Piratesguide excerpt: Are the Pittsburgh Pirates really that bad at the draft?

The following is an except from PIRATESGUIDE 2018, a 280 page Pittsburgh Pirates season preview book available on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. See the link at the end of this post for a link to purchase.

What were you doing in June 2008?  What all has occurred in your life since then? Neal Huntington was just getting ready to run his first draft as the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates, having been hired in November of 2007.  He’s now overseen 10 drafts as the GM of the Pirates and is one of the longest-tenured GM’s in the game right now.

At this point, it is more than fair to compare how his drafts have fared for the Pirates.  It’s also a good idea to see how he stacks up against his most direct competition in the NL Central.  How does the Pirates system of drafting and developing players compare to their peers?

A reader of my website, The Point of Pittsburgh, named Ethan Hullihen, created a vast spreadsheet of data that tracked how not only the Pirates have done in the draft since 2008 by Baseball Reference’s WAR, but also the rest of the NL Central.  With his permission, we present the summary of his findings for your reading pleasure.

Ethan was very specific in tracking how draft picks provided value to their team.  Here’s how he has this broken down:

  • Category 1 — Drafted and Signed, Made Majors With Drafting Team – This one is pretty straightforward. It says that a player was drafted in the June draft, successfully signed with that team, then made the Majors with that same team.  This category also shows how much WAR a player accrued over the course of his career, even if he was waived or non-tendered at some point.  This sounds like I’m overexplaining, but you’ll see why soon.
  • Category 2 — Drafted and Signed, Made Majors With Drafting Team, Then Traded – Again, the player signed with his team that drafted him and then made the Majors with that same team. However, this player was traded at some point in his career (not non-tendered or DFA’ed) and brought some value back to the original team.  Ethan tracked how much value the player subsequently had in his career post-trade.  Additionally, Ethan showed how much WAR the acquired player got the team in the trade.
  • Category 3 — Drafted and Signed, Traded Before Making Majors, Made Majors With Another Team – This is for players who signed with the team that drafted them originally, but were then used in a trade while they were still in the minors. This category tracks that player’s career post-trade with his new team.  As with the previous category, the acquired player’s WAR was also tracked for the team.
  • Category 4 — Drafted and Signed, Released Before Making Majors, Made Majors With Another Team – This category is for draft picks that their original drafting team gave up on them. Through luck and perseverance, they made the Majors after catching on with another team.
  • Category 5 — Drafted and Signed, Traded Before Making Majors, Yet To Reach Majors – This tracks the minor leaguers that were used as assets in trades, but have yet to reach the Majors for the team that traded for them.

So here’s an overly complicated math formula to demonstrate how well a team has done in the draft:

Draft Success = Category 1 WAR + (Category 2 WAR + [Player Acquired in Category 2 – Player Traded in Category 2]) + (Player Acquired In Category 3 – Player Traded In Category 3) – Category 4 + Player Acquired In Category 5

Yikes.  This will be easier to understand with some graphs, I hope.  Let’s look at the Pirates in-depth:

Let’s dig into this one for a second.  There are 18 players on this list that have made it through the Pirates’ minor leagues, made the Majors, and then played their time with the Pirates without being traded through the 2017 season.  And if you take out the 1 game spot start by Phil Irwin and the 1 game ‘holy cow, we need a catcher in Miami, who’s the closest warm body we can get’ of John Bormann last year, it’s really just 16.  That’s not a stunning track record of success.

To read more on this topic and much more on the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates, CLICK HERE to learn about PIRATESGUIDE 2018, a complete 2018 preview resource for Pirates fans!

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)