- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
We spend a lot of time looking ahead to the MLB draft on Insider, but other than reacting to it in the immediate aftermath, we very rarely ever look back. So as we get set for the 2012 draft season to really heat up, I decided to go back 10 years and revisit the 2002 draft, aka the "Moneyball" draft, to see how different it would look with the benefit of hindsight.
Other than its ties to "Moneyball," the 2002 draft is probably best remembered for the massive gaffe the Pirates committed with the first pick, choosing (apparently at owner Kevin McClatchy's behest) a safe college arm, Bryan Bullington, over the high-upside high school player atop most draft boards, B.J. Upton. But the big story today is that the best player to come out of that draft wasn't taken until the third round.
This redraft is based on two major criteria: the players' careers to date, and my projections of any value they still have to offer (although the list does include two players whose careers are likely over). I did not account for the player's signability at the time, nor did I consider a team's preference for high school or college players, pitchers versus position players, etc. -- this analysis is based purely on talent.
Please note that we included only players who were drafted in 2002 and subsequently signed with the club that selected them. Players like Jacoby Ellsbury, for example, who were drafted out of high school but decided to attend college, were not considered. (For the record, Ellsbury was taken in the 23rd round by the Tampa Bay Rays and decided to attend Oregon State instead of signing.)
Also of note is that certain teams did not have a first-round pick in 2002 because they lost it by virtue of signing a Type A free agent. The A's, on the other hand, had multiple first-rounders.
For a look at the 2002 first round, click here.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Illinois-Chicago
Granderson put up impressive numbers at a tiny, cold-weather school, engendering plenty of skepticism at the time over whether his bat would translate, but I think he also came out a year or two too early to catch the rise of statistical analysis in draft rooms. He's turned into a much better hitter than anyone anticipated, especially after swing changes made with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, and leads all 2002 draftees in FanGraphs' version of wins above replacement (fWAR) and ranks second in Baseball Reference's version (bWAR). (Note: FanGraphs relies more on secondary stats -- such as batting average on balls in play -- for its metric.)
Granderson's actual draft spot: No. 80 (third round)
Pittsburgh's '02 pick: Bryan Bullington, RHP, Ball State
Brian McCann, C, Duluth (Ga.) HS
McCann is a consistently above-average player who'll occasionally jump up to star-caliber performance but has yet to post a truly down season at the plate since becoming a regular in 2006. He gets on base, hits for power and is capable enough defensively to remain behind the plate for now. The main question on McCann is how much catching remains in his career, with more than 900 games behind the dish already under his belt, but what he's produced to date puts him right behind Granderson on the board.
McCann's actual draft spot: No. 64 (second round)
Tampa Bay's '02 pick: B.J. Upton, SS, Greenbrier Christian Academy (Va.) HS
Keith Law redrafts the 2002 draft with the benefit of hindsight, to see how different it would look.