Drafting High School Versus College Players

June 4, 2008

Every year as the MLB draft approaches you start to hear a number of debates on the subject. Who is the top overall talent? Who will be drafted where? Who should be drafted where? Should teams draft based on need or on the best overall talent available? Should a team go after high school or college talent?

I would like to take the opportunity to address the latter point. Everyone knows the basic arguments about high school and college players. It’s a matter of risk versus reward. The most talented high school players will enter the draft after twelfth grade, but being younger, they also have a stronger chance of burning out. Those players who are less talented end up going on to play college ball. The ones who continue to develop while remaining healthy enter the draft after three or four years of university life.

Because arguments can be made for both prep and collegiate athletes I would like to go through the first round of each MLB draft from 2000 to 2005 and classify those who were drafted. Let’s find out how many high schoolers were drafted, how many made it to the show, and then we can compare it to the number of college players.

High School: Out of 92 players drafted, 35 have made it to the major leagues.  That’s a rate of 38%.*

College: Out of 88 players drafted, 51 of those players have touched the major leagues. That’s 57%.

Notable high schoolers that were drafted in the first round over period include Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright, Gavin Floyd, Joe Mauer, Casey Kotchman, Jeremy Bonderman, Zack Greinke, BJ Upton, Matt Cain, Jeff Francoeur, James Loney, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, Jeremy Hermida, Chad Billingsley, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Wood, Nick Markakis, Delmon  Young, John Danks, Philip Hughes, Homer Bailey, Billy Butler, Colby Rasmus, Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, and Jay Bruce.

Notable college players that were drafted include Chase Utley, Mark Prior, Mark Teixeira, Bobby Crosby, Noah Lowry, Joe Blanton, Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Francis, Joe Saunders, Khalil Green, Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin, Chad Cordero, Conor Jackson, Richie Weeks, Stephen Drew, Jeremy Sowers, Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Matt Garza, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Jeff Clement, Jacoby Ellsbury, Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Gordon, and Mike Pelfrey.

As a side note, one might initially notice that the draft has been trending towards college players since the start of the decade. However, in 2006 only 14 collegiates were drafted in the first round. The number dropped to 12 in 2007.

* Of course, It should also be noted that high schoolers are drafted younger and that it’s very likely that a larger number of those prep players that were drafted are still making their ways through their teams’ systems. Meanwhile, most college students that were drafted should likely be in the majors right now, if not on the very cusp.



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