The title of this post is also a question I asked myself while writing a different post that appeared at TechGraphs this morning — over the course of which I provide a nearly competent summary on how and where to watch college baseball online.
One reason to do that (i.e. watch college baseball) is merely because, at a time when the professional game is only just beginning to yawn and stretch its legs after hibernating for the winter, the gentlemen ballplayers of America’s universities have already begun their season in earnest. And a second reason for watching it is (and I’m quoting myself when I say this), is that it allows one to become acquainted with a number of players who’ll be selected during baseball’s amateur draft this June.
How many players, though? It’s a question that’s been answered previously but not recently — and not as substantively as one might like.
To answer the question, then, I sorted through the draft data at Baseball Reference. Using said data, I found two ways of answering the question — looking first at entire drafts from the past three years and then, second, at first-round selections* from the past 10 years.
*The difference in career WAR produced by first-round picks versus later-round picks is substantial. If a viewer’s interest is in watching perhaps a future, real major leaguer, the first-round threshold is a useful one.
Below are the results from the last three complete drafts, rendered into graph form by new and talented FanGraphs contributor Sean Dolinar. 4Yr denotes draftees from four-year colleges; JC, draftees from junior colleges; and HS; draftees from high schools.
First, year by year:
And then the last three years, combined:
And here’s all that same data, except in table form:
If the last three years are any indication, it appears as though about 55-60% of all draftees are likely to be collegiate players.
As noted above, however, merely because a player is drafted doesn’t necessarily speak to the likelihood that he’ll one day become a major leaguer. That’s the province, most reliably, of first-round selections.
Below are the results from the past 10 first rounds (2005-14). I’ve omitted supplemental rounds from consideration, as they’re not uniformly sized from one year to the next. In other words, only the first 30 players selected have been considered. Here are the results, once again care of a graph artisanally crafted by Sean Dolinar:
And a table with that same information:
The data here is mostly similar to that which one finds with regard to recent, whole drafts, although high-school prospects occupy a larger portion (by nearly 15 points) of the last 10 years’ first-round picks; junior-college players, a smaller portion. Collegiate players still compose more than 50% of all first-round picks, however — meaning that, if one orders his or her affairs properly, it’s probably possible to watch more than half of this next draft’s first-round picks via one of college baseball’s various broadcast options before the relevant players are ever selected.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.
I’m jus a little curious of the idea of length to reach the major leagues though. It’s definitely interesting to see the difference between high school and college draftees, but I’d be interested in looking at say, the average length to reach the major leagues (especially in first round draftees, considering they make it more often). On average, does it take a high school kid significantly longer to compared to someone who went to a 4 year college? I’d assume yes, but just something I would find interesting to see.
Along those same lines, I think it would be interesting to start with the percentage of all draftees to make the big leagues, then see what happens to their chances as they progress through the minors.
Just by virtue of getting drafted, a player may have a 1-2% chance at making it. Progressing past Rookie ball and appearing in A- will have a percentage, A+ will presumably be a bit better, AA and AAA should follow suit.
Or how about this: Age at first AA/AAA appearance vs career MLB WAR.
There are all sorts of interesting gems waiting to be uncovered.
This is quick and dirty, but for players drafted in the first round (including supplemental) from 2008-2011, I got the following numbers:
HS: 3.8 years
4 Year: 2.5 years
So it takes high school players about 1.3 years longer.
HUGE caveat: Many players from the 08-11 draft classes simply have not made their debut yet, especially for high schoolers. I plan on doing a more in depth analysis on this later. If I do, I will post it to the community blog. So both numbers are biased too low, and high schoolers probably more so than college players.