09 June 2015

The Futility of Mock Drafts: 2015

For many casual baseball fans, the MLB Rule 4 Draft is an anti-climactic event, as the players typically chosen won’t appear in the major leagues for a couple of years, if ever. However, for fans that follow baseball closely, it’s a chance to dream on someone who may be the next future superstar for your favorite team. Expectations are sky high on draft day, as they’re based solely on potential, since the players chosen have not even had the opportunity to begin the inevitable cycle of failure, adjustment, and growth in professional baseball. With a new set of names each year, it can be difficult for people who don’t follow amateur scouting closely to acquaint themselves with the top amateur prospects. Thankfully, there are countless number of top 100 lists and mock drafts leading up to the real thing, which do an excellent job of giving fans a look at who teams may select and the skills those players currently have (and may possess in the future).

However, while those mock drafts serve a purpose of helping fans get better acquainted with draft eligible players (in addition to being very entertaining to read in my opinion), they can be extremely inaccurate, especially after the first couple of picks. That’s not a knock on any of the analysts who put these mock drafts together. They are the best there is at what they do and work really hard at putting together what can essentially be a fruitless exercise.

For the last two years I’ve looked at the accuracy of mock drafts compared to the player that was actually selected. In 2013, I only looked at the mock draft of Keith Law and ESPN’s draft simulator, which attempted to anticipate the remaining picks based on who had already been taken (it was the only year I’ve ever seen it, so it must not have been worth the effort). Last year I expanded to include mock drafts from MLB.com and Baseball America as well. The results the last two years haven’t been great, with the 2013 ESPN Draft Simulator performing the best with 36% accuracy (which is probably another reason why they didn’t bring it back).

Let’s take a look at how things unfolded this year for the first 30 picks.

Click the picture to enlarge.  Green shading indicates a correct selection
The analysts didn’t perform any better in 2015, which wasn’t a surprise given the fact that this year’s draft class was considered thin at the top, but fairly deep. Jim Callis of MLB.com was the most accurate at 30% (9 out of 30 correct), while ESPN’s Keith Law finished at the back of the pack with 13.3%. As you can see, after the 3rd pick in the draft, things got pretty dicey for each of the mock drafts, as small differences in a team’s draft board can make the job of predicting how everything will play out near impossible. In fact, while it may not look like it, it’s amazing that these gentlemen get as many right as they do. So while none of these mock drafts came even remotely close to anything that would be considered a passing grade in school, take some time to appreciate all of the work they’ve done. Because let’s face it, without them, the majority of us wouldn’t know a single thing about most (if any) of these players. So give thanks for the mock drafts that have given you knowledge of the 2015 draft class, and dream about the (for now) unlimited potential of the Orioles first round pick, DJ Stewart.


Kevin said...

Draft picks really do not have limitless potential. Figuring out what they will do is difficult, but using language that enforces the shrug view of prospects is glorifying something that is not true.

Nate Delong said...

That draft picks don't have unlimited potential is certainly true. I wasn't advocating the pick of Stewart, just that he could become anything, given he hasn't played professionally yet. Maybe it could have been worded better, but don't overlook the use of the word "dream" which appeared earlier in the sentence.