Dante Bichette Jr. is almost universally considered one of the top prospects in the Yankees’ farm system, but around this time last year, he was being labeled “an overdraft”. When the Bronx Bombers selected the third baseman with the 51st pick in last year’s draft, many “scouting experts” criticized the decision, but now, some of the very same evaluators are singing a different tune. So much for conventional wisdom.
Just because Bichette’s stock has improved since last year’s draft doesn’t vindicate the Yankees’ decision. Who knows, the pundits may be just as wrong now as they were then? However, the example illustrates why you can’t apply an NBA or NFL mentality to analyzing the baseball draft. Unlike those sports, it’s very difficult to project players chosen with the first few picks, much less the 51st. When you consider that the total WAR amassed by all 47 players selected in that position is only 76.2 (almost all of which belongs to Barry Larkin), and 73% have never even played a major league game, if Bichette simply suits up in pinstripes, he will have refuted the overdraft label.
Since selecting Derek Jeter with the sixth overall pick in 1992, the average position of the Yankees’ first round picks has been 30, which is exactly where they’ll be selecting tonight. That’s not as daunting as picking 51st, but hardly reason for high expectations. Of the 463 players selected between 20 and 30 overall from 1965 to 2006 (recent picks excluded to avoid skewing data), only 13% have compiled a WAR greater than 10, while nearly 65% have posted a WAR of 0 or less. It’s become cliché to call the draft a crap shoot, but once you get past the first few selections, that description certainly rings true.
Yankees’ First Round Draft Picks, Since 1965
Note: Names displayed for players with more than 6 WAR.
As Yankees’ fans get ready to watch tonight’s draft, they’d be wise to keep Bichette in mind, especially before (over)reacting to the team’s first pick. Chances are the player won’t be a recognizable name and the growing panel of experts will withhold rave reviews. Who knows? They may even label it an overdraft. None of that really matters though. After the first few names have been called, most of the analysis will be nothing more than semi-educated conjecture. So, leave the draft day fun to the teams making the early selections, and, remember, most teams who think they have a real cause for celebration in June have had to pay for that privilege by foregoing many a party in October.