Opportunity Lost | The Process Report

Opportunity Lost

The addition of Wilson Ramos to the roster meant someone had to go, and that someone was Justin O’Conner. Cross yet another name off that 2010+2011 plethora of high draft picks and potential that never materialized.

The 2011 draft was a big deal around these here parts. A lot of time was invested in content by R.J. Anderson and Tommy Rancel as they looked into what the team may do with its plethora of picks. Anderson went further to outline what was at stake in that particular draft. His methodology concluded the Rays had four picks that year with a better than 50% shot at big league futures and a total of 10 with 40%-plus shots. A return on investment of that magnitude was unlikely given that the franchise had seen just 15% of their picks reach any major league club up to that point with the high water mark at 24% from both the 2001 and 2003 draft classes.

Year Players Majors %
1996 97 9 9%
1997 92 11 12%
1998 47 8 17%
1999 50 8 16%
2000 47 11 23%
2001 50 12 24%
2002 50 9 18%
2003 50 12 24%
2004 50 9 18%
2005 50 8 16%
2006 50 9 18%
2007 50 5 10%
2008 51 2 4%
2009 50 5 10%
Total 784 118 15%

The stockpile of picks was a double-edged opportunity to both build for the future and help correct the past. The 2008 draft class is well known for how it began by taking Tim Beckham over Buster Posey, but that class also had just 35 of the 50 picks sign with the club. Beckham is the only player from that class to play for the Rays while Kyle Lobstein was dealt to the Tigers before reaching the majors for Curt Casali. 2009 helped set the table for the draft pick surplus when the team’s first two selections, LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger, failed to sign. The rest of that class produced five major leaguers and Dylan Florio as well as Andrew Bellatti reached the majors with the Rays. Andrew Heaney did not sign but reached the big leagues with the Angels, James Pazos did so with the Yankees while Zac Rosscup was part of the the trade that netted Chris Archer and Brandon Guyer from the Cubs.

The Rays had five selections before the third round in 2010: their own, two compensation picks for failing to sign Washington and Diekroeger, and a compensation pick for losing Gregg Zaun. That class produced the infamous Josh Sale, the aforementioned O’Conner, Drew Vettleson, Jake Thompson, and Derek Dietrich. To date, Dietrich is the only player that reached the majors, but he did so with Miami as the Rays dealt him there in order to get Yunel Escobar. The 2010 draft class was saved by the 941st pick of that draft – Kevin Kiermaier – and the team flipping Jesse Hahn to the Padres in the deal to net Logan Forsythe and Brad Boxberger. The rest of the class produced fringy relievers.

That brings us to the 2011 draft. The team had late picks in the first and second round due to the 2010 success on the field, but also had 10 compensation picks due to losing free agents under the old rules structure:

First Round:

Second Round:

R.J.  summed up the draft surplus in January of 2011:

That’s why, when combined with the depth of the big league squad and the rank of the farm system already in place, the draft picks are a tantalizing development. This draft will not make the 2011 team better immediately and probably won’t help the 2012 or the 2013 teams too much either. But it could go a long way to ensuring the Rays continue to be competitive through the end of the decade.

Fast forward to 2014 where the Rays began a streak of now three consecutive losing seasons, and the lost opportunity of that surplus of high draft picks in 2010 and 2011 is fully realized.

Team 2010 WAR 2011 WAR Total Picks Total WAR
Rays 5 2.4 12 -0.5 17 1.9
Blue Jays 7 16.0 7 1.9 14 17.9
Red Sox 4 -2.8 5 8.8 9 6.0
Padres 2 5.3 6 6.2 8 11.5
Rangers 5 -2.1 3 0.0 8 -2.1
Angels 6 -0.8 1 1.9 7 1.1
Astros 4 2.6 2 10.9 6 13.5
Rockies 3 0.6 3 6.6 6 7.2
Diamondbacks 2 0.0 4 6.9 6 6.9
Cardinals 4 -0.4 2 5.3 6 4.9
Twins 2 0.0 4 0.0 6 0.0
Nationals 2 22.7 3 10.7 5 33.4
Braves 3 21.7 2 3.6 5 25.3
Giants 2 0.9 3 6.7 5 7.6
Brewers 2 1.2 3 1.1 5 2.3
Phillies 2 0.0 3 0.0 5 0.0
White Sox 2 34.5 2 -0.5 4 34.0
Marlins 2 12.9 2 16.4 4 29.3
Indians 2 7.3 2 10.3 4 17.6
Mets 1 11.1 3 4.1 4 15.2
Tigers 3 9.7 1 2.0 4 11.7
Pirates 2 2.3 2 8.9 4 11.2
Mariners 2 2.6 2 5.7 4 8.3
Reds 2 8.1 2 -0.4 4 7.7
Cubs 2 0.0 2 2.9 4 2.9
Royals 2 1.7 2 0.0 4 1.7
Yankees 2 0.0 2 0.0 4 0.0
Dodgers 2 -0.3 2 0.0 4 -0.3
Orioles 1 24.4 2 1.8 3 26.2
Athletics 2 -2.0 1 9.7 3 7.7

Ray Glier, in a USA Today article in June of 2011, noted the parallels of the 2011 Rays to the 1990 Expos. The Expos team on the field was also young and good, and had 10 picks in the first two rounds of that draft (which was the record before the 2011 draft). Seven of the ten players the Expos took with those picks reached the majors, highlighted by Rondell White with the 24th selection. The Jays, with their 14 picks in 2010+2011 saw 6 of their 14 picks make the majors: Joe Musgrove, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and Asher Wojciehowski.

The Rays has seen just three of their twelve picks from 2011 and four from 2010+2011 reach the majors: Derek Dietrich, Tyler Goeddel, Mikie Mahtook, and Blake Snell.

The 2011 Rays roster was young and talented and the importance of the 2011 draft was not lost on then executive vice president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman:

“Definitionally, the draft is more vital to our success than any other team in baseball because of the combination of our revenues coupled with the revenues of the teams we are competing against head on”

If we append the 2010 and 2011 draft data to the earlier table, we see a very rough stretch of years for a club that considers the draft a vital part to their success:

Year Players Majors %
2007 50 5 10%
2008 51 2 4%
2009 50 5 10%
2010 54 9 17%
2011 60 4 7%

Only 4 of the 17 high picks in 2010 and 2011 made the majors which doubled down on the poor rates of picks reaching the majors in previous drafts. The club rarely spends in free agency on anything more than fillers and when they have spent “big” in years or dollars as they did with James Loney and Pat Burrell, it played out poorly.  The Rays primarily rely upon talent coming from the draft or trades. The results on the field these past few seasons can be tied back to very poor performances in the draft  while the trade front is a mixed bag of results as well. Forsythe, Boxberger, Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Brad Miller were good gets but the sting of trading away Trea Turner and Joe Ross for Steven Souza Jr is unlikely go to away any time soon. Simply put, the team needs to draft and develop better or make better trades because they have struggled to keep both pipelines flowing efficiently in recent years.

The 2017 roster has the look and feel of one that can be competitive as is, perhaps even more so if they move a starting pitcher to a team in desperate need, or add another one of the big bats that has seen their free agent opportunities dry up this winter.



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