Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wut the? Giants and A's Reverse Drafting Style?

In Sunday's John Shea on Baseball column in the SF Chronicle, the title is "Giants, A's Reverse their drafting styles." The column discusses the two team's past drafts juxtaposed against their draft this season. Obviously I have some problems with the column but there is some good info there too, though some of that info is available on sfgiants.com as well.

Title Wrong, Not Style

First, the title. The teams are not reversing their drafting style, they are reversing (if one can "do" this) their drafting circumstances, with the Giants having an early pick and the A's having a first pick that is much later (66th overall). You get high-round draft picks by losing and the Giants had their first losing season under Sabean in 2005. That's a result of building good teams, not "drafting style." At least Shea seemed to understand this, but the headline writer didn't.

Interesting Sabean Quote

Shea got a good quote from Sabean, which I'll quote here:

"In the top 10, you have to get a high-profile player no matter how strong
the draft is," said Giants general manager Brian Sabean, whose scouts must be
aware of all elite players in the country in case they go undrafted by any of
the first nine teams unwilling to pay top dollar.

"It could set off a chain reaction based on signability, but
we're committed to taking the best player and dealing with it."

In other words, money's no object? That's the reference. With pitching
seemingly deep in the farm system, Sabean said he prefers to draft a position
player. Barry Bonds is on his last leg (figuratively, in this case), and what
better way to usher in the post-Bonds era than with a draftee who makes an
immediate offensive splash in the farm system?


This could mean that should a top player fall to the Giants, they will pursue him and deal with the consequences. This could happen if the player is demanding a high bonus and/or contract benefits that teams are scared away from. This happens in particular to Scott Boras clients, who regularly fall but still get what they are asking for (for the most part). Stephen Drew fell to 15th pick and Jered Weaver to 12th pick because of signability issues, for example, and Weaver was Baseball America's top-rated prospect and Drew was the top-rated position player, so they fell quite a bit. Luke Hochevar will test this philosophy as he is rated as a top 5 pick but could fall to the Giants because of his renege of a deal with the Dodgers from last year's draft and will return to the draft this year, assuming no deal is worked out.

His inference that "money's no object" implies that the Giants was adverse to spending money on draft picks but is now willing to open the bank. That's not quite true. What the Giants are adverse to is wasting their money ona draft pick unlikely to produce anybody good, Matt Cain and Noah Lowry to the contrary.

My research suggests that the odds are 9 to 1 against doing picking a good or better player with a pick in the 21-30 range of the first round, which is where the Giants has picked for most of Sabean's tenure as GM. Why spend that $1.5M on a player who might develop into a useful player, and in 4-6 years, when you can get a useful player today, right now, playing for your team when you need it, not 4-6 years hence? And if the Giants are adverse to spending money on the draft, why would they bother to give Travis Ishikawa, their 21st round pick, the highest bonus money ever given to a player past the 1st round?

Interesting side note in my research is that Travis was the 60th rank player in the draft, by Baseball America, which would have placed him around the beginning of the 2nd round. His $955,000 bonus is much above what a 2nd round player was getting. For instance, that same year, they drafted Freddy Lewis with the 66th pick and paid him $595,000, and the next year they drafted Craig Whitaker with the 33rd pick and paid him $975,000, Todd Jennings with the 55th pick and paid him $620,000, and Nate Schierholtz with the 63rd pick and paid him $572,000. Clearly the Giants paid him more than what a 60th pick would have gotten, and Travis got more like a 30-35th pick, though part of that was governed by the fact that he was a high school draftee, who have more leverage and normally get more bonus to turn pro, from what I have read before.

A good FYI in the column (and the Giants article): the Giants got the 10th, 33rd, 89th, and 116th picks. While I would prefer that the Giants pick a position player, most draft assessements that I have read says that the draft is weak in top position players. A name that frequently pops up is Kyle Drabek, son of former major league pitcher Doug Drabek; he's a high schooler who is both a SS and pitcher, but probably better as a pitcher. Another is Drew Stubbs, a college OF.

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