The spectrum of knee-jerk draft analysis

On the subject of evaluating a team's draft based on consensus opinion ...

I used to review the Giants' draft every year. Can you imagine? I watched exactly one college game in person this year. No high school games. And that's a busy scouting year for me. Yet after the draft, I would write, "here are important thoughts please review thanks." There would always be disclaimers, of course, but not enough.

Of course, when I yelled at everyone for complaining about high-school pitchers, I kind of nailed it. You were all so stupid! Look at you, looking all stupid in your "Mills is my Beau!" shirt. Hope you learned a lesson.

Still, you shouldn't care what I think. About the draft, I mean. Please tune in for my weekly important thoughts on Brett Pill. Those are still important.

But there are two competing concepts playing tug of war when it comes to the layperson's perception of the Giants' draft this year, in which they used their first two picks on players who were widely perceived as third-to-fifth-round picks. Those competing concepts:

  1. Appeal to authority
  2. Wisdom of crowds

The first concept is when you assume the Giants have it all figured out. Count the rings, sucker! How's my Brandon Crawford taste? That's a neat opinion on the draft, and it'd be a shame if Madison Bumgarner threw a cutter at it. John Barr rules, Logan White drools!

I'll admit I lean toward this one. Maybe it's an outdated way to approach the Giants, though. The team is fielding a lineup that's half homegrown, and they won two World Series with three homegrown starters (not including Jonathan Sanchez), which buys a lot of credibility. But they currently have a pretty wretched farm system. You can't keep telling everyone how great Boston is when you're stuck in a car listening to Third Stage.

The second concept has to do with the aggregate opinion. Where Keith Law ranks players, and the scouting reports culled by Baseball America. The aggregate opinion usually has a much better track record of any individual. I don't know if anyone's done a study with the baseball draft exclusively, but the idea is that if you match the aggregate opinion against the individual lists of Baseball America, ESPN, or any scouting director in the land, the aggregate opinion will have more long-term success.

There's a spectrum, then.

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Yes, something like that. And as long as you're somewhere in that middle, oh, 60 percent, you're probably not annoying. The 20 percent at either end? Yeah.

There's an addendum to that. The draftniks have to pretend they've scouted all of these players equally, as if they sat in a room and watched an even 10 hours of footage for each player before coming up with their rankings. The Giants can't pretend to do that. They focus heavily on as many of the 1,500 amateur players as they can, and they whittle down the possibilities and allocate resources. They aren't trying to be baseball hipsters. When the #25 pick came around, they felt they had a handle on Arroyo more than any of the other prospects. I can respect that.

They did the same thing with Joe Panik, for example, and people are tossing that name out as a bad comp for Arroyo. As in, here the Giants go again. But here's how I see that Panik pick in context:

29. Young infielder showing plus bat control and command of the strike zone
30. Shortstop struggling in High-A
31. Outfielder struggling in Double-A
32. Shortstop doing well for his age in High-A
33. Pitcher with a 7.0 BB/9 in Low-A
34. Top prospect doing meh in Double-A
35. Teenager below the Mendoza Line in rookie ball
36. Top pitching prospect doing well in High-A
37. Injured outfielder old for his league
38. Teenager struggling in Low-A
39. Outfielder below the Mendoza Line in Low-A
40. Jackie Bradley, who is kind of a badass

And so on. There are players who were rated higher and drafted later for whom I'd trade Panik. Oh, Jackie Bradley, Jr., oh man. But most of them I wouldn't. Someone watched Panik play and saw something that stood out. They were right, especially compared to a lot of the picks that followed. A 22-year-old middle infielder with a K/BB of 32/20 in 226 Eastern League at-bats is a rare creature.

That doesn't mean that he'll be great, or that he'll develop any power, or that he'll be anything other than Jeff Keppinger with a bigger bonus. But Panik is exhibiting something that isn't a normal skill, even for a late-first rounder. That's all you can ask for.

Here's hoping Arroyo shows the same thing. He might not. But if the Giants liked him a lot more than most of the other teams and pundits, I'll assume they have a pretty good reason. That's erring on the left side of that spectrum. Your mileage may vary.

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