Peter Gammons: With respect to 1st rounders, winning takes a much wider collective

We understand the importance of Monday’s draft. Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Aaron Judge, C.C. Sabathia, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Paul Goldschmidt, Max Scherzer, Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Madison Bumgarner  and Corey Seager were draft choices who altered their franchises.

Miguel Sano is changing the Twins, as Miguel Cabrera changed the Marlins and who eventually changed the Tigers. They were classic examples of great International scouting.

Corey Kluber won a Cy Young Award, and was obtained by the Indians as a minor leaguer in a three way deal. Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks were found under minor league rocks. Yu Darvish was signed out of Japan. Felix Hernandez was a teenager signed out of Venezuela.

“Building a championship team is based around scouts and everyone in the organization working together on the draft, on major and minor league professional scouting, in the international world,” says Chris Antonetti, the Indians President who has long been at the center of one of the game’s most successful scouting and development.

Granted, the Indians haven’t won a world championship since 1948, and, granted, their market since the Browns and Cavaliers have moved into the city has been in the bottom five. But they have worked tirelessly, knowing they cannot compete with the high revenue teams for free agents or in the international market, and that while Major League Baseball has tried to level the economic playing field, small markets do not have the access to elite talent the way markets in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston or San Francisco do.

Cleveland has drafted well, particularly the last five years. Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Bradley Zimmer and Cody Allen were linchpins on a team that was within an out of the World Series title, while having Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield out of the draft enabled them to trade for two years of Andrew Miller when Mike Chernoff and Antonetti decided what Dayton Moore did in Kansas City the previous season—that now has arrived.

They have been limited internationally, although they have signed Danny Salazar and have a potential superstar catcher on the way in Francisco Mejia.

But what Antonetti refers to as “collective effort” has enabled them to find jems like Kluber in other organizations. Carlos Carrasco came in the Cliff Lee trade, Michael Brantley for C.C. Sabathia, both acquisitions were far more significant than a draft choice. They got Mike Clevinger from the Angels for Vinnie Pestano. They got Yan Gomes from Toronto. Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. They got Bryan Shaw with Trevor Bauer in a three-way deal. Zach Mcallister for Austin Kearns.

The Now is here, and they can take the free agent shot at Edwin Encarnacion because of all the work unearthing the Klubers, and never being accused of tanking.

On the other hand, the Astros and Cubs were linked to tanking for two or three years. Now, did it make sense to clear payroll and get draft choices? Of course. It’s true in almost every sport. But the simplistic notion that they were intentionally losing to get higher picks and, under the original system that began in 2012, extra pool cash allotments would not have been enough to make one the reigning world champions and the other the team with the best record in the major leagues.

The Draft is important, especially when a team gets to pick in the top 10. Where major league all star players—in this case those who played in last year’s game in San Diego—come from begins with the first round, the Bryce Harpers and Stephen Strasburgs. To repeat from last week:


To get a feel where All Star Talent comes from, go back to those who played in last July’s game in San Diego, then checked from whence they entered professional baseball.


ROUND 1/SANDWICH                  (19)

ROUND 2                                        (4)

ROUND  3                                       (3)

ROUNDS 4-6                                  (6)

ROUNDS 7-10                                (4)

ROUNDS 11-on                              (4)


One can see the importance of the international signings and understand why Commissioner Rob Manfred wants an international draft for more small and mid-market access to the best talent, as well as a bridle on the corruption that plays so heavily in the international market.

But to credit having the second, fourth and sixth picks in consecutive drafts are not the reason the Cubs won. When they had a two, they got it right with Kris Bryant. When they had number four, they got it right with Kyle Schwarber. With number six, Albert Almora.

Internationally, they got a star in Wilson Contreras, a tool star in Jorge Soler who got them Wade Davis, third baseman Jeimer Candelario—who may be a chip this trading season—and another potential star in outfielder Eloy Jimenez.

Then look at their professional scouting. They got Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards, Jr. and Pedro Strop whose organizations didn’t see them as major league contributors. They got Hector Rondon in the Rule V draft. They got it right when they were trading for Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell.

And when they got close and decided now was nigh, they went into the free agent market for Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Koji Uehara and Dexter Fowler. Lester, Lackey and Zobrist have eight world series rings between them, not to mention the contributions of David Ross, two rings.

Then look at the Astros. Granted, the draft has been important, but remember this:George Springer, Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel were the previous regime with scouting director Bobby Heck, and in Jeff Luhnow’s first draft, when Mark Appel said he would not sign, Heck did the top, insisted on Carlos Correa, got him at a good price and thus was able to get Lance McCullers.

The next two first picks in the draft didn’t exactly work out. Appel never settled in, and in parts of five seasons, now in the Phillies organization, has a 5.04 career earned run average. They had the first pick for a third straight year in 2014, selected Brady Aiken, and because he needed elbow surgery didn’t sign. Which enabled them to get Alex Bregman in 2015 with the second pick, now an important part of their lineup.

But the Astros have done extraordinarily well in the pro scouting market finding undervalued talent. They got Chris Devenski, one of the most valuable pitchers in the American League, from the White Sox for Brett Myers. They got Will Harris with a waiver claim. They stole Francis Martes and David Paulino as throw-ins from the Marlins and Tigers because a young scout named Alex Jacobs doggedly roamed the back fields during Extended Spring and recommended them before they got to a full season league. They grabbed Marwin Gonzalez from the Red Sox on waivers. They identified Jake Marisnick and Joe Musgrove when they were in the Toronto organization.

And at the end of last season, when they knew their Now had come, Luhnow listened to A.J. Hinch, got Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick for maturity and leadership, and each has been a big part of the ongoing development.

Now, all the talent from the draft and the Extended Spring back fields will enable them to put together a package got a veteran starting pitcher they need in the post-season.

The Cubs, Indians and Astros are testament to the fact that good organizations have to hit in the draft, they have to scour opposing organizations for misplaced or undervalued talent, know for whom to trade and what free agents make the most sense. It takes a Jason McLeod to see Anthony Rizzo at the age of 18, say “he may have the best makeup of anyone I’ve ever signed,” go to San Diego and then Chicago with Jed Hoyer and trade for him twice; yeah, Andrew Cashner lights up radar guns, but Cashner for Rizzo was a franchise-changing trade because McLeod, Hoyer and Theo Epstein understood the makeup element.

To see how every department works, check the 2011-2016 world champion teams, plus the 2016 American League champion:

Pro Scouting /Amateur Scouting/ Int.Scouting 

(with Notable Examples)


2011 St. Louis             14 / 10 /  1

Draft: Molina, Lynn, Pujols, Craig

Trades: Holiday, Frees

Int’l: Salas

Free Agent: Carpenter, Berkman


2012 San Fransisco    16 / 7 / 2

Draft: Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Crawfiord, Belt.

Trade: Pence

Int’l: Sandoval

Free Agent: Zito, Affeldt


2013 Boston               15 / 8 / 2

Draft: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz  

Int’l: Uehara, Tazawa, Bogaerts

Free Agents: Ortiz, Napoli, Lackey, Gomes, Victorino


2014 San Fransisco    14 / 9 / 2

Draft: Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, Belt, Duffy, Panik

Trade: Pence

Int’l: Sandoval

Free Agent: Affeldt, Hudson


2015 Kansas City         14 / 7 / 4

Draft: Hosmer, Duffy, Moustakas, Gordon

Trades: Cueto, Zobrist, Davis, Cain

Int’l: Perez, Ventura, Herrera

Free Agent: Morales


2016 Chicago              19 / 4 / 2

Draft: Bryant, Baez, Schwarber;

Trade: Arrieta, Hendricks, Chapman, Rizzo, Russell.

In’t: Soler

Free Agents: Lester, Lackey, Heyward, Fowler


2016 Cleveland           15 / 8 / 2

Draft: Lindor, Kipnis

Trade: Kluber

Int’l: Salazar

Brendan McKay will be a Twin or Red or Ray Monday night, and eventually make his team a winner. But it won’t be McKay or Hunter Greene or Austin Beck alone; Mike Trout and Harper are generational players who have yet to experience a World Series.

Winning is about depth of talent, makeup and leadership. How all that gets put together is an exceedingly complex process that may begin with the first round of the draft, but cannot be executed without the eyes and the minds and the vision of those who run the business.


  1. Yep, its about more than hyped up flame throwers and power hitters at the top of the draft, its about the diamonds in the rough, its about the 28 year old independent league player, the kid from the islands, the 7th rounder that was a college wide receiver…. anyone can pick out a Mike Trout, Harper, or Bryant, but the heart of winning teams are found in the front office and scouting department, in all aspects

    • So true, it doesn’t matter what head scout or GM made the choice to draft Harper, or ARod, or Griffey Jr. #1 overall…, my 14 year old son could have made those selections. But then you still need to be ‘baseball smart’ with these guys though, I.E.; are you going to resign them to “the largest contract is MLB history” when the time comes, well the Mariners didn’t… then they go out and sign Cano to such a contract (maybe because they got tired of losing Hall of Famers to to big spenders)….. in any case, recognizing talent is not the same as managing assets, and vice versa, which as Peter says; it takes a wide collective to create a winning environment.

  2. Dr. Peter Nanos says:

    Character. Best seen with 2013 Red Sox and 2016 Cubs. Speaks volumes.

  3. Uehara wasn’t a Cub in 2016