Drafting For Need Doesn’t Work in Baseball | The Process Report

Drafting For Need Doesn’t Work in Baseball

With the draft about four weeks away, it’s time to give it a little more focus. I think this is a good starting point.

1. The big league roster doesn’t matter.

If the Rays were to tab C.J. Cron, the Utah slugger who projects to play first base or DH in the majors, it doesn’t mean they necessarily had their eye on filling a short-term hole, it just means he was the player they considered the best available. Too often, folks take the NBA or NFL approach to the MLB draft. Drafting for need is a bad idea for a few reasons. The first of which, is that it artificially enhances the stock of players you have a need for now while completely ignoring that those players will not be in the majors this season.

Due to the liquidity of rosters, a lot can change in the 12-to-18 months of development time—and that’s an aggressive timetable. Take the Rays and the Evan Longoria selection. On the day the Rays selected Longoria, their lineup looked like this:

C – Toby Hall
1B – Travis Lee
2B – Jorge Cantu
3B – Aubrey Huff
SS- Julio Lugo
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – Rocco Baldelli
RF – Damon Hollins
DH – Jonny Gomes

On the night Longoria debuted for the Rays, only Crawford, Baldelli, and Gomes remained in the organization—not in the lineup necessarily, but in the organization. The Rays are going to see as much turnover as any organization because long-term solutions are costly and the Rays just can’t afford too many of them at any given point. So, yes, Cron would be a nice player to plug in at first base or DH given the current landscape, but who knows what the 2013 roster looks like.

2. Prospects don’t really matter either.

To continue with the example, when Longoria was drafted, some wondered what this meant for Wes Bankston. Although Bankston is nothing but a whisper in the memory banks now, at the time he was ostensibly the Rays best prospect at third base. By the time Longoria debuted in 2008, Bankston was on organization number three. He would eventually break into the majors in 2008 too, but has not appeared since.

Let’s keep Cron in the discussion too. You could say that perhaps he is similar to Josh Sale, who the Rays drafted last June, in the sense that neither is skilled defensively and hitting is the key to survival. Why draft both? Because of the high attrition rates. It’s the reason you will see the Rays drafting pitchers of college and high school descent despite having a wealth of talented arms already.

Besides, having too many talented players at certain positions isn’t a bad thing. That depth can always be reallocated through trades in order to accumulate assets at other positions.


  1. kgengler wrote:

    Drafting for MLB need is a bad idea. Drafting for organization need probably isn’t.

  2. kgengler wrote:

    To clarify, that’s in a more general hitter vs. pitcher regard. Not position-by-position.

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