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New York Yankees 2004 Amateur Draft in Review

How has the Yankees 2004 draft turned out? Was their draft better or worst than the other major league teams?

Picture being used only because Andy is in it.
Picture being used only because Andy is in it.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Damon Oppenheimer and Mark Newman have been facing some criticism on the lack of talent coming through the farm system for the Yankees. I wondered if this criticism bore out. Have the Yankees been bad at drafting and developing talent? How do they compare to the other major league teams? I decided to go back ten years to the 2004 MLB draft and see how each team did in that draft. I only included players that actually signed with the team that drafted them in 2004. I also did not count only what they did with their drafting team, but their total career MLB value. If a player made it to the big leagues, the lowest career value I gave them was 0 rWAR. For the purposes of this study, I think a player with a negative rWAR is still more valuable than the many draft picks who never make it onto a major league roster.

In 2004, the Yankees made 52 selections, and of those players, only four signed with the team and have made it to the majors. That is 7.7% of their total picks actually becoming major league players. That seems pretty low, but given the nature of the major league draft and how few draft picks make it to the major leagues, maybe this isn't any worse than other teams. Who were those four players?

The first player drafted by the Yankees to make the major leagues was their first round pick, Phil Hughes. Hughes was drafted with the compensation pick from Houston for losing Andy Pettitte. Captain Meatballs has probably ended his tenure with the team, one which started in 2007 as a 21-year-old who was also one of the top prospects in the game. He has accumulated more major league value than any other Yankees signee from 2004, with 6.3 rWAR, and is second to any Yankee pick from that draft. In first place is Chris Davis, he of the 53 home run 2013 season, who was picked with the team's 50th and final draft choice out of high school.

Mike Dunn was drafted in the 33rd round, but has been the second-best Yankees signee from the 2004 draft. He has accumulated 2.2 rWAR over the past five years as a middle reliever with a 3.41 ERA over 197.2 innings. He made his major league debut with the Yankees in 2009, and was traded to the Braves before 2010 in the Javier Vasquez deal. He has spent the past three years with Miami, putting up his best season in 2013: 2.66 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 1.6 rWAR.

Christian Garcia was drafted in the third round by the Yankees. He was a pitching prospect with big time stuff. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He was released by the Yankees in 2010 and signed with the Nationals. He made his debut for Washington as a September call-up in 2012, putting up an excellent 193 ERA+ in 12.2 innings, with 10.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 0.3 rWAR. He looked like he had a spot in the Nats bullpen for 2013 until he was felled by another arm injury.

Jeff Marquez was drafted in the supplemental first round by the Yankees. He was part of the package that brought Nick Swisher to the Yankees before the 2009 season. He made his debut with the White Sox in 2010 and also appeared with the team in 2011. He has only five innings pitched at the major league level, none in the past two years. Overall, he has a 5.40 ERA, 91 ERA+, and 0 rWAR in the big leagues. He didn't pitch professionally in 2013 after being released by the Reds before the season began.

When you look at the results of this draft so far, it seems pretty meager. I decided to see how every team did in 2004 to compare how the Yankees did to the average MLB team. The table below ranks all major league teams by the rWAR their signed draft picks have created in the major leagues through the end of the 2013 season.

Team Total Picks # Major Leaguers % Major Leaguers Total rWAR Ave rWAR per ML weighted rWAR
Astros 49 6 12.2% 59.0 9.8 274.8
Angels 48 6 12.5% 43.0 7.2 221.8
Red Sox 49 4 8.2% 41.3 10.3 95.2
Tigers 50 4 8.0% 40.4 10.1 41.1
Athletics 44 11 25.0% 31.0 2.8 172.7
Rockies 50 11 22.0% 28.3 2.6 207.0
Brewers 50 5 10.0% 25.2 5.0 163.5
Diamondbacks 50 6 12.0% 22.6 3.8 117.7
Royals 53 4 7.5% 19.6 4.9 30.1
Blue Jays 52 6 11.5% 17.8 3.0 142.6
White Sox 54 9 16.7% 16.9 1.9 35.9
Nationals 50 4 8.0% 12.2 3.1 31.6
Twins 54 7 13.0% 11.9 1.7 23.1
Marlins 50 5 10.0% 11.0 2.2 31.8
Pirates 50 3 6.0% 10.8 3.6 26.0
Dodgers 52 5 9.6% 10.5 2.1 109.2
Yankees 52 4 7.7% 8.8 2.2 79.8
Rays 50 7 14.0% 8.1 1.2 24.4
Reds 50 4 8.0% 6.5 1.6 8.3
Phillies 50 5 10.0% 6.3 1.3 20.5
Cubs 49 6 12.2% 5.8 1.0 82.5
Mets 50 3 6.0% 4.5 1.5 28.1
Indians 50 5 10.0% 4.3 0.9 95.3
Padres 49 4 8.2% 4.2 1.1 174.2
Orioles 49 3 6.1% 3.9 1.3 14.9
Giants 49 5 10.2% 3.3 0.7 86.1
Mariners 48 4 8.3% 3.0 0.8 33.0
Rangers 51 7 13.7% 1.0 0.1 14.1
Cardinals 47 4 8.5% 0.4 0.1 2.4
Braves 49 2 4.1% 0.0 0.0 0.0

The Yankees ranked 17th in total rWAR, with 8.8. This is pretty close to the middle of the pack. The average team's draft picks created 15.4 rWAR with a median of 10.7 rWAR. The Yankees had 7.7% of their draft picks actually reach the major leagues after signing with the team. The league average in the 2004 draft was 10.6%. The four Yankees picks who made the major leagues averaged 2.2 rWAR, which is close to the league-average of 2.9 rWAR and above the median of 2.0 rWAR. I also calculated something I called weighted rWAR, which multiplies each pick's rWAR by the round in which the pick was made. This gives a bonus to teams who were able to find value further into the draft. By this measure, the Yankees move up to 14th, thanks to the value created by 33rd round pick Mike Dunn. The average team had a weighted rWAR of 79.6 with a median of 38.5 - the Yankees had a weighted rWAR of 79.8.

In looking at these results, the Yankees 2004 draft was not spectacular like the Astros, Angels, Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, or Rockies. Nor was it terrible like the Braves, who have had only two players signed that made the major leagues, neither of whom have produced any rWAR to date. This is only one year, and it does not in any way support or negate the work of Oppenheimer and Newman. I plan on reviewing more drafts by the Yankees to see if this pattern holds. It doesn't help that the Yankees have drafted with late picks in each round for two decades now, but even for teams with higher draft picks, the 2004 draft was a crapshoot. I think what this does best show is how difficult it is to create major league value from the amateur draft, either in role players or stars.