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Why MLB Draft Is Much Different Than Other Leagues Like NBA

by Francis Ottomanelli | Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Whenever the NBA draft comes around everyone knows about it. There is constant coverage, a thousand mock drafts, and finally a big televised draft day – MLB has none of that. When I first started following MLB at a young age, the draft really surprised me because there are multiple drafts and the main draft (the June First Year Player Draft) has 40 rounds! That’s 38 more rounds than basketball!

Many of the top NBA draft picks go on to have successful careers – if a top pick is not productive in the NBA the player and team who selected him will be ridiculed heavily by NBA fans and experts and will also haunt the team for years to come. When it comes to baseball I’d be surprised if even diehard fans could be able to name me two number one draft picks (besides Harper and Strasburg as they were actually highly touted prospects).

In the NBA you have the likes of LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, and Allen Iverson going first overall – easily a few of the greatest players to ever play the game. In MLB there are only three players selected number one overall with a career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over 50 – Alex Rodriguez (116, 12th), Chipper Jones (85, 31st), and Ken Griffey Jr. (83.6, 34th). To put WAR into perspective, there are 185 MLB players in the history of the game with a WAR over 50 – only three of them are number one overall picks.

While WAR is not the tell all statistic of baseball players, the top five players of all time in WAR are Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron in that order – so yeah, it seems pretty accurate.

The main thing that separates the MLB draft from the NBA draft is pretty obvious – it has over 30 more rounds. There were 1215 players selected in the 2014 MLB draft…there were 60 players selected in the NBA draft. Albert Pujols was drafted 402 overall in 1999, there is no way 401 players in the history of MLB that are better than Pujols. In 1988 draft there was 75 rounds and the great Mike Piazza went in the 62nd round, 1390 overall!

Sure, those two players are slight exceptions but there is a reason the MLB draft is not talked about much at all, you can basically get Hall of Fame players anywhere in the draft. The odds of a number one pick being the best player in the draft is higher than any other spot but with 40 rounds, the odds of getting a top player in rounds 2 to 40 is higher than getting a top player with the number one overall pick. It’s the law of averages, obviously the more selections you have the higher likelihood one of the players becomes decent – it is very unlikely for the number one player drafted to have the best MLB career.

The MLB draft is much more about luck than it is about draft position. There is no way anyone really scouted Mike Piazza since he was the 1390th pick overall; he was just picked by the Dodgers because Vince Piazza (Mike’s father) asked Lasorda to do it as a favor and figuring you can’t really go wrong with the 1390th pick in the draft – because let’s face it no one is going to even notice if he is a bust – so he drafted Mike Piazza.

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