Major League Baseball's first-year player draft is nearly upon us. Already this draft season we've covered the probable No. 1 pick (Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman) and perhaps the most polarizing player expected to go in the top five (Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn). Today, let's flip the script by looking at the most intriguing team: the Arizona Diamondbacks, who will dominate the draft's early portions by making eight of the first 80 selections.
Here are the broadcast details for Day 1 of the 2019 MLB draft:
- Date: Monday, June 3
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: MLB Network
- Streaming: MLB.com
- Picks: 1-78 (Rounds: 1st, Supplemental 1st, Competitive Balance A, 2nd, Competitive Balance B, Supplemental 2nd)
The Diamondbacks won't select for the first time until pick No. 16. They'll then choose again at 26, 33, 34, 56, 74, 75, and 93. How did Arizona accumulate so many slots? Pick No. 26 is compensation for failing to sign first-rounder Matt McLain last year; picks 33 and 34 were compensation for losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock; and pick 75 was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade. Got all that? Good.
Theoretically, general manager Mike Hazen and company are well-positioned to restock their system. Hazen's scouting department will have the largest bonus pool in the draft to work with, and the second-largest since bonus caps were instituted. The catch is that these large draft classes seldom work out as well as they could. "A lot of [those] classes are dogs," one American League analyst said before amending that their comment might be unfair to dogs.
The analyst is right. The Diamondbacks will be the 22nd team to have at least seven picks in the top 100 since 1998. Narrowing it down further, nine of those clubs chose at least seven times in the top 80, including the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays (who had 10 picks), the Oakland Athletics in 2002 (eight as part of the Moneyball draft), and six others with seven. Counting only players who signed, but their career totals (with that team or otherwise), five of those nine clubs saw their top-100 picks finish with a combined WAR in single-digits -- three of the five were below replacement-level, including the 2005 then-Florida Marlins, the 1999 San Diego Padres, and 1998 San Francisco Giants. The aforementioned Rays can credit their selection of Blake Snell for avoiding a similar fate.
The success stories, meanwhile, each finished with between 20 and 40 Wins Above Replacement. Those Moneyball A's lead the way, with 36.7 WAR, with the 1999 Baltimore Orioles (32.7), 2009 Diamondbacks (24.9) and 2010 Blue Jays (21.4) following behind. What does success entail? Would you believe one or two good players?.
|Team||Year||Top-80 Picks||WAR (of top-100 players)|
The Orioles can credit more than 30 of their wins to Brian Roberts, who was their seventh pick. (Erik Bedard was also drafted by Baltimore that year, albeit outside the top-100.) The Blue Jays chose essentially two good players: Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard, who never appeared in the majors with Toronto but did help them net R.A. Dickey. The A's got it right with Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton -- their first two selections -- and that was about it.
The 2009 Diamondbacks are about as close as it gets to a class-wide effort. And even then A.J. Pollock is responsible for much of their standing. The D-Backs did receive some padding from others -- Chris Owings, Keon Broxton, and Matt Davidson -- and outside of the top-100 also netted Chase Anderson and Goldschmidt, who later became the star of the show.
You might wonder just what makes these draft classes so tricky -- more choices should mean a greater shot at hitting big. But one scout warned that teams have the tendency to get "cute" with their approach, opting for a portfolio-style strategy rather than taking the best players. Hazen, at least publicly, seems eager to avoid falling victim to the same line of thinking.
"The thing we won't get swept up in is, 'OK, we've taken a couple starting pitchers. We don't need another pitcher,'" Hazen told the Arizona Republic. "We're going to focus on getting the best available player, no matter what the position is, because I don't want to get wrapped up in trying to build a baseball team with those eight picks. We're trying to build a baseball organization."
We'll find out if Hazen and his scouting staff succeeds soon enough.