Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images
Miami Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has struggled to support his team with talent from the draft. How have the Marlins fared in the mid-2000's versus other clubs?
Quick, name the Miami Marlins' three most productive draft picks since Larry Beinfest took the helms in player personnel department in 2002.
No, it's all right, I will wait.
Did you figure it out yet?
Much like yourself, I immediately thought of Josh Johnson, the Marlins' fourth round draft pick from 2002. I also thought of Giancarlo Stanton. the Marlins' 2007 second round pick. But who do you think is third?
I'll give you some more time.
Would you believe it is current Seattle Mariners starter Jason Vargas? Vargas was drafted in the second round in 2004 and has accumulated 5.4 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (rWAR). Bet you did not remember him.
Yesterday, we discussed the record of Larry Beinfest as a whole and said that his role and job should be evaluated based on his net negative work at the position. His biggest blemish has always been the drafting and player development department, as the Marlins have failed to produce draft picks at a level necessary to sustain long-term success on this team. Ironically, this was always thought of as a strength in the Marlins organization, as outsiders often viewed the team as bringing up young players to replace their increasingly expensive cores.
It turns out that the Marlins did do that, but those young players were often in other organizations. Beinfest's record as Marlins executive has seen him do one of the worst jobs in drafting in the last decade. It does not take much of a study to see this, but let's examine Beinfest's record of drafting success with a small study.
The Marlins' Production
The 2007 season was the last year in which the Marlins had a player from one of their draft classes produce at least 1.0 rWAR in the majors. From 2002 to 2007, the Marlins have had 10 players from those draft classes make it to the majors and produce at least 1.0 rWAR for a major league team (not necessarily the Marlins). Here are those players.
|Player||Year Drafted||PA / IP||rWAR|
|Josh Johnson||2002||910 2/3||23.9|
|Jason Vargas||2004||822 2/3||5.4|
|Chris Volstad||2005||685 1/3||2.3|
|Alex Sanabia||2006||83 1/3||1.0|
|Steve Cishek||2007||118 2/3||2.1|
In total, these players accumulated 53.1 rWAR in their playing time, with the majority accruing most of their production in a Marlins uniform (Andino and Vargas are the lone exceptions). Over a span of six drafts, the Marlins have only produced 53 wins for their luck, with two "star" players amid a crowd of contributors, busts, and future minor leaguers.
The above numbers mean nothing without comparison points, obviously. Because of that, I decided to take a look at a small sample of the league as a whole (a sample because I don't have a database or the time to compile this information for the entire league). I looked at a sample of ten teams in the league and the amount of players that produced at least 1.0 rWAR in the same time period, 2002 to 2007, among their draftees. The sample included two truly small-market "budget" teams (the Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates), four mid-market teams (the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, and Cleveland Indians), and four big-market teams (the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Phialdelphia Phillies, and New York Mets).
Here is how the Marlins did versus the 10 listed teams in terms of the draft.
|Team||1st/Supp Round Picks||# of Players||rWAR|
|Boston Red Sox||13||14||132.3|
|New York Yankees||8||10||69.3|
|New York Mets||6||11||48.6|
From this sampling of 10 teams along with the Marlins, the Fish are squarely in the middle of the pack, but on the lower half of that crowd. Teams like the Rockies, Phillies, and Yankees did a better job than the Marlins did in the draft. You will also note that, aside from the Indians (who had a truly horrific set of drafts during this time period) the Fish were the only team with 10 or more picks in the first round or supplementary round that produced fewer than 60 wins. The teams next to the Marlins, the Pirates, Mets, and Mariners, each only had six shots at the first 50 or so draft picks. The Marlins had 10, including five in 2005.
In this small sample, you can consider the Marlins the third-least efficient team in the draft ahead of only the Indians and the A's, who compensated by having numerous chances in the first round. Note that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who routinely picked lower in the draft, did very well for themselves despite the handicap.
Perhaps more importantly for the Marlins, however, is the performance of the teams like Seattle and Cleveland. The Indians had a stretch of success in the late 2000's due to the development of players outside of their organization, such as Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Cliff Lee. The biggest Indians-drafted cog of those playoff Indians was C.C. Sabathia, who was drafted in 1998. The Mariners have struggled since 2003, aside from a somewhat fluky 2009 campaign. Part of the reason? Their struggles in the draft outweigh even the Marlins' problems.
If the reports are right that the Marlins will be lowering their payroll down to $80 million, then the team needs to succeed and find worthwhile players in the draft to compensate for their lack of funds. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have done this, and as a result the teams as a group have fared a little better than the Mariners and indians. If the Marlins can draft a core of players around which to build, as they seem to have begun doing with the breakout of Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez, then perhaps the team can survive an $80 million mid-market payroll. If they falter in the draft as they have in mid-2000's, the 2010 decade may be a rough one.