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MLB Draft Review: AL West


David Seifert
Director of College Scouting

Rather than taking a subjective approach to ranking organizational draft classes, we will look back through an analytical lens using WAR. The "official" definition of WAR can be found here -- WAR Defined -- but loosely defined, it is an equalizing statistic that places an overall value on a player. It is derived from all areas of the game (offense, defense, base running, pitching) for both position players and pitchers. It is also adjusted by position, ballparks and over the periods of juiced and dead ball eras.

While each Major League organization utilizes its own proprietary calculation for WAR, there are two public outfits that each produce their own valuations -- Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com. For purposes of this exercise, we utilized the calculations provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

NOTES: A negative WAR for any individual is not used to calculate a team's total WAR. For any individual who has a WAR of less than zero, 0.0 is used.

Return on Investment (ROI) measures how efficiently an organization has spent its bonus dollars. Anyone can just spend money on draft picks, but the best clubs scout efficiently and develop their prospects in a manner that allows them to fully leverage every last dollar spent to maximize return (production by the players at the Major League level).

Closing with the AL West, here's an analytical look at how the 2015-2018 draft classes are shaping up for the division with a large range of ROI from the No. 2 Astros to the bottom tier with the No. 23 Rangers and No. 25 A's.

HOUSTON ASTROS (Scouting Director Mike Elias)
2015: 1st Round, 2nd Overall Alex Bregman. Career WAR: 26.1
Individual WAR Leader: Bregman
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 41.7
MLers to Date: 10 (Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Daz Cameron, Tom Eshelman, Trent Thornton, Garrett Stubbs, Patrick Sandoval, Myles Straw, Ralph GarzaZac Grotz)
Signing Bonuses: $19.10M

2016: 1st Round, 17th Overall Forrest Whitley. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Abraham Toro. 5th Round. Career WAR: 1.3
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.9
MLers to Date: 6 (Ronnie DawsonJake Rogers, Toro, Ryan HartmanAlex De GotiTaylor Jones)
Signing Bonuses: $6.91M

2017: 1st Round, 15th Overall J.B. Bukauskas Career WAR: -0.9
Individual WAR Leader: Chas McCormick. 21st Round. WAR: 2.3
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 4.3
MLers to Date: 8 (Bukaukas, Corbin MartinTyler IveyPeter SolomonBrandon BielakJake Meyers, McCormick, Josh Rojas)
Signing Bonuses: $8.18M

2018: 1st Round, 28th Overall Seth Beer Career WAR: 0.1
Individual WAR Leader: Beer
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.1
MLers to Date: 1 (Beer)
Signing Bonuses: $6.49M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 48.0   MLers: 25   BONUSES: $42.94M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $894,580 per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY
Alex Bregman has produced more than half of the 'Stros total WAR with 26.1 of the 48.0 to date, but the ROI is bolstered in every direction as Houston has produced 25 Major Leaguers from its 2015-2018 drafts. Their ROI ranks 2nd overall and 25 Big Leaguers tops the game. Just from their 2015 draft alone, the Astros have totaled 10 Major Leaguers and 41.7 WAR. With Bregman continuing to produce and everyday outfielder Kyle Tucker just starting what looks to be a long and successful career in the Major Leagues, the potential is there for the Astros to continue to produce at top of the industry levels for years to come.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
 (Scouting Director Ric Wilson 2015-16, Matt Swanson 2017-18)
2015: 1st Round, 26th Overall Taylor Ward Career WAR: -0.5
Individual WAR Leader: David Fletcher, 6th Round. WAR: 9.4
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 12.8
MLers to Date: 4 (Ward, Jahmai Jones, Fletcher, Jared Walsh)
Signing Bonuses: $5.84M

2016: 1st Round, 16th Overall Matt Thaiss. Career WAR -0.2
Individual WAR Leader: Chris Rodriguez. 4th Round. Career WAR: 0.4
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.6
MLers to Date: 5 (Thaiss, Brandon Marsh, Rodriguez, Jack KruegerJose Rojas)
Signing Bonuses: $7.32M

2017: 1st Round, 10th Overall Jo Adell Career WAR: -1.2
Individual WAR Leader: Griffin Canning, 2nd Round. Career WAR: 2.2
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 2.2
MLers to Date: 4 (Adell, Canning, Isaac Mattson, Jeremy Beasley)
Signing Bonuses: $9.26M

2018: 1st Round, 17th Overall Jordyn Adams Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Austin Warren. 6th Round. Career WAR: 0.9
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.2
MLers to Date: 4 (Warren, Andrew WantzCooper CriswellKyler Tyler)
Signing Bonuses: $8.76M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 16.8   MLers: 17   BONUSES: $31.18M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $1.86M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY
: Runner-up to the Astros in the AL West for ROI and total WAR, these lofty numbers are mostly due to one man; 2015 6th rounder David Fletcher. The infielder has accumulated a large portion (56%) of their total WAR. The Angels' future looks strong with a depth of high ceiling talent. Toolsy 2016 2nd rounder Brandon Marsh continues to make strides with his development. He reached the Major Leagues in 2021 with modest production (0.2 WAR) in 70 games. Despite industry concerns at the time with his hit tool, Scouting Director Matt Swanson went with athleticism and upside with the selection of Jo Adell in 2017. Adell (video below as a 15 year old) struggled during his 2020 MLB debut season, but fared better in 2021 with a 0.3 WAR in 35 games. His all-star upside remains.

 

2017 2nd round RHP Griffin Canning continued as a rotation piece, winning five games during the first half of the season before succumbing to a lower back injury that sidelined him for the remainder of 2021. In 2018 Swanson once again swung for the fences by selecting high upside prospects with the top two picks. CF Jordyn Adams who is now the Angels No. 3 prospect struggled with the stick at High-A in 2021, yet like Adell, his upside remains and an 80 run tool. And the Angels No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, SS Jeremiah Jackson, fared a little better offensively in Low-A with a .262/.352/.527 slash. With all things considered, it's reasonable to project the Halos to maintain a Top 10 ROI ranking (currently No. 7) from its 2015-18 draft classes.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
 (Scouting Director Eric Kubota 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 20th Overall Richie Martin. Career WAR: -2.0
Individual WAR Leader: Seth Brown, 19th Round. WAR: 2.1
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 2.1
MLers to Date: 3 (Martin, Skye Bolt, Brown)
Signing Bonuses: $6.38M

2016: 1st Round, 6th Overall AJ Puk. Career WAR: 0.1
Individual WAR Leader: Sean Murphy, 2nd Round. Current WAR: 4.4
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 4.6
MLers to Date: 6 (Puk, Daulton Jeffries, Murphy, Brandon Bailey, Eli WhiteSeth Martinez)
Signing Bonuses: $11.00M

2017: 1st Round, 6th Overall Austin Beck. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A 
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 1 (Greg Deichmann)
Signing Bonuses: $12.57M

2018: 1st Round, 9th Overall Kyler Murray. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Alfonso Rivas. 4th Round. Career WAR: 0.1
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.1
MLers to Date: 1 (Rivas)
Signing Bonuses: $10.89M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 6.8  MLers: 11   BONUSES: $40.84M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $6.01M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY
: The four years of this research has been a rough spot for the Athletics with only 2015 19th rounder Seth Brown and 2016 3rd rounder Sean Murphy making impact. Those two have accounted for 6.5 of the A's 6.8 total WAR. Brown debuted in the Majors during 2019 and most recently slugged 20 home runs last summer. Murphy also debuted in 2019 before establishing himself as the everyday backstop during the shortened 2020 season. He then added a 2.7 WAR season in 2021, smashing 17 home runs to go along with his Gold Glove defense behind the plate. Besides those two, there has been a lot of poorly spent cash from the 2015-2018 draft classes starting with 2015 1st rounder Richie Martin. The shortstop was a stretch at the time for 20th overall and may now have played his way out of the Major Leagues with -1.0 WAR seasons in both 2019 and 2021. Besides Murphy, the potential impact of the A's 2016 draft class has largely lessened. Sixth overall pick LHP AJ Puk struggled in 2021, spending most of his time in Triple-A. Supplemental 1st rounder Daulton Jeffries debuted in 2020 and dominated the Cactus League during Spring Training of 2021. However, he started the MLB season on the DL and finished there as well, pitching in only five games for the big club. 2nd round pick RHP Logan Shore reached Triple-A in 2021 as a member of the Detroit Tigers organization, but he spent over a month on the DL and his numbers are not indicative of future impact at the MLB level. Selected 6th overall in 2017 and largely based on his elite bat speed, Beck hasn’t produced much in-game, over-the-fence pop to this point in his career (22 HRs in 1366 PAs), nor did he hit for much average in 2021 (.198 over two levels). Finally, the A's swung and missed once again in the 1st round of 2018, selecting Kyler Murray, paying him a $4.67M signing bonus, only to see him bolt to the NFL. With what looks to be four failed 1st round picks in four years of this review, the A's current ROI rank at No. 25 doesn't look to have much potential for improvement and is likely to remain near the bottom of the industry.


SEATTLE MARINERS 
(Scouting Director Tom McNamara 2015-16, Scott Hunter 2017-18)
2015: 1st Round NO PICK
Individual WAR Leader: Art Warren, 23rd Round. WAR 1.3
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.9
MLers to Date: 7 (Nick Niedert, Andrew Moore, Braden Bishop, Drew JacksonAnthony Misiewicz, Warren, Ljay Newsome)
Signing Bonuses: $5.37M

2016: 1st Round, 11th Overall Kyle Lewis. Career WAR: 2.5
Individual WAR Leader: Lewis
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 2.7
MLers to Date: 5 (Lewis, Donnie Walton, Matthew Festa, Reggie McClain, Robert Dugger)
Signing Bonuses: $7.57M

2017: 1st Round, 17th Overall Evan White. Career WAR: -0.6
Individual WAR Leader: Seth Elledge. 4th Round. Career WAR: -0.1
2017 Draft Total: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 4 (White, Wyatt Mills, Seth ElledgeDarren McCaughan)
Signing Bonuses: $7.42M

2018: 1st Round, 14th Overall Logan Gilbert. Career WAR: 1.0
Individual WAR Leader: Gilbert
2018 Draft Total: WAR: 1.0
MLers to Date: 3 (Gilbert, Cal RaleighJoey Gerber)
Signing Bonuses: $8.65M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 5.6   MLers: 19   BONUSES: $29.02M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $5.18M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY
: The Mariners have handfuls of Major Leaguers (19) from their 2015-2018 draft classes, but little WAR production to show for it. 2016 1st rounder Kyle Lewis has been the leader to date after a 2020 AL Rookie of the Year award and a 1.7 WAR in a shortened season. During 2021, the outfielder was limited to 36 games as he battled another knee injury. Of greater concern is the fact that Lewis has struggled to avoid the injury bug throughout his pro career, appearing in 90 or more games only once. The dynamic outfielder was joined in Seattle by a couple of other 1st rounders. 2017 top pick Evan White, who signed a historic MLB contract before earning a Gold Glove, has faltered at the plate in each of his first two seasons. During his 2020 rookie season, the first baseman struggled to a .176 batting average and a 67 OPS+. He continued his struggles in 2021 with a .144 batting average and just five XBH in 97 at-bats. The top pick from 2018, RHP Logan Gilbert made his Major League debut in 2021 with solid success, winning six games in 24 starts, while posting a 1.0 WAR.

 

TEXAS RANGERS (Scouting Director Kip Fagg 2015-18)
2015: 1st Round, 4th Overall Dylan Tate. Career WAR: 1.2
Individual WAR Leader: Dylan Moore, 7th Round. WAR: 2.8
2015 Draft Totals: WAR: 4.4
MLers to Date: 8 (Tate, Moore, Peter Fairbanks, Scott HeinemanCurtis TerryDemarcus Evans, Jeffrey Springs, CD Pelham)
Signing Bonuses Total: $10.73M

2016: 1st Round  30th Overall Cole Ragans. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Joe Barlow, 11th Round. WAR: 0.8
2016 Draft Totals: WAR: 1.8
MLers to Date: 3 (Kyle CodySam Huff, Barlow)
Signing Bonuses: $6.86M

2017: 1st Round, 26th Overall Bubba Thompson. Career WAR: 0.0
                                         29th Overall Chris Seise. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: Three players with a career WAR: 0.0
2017 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 5 (Hans CrouseJake LatzJohn KingNick SnyderRyan Dorow)
Signing Bonuses: $8.95M

2018: 1st Round, 15th Overall Cole Winn. Career WAR: 0.0
Individual WAR Leader: N/A
2018 Draft Totals: WAR: 0.0
MLers to Date: 0
Signing Bonuses: $9.18M

2015-18 TOTALS:  WAR: 6.2   MLers: 16   BONUSES: $35.72M

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: $5.76M per 1.0 WAR

SUMMARY
: Only one of Texas' 2015-18 1st round picks are currently Top 100 MLB prospects. The lone ranger is 2018 1st rounder Cole Winn (prep video below). The right-hander is currently ranked No. 60 in MLB and is likely to debut for the big club in 2022.


Another Top 100 MLB prospect is 2016 7th rounder Sam Huff. The C/1B is ranked No. 91 overall after making a brief and successful MLB debut in 2020, batting .355 in 10 games for the big club. In 2021 Huff only saw action in Triple-A as he battled a knee injury, but he did drop 16 long balls in 61 games at that level. 2015 top selection Dillon Tate has underachieved relative to his selection as the 4th overall pick, but has carved a role in the Orioles' pen, pitching 62 games and producing a 0.9 WAR in 2021, giving him 1.2 for his career. And 2015 7th rounder Dylan Moore continues to produce (for the Mariners) with a 0.9 WAR in 2021, giving him 2.8 in his career. The 30th overall selection in 2016, LHP Cole Ragans successfully returned to the mound in 2021, earning a promotion to Double-A Frisco. He had not pitched since 2017 after two Tommy John surgeries and a canceled 2020 MiLB season. Drafted behind Ragans in 2016 was RHP Alex Speas. A risky pick with upside, Speas continues to struggle with throwing strikes. He has walked 81 in 87 IP over his five-year pro career. 2017 1st rounder Bubba Thompson has struggled putting the bat on the ball, whiffing 325 times in 1184 pro plate appearances (27.4%), but did show more power (.208 ISO) with a playable K rate of 25.7% this past season in Double-A. Overall, Texas went the ultra risky route by selecting preps with each and every one of their top 11 picks from the 2016-2018 draft classes. That high-risk, potential higher-return strategy has backfired as none of the 11 picks have produced return at the Major League level, and only one (the traded Hans Crouse) has reached the Major Leagues to date.

 

 

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