As covered by the most out spoken of deities, BSR’s Fantasy God, the first shocking pick of the 2011 MLB Draft came when the Mariner’s selected Danny Hultzen out of The University of Virginia. The Diamondbacks followed up this choice taking Trevor Bauer from UCLA. These choices opened the door for the Orioles to take the top college hitter in the draft, Anthony Rendon, with the forth pick of the draft. Rendon has a history on injuries, including ankle and shoulder injuries in his collegiate career. Instead of taking Rendon the Orioles took Dylan Bundy, the best high school pitcher in the draft. Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the pick from a semi-quantitative/historical perspective. Before we delve into the Bundy vs. Rendon debate its important to note that the O’s front office did not make this pick out of ignorance. They’ve seen Rendon’s medical records and I haven’t, so my opinion isn’t nearly as informed as theirs is (even ignoring the huge difference in how much value you should place in our respective opinions), and there are a number of MLB talent evaluators who believe Bundy will become a top 10 pitcher in the AL.
The case for Rendon:
From Baseball Prospectus: College hitters enjoy a sizeable advantage over every other class of draft pick (college pitcher, high school pitcher, high school hitter) in every round in terms of exceeding the expectations of their draft value. According to this article from Bleacher Report (which is not nearly as formal as the BP study) this gap is lessening.
Thirteen college third basemen have been taken in the first five picks of the draft since it was born. This list stars: Matt Williams, Mark Teixeira, Troy Glaus, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ryan Braun. In fact the biggest bust names on that list are Alex Gordon (enjoying a serviceable year in 2011) and Pedro Alverez (just too young to consider a bust yet). Compared to these thirteen third basemen, 59 college pitchers taken in the first 5 picks; the thirteen third basemen have produced more value in MLB. This does not account for the difference in the quantity of pitchers! This data is courtesy of Dave Cameron over at fangraphs.
All things being equal pitchers are more injury prone than hitters.
Using Sky Andrecheck’s formula to project draftees Wins Above Replacement we would expect Rendon to post ~12.8 WAR in his career. Bundy projects to be ~6.18 WAR. The formula punishes pitchers and non college players, which is the primary difference in these projections.
The case for Bundy:
From Baseball Prospectus: There is virtually no difference whatsoever in the value of the other three classes (college pitcher, high school pitcher, high school hitter) of draft picks. In particular, it is no longer apparent that high school pitchers, even in the first round, are significantly riskier than either high school hitters or college pitchers.
The only way to build an elite pitching staff is to continually take young pitchers with pedigree. History tells us that for every five you take 2-3 won’t work out but the only way to build a staff is to accumulate chances to produce elite guys.
I’m sure its obvious from the information I have presented here that I would have preferred Rendon. The possible combination of Rendon and Machado on the left side of the infield is just too enticing. Perhaps the team is already fearful that Machado will have to move to third and don’t want to clog his path. If this is true it saddens me. Within the draft the team needs to be focused on getting the best players available, not filling team need. There is just too much uncertainty associated with these picks to be concerned with need. Despite all these complaints I think Bundy has as good a chance as anyone to be the best pitcher taken in the 2011 draft. I strongly prefer him over Hultzen taken at #2 and think he has extreme polish for a highschool arm. I just think that the best chance to produce a top quality player was with the choice of Rendon.