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Doolittle: Drafting high schoolers is a big risk

8
The problem with high school players is that you just don’t know anything tangible about them. Their statistics are rendered meaningless by the caliber of competition at even the most high-profile high school programs. Everything is about size, strength, speed, throwing arm — all good things to have but all secondary to an actual track record of baseball production. That’s how most big-league organizations pick, though. It’s all about upside. Roll the dice, and pray it doesn’t come up snake eyes. Consider the drafts from 1995 to 2004, the latter of which was Billy Butler’s draft class. There were 70 position players taken among the top 15 picks of those drafts — 31 college players and 39 from high school programs. All but two of the college players have spent time in the major leagues (93.5 percent). However, only 25 of the 39 high school picks (64.1 percent) have logged at least one at-bat in The Show. Some of the missing 14 may still reach the majors, especially the five from the 2003 and 2004 drafts, one of which is the Royals’ Chris Lubanski. Still, there are nine picks — premium selections — from 1995 to 2000 who never reached the majors. The college players in this limited sample have also been more successful when they’ve reached the majors. Collectively, the college guys have posted an .812 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) while the high school kids are at .773. That might not sound like much, but it’s roughly the difference between Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibañez.
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