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First Round Picks, 1990-1994

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The Indians won't have a first round pick in the 2006 draft because they signed Type B free agent Paul Byrd. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

To shed some light on this question, let's look at the 1990-1999 drafts, and more specifically, the picks from 16-30. These are the picks that teams can lose if they sign a Type A or Type B free agent. First rounders in this range in last year's draft got between $1.0M-$1.60M in signing bonuses.

I've broken the draft picks into four categories:

Bust: Did not play in the major leagues
Unsigned: Did not sign
Bit Player: Less than 1.0 WARP
Major Leaguer: 1.0 or higher WARP

Why these simplified categories? Because I'd rather not have this exercise devolve into an argument about the ranking system. I'm keeping the bar extremely low in order to keep the emphasis on first round picks as a whole. I'm of the opinion that the goal of a farm system is to produce major-league players first. Should a system get bonus points for developing All-Stars? Absolutely. But that's a question for another time and place. The question I'm asking is this: how many first round picks (and more specifically, how many late-round first round picks) become major-league players?

The 1990 Draft

Overall:
Busts: 6 (20%)
Bit Players: 6 (20%)
Major-Leaguers: 18 (60%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 5 (33%)
Bit Players: 4 (27%)
Major-Leaguers: 6 (40%)

Best Player: Mike Mussina (109.2)

Best Player (16-30): Mike Mussina (109.2)

Summary: A lot of busts towards the end of the round, but several good players (Mussina, Burnitz, Rondell White) were picked late.

More after the break...

The 1991 Draft

Overall:
Busts: 6 (20%)
Unsigned: 3 (10%)
Bit Players: 1 (3%)
Major-Leaguers: 20 (67%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 4 (27%)
Unsigned: 1 (7%)
Bit Players: 1 (7%)
Major-Leaguers: 9 (60%)

Best Player: Manny Ramirez (100.2)

Best Player (16-30): Shawn Green (70.9)

Summary: A much better year for the bottom of the round. 2 of the top 6 picks went unsigned, which is very unusual. Of the top 10 picks, only Dmitri Young and Joey Hamilton posted a career WARP over 6.0.

The 1992 Draft

Overall:
Busts: 8 (27%)
Unsigned: 0 (0%)
Bit Players: 6 (20%)
Major-Leaguers: 16 (53%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 4 (27%)
Unsigned: 0 (0%)
Bit Players: 5 (33%)
Major-Leaguers: 6 (40%)

Best Player: Derek Jeter (76.9)

Best Player (16-30): Jason Kendall (65.8)

Summary: The busts were distributed evenly between the top and bottom portions of the round, although picks 16-30 had more bit players.

The 1993 Draft

Overall:
Busts: 7 (23%)
Unsigned: 1 (3%)
Bit Players: 4 (13%)
Major-Leaguers: 18 (60%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 3 (20%)
Unsigned: 1 (7%)
Bit Players: 2 (13%)
Major-Leaguers: 9 (60%)

Best Player: Alex Rodriguez (114.2)

Best Player (16-30): Torii Hunter (30.4)

Summary: Not much difference between the bottom and the top with one big exception (Rodriguez).

The 1994 Draft

Overall:
Busts: 7 (23%)
Unsigned: 1 (3%)
Bit Players: 6 (20%)
Major-Leaguers: 16 (53%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 4 (27%)
Unsigned: 1 (7%)
Bit Players: 3 (20%)
Major-Leaguers: 7 (47%)

Best Player: Nomar Garciaparra (63.5)

Best Player (16-30): Jay Payton (24.6)

Summary: The poorest showing thus far by the bottom half of the round; only three of the 15 picks have posted a career WARP over 10.

Totals, 1990-1994:

Overall:
Busts: 34 (23%)
Unsigned: 5 (3%)
Bit Players: 23 (15%)
Major-Leaguers: 88 (59%)

Picks 16-30:
Busts: 20 (27%)
Unsigned: 3 (4%)
Bit Players: 15 (20%)
Major-Leaguers: 37 (49%)

Thus far, if you're picking at the bottom of the first round, the odds of your pick being at least a role player in the major leagues is about 50%. Of course, this is assuming that you have a league-average scouting department, and because this crude survey is dealing with fairly large ranges (15 picks), it does not differentiate between pick #16 and #30. But it's a start. Next time, we'll look at five more drafts (1995-1999) to get a more accurate picture.