While reading about the latest chapter in OriLOLes lore — the shoulder troubles that could keep promising young right-hander Zach Britton off the mound to start Spring Training — a link in the “related content” sidebar caught my eye.
A photo slideshow all the recent Orioles draft picks. Hmmm, like a trainwreck with interstitial ads. While it was more horrific than entertaining, it made me think about something very specific: high draft picks guarantee nothing.
The steady knock against the Tampa Bay Rays always sounded something like “well, if my team got to draft first overall every year, they’d be great too!” Which is, of course, not true. Converting high draft picks into on-field talent isn’t as easy as it seems. Even if you do draft well, it takes more than just high picks to create a winning club.
Let’s take a quick look at the Orioles draft history since 2000. This, I should not have to mention, might not be safe for work or impressionable young children.
The draft is an inexact science but that list of players represents two everyday big league players and one rotation guy (Matusz) through 2011. Machado looks like a great prospect and Bundy ranks very well but this list is pretty ugly. The average position of the Orioles first pick in the last eleven drafts is just under seventh.
Compare the OriLOLes tale of woe to everyone’s favorite Extra 2-percenters, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Wow, that is a lot of draft picks in the past two years. The Rays managed to win an average of 92 games over the last four years and yet they just keep producing talent. It is shocking, really.
Looking back over their first round draft history, we see an average first pick position of 8th when you include their recent run of success. The “picked first every year because they were awful” section of history saw them draft with the third overall pick on average.
With those selection, the Rays produced one solid regular (fell to them because the Pirates wouldn’t meet his bonus demands), one super duper star (fell to them after the Rockies lost their minds), a top of the rotation starter (first overall pick) and a back of the rotation starter and a spectacular bust, a guy who probably shouldn’t play everyday but does and the Tragic Paisan of Woonsocket.
Drafting high is important. Drafting well is crucial. The Pirates and the Orioles show picking at the top of the class isn’t worth much if you aren’t able to convert the pick. There are so many potential pitfalls between draft day and the Opening Day roster of a big league club, clearly just grabbing the highest draft pick isn’t enough. If there is a chance to screw it up, the Orioles surely will.