Considering the economic climate in the game today and in general, heavier focus on the draft and scouting from teams is something we're only going to see more of moving forward. It's simply far more cost effective than any other way of putting together a roster.
"You see more teams putting a larger emphasis [on the draft] now," said one high ranking AL scout. "Obviously there has always been an emphasis there, but with a good draft class now with the price of building a club through free agency it gives you a chance to build a roster at a very reasonable price. And we're seeing players get drafted and come up in a hurry to contribute at the big league level."
Take a look at the 2005 draft as a recent example. The first 50 picks of that class yielded big leaguers like Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, John Mayberry Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Colby Rasmus, and Clay Buchholz. And, that list goes on with other quality big leaguers. That year in particular will go down as one of baseball best, at least in recent memory.
Of course teams have always taken the June draft very seriously, but it does appear that in recent years there's been a heavier focus on it from a number of clubs. The Toronto Blue Jays for example have nearly doubled their scouting staff under general manager, Alex Anthopoulos. Most teams have between 14-18 area scouts. The Blue Jays now have 33 scouts in their amateur department, including 7 crosscheckers and 26 area scouts. This doesn't necessarily mean that more is better, but it does show a renewed value that is being placed upon scouting and drafting talent.
With all this focus on developing talent and all these high profile draft picks playing major roles on the big stage like Buster Posey in the 2010 World Series, you have to wonder just why the MLB Draft has not taken off yet with the casual fan. The fact that it falls in the middle of the MLB season is one part of it. If it fell in the middle of winter, for instance, when baseball fans are wallowing in boredom, this type of event would drum up much more interest. The bigger issue, though, is how quickly the talent drafted can help fans' favorite Major League club.
For years the talk surrounding the draft was that all these guys were years away from the majors. But, in recent years it really hasn't taken long for some of the top stars of the draft to arrive in the big leagues. You don't need to look back any further than the 2010 draft to find Chris Sale, the White Sox lefty who arrived in the big leagues the very same season he was drafted. And, going back just two years, the 2009 draft has already given us Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake, Alex White, Aaron Crow, Drew Storen, and Mike Minor. All of those players have already seen big league action.
Baseball is going to continue to move in this direction. As free agent prices go up, more teams will follow the model of the Tampa Bay Rays, who have consistently drafted top notch talent over the years like Evan Longoria and David Price. And, in turn we'll see more money put into scouting the way the Toronto Blue Jays have. Because of that emphasis on scouting, baseball fans should continue to see players from very recent draft classes coming up and making major impacts at the big league level.
Frankie Piliere is the National Baseball Expert for Scout.com. He is a former scout with the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians organizations. He will be covering the MLB draft extensively for Scout.com over the next several weeks and will be providing in-depth coverage on the game's brightest young players, as well as professional analysis of some of baseball's biggest stars. To learn more about Scout.com's baseball coverage, visit http://milb.scout.com.
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