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Thread: Average amount of time needed in the minors

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    Average amount of time needed in the minors

    I thought these figures are interesting (2-3 years for college draftees, and 3-4 1/2 yrs for HS draftees) and may provide some guidance for the amount of "patience" needed.

    (This is from this week's Ask BA - Jim Callis wrote the response)
    When I was working on a College Vs. Pro feature back in 1990, I did some research on 1981-84 draftees. On average, the high school players who reached the majors required roughly 1½ years longer to get there than the collegians who made it to the top. Of course, the high schoolers generally began their pro careers three years earlier.

    I asked someone who did a similar and more recent study for a big league team, and he got the same results. He focused on players who had significant careers, and he found that the collegians in that group spent 2-3 years in the minors, compared to 3-4½ for the high schoolers.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    My question is, which of those two groups had a higher percentage of impact players? Its always been my theory that high school players in the end will more often than not, outproduce their college counterparts. My thinking is that the top end talent drafted in the first few rounds out of HS pass on college for the most part, while the lower level round guys end up going to college, but in the end are the lesser talents for the most part. I have no data to back that up at all, just always been a theory I have had.

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    This is one of those great questions. The quality of the 18 y.o. determines his position in the draft order but, is diminished by his signability. Going to College, immediately drops his playing time. There is no single A, AA or AAA in any of the College systems. Even the top signees, can sit for awhile. Pro-Ball has a spot for you. There is no regulation as to number of coaches or amount of contact the player can have in professional baseball. Subjectively, the coaching is simply better in the pro's. Another way to look at this is the age of the player when he arrives in the Bigs. With the "Callis Numbers", you'd expect the H.S. prospect at 21-22 1/2. The College group will consist of 21-23 y.o.'s. Give them 2-3 years, and you have 23-26 y.o.'s.
    Last edited by fargo55; 03-04-2007 at 02:50 PM. Reason: Grammar

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Quote Originally Posted by fargo55 View Post
    Going to College, immediately drops his playing time. There is no single A, AA or AAA in any of the College systems. Even the top signees, can sit for awhile.
    I don't know if I agree with that. If a guy is good enough to go pretty high in the MLB draft, he's not going to ride the pine in college -- not if he's really that good, or close to it. College teams have limited scholarships -- 11.7's worth in D-I to split amongst a team of 25-30 guys. They're not going to offer a guy more than a typical share, as they tend to do when they know they're competing for a guy pro ball wants, if they don't have a place for him to play right now.

    But yes, it is an oft-debated issue. It really comes down to two questions that are often commingled but are really separate:

    1. Should a team draft high-school players or college players?

    2. Is a particular player better off going pro or to college?

    Philosophies differ on #1. For many years, people have been arguing collegians are better risks. While the pros skim off the top talent out of high school like Doug suggests, remember that it's the top perceived talent. 18-to-21 is a huge transition period. Many times, guys who were seen as less talented keep getting better and the "talented" kids have topped out. Drafting collegians, you have three years' more information on a kid and can do a correspondingly better job of projecting him.

    At the same time, a good number of the truly no-brainer talents have revealed themselves by 18 and won't go to college. It's also been argued that the pros are overfishing the collegiate ranks now and high-schoolers have become the relative bargain.

    On #2, I think the stats above are pretty accurate. Take any Mr. Prospect, and if he were coming out of college, I'd have a better read on whether or not he'd make a major-leaguer. But if I knew, coming out of high school, that he was going to be a major-leaguer, he would develop better and more quickly by turning pro. They get to play more, the instruction is probably better on average, and they use wood bats.

    I don't think there's a real advantage to the big club either way as to when the prospects debut. Maybe a kid gets there at 22, maybe it's 24. Either way, the club has control over the player through the typical career peak and has to pony up free-agent money to keep him after that.
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    Smells Like Teen Spirit jmcclain19's Avatar
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Excellent debate topic. Anyone know if any research minded individual has done any number crunching on this subject and could share it with us?

    One extremely interesting baseball development dynamic I don't think anyone has really discussed yet, is that MLB completely eliminated the draft and follow rule for the 2007 draft and going forward.

    Teams would draft guys late and basically had 50 weeks to let someone else pay for their development while deciding if it was worth spending money on them. I would venture to say the vast majority of the late rounds was used for this purpose, and only if a player went above & beyond would it make headlines. Nice list of guys in the last few years who've made a good career after being a draft & follow - Roy Oswalt, Darryl Kyle, Brandon Claussen, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, Julio Lugo and so on.

    Because of the new rule, I'd guess that Baseball's draft gets trimmed down to 30-35 rounds if not in 2008 than 2009. It'll be an interesting subplot to see how soon teams start passing in this year's draft.
    Last edited by jmcclain19; 03-04-2007 at 07:20 PM.

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Thank you both for bringing up several twists to this discussion. I pretty much agree with Island Reds' remarks. I only differ on the playing time that a College freshman receives. The College Coach has a stronger need, to win now. Have you ever heard of a Rookie league Coach being fired because of a poor record? Take even the best of prospects, top draft picks who sign their collegiate letters of intent, if they stumble on the mound or drop into a hitting slump, they're going to find little patience from the coaching staff. The added pressure of classes, grades, studying on the road and trying to hold your spot in the line-up has overwhelmed a significant number of the freshmen. A less than stellar freshman year can keep you from receiving the more coveted summer league invitations. Couple this with the average kid struggling scholastically, they end up in summer classes. I have to believe that the top Colleges attract more of the high draft picks. With that select group congregating in the best baseball Schools, it seems likely that the chance of sitting behind last years high draft pick who is now a sophomore, increases. When you look at the top College programs, they are stocked with draftees. Not all of them are in the "can't miss" pro category, but some are, and they can't be re-drafted until they are twenty one. Unless they are at a JUCO. Overall, if the kid has the capacity to play MLB, sign him and get started.
    On jmcclain19's additions, I can only agree. It was my understanding that the draft and follow, only applied to JUCO attendees and seniors who did not sign when they were drafted as juniors. On the number of rounds, I'm not sure MLB has to respond with any rule changes. Currently, a club relinquishes it's right to continue in the draft process, if they pass in any round. So, I do believe the number of rounds will drop off into the 35 range. However, a rule change probably is un-necessary, the draft will end naturally, when the signable talent has been taken. Thanks for the well thought out responses. Fargo55

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Well, I can only reference my experience from the handful of college teams I've paid attention to in major conferences. Obviously, their primary focus is winning and not player development, so you're right that they may not be as patient with a player who's not performing. But I think you're missing the mark when you say:

    I have to believe that the top Colleges attract more of the high draft picks. With that select group congregating in the best baseball Schools, it seems likely that the chance of sitting behind last years high draft pick who is now a sophomore, increases. When you look at the top College programs, they are stocked with draftees.
    College teams, even the good ones, are not that stocked. Not with genuine prospects, anyway. The scenario you describe just doesn't happen, or almost never does. Teams have limited scholarship money; players want to play right away. If a school has a stud shortstop going into his sophomore year, they're not going to give a big slice of scholarship money to another shortstop that's going to sit on the bench. They'll use it to fill a bigger need. Furthermore, the highly-rated shortstop himself isn't going to sign there anyway, knowing he could step right into the starting job at nearly any other school. The system is actually pretty efficient at distributing talent.

    Truth is, off the top of my head, I can't think of a single recent example who fit the description of someone who was (1) coveted by MLB out of high school -- say, drafted in the first 5-10 rounds, (2) went to college, (3) was as good as advertised and yet (4) didn't play much his first year.

    Anyway, very few of the highly-drafted preps go to college anymore these days, what with signing bonuses being what they are.
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Your top tier players coming out of high school have a hude advantage. Most of them already have multiple scholarship offers and have selected their school. They then are drafted and know how much they can make, which organization they will go to, and whether they should go to college or not. Especially when dealing with pitchers they better be sure that if they go to college that the coach has the players best intention in hand. Many coaches will pitch players on short rest and have them throw too many ptiches in order to win. In reality a top prospect can hold college as a barganing chip to either get drafted by a team they want or to get a bigger signing bonus.

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    When I saw the topic of this thread last week I started looking for the results of an "informal" study I did several years ago that looked at the player's position, whether he was drafted out of high school or college, the draft round and how many years it took to get to majors (based on the year of his MLB debute). The information was taken from the BA book that contains stats on every player to have have appeared in one MLB game the year before, so it included some cup of coffee types as well as the regulars. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it. I fear that during one of our several computer problems it may have been lost. If I do find it I will post it here. From memory (that is scary) some of the general observations I made were:

    College players in general spent less time in the minors than did high school players

    A higher % of college players that were drafted made it to the majors than highschool players. If I recall, the difference was significant, like almost 2-1.

    The % of college players that made it to the majors was dependent upon their position. If my memory serves me correctly, the % was highest for outfielders, then infielders then pitchers.

    The opposite was true for highschool players, pitchers had higher liklihood of making it to the majors than did highschool outfielders or infielders.

    High round draft picks 1-4 had a considerably better chance of making it to the majors than low round draft picks (19+). (Mr. Obvious!) However, there was little difference between rounds 6 through 15.

    High round highschool picks made it to the majors more often than high round college players.

    I'm pulling this info from the deep recesses of my memory so don't hold me to these, its how I recall them.
    Last edited by Triples; 03-05-2007 at 11:55 AM. Reason: change word
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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    I am actually going to go ahead and take a look at this. I am only going to concentrate on the first 5 rounds and I am going to use 1997-2000. That is 4 seasons. It takes into account that HS seniors drafted in 2000 are currently 25 or 26. That way the players have had time to develop properly and show up in the major leagues. I am only going to look at the career numbers. I will do both hitters and pitchers. I will then be able to break down the numbers just about any way you want. I honestly expect this to take me a few days to get done, but I will come back with some information that sheds somelight onto the subject..... I hope.

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    I am actually going to go ahead and take a look at this. I am only going to concentrate on the first 5 rounds and I am going to use 1997-2000. That is 4 seasons. It takes into account that HS seniors drafted in 2000 are currently 25 or 26. That way the players have had time to develop properly and show up in the major leagues. I am only going to look at the career numbers. I will do both hitters and pitchers. I will then be able to break down the numbers just about any way you want. I honestly expect this to take me a few days to get done, but I will come back with some information that sheds somelight onto the subject..... I hope.
    This would be an interesting read, so its great you taking on this project. One aspect I personally consider important would be to define "significant major league career" or "quality major league player".

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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    Quote Originally Posted by Betterread View Post
    This would be an interesting read, so its great you taking on this project. One aspect I personally consider important would be to define "significant major league career" or "quality major league player".
    Once I get all of the information into the spreadsheets I will obviously be able to determine the better guys of the groups. I am trying to keep it simple with the stats used.
    I am using earned runs, innings, walks, strikeouts and hits. Nothing fancy. I tend to not use wins or losses becuase that is as much of a team stat if not more than it is an individual stat. For hitters I am using at bats, hits, doubles, triples, HR, walks and strikeouts.
    Although I have to admit this seems like its going to take me a bit more time than I originally expected. I hope to be able to use the research to find something significant in there. I know baseball prospectus has done similar type studies, but I couldnt find what I was looking for exactly which is why I decided to take on this little task here.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    It's important to understand the fault lines in the draft.

    For instance, the top rated college arms generally work out more frequently and better than the top rated HS arms (I'm talking the first half of the first round here). It has nothing with whether college arms or HS arms are "better," it has to do with how well anyone can identify which ones will work out. Most pitchers aren't ready to much in the majors prior to age 23 or 24. You can call them up younger than that, but you're generally just burning up their arbitration clock while they get kicked around. So college pitchers tend to be closer to their ripe date than HS guys. Justin Verlander came from the college ranks. Jeremy Bonderman from high school. They're the same relative age and they were ready to pitch effectively in the majors at just about the same time.

    And because college pitchers tend to be a bit closer and have seen better competition, it's easier to figure out who the truly elite ones are from those ranks. Take the top 10 HS arms in any year and then come back in three years and see how many are still in the top 10 from that group. Most years you'll see massive turnover.

    That's why you see as many 2nd round HS arms leading staffs as 1st rounders. In fact, you could stack 6th or 8th round HS arms against 1st rounders over the past 15 years. That doesn't mean there isn't talent out there, it means that it's exceedingly difficult to make predictable picks on HS pitchers. Once the predictability of college arms starts to drop (later in the first round) then it all evens out, but that fault line exists. The problem with a lot of the studies I've seen is they set arbitrary cutoffs. They're investigating a fairly pointless question - HS vs. college. In the 60s it was HS, in the 80s was college and most other decades it's about as meaningful a question as how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

    Where to take certain types of players. Where good bets and bad bets have been consistently made, that's the kind of stuff you can use in the casino of the baseball draft. For instance, if you're going to spend a high draft pick (top three rounds) on a catcher, how can you guard against it going horribly wrong? Chances are you can't, but superior athleticism seems to be the most important thing to look for if we use history as a guide (e.g. Johnny Bench and Joe Mauer).

    As for the general finding of the study Betterread mentioned, that doesn't surprise me much. The ones who make it (e.g. have significant careers) are going to move through the minors at a steady clip. For instance, if Jay Bruce is going to be all that and a bag of chips, I doubt he'll be repeating any levels.
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    I'm impressed with the knowledge and passion of those that contribute to this dialogue. M2 has more posts than I have hairs on my head and I have a full head of hair. Also, I'm impressed that DougDirt is willing to take this project on and I look forward to his follow-up. I feel that this conversation can be viewed in a couple of ways. What's best for the draftee and what's best for Major League Baseball. I don't have the skill to conduct a regression analysis to compare the Pro vs. College routes, when it comes to the draftee or for the professional teams. You can find anecdotal cases where things have gone wrong with both decisions. Josh Hamilton was swallowed up after skipping College. Matt Bush stumbled out of the chute. Verlander went to College and became the "06" A.L. Rookie of the year. Luke Hochevar signs with Tennessee and then ends up with a terrific College career, then signs a satisfactory contract with the Royals. Melancon, who played for the same H.S. summer team as Luke, sits for most of his freshman year at Arizona University. Goes on to a great Sophomore year, then in my opinion, is wildly over-pitched in his Junior year, sitting the second part of the season. Drafted in the ninth by the NYY, he has struggled so far. Jordan Meaker drafted in the ninth out of Flower Mound H.S. Texas, signed with Dallas Baptist University and pitched three innings last year. Kyle Sleeth went in the 17th round out of high school, had a record setting Collegiate career, went third overall in the draft, and has not pitched above AA. I know surgery was necessary for Sleeth. Looking back over the last five years, I could not find enough H.S. draftees that went in the first to tenth rounds who did not sign, to conduct any kind of objective analysis.

    Perhaps, that is what draws so many of us to baseball. We can study the stats, but we'll never know for sure. The number of variables that can affect the outcomes of an individual or an organization can be quantified, analyzed and a probability can be derived. All of these results will still have to recognize that these dynamics are fluid. The Astrodome's bunt double, Buckner's bad day, the foul-ball kid in the Cubs series, the 0-3 Red Sox and the list goes on. We show up to see what wasn't predictable. The Television gurus and statisticians, would tell us that the Reds won't win the World Series this year. Twain said the difference between fiction and non-fiction (statistics), was that fiction describes the possible. I'll see you there.
    Last edited by fargo55; 03-05-2007 at 11:40 PM. Reason: Name Mis-spelled

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Average amount of time needed in the minors

    I am looking at the data from the 1997 draft right now. Man that draft was bad.
    Pitchers
    90 Pitchers were drafted in rounds 1-5.
    50 of them never made the Majors.
    40 of them did make the Majors.
    Only 7 of them have pitched 400 or more innings (which is rather small considering two pitchers have over 1100 innings).

    47 pitchers drafted were college pitchers.
    23 made it to the majors.
    Just 3 have thrown 400 or more innings.

    42 pitchers drafted were high school pitchers (1 was unknown and had no age listed so I was unsure where he came from).
    16 made it to the majors.
    Just 4 have thrown 400 or more innings.

    Jon Garland and Randy Wolf are the best starters (only two over 600 innings pitched) and Garland was HS kid, while Wolf went to college.

    Hitters
    74 Hitters were drafted.
    28 of them made the majors.
    Only 9 have more than 1000 at bats (Troy Glaus has over 4000).

    27 Hitters were from college.
    13 made it to the Majors.
    Just 6 have had more than 350 at bats.

    47 Hitters were from high school.
    16 made it to the majors.
    Just 4 have had more than 350 at bats.

    Chone Figgins and Vernon Wells head the HS class, while Troy Glaus, Michael Young, JD Drew and Lance Berkman hold down the fort for the College kids.

    Lots more stuff to come, with a lot more indepth analysis, but that was just some quick hits from the 1997 draft.


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