Are the days of bad drafts behind us?
Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across MLB. Each week, we send 30 polls to plugged in-fans from each team. If you’d like to be included in the survey of Mariners fans, sign up HERE to join FanPulse.
The MLB Draft is just over a week away, so this week’s survey questions focused on the draft. First, a general question for the national responses:
I was surprised to see these results with so many rebuilding teams, but if given an option between “risky but potential star” vs. “likely solid contributor,” I suppose the smart money is on taking the sure(ish) bet.
When I first started following the draft closely I generally strongly preferred college players—battle-tested, those who had been in high-pressure televised situations—to high school ones. However, I think the landscape has changed some with prep players in recent years. Elite high school players, in addition to facing intense competition on the showcase circuit, now have access to the same kinds of advanced training methods as their college and pro brethren; the growth of individual academies has allowed them to become exposed to training methods and analytics that are significantly ahead of what prep players had access to just a few years ago. So, too, do teams have better technologies to analyze and project what these players might become. My theory is that, with the analytics revolution making its way to scouting and development as well, error bars on selecting high school players are narrower than they’ve ever been, and although it will take years for that theory to be borne out, early returns are that teams are already better at drafting in the 21st century than they’ve been in previous decades.
It’s also important to consider team need. You don’t draft for need, but the type of player preferred by teams can be a reflection on overall team health. Teams who are either already competitive (Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers) or just beginning a long rebuild (Orioles, Royals) have the luxury of taking a prep prospect and being able to spend time developing that player, whereas teams who might want to be competitive in the next 3-5 years might look to the college ranks. That’s part of the reason I feel the Mariners will select a collegiate with their first-round choice this year, even in a draft weak on college players.
The Mariners under Jerry Dipoto have mostly skewed towards polished collegiates with their first two or three picks, sometimes throwing analysts for a loop with their choices. Overall, however, it seems like Mariners fans are willing to trust this FO with the draft:
We’re still working with a fairly limited data set of first and second-round choices, and major injuries have derailed the careers of two of those players (Kyle Lewis and Sam Carlson), but generally people seem to trust this FO’s selections. While this might seem like a lofty number, the Mariners actually rank fourth in the AL West, with only Rangers fans showing less confidence in their team’s ability to make a solid draft choice (at 69%, not-nice, but also, probably, fair). 80% of A’s fans trust their FO, 90% of Angels fans, and, unsurprisingly, 100% of Astros fans. Apparently the Brady Aiken/Mark Appel days are long behind them.
Catching up on our other recurring questions: Manager approval has fallen to the lowest it’s been all season, at 77%. Conversely, confidence in the team’s direction has risen slightly, to 80%. Despite the losing, it’s been very promising to see potential Shortstop of the Future J.P. Crawford play well, and also encouraging to see Yusei Kikuchi continue to build confidence, so perhaps that’s the reason behind the slight upturn. It’s fun to see the kids play, and even more fun to see them play well, even in losing efforts.
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