Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Analysis: 2017 MLB Draft Top 10 Recap

Royce Lewis was the first overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft (Photo / Nick Wosika/iconsportswire.com)

ELKRIDGE, Md. - After presenting a DraftWizard mock 2017 MLB Draft Top 10, we're following up with a recap from the program's developer, Aidan Cain. DraftWizard was intended to determine the likelihood of a player moving up the pro ranks, not to predict drafts, but we took the opportunity to learn more about the top players through the unique lense of the program. With that, here is Cain's follow-up analysis. - TF

The MLB Amateur Player Draft concluded with some interesting picks throughout the top 10, and with the signing deadline now past, we'll take a look at the results.

Many variables are considered within a draft room before any given pick - from raw skills and statistics to intangibles reported by local scouts. The DraftWizard application attempted to emulate the draft room while focusing on three variables - player profiles, historical data, and perceived team needs. DraftWizard selections compared well with those of Major League Baseball, predicting correctly that six of the ten players that made the top 10 would land there.

DraftWizard Top 10 
1) Kyle Wright - RHP
2) Brendan McKay - LHP/1B
3) Hunter Greene - RHP/SS
4) Alex Faedo - RHP
5) Adam Haseley - OF
6) Royce Lewis - SS/OF
7) Shane Baz - RHP 
8) Alex Lange - RHP
9) Jordan Adell - OF 
10) Tanner Houck - RHP

MLB Top 10
1) Royce Lewis - SS/OF
2) Hunter Greene - RHP/SS
3) Mackenzie Gore - LHP
4) Brendan McKay - LHP/1B
5) Kyle Wright - RHP
6) Austin Beck - OF
7) Pavin Smith - 1B
8) Adam Haseley- OF
9) Keston Hiura - 2B 
10) Jordan Adell - OF

*on both lists
Among the 25 candidates considered by DraftWizard, three were absolute locks to be selected within the top 10 - Hunter Greene (2 - MLB), Brendan McKay (4), and Kyle Wright (5).

More interesting selections that DraftWizard had pegged as top 10, included Royce Lewis (1), Adam Haseley (8) and Jordan Adell (10)

Lewis, taken as the one-one pick in 2017 was the top prep hitter-only in the draft. It looks like Minnesota selected him, expecting to sign him for under slot value and have more money to spend later in the draft. He signed for $6.6 Mn, compared to the $7.7 Mn pick value and the excess cash was then used to sign Blayne Enlow in the third round for $2 Mn (his slot value was $755,500). Contracting strategy here is similar to what the Phillies did last year when they selected Mickey Moniak first overall and is a variable that DraftWizard doesn't attempt to incorporate.

Speaking of Philadelphia, the Phillies took Adam Haseley eighth overall, as the second outfielder in the draft. According to DraftWizard, the former Virginia Cavalier is the most likely outfielder to make the major leagues. Given he was MLB.com’s fourth-rated outfield prospect it seems that the Philadelphia front office found value in Haseley in sync with the DraftWizard analysis.

The last match, and arguably the most surprising, was outfielder Jordan Adell. He was the lowest-ranked position player that DraftWizard deemed a top 10 pick. Taken as the tenth selection, Adell was only rated 21st on MLB.com’s top draft prospect list. DraftWizard’s automation found his profile to be far more likely to succeed than even the sixth overall pick, outfielder Austin Beck.

Ultimately, DraftWizard was not built to predict mock drafts and anticipate which team will select which player. It is instead designed to determine players who, based on historical data, are most likely to climb the professional ladder to the majors.

Its optimal use would be assisting MLB front offices with draft selections by providing raw data to support a decision when selecting between one player or another. The effectiveness of the application can only be judged by future player successes in advancing through Major League systems. 
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Books: Endurance - Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Ernest Shackleton looks out from the deck of the doomed Endurance (Photo / LOC)

I've read much of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 failed attempt to traverse Antarctica, but never "Endurance - Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing. After recently listening to a nuanced telling by narrator Simon Prebble, I'm thankful that I finally ventured into what is widely regarded as the definitive account of the expedition.

For those who check in on Fieldhouse on occasion, you'll remember that we interviewed the author of "The Lost Men" in 2014. The topic of that book was the often overlooked Ross Sea Party, the group tasked with placing stores of food on the far side of Antarctica for Shackleton's party to consume as part of the latter group's effort to become the first in history to cross the continent.

As you work through Lansing's book, especially if you are encountering the details of the story for the first time, the expedition's turns away from disaster read more like fiction than history. The crew of 28 and their ship, the Endurance, are stopped hundreds of miles short of their intended destination on Antarctica. From there, their subsequent travails prove far more challenging than even their ambitious original plans might have.

En route to the continent, the Endurance is beset by pack ice and ultimately crushed under its pressure. To tell much beyond that is to reveal too much of a story that needs to be read to be believed. If you have the ability to listen to Prebble's version, all the better, as his considerable narrative skill makes the gripping story even more engrossing.

Lansing's work was first published in 1959 and has stood the test of time, despite more details of the trip becoming available and benefitting subsequent authors. His descriptions of the coalescing of the expedition's diverse personalities to achieve a single goal - survival - reads especially well. He skillfully describes the readily apparent physical dangers the group faced - drowning, starvation, lethal cold - and does a very studied job of outlining the equally deadly psychological perils of Antarctic travel.

His thorough research of prior expeditions to frozen climes and the disastrous results of their failing strength and psyches provides a perfect backdrop against which to appreciate the heroic efforts of Shackleton and his men. - TF

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