Given the slim market for good OFers could it be time to kick the tires on Michael Bourn? He's not a Carlos Beltran type talent and he might be out of Sandy's price range but he'd be a big upgrade at a position where many believe we don't have any legitimate high-minors prospects. Let's make believe he would fit in our budget, is he worth sacrificing our 2013 first round draft choice?
Wikipedia provides a chart of the sixty-one first round draft picks the Mets have had during their existence. One never signed and sixteen were "extra" picks - years in which the club had more than one first round pick. That leaves 44 "first" 1st rounders of whom 5 are too young to draw definite conclusions about. They're either in the minors or haven't yet reached 10fWAR in the bigs. Finally that leaves 39 players for this exercise.
How many of them would you have rather had than 4-5 years of Michael Bourn? I'll try to group them into categories - if I couldn't find someone at FanGraphs I assumed they never played in the majors - I welcome corrections. You'll see: Name/Yr/1st round slot and (fWAR) for those w/10+fWAR
10 "never made its": Steve Chilcott/66/1, Richard Bengton/72/13, Tom Thurberg/76/13, Lee May/86/21, Dave Proctor/88/21, Al Shirley/91/18, Kirk Pressley/93/8, Ryan Jaroncyk/95/18, Robert Stratton/96/13, Geoff Goetz/97/6,
7 "cups of coffee": Les Rohr/65/2, Randy Sterling/69/4, Rich Puig/70/14, Cliff Speck/74/17, Butch Benton/75/6, Chris Donnels/87/24, Eddie Kunz/07/42
10 "scrubs": Eddie Williams/83/4, Terry Blocker/81/4, Shawn Abner/84/1, Alan Zinter/89/24, Paul Wilson/94/1(8.7fWAR), Jason Tyner/98/21, Billy Traber/00/16, Aaron Heilman/01/18, Lastings Milledge/03/12, Phil Humber/04/3
So 27 of the Mets 39 "first" 1st-round draft choices have been either huge disappointments or outright failures - that's 69%.
7 "starters" players with 10-20fWAR: Tim Foli/68/1(11fWAR), Lee Mazzilli/73/14(16.2fWAR), Wally Backman/77/16(12.2fWAR), Hubie Brooks/78/3(15.7fWAR), Tim Leary/79/2(15.2fWAR), Preston Wilson/92/9(12.7fWAR), Scott Kazmir/02/15(16.4fWAR)
2 "valuable assets" players with 20-30 fWAR: Gregg Jeffries/85/20(21.9fWAR), Jeromy Burnitz/90/17(20.9fWAR)
3 "stars": John Matlack/67/4(48fWAR), Daryl Strawberry/80/1(43.2fWAR),Dwight Gooden/82/5(58.1fWAR)
Looking at Bourn we see a player who's posted a 21.4 fWAR to date with almost all of it coming in his last 4 seasons: 4.9, 4.7, 4.1 and most recently 6.4. Bourne has already had a better (fWAR) career than all but five of our first 1st round choices or 13%.
But of course we don't get Bourne's past, only his future. Assuming a four year deal and projecting he delivers somewhere between 2.5-4.5 fWAR a year would add up to 10-18 fWAR. By that measure any 10fWAR+ player should be considered a potential "equal or better values" than Bourn - there are 17 such players or 44% of our first 1st rounders.
But there's no guarantee the Mets would keep a successful draft choice for more than six years. The best comps there are probably Pelfrey, Wright and Reyes. None of these comps are perfect: Pelfrey's fWAR is a hair below 10, Wright was a supplemental and Jose was an IFA signing. But they all succeeded in the minors, had success in the bigs and were controlled by the club for 6 years as would the 2013 draft pick. Pelf was not offered arbitration, Wright will provide value beyond the 6 years of club control and Jose was let go after club control ended. So with our most successful recent "homegrown" potential stars - only 1 of 3 will contribute beyond their club controlled years.
If we look at the 7 players with 10-20 fWAR and look at their club-controlled years (under current rules) only Scott Kazmir at 16.2fWAR would have delivered more than 14fWAR which is the mid-point of the 10-18 projected Bourn range. The rest were 6, 10.5, 10.8, 12.1, 12.2, and 13fWAR. This also applies to the 10-20fWAR players: Jeffries only racked up 8.1fWAR as a Met and Burnitz 1.1fWAR. I don't know who they were traded for so I still keep them in as players you'd rather have drafted than having signed Bourn.
First round choices offer the chance to draft a homegrown star and they're a helluva lot of fun to dream about and track through the minors. But they also have a pretty high washout rate.
This post was conceived more as an exercise to see what's realistic to expect from first rounders than as an advocacy piece for Michael Bourn but I am concerned about CF.
If, like me, you're not a believer in Cap'n Kirk or den Dekker, the Mets need a center fielder and the choices in next year's FA pool are slim. On the trade front BJ Upton will cost multiple prospects that have already proven some level of success in the minors - possibly a premium arm. I guess there's always Bourjos. Bourn will cost a draft pick - could losing the first-rounder be a less painful choice or is it better to muddle along?
Note: I know I've seen reference to success rates for 1st rounders - they may differ from the numbers here. I hope someone will reference it in a comment if it's dramatically different from the Mets experience but remember, I've exempted supplemental and other teams picks from this analysis. I did so because the player we get "to keep" in this Bourn example is only gotten in the regular round slot. I also recognize fWAR has limits for pitchers but I wanted to use a single metric and I've still got Christmas shopping to do!
FYI - 16 Additional first rounders in drafts where the club had multiple 1st round picks are: Billy Beane, John Gibbons, Stan Jefferson, Calvin Schiraldi, Bobby Jones, Chris Roberts, Jon Ward, Terrence Long, Jay Payton, Bobby Keppel, David Wright, Nathan VIneyard, Reese Havens, Brad Holt, Michael Fulmer, Kevin Plawecki