Everybody knows that the players first picked in the Draft are the ones who are most likely to succeed. However, the historical data tells a different story.
First of all, let’s define “success”. In my opinion, a successful professional baseball player is a player who has made it to the Major Leagues, then did well enough to earn a spot on the All-Star roster at some point in his career.
When we cross-reference MLB All-Star appearances with past draftees, we find some interesting results. Hitters tend to hold up better than pitchers. There seems to be a certain magic about the 10th pick for generating All-Star-caliber players, as Mark McGwire, Ted Simmons, and Tim Wallach were all 10th picks. On the other hand, the number 3 spot seems cursed, because players selected at the number 4 slot have historically done better than those selected at number 3.
Perhaps the reasons are pure chance due to luck and a small sample size, or perhaps there are real advantages to picking at certain spots in the draft order. Maybe once the field gets narrowed down a little and the few obvious choices are chosen, teams work a little harder to make a good pick.
That’s not to say a number 3 pick is a sure-fire bust because plenty of players selected at number 3 have succeeded, including Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, and more recent picks Manny Machado and Evan Longoria. However, there have simply been more successes coming from number 4 than from number 3, such as Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Dave Winfield, and other notables such as Thurman Munson, Kevin Brown, Ryan Zimmerman, and Kerry Wood. We’re talking probabilities here, which means that even if you have only a 1-in-20 chance of succeeding, there is no reason why you can’t be that “1” where another 19 have failed.
So I crunched some numbers on the 2014 Draft class and got these top 9 most likely to succeed:
- Michael Conforto (37% chance to make an MLB All-Star game)
- Kyle Schwarber (34%)
- Tyler Kolek (30%)
- Nick Gordon (30%)
- Jeff Hoffman (29%)
- Brady Aiken (28%)
- Alex Jackson (26%)
- Kodi Medeiros (25%)
- Brandon Finnegan (20%)
What do these numbers mean? It means that out of these 9 players, 2 or 3 of them will probably make it to an MLB All-Star game at some point in their professional careers. Of Conforto, Schwarber, and Kolek, there is a very high chance that at least one of these players will succeed.