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Lies, Damn Lies, and WAR

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The White Sox lead the league in accumulated WAR for draft picks from 2008 to 2011. Does that really mean anything?

David Banks

On last weekend's "White Sox Weekly" on 670 The Score, White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn was on and answered questions from callers. Fortunately, besides a complete lack of calls regarding AJ Piersyski, a caller asked Rick about the "bust after bust after bust" in first round draft picks besides Chris Sale and was wondering how the Sox were going to fix the draft. Rick Hahn had a different opinion of the drafts.

I'm going to disagree a little bit with your assessment.  If you look at our drafts, specifically since 2008, which is when Doug Lauman took over as our scouting directory, and even more precisely, if you look at the accumulated wins over replacement value, the WAR number, for the drafts from 2008 through 2011, those four drafts, and I'm picking those because there's been enough time to elapse to allow some of those players to get to the [majors], not only do we lead all of baseball in drafted players accumulating WAR at the big league level between '08 and '11, but we were also last in baseball in total aggregate dollars spent on the 2008 to 2011 draft.

For now, I'll take the statement that the White Sox have the highest WAR out of draft picks as a true statement.  Chris Sale contributes the bulk of the WAR with 16.3 while Gordon Beckham and Daniel Hudson chip in 5.5 and 5.6 respectively from 2008.  Addison Reed is a distant fourth at 1.6, while Brent Morel (0.7), Jake Petricka (0.6), and Jordan Danks (0.1) are the remaining positive contributors.  Charlie Leesman, Josh Phegley, Erik Johnson, and Marcus Semien are all slightly negative.

The big issue I have with Rick Hahn's defense is "there's been enough time to elapse to allow some of those players to get to the [majors]" for the 2011 draft picks.  Overall, it is probably about two years too early to judge the 2011 draft.   Out of the 50 draft picks each for 2011, 22 played in the White Sox system last year.  Here's the White Sox picks from 2011 and the highest team they were on this season.

1s - Keenyn Walker Birmingham
2 - Erik Johnson Chicago
4 - Kyle McMillen Kannapolis
5 - Scott Snodgress Birmingham
6 - Marcus Semien Chicago
7 - Kevan Smith Winston-Salem
15 - David Herbek Birmingham
16 - Chris Bassitt Birmingham
18 - Bryan Blough Winston-Salem
19 - Kevin Vance Birmingham
20 - Martin Medina Winston-Salem
21 - Joe De Pinto Birmingham
23 - Mike Marjama Kannapolis
24 - Mark Haddow Winston-Salem
26 - Grant Buckner Winston-Salem
27 - Jake Cose Winston-Salem
28 - Kyle Robinson Kannapolis
31 - Michael Johnson Kannapolis
32 - Brent Tanner Winston-Salem
35 - Joe Dvorsky Winston-Salem
36 - Cody Winiarski Birmingham
37 - Todd Kibby Kannapolis

One 2011 pick, Kyle Robinson, was cut part way through the season.  Keenyn Walker, the Sox top pick in 2011, put up a .201/.319/.277 line at Birmingham.  Kyle McMillen is battling back from a Tommy John and spent most of this season at Bristol and struggling.  On the plus side, Kevin Vance was selected for the Arizona Fall League team while Cody Winiarski was selected as the top reliever in the Carolina League by Baseball America, got promoted to Birmingham, and was the team's closer during the end of the season.  Finally, Johnson and Semien were promoted from Birmingham to Charlotte to Chicago this season.

Of the 30 major league teams, eleven have not had a player from the 2011 draft play in the majors yet, and the Sox would have been among those teams before calling up Erik Johnson and Marcus Semien earlier this month.  This includes the Tampa Bay Rays and their 10 first round and supplemental round picks from 2011.  Meanwhile, Jose Fernandez's 6.9 WAR is giving the Miami Marlins an early lead on the 2011 draft.  With most high school players from the 2011 draft still playing A ball, it is hard to say anything substantial about how that draft will turn out.  So, while the Sox may have won the battle for now, they might just lose the war.