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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

Analyzing Cleveland’s draft history: Success, then failure in 2002
Jeremy Guthrie (Photo:
November 27, 2014
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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)
1 Dodgers 18.9
2 Twins 18
3 Red Sox 14
4 Giants 13.9
5 Royals 5.5
6 Phillies 5.3
7 Reds 3.1
8 Tigers 2.4
9 Atlanta 1.9
10 Angels 1.4
11 Brewers -3.2
12 Mets -3.3
13 Marlins -6.1
14 Athletics -13.7
15 Devil Rays -14.7
16 Cleveland -18.8
17 White Sox -19.8
18 Padres -23.7
19 Rockies -25
20 Mariners -25.8
21 Rangers -26
22 Diamondbacks -27
23 Cardinals -27.4
24 Yankees -29.2
25 Astros -31
26 Blue Jays -33.5
27 Expos -35.1
28 Pirates -35.4
29 Cubs -35.9
30 Orioles -44.5

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.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

November 28, 2014 - 11:30 PM EST
Not only freak injuries to Adam Miller and Matt Whitney.....but how about the crazy injuries to Michael Aubrey? He was bound to be a very good player in the big leagues if not for all of the injuries. Just some terrible luck with injuries in the mid-00s.
November 28, 2014 - 5:13 PM EST
The sad part about Whitney's injury is that he got hurt not while playing but out to gather the ball which had gone off the court. His loss and to dodge arm trouble with Adam Miller but not finger trouble really set us back..

We have drafted better lately and I'm happy we finally went after some potential big bats at the top of this last draft.
November 28, 2014 - 12:32 PM EST
The Guthrie problem was caused by his insistence on getting a Major League contract right out of the draft. With the normal signing & more years of control generated by it, Guthrie would have had more time to develop in the system. The player development system wasn't as good then & they were under the gun from the moment Guthrie signed.
November 28, 2014 - 11:55 AM EST
It would have been nice if the Tribe gave Guthrie half the chance they gave Jason Davis.
November 28, 2014 - 12:14 AM EST
The Whitney story is interesting. I talked to him a few times over the years but never really asked him about the incident. I will say that often times some BS explanation is made to hide what really caused an injury. "I slipped on ice before getting in my car" can sometimes mean many other things. I have always wondered if he really did trip on a sprinkler head and if it was really something else that happened....
Canadian Joe
November 27, 2014 - 6:33 PM EST
I think you are right Brian. Seems to me it was a fluke kind of injury that just didn't heal. Showed some nice power in A ball, and I believe he was only 20 yrs. old when it happened. Sad tale. Might have been a nice piece in the Indians puzzle.
November 27, 2014 - 5:23 PM EST
Matt Whitney's injury wasn't just bad, but embarrassing. If I remember correctly, he tripped over a sprinkler head playing some backyard basketball. Yikes.
November 27, 2014 - 1:59 PM EST
2004 is a decade ago the most recent drafts have been substatually better (the last 5 years). Cody Allen is a very successful draft almost by himself. 23rd round draft choices seldom even get a cup of coffee yet we have what appears to be after 4 months a premier closer with the 698th player taken in the 2011 draft. Kyle crockett looks like a great pick as well in 2013. so it is getting better as grant seems to have some foresight. The 2014 draft on paper according to Baseball America the best in baseball sometimes one or two drafts can make an organization look like a world beater and the last two drafts look good especially 2014. i am not sure what number mike trout was in his draft year but i suspect there were 20 at least picks ahead of him that year so you cant always tell with a short window to view a draft but what i have read about 2014 is exciting who knows maybe they can go 3 good drafts in a row. three a year and an organization looks like fortune tellers
Matt underwood
November 27, 2014 - 1:50 PM EST
My problem with Guthrie was not so much that they lost him it was that they found out what they had in him. Drafted as a starter (consensus best starter in the draft by many), paid a bonus like a starter - they gave him one - 1!!! - opportunity to start a game at the big league level. Then it he was lost.

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.
Canadian Joe
November 27, 2014 - 1:38 PM EST
I remember Matt Whitney was a very good prospect, at 3B with awesome power. Unfortunately, he broke his leg badly, and never really fully recovered. Too bad. Would have been an interesting body.Sad to say, the Indians have had their fair share of prospects suffering career threatening/ending injuries.

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