16 March 2013

College Right-handers Among Top Ten Draft Choices

Camden Depot very generously invited me to share my opinions of the top prospects in the Orioles farm system and included my thoughts in the Depot’s prospect ratings. I live in the Norfolk, Virginia area and as mentioned, I have been a datacaster for milb.com – I enter the pitch-by-pitch results that show up in GameDay – for seven seasons and a scorer for BIS for five seasons.

The Depot’s evaluation of Kevin Gausman states that I’m the reason why Gausman isn’t regarded as a Grade-A prospect, and although I’m sure it’s not meant this way, it might imply that I’m being unreasonable. Maybe the Depot is right. To see if my concerns are reasonable, I will look at the history of players like Kevin Gausman. First, I'm going to examine the right-handed starting pitchers who were drafted out of college in the first ten picks of the draft, and how they did professionally in the year they were drafted.

There were thirty-nine four-year college right-handed starting pitchers drafted in the first round. Actually, there were forty-three, but I will not examine the pitchers who didn't sign in the year they were a top-ten pick (Aaron Crow, Mark Appel), who were a top-ten pick the year after they didn't sign out of college (Luke Hochevar), or both (Wade Townsend.) Twenty-three of the pitchers didn't play at all in the year they were drafted. Usually, that's because they were negotiating their contracts until the signing deadline. Occasionally, the pitcher was hurt and didn't start his career until the following season. 

I recognize that some of these pitchers may not be all that similar to Gausman. Some of these picks were picked more because they would sign cheaply, without drawn-out negotiation, and not generally regarded as being worth a top ten pick. Others may have been picked in a draft without a lot of talent and wouldn’t have been a top ten pick in many other drafts. Also, this list will miss pitchers who are similar to Gausman, such as Jered Weaver, who would have been top ten picks except for signability or injury. I acknowledge this and will willingly consider a different list of comparable pitchers.

Here is the table:

Year

Pitcher

Level

W-L

ERA

IP

H/9

BB/9

K/9

1993
Did Not Pitch






1993
Did Not Pitch






1994
Complex
0-2
3.00
12
6.0
3.8
9.1


High-A
0-5
5.06
37.1
7.7
4.1
8.9
1995
High-A
1-5
2.70
43.1
7.1
3.3
5.2
1996
Did Not Pitch






1996
Did Not Pitch






1996
Did Not Pitch






1996
Did Not Pitch






1997
Did Not Pitch






1997
Short-season A
3-4
2.84
38.0
9.5
3.8
9.2
1998
Did Not Pitch






1999
Short-season A
1-0
4.12
24.0
7.5
2.6
9.4
1999
Rookie
0-1
5.62
8.0
9.0
2.2
13.5


High-A
1-0
3.58
27.2
7.5
4.6
9.1
2000
High-A
5-4
2.47
69.1
5.8
2.6
11.9
2000
High-A
0-3
5.81
26.1
8.9
3.8
8.2
2001
Did Not Pitch






2001
Did Not Pitch






2001
Josh Karp
Did Not Pitch






2001
Short-season A
0-2
3.51
25.2
8.1
3.5
6.7
2002
Did Not Pitch






2003
Kyle Sleeth
Did Not Pitch






2003
Did Not Pitch






2004
Did Not Pitch






2004
Did Not Pitch






2004
Did Not Pitch






2004
Short-season A
0-2
2.35
15.1
7.5
2.9
15.3


Low-A
1-0
2.05
30.2
5.3
2.3
12.3
2005
Did Not Pitch






2006
High-A
2-1
3.33
48.2
9.4
2.6
5.4
2006
Complex
0-0
0.00
7.2
7.0
1.2
10.6


Low-A
1-2
6.75
16.0
14.1
3.4
5.6
 2006
Did Not Pitch






2006
Short-season A
0-0
0.00
4.0
2.2
0.9
22.5


High-A
2-0
1.95
27.2
4.2
3.9
15.6
2009
Did Not Pitch






2009
Did Not Pitch






2010
Did Not Pitch






2010
Did Not Pitch






2011
Did Not Pitch






2011
High-A
0-1
3.00
9.0
7.0
4.0
17.0


AA
1-1
7.58
16.2
10.8
4.3
14.0
2012
Kevin Gausman
Short-season A
0-0
0.00
6.0
1.5
0.0
7.5


High-A
0-1
6.00
9.0
10.0
1.0
8.0
2012
Complex
1-0
0.90
10.0
4.5
0.0
11.7


Low-A
2-3
2.43
29.2
10.3
2.4
8.8

There doesn't seem to be much of a difference between the pitchers who signed in time to pitch in the season they were drafted and those who didn't. Among those who didn't pitch are Justin Verlander, Mark Prior, and Kris Benson -- but also Steve Soderstrom, Dewon Brazelton, and Josh Karp. Among those who did pitch are Tim Lincecum and Ben Sheets -- but also Adam Johnson and Justin Wayne.

Among those who did pitch, there seem to be more failures than successes among those who pitched (relatively) a lot. The six pitchers who pitched the most after signing (and whose eventual future we now know) include one successful pitcher (Ben Sheets), one pitcher who had some success before being derailed by injury (Paul Wilson) and four pitchers who didn't do much at all (Jonathan Johnson, Dan Reichert, Adam Johnson, and Thomas Diamond.)

Most of the pitchers didn't pitch enough to make a meaningful evaluation of quality. But the four pitchers with noticeably low strikeout rates (Jonathan Johnson, John Van Benschoten, Greg Reynolds, and Brad Lincoln) have not yet been successful.

We really can't tell from a pitcher's professional performance in his limited post-signing innings whether he's going to be good or not. So, we have no choice but to judge his prospect status based on scouts' observations, his own amateur performance and our personal observation (if any). So, I am probably right to want to see more before anointing Gausman a future star, but I should have had more faith in the scouts in evaluating his prospect status.