Having looking at recent Blue Jays drafts and their tendencies in the draft over the last six years, it's now time to consider the impact that the front office overhaul, most notably Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins assuming the position of president and general manager could have on 2016 (and future drafts). As discussed in the preview, most of the new personnel were on the player development side, with the draft personnel more or less intact.
It's hard to say exactly what will change from the outside. The team president wouldn't normally have much influence on the draft, though Shapiro has talked about being more involved in baseball operations. Shapiro and Atkins can certainly be expected to have significant influence in terms of overall strategy (total resources committed to the draft, how the resources are spread out, going for higher ceiling vs. more polished players, etc). The general manager is usually significantly involved in choosing first round picks, and maybe other first day picks, but after that it's more orless exclusively in the hands of the scouting director (Brian Parker for the Jays). So let's dig into what Cleveland did under Shapiro.
From a draft perspective, Shapiro's 14 years can be divided pretty cleanly in half. During the first seven, from 2002-08, he was the GM and John Marbelli was his scouting director, who had been in place since the 2000 draft under predecessor John Hart (per Baseball-Reference). Starting with the 2009 draft, Brad Grant replaced Mirabelli as scouting director, and conveniently Ross Atkins also took over as farm director at that time, which I'd think would mean some involvement in the draft. After 2010, Shapiro became the team president which would have meant less draft involvement, and starting in 2012 the new rules came on board. Moreover, the books are pretty much closed on the 2002-08 era drafts in terms of evaluating, while they're still mostly open on the 2009-15 period.
Below is a table breaking down the types of players drafted by three tiers: the really premium picks in the first round, picks in the Top 100 overall, and picks in the top 10 rounds:
|Type||First Round||Top 100||Top 10 Rds|
This frankly looks a lot like the J.P. Riccardi playbook, with similarly dismal results. These Cleveland drafts were very college heavy, with six of seven first rounders from college (and the other, Lonnie Chisenhall, from a junior college) and roughly 70% of top 100 picks and top 10 round picks from college. The other tendency was for position players over pitchers at the top, with under 40% of top 100 draft picks being pitchers.
Most damningly, of those six college first round picks, only one amounted to much of anything. Jeremy Guthrie was chosen 22nd overall in 2002, and had a solid 9-year run as a mid rotation starter, totaling 18 career bWAR. But of the others were basically complete busts - and to add insult to injury, Guthrie didn't deliver any value to Cleveland, having been lost in waivers in 2007. Chisenhall is the other first round success, as an average regular with 6 bWAR at age 27.
Here's a breakdown of the production of signed draftees from this period, compared to the Blue Jays:
I've included Chris Archer in the 10-20 WAR bucket, since he'll almost certainly get there and probably beyond. And again, none of that value for Cleveland, having been traded for Mark DeRosa. The results are arguably worse than the Jays, because a lot of those 2-10 WAR players were at the lower end of the range. So they didn't hit at the top, didn't find hidden gems lower down, and really only signed three players who could be described as regulars over a multiyear horizons. They did have some luck some finding useful pitchers past round 10, such as Josh Tomlin, Tony Sipp and Vinnie Pestano.
|Top 100 picks||First Round||Top 100||Top 10 Rds|
There's a pretty clear philosophical shift starting in 2009, with a much more balanced distribution between high school and college draftees, as well as pitchers and hitters. And the results, though not extraordinary, have been a lot better. They on their first rounder with Alex White in 2009, but Jason Kipnis has more than made up for it in the second round with 17 career WAR already. Drew Pomernanz has been a disappointment with 5 WAR as the 5th overall pick in 2010, but that's still some value. Francisco Lindor (8th overall in 2011) looks like the type of cornerstone player that makes a draft on his own.
From 2012 onwards, it gets dicier to evaluate. The outlook for 2012 doesn't look great, with Tyler Naquin a potentially a regular. Clint Frazier was the 5th overall pick in 2013, and was ranked as the 23rd overall prospect by MLB.com, and is succeeding in AA, so that one is looking good. In 2014, they had three first rounders, and took Bradley Zimmer 21st overall, he's now the 22nd ranked MLB.com overall prospect. Mike Papi has been disappointing, but Justus Sheffield look good and is ranked 99th overall. Finally, in 2015, they were almost universally lauded for the three high school pitchers they landed at the top in Brady Aiken, Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman.
It's fair to say that Shapiro had the most influence over the draft process, the results were pretty atrocious. It appears he fell into the same trap as Riccardi, which was trying to exploit a market inefficiency in college players that no longer existed when they took over. However, it also appears that he learned the lessons and at least started a strategic shift that has had much better results. I doubt Shapiro will have much to do with the draft, and the evidence would suggest that's probably for the best.
With Atkins, it's harder to say. The reality is he's sort of the junior/assistant GM, so it would be logical that this would be an area where he could carve out a lead role. Three prominent tendencies for the Jays have been college pitchers at the top, toolsy position players, and projectable high school pitching. Atkins will be in a position to influence that, but each of those is not inconsistent with what Cleveland did recently.
Overall, it's remarkable how similar Cleveland and Toronto have been from a draft perspective over the last 15 years, from poor college heavy drafts to embracing a new direction with more success. We should get a pretty good idea this year if we're about to see yet another shift.