Don’t do it. Not in the first round. Unless every one is shouting “this player is can’t miss”, then maybe, but not without some trepidation.
There’s been this sentiment lately around here, and it happens every year, that “why can’t we draft a high school pitcher? The Cardinals never draft high school pitchers in the first round”. It’s almost as if people want them to draft a high school pitcher just because it would be different. There is a method to the Cardinals’ madness, trust me.
Myth: High school pitchers have higher upside. No, they don’t. I researched all the 1st round picks made between 1990-1999. The Top 10 1st round pitchers were Mike Mussina, Barry Zito, Kerry Wood, Roy Halladay, Mark Mulder, CC Sabathia, Matt Morris, Josh Beckett, Ben Sheets and Joey Hamilton, in that order. 6 out of those 10 were drafted out of college. 3% of all first round high schoolers became stars while under team control.
Adding in those who became regulars, those who produced around 2 wins above replacement for their clubs on average, while under team control, the figure goes up to 8%. 70% of high school pitchers completely bust. Why should the Cardinals gamble $1.5-$3M or more on a grouping with such a sketchy history?
As a whole, I found that all HS pitchers between ’90-’99 were worth .438 WAR per season. That’s essentially about what Brad Thompson contributes to the Cardinals every year.
To be fair, college pitchers didn’t do a whole lot better. 68% of them busted. 11% of them were regulars or better. On average they were worth .561 WAR per season. Interestingly, southpaws performed better than right-handed pitchers. On average, a college lefty was worth .721, making them a much safer pick than their right-handed counterparts. Contrast that with high school lefties (and there are a lot of them in this draft) were worth .285 WAR per season.
Hitters are much, much safer. College hitters on average were worth .932 per season. High school hitters were worth .804 WAR per season.
I know many of you will say “screw it” and keep banging the drum for a high school pitcher. Go right ahead. But the research says you’re wrong.
Draft a hitter. If there’s a good college lefty to be had, and you really want a pitcher, then history is on your side. There are several of those in this draft. But don’t draft a high school pitcher. Not unless you and everyone else is relatively certain that he’s another Josh Beckett or Roy Halladay.