What should the Minnesota Twins’ approach be for the draft tomorrow?
The 2016 MLB draft is tomorrow. Well, the MLB Rule 4 draft is tomorrow; there’s also the Rule 5 draft which is conducted during the winter meetings. But the amateur draft is certainly the bigger deal and receives much more attention. So just referring to it as the “draft” is probably fair.
Unlike the drafts in most other major sports, MLB’s draft is held during the season. It’s an odd arrangement but that’s the way it is barring changes down the road. Also, unlike the other big 4 sports, even the top MLB draft picks very rarely make an immediate impact on their clubs.
In no sports do top draft picks always turn out but it seems in baseball the draft is more of a crapshoot than in other leagues. In hockey, a number one draft pick will usually turn out to be a superstar. In baseball it’s been much more hit and miss.
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Consider this list of the MLB number one overall picks. There’s plenty of stars for sure but also plenty of mid-level and straight up busts.
Probably the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, was drafted 25th in 2009 and Clayton Kershaw went 7th.
Talent in baseball is very difficult to predict for 18 year olds (college players, less so but they don’t usually have as high of ceilings). It’s a complex game and the skills required take time. Most major leaguers don’t have the skills necessary to make it until their mid-20’s. The vast majority of draft picks don’t make it at all.
With these realities in mind, it does not make sense to draft based on a team’s current needs. By the time the players you’ve drafted reach the majors, the needs of your team have likely changed dramatically.
Draft the best available player at your slot every single time. Of course, in baseball there’s the added winkle of bonus pool limitations and occasionally sign-ability issues. So perhaps the statement should be amended to “draft the best available player, subject to your constraints,” but that’s not quite as pithy.
In general though, the point is that drafting based on current positional needs is very risky and often unrewarding due to the uncertain nature of baseball prospects.
The best approach to the draft is to stockpile your farm system as much potential and talent as you possibly can. Some higher draft selections will falter and fade and some lower ones will rise to the surface. In general, a system with stuffed with great talent will produce great major leaguers but it takes time and often yields unexpected results that you cannot plan for.