The 2013 Hall of Fame vote is sure to be interesting. There are some very deserving players coming up for the first time, returning veterans like Jack Morris hoping to get elected before their 15 years runs out, and there are also many players that are suspected of using PEDs or steroids during their career. I've enjoyed reading NoDak Twins Fan's series on the minor leagues this week, and I'm also midway through Seth Stohs' wonderful Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It's a great read that I highly recommend, and I've already learned a lot about who the Twins have coming up through the system. Thinking about minor leaguers and the draft, and also about the fascinating 2013 Hall of Fame debate that's sure to heat up, got me wondering about where these HOF-eligible players were taken in the MLB draft. Are we going to see any kind of trend with respect to early round choices, or did some of these players fly under teams' radars? Here's a list of some of the players that are likely (at least on paper) to get votes next year. The links will take you to the Baseball-Reference.com list of players selected in that particular round.
Jack Morris: 5th round of 1976 draft; 98th overall.
Jeff Bagwell: 4th round of 1989 draft; 110th overall.
Lee Smith: 2nd round of 1975 draft; 28th overall.
Tim Raines: 5th round of 1977 draft; 106th overall.
Alan Trammell: 2nd round of 1976 draft; 26th overall.
Edgar Martinez: Signed by Seattle as amateur free agent in 1982.
Fred McGriff: 9th round of 1981 draft; 233rd overall.
Larry Walker: Signed by Expos as amateur free agent in 1984.
Mark McGwire: 1st round of 1984 draft; 10th overall.
Don Mattingly: 19th round of 1979 draft; 493rd overall.
Dale Murphy: 1st round of 1974 draft; 5th overall.
Rafael Palmeiro: 1st round of 1985 draft; 22nd overall.
Bernie Williams: Signed by Yankees as amateur free agent in 1985.
Barry Bonds: 1st round of 1985 draft; 6th overall.
Roger Clemens: 1st round of 1983 draft; 19th overall.
Mike Piazza: 62nd round of 1988 draft; 1,390 overall.
Sammy Sosa: Signed by Rangers as amateur free agent in 1985.
Curt Schilling: 2nd round of 1986 draft; 39th overall.
Craig Biggio: 1st round of 1987 draft; 22nd overall.
This is a really diverse list with some fantastic players. Can we extrapolate anything from this information? Well, yes and no. It's certainly an interesting list. Of the 19 players I listed, 6 were selected in the first round of the draft -- roughly one-third. 12 out of the 15 that went through the draft were selected between the 1st and 5th rounds; 4 were signed as amateur free agents, and thus never went through the draft at all. Finally, later rounds of the draft -- the 9th, 19th, and 62nd rounds -- were represented by McGriff, Mattingly and Piazza, respectively. None of the players listed were the #1 overall draft pick; Dale Murphy was the closest at 5th overall back in 1974.
Baseball statistics and player evaluation have definitely improved from the 1970s and 1980s. I'm curious, as the next few years pass, if we will see that HOF-type players were more often taken in the very early rounds of the draft than they were in previous eras -- in other words, if scouts and teams are better or more accurately able to recognize major league level talent now than they were a decade or two ago? The truth is that the draft is never going to be anything close to a science: player injuries, personality issues and unforeseen player talent ceilings have dramatic and long-lasting effects on a career, and no amount of stats or research can meaningfully predict such things.
So what does this mean for the Twins in 2012? As a result of a horrible 2011 season, and the departure of free agents that were offered arbitration, the Twins have the 2nd overall pick; the 32nd pick; the 42nd pick; the 64th pick; and the 73rd pick. 5 picks in the first 75 slots is pretty good. Are the Twins likely to draft a future Hall of Famer? No. I'd say that no team is likely to draft a Hall of Famer. Although I expect they will have good MLB careers, even recent #1 picks Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg are far from sure things. But a player's draft status doesn't necessarily shape his destiny: just ask Mike Piazza, who was drafted in the very last round by the Dodgers, as one of the very last picks, as a favor to Piazza's father. Tommy Lasorda was friendly with Piazza's family, and actually is Mike's godfather. Future stars, therefore, can be drafted anywhere. Still, though, I'd rather bank on a solid player coming in the 2nd overall slot than in the 1,390th slot. The Twins have a rare opportunity to fill some holes in the minor leagues with top draft picks, and hopefully will select a few players that can move through the system quickly, and will make a difference at Target Field sooner, rather than later.