Word is that Brian Cashman will receive a (I think) much deserved extension. But the haters were out in force, asking why the Yankees haven't drafted anyone to replace the current core? In the subtext of this critique is the argument that there is enough talent in the draft to restock a team, and that the Yankees should have a GM able to identify inefficiencies that other teams haven't so the Yankees can walk away from the draft with enough talent to reload.
This has always seemed unfair to me, because you're evaluating Cashman by the part of his job that he has the least advantage in. A lousier team gets higher draft picks, and a quick look back through recent history shows us that there are one or two great players in any draft.
Using the incredible draft tool at BaseballReference, reminds us of that: in 2000, for instance, Joe Mauer was taken with the first pick and has amassed more than 44 WAR in his career; Mark Teixeira went with the 5th pick and has 48 WAR. The Yankees (and every other team) that year missed on David Wright, who was picked 38th overall and has 48 WAR. Only one other player from the first five rounds of that draft (Dan Haren) has had a successful enough career to amass 30 WAR.
So I'd like to use 2007 as a test case. It was after all the drama of Cashman consolidating power from George's Tampa faction.
If the draft had been perfect for the Yankees in the 2007 MLB Draft, they would have drafted David Price, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, Jordan Zimmermann, Chris Sale, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Mitch Moreland, Rick Porcello, Craig Kimbrel, J.P. Arencibia, Todd Frazier, Brett Cecil, Dillon Gee, and Mike Moustakas.
Combined with the Yankees' resources, pundits would be picking the Yankees to win the World Series for the next five years. But what if every team had picked perfectly? What if all the players in the draft had been picked in order of future output?
The Yankees picked 30th, 94th, 124th and 154th. Would they have come out better than they did?
In reality, the Yankees took Andrew Brackman (0.1), Austin Romine (-0.7), Ryan Pope (AAA), and Bradley Suttle (AA).
Who was the 30th best player to come out of the 2007 draft (out of the first four rounds)? Ross Detwiler, a Nationals starting pitcher who made it to the bigs in 2009 and has settled in as a mediocre middle reliever with a 103 career ERA+ and 4.18 FIP. He racked up most of his value in 2012 when he made 27 starts and pitched 160 innings (1.2 out of 2 career WAR).
Who is 94th? Hard to say. 94 players from that draft class haven't made it to MLB yet.
That suggests to me that while teams might not pick perfectly, they pick consistently as a whole. Not every future MLB player is taken in the first round, but the ones who aren't have some obvious holes in their game that concerns nearly all the scouts in baseball.
Picking at the end of the draft means the obvious talent is gone. The scouts are looking at 18 or 22 year olds and imagining what they'll look like at 28. It is, to say the least, inexact.
In 2007, the Yankees drafted players they thought could help them. Austin Romine still might, but there was no obvious success like the year before (David Robertson, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Melancon) or the year after (David Phelps, and dammit, Gerrit Cole).