How many drafted players make it to the Bigs?

Commish & I were speculating about the amateur draft. How many guys make it to the big leagues? How much more likely is a first-round pick to reach the majors compared to, say, a tenth-round pick?

I collected stats from the 2002-2005 June drafts, figuring that almost everyone from the 2005 draft that would ever reach the majors would have already had some time there by the end of the 2010 season. (Maybe that’s a bit optimistic.) BR has a nice draft section that goes all the way back to the beginning. (Rick Monday in 1965, remember?) The graph below (click to enlarge) shows the percentage of players with MLB appearances for each round of the draft. (Again, 2002-2005 drafts only.)


I see about three distinct sections in the graph.

  1. From rounds one to ten, there’s a pretty good correlation between the round and the number of guys who make it. That tells me that the scouts make pretty accurate predictions for the first 320 or so amateurs each year. A little over half the guys who make the big leagues from the draft are selected in the first ten rounds.
  2. Rounds 11 to 20 send about the same percentage of guys to the bigs: 12%, which is also the overall big-league rate for the entire class. These rounds account for about a quarter of the big leaguers from the draft.
  3. There’s a big drop-off for rounds 21-50, with only about 5% of the guys making the show. These rounds provide the other quarter of the drafted MLBers.

I also collected some WAR stats, but you can’t draw too many conclusions from these, as all of the players are still young and will rack up lots more over the coming years. Still, from the 2002-2005 drafts, counting WAR through the 2010 season, it appears that the first-rounders account for 45% of the total WAR accumulated by all draftees. (The supplemental picks, usually about ten a year, are classified as first-round picks, so this inflates the first-round WAR figure compared to other rounds.) The first ten rounds account for 81% of the total WAR. It’s actually probably more than that, because many of the guys picked in the later rounds (Lincecum 48th round 2003 & 42nd round 2005) get credit there, even though they didn’t sign. (Lincecum signed after getting picked in the first round in 2006.)

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