Lindbergh: Which teams are hitting, and missing, in the MLB draft?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on June 4, 2014:

Like performance in the playoffs, success in the amateur draft is close enough to a crapshoot that we have a hard time distinguishing true talent from luck. The draft requires teams to make judgments about players who are neither physically nor mentally mature, who have faced uneven competition, who might not tell scouts the truth, and who in some cases are years away from contributing, even if everything proceeds as planned. We know how many teams make regrettable moves on the free-agent market, even though they’re bidding on established players who are expected to start earning their money immediately; it’s no surprise, then, that they err even more often when trying to predict the distant futures of players who haven’t yet played professionally.

Some evidence suggests that teams have gotten better at assessing amateur talent, but projecting college and (particularly) high school players remains the baseball equivalent of the meteorologist’s 10-day forecast — a pretty tall order, given that we’ve all gotten soaked when the same-day forecast called for sunshine. The old saw about baseball being a game of failure applies to scouting directors much more so than to any big-league batter.

Russell Carleton summed up the situation last month in a Baseball Prospectus column entitled “The Annual Amateur Draft Guessing Game,” writing, “In the first round, we see some reasonable correlation between signing bonus (our proxy for how much teams value each player) and what they end up becoming. By the second round, teams are guessing.” And when the second round is over, there are 38 left to go.

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Originally published: June 4, 2014. Last Updated: June 4, 2014.