MLB Draft Review: 2015-2018


David Seifert
Director of College Scouting

Which teams struck gold during the 2015-2018 drafts? Who found rocks?

The results of our examination of the 2015-2018 draft classes were quite fascinating. Similar to many other businesses, industry reputation can vary greatly from the actual results produced by an organization’s scouting and player development staff. Clubs like the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Angels may deserve more credit for their production. The Yankees, Twins and Cubs perhaps receive too much – at least based on the findings of this research. By way of example, the Yankees have drafted and developed only one player from their 2015-18 drafts who has produced a positive WAR. Just one. With that said, I can't emphasize enough that an organization’s amateur acquisition successes and failures are the product of a joint effort by scouting and player development. The weight of the results do not fall solely on one or the other. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken scraps, as they say, and poor player development can quickly spoil the promise of a young ballplayer.

Rather than taking a subjective approach to ranking organizational draft classes, we've decided to look back at some recent drafts through an analytical lens. We have ranked each team by the amount of WAR each draft has produced to this point. The "official" definition of WAR can be found here (WAR Defined). Loosely defined, it is an equalizing statistic that places an overall value derived from all areas of the game (offense, defense, base running, pitching) for both position players and pitchers. It is also adjusted by position, ballparks and over the periods of juiced and dead ball eras.

While each Major League organization utilizes its own proprietary calculation for WAR, there are two public outfits that each produce their own valuations -- Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com. For purposes of this exercise, we utilized the calculations provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

We will have team-by-team analyses later this week and into next.

NL Central- Jan 12
NL East- Jan 13
NL West- Jan 14

AL Central- Jan 19
AL East- Jan 20
AL West- Jan 21

RETURN ON INVESTMENTOur first ranking is a measure of how efficiently an organization has spent its bonus dollars. Anyone can just spend money on draft picks, but the best clubs scout efficiently and develop their prospects in a manner that allows them to fully leverage every last dollar spent to maximize return (production by the players at the Major League level).

It’s important to keep in mind that this is just one measure and does not necessarily reflect how well, overall, these teams have drafted. For example, some clubs have “hit” on just one player so far (Cubs- Ian Happ, Astros- Alex Bregman) and are living off mostly those returns. Others, like the Dodgers in 2016, seem to have hit on nearly every top pick. Still other clubs leaned towards prep selections in the early rounds and are still waiting for their development to pay off in terms of Major League contributions.

The below table calculates the total number of WAR for the players selected by each organization then displays the amount of draft dollars spent per 1 WAR. Note, this is a rate calculation based on what has been produced thus far from these draftees, so teams whose draftees have produced less than one WAR have a $/WAR well above the actual dollars paid out in bonuses. This table should be viewed as an indicator of how much money each organization spent in order to produce the same production value for these classes.

Rank Club $M / WAR Total WAR Total Bonuses ($M)
1 St Louis $920K 34.2 $31.62M
2 Houston $1.53M 28.0 $42.94
3 LA Dodgers $1.91 16.8 $32.05
4 Cleveland $2.10 16.4 $34.42
5 Boston $2.23 13.6 $30.26
6 LA Angels $2.66 11.7 $31.18
7 Toronto $3.56 9.1 $32.39
8 Arizona $3.65 9.7 $35.44
9 NY Mets $4.19 7.6 $31.83
10 Tampa Bay $4.61 9.0 $41.48
11 Chicago Cubs $4.79 6.1 $29.23
12 Atlanta $5.17 8.8 $45.49
13 San Francisco $5.82 6.1 $35.49
14 Milwaukee $7.05 5.6 $39.46
15 Washington $9.09 3.0 $27.27
16 Pittsburgh $9.31 4.0 $37.25
17 San Diego $9.59 4.8 $46.02
18 Texas $9.65 3.7 $35.72
19 Seattle $10.01 2.9 $29.02
20 Philadelphia $11.19 4.0 $44.77
21 Miami $11.56 3.1 $35.82
22 Chicago White Sox $11.59 3.2 $37.10
23 Baltimore $12.08 2.8 $33.83
24 Kansas City $13.17 2.9 $38.19
25 Oakland $14.59 2.8 $40.84
26 Detroit $16.26 2.3 $37.40
27 Cincinnati $28.57 1.8 $51.43
28 Colorado $28.68 1.4 $40.16
29 Minnesota $28.91 1.3 $37.59
30 NY Yankees $164.21 0.2 $32.84


TOTAL SIGNING BONUSES (2015-18)
Who had the picks and spent the cash? The below table lays out actual investment through draft bonuses. Because the current system has a soft cap in place for spending, and pool allotments distributed to each team are based on the picks available to each team, this should be viewed as an indicator of which teams had the greatest opportunity to leverage the draft from 2015 through 2018. In particular, Cincinnati and Philadelphia seem to let a huge opportunity slip away.

Rank Club Total Bonuses
1 Cincinnati $51.43
2 San Diego $46.02
3 Atlanta $45.49
4 Philadelphia $44.77
5 Houston $42.94
6 Tampa Bay $41.48
7 Oakland $40.84
8 Colorado $40.16
9 Milwaukee $39.46
10 Kansas City $38.19
11 Minnesota $37.59
12 Detroit $37.40
13 Pittsburgh $37.25
14 Chicago White Sox $37.10
15 Miami $35.82
16 Texas $35.72
17 San Francisco $35.49
18 Arizona $35.44
19 Cleveland $34.42
20 Baltimore $33.83
21 NY Yankees $32.84
22 Toronto $32.39
23 LA Dodgers $32.05
24 NY Mets $31.83
25 St Louis $31.62
26 LA Angels $31.18
27 Boston $30.26
28 Chicago Cubs $29.23
29 Seattle $29.02
30 Washington $27.27


TOTAL TEAM WAR (2015-18):
 Regardless of bonus money spent or draft slots for each team (picking towards the front or back of each round), which clubs have produced the most value from their draft picks to this point? The below table lays out the raw production from each club’s aggregate draft classes from 2015 through 2018. The Cardinals and the Dodgers lead the industry with top-tier production while consistently picking late in each round during every year of this study.

Rank Club Total WAR
1 St Louis 34.2
2 Houston 28.0
3 LA Dodgers 16.8
4 Cleveland 16.4
5 Boston 13.6
6 LA Angels 11.7
7 Arizona 9.7
8 Toronto 9.1
9 Tampa Bay 9.0
10 Atlanta 8.8
11 NY Mets 7.6
12 San Francisco 6.1
13 Chicago Cubs 6.1
14 Milwaukee 5.6
15 San Diego 4.8
16 Philadelphia 4.0
17 Pittsburgh 4.0
18 Texas 3.7
19 Chicago White Sox 3.2
20 Miami 3.1
21 Washington 3.0
22 Kansas City 2.9
23 Seattle 2.9
24 Oakland 2.8
25 Baltimore 2.8
26 Detroit 2.3
27 Cincinnati 1.8
28 Colorado 1.4
29 Minnesota 1.3
30 NY Yankees 0.2


MOST MAJOR LEAGUERS
Similar to Total Team WAR in the table directly above, the below table focuses on raw counting stats separated from dollars spent or number of picks allotted to the applicable clubs (and whether those picks were in the front or back of each draft round). In this case, we tally the total number of draftees from the 2015 through 2018 draft classes that have reached the Major Leagues to this point. Seattle and Washington lead the industry in total numbers, however the on-field production of those players has been slim: Washington 3.0 total WAR. Seattle 2.9. On the other end, Toronto has produced just five MLers, but those five have accumulated 9.1 total WAR.

Rank Club Total MLers
1 Washington 16
1 Seattle 16
3 Houston 15
3 LA Dodgers 15
5 St Louis 13
5 Boston 13
5 San Diego 13
5 Pittsburgh 13
5 Chicago White Sox 13
10 Atlanta 12
11 Detroit 11
12 Arizona 10
12 Texas 10
12 NY Yankees 10
15 Tampa Bay 9
15 Kansas City 9
15 Colorado 9
15 Minnesota 9
19 Cleveland 8
19 LA Angels 8
19 San Francisco 8
19 Philadelphia 8
19 Miami 8
19 Oakland 8
25 Baltimore 7
26 NY Mets 6
26 Milwaukee 6
26 Cincinnati 6
29 Toronto 5
29 Chicago Cubs 5



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