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The History Of The Diamondbacks Drafts

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With two of the first seven picks in the draft on Monday, Arizona is doing something no other team has done before. And in terms of their own history, it's rare for us even to have one pick so high. Over the fifteen drafts in which the Diamondbacks have participated, going back to 1996, the team has had a total of three choices that took place in the first seven, so will almost match that total today. Let's take a look back at the team's history in the draft, and what they've made of the opportunities. Warning: it's not pretty.

1996. 1st-round pick: Nick Bierbrodt, #30 (-1.4 WAR)
Best pick: Brad Penny, 5th round (20.3 WAR)
Other notables: Junior Spivey (36th), Jason Jennings (54th, did not sign)
% major-leaguers: 16%. Total WAR: 30.6
The Diamondbacks' draft history starts, not with a bang, but a whimper. As we'll see, we have had first-round picks who failed to reach the majors, but Bierbrodt is the only one to fall into the 'flame-out' category. He appeared in five games for us, before being packaged off to the Rays with Jason Conti for Mike Difelice and Albie Lopez. Since then, he has survived being shot in the chest, played in China for the amusingly-named Brother Elephants, and is currently in the Orioles' minor-league system.

1997. 1st-round pick: Jack Cust, #30 (8.3 WAR)
Best pick
: Cust
Other notables: None.
% major-leaguers: 8%. Total WAR: 6.2
If getting five games out of your first-round pick seems bad, it gets worse: Cust came to the plate just three times as a Diamondback, and was dealt to the Rockies a part of a trade in which we got Mike Myers. Yeah... About that... He subsequently bounced around three teams before finding a home in Oakland, filling a role as sort of a Mark Reynolds Lite, with no glove (he appeared mostly as the A's DH). Cust led the AL in strikeouts from 2007-09, though averaged 28 homers a season too.

1998. 1st-round pick: None. Highest pick: 3rd-round Darrel Conyer, #103 (N/A)
Best pick: Mike Koplove, 29th round (2.8 WAR)
Other notablesJavier Lopez (4th), Bret Prinz (18th), Robby Hammock (23rd)
% major-leaguers: 12%. Total WAR: 4.2
We had no pick in the first hundred, losing our first- and second-round spots due to the free agents Jay Bell and... Willie Blair? WTF? Still, it's not as if the gaining teams did well, picking Matt Burch (never reached the majors) and Adam Pettyjohn (-1.1 WAR) respectively. By total production, this was the worst draft in franchise history, no player reaching even three, and Koplove and Lopez the sole players to surpass 0.2 WAR. Prinz was actually good out of the bullpen for the World Series team (2.63 ERA in 46 games); after that, for other teams, not so much (6.71 in 56).

1999. 1st-round pick: Corey Myers, #4 (N/A).
Best pick: Lyle Overbay, 18th round (17.5 WAR)
Other notables: Casey Daigle (1st supplemental), Chris Capuano (8th), Matt Kata (9th)
% major-leaguers: 10%. Total WAR: 24.0
Finally, the Diamondbacks got a high draft-pick and took full advant... I'm sorry: turned over two decades at once. Awful, awful selections at the top, and not just Myers, who never reached the bigs. Through the first seven rounds, only one of our picks reached the majors, and that was Mr. Jenny Finch and his 7.16 ERA. Though Capuano and Overbay would go on to produce respectable number, of the 26.4 WAR for which they've combined, a total of 1.1 was while they were with the Diamondbacks. This one gets my vote as our worst ever.

2000. 1st-round pick: None. Highest pick: 2nd-round Mike Schultz, #69 (0.0 WAR)
Best pick
: Brandon Webb, 8th round (27.6 WAR)
Other notables: Doug Slaten (17th), Ian Kinsler (29th, did not sign)
% major-leaguers: 20%. Total WAR: 48.2 WAR
No first-round pick again, this time because we signed Russ Springer. At the risk of repeating myself: WTF? And that might have hurt, since with it, the Braves took Adam Wainwright, who has produced 20.5 WAR - though since Atlanta shipped him off to St. Louis, not much credit there either. That WAR is entirely due to Webb and Kinsler; though eight other picks made the majors, giving this draft a great hit-rate there, they mustered a total of -0.7 WAR, so probably shouldn't have bothered. I still can't believe Andy Green (-1.1 WAR) played in 73 games for us in 2006.

2001. 1st-round pick: Jason Bulger, #22 (0.9 WAR)
Best pick: Ian Kinsler (26th, did not sign)
Other notables: Scott Hairston (3rd), Chad Tracy (7th), Dan Uggla (11th), Seth Smith (19th, did not sign)
% major-leaguers: 20%. Total WAR: 50.9 WAR
I think Kinsler probably took out some kind of restraining order against the Diamondbacks after we picked him again. [Nick Piecoro had a good piece in June 2009 on how Kinsler got away] As the previous year, two players are responsible for the bulk of the production, this time Kinsler and Uggla. But Hairston and Tracy had their moments - particularly with the latter, some of them even for Arizona. Bulger went to the Angels for Alberto Callaspo, a trade we would have won, because Callaspo has put up 5.2 WAR. Except we know how that worked out.

2002. 1st-round pick: Sergio Santos, #27 (3.0 WAR)
Best pick
: Ian Kinsler Chris Snyder, 2nd round (4.6 WAR)
Other notables: Lance Cormier (4th), Dustin Nippert (15th)
% major-leaguers: 10%. Total WAR: 5.3 WAR
Another ugly draft, Snyder and Santos the only ones with positive WAR. And Santos didn't just do that for another team, to add insult to injury (and a $1.4m signing bonus) he did it after being converted from a short-stop to a closer. He has a 2.37 ERA in 78 relief appearances for the White Sox, though not until after being traded to the Giants in March 2009, then dealt back 12 days later, after they couldn't find him a regular job. "It never crossed my mind that he could be a pitcher," said Miguel Montero. You and the entire D-backs organization both, Miggy. 

2003. 1st-round pick: Conor Jackson, #19 (3.8 WAR); Carlos Quentin #27 (7.7 WAR)
Best pick: Quentin
Other notables: Chris Coghlan (18th, did not sign)
% major-leaguers: 11%. Total WAR: 14.2 WAR
Getting better - for the first time since 1997, our best pick was in the first round, though it was not Arizona's first overall, Quentin still coming after one we snagged Jackson, on a slot taken from the Mariners for their signing of Greg Colbrunn. That was the first of three occasions - Monday being the third - where we have had two in the first round proper. Poor CoJack has never recovered from catching valley fever: before then, his OPS+ was a solid 104, but from 2009-11, it has dropped to 69, with a mere four home-runs in close to 500 PAs.

2004. 1st-round pick: Stephen Drew, #15 (10.4 WAR)
Best pick
: Drew
Other notables: Mark Reynolds (16th), David Hernandez (34th, did not sign)
% major-leaguers: 14%. Total WAR: 19.8
Finally. A first-round pick we can call a genuine success - one that reached the majors, and produced well here, for the team who drafted him rather than anyone else. We were kinda lucky to get Drew. GM Kevin Towers was then GM in San Diego, took Matt Bush with the first pick and regrets it. "I should have taken Drew in 2004. We targeted him as the right guy, just financial reasons. Hard to find middle of the infield guys that are solid, dependable, accurate arm, out there every day." Oh, yeah, and that is our set-up man David Hernandez, picked but unsigned in the 34th round.

2005. 1st-round pick: Justin Upton, #1 (8.9 WAR)
Best pick: Upton
Other notables: Micah Owings (3rd), Greg Smith (6th), Rusty Ryal (14th)
% major-leaguers: 7%. Total WAR: 13.7
Two in a row! The best thing about the horrible 2004 season - thankfully, one whose annals are now lost in the mists of my pre-SnakePit site, But It's a Dry Heat - was getting the first pick in 2005. It was a Bryce Harper-esque no-brainer. It's interesting to note that, while Upton has nearly two thousand big-league PA's, our very next pick, Matt Torra (#31 overall), has yet to reach the majors, and is "enjoying" his seventh season in the minors. He's not alone there though: six years on, 48 of our 52 picks haven't seen the show, the worst rate for any pre-2008 draft.

2006. 1st-round pick: Max Scherzer, #11 (6.5 WAR)
Best pick: Scherzer
Other notables: Brett Anderson (2nd), John Hester (13th), Clay Zavada (30th)
% major-leaguers: 11%. Total WAR: 11.9
Normal service was resumed, with top picks Scherzer and Anderson - finding most of their success after leaving Arizona, for Detroit and Oakland respectively. Even if you still do the former trade, and the latter made sense at the time, imagine plugging Anderson and his 119 career ERA+ into our rotation, in place of Saunders... Second-round pick Brooks Brown, picked between those two, was also sent to the Tigers, so that we could keep Rule 5 pick James Skelton. Not sure where he is now: not on their 40-man roster, and doesn't seem to have pitched this year.

2007. 1st-round pick: Jarrod Parker, #9 (N/A)
Best pick: Josh Collmenter, 15th round (1.5 WAR)
Other notables: Barry Enright (2nd)
% major-leaguers: 9%. Total WAR: 1.9 WAR
We're getting to the years where the jury still has to be out on the results, especially until we assess what Parker can do, which probably won't be until next season. For the moment, Collmenter just pips Enright (1.4 WAR) as the most productive of the class. If you look all the way down to the 28th round here, you'll find Evan Scribner, who made his debut for the Padres, and had success (including three scoreless innings vs. us) out of the pen with a sub-70 mph curveball, but is now back in Tucson. We sent him to San Diego in July 2008 for Tony Clark. Ugh.

2008. 1st-round pick: Daniel Schlereth, #27 (0.4 WAR)
Best pick: Schlereth
Other notables:  None
% major-leaguers: 1%. Total WAR: 0.4
I'll stop the detailed assessments with this draft, since Schlereth is the sole representative from the classes of 2008 or later to have reached the majors thus far. Though I wouldn't be surprised if that changed later this year, and some of the others get a September call-up. Fifth-round pick, outfielder Collin Cowgill is hitting .344 for Reno, with a good K:BB ratio (31:25), and second-round selection, Bryan Shaw, has been lights-out as the closer in Double-A Mobile, allowing two earned runs in 20.2 innings.

2009. 1st-round pick: Bobby Borchering, #16 (N/A); A.J. Pollock (#17)
Best pick: N/A
Other notables: Paul Goldschmidt (8th), Charlie Brewer (12th)
% major-leaguers: N/A. Total WAR: N/A

2010. 1st-round pick: Barret Loux, #6 (did not sign)
Best pick: N/A
Other notables: Zach Walters (9th), Adam Eaton (19th)
% major-leaguers: N/A. Total WAR: N/A

A few thoughts. If you want some of the above WAR data in cool infographic form, check out Sprankton's post last month. From 1996 through 2003, only once did the first player picked by the Diamondbacks turn out to be the best one, and to date, it has happened four times in 15 drafts - and one of those is Daniel Schlereth's 0.4 WAR. Otherwise, they've been as far down as the 29th round, and the best ever - Webb - was an eight-round pick. Though when selected, Brandon was not in possession of the devastating sinker which would become his weapon of choice. One wonders whether Goldie will become another eighth-round gem for Arizona.

The sheer volatility also stands out: in most years, 85-90% of your picks will never make it to the majors, for you or anyone else. While the percentage who do get there is a lot higher in the early rounds, it's a steep fall-off. 89% of number-one picks do make it, at #101, that has dropped to 34%. By #201, it's 19% and only 15% at #301. In the second-half, you can basically forget it: of the 250 players picked from #1001-1010, only thirteen (5%) have seen any action. The lowest Diamondback signed pick ever to make the majors was Erik Sabel, selected in the 42nd round, and with the 1,262nd choice of the 1996 draft.

But then, as is well recorded, future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza was a 62nd-round pick. So you never know...