Thursday, May 29, 2008

Historical Draft Review #4 - 1998

Baseball Reference Page
Total WARP: 85.4 and Counting
General Manager: Randy Smith
Scouting Director: Greg Smith
Best Pick: Jeff Weaver, 1st Round, 55.0 WARP*
Peak Season: 2005, 13.2 WARP

First Ten Rounds plus notables:
1-14) Jeff Weaver, P, Fresno State U., 55.0 WARP*
1-34) Nate Cornejo, P, Wellington, KS, 4.1 WARP
2-14) Brandon Inge, C, Virginia Commonwealth U., 23.6 WARP*
2-30) Adam Pettyjohn, P, Fresno State U., 0.5 WARP
3-14) Tommy Marx, P, Bloomfield Hills, MI, 0 WARP
4-14) Andres Torres, OF, Miami-Dad CC, -0.7 WARP
5-14) Greg Peterson, P, St. John's U., 0 WARP
6-14) Bobby Sismondo, P, Ohio U., 2.9 WARP
7-14) Clint Smith, P, U. of Oklahoma, 0 WARP
8-14) Barry Tolli, OF, Newbury Park, CA, 0 WARP
9-14) Donny Sevieri, OF, Albuquerque, NM, 0 WARP
10-14) William Rich, OF, UConn, 0 WARP

*As of May 25, 2008

Knowing where his career has gone since leaving Detroit, it is hard to believe the choice of Jeff Weaver was enough to warrant this draft being the team's fourth best of all time. It's easy to forget Weaver was a solid starting pitcher in the front of the rotation, devastated by nonexistent run support. That he was able to do that making close to the league minimum until reaching arbitration in 2002 goes to show the true value of drafting well: cost controlled talent at their peak. Something this analysis has ignored is the actual salary of most of these player. That would be a nice study for another day.

After racking up a solid 22.9 WARP for the Tigers, Jeff Weaver was dealt to the Yankees for Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena, and Franklyn German. While the latter two proved to be disappointments and Bonderman has been on the verge of acehood for a couple of years now, the package has proved to be worthwhile, and this draft certainly enabled the trade to happen.

It took a while for Brandon Inge, but he finally became a solid regular 3B starting in 2004 after struggling to take control of the catcher's job. It was Willie Blair's stellar 1997 season and subsequent departure that got the Tigers two extra draft picks. Nate Cornejo provided some value to the club, but was ultimately considered a disappointment. Adam Pettyjohn's case was a bit more unfortunate. Just as he had reached the Majors, a bout with colitis zapped his strength and ended his hopes of sustaining a big league career. Andres Torres was a speed player whose hamstrings acted up in the minors, thereby taking away one of his biggest offensive weapons. Dealt to Philadelphia for mediocre reserve outfielder Wendell Magee, Bobby Sismondo gets credited with the replacement level performance from Magee.

If you are stunned that a Randy/Greg Smith draft cracked the top 5, have no fears. Here are where the rest of the Randy Smith era drafts rank out of 43 drafts:
  • 26) 1996
  • 27) 2001
  • 30) 1997
  • 31) 2000
  • 39) 1999

The 1999 draft has already been passed by 2005 and 2006, and the rest will likely be passed by those two drafts sooner rather than later. The 1998 draft was a notch in Randy Smith's belt, but it was the Weaver for Bonderman trade that helped to vault it to the top of the list.

Even with Bonderman and Inge still active, this draft has a long way to go to crack the top three. Here we have the fourth best in Tigers History by my numbers, and only two players "made it." This is something to keep in mind next week when the post-draft scouting reports come out. It is important to realize that most scouting reports will give the ceiling of a player, but very only one or two players per draft will actually reach that ceiling.

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