Jun 12, 2019

A lack of data is driving the demise of the high school baseball prospect

No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman (Oregon State) was one of a record number of college players taken in the 2019 MLB draft. Photo: Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Evaluating baseball prospects will never be an exact science, but that hasn't stopped MLB teams from trying to make it one by leaning further into data and further away from "the eye test."

Why it matters: This data obsession is having a huge impact on player evaluation and was on full display during last week's MLB draft, where the number of high school draftees decreased for the seventh straight year.

By the numbers: Two decades ago, 40% of draftees came directly from high school, per the Wall Street Journal. This year, that number was just 24%.

Buzz: This trend is far more pronounced at the top of the draft. In 1999, 46% of players taken in the first 10 rounds were high schoolers. This year? 19%.

The bottom line: Teams want to know everything about a prospect, and that level of information is almost never available for high schoolers. Hence the dramatic shift currently underway.

  • On top of that, more teams are building through the draft rather than free agency, which has made them less willing to take risks — and drafting a high schooler is about as risky as it gets.

Go deeper: Baseball's hitting coaches go all in on tech and data

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