A CELEBRATION OF BASEBALL

GALLERY

FORUMS

SEARCH

CONTACT US

JUNE 6, 2004
Moneyball Draft – Two Years Later
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

Major League Baseball kicks off the 2004 “Rule 4 Draft” tomorrow – also known as the amateur draft or first year player draft.  As is often the case after a draft, it can be an interesting time for team’s General Manager and Scouting Director since quite a bit of scrutiny and commentary may follow their choices.

In 2002, the focus for many going into and following the draft, was the Oakland A’s – as they had nine picks within the first 98 players chosen - including seven selections before the start of the 2nd round of the draft.  In fact, the heavily heralded book “Moneyball” devoted and entire chapter (and then some - or at least it seemed) towards the A’s and their 'genius' in working the draft in 2002.  

Now, in retrospect - two years later, just how did the A’s brain trust do with those nine early picks in 2002?  A summary on each follows:

Nick Swisher – The 16th overall pick in the draft.  Signed for a bonus of $1.78 million – which was the 3rd highest signing bonus given to a college hitter taken in the first round of this draft.  Coming into this season, minor league prospect guru John Sickels rated him as a grade C+ prospect.  Currently, he is playing with the Sacramento River Cats in AAA.  This season, he is batting .274 (as of June 2nd).  This is not terrible, as Sacramento (while in the PCL) is still a pitcher’s park.  But, it is not a mark that screams "future star in the making."

Joe Blanton – The 24th overall pick in the draft.  Signed for a bonus of $1.4 million – which was the 6th highest signing bonus given to a college pitcher taken in the first round of this draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade A- prospect.  He is also now playing at AAA Sacramento and pitching well.  Although, he is not dominating the competition and banging down the door to the big leagues - which is what you would hope for and expect at from a college player, taken that high in the draft, signed to a bonus that lofty, at this point in his career.

John McCurdy – The 26th overall pick in the draft.  Signed for a bonus of $1.375 million – which was the 5th highest signing bonus given to a college hitter taken in the first round of this draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C prospect.  Currently, he is playing with the Midland Rock Hounds in AA.  As of June 2nd, he is struggling in a hitter’s park, hitting just .255 with many strikeouts and few walks.

Ben Fritz – The 30th overall pick in the draft.  Signed for a bonus of $1.2 million – which was the 7th highest signing bonus given to a college pitcher taken in the first round of this draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C+ prospect.  Currently, he is pitching with the Midland Rock Hounds in AA.  As of June 2nd, his ERA is 4.88 and he has allowed 88 base runners in 55 IP.

Jeremy Brown – A first round supplemental pick.  He was the 35th overall pick in the draft.  He signed for a bonus of $350,000 – which was a very low bonus for a hitter taken in this position of the draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C+ prospect.  Currently, he is playing with the Midland Rock Hounds in AA.  As of June 2nd, he (like McCurdy) is struggling in a hitter’s park, hitting just .231 with more strikeouts and than walks.

Steve Obenchain - A first round supplemental pick.  He was the 37th overall pick in the draft.  He signed for a bonus of $750,000 – which was an average bonus for a pitcher taken in this position of the draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C prospect.  Currently, he is pitching with the Modesto in A-ball.  As of June 2nd, his ERA is 4.91 and he has allowed 60 base runners in 36.2 IP.

Mark Teahen - A first round supplemental pick.  He was the 39th overall pick in the draft.  He signed for a bonus of $725,000 – which was an average bonus for a college hitter taken in this position of the draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C prospect.  Currently, he is playing with the Midland Rock Hounds in AA.  As of June 2nd, he is hitting very well – albeit in a hitter’s park.  On the downside, he is a 23 year-old playing in AA and has whiffed 44 times in 197 at bats.

Steve Stanley - A first round supplemental pick.  He was the 67th overall pick in the draft.  He signed for a bonus of $200,000 – which was a very low bonus for a hitter taken in this position of the draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade C prospect.  Currently, he is playing with the Sacramento River Cats in AAA.  This season, he is batting only .245 (as of June 2nd).  

Bill Murphy - A first round supplemental pick.  He was the 98th overall pick in the draft.  He signed for a bonus of $410,000 – which was an average bonus for a pitcher taken in this position of the draft.  Coming into this season, Sickels rated him as a grade B- prospect.  Currently, he is pitching with the Carolina Mudcats in AA.  He is dominating the competition as of June 2nd – with 70 strikeouts and only 42 hits allowed in 60 IP.  However, it is significant to note, he is no longer the property of the A’s.  He was traded to the Florida Marlins this past winter as part of the package for Mark Redman.

The scrawling on this scorecard is that the ballyhooed “Moneyball Draft” (as it stands now) has been a bust for the Oakland A’s.  

They spent substantial money on their first four picks – market rates on Swisher, Blanton, McCurdy and Fritz - and only Blanton has shown some promise of being an upper tier player.  The combination of the letdowns by Swisher, McCurdy and Fritz more than offset the promise of Blanton.  They went cheap for Brown and Stanley and both are playing like low-priced players – and each has turned out to be a waste of selection that high in the draft.  Obenchain (who, relatively speaking, did not come cheap) has yet to prove that he can even master A-ball.  Teahen (while showing some positive signs) is still far from being polished or on the fast track.  Lastly, they traded away one of the few players in this group who has demonstrated promising performance (Murphy) for a 30 year-old pitcher who has been (at best) average this season at the major league level (to date).

All things considered (draft position, number of picks, money spent, etc.) if we had to put a number on this draft for the A’s at this stage, on a scale of one to ten (with ten being perfect), A’s G.M. Billy Beane deserves a 3.3 on this effort.  It will be interesting to see if that number goes up or down over the next few years.

Granted, some may say that one should be fair and compare Beane's score here to what other G.M.'s would receive in terms of a grade for their draft work.  And, it may be true that Beane's performance here is right in line with Joe Average G.M.  Perhaps that is the lesson from this review?  Billy Beane, and his Moneyball draft methods, do about just as good (in terms of money spent and success in finding prospects) as any other G.M. would do in a draft.  Not better or smarter.  Just average.


Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

Scrawling On The Scorecard Archive

Discuss this column at:  http://www.netshrine.com/vbulletin2/showthread.php?t=15225

© Copyright 2004 NetShrine.com. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetShrine.com content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.