On Busted Draft Picks

This may well be a broken record, or at the very least a less-well-phrased version of what someone else already said. Nonetheless, I'm going there. In discussing amateur baseball talent, people like to say (correctly, I may add) that draft picks tend to bust out. In real life (as opposed to baseball), it's really difficult to tell if an 18 year old will be a sensation at their chosen field of endeavor. In any field, things happen, good and bad, requiring adjustments. When the field requires a set of yet-unrefined skills such as baseball, it's possibly more difficult. Without a question, many baseball prospects fail to produce at the big league level.

One of the difficulties of judging whether a pro baseball player 'busted out' is the lack of an accepted standard. Dwight Gooden won 194 games, had a career WAR of 45, and people will still say he was a disappointment. His teammate in two leagues of New York baseball Darryl Strawberry had a WAR of 39.2, and some think he whiffed. So, yeah, it's tough 'defining' 'Busting Out'. The earlier you draft a player, the more you pay him in a bonus, that will generally up the expectation ante. Which is horribly unfair from a person like me with hand/eye co-ordination so bad that I wouldn't have made a freshman high school team. But I digress.

Most of this ties in with the re-build. Some people want to, right-now-today sign the best available free agents. After all, we have the money under the budget. Probably we do, but Theo's plan may well not include putting a team on the field for 2013 that will win in the neighborhood of 77 games. Theo has a long-term plan that he's going to stick to. I have no idea what it is, but that isn't this Post's subject matter. Prospects are.

When a 5 Star 5 tool kid is crushing high school pitching, it's usually low-to-mid 80's gas on a good day. The secondary stuff may well be being tipped off by delivery kinks. When an All-Stater hits 20 homers in a career, or a season, it's doubtful many were hit off of representative pitching.

With pitchers, a low-90's fastball will embarrass most hitters. There's not much need in working on a nasty curve ball that may be more difficult to control, when 90 % gas gets it done so well. Even a stud with a 75 FB on the 20/80 scale will likely get pounded in the lower minors until the other pitches advance.

When a scout is checking out a player for draft status, there is oh-so-much that could go wrong. And, in the Cubs case, has gone wrong. With regularity. Since our 'draft-pick-to-the-majors' plan has been so flawed, it's easy to understand much of the cynicism. Depending on the scout's skill, the player's skill, dedication, ability to stay healthy, his coaches and trainers along the way, and other factors, there is a wide range of likelihood to not reach the fanbase's often-times unrealistic expectations.

In the past a ways, it really seemed the Cubs would take 'one or two' legitimate sized bonuses per season. No, I don't have numbers on that but they were among the bottom few in bonus money paid out most years. The other guys tended to be of the 'easy signing' variety. The coaching and technology were below the average, or so the sayings go. What it appears is that poorly scouted and poorly developed talent developed poorly, so why should we ever trust kids?


I'm not sure what the 'wash-out' level is in baseball. There would probably be a percentage for guys that never reach AAA, guys that never reach 5 WAR, and the ones that do fairly well (except for Gooden and Strawberry, who were 100 WAR or bust). Where the player is drafted, how well he is 'coached-up', how healthy he remains, and other categories determine which sector they fall in.

I will be the first to admit that, until I have seen early round picks Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Ryan McNeill, and Anthony Prieto pitch (which I haven't), I will have no idea on them. (I have some knowledge of Josh Conway, as I heard him pitch some in college. And I've Tweeted with him.) If two of those four hit the 5.0 WAR mark, 2011's will have been a monster draft. So why with those long odds does a probability fan like the draft so much?

On the probabilities.

The guys Team Theo has drafted that I have seen have tended toward impressive. Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson have exceeded my expectations. Sheldon McDonald was much better in 2012 under their tutelage. That could be co-incidence. Or not. Peoria drew far more walks in 2012 than 2011 (when they were last in the league), and Zeke DeVoss led the league in drawing walks.

Some people will remain 'show me' on prospects until they see the fruits. Fair enough. Through the years, though, many veteran free agents have failed to pan out. This is a different voyage that Theo's posse are taking us on. He really believes in developing from within. When we get to the point where 15 or 16 of our 25 man roster are quality homegrown, the amount we will be able to spend on the remaining spots will be jumped up significantly.

Probably nothing here is 'new news'. I was waiting for the mail to arrive and wanted to chatter some on the reason people who support the new regime see reason to expect more from the system under the new regime. It isn't because we expect all or even most of the Top Twenty Prospects to be superstars. The reason for the hope is because we have numerous players who represent middle-of-the-order bats. We also have some quality potential arms. Even as some or most 'wash out', we will still have some that are quality big leaguers. 'Trading for prospects' is more entertaining now than under previous administrations.

And, sad to say, we have a front office that is more committed to success in 2015 and beyond than they are to winning 78 games in 2013.

Sad to say, for fans who expect to compete for the NLC title this season. Theo still probably prefers the probability of the second or third pick every round to the probability with the tenth pick Especially when the rebuild is still not quite completed.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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