Analyzing Cleveland’s draft history: Sipp saves 2004
Despite draft busts at the top, Sipp’s selection proves valuable
An often repeated phrase surrounding Cleveland baseball over the past two decades regards how poor the organization has fared in the draft.
But exactly how bad has Cleveland been? And how do they stack up against the rest of baseball?
Those are the questions this series will seek to answer. Using a combination of Baseball-Reference and Baseball America’s respective draft databases, I compiled the total WAR of each draft pick and compared it to the expected value of the respective pick (as calculated using Sky Andrecheck’s 2009 findings). There is a difference between picking first and picking 30th, which is represented in this analysis (Andrecheck gives different formulas for high school and college draft picks as well as pitchers and hitters, but for our purposes, we will just be looking at the average value). Also, we will be also only judging teams based on the picks they signed since those are the ones who actually entered the system.
We are starting this series in 2004, since 10 years gives us a decent sample to judge the players in that draft class by.
|Rank||Team||Signed Picks Overall Value (in WAR)|
Something I am sure will become a recurring theme in these analyses is the high amount of failure inherent in the draft. Look at that table. Only three teams pulled off a positive value in the 2004 draft: the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A few other teams come close, but the median value among the draft picks is -23.6 WAR (some of that is the result of every low draft pick who is unlikely to make the majors ending up with an expected value of 0.5 WAR, but the point still stands).
As exciting as prospects are, more often than not, they do not become productive major leaguers.
And even when they do become productive major leaguers, it is not always with the drafting team. Of the 15 best values in the 2004 draft, four of them -- Ben Zobrist, Gio Gonzalez, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Vargas -- made their mark with another team.
Plus, among the 11 players whose primary team was their drafting team, six of them -- Hunter Pence, Chris Iannetta, Kurt Suzuki, Stephen Drew, Huston Street, and Dexter Fowler -- also accumulated at least some of their value after leaving the team that drafted them.
|Name||Drafting Team||Primary Team||Value|
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||Red Sox||40.6|
|Gio Gonzalez||White Sox||Nationals||12.6|
A player’s primary team is defined by the team on which they accumulated the most WAR.
Regarding the best path to running a positive value in the draft, it really just comes down to hitting it big on one or two players.
For the Astros, it came down to hitting big on two picks: their sixth round pick in Zobrist and their second round pick in Pence. Beyond those two, only their ninth round pick, Troy Patton, broke even, accumulating 2.3 WAR.
And of course, they did not enjoy one bit of Zobrist’s major league success, instead sending him to Tampa Bay in a 2006 trade for 68 games of a replacement-level Aubrey Huff.
For the Red Sox and Angels, however, it basically came down to hitting on one pick. Boston selected Dustin Pedroia in the second round -- a pick that is expected to provide 2.5 WAR over an entire career -- and hit big time. Though the Red Sox only had one other player provide a positive value (on their sixth round pick Cla Meredith), Pedroia turning into a star is more than enough to make this a wildly successful draft.
The Angels’ pick of Jered Weaver at #12 overall turned out to be the third-best value of the entire draft and makes up the vast majority of the team’s draft success.
Which takes us to Cleveland’s 2004 draft. Despite the median result baking in an acceptable level of failure, the organization finished 25th among all teams in value from the 2004 draft due to only gaining surplus value in one draft pick.
Picking sixth overall, Jeremy Sowers’ 1.6 career WAR fell far short of the 8.1 WAR expected from that pick (which is a bit of a feat considering 8.0 WAR is only four league-average seasons). After Sowers, only four others made the majors, with three of them -- Scott Lewis, Chris Gimenez (yes, the same one currently on the major league roster), and Wyatt Toregas -- turning out to be replacement-level players who did not add any value based on their draft slot.
Only Cleveland’s 45th round pick, left-handed reliever Tony Sipp, provided any value for the organization from the 2004 draft. A pick that late in the draft only carries an expected WAR of 0.5, which Sipp provided in his first major league season in 2009. Sipp is still pitching in the majors -- and is having a pretty good season in Houston -- though a left-handed reliever alone is not good enough to carry an entire draft.
Over the course of this series, we will see how the rest of Cleveland’s drafts stack up (and how bad the cumulative effect is). But solely judging on 2004, Cleveland’s draft was not good, but the late-round selection of Sipp kept the team out of the basement.
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But the point still remains: this draft is looking pretty weak overall.
The Reason the Indians struggled so much because they couldn't draft. This isn't talked about enough, IMO
I'm only seeing 14 players in the entire draft who have a 10. Make it 15 if you include Vargas and his 9.4.
That means over half the teams won't get a single average starter in a down year like 2004. And only 5 of the 30 teams got an All-Star out of this draft. Really bad year for talent.
Just a brutal year.
Hard to say if 2004 was just a bad draft year overall without other years to compare to, but based on what I've seen of 2003 (I'm currently writing that article), I'd lean toward yes. Just kind of a blah year.
As for the Tigers, that's what happens when you only have one real major leaguer in the entire draft. Their other players who reached the majors from the 2004 draft: Jeff Frazier, Brent Dlugach, Luke French.
Plus, since they picked second, Verlander's expected WAR was already pretty high, hurting the value. But most importantly, only one of their 34 signed picks played above replacement level at the major league level.