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Revisiting Billy Beane’s Perfect Draft
by Richard Van Zandt,
February 24, 2008


A Subjective Analysis

As I’ve noted previously, the reason for using such a simplistic standard for gauging success was to be able to grade every player and team on an equal scale.  By needing only to have played only a single game in the majors, I am able to overlook not only the fact that Mark Kiger made just two otherwise non-descript appearances as a defensive replacement, but also that Adam Greenberg (Chicago Cubs – 9th round)’s only major league plate appearance resulted in a hit by pitch.  Both were just as successful for my purposes as have been guys like Nick Swisher and Prince “too fat for the A’s” Fielder.  Similarly I did not require the player to have played for the team that drafted him for the team to get credit which worked equally as well for the A’s with Mark Teahen as it did for the Mets with Scott Kazmir.  As I said before, to really measure the success of the draft, you must look at it from a more subjective viewpoint.  That will be the subject of this section. 

In order to properly evaluate the draft subjectively, I needed stats, so I set about collecting all the major league pitching and hitting stats from all players out of the ’02 draft.

View individual career 2002 draftee player pitching stats here
View individual career 2002 draftee player hitting stats here
View composite 2002 draft team hitting stats here
View composite 2002 draft team pitching stats here

The Cream of the Pitching Crop

Since the 2002 draft, four pitchers selected that year by Oakland have combined to toss nearly 700 major league innings, the second most among all teams in baseball.  Of course, all but 66 of those innings have been thrown by Joe Blanton alone.  On top of that, Jared Burton and Bill Murphy have tossed their collective 49.1 IP for the Reds and D-Backs while only Shane Komine (9th rd) besides Blanton has contributed to the Athletics' cause, and that to the tune of only 16.2 pretty poor innings (4.86 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 9 BB/2 K). 

Minnesota, on the other hand, has only had 307 innings pitched by just two pitchers out of that draft, but those pitchers, Jessie Crain (2nd rd) and Pat Neshek (6th rd), have done all of it out of the Twins' pen and have done it quite well, combining to post a record of 31-16 with a 2.99 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.  Crain missed much of last season with a shoulder injury but when healthy, he and Neshek along with Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier should form the nucleus of one of baseball’s strongest bullpens.  And Neshek is considered a closer in waiting for 2009 (or sooner) when Nathan leaves via either trade or free agency. 

When all is said and done 20 years from now, Blanton may have won 300 games for the A’s while Neshek and Crain – as relievers so often do – may have flamed out and been gone by 2010.  But for now, given the overall combined results of the pitchers selected by those two teams and factoring in who benefited from those results, I give the edge to Minnesota.  That is to say, subjectively speaking, from my point of view, through the 2007 season, the Twins have gotten better results from the pitchers they’ve drafted than have the A’s. 

Still, it’s not necessarily fair to completely count against a team the fact that a player they drafted and traded away succeeded for someone else.  After all, that team had the foresight to pick them in the first place.  Nevertheless, it should still count for something.  For instance, take the New York Mets' 2002 draft. 

Like the Twins, New York has had two pitchers from the ’02 draft reach the major league level and those two players have done well.  Tenth round pick Matt Lindstrom pitched 71 times last year, with a line of 3.09/1.30/.258 to go with 66 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 67 innings.  Unfortunately for the Mets, after dealing him to Florida along with Henry Owens for Jason Vargas, he did so for the Marlins. 

The other pitcher selected by GM Steve Phillips and the Mets in 2002, of course, was Scott Kazmir, that foolish high school pick who was later famously (and foolishly) traded by Jim Duquette to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano at the trading deadline in 2004.  All Kazmir has done since then is go 35-29 for the Rays, with a career line of 3.64/1.39/.247 in 570.2 innings (only 63 fewer than Blanton).  He has had, and is likely to continue having, a very good career.  The Mets deserve credit for selecting both he and Lindstrom.  Had those two thrown all 637.2 combined innings for New York, the Metropolitans might have been my choice as the team with the best pitching draft in 2002, but because they did not, and due to their successes in the uniform of the team that originally picked them, Blanton, Neshek, Crain and Jeff Francis help to push the Mets down to fifth on my subjective list in the pitching department behind the Rockies, A’s, Twins, and the team with the most success from the 2002 draft, the San Francisco Giants.

Between top pick Matt Cain, Kevin Correia (4th rd) and Clay Hensley (8th rd), the pitchers selected by San Francisco in ’02 have now tossed over 1,000 innings at the major league level, over 300 more than the A’s have.  In addition, they are tied (with Francis and the Rockies) for the most wins (47), have the second most games pitched (290), and the most games started (136).  Among all 9 teams with at least 400 combined major league innings from their draft picks, they have the second lowest collective ERA (3.87), the third lowest WHIP (1.33), the fourth most K/9 (6.91), and by a large margin, the lowest ratio of hits per 9 IP (8.09).  Even including all 25 teams with at least 100 IP, the combined ERA of those three ’02 draftees ranks the club fifth best overall.  It’s true that the three of them also have a combined 59 losses, 20 more than any other club’s draftees.  However, much of their cumulative losing record can be blamed on Cain’s 7-16 mark from last season, which was more the result of poor run support than poor pitching for the young ace, who also posted a line of 3.65/1.26/.235.

Of course, it’s also true that Hensley has tossed all of his nearly 285 innings for the Padres after Sabean and the Giants dealt him away to San Diego in exchange for Matt Herges in 2003.  However, Cain and Correia have thrown the other roughly 715 innings while wearing the orange and black of the team the drafted them and both are currently slated for the Giants' starting rotation in ’08, Cain at the top as the club's 23-year old ace and Correia, after a strong finish in ’07, at the back end. 

While whatever success Hensley has had in the majors has been with the Friars (he struggled badly in ’07 after two previously strong seasons as both a starter and reliever), the Giants, like the Mets with Kazmir, deserve an amount of credit for selecting and helping to develop a future major leaguer.  Unlike New York, though, the Giants have also prospered, and look to continue to do so in 2008, from two of their own.  

We are a long way from reading the final chapter on the ’02 draft, however.  For instance, although the Red Sox have seen only 144.1 innings thus far out of their ’02 pitching draftees, Jon Lester (2nd rd) – 11-2 lifetime and responsible for all 144.1 IP – could conceivably end up making Boston’s ’02 draft the cream of the pitching crop all by himself once all is said and done .  Or the Phillies, with Cole Hamels (1st rd) leading the charge along with Zach Segovia (2nd rd) and Scott Mathieson (17th), could end up at the top.  Then again, if Eric Stults (15th rd) proves to be a late bloomer and/or Greg Miller (1st rd) ever reaches his once tremendous potential, they along with Jonathan Broxton (2nd rd) could make Dan Evans’ 2002 pitching draft for the Dodgers the best overall.  Like I said, there’s a long way to go.  For now, though, here are my top five team pitching drafts.

The Top Five 2002 Pitching Drafts















San Francisco Giants













Minnesota Twins













Oakland Athletics













Colorado Rockies













New York Mets












The Best of the Batting Bunch

Before his recent trade to the White Sox, Nick Swisher had hit 80 home runs in the green and gold of the Oakland A’s, tied for the most by any player from the ’02 draft.  That, along with 32 more from Teahen (hit for the benefit of Kansas City), gives the A’s the most home runs by any team’s collection of ’02 draftees.  Those two have also combined for over 3,400 career plate appearances, 500 more than the next closest team (Atlanta).  They are also first in hits, runs, doubles, and walks and are second in triples and RBI.  They’re even a un-Moneyball-like third in stolen bases.  Still, it is not enough to propel the A’s to the top of the list when it comes to the top hitting drafts of 2002, and when all is said and done, they are likely to slip even further.

The Atlanta Braves, led by top pick Jeff Francouer and catcher Brian “there’s not one of them out there that can hit” McCann, in my opinion, currently hold the distinction of having the best results from the draft.  After all, both Francoeur and McCann have spent all their 2,900 plate appearances in Hotlanta.  They are second in runs, hits and doubles and first in runs batted in.  The two have a collective .287 batting average, second among all 12 teams with at least 500 PA, and their .475 SLG and .808 OPS are both fourth best.  They also both appear to be destined to play in Atlanta for a long time and will likely both get even better.

Speaking of getting better, the Dodgers' 2002 crop of hitters has only just begun to realize their potential.  Top pick James Loney should have contended for Rookie of the Year honors last season if the team had decided to move Nomar Garciaparra to third sooner.  As it is, through 144 career games, he’s a .321/.372/.543 hitter who looks likely to become one of the top first baseman in the game for a long time.  Meanwhile, 17th round draft choice Russell “there’s not a damn one of them out there that can hit” Martin at .288/.366/.454 is already one of the top all around catchers in the game.  If fourth round pick Delwyn Young (.303/.359/.512 career minor league) can build on his tremendous ’07 season which saw him hit 54 doubles and 17 home runs, drive in 97 runs, and put up a line of .337/.384/.571 at Triple-A Las Vegas, in addition to batting .382/.417/.647 in 34 AB for LA, the Dodgers' hitting draft of ’02 could easily surpass both the A’s and Braves by the time all has been said and done.

All by himself. Fielder will likely help the Brewers eclipse the A’s in the not-too-distant future.  Not too fat for the Brew Crew, Fielder (selected out of high school) has flourished in Milwaukee, where in two full seasons and part of a third, he has tied Swisher with 80 home runs, including swatting 50 last year alone.  He made his debut in 2005, one season after Swisher, and his career marks of .280/.369/.546/.915 all surpass those of the man Billy Beane would have made the top pick of the draft, making him a likely fixture in the land of bratwurst and cheese heads for a long, long time.

The Tigers, based virtually entirely on the impressive production of the newly minted Curtis Granderson (3rd round) at this point round out my top five, although once the last of the ’02 draftees has hung up his spikes, several teams will likely have a thing or two to say about the final rankings.  Tampa Bay, for instance, could hang on to B.J. Upton (1st rd) and watch him become one of the top players in the game. If Elijah Dukes (3rd rd) can turn his act around and harness his tremendous potential and/or Jason Pridie (2nd rd) beats out Gomez and Span and takes over center field for Minnesota, the Rays ’02 draft will look even better (even if the Nats and Twins are the ones to benefit).  2007 may also have provided a glimpse of a bright future in Miami, where 23-year old Jeremy Hermida showed flashes of his tremendous promise by hitting .350 after July 23 to end a breakout season with a line of .296/.369/.501 with 32 doubles and 18 home runs.   Again, nothing is yet written in stone but this is how the top five offensive draft picks look so far in my subjective opinion.

The Top Five 2002 Hitting Drafts

































































































The Six Pack

Going on six years now since the 2002 amateur draft, no one team stands out as a clear cut winner, although so far three teams stand above the rest in terms of combined pitching and hitting.  Those three teams are the Braves, Dodgers, and Athletics.  Another handful of teams have the potential to shake things up, however.  We’ll take a look at those teams first.

Boston Red Sox – The Sox ’02 draft featured one of the most promising young pitchers in the game today, Jon Lester (11-2 career in 26 starts), who was coveted by Minnesota this winter in trade talks for Johan Santana.  But if they going to want to be considered top five in the end, they're going to need a second player to make it big.  Outfielder Brandon Moss (8th rd) made his debut in ’07 after three straight seasons of improved play in the minors and if he doesn’t slide back in ’08 the 24-year old could be viewed as potential replacement for Man-Ram in 2009 if the HOF slugger slips any further from his slightly (for him) off year in 2007 (Ramirez’ $20 M ’09 club option must be triggered by November 10).  A few others from the ’02 draft have made it as high as Triple-A, and a couple of them may still get there, but none is likely to star in the majors.

Detroit Tigers – The Tigers' 2002 draft is likely tapped out, but with a budding star in Granderson (.302/.361/.552 with 38 2B, 23 3B, 23 HR, 26 SB in 2007) and the hard throwing Joel Zumaya (11th rd) in their bullpen, Detroit has the potential to rate among the top 5 by the time this book has been written.  Top pick Scott Moore (8th overall) and second rounder Brent Clevlen (49th overall) have both reached the majors but with little success so far.  Clevlen remains on the Tigers' 40-man roster, but even after emptying out their minor league system to acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, he is ranked by Scout Magazine as the Tigers' 19th best prospect, who has “tons of power, but lacks plate discipline to continue developing.”  Moore is still just 24 and occupies a spot on the Orioles' 40-man roster.  The Tigers traded him to the Cubs in February of ’05 (receiving Kyle Farnsworth in return).  Chicago then dealt him to Baltimore last August (along with Rocky Cherry) in exchange for Steve Trachsel.  He is ranked at the O’s 15th best prospect and has a chance to spend the season backing up 36-year olds Kevin Millar and Melvin Mora at the corner infield spots.

Milwaukee Brewers – Along with Prince Fielder, Milwaukee's ’02 draft featured two pitchers to graduate to the majors: Dana Eveland out of the 16th round and Craig Breslow from way down in the 26th round.  As the 769th pick of the draft, Breslow, who made it to the majors in 2005 with San Diego, had been the lowest pitcher selected to reach the majors until this past season, when Dewon Day (776th overall) made it with the White Sox.  Breslow, a Yale grad, spent the ’07 season with Boston's Triple-A Pawtucket farm club, where the southpaw put up respectable numbers, while Eveland played in Arizona. Eveland is thought highly by some, and will get a chance with a rebuilding Oakland team.  If Beane can work some magic with Eveland, who thus far has struggled mightily at the big league level (career pitching line of 7.55/1.96/.327 in 64.1 major league IP), he could pair with Fielder to make the Brew Crew’s ’02 draft a top five in the end.

Anaheim Angels – It can comfortably be assumed that the Angels ’02 draft will not produce any more major leaguers aside from the two who have already matriculated.  However those two, Joe Saunders (1st rd) and Howie Kendrick (10th rd), are studs who both likely going to be around for a while.  The left handed Saunders is 15-8 thus far in 33 career starts, and Kendrick sports a batting average of .306 to go with 45 doubles in 160 career games (605 AB) .  It was quite possibly the Angels' reluctance to include Kendrick in a deal this winter that cost them a shot at Cabrera.

Florida Marlins – With top pick Hermida beginning to show his potential, the Marlins need only a return to health from Josh Johnson (4th rd) and a maturation from Scott Olsen (6th rd) to cement their spot in the top five best drafts from 2002.  Johnson will miss the ’08 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August, but he impressed in ’06 when he was 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 games (24 starts).  Olsen has tremendous stuff and potential, but he also has anger management issues to overcome, and in ’07, he slid backwards after an impressive 2006 campaign.  Second round pick SS Robert Andino and OF Eric Reed (9th rd) have struggled in the majors (.198 and .098 batting averages respectively), but while the slick fielding Andino remains on the 40-man roster, Reed was outrighted last August.  Fourteenth round pick Travis Chick, currently with his fourth professional organization, made three very un-impressive relief appearances for Seattle in ’06 (5.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 10 BB, 2 K) while Ross Wolf (18th rd) made his debut for the Marlins last year and was 0-1 with a line of 11.68/2.19/.393 in 14 relief outings.

San Francisco Giants – The Giants are the team with the best shot at cracking that top three and already rank as one of the top five drafts from 2002.  In 2008, the squad could see major contributions from rounds 1 through 4 as Kevin Correia looks to join staff ace Matt Cain in the San Francisco rotation, while Fred Lewis (2nd rd) will press veteran Dave Roberts for playing time in left field and Dan Ortmeier (3rd rd), a converted outfielder, gets first crack at the rebuilding club's vacant first base job.  Clay Hensley, on the other hand, will need to pitch his way back into favor with San Diego manager Bud Black after a rough 2007 that followed an impressive first season and a half.  If he can do that, it will only make the Giants overall draft look that much more notable in the long run.  The other member of the Giants' 2002 draft to have made the majors is first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who hit .292/.320/.500 in 12 games in 2006.  Prior to the draft, Ishikawa,  ranked by Baseball America as the 60th best player in the draft, had insisted he would attend Oregon State if he wasn’t given a large signing bonus, which caused him to slide all the way down to the 21st round.  Ishikawa got his bonus – $955,000, a record for a player drafted outside the first round – and got his first call to the majors after Lance Niekro was placed on the disabled list in May of ’06.  He impressed management with four extra-base hits in 24 AB over two stints with the team, but he struggled in 2007 after beginning the year in AA and found himself back in A-ball by season's end.  Nonetheless, given their initial investment and his age (he just turned 24 last September), the Giants appear certain continue to give Ishikawa every chance to climb back up the ladder. If he proves to be a late bloomer, it’s quite possible the Giants' 2002 draft could end up the best of them all.  Of course, much depends on the potential success of both Lewis and Ortmeier, as the Giants failure to produce a position player of significance during the Sabean era has long been an issue raised by his critics.

And The Award Goes To…

“You fu**ing got to be kidding me!” hollers Billy, overjoyed.  “Ring over Blanton?  A reliever over a starter?”  Then it dawns on him: “Blanton’s going to get to us.”

“Blanton and Swisher,” says Erik.  “That’s a home run.”

“The Giants won’t take McCurdy right?” says Billy.  “Take Blanton with 24 and McCurdy with 26.”

“Swisher and Blanton and McCurdy,” says Erik.  “This is unfair.”

The Astros take a college player, not Fritz, with the twenty-ninth.  Erik takes Fritz with the thirtieth.

“We just got two of the three best right handed pitchers in the country, and two of the four best position players,” says Paul.

“This doesn’t happen,” says Billy.  “This is not normal.”

                                                                                    ~ Moneyball

Oakland Athletics –DePodesta should be given his due here, as it can certainly be argued that Blanton has been one of the top right handers in the game out of that draft.  Ben Fritz, on the other hand, has to leave people scratching their heads.  While it can be argued that Swisher has so far lived up to his top-four billing (if not Beane’s top overall projection), McCurdy has easily been Moneyball’s biggest flop.  The A’s may not have had the type of revolutionary results that are implied by the book ,but nevertheless ,with four legitimate major leaguers in Blanton, Swisher, Teahen ,and Jared Burton, the A’s draft can be rated a success overall; just not the best.  There were of course, four failed first rounders despite the fact that the A’s were able to grab 13 of the 20 players they coveted the most.  As we know, Teahen and Burton never played for the A’s (and brought little or nothing in return), and Swisher is now in the South Side of Chicago.  Only Blanton remains productive for Oakland, though for how long, one can only speculate given persistent trade rumors and his iffy peripherals.  Beane might be wise to move him now while his value is likely at its peak.  If there is a better candidate for the 2008 American League Most Disappointing Player than Blanton, I can’t think of it.  Shane Komine, given the A’s current state, should likely see more opportunities in ‘08 despite his thus far poor results.  As previously mentioned, John Baker may be looking at the best shot he’ll ever get with Florida this season.  Brown, however, faces long odds against ever making it back.  Considering all factors – overall production, production for the team that picked them, the sheer number of successful draftees, as well as a combination of both hitting and pitching success and even the likelihood of projected success – I would currently rank the Athletics 2002 draft as the third best overall, but I would also caution that by the time the book is closed, they might not even be top five.  Not bad, but not what you might expect from a team with Seven first round picks that was successful in getting most of the players they really wanted.

Atlanta Braves – Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur make the Braves hitting draft of ’02 without a doubt the best overall so far.  Only A’s draftees Mark Teahen and Nick Swisher have hit more home runs, doubles, and hits and no team’s draft has combined for more RBI than the Braves duo, which has played all their games with Atlanta.  But you need a combination of both hitting and pitching in order to reach the top three, and with a hidden jewel in 20th round selection Chuck James – 22-14 career in 48 starts with a line of 4.00/1.32/.250 – the Braves have just that.  The 26-year old lefty will line up fourth in the team's rotation in 2008 behind veteran aces John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Tim Hudson.  The club’s other first rounder, Dan Meyer, made his debut in 2004 with the Braves and pitched two scoreless innings.  Following that season, the Braves made him the centerpiece of their deal for Hudson, but Meyer would struggle the next two seasons while in Triple-A (5-11, 5.45 ERA, 1.65 WHIP).  He bounced back in ’07 (8-2, 3.28/1.34), and was recalled in August to make a spot start.  In two stints with the club, he was 0-2 overall, with an 8.82 ERA and 1.78 WHIP.  If he is able to put it together, he could make the Braves' 2002 draft a formidable foursome.  Sixth round pick James Jurries earned a spot on the 40-man roster following a strong 2005 season (that included a suspension for steroids) and became the clubs final cut in spring training of ’06 when they decided to go with Brian Jordan as the backup first baseman.  However, he struggled with injuries in the minors and was sent outright off the 40-man that August.  After a weak showing in training camp last year, the Braves gave him his release, and he remains out of pro ball.

Los Angeles Dodgers – If any team has the potential to stand head and shoulders above the rest by the time the last of the ’02 draftees hangs ‘em up, it’s the Dodgers.  James Loney could hit 30-40 home runs this year with 600 AB and looks to be entrenched at first base in L.A. for years to come, while the pitching staff is in good hands with the Gold Glove-winning Martin behind the plate.  As for 2008, Delwyn Young stands a good shot at breaking camp as the club’s fifth outfielder, although considering the glut of players L.A. has at the position, he could also be used as trade bait.  As has been noted before, you’ve got have pitching to have game here, and in closer-to-be Jonathan Broxton (2nd rd – 60th overall), the Dodgers certainly have that.  The hard throwing Broxton is more polished than the even harder throwing Zumaya and has already established himself as one of the top setup men in the game.  He is considered the heir apparent to Takashi Saito. In 165 big league appearances since Broxton made his debut, he has a line of 2.98/1.24/.223 while striking out 218 batters in only 172.0 innings, a rate of over 11 per every 9 innings pitched.  The Dodgers' other second round pick, Zach Hammes (51st overall), has had a mostly undistinguished minor league career, but nevertheless was added to the 40-man roster in November of 2006.  He pitched three times that following spring and was optioned to Jacksonville (AA).  Following another un-inspiring 2007 season (5.23/1.48/.299) the Dodgers outrighted him off the major league roster.  He’s not considered a likely prospect anymore.  On the other hand, Eric Stults, a fifteenth round pick will be in the mix for the fifth starters job, but he also has experience in the majors as a reliever.  He’s not a high end prospect, but as a left hander, he could find a niche in the majors and projects as a swingman, working mostly out of the pen and making the occasional spot start.  He’s had a bit of trouble missing bats in the majors, though, putting up a career line of 5.75/1.61/.300 in 56.1 IP, and he’ll have to do better than that to remain in the show.  Joining him in the battle for the role as fifth starter will be left hander Greg Miller, the club’s second first round pick in ’02 (#31 overall) who has occupied a spot on the 40-man roster since November of 2005.  Miller was ranked by Baseball America in 2003 as the Dodgers' 2nd best prospect and the 8th best in all of baseball, but shoulder surgery sidelined him for all of 2004.  When he returned he worked mostly as a reliever for two seasons before being granted permission to start again in ’07.  He struggled in that role before moving back to the pen, but he worked as a starter in the Arizona Fall League, and the club will take a long look at him for a starting job in camp.  Now ranked as the club’s 9th best prospect by Scout Magazine, he will still have to overcome severe control issues to reach Chavez Ravine.  At Las Vegas (AAA) in 2007, he issued a whopping 89 free passes in just 76.2 innings, and over the last three seasons he’s walked 161 in 171.1 IP (8.45/9 IP).  He didn’t make many improvements in the AFL either, where he walked 16 in 12.2 IP, while also allowing 23 hits (.397 BAA).  If new manager Joe Torre can get him turned around, the Dodgers' draft of 2002 could play a vital role in bringing a World Championship back to L.A.. 

The Dodgers' 2002 draft has already produced a starting catcher, a starting first baseman, and closer-in-waiting, and could yet turn out another starting outfielder and a starting pitcher.  On top of that, every at bat taken and every inning pitched by these guys has been done so while wearing Dodger Blue.  Former GM Dan Evans has been much maligned for his time in Los Angeles, but his 2002 draft will likely in the end far exceed the production of Oakland’s famed Moneyball draft or any other team for that matter.  Ironically, the Dodgers chose to replace Evans with Moneyball headliner Paul DePodesta in 2004, and the Beane disciple lasted only two seasons in that role.

The Last Word

Sparky has just informed Stanley that the A’s are willing to make him a second round draft pick – and a genuine big league prospect – on the condition that he agree to sign for $200,000, or about half a million dollars less than every other second round pick will sign for.

                                                                                    ~ Moneyball

Yes, I know the A’s had a paltry $9.5 million to spend on their entire draft and thus no way to pay full price for 7 first round draft picks.  As noted in Moneyball, the Athletics' 7 picks “paid what their equivalents had received the year before, would cost (Beane) more than $11 million.”  To that end, they got creative and saved themselves bundles by picking guys out of the reject pile, oddballs that nobody else wanted, at least not in the first 15 rounds or so, and signing them to below market deals they might otherwise only dream of.  (Their deal with Jeremy Brown, at $350,000, was “nearly a million dollars less than the thirty-fifth pick of the draft might expect to receive”).  Beane put his stock in the laptop of DePodesta and “drafted players dismissed by their own scouts as too short or too skinny or too fat or too slow….pitchers who didn’t throw hard enough for the scouts and hitters who hadn’t enough power….kids in the first round who didn’t think they’d get drafted before the fifteenth round, and kids in lower rounds who didn’t think they’d get drafted at all.”  They had, to quote the book one more time, “drafted ballplayers,” or at least their idea of ballplayers.

Of the sixteen players on his list he could afford, and stood any chance of getting, Billy thinks he might land as many as six.  But the truth is he doesn’t know.  It was possible that he’d only get one of the players on the wish list.  By the time the A’s made their second pick, the twenty-fourth of the draft, all of them might be gone.  If they got six of the players on their wish list, Paul said, they’d be ecstatic.  No team ever came away with six of their top twenty.

                                                                                    ~ Moneyball

Why, you may wonder, do I attack the book with such venom?  In Moneyball, Beane is portrayed as a genius who does things differently and gets different results.  I first read the book in 2006, two years after the book was released and four years after the draft had taken place.  With the benefit of hindsight, I was appalled by the portrayal.  I mean, John McCurdy, Brant Colamarino, and Ben Fritz for goodness sake?!?  The next Jeff Kent, the best hitter in the country, and the third best pitcher in the draft?  Two years after the release of the book, I didn’t even know who more than half of the guys on the list were. 

Normally, I would simply chalk those picks up to a lack of funds to spend on them, except, as you’ll remember, that Beane wanted those oddballs more than the high priced studs who would demand more than he could afford to pay them.  He had a wish list of 20 players, and of those 20, he was able to draft 13, seven more than the maximum DePodesta figured they could get.  With a supposedly revolutionary scientific method of drafting players and with such success at getting exactly who they wanted, it figured that the A’s should have been the runaway winner of the 2002 amateur draft with at least a half a dozen (or more) of those 13 in Oakland and contributing at the major league level by now.  Obviously, that is not the case. 

On the other hand, it’s even possible that Beane’s supposed wish list was mere fiction.  Keith Law, a current ESPN baseball analyst and former executive with the Blue Jays under Beane disciple J.P. Ricciardi, has speculated to me that the infamous list, “never formally written out,” could really have been the idea of author Michael Lewis rather than being Beane’s actual wish list. Although pure conjecture on his part, Law suggested that Lewis merely portrayed the list as Beane’s top twenty for his own sensationalistic purposes and that Beane for his own purposes simply did nothing to correct this mistaken impression.

Either way, though, it leaves me with reasons to have issues with the book, and minus any type of confirmation from Beane himself, I can safely assume (for my own purposes) that the list was accurate. 

Appendix: Moneyball Odds and Ends - DePo-isms and More

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at

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