The old saying is that it takes five years to evaluate a draft class, though I've always felt that was a little generous. Three years is usually enough time to give teams an idea of what they have. There are always exceptions, but after three years, the prospects should have separated themselves from the suspects.
With the 2018 amateur draft set to begin Monday, this is as good a time as any to go back five years and review the 2013 draft. That 2013 draft class has already produced three Rookies of the Year, one MVP, and one runner-up in the MVP voting. Plus a bunch of All-Star Game appearances as well.
Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is certainly neither perfect nor the definitive stat to measure performance. It does work very well for an exercise like this though. So, with an assist from Baseball-Reference.com, let's review the 2013 draft class.
Top 10 players to date
Going into the 2013 draft Kris Bryant was the consensus No. 1 position player prospect in the draft class, but the Astros, who were focused on college pitching at time, passed on Bryant (more on that in a bit) and let him slip to the Cubs with the No. 2 pick.
Needless to say, that decision drastically altered the course of two franchises. Imagine the 'Stros with Bryant now? Goodness. Imagine the Cubs without him? Cubs fans don't want to. Bryant quickly established himself as the best prospect in baseball in 2014 and, after some service time shenanigans, was in the big leagues in April 2015.
Since arriving, Bryant has has more than lived up to the hype that comes with being the No. 2 pick in the draft and the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He was named the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2016 NL MVP, and he's already clubbed over 100 career home runs. Bryant is a franchise player in every way, both on and off the field.
Had he been even two inches shorter, Aaron Judge would've probably gone in the top half of the first round in 2013. Teams were wary of his size -- at 6-foot-7 and 282 lbs., Judge is one of the largest position players in MLB history -- and his propensity to swing-and-miss, so he slipped to the Yankees in the supplemental first. They selected Judge with the compensation pick they received for losing Nick Swisher to free agency.
Since the draft Judge, who still strikes out a bunch and probably always will, has tightened up his strike zone and shortened his swing, which allows his mammoth power to show up in games consistently. Add in great on-base skills and surprisingly good defense and you've got an excellent all-around player. Judge set a new MLB rookie record with 52 homers last season and was the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP runner-up.
A dominant performance in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2012 put Sean Manaea in the conversation for the No. 1 pick for 2013, but he rolled his ankle and hurt his hip in March and tried to pitch through out, leading to reduced stuff and a drop in draft stock. The Royals had an extra pick (and thus extra bonus pool money) in the Competitive Balance Round and they used it on Manaea. He never did pitch for Kansas City though. Manaea was traded to the Athletics at the 2015 deadline for Ben Zobrist, who helped the Royals win the World Series. Manaea is now Oakland's top starter. A win-win trade, that is.
Jon Gray was among the college pitchers in the mix for the Astros and that No. 1 overall pick, though he ultimately wound up going to the Rockies with the No. 3 selection. With a career 106 ERA+ and a career 3.41 FIP, Gray is already one of the best pitchers in franchise history, though Coors Field makes his career 4.56 ERA look unimpressive. He has a chance to be top five in strikeouts and top 10 in WAR in franchise history before the end of the season.
No 2013 draft pick as more big league service time than Kendall Graveman. He was a good sinker/slider guy in college whose stuff ticked up in pro ball, and he quickly became a better prospect than his draft slot would lead you to believe. The Blue Jays shipped Graveman to the A's in the Josh Donaldson trade and, prior to some struggles this season, he'd been a mainstay in their rotation ever since.
Had a knee injury and basketball team responsibilities not cut into prep baseball career, Tim Anderson probably would've been a part of out of high school. Instead, he went to junior college for a year and became a first rounder anyway. Anderson's plate discipline is still lacking, though he's such a great athlete and so good at so many other things that he's a two-way asset on the field. , Anderson leads all 2013 draftees in guaranteed career earnings at the moment.
Believe it or not, there were questions about Cody Bellinger's long-term power potential going into the 2013 draft. First basemen who don't hit for power usually aren't hot commodities on draft day, even when they're super athletic and have a swing as pretty as Bellinger's, so he slipped to the fourth round. The Dodgers paid him an above-slot $700,000 bonus to buy him out of his commitment to Oregon, and last year Bellinger set a new NL rookie record with 39 home runs en route to being named NL Rookie of the Year. So much for those questions about his power, eh?
Corey Knebel is part of baseball history. The pick used the draft him, the 39th overall selection, was the first draft pick to be traded in MLB history. Teams are allowed to trade Competitive Balance Round picks only, and the Marlins sent this pick to the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez trade way back when. Detroit selected Knebel, traded him to the Rangers in the Joakim Soria trade, then Texas traded him to the Brewers in the Yovani Gallardo deal. Now he's an All-Star closer.
By no means was Chad Green a highly regarded prospect going into the draft. He had a fine college career at Louisville and was a late round pick. The Tigers traded him to the Yankees for Justin Wilson, and a year later the Yankees stuck him in the bullpen full-time. Now Green is a bona fide relief ace and one of the top setup men in baseball. His fastball jumped into the high-90s in relief and his slider has gotten better as well.
Zack Godley was the first pitcher drafted by the Cubs under the Theo Epstein regime to reach the big leagues and he has been, by far, their most successful pitcher draft pick. The Cubbies traded Godley to the Diamondbacks in the Miguel Montero trade, and while things with Montero did not end well, he helped Chicago end their 108-year World Series drought. A win-win trade. Godley was a late-round pick who drastically improved the quality of his curveball in pro ball.
Five other 2013 draft picks have already produced at least +2 WAR in the big leagues:
- LHP Matt Boyd, Blue Jays: +3.3 WAR as a 6th round pick. Toronto traded Boyd to Detroit in the David Price deal.
- 1B/3B Ryon Healy, Athletics: +3.2 WAR as 3rd round pick. Oakland traded Healy to the Mariners this past offseason.
- RHP Chad Kuhl, Pirates: +3.0 WAR as a 9th round pick. He is currently in Pittsburgh's rotation.
- UTIL Adam Frazier, Pirates: +2.6 WAR as a 6th round pick. He is a super utility guy for the Pirates.
- RHP Trevor Williams, Marlins: +2.6 WAR as a 2nd round pick. Williams is in Pittsburgh's rotation. They acquired him from the Marlins as compensation for hiring special assistant Jim Benedict.
Best picks after the 10th round
First round picks get all the attention and understandably so, though the late rounds are often the difference between contenders and pretenders. The ability to find hidden gems and turn those late-round picks into useful big-league players -- even if they're middle relievers or bench players -- can make a huge difference in a pennant race. Needless to say, Green and Godley are the two best players selected after the 10th round in 2013. Here are the other notables.
Donnie Hart is a classic left-handed specialist with a funky sidearm delivery and a sweepy slider. He's been an up-and-down depth arm for the Orioles these last three seasons and getting a serviceable reliever in the 27th round is a great outcome. Hart did his best work for Baltimore down the stretch in 2015.
The Angels selected Alan Busenitz in the late rounds of the 2013 draft and traded him to the Twins in the Ricky Nolasco deal three years later. Things haven't gone so well for Busenitz this year, but he was a reliable middle reliever last season, even pitching in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. Going from 25th round pick to the postseason roster is quite a ride.
The Marlins did a great job finding JT Riddle. He was a college second baseman who was good enough defensively to move to shortstop, and good glove middle infielders are usually selected much higher than the 13th round. Riddle hasn't hit much throughout his pro career, but the ability to play good defense all over the infield has value.
Yes, negative career WAR is bad, but Jose De Leon is worth mentioning because he developed into a top 100 prospect after the Dodgers selected him in the 24th round. De Leon topped out at No. 23 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list in 2016. Los Angeles traded him to the Rays for Logan Forsythe and De Leon is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Turning a 24th rounder into a top 100 prospect and trading him for an established big leaguer is a great, great outcome.
Jury still out
Even though players are getting to the big leagues and having an impact quicker than ever before, there are several 2013 draftees who are either still developing in the minors or just now getting their feet wet in the big leagues. These players aren't busts. They're still developing. Here are five 2013 draftees who are on the cusp of making a name for themselves.
It did not take J.P. Crawford long to establish himself as one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball. He steadily climbed the minor league ladder and made his debut last September before taking over as the Phillies' starting shortstop this year. Crawford is still trying to find his way at the MLB level, though he turned only 23 in January and has fewer than 50 big league games under his belt. Still plenty of time to figure it out.
Clint Frazier was the consensus top high school position player in the 2013 draft and the Indians grabbed him with the 5th overall pick. It was only the second time they picked in the top five since taking Paul Shuey second overall in 2002. Frazier has been a regular on top 100 prospect lists over the years and the Indians sent him to the Yankees as the headliner in the Andrew Miller trade two years ago. He made his MLB debut last summer and is currently in Triple-A biding his time until he can crack New York's stacked big league outfield.
Frazier and Austin Meadows played at rival high schools in Georgia and they were selected four picks apart in the 2013 draft. The Pirates drafted Meadows with the compensation pick they received for failing to sign No. 8 overall pick Mark Appel in 2012. Injuries have hampered his progress up the minor league leader, but Meadows has consistently been ranked as a top outfield prospect, and he reached the big leagues for the first time earlier this month.
Arguably the top first base prospect in the minors -- technically he's no longer a prospect because he exceeded the 130 at-bat rookie limit last year -- Dominic Smith has had some conditioning issues in pro ball, but he's never not hit. He made his MLB debut late last year, and even though it didn't go well, it appeared the Mets would give Smith the keys to the first base job this season. Instead, they added Adrian Gonzalez and are letting Smith refine his game in Triple-A.
I'm giving Kohl Stewart, the first high school player drafted in 2013, the benefit of the doubt here, because he's still active in pro ball, though it appears to be a long shot that he'll live up to the expectations associated with being the 4th overall pick in the draft. Stewart hasn't missed bats in pro ball (career 6.2 K/9) and he's struggled above Single-A call (5.31 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A. MLB.com still ranks him as the 18th best prospect in Minnesota's system though, and as long as he's active, he has a chance to contribute at the MLB level. Things aren't looking good right now though.
Inevitably, some high 2013 draft picks simply have not worked out. That's baseball. Here are some of the most notable busts from the 2013 draft class.
Time to get back to the Astros. They held the No. 1 pick in 2013 -- it was the second of their three consecutive No. 1 picks from 2012-14 -- and they were connected heavily to college starters. They decided to pass on Gray (and Bryant), and instead took Stanford righty Mark Appel, who spurned the Pirates as the No. 8 pick a year earlier.
Things went south for Appel almost immediately. He pitched to a 6.91 ERA in 83 1/3 minor innings in 2014 and a 4.37 ERA in 131 2/3 innings in 2015 as some mechanical tweaks implemented by the Astros didn't take. Appel had fantastic stuff and a quality build, but the whole was less than the some of the parts. He was included in the Ken Giles traded three years ago and didn't perform any better with the Phillies.
Josh Hamilton and Matt Bush -- Appel will be only the third No. 1 overall pick in MLB draft history to fail to reach the big leagues, joining Steve Chilcott (1966) and Brien Taylor (1991)., saying he was "pursuing other things, but also trying to become a healthy human." Barring a miraculous comeback -- a comeback is always possible, just look at
Billed as one of the top bats in the draft class, D.J. Peterson has had a hard time at the plate above Single-A ball -- he's a career .252/.315/.418 hitter in over 1,800 plate appearances at Double-A and Triple-A -- and is essentially a journeyman at this point. He went from the Mariners to the White Sox to the Reds on waivers late last year.
Chris Anderson certainly looked the part of a future rotation stalwart. He was a big, strong lefty with power stuff and a swing-and-miss slider, but he could never harness his command or develop a reliable changeup. The Dodgers released Anderson at the end of spring training last year, and he wound up with the Twins. Minnesota released him last May and he's been out of baseball since.
The ones who got away
As always, many players who were drafted in 2013 did not sign professional contracts. They opted to go to college -- or return to college, in some cases -- and re-enter the draft in future years. And, inevitably, some of the players who did not sign in 2013 went on to become top prospects in future years. Here are the biggest names who did not sign in 2013.
The Reds drafted the Cincinnati born and raised Andrew Benintendi out of high school in 2013 when he wasn't a highly regarded prospect. The consensus was he was better off going to college rather than jumping right into pro ball, and he did exactly that when he followed through on his commitment to Arkansas. Two years later Benintendi was one of the most dominant college players in the country and the 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft as a draft-eligible sophomore. He is currently one of the best young outfielders in the game with the Red Sox.
Phil Bickford has had an interesting career to date. Let's put it that way. He turned down the Blue Jays as the 10th overall pick in 2013, and, after one year at Cal State Fullerton, he transferred to the junior college in Nevada, allowing him to re-enter the draft a year early. The Giants selected Bickford with the 18th overall pick in 2015 and traded him to the Brewers in the Will Smith deal at the 2016 trade deadline. He was suspended 50 games last season after testing positive for a drug of abuse. Bickford was recently assigned to a minor league affiliate to begin his season, though reports are not good.
Wandered over to the Reds side of Goodyear. Phil Bickford sitting 83-85, topping out at 87. Can still spin it, though.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) May 22, 2018
The Blue Jays received the 11th overall pick in 2014 as compensation for failing to sign Bickford. They used it on catcher Max Pentecost, whose career has been derailed by injuries.
The Rays drafted Willie Calhoun out of high school in 2013, though it wasn't much of a surprise that he declined to sign. Like Bickford, he spent one year at a four-year school (Arizona) before transferring to a junior college, which allowed him to re-enter the draft a year early. The Dodgers selected him in the fourth round in 2015 and Calhoun emerged as one of the best pure hitters in the minors. Last year, the Dodgers used him as the centerpiece of a trade package to get Yu Darvish from the Rangers.
Toronto was unable to convince Lauer to turn pro out of high school, and during three seasons at Kent State, he developed into a first round prospect for the 2016 draft. The Padres selected him with the 25th overall pick in 2016 -- that was the compensation pick for losing Ian Kennedy to free agency -- and he is now in San Diego's rotation after making his big league debut last month. MLB history is littered with players who were drafted late, went to college, then came out as a first round pick three years later. Lauer's one of many.