Player Draft: Crap Shoot or Sweet Science?

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Mar 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A scout uses a radar gun during spring training between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

With Spring Training 2015 just a few weeks away, major league teams and their fans eagerly look forward to scoping out young prospects, hoping that one of them might become the next Clayton Kershaw or Mike Trout.

Teams might open the season with a couple rookies on the big club’s twenty-five man roster, but for the most part, many of these players will never set foot in a big league stadium unless they have a ticket.

The annual June Amateur Draft was established in 1965, when the Kansas City Athletics chose Arizona State outfielder Rick Monday with the first-ever pick.

Since then, approximately 45,000 players have been plucked out of high schools or colleges, with their drafting teams hoping to strike gold with a majority of their selections.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

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Crap shoot or science?

Between the years of 1990 and 2005, 465 players were selected by major league organizations in the first round of the June Amateur Draft.

Of those ballplayers, 335 of them have spent at least one day in the major leagues, with over forty percent of them achieving various degrees of stardom.

In those years, the Milwaukee Brewers chose 17 players (eight position players and nine pitchers), of which 11 made it to the bigs. The Brewers 65% ‘success rate’ paled in comparison to the major league average of 72%, but matched or exceeded ten other teams. Percentage-wise, the best drafting team as far as advancing players to The Show was Toronto (17 of 18); the Yankees–not surprisingly–were the worst (7 of 15).

Much of the credit (or blame) falls on the shoulders of the Scouting Director, who usually has the final say in the drafting process.

The Brewers had four scouting directors from 1990-2005: Dick Foster (90-91), Al Goldis (92), Ken Califano (93-99), and John A. (Jack) Zduriencik (2000-08).

Foster and Goldis failed to advance a combined three players to the bigs, but the last two names on the list above had much more success.

Califano saw six of his eight first-round picks make it to the bigs, including pitchers Jeff D’Amico (93) and Ben Sheets (99), and slugging outfielder/Brett Favre-lookalike Geoff Jenkins (95).

Zduriencik drafted six first-rounders from 2000-05, and five of them played in the majors, notable among them Prince Fielder (02), Rickie Weeks (03) and Ryan Braun (05).

Jack left his scouting director position after the 2008 season to assume the role of general manager for the Seattle Mariners.

Bruce Seid took over the scouting position in 2009 for Milwaukee and held it until his untimely death in September 2014.

What does it take to become a good judge of baseball talent?

The Major League Scouting Bureau puts on a 12-day course designed to teach the ins and outs of baseball scouting, but the good ones have been at it for many years.

Here’s a short list of the attributes that scouts must be able to figure out to determine if a player is a suspect or prospect:

  • Pitcher’s mechanics
  • Pitcher’s control and command
  • Pitch repertoire
  • Hitter’s bat speed
  • Batting stance/stride
  • Swing type
  • Mental makeup
  • Soft hands
  • Fielder’s throwing arm action
  • Athleticism
  • ‘Five Tools’ (Hitting, hitting for power, fielding, running. throwing)

Once you have that all figured out, you can hop in your car and drive all over God’s Creation in order to find that one player that will become a big league superstar.

Good luck.