September 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones
As I linked to in the news post today, Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote a great piece on the biggest accomplishments of Chipper Jones’ career, getting the opinions of several around the organization. It’s well worth a read in full, but I want to focus on one aspect that was mentioned on Twitter after the article was posted.
Feat No. 5 in Stark’s article is titled, “The greatest No. 1 overall pick ever.” Such a big claim is worth looking into deeper. Braves.com’s Teddy Cahill and I spoke back and forth briefly on Twitter yesterday after he brought up the topic, and you can follow the link to read our conversation in full. But this really highlights the point of it: “Right. Which makes this a philosophical question and there’s probably no right answer.”
So while I’m looking deeper into the topic, this isn’t an end-all post on the subject. People view the purpose of the draft in different ways. One way is that you try to get the most potential value for your big league club that will stay in the organization as long as possible. Another way is that you try to get the most potential value for your big league club by utilizing the draft selection in whatever way necessary to get equal value, such as trading him or receiving draft compensation as a free agent.
Chipper’s situation with the Braves obviously falls into the first category. He has played 18 seasons for the Braves, compiling a total of 90.3 fWAR, with a career line of .304/.401/.530 and .398 wOBA and 142 wRC+. He earned all of this for one team as a No. 1 overall draft pick. If that isn’t the very definition of value from a draft pick, I don’t know what is.
From Stark’s article: The GM’s take: Maybe Griffey and Alex Rodriguez can stake their claims to the title of Greatest No. 1 Pick Ever. But at the very least, says Braves GM Frank Wren, Chipper is the guy who’s had “the greatest value to the organization that picked him. How about that? I think you could make that case, from a standpoint of, he’s spent his whole career with one organization, and had a Hall of Fame career, whereas other guys haven’t necessarily done that.”
So yes, there’s no doubt Alex Rodriguez is the greatest No. 1 overall draft pick as a player. He has compiled 114.7 fWAR with a career .300/.384/.561, a .404 wOBA and 146 wRC+. He’s the best player to ever be chosen No. 1 overall in a draft.
But Rodriguez only gave the Mariners seven years of these numbers. Take away his two years of getting his feet wet as a teenager and he gave the Mariners 37.2 wins above replacement. Rodriguez then bolted for Texas and that mammoth contract, leaving Seattle with draft pick compensation in the form of Michael Garciaparra and Rene Rivera. Garciaparra never made the majors. Rivera played 53 games for Seattle and is currently a minor leaguer for the Twins. It’s safe to say the Mariners didn’t get as much value out of Rodriguez as the Braves did Chipper.
Then there’s Ken Griffey Jr., who is the best contender for Chipper’s title as most valuable to his team. Griffey’s final numbers were 83.9 fWAR, .284/.370/.538, .385 wOBA and 133 wRC+. But he gave the Mariners 11 years at a total of 73 wins above replacement.
Griffey was traded to the Reds at age 30 season for Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer. Tomko’s final value with the Mariners was exactly replacement level while throwing only 127 innings over two seasons. Neither minor leaguer ever pitched for Seattle.
Cameron, on the other hand, gave the Mariners his best years, earning 19.7 fWAR over four seasons. If you add that total to Griffey’s, the two combined for 92.7 fWAR, surpassing Chipper’s mark with the Braves.
So that’s something to think about. What defines value from a draft pick? As Cahill said, it’s a philosophical question, and people will view it in different ways. I’m of the opinion that what Chipper gave the Braves himself as a first overall pick has meant the most among the three. Others may think differently. That’s what makes it interesting.