Don Mitchell (1996-1999)
Living WAR Doc - Updated regularly, so numbers may not match (last configured May 31, 2023)
Don Mitchell signed 133 players during his time as Scouting Director (Four Drafts). Of those 133 men, 21 reached The Show. That’s a 15.8% success rate. Not exactly an awe-inspiring number. All of Mitchell’s draftees have completed their MLB careers at this point.
The minimum measure for success for this assessment is simply making the Major Leagues. Because just getting a guy from Draft Day to his MLB Debut Day is impressive on its own. While 15.8% looks low, for the organization, it’s not too far off the norm.
Hall of Fame Draftees
Unfortunately for Don Mitchell, none of the young men he drafted for the Arizona Diamondbacks played their way into Cooperstown Enshrinement. Or came particularly close.
Generalities found in his drafts
A lack of Hall of Fame players doesn’t mean he was unsuccessful though. The 1999 draft accumulated 24.2 aWAR and the 1996 draft settled in at 30.0 aWAR.
Perhaps unsurprising given this knowledge, his two best individual performers come from ‘96 and ‘99 as well: Brad Penny (22.8) and Lyle Overbay (13.5). And a shoutout to Chris Capuano (12.3) who comes in third (also from the 1999 draft).
Mitchell’s draft WAR is mostly consolidated in a few solid players though, with six draftees posting negative totals, at least one from each draft year. This is normal for the Diamondbacks (and frankly MLB in general) but does add a wrinkle to the whole “making the MLB is a success in its own right.”
Were these successful drafts
I say these drafts were good-ish... The penultimate year of Mitchell’s time overseeing the draft yielded 8.0 aWAR and 7.6 of that comes from just two names: Javier Lopez (5.0) and Mike Koplove (2.6). Of the 30 players signed that year, six made the MLB, but none were really important to MLB history except Robby Hammock, who obviously caught Randy Johnson’s Perfect Game in 2004 and has been with the team in other capacities much of the time since.
Of course, the year before in 1997, 31 signees turned into only three MLB guys and 6.5 aWAR total. Even worse for this year is that First Round Pick (30th overall), Jack Cust accumulated 8.4 aWAR on his own. Alex Cintron was just so bad outside of his time in Arizona that he totaled -2.0 aWAR in his career (1.6 for Arizona!), dragging the draft down.
But the 1996 and 1999 drafts make up for these shortcomings with Brad Penny, Chris Capuano, Lyle Overbay and Junior Spivey! The Arizona production of those names leaves a lot to be desired (not you Junior, you did fine), but they were all pivotal pieces for the young franchise nonetheless. And if you take the specific team out of it, they are a good enough core group to be pleased with, although certainly not overwhelmed.
Best First Selection Performer: Jack Cust (1997 1st Round 30th Overall 8.4 aWAR)
Best First 10 Round Performer: Brad Penny (1996 5th Round 155th Overall 22.8 aWAR)
Best “Sleeper” (Round 11 or later) Performer: Lyle Overbay (1999 18th Round 538th Overall 13.5 aWAR)
Was Don Mitchell a successful Scouting Director?
Is Arizona a better a team because of Mitchell’s influence
Um... No, not really. But Don Mitchell’s mark is indelibly left on the franchise regardless. Brad Penny was traded to the Marlins for Matt Mantei in 1999 while Penny was still at AA El Paso. But we all know/remember Mantei; he was at least a member of 2001 World Series Winning Team (of course Penny was in 2003 for Florida as well so...).
And the rest share something; they were all shipped to Milwaukee in the ill-fated Richie Sexson deal on December 1, 2003... yay.
But Overbay came back in the middle of the 2011 playoff push and mentored then-rookie Paul Goldschmidt. Overbay resigned for the 2012 season as well, but only made it until the non-waiver Trade Deadline (younger readers, Google that one and enjoy the hellacious confusion we all endured for years!) that year before being DFA’d on July 30 and released on August 6.
The late 1990s were certainly a different era of baseball, and there’s an argument to be had that the 2000s really started the change into what modern baseball has become, so these drafts were fated to suck. But still... A young franchise with high expectations hoped for better.
Don Mitchell’s AZ Stats:
Total AZ aWAR - 11.7
Percentage of Total aWAR in AZ - 17.06%
Average AZ (draft) aWAR - 2.9
Median AZ (draft) aWAR - 2.5
Is Arizona better off for Don Mitchell’s Tenure?