In case you are not familiar with the WAR statistic, it stands for Wins Above Replacement and while the numbers behind it are a bit complex, the idea is simple. Basically, it is just how much value a player produces compared to what a replacement level player would produce. A replacement level player is basically a valueless commodity that can be called up from AAA or acquired from another team for a player to be named later. If you'd like to read up more on WAR, this would be a good place to start.
(click to enlarge)
June drafts, 1975-2000
Top five years: 1990, 1981, 1992, 1982, 1979
Notable players (15 career WAR or more):
1978: Howard Johnson (24.9)*
1979: Don Mattingly (39.8)
1982: Fred McGriff (50.5)
1983: Todd Stottlemyre (19.7)*
1984: Al Leiter (38.8)
1987: Brad Ausmus (17.4)*
1990: Carl Everett (18.5), Andy Pettitte (47.1), Jorge Posada (44.3)
1992: Derek Jeter (68.7)
1995: Mike Lowell (29.1), Casey Blake (19.9)*
*Was not signed
I got this idea from Jon over at Pro Ball NW , and he provides the following disclaimer that applies to my little study as well:
"There are a few obvious things that skew the data. For one, draft sizes fluctuate through the years. Two, through the first few [drafts I covered], there were three separate amateur drafts per year, though the June draft was still the biggest. Also, [guys like Jeter] are still adding/subtracting to their WAR totals. The biggest skewer is including unsigned players. It's easy for teams to spend a late round draft pick on a high school stud that isn't expected to sign, which every team will do."
Now, the one problem with this is that it's results-based analysis, whereas process based analysis is preferable in almost all cases. No one could argue with the Yankees pick of Brien Taylor, but he never even made it to the majors. Should the Yankees lose credit for that? I don't really think so, but over the span of 25+ seasons, I'd guess that it would come pretty close to evening out.
There is no doubt that the Yankees best draft in this time period was the 1990 draft. They took Carl Everett with their first round pick and he turned out to be a pretty good player. The Yankees really did well in the later rounds of this draft by taking two borderline hall of famers, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, who are still adding to the total WAR for this draft class. No other draft class comes close to having the success this one did.
Overall, the Yankees have had some good years and are averaging 27.5 WAR per draft. I assume over the past 25 years, every team has drafted some superstars, some stars, and a bunch of role players. The Yankees aren't unique in this case. Since the Mariners are all I have to compare to right now, they demolished the Yankees and averaged about 38 WAR per draft. Part of this has to do with the fact that the Mariners tend to have higher first round picks than the Yanks. Having the first overall pick when Griffey and A-Rod are entering the draft can't hurt.
This doesn't really shock me, but the Yankees drafting from 1997-2000 was just plain awful. How bad it was is a bit surprising, though. If you take out Mark Prior, who the Yankees didn't sign, the total WAR netted by those draft classes is -0.3! That's four years of drafting, and the total is below replacement. That really is remarkable. It honestly could not be worse than that. This is what led to the awful farm system that the Yankees had at the turn of the century.
All WAR numbers are Rally's historical WAR, which can been found at BaseballProjection.com . And again, thanks to Jon at Pro Ball NW for the idea. Also, be sure to check out the new and improved Pending Pinstripes , where this article and other great content is featured.