Identifying Talent in The Draft: The Job of a MLB GM

In one of my first articles on our new site I discussed the unique nature of the MLB June Amateur Draft. In a period of 12 years following the turn of this century there were 17,925 players selected in the MLB Draft. Of those almost 18,000 players, approximately 66% percent of them signed with a major league club. Of the 66% percent that signed approximately 11% of them ever made it to the majors. Not were successful in the majors or became everyday players; MADE it to Major League Baseball.

Each year 30 different MLB GM’s are tasked with the responsibility of identifying as many players that will fit into this 11% as possible. In previous years they had the ability to potentially take more risks and/or possibly miss on some picks as they would be drafting players over 40 rounds. Based on this draft model and the previously mentioned findings, on average 4 to 5 players selected should make it onto their respective big league squads. Now say the draft is constricted to Rob Manfred’s proposal of 5 to 10 rounds this season and 20 rounds next year; that would mean that on average 1 to 2 player(s) per team from each of the next two drafts would make it to Major League Baseball.

Rob Manfred relied on former Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, for the “Houston Plan” to contract the MiLB and then had to suspend him for cheating.

Now Rob Manfred and a few genius GMs (Jeff Luhnow, David Stearns and Mike Elias) would have you believe that analytics have progressed to the point where players can safely be identified as being major league talents or minor league lifers without the use of the a formal system to help make these decisions and weed out the less talented players. This coming from the brain trust in Houston that has been accused of not properly calibrating their TrackMan data throughout the entire organization, especially in the minor league levels, which could result in faulty findings as it pertains to pitcher’s spin rates. This misinformation can easily be used to overrate a player in the trade market to the benefit of the team that is attempting to acquire more legitimate talent. Also if a team is going to these lengths to disguise the talent level of their pitchers, what could they be doing to make their hitters look better or worse? It’s a slippery slope once you start to go down that route.

I will agree that now, more than ever, there is an abundance of information from analytics, advanced scouting, expert assessments and amateur evaluations (including the ones I do myself) that can be utilized in the decision making process of choosing one player over another. However, does any of this actually improve the probability of making the correct decisions as to what players will successfully make it to the majors? I would ultimately have to say no. It is fun to look at and discuss the players that could productive major leaguers in the draft, but there are way too many other factors that go into a player reaching his full potential and/or projected future value. That is why it is always beneficial to play out actual games, at as many different levels as possible, to help make these determinations. A kid (and that’s what these players being drafted are, KIDS) could be a work out warrior, a big fish in a little pond or an injury waiting to happen because of overuse or just plain bad luck. No one knows for sure exactly what is going to happen with a player after they are drafted. So, it would be nice if some GM’s and the owners that they represent stopped pretending like they have some secret formula and admit that they are human just like the rest of us and that this actually all about one thing and one thing only…money.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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