Mets Draft and Development Debunked

One of the main reasons the Mets aren’t spending money on the 25-man roster (outside of David Wright) is because they are focused on rebuilding the organization through drafting and player development — correct? If that’s the case, then why are the Mets signing so few of their draft picks?

This post of the seeming conflict emanated from an exchange between readers in the following thread in the MetsToday comments:

norme says:
January 26, 2013 at 12:30 am

Hey Dan B,
I have a question.
I found your statement about the failure to sign draft choices very interesting. To better understand this data we have to put in perspective with other clubs. Do you know if this failure is similar to what other clubs do–better?—worse?

Furthermore, if a club systematically drafts and fails to sign a good number of these draftees, might they not be guilty of restraint of trade or some sort of willful restriction of a person’s right to earn a living? Just asking.

Dan B says:
January 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for the homework assignment. I only did the National East for the past two years since I do want to stay married. It was bad news for people who think the Mets are serious about rebuilding. For the past two years, the Atlanta Braves signed 72% of their draft picks. Nationals — 62%, Phillies – 58%, Marlins – 66%, and the Mets – 48%. It gets worse when you realize most teams don’t sign many of players from the last 25 rounds. If you look at just the first 25 rounds, where you are more likely to find your true prospects (and spend the most money), the Braves sign 96% of their draft picks, Nationals – 82%, Phillies – 85%, Marlins – 84% and the rebuilding New York Mets signed 74% of the players they picked in the first 25 rounds. To put it another way, the Braves signed eleven more draft picks and nine more top draft picks in the past two years then the Mets. You wonder why they always seem to have rookie of the year candidates and the Mets have Mike Baxter starting in the outfield? My conclusion – the Mets are no more serious about rebuilding then they are about signing free agents. They are most interested in lower costs to help pay off their massive loans which have balloon payments coming due until June of 2014.

Great work by Dan B. I took the torch he lit and did some more digging. Following are the number of players drafted and signed by all MLB clubs in the 2011 and 2012 drafts. I started with 2011 because that is the first draft executed by Sandy Alderson and his fantasy front office, and also the first year that the Mets unofficially began their rebuilding stage. Because it’s only two years, it’s a small sample size. At the same time, it is what it is, and there are questions that require answers.

Finally, instead of collecting data for the first 25 rounds, I settled on the first 20, for no particular reason other than 20 rounds seemed like a more fair assessment — indeed, had I gone to 25, the Mets would have looked even worse.

2011 Draft
Mets: drafted 51, signed 37, or 72.5%, including 18 of 21 in the first 20 rounds (85%).

Rest of MLB: 1479 drafted, 924 signed, or 62%
Top 20 Rounds: 608 drafted, 499 signed, or 82%

Based on these numbers, the Mets did an above average job of restocking their farm system via the 2011 draft. It was a good start for the new front office.

But wait – what the heck happened in 2012?

Mets: drafted 42, signed 19 (45%), including 16 of 22 (72%) in the first 20 rounds.

Rest of MLB: drafted 1196, signed 880 (73.5%), including 556 of 615 (90.4%) in the first 20 rounds.

In summary over the course of the two years, the Mets drafted 93 players, signing 56 (60%). The rest of MLB drafted 2675 players, signing 67%.

There are many different ways to look at this. On the one hand, the Mets added a total of 56 players to their minor league system via the draft over the last two years. That number doesn’t include free-agent signings — something I found more difficult to track, for all teams. Did the Mets significantly augment their draft signee pool with free agents? It doesn’t appear so; they signed about ten amateur free agents over the two years, which seems in line with what most other teams accomplished.

Is 56 players a big number? Well, the average team added 62 players via the draft. Is it a big deal that the Mets signed six less players than the average? I don’t know. But it’s hard to suggest that the Mets are “stockpiling” talent based on that figure.

On the other hand, it could be argued that sheer volume doesn’t necessarily result in success. Maybe the Mets are signing only the players they deem worth the dollars. Maybe they’re spending more of their money on the better players, and didn’t see it efficient to go over budget just to add players of lesser talent.

Probing that angle, we would have to accept the idea that the higher the draft pick, the better the player. Of course, that’s not always the case, but it’s a generality that fits most of the time. So, looking again at the 56 players added by the Mets over the past two years, 34 were drafted in the first 20 rounds. The other 29 teams signed 1055 picks from the first 20 rounds — an average of 36 per team. So again, the Mets aren’t far behind the average — but, they certainly aren’t above the average.

Perhaps it would be more helpful to know what teams were above the average, and see if there is any correlation with their farm system’s reputation. Following are the top 15 teams in terms of players signed from the draft over the past two years.

Top 20 Signed
Blue Jays6637
White Sox6535

Which are the best organizations in baseball? Hard to say, as it’s very much a subjective thing and there are opposing views on where certain teams rank. However, most of the “experts” agree that the top 7 teams listed here — Rays, Angels, Mariners, Cardinals, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays — are among the top ten of the best farm systems in baseball. The Braves, Royals, and Rockies are in some top-tens, and certainly in top-15 lists. And it should be noted that Jim Callis of Baseball America personally rates the Astros as #10, based primarily on their strong drafting over the last two years. To get a better idea on whether organizational talent and depth is related to volume, we should take a look at a five-year or ten-year history — a project for another rainy day.

So what does all this mean for the Mets? Again, two years is a very small sample size, so it’s hard to say. However, it appears that some of the more respected organizations have a habit of adding more players to their systems than others. Will the Mets follow that strategy going forward? Should they? What do you think? Answer in the comments.

12-13 Offseason

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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