Moneyball, the 2014 Draft, and the Future of Twins Pitching
by, 10-30-2013 at 05:39 PM (1050 Views)
The Twins need top-notch starting pitchers if they are to compete in the latter half of this decade. Last year, Twins starters paced all starting staffs with a 5.26 ERA, while taking the loss in whopping, major league-topping 74 games. So, something has to change. But how?
The most effective way to bolster starting pitching, long-term, is through the draft. Drafted players have greater longevity, and they come cheaper than buying developed players through free agency. Even Terry Ryan’s dumpster diving moves only netted a two-year Kevin Correia, and a one-year Mike Pelfry. Those are quick fixes, and not the answer when the likes of Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia should be patrolling the outfield together, entering the prime of their careers.
The 2014 Draft is a long way away. Amateur prospects will rise and fall based upon their performances next spring, on high school ball diamonds, and college fields. Changes will occur beyond the control of scouts, coaches, prognosticators and the talented ballplayers themselves. Two things will not change: the draft is set for Thursday, June 4th, and the Twins control the fifth pick. Even that fifth spot can change, but that variable is not beyond the team’s control.
One factor is the arrival schedule of a college-level pitcher, as opposed to a high school talent. A college-level player could be groomed for major league competition in a year or two, as opposed to the longer, riskier timetable afforded by a younger, lesser-tested talent.
The other factor is that the 2014 draft appears to be deeper than usual, and especially deep with college-level starting pitchers. Four starters are at the top of Chris Steven’s list, writing for Bleacher Report: Carlos Rodon, a lefthander from N.C. State, Tyler Beede, a righthander from Vanderbilt, Sean Newcomb, a southpaw from Hartford, and Michael Cederoth, a righty from San Diego State. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1666580-2014-mlb-mock-draft-breaking-down-the-biggest-stars-in-next-years-class/page/4
We have already had an extended conversation on this site regarding the 2014 draft, and the wisdom of picking the proverbial Best Player Available (BPA). http://twinsdaily.com/twins-minor-league-talk/9041-mocks-2014-mlb-draft-twins-pick-5-a-3.html
I would contend that we should pursue, given the nature of the franchise, the best college-level starting pitcher available (BCLSPA!). Reason? The depth of the draft, the Twins need for starting pitching, and finally, this quote from Michael Lewis. I re-read Chapter 5 in “Moneyball”, The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special, where Lewis chronicles the Oakland A’s 2002 draft. It’s a delightful read. Here are two quotes: 1) where Lewis sets up the wisdom of drafting college players, and 2) where the draft falls Billy Beane’s way:
(Bill James) looked into the history of the draft and discovered that ‘college players are a better investment than high school players by a huge, huge, laughably huge margin.’ The conventional wisdom of baseball insiders—that high school players were more likely to become superstars—was also demonstrably false... Paul DePodesta, the head of R & D for the Oakland A’s, made his own study of (Bill James’ theory). As a result of that study, the Oakland A’s front office, over the silent shrieks of their own older scouts were about to implement a radical new idea about young men and baseball (pgs. 98-99).
And, the second quote:
The selections made (in the 2002 draft) are, from the A’s point of view, delightfully mad. Eight of the first nine teams select high schoolers. The worst teams in baseball, the teams that can least afford for their draft to go wrong, have walked into the casino, ignored the odds, and made straight for the craps table (pg. 112).
The Twins, with the worst starting pitching staff in baseball, simply can’t afford to throw the dice on high school talent. Not this time, with the Buxton-Rosario-Hicks-Sano-Arcia window opening. There are many changes that will occur between now and Thursday, June 4, 2014. But this should not change—6/4/2014 will be the right time for the Minnesota Twins to draft a top-tier, college pitching talent.