Fun With 2014 Draft Data

Happy draft day everyone! With the 2015 draft sent to get underway this evening, now’s a good time to revisit last year’s version before we forget all about it. I’m halfway decent with words but I spend a good chunk of my real world life analyzing numbers and data sets and with that as context, I’m going to do something a little different with this post.

With help from various sources on the web, I put together a data set from the first ten rounds of 2014’s draft and used it to create a handful of data visualizations that (I hope) shed some light on various characteristics of the draftees and team preferences. I have some other data points I haven’t used yet and am happy to search for others, so if there is something else you’d like to see, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to embed these visuals and retain their full functionality, so I’ll provide the links and hope you click through.

Player Slot vs Bonus Paid

Some quick housekeeping: the slider at the top allows you to control which rounds the data is showing, the big chart in the middle has detail on individual players if you hover over the markers, and the small bar across the bottom shows a team’s total slot position for the rounds selected. Now some observations:

  • Kyle Schwarber owns a .336/.435/.612 career minor league triple-slash and is currently terrorizing Double-A pitching while calls for him to join the big league club are getting louder. The fact that the Cubs were able to get him at $1.5 million below slot value – easily the biggest differential in the draft – enabled them to stretch out in the later rounds (more on this in a minute).
  • The next two biggest differentials between slot value and bonus paid were top 10 high school pitchers Tyler Kolek and Kyle Freeland. The Kolek pick saved Miami more than $800k relative to slot but given that they went well under slot with their supplemental first rounder as well, it’s worth questioning (again) why they didn’t select Carlos Rodon with the second pick. The bonus Rodon got at three was about half a million greater than Kolek’s but would have still represented an under-slot amount for the second pick. It’s not that simple of course, as Rodon may have been demanding full slot value, but that’s a price the Marlins should have happily paid. Rodon’s Cuban heritage would’ve made him a hit from a public relations standpoint, the Marlins would’ve still been comfortably under slot on aggregate, and Rodon would already be contributing to a Miami rotation that has been hammered by injuries in 2015. Hindsight is 20/20 but this was easy to criticize at the time and looks worse as time goes on.
  • Using the color coding, it’s easy to see that high schoolers are much more likely to sign an over-slot deal than collegiate players, who overwhelmingly sign under-slot deals as the draft progresses.
  • About those Cubbies – if you use the slider to look at rounds 3-10, you’ll see that the three most over-slot deals went to Cubs draft picks. Carson Sands (4th), Justin Steele (5th), and Dylan Cease (6th) all went for at least $600k over the slotted amount, with Cease coming in at a whopping $1.2 million over. No other player in the draft was paid more than $415k over the slot amount. On aggregate, the Cubs were over slot by more than two million dollars in rounds 3-10 and the next closest team, Cleveland, was over by not quite half a million. That’s the flexibility the Cubs bought by identifying Schwarber as a talented player willing to take cut rate deal early in the first round. Sands was Baseball America’s 53rd ranked prospect and Cease was 77th, so they were both viewed as second or third rounders on talent but other clubs likely had to pass for signability reasons. What an advantage.

Position Detail

  • I like to use this one to get a quick view of what each team did with respect to pitching versus position players and high school versus college. For example, you can pretty easily see that the Cubs and Twins overwhelmingly focused on pitching, the Indians and Marlins went heavy on prep players, and the Tigers and Nationals picked almost exclusively from the college ranks.
  • You can use the charts on the right to get a summary breakdown by position and amateur level. Pitching accounting for almost 54 percent of the picks in the first ten rounds. The ratio of college players to high schoolers was about 3:1.
  • You can also use the round slider here to change the results. As a portion of the total, the percentage of pitchers taken peaks at about 59 percent through five rounds and falls off from there. 54 percent of the picks in the first two rounds were high schoolers and the total decreases dramatically after that.

Team Economics

  • This is another way to visualize the breakdown by team. While the previous visualization has good information on what a team did by player count, this one essentially shows the split between pitchers and position players weighted by slot value and bonus paid. Since slots values and bonuses decrease as the draft progresses, this is a handy way to see how team prioritized needs with their early picks, where the required investment is heaviest and the talent is (supposedly) the most distinct.
  • You’ll notice that a few teams didn’t utilize their fully allotted slot pool. Everyone knows about Houston and Brady Aiken at 1:1 (not to mention their fifth rounder Jacob Nix), but less publicized is the Nationals’ failure to sign their third and ninth round picks (Andrew Suarez and Austin Byler), the Cardinals whiffing on their third round pick (Trevor Magill), an the Blue Jays letting their seventh rounder (Zach Zehner) get away. The Astros obviously felt that the most, spending only 40 percent of their total allotted amount, while the Nationals came up 20 percent short.
  • The previous look told us that the Orioles had a mild preference for pitchers but this view show something different altogether. The three position players they signed constituted only 1.11% of the total bonuses they paid out, so it’s clear that they were focused exclusively on pitching in the early rounds.
  • Other examples of extreme preference with regard to bonuses paid include the Mets and Mariners skewed towards position players and the White Sox, Angels, Yankees, and Cardinals leaning heavily towards pitching.

Player State

  • It’s no surprise that California, Florida, and Texas are the three most popular states, accounting for  117 of the 315 players taken in the first 10 rounds of 2014’s draft.
  • It’s worth mentioning that this shows the state of the school of the player, not where the player is originally from.
  • Use the round, position, and team filters if you want to see more granularity using any of those criteria.

I’ll be doing this same thing for the 2015 draft and will try to keep it up to date over the next few days as the draft progresses. We obviously won’t know bonus numbers until the draftees start signing and I’ll provide those visualizations as soon as the data becomes available. Follow me on Twitter for the links.

I hope you have as much fun tinkering with these as I had creating them. If you have any suggestions about what else you might like to see, a different way to present this data, or interesting observations you made using the visualizations, please don’t hesitate to share in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter @gregwellemeyer

The Author

Greg Wellemeyer

Greg Wellemeyer


  1. Common Sense
    June 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Would be great to also list all bonuses over 100k for rounds 11 onwards if this data is available.

  2. June 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    […] Last week I took a look at some data from the first 10 rounds of the 2014 MLB draft, making observations about players’ signing bonuses versus their slot value, team patterns with respect to position players versus pitchers and college versus high school, and the state where drafted players came from. With the 2015 draft in the books, I’ll discuss some of those same topics today. […]

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