The Futility of Mock Drafts

Last night, Major League Baseball held the first 2 rounds of its first year player draft and the Orioles selected high school left-handed pitcher Hunter Harvey with their first round pick (#22 overall).  Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know anything special about any of these amateur players, because I haven’t seen any of them play on video, let alone in person.  The only thing I know about the players drafted last night is based on what I saw about them in the many articles I read leading up to the draft.  From what I have seen, Harvey projects as a potential ace, but has questions regarding his arm action and his ability to throw an effective third pitch, which makes him a future relief pitcher to some evaluators.

Was it a good pick?  Well, Baseball America had Harvey ranked as the #33 prospect in the draft, while Keith Law of ESPN had him as his #24 prospect.  Based on this, he probably went about where he was expected to go.  But did any of the many mock drafts from various (extremely well qualified in my opinion) baseball analysts predict that Harvey would be selected by the Orioles?  Yes, actually.  Keith Law predicted that the Orioles would select Harvey, however, none of the other analysts predicted that result (Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com).  I think the fact that even one of them got it is amazing.  I imagine for the writers that putting mock drafts together are extremely difficult and time consuming, only to get almost all of it wrong.  Based on this I thought it would be fun to see just how wrong Keith Law’s mock draft would end up (maybe fun is the wrong word, let’s change that to “interesting”).

Before going into this, I would like to mention that Keith Law is one of my favorite baseball writers, and I view him as being one of the most intelligent and thoughtful analysts in the sport.  Basically, if he can’t get a mock draft right, then no one can.

So first, let’s look at how Law did, pick for pick. Overall, Law correctly picked 7 out of 33 players correctly in the first round.  That’s 21%.  With regards to both Pittsburgh and Texas (who both had 2 first round picks), he correctly predicted a player they picked, but at the other selection (for example, Law predicted Reese McGuire would go to the Pirates at #9, but instead, the Pirates selected McGuire at #14).  So we’ll give him partial credit for that.  Additionally, Law was mostly correct in the names that would go in the first round, regardless of team, as only 6 players he projected to be picked in the first round were not selected (mostly at the back end).  Overall, I thought this was pretty impressive, given the extremely fluid nature of the draft.

Additionally, for the first time (at least I don’t remember them doing it for baseball before), ESPN rolled out a draft simulator based on Law’s final mock draft.  Basically, the user could plug any potential player into any draft spot, and (based on the Law’s mock and different scenarios) it would predict how the remaining picks would pan out.  I decided to keep track of how many times I would have to change this, with the logic being that as the draft proceeded, the less the simulation would change because of the increased information of what had already taken place (I really hope this isn’t confusing).  Anyway, I had to change the simulator a total of 21 times, meaning the total number of correct picks throughout the draft was slightly better than Law’s mock draft (36%), but not as much as I thought it would be.  Interestingly enough, I had to change the simulation for the Orioles pick, since based on what had already happened, the simulation no longer thought Baltimore would take Harvey.

So if a mock draft has no chance to be even close to right, why even read them?  Because they’re fun to read.  They give us a head start on who our favorite team may pick and provide encouragement to learn more about that player (or players).  For a second, it allows us to get drawn into those players’ overwhelming potential and visualize them becoming a once in a generation talent who will wear your favorite teams colors for their entire career, even though in the back of your mind, you know there’s a strong likelihood he won’t be drafted by your team and may never even make it to the major leagues.  Maybe that’s just me, but I hope Keith Law and the other writers continue producing mock drafts every year, knowing full well that there’s no chance they will ever come close to being right.

One Response to “The Futility of Mock Drafts”

  1. […] year I looked at the accuracy of ESPN’s Keith Law final mock draft, along with the draft simulator, which basically performed a brand new mock draft after each pick […]

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