So maybe the Cubs AREN'T Drafting Too Well

It seems every winter comes with its prospect attrition study. Well, the fine folks at Royal Review just finished one -- which makes sense, given the unearthly majesty that is their farm system. The findings of these (typically similar) studies never cease to amaze me.

Baseball is the single most difficult sport in which to succeed. Observe:
I think several conclusions are warranted, at least for the period of the study (which includes a great many current major league players).
  • About 70% of Baseball America top 100 prospects fail.
  • Position player prospects succeed much more often than pitching prospects.
  • About 60% of position players ranked in Baseball America’s top 20 succeed in the majors.
  • About 40% of pitchers ranked in the top 20 succeed in the majors.
  • About 30% of position players ranked 21-100 succeed in the majors (with the success rate declining over that ranking range from about 36% to about 25%)
  • About 20% of pitchers ranked 21-100 succeed in the majors (with the success rate declining over that ranking range from about 22% to about 15%)
It's interesting, depressing stuff.

In a chart near the post's end, Scott McKinney, the author, looks at the prospect success rate according to drafting team. Caveats abound:
...I think the data is worth little more than entertainment value. First, the sample sizes are all quite small. Most organizations have 20-40 prospects in this study’s population (for the purpose of this calculation, I counted players rather than rankings). Second, I don’t think the numbers tell us anything particularly meaningful. Some of the players were drafted by one organization and developed by another. Some were developed by one organization but played in the majors for another.
The Cubs have the 8th worst success rate. That's 8th worst among 30 teams.

Lately, it has felt like the Cubs had a pretty solid farm system -- what with Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, and whatnot. But, I guess it's equally true we had some clunkers earlier this decade -- namely Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, and, you guessed it, Mark Prior.

Still, I would wager it does not matter who they draft, but who they get. The worst drafting team? The World Series champs, the Giants. The third worst? The NL Central champs, the Reds.

Photo source: Originally posted to Herkie's Flickr.

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  1. I guess I wouldn't call Prior a bust...he was just another Cubbie occurrence in terms of bad luck, just like Wood. Sigh.

    It might also help if they didn't draft some kid nobody's ever heard of in the first round (although I don't know how good he's going to become, but arguably there were better choices). As far as I know only guys like Billy Beane have been able to make stuff like that work, but I'm not an expert on prospects either.

  2. My thoughts, Brad. The Cubs' farm system hasn't produced a star since Carlos Zambrano. Maybe Geo gets there; maybe Castro does. Neither is there yet. Z is clearly not the Ace he was in the middle part of the past decade. That means the Cubs must acquire star talent via free agency or trade. The Cubs have been woefully bad at doing so, and in any event relying on other teams to produce your best players is an inefficient and risky proposition. We're left with a 2011 team that has no star players on it at all. It's a gigantic pile of mediocrity, and it's expensive as hell. The teams you cited, the Giants (Lincecum) and Reds (Votto), have both developed superstar major leaguers currently in their primes. That's the difference. We have no stars, and they have stars that they developed.

  3. I agree with Kin, I don't think you can label Prior as a bust. I hope the Cubs handle with care on Cashner. He's a supreme talent with a bright future. We cannot afford to have him go the way of Samardzija...out of options and out of luck.

  4. I didn't mean to imply Prior was a bust, but instead a clunker -- a once-great pick that pitched only a combined ~3 seasons in the majors. That's better than most players, but still a major letdown.

    @Eddie: It's really flabbergasting how, despite their typically poor drafting, the Giants had so much drafted talent on their WS team -- Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, Sanchez, Lincecum, etc.

    They've had some exceptional products of their system, indeed, despite most of their players failing big time.

    The tragedy is, as mb21 has shown, that Jim Hendry is only average among GMs when it comes to trades. Therefore, with a low level of talent coming via the draft, he has little to trade with, and the team remains perpetually in mediocre mode.

    @1500: Handle with care? Ugh, I fear the mere talking about Cashner jinxes him.