This week at FanGraphs, Jim Breen revealed the results of his research into how much success each MLB team has had in drafting and developing homegrown players over the last decade.
In his piece (the entirety of which is well worth reading), Breen added up the WAR totals each team has received from its homegrown draft picks over the last 10 years. It’s far from a perfect way to measure an organization’s prospect-scouting ability—it doesn’t take into account prospects acquired through trades, draft picks who were traded before they made their debuts, or recent signees who have yet to make impacts in the big leagues—but it’s an interesting starting point for assessing how well teams have drafted in the last decade.
To anyone who’s followed the Indians over the last few years, their placement on this list shouldn’t be a surprise: they came in quite low.
Cleveland has gotten just 15.5 fWAR out of its several-hundred draft picks in the last 10 years (roughly the same value that Grady Sizemore produced in his two best seasons all by himself) and the 24 Tribe draft picks who have reached the big leagues have averaged 0.65 wins above replacement in their careers with the Indians. Both the cumulative and the average fWAR figures put Cleveland 28th out of 30 teams—i.e., third-worst in baseball, ahead of only the White Sox and the Mariners.
At the top of the list are the Red Sox, followed by the Giants and Dodgers; all three teams have gotten more than six times the value out of their draft picks than the Indians have. Twenty-two of the other 29 franchises have gotten more than double the Tribe’s production.
Breen notes that the Indians have had some successes in terms of getting draft picks to the majors—seven of the Tribe’s last 10 first-rounders have reached the majors while with Cleveland—but there’s more too it than that:
On the other hand, though, the vast majority of those first-round draftees have not provided much in terms of value. Jeremy Guthrie, Michael Aubrey, Trevor Crowe and Alex White all netted negative value in their respective stints in the Indians’ big league club. The organization had some luck with mediocre left-handers — Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, and David Huff — but that’s hardly anything to get excited about.
Looking at the Indians’ recent player development history solely through this lens isn’t quite fair—Justin Masterson, Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Chris Perez (among others) were acquired via trade, and Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor haven’t had time to become stars yet. Still, it’s hard to deny that Cleveland hasn’t gotten much from the draft in recent years, and Breen’s numbers show just how barren that front has been.