Last week marked three of the most important days in the baseball world , the MLB Amateur Player Draft.
All 30 teams spend the entire year scouting high school and college players to prepare for the draft. Countless players are watched, talked about, and evaluated in an attempt to prepare for the 40 rounds of the draft.
The focus for every team is who they are going to take with their higher picks. The early round picks are the ones teams hope one day will be major leaguers.
For most teams the draft is the key to building a solid organization. It’s a way more cost-efficient way to build a winning team with draft picks rather than through trades and the free agent market.
The emphasis on drafting and developing a winning organization from within has dramatically increased. Major prospects are almost treated like superstars before they have even stepped foot on a big league diamond.
With the recent breakout seasons from guys like Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, and other young stars the road to the majors seems to have been shortened. This creates a greater emphasis on drafting because the right amateur players seem to be as ready as ever to handle pro baseball and get up the big leagues at a young age.
So what’s the challenge of the draft then? Choosing the right player. There are a few can’t miss prospects in each draft that everybody thinks will be stars in the big league. The thing that makes this whole process crazy is that not every first rounder makes an impact or even makes it to the big leagues.
Albert Pujols arguably the best hitter in his generation was a 13th round pick in 1999. Mike Piazza is maybe the best hitting catcher of all-time and he was taken in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft. That’s not a typo… the 62nd round!!
There are even guys that get taken late in the first round and that seems too late. Mike Trout is probably the best all-around player in the game right now and he was taken 25th overall in the 2009 Draft. Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s hard to believe 24 other teams didn’t believe in his talents. Michael Wacha is another example. Wacha was virtually unhittable in helping pitch the Cardinals to the World Series last season. Wacha was taken 19th overall, hard to believe there were 18 players better than him in the 2012 draft. Those are just a few examples that come to mind right away.
Being a high draft pick just ensures you will have a large signing bonus. After that it’s all about a player’s ability to handle failure and make adjustments.
With the ability to measure every physical asset of a baseball player now I still think the mental asset is neglected to a certain extent. Teams get too caught up in some of the unbelievable things a player is capable of. They really need to be considering who they are doing it against and the likelihood they will be able to do it against elite competition.
Mental toughness and makeup is a huge part of transitioning from the amateur level to the pro level. For the first time in many of these guys lives they are playing against guys as good as them on a day in and day out basis.
There is no clear cut right way to drafting and evaluating players. As a person that is interested in someday helping run a draft I wish I knew the answer. There are a few things I do know about the draft and what it takes for a guy to get to the big leagues though.
It’s not always the most talented guys that make it to the majors. It’s the mentally strong and resilient that can take the failure and make the adjustments necessary to make it to the show.