Blue Jays: Just how bad a drafter was Mark Shapiro?


Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro recently named Tony LaCava the organization’s new interim general manager in an introductory press conference. Shapiro will reportedly hold final say on personnel decisions.

One of the knocks against new Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro is his drafting record while GM of the Cleveland Indians.  While he is generally conceded to be an above-average trader, many writers say that the poor amateur draft choices that Cleveland made while he was GM from 2001-2010 contributed significantly to the limited success of that franchise over those years.

But is this criticism valid?

To see if this criticism was fair, I conducted a test.  I took all of the Cleveland first-round picks from the 2002-2010 drafts and compared them to the next three players chosen in those drafts.  I then calculated the lifetime WAR for each of these players, to see how many of these years Cleveland “won”.

In one sense, this test is unfair, as it really evaluates the whole Cleveland drafting team rather than only Mark.  But I believe that, just as “the buck stops here” at the top when something goes wrong, a large part of the credit has to go to the person who ultimately makes the decision.  And in this case, as GM, it appears that Shapiro had the decision rights.


Some interesting observations:

  1. Of the nine first round picks (Cleveland had two first rounders in 2003, and none in 2006), the player chosen by Cleveland never generated a higher career WAR than each of the three players chosen after them.  So, despite picking first, Cleveland never “won” one of these four-player mini-rounds.
  2. The average career WAR of the nine players chosen by Cleveland was 2.2, largely as a result of Jeremy Guthrie‘s 11.7.  But the player chosen after Cleveland averaged 5.5, and the ones after that averaged 8.5 and 3.7

Now, this is a small sample size, and the effects of a single Matt Cain and Jason Heyward can greatly affect the averages.  Still, it seems clear that Cleveland had their share of high draft picks and (like a certain other team we all know and love!) did not exactly distinguish themselves. At least in the first round.

The bottom line?  Shapiro has been unimpressive – or perhaps unlucky – in the past.  But with the Blue Jays, he has access to a higher signing bonus budget and a much larger and more experienced scouting team.  Perhaps it is time for his luck to change?