Every season there are first-round draft picks who, within a matter of a few years, emerge as stars in the major leagues. While the trend can in part be attributed to a player’s corresponding selection—higher draft picks are perceived to have more potential—the soaring failure rate among baseball prospects suggests that a draft pick’s potential value is in the eye of the beholder. 

Obviously, teams that have been perennial contenders (such as the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies) over the last decade haven’t received as many first-round picks as a team that’s finished in last place (such as the Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals). Additionally, due to free-agent classification and the lofty signing-bonus demands of top draft picks, countless organizations have been deprived of a first-round pick.

Therefore, I thought that it would be interesting to take a retrospective look at how each organization has targeted and developed its top picks. 

Now, this is not an overall ranking of each team’s drafting track record of the last decade. Rather, it’s an analysis based solely on each team’s first-round selection from 2003-2012, not including the supplemental (or sandwich) round.

Because such a study opens the door for subjectivity, as is the case with essentially all prospect-related work, I decided to use both player statistics and annual draft expenditures as a starting point. Here’s what I came up with:

Number of First-Round Picks to Reach MLB: The number of first-round draft picks who have reached the major leagues with drafting organization. Presented in relation to overall number of first-round selections and does not included those players drafted in the supplemental first round.

Total Money Spent on First-Round Picks: The total amount (in millions) that a team has spent on its first-round draft picks. As expected, teams who’ve had numerous selections within the top 10 will have spent more. Therefore, in theory, they should have better odds of drafting and developing potential impact prospects.

Total WAR of First-Round Draft Picks: The total WAR (via Baseball-Reference.com) accumulated by all first-round picks only with their drafting organizations.

Average WAR/First-Round Draft Pick: The average WAR accumulated by a first-round draft pick with drafting organization. (Total WAR/number of first-round picks.)

Top Draft Pick of the Decade: A team’s top first-round draft pick as determined by WAR accumulated with drafting team.

Top Sleeper Pick of the Decade: The top draft pick outside of the top 10 rounds as determined by WAR accumulated with drafting team. Also used for tie-breaking purposes.

Grade: Taking into account the aforementioned criteria, a grade is to be assigned to each organization for its ability to target, draft and develop first-round draft picks.

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