The inspiration for this post came from this year’s Hall of Fame vote and the irony of having both the highest draft pick, Ken Griffey Jr., and lowest draft pick , Mike Piazza, being selected in the same year. This really shines a light on scouting and player development and since I’ve written a lot about these subjects I felt it necessary to dedicate this post to this years Hall of Famers. Not to mention the fact that I am a huge Ken Griffey Jr. fan and I couldn’t pass up the chance to write about him.
I’ve used his picture numerous times on this site due to his athletic ability and showing us what a true 5 Tool player looks like. In fact if you look up what 5 Tool player is on Wikipedia you should find his picture!!
Ken Griffey Jr. is also the definition of a “can’t miss prospect” which is why he was selected first overall in 1987. This term had been used for many if not all of the 22 players that were selected 1st overall before him dating back to Rick Monday in 1965. Yet Ken Griffey Jr. is the first one to reach the hall of fame.
By contrast look at how long it took football, hockey and basketball to draft a player first overall who eventually was inducted into the hall of fame.
- NFL – Bill Dudley 1942 (7th year)
- NHL – Gilbert Perreault 1970 (8th year)
- NBA- Elgin Baylor 1958 (12th year)
So what took baseball so long?
I don’t want to sound critical of how things are done in baseball at the professional level because there are a lot of different factors that go into selecting and then developing a hall of fame caliber type of player.
Here are three of the biggest factors I can think of:
- Age: baseball typically drafts players at much younger age (out of high school) than other sports.
- Sport Skill vs. Athletic ability: baseball is a sport that places more of an emphasis on sport skill which is harder to develop compared to physical ability. Picking the biggest, fastest and strongest guy in baseball isn’t going to pan out in baseball as often as it does in football and basketball.
- Injury: while ever sport has its fair share of career’s that were ended early or hindered by injury baseball ,because of its nature, probably has a higher frequency due to stress caused by throwing.
Ken Griffey Jr. will be not be the only first overall pick in the HOF for long. Three years later Chipper Jones was selected by the Braves and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the HOF someday when he is eligible. There are other promising ones as well like David Price, Bryce Harper and Alex Rodriguez*****(is that enough asterisks?)
So this means that things are getting better but I think that there is a lot that can still be done to improve how players are both selected and developed to increase the accuracy of their future projections.
Here are a couple of articles that I’ve written about this subject if you wish to read more
- Big League Combine
- How Big Will He Get
- Player Vs. Athlete – Who to Select
- How Athletic You Need to Be to Get Drafted Out of High School
- How Athletic You Need to Be to Get Drafted Out of College?
This year’s Hall Of Fame Inductees
Ken Griffey Jr : 6’3”, 195-205lbs, 1st pick overall 1987
Even though I grew up in Canada Ken Griffey Jr. was one of my favorite players. The fact that Seattle is about 1600 miles closer to where I grew up compared to Toronto meant that my first MLB game was in the King Dome and not the Sky Dome. I was lucky to have seen Ken Griffey Jr. for my first MLB game and to make it even better Randy Johnson started that game so I got to see two future HOF players.
Here are a couple gif’s of what made Ken Griffey Jr. a true 5 Tool Player
the Kid taking a home run away in Yankee Stadium
Rusty Greer made a mistake and Junior makes him pay – watch his front leg catapult that ball out of his hand.
Here he is flying around the bases and scoring the biggest run in Mariners history from first base on an Edgar Martinez double down the line.
I wish Statcast would have been around for this!!
Hit for Power
Upper, Upper, Upper Deck in the Sky Dome!!!!
Hit for Average
double the other way off David Stewart – what a pretty swing!!
You can’t say enough about how skilled and how athletic Ken Griffey Jr. was and if it weren’t for a couple of injuries that stole some time from his career he would have put up even crazier numbers. Regardless he is still one of the best center fielders ever right there with Willie, Mickey and Joe.
Mike Piazza: 6’3”, 205-215, 1390th overall pick 1988
One of the greatest scouting stories of all time. Essentially Mike Piazza was selected as family favor by Tommy Lasorda and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round with the 1390th selection over all in 1988. Five years later in 1993 he won the Rookie of the Year Honors.
The guy could hit and to be considered the best hitting catcher of all time makes him a definite Hall of Famer. There are some rumors about PED use but as you can see from his draft report card the scout did mention how he could fill out.
What may be one of Mike Piazza’s best tools was his eye sight which is obviously vital if you want to squarely hit a round ball with a round bat. In his book the “The Sporting Gene” author David Esptein writes about an eye doctor visiting Dodgers camp in 1992 to measure everyone’s eye sight. This eye doctor noted that there was a very high number of players that had better than 20/10 vision however he make a specific note of Mike Piazza’s vision as being one of the best.
This should mean that every scout should carry one of these:
Put great vision together with a big strong athlete and good levers you can see why he hit the ball of the fence 427 times.
Here is a video of Piazza showing off his forearm strength!!!
That does it for this article but I hope that next year I can do one of these articles talking about one of the most athletic guys ever to play the game, Tim Raines.
This is the definition of a “Powerful Runner” – 808 career SB’s!!!!
Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS