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BA Subscriber Mailbag: Draft For Talent, Not Need

Image credit: Kevin Parada (Courtesy Georgia Tech)

John B. Rutland, MA asks

In the Baseball America staff draft, you selected Kevin Parada for the Nationals. The Nats seem to love Ruiz at catcher.  Are you saying you would move Parada to another position or keep at catcher and let it play out?

In our recent staff draft, I picked for the Nationals. And when their pick rolled around, I selected Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada. Now it’s a staff draft, not a mock draft, so this does not mean we believe that the Nationals will pick Parada, it’s more of a way for us to go through the exercise of lining up the board.

But to answer the question, would picking Parada be a sign that the Nationals aren’t as enamored with current catcher Keibert Ruiz as it appears? Or would there be other reasons to pick Parada?

And that provided an opportunity for me to explain something we’ve discussed at Baseball America a number of times over the years. When it comes to the MLB draft, draft for talent, not need. And don’t worry about positional logjams in the first round.

There really aren’t many positions where this is even a factor to consider. A team taking a shortstop in the first round knows that shortstop can likely play second base, third base, right field, left field or maybe center field if needed. Right now, Bobby Witt Jr. and CJ Abrams, the top two shortstops taken in the 2019 draft, are displaying that versatility in their MLB debuts.

Similarly, a second or third baseman can likely swap to another infield position or play in the outfield. Outfielders have at least two corner outfield spots they can play, and they can often slide to first base in many cases (or DH).

And with the never-ending need for pitching, the old adage that you can never have too much pitching is very clearly true. No one ever worries about whether it’s OK to pick a potential front-of-the-rotation starter, even if they already have one or two on their roster.

So the only positions where selecting a player where you already have an established big leaguer could be a problem are catcher or first base. Anywhere else and the positional options are quite numerous.

In 2018 and 2019, the Giants selected catchers in the first round in back to back drafts, even though they also had Buster Posey, one of the best catchers in baseball.

Posey decided to retire during the offseason, creating an opening for Joey Bart, the team’s 2018 first-round pick, to become the team’s starter.

So in that case, while Posey’s presence may have delayed Bart’s MLB arrival briefly, it did not end up being a long-term issue.

But that’s just one team. What about if Bart had been drafted by another team with an established catcher?

Here’s a look at the top 30 catchers in 2018 (measured by games caught) with their 2022 team included as well.

Rk Player Age 2018 Team 2022 Team
1 Willson Contreras 26 CHC CHC
2 Yadier Molina 35 STL STL
3 Jonathan Lucroy 32 OAK N/A
4 Tucker Barnhart 27 CIN DET
5 James McCann 28 DET NYM
6 Martin Maldonado 31 2-TM HOU
7 J.T. Realmuto 27 MIA PHI
8 Yasmani Grandal 29 LAD CHW
9 Yan Gomes 30 CLE CHC
10 Robinson Chirinos 34 TEX BAL
11 Mike Zunino 27 SEA TBR
12 Jorge Alfaro 25 PHI SDP
13 Salvador Perez 28 KCR KCR
14 Francisco Cervelli 32 PIT MIA
15 Wilson Ramos 30 TOT CLE
16 Buster Posey 31 SFG Retired
17 Manny Pina 31 MIL ATL
18 Chris Iannetta 35 COL COL
19 Kurt Suzuki 34 ATL LAA
20 Austin Hedges 25 SDP CLE
21 Caleb Joseph 32 BAL N/A
22 Sandy Leon 29 BOS N/A
23 Mitch Garver 27 MIN TEX
24 Gary Sanchez 25 NYY MIN
25 Omar Narvaez 26 CHW MIL
26 Russell Martin 35 TOR Ret.
27 Tyler Flowers 32 ATL Ret.
28 Nick Hundley 34 SFG Ret.
29 Austin Romine 29 NYY N/A
30 Devin Mesoraco 30 TOT Ret.

Notice a trend? There are only five of those 30 catchers who are with the same team they were with in 2018. And one of those (Martin Maldonado) has gone away, played elsewhere and come back.

So in most instances, any team picking Bart in 2018 would have found that their current catcher would be gone by the time Bart arrived. So far the Giants decision to go back-to-back on catchers hasn’t been an issue either. Bailey has struggled at the plate and has yet to show he can handle High-A pitchers, much less big leaguers. But if he had developed more quickly, the Giants could operate with a time share, or it would have given them a valuable trade chip.

With a draft where even the best picks usually take two seasons or more to get to the majors, it’s best in the early rounds of the MLB draft to pick talent and worry about position fits later.


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