The 2023 MLB draft is around the corner, kicking off with the first round July 9, and every year I love to dig into some aspect of draft history. There are always interesting stories to research and surprising picks to remember -- a reminder that the draft is an extremely inexact science.
Scouting departments are better than ever at it, though. This year, I've researched each team's best draft of all time and, even considering that we won't know the results of recent drafts for years, the list skews to decades-old drafts in many cases. There are a few reasons for this:
1. It's harder to find hidden gems nowadays. Back when the draft began in 1965, it was a scout's dream to discover a kid no other team knew about. Those players rarely, rarely exist anymore. For the most part, due to showcases and other events, every team knows every player and has more data available to them to evaluate players on. Few players slip through the cracks that allowed teams in the past to luck into a good prospect in the later rounds.
2. Teams are smarter. In the early years of the draft, teams generally preferred high school kids to college players. It would take about 15 years before teams finally corrected for this mistaken philosophy. That means more of the best players taken in the first round and fewer opportunities for teams to hit on multiple stars in later rounds.