How many of the nearly 900 players who signed out of this year’s draft might we expect to see in the majors one day? If recent history is any guide, then that answer is roughly one in six—or, to be precise, 17.2 percent of signed draft picks.
Baseball America arrived at that number by analyzing the 22 drafts from 1987 through 2008, noting the number of signed players who reached the big leagues for at least one game. This involved fusing the BA draft database, which contains signing information for every draft pick in history (save for a few stray draft-and-follows), and the Baseball-Reference.com draft database, which links major league statistics to every draft pick in history (again, with few exceptions).
We began the head count in 1987 because that year’s draft was the first to feature only one phase. This removed the complicating factor of the annual January and June drafts, each featuring two phases, by which players and teams were bound for the first 22 years of draft history.
“The big thing about it is you don’t have to worry anymore about who’s in what phase,” then-Twins scouting director Terry Ryan said at the time.
Stopping the count at 2008 allows five full years for that draft’s high school players to reach the big leagues. After all, a number of ’08 prep first-rounders—Tim Beckham, Kyle Skipworth, Aaron Hicks and Ethan Martin—joined 40-man rosters only last November.
Enough about the methodology, let’s get to the results.
|1987-2008 Drafts (22)
Supplemental first-round selections are listed separately because teams tend to stress signability at these draft positions—note the low, low 2.6 percent unsigned rate—and the sample is too small to be placed on equal footing with the others. Also, the number of sandwich picks varies widely from draft to draft. Supplemental second- and third-round selections are tacked on to the corresponding rounds.
The MLB and MLB% columns are self-explanatory, and as one would expect, early-round picks reach the majors most frequently—three out of four first-rounders, about half of second-rounders, etc.
The 3YRS column attempts to quantify how many of those big leaguers would be classified as regular contributors based on the length of big league tenure. The thresholds here are high—and scaled to approximate three years of service: 450 games for position players and for pitchers either 75 decisions (starters) or 150 games (relievers).
Here again the rate for three-year big leaguers follows a natural descending pattern, beginning at 39 percent for first-round picks and tapering down to 1.6 percent for those selected after the 20th round. All told, about one in 20 signed draft picks (5.5 percent) will spend the equivalent of three seasons in the big leagues.
Apply those rates to the 2013 draft class and, if the results are typical, we can expect roughly 150 players to reach the majors and about 50 of them to stick around for three seasons.
To monitor how the major league graduation (MLB%) and three-year tenure (3YRS%) rates have changed during the life of our sample, let’s sort the first 20 years of data into five-year pools.
|GRADUATION AND TENURE RATES THROUGH THE YEARS
The total rates paint a consistent picture in that they have remained fairly static since about 1992, though in tomorrow’s installment we’ll explore the subject in greater detail and establish a link to the past with comparative analysis of previous BA research on the subject.