards have actually done well, it’s just because of Albert why the Cards have done well. First of all, the Cards did draft him, “luck” or not. However, if you excluded Albert from the Cards totals, they would still rank sixth in MLB by ABs. So the assumption that Albert is the cause of the Card’s high ranking is as false as the perception the Cards have underperformed in the draft.

At the other end of the spectrum is San Francisco, which in the past couple of years has often disdained the draft. Over the time period, the Giants only drafted two players with over 100 hits; Mike Caruso, with 294 hits and a .641 OPS, and Chris Magruder 119 hits with a .629 OPS). The next time that Mike Shannon talks about the Giants being able to draft hitters, just remind yourself that he’s at least a decade out of date.

But what about the pitchers?

Well, the Cardinals didn’t do so well there; they were 8th in the majors (measured by pitcher wins).

Table 4 shows the top eight teams, ranked by pitcher wins, and the bottom five:

Table 4  
Top Eight Teams
Team

W

L

  %

Saves 

Oakland 425 310 0.578 27
Cubs 341 296 0.535 21
White Sox 306 317 0.491 61
San Francisco 281 223 0.558 90
Houston 246 183 0.573 73
Anaheim 219 205 0.517 22
Texas 213 255 0.455 116
St. Louis 202 174 0.537 124
Bottom Five Teams
Team

W

L

   %

Saves 

NY Mets 106 128 0.453 32
Florida 101 111 0.476 6
Washington 99 97 0.505 87
Milwaukee 78 105 0.426 1
LA Dodgers 77 80 0.490 1

Oakland being at the top of the list is probably not a surprise to most baseball fans, given the big three of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito.

Most however would be surprised that the Dodgers were at the bottom. For the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Dodgers were among the best teams in MLB in producing pitchers.

Looking at the bottom five in both drafting pitchers and batters, and noting each of those teams are National League teams, is there any cause and effect to the current perception of the American League being the much stronger league?

4. Draft Rankings, 1995 to present

By assigning a ranking to each team for their relative batting and pitching performance, and adding those two ranks together, we can assess how the 30 teams have done, in simple terms.

Table 5 shows the ranking for each team for batters and pitchers, along with the total of the two. This is presenting in ascending order; like golf, low score wins.

Table 5
Rankings of draft performance
Ranks

AB

Wins

Total

Oakland 6 1 7
St. Louis 2 8 10
Philadelphia 3 9 12
Texas 5 7 12
Toronto 1 12 13
Colorado 4 10 14
Anaheim 12 6 18
Houston 16 5 21
Kansas City 10 11 21
White Sox 22 3 25
Cubs 24 2 26
Arizona 15 12 27
Boston 13 14 27
Minnesota 7 24 31
Cincinnati 18 14 32
Tampa Bay 11 22 33
San Francisco 30 4 34
Baltimore 9 25 34
Cleveland 20 16 36
Washington 8 28 36
Detroit 17 20 37
Seattle 19 19 38
Florida 14 27 41
Atlanta 23 20 43
Pittsburgh 28 17 45
Yankees 25 18 43
San Diego 27 23 50
Milwaukee 21 29 50
NY Mets 29 26 55
LA Dodgers 26 30 56

With a #2 ranking in batter at bats, and #8 in pitcher wins, the Cards’ “score” is ten, second only in the majors to Oakland (6 in at bats, 1 in wins).

The perception that the Cards’ production from their drafts has been inferior, is, based on the above, patently false. It has been one of the best.

One final thought.

The team at the top of the list is the team that employed Walt Jocketty as director of its farm systems for 13 years, ending in 1993. In that role, Jocketty would have hired or supervised many of the scouts and established the drafting infrastructure.

Yes, it could be coincidence that the top two teams in these rankings were the teams that employed Walt Jocketty for 24 of the last 25 years.

Or maybe not.


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