Analyzing Cleveland’s draft history: Success, then failure in 2002
Cleveland hits on the Guthrie selection, but misses out on the value down the road
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). We will be also only judging teams based on the picks they signed since those are the ones who actually entered the system.
We started this series in 2004, since 10 years gives us a decent sample to judge the players in that draft class by. Here are links to the previous articles in this series:
Now, we move on to the 2002 draft:
|Rank||Team||Signed Picks Value (in WAR)|
Guthrie’s good, but not in Cleveland
Over the course of these draft analyses, a recurring theme has been you really only need to hit on one pick to make the draft relatively successful. Such is the case with Cleveland in 2002, with Jeremy Guthrie -- essentially on his own -- doing enough to bring the organization all the way up to slightly below average.
This draft could have been much better for Cleveland, however. The organization had seven of the first 94 picks, yet the non-Guthrie selections of Matthew Whitney, Micah Schilling, Brian Slocum, Pat Osbourn, Jason Cooper, and Dan Cevette netted a grand total of -0.2 WAR. But it only takes one, with Guthrie’s long career as a decent pitcher to fill out a rotation made him a top-15 value in the entire draft.
Of course, as we saw in 2003, a surprisingly decent draft was undermined by the fact Cleveland was not the organization that got the value from these players. Guthrie has put together a strong career, but he only threw 37.0 major-league innings over three years for Cleveland. The Orioles claimed Guthrie on waivers in January 2007, after which, given a long leash, the right-hander developed into the decent, innings-eating starter he still is today.
So overall, Cleveland’s drafts themselves in 2002 and 2003 turned out to be adequate; the problem was the organization either traded the good players or lost them on waivers.
Consistently below-average drafts
Even giving the organization credit for players it drafted who provided value elsewhere like Guthrie and Kevin Kouzmanoff, Cleveland finished 24th in overall value in the draft from 2002 through 2004. Which should not come as a surprise, as that is what happens when an organization is below-average in back-to-back-to-back drafts.
During that time span, only one team -- the Boston Red Sox -- was above average in all three drafts, while 24 teams were above average in one or two of those drafts.
And five teams, including Cleveland, were below-average in all three.
Hitting on a couple players like Guthrie and Kouzmanoff brought Cleveland up near average in 2002 and 2003, but those decent successes were not enough to make those drafts special. Plus, factoring in how the organization did not enjoy the full fruits of those slightly below-average drafts, the 24th place finish looks even worse.
Cleveland may not be as bad as the last-place San Diego Padres over this stretch -- who were -47.6 WAR below average in just three drafts -- but the organization’s drafts have not been great in their own right. And more importantly, what the organization did with their draft picks in the years that followed are a big reason why we remember Cleveland as a bad drafting team during this period of time.
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We have drafted better lately and I'm happy we finally went after some potential big bats at the top of this last draft.
You would think that a big bonus baby and #1 pick would get more than one start before it was determined it was not going to work at the big league level.