The 2002 Draft: 1st Round in Review

The amateur draft has come and gone and while it wasn’t as talent-laden as last year’s first round, there was still plenty of excitement surrounding a handful of guys and the teams that secured those talents are eager to see how those prospects pan out.  Fans of every team of course want to know how their team did.  They want analysts and pundits to give a grade and project the future of the players with perfect comparisons to current players.

That, of course, is exceedingly difficult.  Check that, it is very easy to do, it is exceedingly difficult to do so with any measure of accuracy.  Unlike the NFL and NBA drafts, the MLB draft takes several years to pan out (and the NFL/NBA ones can, too, but you will almost always see immediate returns the following season as well as have some projects that may pay off a few years later whereas it is insanely rare for an MLB draftee to pay dividends in year 1) as these kids, whether high schoolers or collegiate athletes, simply aren’t ready for the highest level of their profession.

With that in mind, instead of assessing the future of 17 to 22 year olds who I know very little about, let’s look back at the draft from 10 years ago and grade that with the benefit of 20/15 hindsight (20/20 hindsight is for lames).  Let’s start with a review of the first round.

It was a talent rich first round in 2002, though little did we know then that it would be so for the middle to late round team as opposed to those atop the draft.  Except for Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton at #2, the remaining top five picks were colossal busts.

  1. Bryan Bullington, RHP, Pittsburgh
  2. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay
  3. Chris Gruler, RHP, Cincinnati
  4. Adam Loewen, LHP, Baltimore
  5. Clint Everts, RHP, Montreal

Gruler and Everts never even made it to the majors while Loewen has converted into a hitter and is now with the Mets in AAA after spending 2011 in the Blue Jays system.  Bullington spent 82 innings in the majors with a 5.62 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 1.7 K/BB.  He has been in Japan for the last two years and seems to have found himself there.  Last year he had a 2.42 ERA and 3.2 K/BB in 204 innings and though he is up to 3.96 this year, his skills are a bit better with a 3.5 K/BB in 64 innings.

This quintet has yielded exactly 12 WAR with Upton’s 12.1 hilariously leading the way as it is higher than the total.

Things turned up immediately (6-10… when converting this from Word into WordPress, it started every set of players back at 1):

  1. Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals
  2. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
  3. Scott Moore, SS, Tigers
  4. Jeff Francis, LHP, Rockies
  5. Drew Meyer, SS, Rangers

Three strong picks here as Greinke and Fielder are of course stars while Francis has delivered a solid 8.6 WAR which a lot of teams would probably take if you could guarantee that out of their first round pick, although you would like more out of a top 10 pick.  The pair of shortstops were the failures here and while both made the majors, they contributed a slick -1.2 WAR between the two of them.

Moore never made it to the majors with the Tigers (he made it with the Cubs & Orioles) as he was part of the Kyle Farnsworth trade with the Cubs in 2005.  He was still just 21 at the time, but hadn’t done anything particularly special in the low minors for the Tigers.  He is actually still plugging away in AAA having logged 1732 plate appearances there with an .839 OPS.

He is 28 years old and raking for the Astros AAA affiliate with a .330/.413/.571 line in 214 plate appearances playing all around the diamond, but primarily third base.  Meyer, meanwhile, logged 1487 plate appearances in AAA through 2010, but managed a mere .636 OPS and appears to have hung ‘em up for good.  He is now 30.

This quintet has yielded 51.9 WAR with Greinke’s 28.2 leading the way.

The hits picked up in the next 10 (11-20):

  1. Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins
  2. Joe Saunders, LHP, Angels
  3. Khalil Greene, SS, Padres
  4. Russ Adams, SS, Blue Jays
  5. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Mets
  6. Nick Swisher, OF, Athletics
  7. Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies
  8. Royce Ring, LHP, White Sox
  9. James Loney, 1B, Dodgers
  10. Denard Span, OF, Twins

Only a pair of this 10 pack has failed to return positive value (Adams -0.4, Ring -1.0) while four of them have yielded more than 13 WAR (Hamels 25.4, Kazmir 15.2, Swisher 14.2 and Span 13.2).  Yes, I am surprised that Kazmir has out-WAR’d Swish and Span, too.  Apart from the two busts, the top pick of these 10 has actually yielded the least amount of value as Hermida has netted just 1.8 WAR.

All 10 players have at least reached the majors and if Ring gets one more game (he is still in Colorado’s system), then all of them will have played at least 100 games, too.  The other flameout in this group, Adams, was in AAA as of 2011 with the Mets at age 30, but posted a mere .542 OPS in 72 plate appearances.

And the final 10 picks yielded a star and few other impact players as well one who switched positions and could end up as an impact guy when it is all said and done (21-30):

  1. Bobby Brownlie, RHP, Cubs
  2. Jeremy Guthrie, RHP, Indians
  3. Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves
  4. Joe Blanton, RHP, A’s
  5. Matt Cain, RHP, Giants
  6. John McCurdy, SS, A’s
  7. Sergio Santos, SS, Diamondbacks
  8. John Mayberry, OF, Mariners
  9. Derick Grigsby, RHP, Astros
  10. Ben Fritz, RHP, A’s

I should’ve mentioned this out front, but this is the Moneyball draft.  The A’s hit on Swisher and Blanton, but missed on McCurdy, Fritz and their three sandwich picks (Jeremy Brown, Steve Obenchain and Mark Teahen who yielded a combined 0.7 WAR, all from Teahen).

Cain might not feel like a superstar name, but he gets paid like one and pitches like one despite being overshadowed by teammate Tim Lincecum.  He has four straight 200+ inning seasons and when combined with his league-leading 86 innings from 2012, he has a 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB in 1166 innings.  And that 2.5 K/BB is held down by some of the earlier work as it continues to rise going 2.1, 2.1, 2.3, 2.9, 2.8, 5.1 since 2007.  This year’s 5.1 is driven by improvement in both his strikeout and walk rates.

Brownlie bounced around the minors and independent ball for seven years with four organizations, McCurdy never made it past AA, Grigsby was a terribly sad story as he never made it past A-ball lasting just two years before falling victim to crippling depression after the death of his mother and Fritz knocked around the minors and Indy ball for nine years, spending the majority of his time in the low minors with modest skills.

Mayberry is hoping to be a late-bloomer after a breakout at age 27 last year, though he has performed dismally in 55 games this year thus far.  Meanwhile, Santos is rewriting his story as a big time late-inning reliever and has put together a pair of strong seasons before being traded to Toronto where he is currently working back from an injury.

So that’s the first round (sans the supplemental round) and it turned out quite well.

  • 24 of 30 picks at least reached the majors (80%)
  • 9 of 30 picks delivered at least 12 WAR (30%)
  • 15 of 30 picks deliver at 7.4 WAR (50%)
  • The 6 non-double-digit guys are in the 7.4 to 8.9 WAR range and counting (20%)
  • The top 30 delivered 217.5 WAR

Compare that with the two drafts sandwiching the 2002 iteration.  The 2001 draft delivered 132.2 WAR from its top 30, 103.7 of which came from four of the top five picks (Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Gavin Floyd, Mark Teixeira) led by Mauer’s 33.8 and Teix’s 42.6.  Only Dewon Brazelton, the third pick, delivered negative value in the top five (-3.5 WAR for the then-Devil Rays).  The 2003 draft delivered 125.7 WAR led by Nick Markakis’ 20.4.  Three of the top six never saw the majors and four of the 22 who made the majors delivered negative value “led” by Brandon Wood’s -4.0 WAR.

Both the 2001 and 2003 drafts delivered a supplemental gem as David Wright was selected 38th by the Mets as a comp. pick for Mike Hampton in 2001 and Adam Jones was selected 37th (as a shortstop) by the Mariners as a comp. pick in 2003 for their failure to sign John Mayberry Jr. the year before.

Upcoming pieces will tour each division and look at how all 30 teams did individually.


5 Responses to “The 2002 Draft: 1st Round in Review”

  1. Bun G still doin work 🙂

  2. Everts and Kazmir were same teams on a Houston area high school that I played against. Kazmir, Everts and I graduated the same year. The comparisons end there.

    But Everts signability boosted him to a top five pick. Kazmir was always considered the better prospect despite dropping lower in draft. His signability and off the field issues are things that held him back.



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