MLB Draft Review: AL East


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 AL East, here's an analytical look at how the 2015-2018 draft classes are shaping up. Boston continues to lead the division, but Tampa and Toronto have closed the gap while Baltimore makes some strides.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (Scouting Director Gary Rajsich 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 25th Overall DJ Stewart. Career WAR: 0.5
                                      36th Overall Ryan Mountcastle. Career WAR: 1.7
Individual WAR Leader: Cedric Mullins. 13th Round. Career WAR: 5.4
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 7.7
MLers to Date: 7 (Stewart, Mountcastle, Garrett Cleavinger, Ryan McKenna, Jay FlassRyan Meisinger, Mullins)
Signing Bonuses: $7.03M

2016: 1st Round, 27th Overall. Cody Sedlock. Career WAR 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Austin Hays, 3rd Round. WAR: 4.2
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 4.2
MLers to Date: 2 (Keegan Akin, Hays)
Signing Bonuses: $8.21M

2017: 1st Round, 21st Overall. DL Hall. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 2 (Zac LowtherMike Baumann)
Signing Bonuses: $8.18M

2018: 1st Round, 11th Overall. Grayson Rodriguez. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 0
Signing Bonuses: $10.41M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 11.9   MLers: 11   BONUSES: $33.83M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $2.84M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The O’s continued to improve their ROI in 2021 much from the performance of 2015 4th round OF Austin Hays who has produced 4.2 of their total 11.9 WAR. Yet, the real story out of Camden was made by their 2015 13th rounder Cedric Mullins. After abandoning switch-hitting and going exclusively lefty, the All-Star center fielder batted .291/.360/.518 with 37 doubles, five triples, 30 homers, 30 steals, 91 runs and 59 RBIs in 2021. He became the first Oriole ever with 30 or more homers and stolen bases in one season. His career 5.4 WAR is the organization's best. The future is also bright with Ryan Mountcastle (selected 36th overall in 2015) who belted 33 home runs in 2021. However, it hasn't been all roses in the Charm City. The Orioles have only produced 0.5 WAR collectively from their top picks (DJ Stewart- 2015, Cody Sedlock- 2016, DL Hall- 2017, Grayson Rodriguez- 2018).


BOSTON RED SOX
 (Scouting Director Mike Rikard 2015-2018)
2015: 1st Round, 7th Overall Andrew Benintendi. Career WAR: 12.5
Individual WAR Leader: Benintendi
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 14.0
MLers to Date: 6 (Benintendi, Travis LakinsBen TaylorLogan AllenBobby PoynerTrevor Kelley)
Signing Bonuses: $7.60M

2016: 1st Round, 12th Overall Jay Groome. Career WAR 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Santiago Espinal. 10th Round. Career WAR: 2.8
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 3.6
MLers to Date: 6 (Shaun AndersonBobby DalbecMike ShawarynStephen Nogosek, Espinal, Kyle Hart)
Signing Bonuses: $7.95M

2017: 1st Round, 24th Overall. Tanner Houck. Career WAR: 2.9
Individual WAR Leader: Houck
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 2.9
MLers to Date: 2 (Houck, Cutter Crawford)
Signing Bonuses: $7.47M

2018: 1st Round, 26th Overall. Triston Casas. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 1 (Jarren Duran)
Signing Bonuses: $7.25M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 20.5   MLers: 15   BONUSES: $30.26M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $1.48M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The Sox struck it rich with 1st rounder Andrew Benintendi in 2015. He has produced 61% of their total WAR to date. Currently, their 2017 draft looks solid as well with Tanner Houck off to a strong start with a 1.3 WAR during his 2020 MLB debut season, then adding a 1.6 WAR in 2021. The Sawx next best total has been produced by 2016 10th rounder Santiago Espinal (2.8 career WAR), but all of that production has come as a Toronto Blue Jay. 2016 4th rounder Bobby Dalbec produced more positive results in the Big Leagues in 2021 with 25 home runs. The slugger continues to discredit some front office analytical predictions based upon his college strikeout rate during his draft year. Boston's 2018 draft also looks strong with 1st rounder Tristan Casas making his way to Triple-A this past season. The left-handed slugger is currently ranked as the No. 18 prospect in MLB. Overall, the BoSox four-year ROI is filled with current ML production and a high likelihood to remain as one of the best in baseball.


NEW YORK YANKEES
 (Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 16th Overall James Kaprielian. Career WAR: 1.3
Individual WAR Leader: Kaprielian
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.4
MLers to Date: 6 (Kaprielian, Chance AdamsJosh RogersTrey AmbergeyBrady Koerner, Cody Carroll)
Signing Bonuses: $9.44M

2016: 1st Round, 18th Overall Blake Rutherford. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Tyler Widener. 12th Round. WAR: 0.9
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.7
MLers to Date: 5 (Nick Solak, Nick Nelson, Brooks Kriske, Widener, Phillip Diehl)
Signing Bonuses: $7.12M

2017: 1st Round, 16th Overall Clarke Schmidt. Career WAR: -0.4
Individual WAR Leader: Garrett Whitlock. 18th Round. Career WAR: 3.0
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 3.5
MLers to Date: 5 (Schmidt, Trevor StephanGlenn Otto, Whitlock, Janson Junk)
Signing Bonuses: $8.13M

2018: 1st Round, 23rd Overall Anthony Seigler. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A 
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 0
Signing Bonuses: $8.15M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 6.6   MLers: 16   BONUSES: $32.84M 

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $4.97M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The 2021 season was a huge turnaround for the Yankees. Entering the year, their 2015-2018 drafts had produced just one player with a positive WAR out of their ten total Major Leaguers. Now totaling 16 with an organization WAR of 6.6 (up from 0.2 at this time last year), the Yanks have dug themselves out of the ROI basement. The first boost (1.4 WAR) came via the arm of 2015 1st round RHP James Kaprelian who won eight games for the Oakland A's. Another small boost (1.0 WAR) was made by 2016 2nd rounder Nick Solak. His production came as a member of the Texas Rangers. And the biggest boost to the Yanks ROI came courtesy of their chief rival Red Sox who developed 2017 18th rounder Garrett Whitlock after selecting him in the December 2020 Rule V Draft. The right-handed pitcher produced an amazing 3.0 WAR out of the bullpen in 2021. Amazingly, 100% of the Yankees 6.6 total WAR has been produced for other organizations.


TAMPA BAY RAYS 
(Scouting Director RJ Harrison 2015, Rob Metzler 2016-18)
2015: 1st Round, 13th Overall Garrett Whitley. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Brandon Lowe, 3rd Round. WAR: 10.8
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 17.3
MLers to Date: 4 (Lowe, Joe McCarthy, Jake Cronenworth, Ian Gibaut)
Signing Bonuses: $7.95M

2016: 1st Round, 13th Overall Josh Lowe. Career WAR: 0.1
Individual WAR Leader: Nate Lowe, 13th Round. WAR: 3.1
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 4.0
MLers to Date: 4 (J Lowe, N Lowe, Jake FraleySammy Long)
Signing Bonuses: $7.77M

2017: 1st Round, 4th Overall Brendan McKay. Career WAR: -0.1
Individual WAR Leader: Taylor Walls. 3rd Round. WAR: 1.5
2017 Draft Total: WAR: 1.6
MLers to Date: 5 (McKay, Walls, Josh FlemingRiley O'BrienPaul Campbell)
Signing Bonuses: $11.99M

2018: 1st Round, 4th Overall Matthew Liberatore. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Shane McClanahan 1st Round Supp. WAR: 1.5
2018 Draft Total: WAR: 1.8
MLers to Date: 2 (McClanahan, Joe Ryan)
Signing Bonuses: $13.78M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 24.7   MLers: 15   BONUSES: $41.48M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $1.68M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: The Rays ROI continues to improve from spending $4.6M to produce 1.0 WAR at this time last year to the current $1.68M per 1.0. And this trend should continue well into the future with the Lowe's and 2015 7th rounder Jake Croneworth (Rays draft, Padres Major Leaguer) leading the way. Currently, Brandon Lowe has produced 44% of the Rays total WAR, but that should continue to drop (64% of the total at this time last year) with a pair of 2018 1st round lefties Matthew Liberatore and Shane McClanahan. Liberatore was traded to the Cardinals where he has continued to develop into MLB's current No. 47 prospect. As a 21 year-old in Double-A last summer he pitched 124 innings over 22 games, while posting a 4.04 ERA. 2018 1st round supplemental pick McClanahan made his MLB debut in 2021, winning 10 games in 25 starts while accumulating a 1.5 WAR. In addition to Brandon, a couple other Lowe's have started to make an impact in the Major Leagues. The 13th overall pick in 2016, Josh Lowe, received a well-deserved Big League cup of coffee in 2021 after tearing through Triple-A with a .291/.381/.535 slash to go along with 26 stolen bases in 26 attempts. Fellow 2016 draftee and older brother to Josh, 13th rounder Nate Lowe, currently leads that draft class with a career 3.1 WAR after producing 2.4 of it for the Texas Rangers this past summer. Overall, the small market Rays continue to do what they do; draft & develop productive Big Leaguers while remaining competitive per annum in the high rent AL East.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
 (Scouting Director Brian Parker 2015-16, Steve Sanders 2017-18)
2015: 1st Round, 29th Overall Jon Harris. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Travis Bergen, 7th Round. WAR: 0.6
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.7
MLers to Date: 2 (Bergen, Tyler Saucedo)
Signing Bonuses Total: $4.85M

2016: 1st Round, 21st Overall TJ Zeuch. Career WAR: 0.2
Individual WAR Leader: Bo Bichette. 2nd Round. WAR: 9.3
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 15.1
MLers to Date: 5 (Zeuch, Bichette, Josh PalaciosCavan BiggioKirby Sneed)
Signing Bonuses: $7.87M

2017: 1st Round, 22nd Overall Logan Warmouth. Career WAR: 0.0
                                       28th Overall Nate Pearson. Career WAR: -0.1
Individual WAR Leader: Riley Adams. 3rd Round. Career WAR: 0.5
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.6
MLers to Date: 4 (Pearson, Adams, Kevin SmithTy Tice)
Signing Bonuses: $9.78M

2018: 1st Round  12th Overall Jordan Groshans. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Nick Allgeyer. 12th Round. Career WAR: 0.0
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 1 (Allgeyer)
Signing Bonuses: $9.89M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 16.4   MLers: 12   BONUSES: $32.39M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $1.98M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY: When the Jays did not sign their 2nd round pick from 2015 (Brady Singer) it was just the start of what now looks like a lost draft. With only two Major Leaguers produced to date and 1st round RHP Jon Harris still trying to figure it out in the minor leagues, 2015 wasn't a good draft year for Toronto. However, the Jays turned things around in a big way with a potential franchise changing draft in 2016 with the selections of Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. With a new Scouting Director and strategy in 2017 the jury is no longer out on their top pick Logan Warmouth. He's a career .247 hitter in the minor leagues with little pop (15 home runs in nearly 1200 MiLB at-bats). The 100+ mph heater of their second 1st round pick, RHP Nate Pearson, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2020, then added another 14 games to his Big League resume in 2021. Two-way prep, C/P Hagen Danner, was the Jays third pick in 2017. After three seasons behind the dish and at the plate (.191 career MiLB batting average), Danner is now a P.O., taking the bump for 25 appearances in High-A last summer. Overall, the 2017 draft is not looking too strong, but there is likely good news ahead from the 2018 draft class, highlighted by 1st rounder Jordan Groshans. The SS/3B ranks as the No. 55 prospect in MLB after a strong start to his pro career, reaching Double-A in his age 21 season.


 

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