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My Kingdom for a Horse

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I'm on vacation without too much to do, so I spent some time breaking down the 107 "Horses" (20+ rWAR) who have debuted since 1990 into some categories, according to the decade in which they debuted.     The result breaks down into the following chart:

Type	1990-99	2000-09	2010-19
Total	47	49	11
4 YR	17	16	8
Juco	4	4	0
HS	14	18	0
Foreign	12	11	3
Top 10	2	11	2
Top 30	8	10	1
31-100	4	9	1
101-200	8	3	2
201-500	7	3	2
500+	6	2	0

The bottom 6 rows show where the player was drafted, and exclude the 26 foreign players.

For me, the most interesting takeaway is how much drafting improved after 1990-99.     During that decade, only two players who debuted had been top 10 picks, another eight were top 30 picks, and another 4 were top 100 picks.      21 of the 35 drafted pitchers who made the list in this era were outside the top 100 draft picks.    By comparison, in the 2000-09 period, 11 pitchers had been top 10 picks, another 10 were top 30 picks, and another 9 were top 100 picks.   Only 8 of the 38 pitchers who made the list in this era were drafted outside the top 100.

I think the eight U.S.-born pitchers who were drafted outside the top 500 and yet became 20+ WAR Horses deserve special mention.   From lowest draft spot to highest:

Andy Ashby.    Incredibly, Ashby was not drafted at all.    He was a Juco pitcher out of Crowder College who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 1986.     He debuted in 1991 and went on to have a 21.0 rWAR career, 98-110 with a 99 ERA+ and made 286 career starts.

Mark Buehrle.  Perhaps even more amazingly, Mark Buehrle was the 1,139th player chosen in the 1998 draft (38th round), out of Juco Jefferson College.    He went on to have a 59.1 rWAR career, 214-160 with a 117 ERA+ and made 493 career starts and 25 career relief appearances.

Darryl Kile.   Selected no. 782 overall in the 30th round of the 1987 draft, Darryl Kyle was yet another Juco guy, chosen out of Chaffey College.     Kile compiled a 133-119 record with an ERA+ of 104, while making 331 starts and 28 relief appearances in a 20.2 WAR career.

Woody Williams.   Chosen no. 732 (28th round) of the 1988 draft out of the University of Houston, Williams posted a 132-116 record with an ERA+ of 103 while making 330 starts plus 94 relief appearances, good for a 30.2 WAR career.

Ted Lilly and Roy Oswalt.  I'm listing these two together because, amazingly, they were drafted four spots apart in the 23rd round of the 1996 draft.    And again, both were Juco products.     Ted Lilly was drafted no. 688 overall out of Fresno City College, but compiled a 130-113 record and a 106 ERA+ in 331 starts and 25 relief appearances, good for 27.1 rWAR.     Roy Oswalt was drafted no. 684 overall out of Holmes Community College, and posted a 163-102 record with a 127 ERA+ in 341 starts and 24 relief appearances, good for a nice round 50.0 rWAR.

Andy Pettitte.    Chosen no. 594 out of high school in the 1990 draft, (22nd round), Pettite racked up a 256-153 record with a 117 ERA+ in 521 starts and 10 relief appearances, good for 60.2 rWAR.

Jeff Fassero.    The no. 554 overall selection in the 1984 draft (22nd round) out of high school, Fassero took 7 years to get to the majors, but managed to compile a 121-124 record and an ERA+ of 107 in 242 starts and 478 relief appearances, good for 23.7 rWAR in a 16-year career.

Just missing this honor role were Jake Peavy (no. 472 overall in 1999) and James Shields (no. 466 in 2000).    Nobody else was lower than 320.    



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I do find it a little odd that there has not been a single pitcher who debuted in 2010 or later who was drafted out of high school and has accumulated 20 rWAR to date.    Of course, most of the good pitchers who have debuted since then are still in mid-career and undoubtedly some pitchers drafted out of high school eventually will make the list.

One of the other interesting anomalies as I tracked the pitchers was that Brad Radke, Jason Schmidt and Derek Lowe were all drafted out of high school in the 8th round of the 1991 draft, selected no. 2, 3 and 11 in that round, respectively; and Steve Trachsel, out of college, was drafted 8:12 immediately after Lowe.   Quite astounding to have four eighth rounder pitchers from a single draft all accumulating 20+ rWAR.

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