Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dodgers should take note: It pays to draft third basemen early

The MLB Draft is a crap shoot -- more so than any other draft in professional sports. When there's as many as 40 rounds, that's bound to happen.

The Dodgers, in the Logan White era, have drafted many a pitcher. That is obviously his philosophy. There's nothing wrong with that.

White's first-round draft picks since 2002
(Italics denotes Supplemental first-round pick)
James Loney, Greg Miller, Chad Billingsley, Scott Elbert, Blake DeWitt, Justin Orenduff, Luke Hochevar (did not sign), Clayton Kershaw, Bryan Morris, Preston Mattingly, Chris Withrow, James Adkins, Ethan Martin, Aaron Miller, Zach Lee, Chris Reed

Only three of these guys were not pitchers.

Now, they say it's harder to find a frontline starting pitcher than, say, a third baseman. But is that true?

We all know the Dodgers are in desperate need of a third baseman in the minors, but it's foolish to draft for need in the MLB Draft. However, as was pointed out to me on the Dodger Message Board, it's hard to find a quality third baseman if a team doesn't: 
  1. Draft him in the early rounds of the draft, or
  2. Sign him as an international free agent (which is going away soon)
Let me break it down.

Drafted third basemen in baseball (overall selection)
Pedro Alvarez (2)
Lonnie Chisenhall (29)
Chase Headley (66)
Chipper Jones (1)
Brett Lawrie (16)
Evan Longoria (3)
Mike Moustakas (2)
Alex Rodriguez (1)
Scott Rolen (46)
Kyle Seager (82)
Ian Stewart (10)
David Wright (38)
Ryan Zimmerman (4)

Top undrafted/international free agent third basemen
Adrian Beltre
Miguel Cabrera
Placido Polanco
Aramis Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez
Pablo Sandoval

Nearly two-thirds (19/30) of all starting third basemen in the majors were drafted in the first three rounds or were signed as international free agents.

With every rule comes an exception. David Freese (ninth round), Mark Reynolds (16th) and Kevin Youkilis (eighth round) were later selections who have made an impact in the majors. Reynolds not so much, but he still hit 44 home runs in a season.

And it doesn't stop at current major leaguers. There are a ton of quality prospects who were either drafted high or signed as either undrafted or international free agents.

Notable drafted third base prospects (in a team's Top 10)
Nolan Arenado
Dante Bichette
Nick Castellanos
Zack Cox
Matt Davidson
Matt Dominguez
Todd Frazier
Will Middlebrooks
Mike Olt
Anthony Rendon
Josh Vitters

Of these guys, only Arenado (second) and Middlebrooks (fifth) were not a first-round selections.

Undrafted/international free agent third basemen
Edward Salcedo
Miguel Sano
Cheslor Cuthbert

Of the 30 teams in baseball, just five do not have a third baseman ranked in their Top 10 (according to Baseball America's rankings). There are 29 third basemen ranked in a team's Top 10 among all 30 teams.Of the 29, 13 were first-round picks, including supplemental first-round selections. Ten of the 29 were undrafted or international free agents.

So, 23 of the 29 (79.3 percent) were either first-round picks or signed outside the draft. The Dodgers have none neither of these things in recent years, hence the lack of quality third base prospects.

As it stands right now, guys like Pedro Baez and Alex Santana are the Dodgers' best third base prospects. Baez was an international signing and Santana was a second-round pick. Baez hasn't panned out (though, he's playing decent ball this season) and Santana is 18 years old -- many, many years from contributing.

With third base deep in this year's draft, the Dodgers could be in a position to upgrade the position rather quickly. It obviously pays off to draft third basemen early in the draft. A lot of them pan out, even if some don't (Stewart) or haven't yet (Alvarez, Chisenhall).

With the draft three days away, the Dodgers are going to have decisions to make. Whoever they draft now won't be able to help for a couple years (at the soonest), and they certainly don't want to reach for a third baseman for the sake of drafting a third baseman. But if a guy like Richie Shaffer is available at No. 18, there probably won't be many better players available at the pick

Photo credits  
Wright: slgckgc, Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Never should have let Beltre go. Wouldn't be a problem now.