Statistical Review of the First Three Rounds of the Rule IV Draft

Party like it's 1969! Rays add many useful pieces that hope to one day replace caged birds like Desmond Jennings above. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

You're going to be hearing a lot of stuff from both our authors and friends of the site scattered far and wide about how well the Rays drafted earlier this week. I'm certainly no prospect maven as I leave that to other, more intelligent folks, so this won't be about me projecting which guys are going to boom and bust five years down the road. The idea here is to apply prior research to a few known variables in this draft to evaluate who the winners and losers were and to see how well the Rays did in adding to their core. Firstly, big thanks to Sky Kalkman for posting this link that had completely slipped my mind. I will trust the loyal reader to check out the background, but essentially you can create a formula that gives a baseline of how much Wins Above Replacement (WAR) you can expect from a particular pick number in the draft.

In addition to seeing how much WAR you should be able to get from each draft slot I thought it would be interesting to use the Baseball America ranks as an input instead of the pick number. In this fashion we can see how well a team's picks actually project to be compared to what you would expect. The list of BA ranks that I'm working off of only goes to 200 so for players selected that were not in the top 200 I used a conservative guess of 250 for their rank. Here is the formula:

Expected Lifetime WAR = (20.7 + (-8.5 * pitcher) + (4.6 * college)) * selection ^ (-.49)

Using this formula here is how the Rays shaped up:

Rays_draft_medium

These are sorted by dWAR which is merely Rank WAR divided by Pick WAR to give an idea of ROI. We use dummy variables for Pitcher and College and in the totals is the percentage of picks that went to each of those categories. 38% of our picks were pitchers and the same number were from college with only two players meeting both criteria. You can infer that the Rays draft was a bit hitter and HS heavy from this.

Guerrieri checks in as the steal of our draft as he was projected as the 10th best pick but we got him at 24.  Mikie Mahtook was a similar story as we got him 10 picks later than he was projected and he also checks in as our highest Rank WAR with close to six WAR projected for his career. These two steals make me a little less anxious that Hager was our 3rd pick and our second least value beating out only Harris whom was not in the top-200. Other strong value picks were Goetzman and Eierman. Linsky, Carter, and Garvin were all roughly equal to where they were taken with Martin, Goeddel, Ames, Snell, and the aforementioned Hager and Harris being lesser value picks. Altogether, the Rays project to add roughly 34 WAR to their system over the careers of these 13 players. We would have expected to nab a little over 37 WAR so we did go sub-optimal in a couple of spots, but due to signability concerns and other variables I would think the norm would be that most teams did not finish over 1.0 when it comes to their dWAR or value. Let's see how the rest of the league panned out to see how the Rays compare. 

Mlb_draft_medium

This uses the same exact calculations and we're still using 250 as the rank for the handful of players that weren't in the top-200. Off the bat we can see that the Rays led the way in Pick WAR, while finishing a close second in Rank WAR to the Natinals that went crazy upside at the risk of not being able to sign a few guys. After a large gap Oakland shows up getting around 24% more bang for their buck though only netting bottom third projected WAR of 8.3. Milwaukee, Baltimore, Boston, San Fran, Cleveland, and Detroit also check in with positive value. Of these teams you really have to tip your cap to the Red Sox who added roughly 21 WAR (3rd highest behind Nats and Rays) to their system in the first three rounds while getting good value to go with the upside picks. Detroit was expected to gain the least WAR due to their picks, but did an ok job of getting value.

By value the Rays are solidly middle of the pack, but I would not take that as an indictment of their draft as they added a ton of useable pieces and surely couldn't go overslot on all of them. A team like San Diego (4th highest Pick WAR) is kind of in the same boat so good job on them to do what they could. On the other hand, we see huge market teams like the Dodgers, Ranger, Yankees, Cubs, and Mets getting very little bank for their buck in both overall gained WAR and our dWAR component. The Yankees had one of the lowest expected WARs of all teams and they followed up the projection by not getting much value. The Dodgers obviously cheaped out while the Rangers have some questions to answer themselves based on the picks they took. It's interesting to see some of the biggest markets in the game not really taking advantage of the best way to add talent while some of the smaller markets appear to have gotten great value.

All in all, I'm happy with the Rays draft and look forward to see a few of these guys make an impact in the next 3-6 years. Stay healthy boys and sign quick as we'd love to avoid a repeat of Josh Sale sitting on the sidelines playing pepper at extended spring training.

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