Battle of the GM’s – Draft Edition Part Two

Last week I posted an entry that compared the first round draft choices by each of Toronto’s three GM’s.  You can read it here.  As always, I rely on my readers to do two things: correct me when I’m wrong (as I was with Chad Jenkins) and give me ideas for future columns.  Well, not long after posting it an email came in to the 500 Level Fan headquarters at fivehundredlevelfan@gmail.com asking if I could possibly expand my analysis to the ENTIRE draft and not just the first round.

Well my friends, ask you and shall receive.

Instead of doing actual work at my day job, I spent a few hours gathering data about each Toronto Blue Jay draft pick from 1977, first round through last.  With a similar premise to last week’s article, my end goal was to determine which of Toronto’s past general managers has set the bar that Alex Anthopoulos has to match.  Again – like last week I looked at each pick and split them into categories, but this time only two: 1 – did the player make the majors? and 2 – was he a “successful” major league player.  As always, with any of these so called studies I have to clarify a few points:

– My definition of “successful” major leaguer is admittedly flawed.  I based it partially in statistics and partially in opinion.  Feel free to disagree or argue.

– Like last week’s post, it is still too early to form a definitive judgment on JP Ricciardi as a lot of his picks are still working (or trying to work) their way up the minor league system.

– I only counted players that were signed out of the draft as players who made the majors.  For instance, the Jays drafted Jim Abbott in 1985, Scott Erickson in 1988, and Ryan Franklin in 1991 but none signed with the club.  All went back into the draft and were selected by other teams in future years.

– Though the final comparison will be based on percentages (of major leaguers and successful picks) it is important to clarify that the draft was much different in Pat Gillick’s years.  While Gord Ash and JP Ricciardi had about 50 picks (roughly) in each draft, the number of rounds ranged wildly for Gillick, from 16 in 1977 to 76 in 1989.  Obviously it is much more difficult to draft a major league player in the 76th round than the 36th.

Now that the ground rules have been stated, on to the results.

Pat Gillick (1977 – 1994)

Draft Stats: 790 player selections, 124 made the major leagues (15.7%), 22 were successful (2.8%)

Looking at the table above, you can see that most of Gillick’s success came early in the draft.  Only three of his picks in round 10 or later had solid careers – Woody Williams, Jeff Kent, and Alex Gonzalez.  Overall, that is a pretty impressive list, especially when you consider how many of those players formed a core part of division title winning teams (Barfield, Moseby, Stieb, Key) and how many were huge in the World Series years (Key, Borders, Hentgen, Sprague, Olerud).

Gord Ash (1995 – 2001)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 36 made the major leagues (9.5%), 10 were successful (2.6%)

Similar to Pat Gillick, most of Ash’s good selections came early in the draft.  He did strike gold however with O-Dog in the 43rd round, an astounding 1,280th overall.  What is also notable, however, is that four of the selections on the table above had the bulk of their success with franchises other than Toronto.  Casey Blake, Michael Young, Felipe Lopez, and Brandon Lyon all had successful seasons for various clubs, with Lopez and Young each making all star game appearances.  While Ash had a similar percentage of players enjoying big league success, less than 10% of his picks even made the major leagues, far below the number that Gillick posted.

JP Ricciardi (2002 – 2009)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 25 have made the major leagues so far (6.6%), 5 have been successful (1.3%)

To this point, Ricciardi hasn’t had a lot of success in the later rounds of the draft.  But as said earlier, many of his picks are still making their way up the ranks.  In addition, several other players on top of the above list have played for the Blue Jays over the past few years, including David Purcey (1st round, 16th overall in 2004), Casey Janssen (4th round, 117th overall in 2004), Jessie Litsch (24th round, 717th overall in 2004), Brett Cecil (1st round, 38th overall in 2007), and Marc Rzepczynski (5th round, 175th overall in 2007).  Time will tell whether or not those players, and the others not mentioned (JP Arencibia, Kevin Ahrens, David Cooper among others) will have successful careers.

But one thing does stand out, as it did after last week’s first round analysis.  Pat Gillick earned a reputation as one of the greatest GM’s in recent times, and both of these studies back that up.  With over 15% of his draft choices making it to the top level of professional baseball, he definitely has a shrewd eye for talent in the crapshoot that is the MLB first year player draft.

When AA steps up on Monday to take over his first draft, he would do well to emulate the great Gillick.

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