Which Orgs Are The Best And Worst At Drafting Hitters?


Image credit: Alex Bregman (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

This is a story Baseball America has produced through our partnership with Pramana and the use of Pramana’s Shift tool.

Photo of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The number of home runs hit by the A’s players from the 2012 draft has been corrected.

On July 9-11, the 2023 MLB Draft will become the 12th draft of the current draft rules era. It was in 2012 that MLB adopted strict bonus pools, altering significantly from how talent was acquired. Before the bonus pool rules, teams could spend as much as they wanted. Some teams did, others did not.

Twelve years is a significant amount of time in baseball terms. It’s long enough that the players from those first drafts are now at the peak, or in some cases, past the peak of their careers. And 12 years is a wide enough swath of time that we can look at overall trends in how organizations have drafted, rather than focus on one excellent or awful draft.

If you asked who has done the best job drafting under the current format, you can evaluate it in a number of ways, but probably the most instructive is to look at how teams fared at selecting hitters and how they fared at selecting pitchers separately. After doing that, we can then look at how teams did collectively.

But there are a multitude of factors that go into evaluating how a team has drafted. The playing field is not even. Some teams have picked at the top of the draft year after year, while others never pick before pick 15. In a draft where bonus pool allotment is strictly tied to where you pick, that’s a significant advantage or disadvantage for an organization.

And any study of draft results needs to balance quantity and quality. There’s arguably more value in producing a few stars rather than numerous role players, but there is value in both. This will become even more apparent when we study how teams have drafted and developed pitchers.

We acknowledge that any sort of study looking at MLB production for 2012-present is going to be strongly weighted toward success in the earlier years of the study. If a player from the 2012 draft hasn’t reached the majors so far, he has virtually no chance of being an MLB regular. If you’re not the Angels (and Zach Neto), you’ve gotten no MLB production from your 2022 draft class yet, even if it’s a draft that will eventually produce multiple regulars.

Today we’re looking at how teams have fared in the current draft era when selecting hitters. Tomorrow we’ll look at how they did when selecting pitchers, which has some very different results. And then later this week, we’ll sum it all up with a look at how teams have done overall.

The Best Team At Drafting Hitters 

Since the 2012 draft, no team has done a better job of drafting and producing hitters than the Astros.

There have been 38 hitters the Astros drafted and signed who have reached the majors. There are stars among that group—Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and Jeremy Pena lead the way. But it’s important to note this isn’t just a factor of the Astros picking at the top of the first round regularly in the early years of this study.

In addition to the first-rounders, J.D. Davis, Ramon Laureano, Myles Straw, Jake Rogers, Abraham Toro and Chas McCormick are among the numerous examples of Astros’ later-round picks who have produced MLB value.

The Astros have the most total bases, the most hits, the most doubles and the second-most stolen bases. Using the technical version of runs created, the Astros have 3,484 runs created, significantly more than any other team.

Most Drafted/Signed Hitters
38Houston Astros
27Pittsburgh Pirates
25Los Angeles Dodgers
23Oakland Athletics
23St. Louis Cardinals
22Minnesota Twins
22Cincinnati Reds
21Colorado Rockies
21Cleveland Guardians
19Tampa Bay Rays

If any team was going to make a case that they have competed with the Astros for drafting hitters, it’s the A’s. The A’s have the most home runs from signed draftees with 910. The Astros are second with 886. No other team has more than 700 home runs.

Most Home Runs
Oakland Athletics910
Houston Astros886
Los Angeles Dodgers686
St. Louis Cardinals681
Baltimore Orioles652
Chicago Cubs634
New York Mets502
San Diego Padres497
Seattle Mariners415
Arizona Diamondbacks399

The A’s power success is based around a truly amazing 2012 draft class. That class was led by Matt Olson and his 204 home runs. But Oakland landed 163 home runs from Max Muncy in that same 2012 draft, another 60 from Addison Russell, 18 from Daniel Robertson and five from Bruce Maxwell. The 453 home runs from one draft is more than 21 teams have gotten from all their drafts from 2012 to present.

The Dodgers and Cardinals also ranking near the top probably draws a lot of knowing nods from intelligent fans, but how many of you would also have the Orioles among the top five?

Cedric Mullins, Christian Walker, Trey Mancini, Jonah Heim, Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and recent additions Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson help explain why the Orioles rate so well despite having only 17 hitters who have reached the majors.

Most Runs Created
Houston Astros3484.8
Oakland Athletics2810.1
Los Angeles Dodgers2492.7
St. Louis Cardinals2369.7
Baltimore Orioles2267.4
Chicago Cubs2175.4
San Diego Padres2082.0
New York Mets1844.8
Pittsburgh Pirates1682.1
Arizona Diamondbacks1478.3

The Worst Team At Drafting Hitters
At the top of these charts, the Astros stand out, but they are among a solid group of teams.

When it comes to who has struggled the most to draft and sign hitters since 2012, it’s the Nationals.

It almost doesn’t matter what criteria you use, the Nationals are 30th.

The Nationals have had 13 hitters they signed reach the majors from the 2012-2022 drafts. That’s 27th among the 30 teams. That’s their best stat.

In games played the Nationals are 30th.

In plate appearances, hits, runs scored, total bases and pretty much whatever category you choose, the Nationals are dead last. In runs created, if you doubled their total, they’d still be last. If you multiplied their runs created by 15, they’d still trail the Astros.

When it comes to averages, the news doesn’t get any better for the Nats. Nationals hitters who reached the majors have hit .225/.296/.323. In batting average, that’s 29th, ahead of the Mariners (.224). In on-base and slugging percentage they are 30th.

But the Nationals inability to find power is most notable. The Nationals’ draftees from 2012-present have produced 37 total home runs. Every other team has more than 100 home runs, and there are numerous players in the study who’ve exceeded the Nationals’ grand total during just one season.

In the Nationals defense the team selected only one first-round position player from 2012-2020 (Carter Kieboom) before taking hitters with back-to-back first-round picks the past two drafts (Brady House and Elijah Green).

The Nationals hit the jackpot with No. 1 pick Bryce Harper in 2010. Harper is closing in on 300 home runs since being drafted. In 2011, Anthony Rendon (158 home runs) and Brian Goodwin (50 home runs) gave the Nationals a pair of successful hitters from that draft.

But since 2012, the Nationals have not drafted any hitter who’s reached 10 career home runs. Andrew Stevenson (8), Carter Kieboom (8) and Sheldon Neuse (7) are the only Nationals draftees who have topped five home runs.

The Tigers are clearly the second worst at drafting and signing hitters since 2012. That’s not a shock. After drafting James McCann and Curt Casali in 2011, Detroit didn’t produce another multi-year regular position player from the draft until Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson recently joined the big league club.

The team with the fewest MLB hitters is likely a surprise to most. The Braves have only had eight position players they drafted and signed from 2012 to present who have even reached the majors. That’s a startlingly low number for a team that wins the competitive National League East year after year.

International signings (Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies) and astute trades have given the Braves a lineup to envy. And the Braves have had an exceptionally strong hit rate on those few drafted hitters who have made it. Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, Shea Langeliers, Victor Caratini and Vaughn Grissom have provided solid bang for the buck.

The Yankees are also near the bottom in terms of MLB hitters they have drafted and signed. But picking Aaron Judge does have its benefits. The Yankees’ .451 slugging percentage for its draftees is the best of all teams. Judge has produced 239 of the Yankees’ 313 home runs.

Here’s a look at the combined hitting stats for players drafted and signed from 2012-2022.

Houston Astros38.246.325.4122851834886201886501274762463484.8
Oakland Athletics23.237.319.4302269727984747910123222756852810.1
Los Angeles Dodgers25.258.329.4461862224494295686193160739322492.7
St. Louis Cardinals23.243.317.4171970924534267681287168146762369.7
Baltimore Orioles17.249.320.4311815322294037652172155042542267.4
Chicago Cubs16.250.337.4441617321183532634187171839542175.4
San Diego Padres16.256.322.4181665621033841497536131036762082.0
New York Mets14.251.330.421148671723330450294133931781844.8
Pittsburgh Pirates27.245.312.3801552717153433332212122432151682.1
Arizona Diamondbacks17.238.312.4021277115662704399235115831851478.3
Philadelphia Phillies17.245.323.3991214614462629337128116328211433.2
Minnesota Twins22.240.315.423108921304232839016594028791332.1
Colorado Rockies21.239.307.403114451357245935515298031451298.1
Tampa Bay Rays19.241.318.407107121276229233116498826101285.1
Toronto Blue Jays18.242.317.418105421323227337216292025451278.7
Texas Rangers15.225.301.391113031316228138821397031421218.2
Chicago White Sox17.252.305.395110401293256028720065726421215.8
Seattle Mariners15.224.297.412106781275214241513388233711204.2
San Francisco Giants16.257.323.397102441170237325114479624741194.1
Cleveland Guardians21.250.317.386102411219229621726277123941167.3
Kansas City Royals16.239.304.388104531147225726415482324021130.7
Boston Red Sox11.255.319.39996281116221623415677921661120.1
Milwaukee Brewers18.242.319.42889121080191632812777724281103.8
Miami Marlins13.246.316.3969557101021042675879121271072.8
Cincinnati Reds22.250.336.40685701071187924310383719401053.4
New York Yankees14.253.349.45172821015158031313886519111015.7
Los Angeles Angels14.244.307.38179478831757189855951884862.5
Atlanta Braves8.256.324.43852436421208201463991316664.7
Detroit Tigers12.235.296.37547184861009115343431197481.7
Washington Nationals13.225.296.32320532024153716165539179.5

Pramana Labs, Inc., creates AI products that leverage the power of natural language processing and natural language generation, allowing users from all industries to ask questions of their data with simplicity and consume new insights naturally. Pramana’s flagship application, Pramana SHIFT, provides seamless access to information in free text, while also generating prose narratives from dynamic datasets as new information arrives. Additional information available at pramanalabs.com.

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