The MLB draft is certainly risky business — especially for those teams who draft a raw high school starting pitcher or a power bat with a hole in his swing. Teams bank on these players developing into some sort of a superstar in a high-risk low-reward system called Minor League Baseball.
In order to beat these odds, teams can play it safe. They can draft college players who although may not have the same ceiling as some of the high schoolers, are a much safer bet. More specifically, drafting relievers out of college is a very safe and smart bet to take nine times out of ten.
For example, just look at Brandon Finnegan who is a member of the Kansas City Royals. He was a first round pick just this year and is already contributing to a Royals team who has their horns locked in a World Series. Sure, he may have been drafted as a starter, but the team moved him to relief so that he could contribute quicker.
Another recent success story when it comes to drafting relievers early came in 2013 when the Cleveland Indians drafted Kyle Crockett in the fourth round. This seemed a bit high for such a low ceiling, but he posted a 1.80 ERA in 43 outings for the big league club this past season. Of course Crockett is a lefty specialist with a limited role, but getting a great LOOGY in the fourth round of a draft is no disappointment considering the number of first round picks who may never contribute anything at all.
Of course will all the success stories, there is one prominent story of failure in the Boston Red Sox organization — Craig Hansen. Hansen who was drafted in the first round of the 2005 MLB draft made his MLB debut that same year, but struggled after that.
You see, Hansen was a closer coming in with a different mindset so it was tough for him to adjust so quickly not only pitching in say the seventh inning but also going from college to the Majors. At 30 years old, Hansen has been out of baseball since 2012 and owns a career 6.34 ERA in 94 relief outings.
Even with Hansen's failure more often than not, relief pitching prospects are the safest bets of them all. Dominant college relievers are cheap to pick up in drafts and represent a rare low-risk high-reward option — even more so than undrafted free agents.