The AL Central and the MLB Draft: A recent history

The success or failure of teams in the MLB Draft is difficult to determine. The main reason for this is because it takes so long for most draftees to reach the majors, and players shuffle from team to team so often (whether it's by trade or otherwise) that looking at a particular team's draft class for a given year will often only yield one or two players who actually made an impact on that team's major league roster.

Using the practice of looking at how many players on a team's roster were drafted by that team is an imperfect model. While many teams cling to prospects as the lifeblood of their organization, others use those players in deals to acquire proven veterans.

Because of this, I've combed through the recent draft history of each AL Central team to see A) How many players drafted by that organization have reached the majors, and B) how much total WAR those players have accumulated. In some cases, you'll see a large numbers of major contributors still with the team that drafted them, while in other cases those players were used to build the roster in other ways. There are, of course, several fringe players who accumulated numbers at or around replacement level, but they're included nonetheless.

This, too, is an imperfect method, but my hope is that it offers a glimpse into each team's draft history. I went back 10 years (through the 2005 draft) and counted every player who has appeared in a major league game, whether or not that player appeared with the team that drafted him or not. (I did not include players who were drafted and did not sign). 

While I am aware that WAR is not the end all in determining a player's value, it is often a good starting point in determining how successful a player has been at the major league level.

To see a complete list of each team's 10-year draft history, click here.

Chicago White Sox

Drafted players to reach majors: 30
Total WAR: 51.4
WAR per player: 1.7

Top 5 drafted players by WAR
1. Chris Sale - 23.5
2. Gordon Beckham - 7.0
3. Daniel Hudson - 5.2
4. Hector Santiago - 6.4
5. Nate Jones - 3.2
Late round delight: Santiago (30th round in 2006)

Chris Sale, who went in the first round in 2010, accounts for 44 percent of the total WAR accumulated by players drafted by the White Sox. Gordon Beckham, who ranks second in WAR among drafted players, is still considered a disappointment as he's accumulated just 7.0 WAR after going eighth overall in 2008.

The next two guys on the list, Daniel Hudson and Hector Santiago, were used in trades by the White Sox, with Hudson going to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson and Santiago going to the Angels last season in a three-team deal that netted them Adam Eaton.

13 of the 32 players on the White Sox's list have accumulated negative WAR in their career, including Micah Johnson, who has netted -0.8 in 2014 before recently being demoted to Triple-A.

The 2010 class has produced by far the most value of any White Sox draft class in the last 10 years. In addition to Sale, the White Sox took Jake Petricka in the second round and Addison Reed in the third. Petricka has been a solid piece of the Sox's bullpen the last two years, accumulating 3.0 WAR, while Reed racked up 69 saves in two full seasons in Chicago before being dealt to Arizona for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

Cleveland Indians

Drafted players to reach majors: 30
Total WAR: 41.3
WAR per player: 1.4

Top 5 drafted players by WAR
1. Jason Kipnis - 14.1
2. Chris Archer - 6.1
3. Lonnie Chisenhall - 4.5
4. Vinnie Pestano - 4.4
5. Cody Allen - 3.3
Late round delight: Allen (23rd round in 2011)

Four of Cleveland's top five players were at least somewhat significant contributors to the franchise at one point. The only exception is Chris Archer, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2006 draft and dealt to the Cubs in 2008 for Mark DeRosa in a deal the Indians certainly regret.

Despite a low WAR/player total, the Indians have been good at finding late value. Vinnie Pestano (20th round in 2006) and Cody Allen (23rd round in 2011) were both late picks who ended up being solid major leaguers, with Allen currently serving as the team's closer. Even T.J. House (16th round in 2008) and Roberto Perez (33rd round in 2008) have been able to hang around at the major league level for a little bit.

The Indians haven't had a lot of luck with first round picks, however. Two of them (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White) were sent to Colorado in 2011 for Ubaldo Jimenez (and have been disappointments). Two others (David Huff and Trevor Crowe) were replacement level or worse), and the only other first round pick to reach the majors has been Lonnie Chisenhall.

Cleveland's '06 class saw eight players reach the majors, including the team's top four picks. However, four of those players turned out below replacement level and the only two to put up solid numbers were Archer and Pestano.

Kansas City Royals

Drafted players to reach majors: 28
Total WAR: 84.1
WAR per player: 3.0

Top 5 drafted players by WAR
1. Alex Gordon - 30.4
2. Greg Holland - 10.2
3. Jarrod Dyson - 7.7
4. Eric Hosmer - 7.2
5. Mike Moustakas - 6.8
Late round delight: Dyson (50th round in 2006)

Yeah, I'm as surprised as you that Jarrod Dyson, 50th round pick who has been a part-timer during six seasons in Kansas City, has a better career WAR than 2014 postseason heros Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. In reality, that speaks to the overall disappointments Hosmer and Moustakas, both first round picks, than to the productivity of Dyson, not to discredit the value of a guy who has provided speed and great defense when the Royals have needed him.

Kansas City is the only AL Central team to still employ all of its Top 5, as all the guys on the above list played an important role on last season's AL pennant winning team. And while the overall WAR these draft classes has produced is impressive, it should be noted that the Royals picked in the Top 10 eight times in the last 10 years, so one could argue they SHOULD have the highest WAR. Those first rounders include Hosmer, Moustakas, Alex Gordon (who has the highest WAR of any player drafted by an AL Central team), Christian Colon, Aaron Crow and Luke Hochever.

The Royals are also one of just two teams on this list that have already employed their 2014 first round pick at the major league level, with Brandon Finnegan joining the White Sox's Carlos Rodon.

Detroit Tigers

Drafted players to reach majors: 45
Total WAR: 61
WAR per player: 1.4

Top 5 drafted players by WAR
1. Alex Avila - 11.5
2. Rick Porcello - 10.9
3. Cameron Maybin - 9.6
4. Matt Joyce - 9.2
5. Drew Smyly - 8.5
Late round delight: Could either go with Joyce (12th round in '05) or Devon Travis (13th round in 2012) if you believe in his hot start with Toronto.

In contrast to the Royals, the Tigers still employ just one of the Top 5 players in their WAR list. But that doesn't mean the other four haven't been valuable in their own way.

In deals that sent away Rick Porcello, Cameron Maybin and Drew Smyly, the Tigers got in return the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, David Price and some guy named Miguel Cabrera. So while Kansas City has used its farm system to build a contender within, Detroit uses the players it drafts to acquire proven stars. 

In the last 10 years, Detroit has only drafted in the Top 10 twice, netting Andrew Miller (who was also part of the Cabrera deal) in 2006 and Jacob Turner (who was traded for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez) in 2009. 

Most farm system rankings have Detroit at or near the bottom of the league. But given what they've received in exchange for their top prospects over the years, it's hard to argue with their strategy.

Minnesota Twins

Drafted players to reach majors: 23
Total WAR: 42.1
WAR per player: 1.8

Top 5 drafted players by WAR
1. Matt Garza - 14.7
2. Brian Dozier - 10.7
3. Brian Duensing - 5.7
4. Ben Revere - 5.3
5. Kevin Slowey - 4.6
Late round delight: Dozier has been solid as an eighth rounder in 2009, but you could also go with Danny Valencia (19th round in '06).

The lack of players drafted by the Twins to make it to the majors is a big reason for the team's downfall over the past several years. Not a single player drafted in 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014 is currently on the major league roster, and the only players from 2010 who have appeared in the majors with any team are Eddie Rosario (career WAR of 0.0), Logan Darnell (minus-0.4) and A.J. Achter (minus-0.1).

The Twins, of course, have a plethora of promising young players on their way to the majors, including Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, but as they have yet to appear in the majors, they don't count for the purpose of this exercise.

First round picks have largely been disappointing for the Twins. Garza, the most successful player drafted by the Twins in the last 10 years, turned into Delmon Young, while every other first rounder, which includes the likes of Chris Parmelee, Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson, has failed to move the needle.


The contrast between the AL Central's top two teams during the past two years — Detroit and Kansas City — is interesting to note. While Kansas City's draft hits were certainly a factor in the team's run to the AL pennant in 2014, Detroit's ability to win four straight division titles is largely because the team traded away some of its prospects for high-end major league talent. (And many of those prospects ended up failing, which explains their poor showing in WAR/player).

Cleveland and Chicago have been a combination of hits and misses that have led to a mixed bag of results over the past decade, while Minnesota's lack of development through the draft is certainly a factor in the team's struggles of late.

A look into the entire league's 10-year draft history may enlighten us further into the successes and failures of specific franchises over the years, but a glimpse into the history of these five franchises shows that, while the draft is certainly important, what teams do with those players can differ greatly, and there's no one true correct method to build a winner.

Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter at @TheCatbird_Seat and Collin Whitchurch at @cowhitchurch.