Reviewing the 2002 Moneyball Draft

Joe Blanton, pitching for the Oakland Athletics in June, 2008 (Photo by Michael Zagaris, Getty Images)

The 2002 Moneyball Draft

With the release of the new Moneyball movie, let's look back at the controversial 2002 Oakland draft class. The Athletics had seven first round or supplemental first round picks that year, and as you all know, they focused on college players with good statistical performance markers, attempting to exploit the perceived market inefficiency that such players were undervalued by other clubs at the time.

Did it work? Let's take a look.

 

1) Nick Swisher, OF, Ohio State: 16th overall, the Big 10 star had strong statistical performance markers in college as well as solid tools and scouting reports. He's been a major league regular for seven years, hitting .254/.360/.467, WAR 22.9. Obviously a successful choice, wasn't considered an overdraft by any means.

1) Joe Blanton, RHP, University of Kentucky: 24th overall, Blanton posted an outstanding 133/37 K/BB ratio in 100 college innings that year. A hard-thrower at the time, he developed into an efficient inning chewer, going 73-62, 4.33 in 1236 career innings, WAR 17.9. Another success.

1) John McCurdy, SS, University of Maryland: 26th overall, he hit .443/.496/.828 with 19 homers and 20 steals in college, albeit with a shaky 18/31 BB/K ratio in 221 at-bats. In pro ball, he struggled to control the strike zone and never duplicated his college success, topping out in Double-A. It should be noted that pre-draft scouting reports indicated his glove was suspect, but, quoting Baseball America, "his bat will play no matter where he's moved."

1) Ben Fritz, RHP, Fresno State: 30th overall, Fritz had a fine junior season with a 3.25 ERA and a 98/36 K/BB in 119 innings, had a good low-90s sinker, and was also considered a prospect as a catcher. He hurt his shoulder in 2003 and was never the same, topping out as a below average Triple-A pitcher.

1) Jeremy Brown, C, University of Alabama: 35th overall. Derided by traditional scouts for his dumpy body, Brown hit .320/.493/.566 in college that year with a terrific 69/25 BB/K ratio in 219 at-bats. He spent three years in Double-A and two in Triple-A, and went 3-for-10 with two doubles in a brief major league trial in 2006. He hit .268/.370/.439 in his minor league career, throwing out 26% of runners. He didn't turn into the player Oakland wanted, but was a useful organization type.

1) Steve Obenchain, RHP, University of Evansville: 37th overall. A successful college closer, he posted a 1.38 ERA with an 89/23 K/BB n 78 college innings with 12 saves. He had a low-90s fastball, decent curveball and an excellent changeup, but lost velocity in 2004 and 2005 and was unable to compensate, topping out in Double-A.

1) Mark Teahen, 3B, St. Mary's College: 39th overall, considered a solid pure hitter with good plate discipline and average power potential, with an overall line of .412/.493/.624 with a 30/17 BB/K in 194 at-bats. He was considered an overdraft by a round or two. Teahen is a career .264/.326/.409 hitter, WAR 3.2.

2) Steve Stanley, OF, Notre Dame: Leadoff type, hit .439/.506/.542 with 32 steals, 38 walks, and just 11 strikeouts in 271 at-bats as a college senior. Hit well in Double-A but couldn't bring this skill to Triple-A or the majors. Overall hit .290/.370/.360 in his minor league career that ended in 2006. Despite his speed, traditional scouts considered him an overdraft by several rounds due to 5-7 stature.

3) Bill Murphy, LHP, Cal State Northridge: Lefty with control issues, posted 3.57 ERA and fanned 129 in 106 college innings with 89 hits, but walked 69. He had the same pattern in pro ball, posting strong K/IP ratios but never getting his command in gear. Walked 15 in 18 major league innings. Was not considered an overdraft at the time, as he earned first-round buzz in college.

4) John Baker, C, University of California: Hit .383/.515/.577 in college that year, reached Triple-A quickly but didn't receive a major league trial until 2008 with the Marlins, and caught for them regularly in '09. Career .273/.359/.405 hitter in 198 major league games with 42 doubles and 14 homers in 649 at-bats. WAR 3.0. He's been pretty good actually, but has been injured most of the last two seasons due to Tommy John.

5) Mark Kiger, SS, University of Florida: Hit .403/.522/.609 with 60 walks and 24 strikeouts in 258 at-bats in college. Reached Double-A quickly but stalled in the high minors, showed good strike zone judgment, hit .262/.370/.370 in his career. Spent a little time on the major league roster but never received an official at-bat.

6) Brian Stavisky, OF, Notre Dame: Hit .394/.451/.658 in college, and raked in the minors at first, including a .343/.413/.550 season in High-A and two strong seasons in Double-A, until being hit with injuries in 2007. Never got his bat going in limited Triple-A exposure. Main scouting complaint was a very weak arm, but scouts liked his bat, the pre-draft Baseball America report praising his "outstanding bat speed."

7) Brant Colamarino, 1B, University of Pittsburgh: Bad-bodied first baseman hit great in college, hitting .384 with 40 walks and 19 homers and ranking eighth in NCAA Division I slugging percentage. He put up non-terrible minor league numbers (.270/.349/.456) but topped out in Triple-A.

8) Jared Burton, RHP, Western Carolina: 3.76 ERA with a 105/31 K/BB in 103 innings in college. After some early injury problems he had some success as a middle reliever in the majors, 3.50 ERA with a 140/70 K/BB in 165 innings, WAR 1.2.

9) Shane Komine, RHP, University of Nebraska: 2.34 ERA with 115/30 K/BB in 96 innings as a senior, undersized at 5-8 but had a live arm. Had injury issues but put in a couple of fair Triple-A seasons and reached the majors briefly for 17 innings.

10) J.R. Pickens, RHP, University of Mississippi: 3.76 ERA with a 76/27 K/BB in 91 innings in college. He topped out in High-A with a 7.59 ERA and ended his career with two seasons in the independent American Association.

Others of Note Who Were Drafted But Didn't Sign: Trevor Crowe (20th round), Brad Ziegler (31st round), Justin Towles (32nd round), Jon Papelbon (40th round) and Ty Taubenheim (44th round).

 

The class produced a lot of Double-A/Triple-A/organization talents, which was one of the things traditionalists predicted. The signees with the best success, Swisher and Blanton, had excellent scouting reports to go along with the statistics. At the same time, you can find dozens and dozens of examples of drafts conducted under "traditional" principles that produced much weaker results than this one did. If you count the unsigned Papelbon, the class looks even better.

Overall, the Moneyball draft wasn't a giant success, but it wasn't a massive failure, either. Our ability to evaluate and project amateur talent has certainly improved in the last decade, and the relationship between stats and scouting was never as bifurcated as some claimed in the first place.

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