MLB Draft Review: NL West


David Seifert
Director of College Scouting


Rather than taking a subjective approach to ranking organizational draft classes, we will look back through an analytical lens using WAR. The "official" definition of WAR can be found here -- WAR Defined --, but loosely defined, it is an equalizing statistic that places an overall value on a player. It is 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.

NOTES: A negative WAR for any individual is not used to calculate a team's total WAR. For any individual who has a WAR of less than zero, 0.0 is used.

Return on Investment (ROI) measures 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).

Continuing with the NL West, it's been no contest with Dodger Blue domination, but strong results from the D'Backs, Giants and Padres have kept it close. Here's a look at how the 2015-2018 draft classes are shaping.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (Scouting Director Deric Ladnier 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round  1st Overall Dansby Swanson. Career WAR: 8.8
Individual WAR Leader: Swanson
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 10.2
MLers to Date: 4 (Swanson, Alex YoungTaylor ClarkeRyan Burr)
Signing Bonuses: $12.27M

2016: 1st Round, 39th Overall. Anfernee Grier. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Riley Smith. 24th Round. Career WAR: 0.1
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.1
MLers to Date: 4 (Jon DuplantierColin PocheKevin Ginkel, Smith)
Signing Bonuses: $6.12M

2017: 1st Round, 7th Overall Pavin Smith. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Daulton Varsho. 2nd Round. Career WAR: 1.8
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 2.3
MLers to Date: 4 (Smith, Drew Ellis, Varsho, Matt Peacock)
Signing Bonuses: $11.28M

2018: 1st Round, 25th Overall Matt McLain. Did Not Sign
                                 39th Overall Jake McCarthy. Career WAR: 0.4
Individual WAR Leader: McCarthy
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.4
MLers to Date: 1 (McCarthy)
Signing Bonuses: $5.77M

2015-18 TOTALS   WAR:  13.0   MLers: 13    BONUSES: $35.44M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $2.73M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The D-Backs sit solidly in the middle of the NL West and MLB with a $2.73M ROI, thanks mostly to the production of the 1st overall pick in 2015, SS Dansby Swanson. However, Swanson has accumulated 100% of his career WAR in a Braves' uniform. The development of the Desert Rattlers' top two picks in 2016 (OF Anfernee Grier and C Andy Yerzy) has not gone as hoped; Grier has already been released and Yerzy is a career .236 hitter with limited value behind the plate. The rest of this draft class looks empty with four replacement level relievers as the only picks who have reached the Major Leagues to date. Two of the D-Backs top three picks from the 2017 draft debuted in 2020 -- 1st round 1B Pavin Smith posted solid numbers in limited at-bats, while 3rd rounder C/OF Daulton Varsho struggled with a .188 batting average. However, Varsho rebounded with a 1.7 WAR for the 2021 season, giving him the second best career WAR total behind Swanson. The third top pick from 2017, 2nd round 3B Drew Ellis debuted in 2021, but struggled to make hard contact, finishing with nine hits in 69 at-bats. While not signing their top pick of 2018 (Matt McLain), Arizona looks to have made up for it with the astute pick of OF Alek Thomas in the 2nd round. Thomas (video below) is currently ranked as the No. 40 ranked prospect in MLB.

 

COLORADO ROCKIES (Scouting Director Bill Schmidt 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 3rd Overall Brendan Rodgers. Career WAR: 0.4
Individual WAR Leader: Sam Hilliard. 16th Round. Career WAR: 1.3
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.8
MLers to Date: 5 (Rodgers, Tyler Nevin, Peter LambertJustin Lawrence, Hilliard)
Signing Bonuses: $14.42M

2016: 1st Round, 4th Overall. Riley Pint. Career WAR 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Garrett Hampson. 3rd Round. WAR 1.3
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.6
MLers to Date: 6 (Ben Bowden, Hampson, Colton WelkerBryan Baker, JD HammerRico Garcia)
Signing Bonuses: $11.65M

2017: 1st Round, NO PICK
Individual WAR Leader: Lucas Gilbreath. 9th Round. WAR 0.9
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.9
MLers to Date: 4 (Ryan ViladeTommy Doyle, Gilbreath, Alan Trejo)
Signing Bonuses: $5.54M

2018: 1st Round, 22nd Overall. Ryan Rolison. Career WAR 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Ryan Feltner. 4th Round. Career WAR -0.4
2018 Draft Totals: 0.0*
MLers to Date: 1 (Feltner)
Signing Bonuses: $8.55M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 4.3   MLers: 16   BONUSES: $40.16M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $9.34M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: It hasn't been pretty with draft & development for the Rocks. They've spent a lot of gold from 2015-2016 ($26M+) and $40+M during this four-year analysis, yet have very little current MLB production to show for it. 2015 16th round OF Sam Hilliard and 2016 3rd round UTL Garrett Hampson have each returned 1.3 WAR which when combined is just over 60% and Colorado's total WAR. The good news: In 2021 Colorado saw nine more picks from its 2015-2018 draft classes reach the Major Leagues, while 2015 1st round INF Brendan Rodgers put together a fine season, batting .284 with 15 HR and a 1.4 WAR during his first full season in the Big Leagues. Rodgers could well be on his way to attaining the expectations that made him the 3rd overall selection in 2015. Also filling the production void for the Rocks could be their lone Top 100 MLB Prospect from these drafts in 2018 1st rounder Ryan Rolison. The left-handed starter currently ranks as the 95th prospect in MLB. And more good news, 2017 top pick Ryan Vilade and 2016 4th rounder Colton Welker both made their MLB debut in 2021, as did lefty reliever Lucas Gilbreath, who posted a 0.9 WAR in 47 relief appearances. The Rocks may be at the bottom of the ROI mountain for the time being, but their draft & development system looks to have some golden days on the horizon.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS
 (Scouting Director Billy Gasparino 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 24th Overall. Walker Buehler. Career WAR 12.5
Individual WAR Leader: Buehler
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 12.9
MLers to Date: 6 (Buehler, Josh SborzWillie CalhounEdwin RiosMatt Beaty, Kyle Garlick)
Signing Bonuses: $7.36M

2016: 1st Round, 20th Overall. Gavin Lux. Career WAR: 2.8
Individual WAR Leader: Will Smith. 2nd Round. Career WAR: 6.6
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 16.9
MLers to Date: 12 (Lux, Smith, Jordan SheffieldMitch White, Dustin MayDJ PetersDevin SmeltzerAndre ScrubbTony GonsolinAJ AlexyDean KremerZach McKinstry)
Signing Bonuses: $11.27M

2017: 1st Round, 23rd Overall. Jeren Kendall. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Connor Wong. 3rd Round. Career WAR: 0.3
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.6
MLers to Date: 5 (Wong, Zach PopZach ReksAndre JacksonBrett de Geus)
Signing Bonuses: $8.27M

2018: 1st Round, 30th Overall. JT Ginn. Did Not Sign
Individual WAR Leader: N/A 
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 0
Signing Bonuses: $5.14M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 30.4    MLers: 23   BONUSES: $32.06M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $1.05M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The Dodgers hit early and often in 2015 and it doesn’t get much better than RHP Walker Buehler, a franchise talent who has already accumulated a 12.5 WAR in his short ML career. The bonanza continued in 2016 with 12 picks who have already seen time in the Big Leagues, including out-scouting the industry with the picks of SS Gavin Lux (video below) and C Will Smith. Both talents were selected in a round earlier than the industry consensus. The Dodger Blue then added RHP Dustin May as an over slot prep in the 3rd round. All three have the potential to become impact talents. However, the 2017 and 2018 drafts don't look as rosy. First round OF Jeren Kendall has been a bust and they failed to sign their top selection in 2018, RHP JT Ginn. Despite those setbacks, the Dodgers have shown they can draft & develop as well as anyone in the game. Their already stellar $1.05M ROI is likely to further improve and eventually challenge the Cardinals for the best in the game.


SAN DIEGO PADRES 
(Scouting Director Mark Conner 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, NO PICK
Individual WAR Leader: Ty France, 34th Round. WAR 5.0
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 5.0
MLers to Date: 7 (Jacob Nix, Austin Allen, Trevor Megill, Brett Kennedy, Trey Wingenter, Phil Maton, France)
Signing Bonuses: $4.89M

2016: 1st Round, 8th Overall Cal Quantrill. Career WAR: 4.9
                                 24th Overall Hudson Potts. Career WAR: 0.0
                                 25th Overall Eric Lauer. Career WAR: 2.5
Individual WAR Leader: Quantrill. Career WAR: 4.9
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 11.8
MLers to Date: 5 (Quantrill, Lauer, Mason ThompsonJoey LucchesiDavid Bednar)
Signing Bonuses: $14.87M

2017: 1st Round, 3rd Overall MacKenzie Gore. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Luis Campusano, 2nd Round. WAR: -0.4
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0*
MLers to Date: 2 (Campusano, Nick Margevicius)
Signing Bonuses: $13.70M

2018: 1st Round, 7th Overall Ryan Weathers. Career WAR: -0.3
Individual WAR Leader: Dylan Coleman. 4th Round. Career WAR: 0.2
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.2
MLers to Date: 4 (Weathers, Owen Miller, Coleman, Reiss Knehr)
Signing Bonuses: $12.57M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 17.0   MLers: 18   BONUSES: $46.02M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $2.71M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: Despite not having a 1st round pick, the Pads have six selections from 2015 in the Big Leagues while spending “only” $4.9M. The traded Ty France is the headliner of this draft class, posting a 4.3 WAR with a .291 average and 18 HR for Seattle in 2021. As a 34th round pick he's also a great example of why clubs should scout and sign the entire draft, not just focus on the top five rounds. The Friars had several extra picks in 2016 and the pool of cash that accompanies them, spending nearly $15M in bonuses. First round RHP Cal Quantrill was selected while recovering from TJ surgery and flourished in 2021 with a 3.9 WAR during his third season in the Show. The second of three 1st round picks that year, INF Hudson Potts, was over drafted and signed for below slot at $1M, freeing up the cash to sign 3rd round RHP Mason Thompson who made 31 appearances out of the Padre pen last summer. San Diego's third 1st round pick, LHP Eric Lauer, was viewed as a high floor college lefty and thus far has put together that type of ML career as a backend starter, accumulating a 2.5 career WAR to date. Also in 2016, another lefty Joey Lucchesi, was a shrewd money-saver 4th round pick as an under scouted, 23-year old senior from SEMO. The 2017 selection of LHP MacKenzie Gore was considered a good one at the time and still looks to be as he’s risen to the No. 56 ranked prospect in MLB. 2017 2nd round C Luis Campusano made his MLB debut in 2020 and he checks in at No. 37 overall in the Top 100 prospect rankings. And the draft riches don't stop there. 2018 also looks like a banner year for the Pads with 1st round prep pick Ryan Weathers making his ML debut during Game 1 of the 2020 NLDS and posting 18 more starts on the bump in 2021. Overall, the Pads have had the cash (2nd in total bonus pool from 2015-2018) and they've developed their picks remarkably well to this point.

It's also interesting to note that in the 2016 draft the Padres selected, but did not sign, three future 1st rounders in OF Hunter Bishop (24th Round), LHP Ryan Rolison (37th Round) and OF JJ Bleday (39th Round), as well as future 2nd rounder Grae Kessinger in the 26th round.


SAN FRANCISO GIANTS
 (Scouting Director John Barr 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 18th Overall Phil Bickford. Career WAR: 1.0
                                        31st Overall Chris Shaw. Career WAR: -0.9
Individual WAR Leader: Steven Duggar, 6th Round. WAR: 2.6
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 3.6
MLers to Date: 4 (Bickford, Shaw, Andrew Suarez, Duggar)
Signing Bonuses: $8.87M

2016: 1st Round, NO PICK
Individual WAR Leader: Bryan Reynolds, 2nd Round. WAR: 10.6
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 11.5
MLers to Date: 3 (Reynolds, Caleb BaragarConner Menez)
Signing Bonuses: $4.83M

2017: 1st Round, 19th Overall Heliot Ramos. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A 
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 0
Signing Bonuses: $7.87M

2018: 1st Round, 2nd Overall Joey Bart. Career WAR: 0.3
Individual WAR Leader: Bart
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.3
MLers to Date: 1 (Bart)
Signing Bonuses: $13.94M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 15.4   MLers: 8   BONUSES: $35.49M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $2.30M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The Giants haven’t produced much return to date, other than that by 2016 2nd rounder Bryan Reynolds who has produced 69% of the team's total WAR. 2017 1st rounder Heliot Ramos ranks as the No. 80 prospect in MLB in 2021, but has fallen from No. 60 just a year ago. Fellow 2017 selection, 3rd round LHP Seth Corry, previously ranked No. 96 in 2020, but has fallen out of the Top 100 after walking 63 batters in 67.2 IP in high-A this past season. The crown jewel of their 2018 draft, 2nd overall pick C Joey Bart, offers promise. He debuted in 2020, posting a 0.3 WAR in 33 games, but spent most of 2021 in Triple-A. Otherwise, little has emerged in the farm system from the 2015-18 drafts to this point.

Overall, the Giants added zero Major Leaguers to their totals during the 2021 season and sit near the bottom of MLB with a total of just eight. An area of concern for the Giants is their recent failed attempts to select and sign contributing future Major Leaguers in the later rounds (11+). Maybe it's just the smaller sample size of four years of draft classes, but it is noteworthy for a club that once picked Matt Duffy (9.3 career WAR) in the 18th round of 2012.

 

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