60-Man Player Pools Give Insights Into How First-Rounders Have Panned Out
Every now and then in the course of a professional baseball player's career, he runs into a moment where his team is forced to make clear how they really feel about him as a prospect and how he compares to other players in the organization.
The 40-man roster deadline in advance of the Rule 5 draft is a perfect example of this. No matter how much a team may say it likes a prospect, if it is willing to leave him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft, it is a sign that he isn't at the forefront of the team's plans.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has proven to be another one of those decision points. Teams have a 60-man player pool to use for the 2020 MLB season. The decisions on whether a player is put on or left off of a 60-man roster is a data point on how exactly that player ranks in the team's plans.
So with that in mind, we looked at which first-round picks from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts have been added to 60-man player pools and which players were left out. We chose those three years because all players in the preceding drafts have already gone through the Rule 5/40-man roster eligibility decisions while the 2018, 2019 and 2020 drafts are recent enough that a number of high school draftees were left off 60-man rosters because of where they are in their stage of development.
There are plenty of caveats that need to be acknowledged here. As a tool, the 60-man roster decisions are more of a sledgehammer than a ball peen hammer—they are rather blunt instruments. Some players currently not on the 60-man rosters may be added. Some are left off in part because of injuries. And the differing focus on how teams built their 60-man player pools means a prospect who is left off one team may have been added for another club.
But overall, what we find is that two out of every three first-round picks over those three years has made the 60-man player pools (65 of 99 or roughly 66 percent).
Only one organization was shut out of placing one of its first-round picks on its 60-man roster. Cleveland's Brady Aiken and Will Benson (its only two first-rounders in those three seasons) were both left off.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Braves, Pirates, Astros and Tigers were the four teams to have four first-round picks over that time that all made the 60-man player pools. Another seven teams had both or all three of their first-round picks make rosters.
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