Johnny Manziel Could Help Padres, Sort Of

The Padres took Johnny Manziel, a football player of some renown, with their 28th-round pick in the 2014 first-year player draft. It’s a publicity stunt that had some fans wishing the team would pick a baseball player who might, you know, help on the field.

Problem is, 28th-round picks generally don’t. Paul Molitor is in the Hall of Fame, but he didn’t sign when the Cardinals drafted him in 1974.

Here are the best signed players ever drafted in the 28th round, listed in descending order by rWAR:

  1. Woody Williams, 1988, 30.9
  2. Dave Roberts, 1994, 9.0
  3. Sergio Romo, 2005, 7.9
  4. Luke Gregerson, 2006, 5.0
  5. Shane Spencer, 1990, 4.9

Do you know how many players have been drafted in the 28th round through 2009 (the most recent year to graduate a big-leaguer from that round)? A lot:

Picks MLB Pct rWAR rWAR/MLB
1066 71 6.7 221.1 3.1

This includes guys that didn’t sign, like Molitor, who accounts for 34 percent of all rWAR accumulated by players taken in the 28th round. Without him and his ilk, the numbers are even worse.

Point is, the Padres (or any team) probably won’t get anything out of their 28th-round pick. They might, however, generate revenue by selling a few Manziel jerseys (hey, it worked for the Rangers with Russell Wilson). It won’t be much, but for a perpetually cash-strapped franchise, something is better than nothing.

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  • I’m in the camp of “I’m curious how the Padres will even tap into Manziel as a marketing device.”

    • Is Just A Guy

      The mere existence of this blog post shows that they are already tapping in to it. How many picks this late inspire this level of fan reaction or media attention? I mean we are in the middle of the NBA finals, NHL finals, a tennis grand slam event, a Triple Crown race just ended, and we are a few days away from the start of the World Cup, and yet who the Padres drafted with their 28th round pick is one of the top 5 stories on ESPN.com.

      • Geoff Young

        Exactly. Actual Padres games don’t make the top 5 stories on ESPN.com.

      • It’s also the #1 headline story on the Yahoo! homepage. Geoff’s point has merit, and I’m not doubting its effectiveness of reaching people on what would otherwise be a forgettable day three of the MLB draft, I’m asking how they’ll capitalize on it any more than that. Does it really generate a significant amount of revenue from ESPN page views and likes on the Padres’ Facebook page to justify forgoing the chance at a real player? How about what it does to counteract the amount of people who reacted unfavorably? I think these are also important questions to ask.

        I understand that even bad attention is still better than no attention to some, I’m just curious if the “something rather than nothing” claim could also be attributed to an actual player they could put to a short season roster.

      • Geoff Young

        The question about people who reacted unfavorably is interesting and ties into a theory I have about uniforms: Some fans are passionate about whether the Padres should wear brown or blue. Remove that debate and you risk removing the passion. It’s possible that the debate is worth more to the team than any resolution.

        Hey, I didn’t say it was a good theory, but humor me for a moment. People are pissed at the Manziel pick. I get that. On the flip side, given that no Padres 28th-round pick has reached the big leagues, this is certainly the most anyone has *ever* thought about a Padres 28th-round pick. And by “anyone” I mean not only fans, but also a national media that habitually ignores this corner of Mexico, er, the United States.

        A team that never generates buzz has managed to generate buzz, if only for a moment. Someone in the organization sees value in that. The opportunity cost was a 0.3 percent chance at a big-league back-end starter or late-innings reliever. This is basically free advertising.

        As for stocking the short-season rosters, there will be no shortage of undrafted free agents to sign and stick there if needed. And if they play their cards right, the Padres can pay those guys with the sale of a few Manziel jerseys.

      • (Ugh, cat stepped on the keyboard and deleted my previous comment, so I’ll just summarize here.)

        I actually think you’ve provided the most sound reasoning behind the pick of anybody I’ve read, so I don’t want it to read like I’m dismissing it. At all. If the Padres believe the value of their 28th-round pick is more likely to reap dividends to the business as a marketing ploy that generates buzz, so be it. I’m sure they have the evidence to back that up.

        Again, my major hangup is mostly symbolic. I’d imagine any additional buzz they get from a national (international?) audience is at least in some ways counteracted by the negative reaction it’s receiving from industry types, national outlets, and locally. Perhaps that’s worth it; I have no idea. It might generate a debate, as it has here, but the team has constantly reiterated that they need to generate legitimate buzz about the baseball operations of the club.

        For some, not all, it’s hard to take the organization seriously with moves like this. Even if the chances of the 28th-round pick making any sort of impact are slim at best.

      • Geoff Young

        Your point about taking the organization seriously is a good one. The Padres face a huge perception problem in some circles, and they’ll need to address that sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, I suspect the team has already gotten precisely what it wanted out of the pick.

      • VM David

        That’s actually what bothers me about the pick. In a vacuum, I don’t have an issue with it. It’s ridiculous, but whatever. The fact that this season has been marked by endless, ham-fisted marketing gimmicks has grown tiresome, and that’s why it’s rubbing me the wrong way.

        I’m sure the bad baseball isn’t helping.

      • Geoff Young

        Yeah, the bad baseball is a problem. Until it’s addressed, I have trouble getting worked up over late draft picks, uniform colors, etc. Others will disagree; this is just a personal bias of mine.

        Serious question: How do you market the current team without gimmicks?

      • VM David

        I think gimmicks are fine, if they offer a tangible benefit to the customer. I don’t feel like most of their attempts have offered that.

        The concessions shouldn’t qualify as a gimmick, but I think the upgrades are great and go a long way to making the park experience better. I remember the days of Randy Jones BBQ being the only place worth eating at inside of Petco Park. Some people don’t like that, but it should be possible to focus on the off-field experience at the park while building a good ballclub. The second part hasn’t been working out lately.

      • “The team has already gotten precisely what it wanted out of the pick” is a great way to put it. That they prioritized marketing gimmick during the draft, I think, is what has many voicing their displeasure.

  • Make ESPN’s top 5 stories for a reason. Not for this B.S.

    • As Geoff suggested, perhaps that’s all they’ve established their 28th rounder was worth: a few hours as ESPN’s top story. It’s tough not to look at the past and establish that the chances are very slim that they’ll ever field a major leaguer with that pick. There’s probably market research that backs that up…

      That said, my major hangup is that current ownership has repeatedly told fans that they must be smarter by building through the draft, and this is using a pick as a self-described “gimmick.” Marketing and baseball operations can do their own thing concurrently, relatively independent of one another. As a general practice, I take issue with marketing interfering or possibly clashing with baseball operations – even if, in this case, I’d imagine it’s ever so slight. Allow ops to concentrate on building a successful team that markets itself, and don’t take away anything from their biggest chance of the year to bring talent into the organization.

      No matter how remote the chance is that a 28th-round pick even makes it to the big leagues, what message does it send when you try to sell fans on two completely different schools of thought? Even if the chances are slim that the pick will pan out, the very idea that they would aim for a short-term gain in publicity over the potential long-term benefits of even a role player certainly flies in the face of what’s been said before.

      • If they had made this “gimmick” pick in the 40th (last) round, would there be as much backlash? I don’t know. I’m asking.

      • Neither do I. But, fair or not, taking a gimmick pick in the 28th round does lead to the obvious follow-up question: “if that was the time for a gimmick, what does that say about the 12 picks after Manziel?”

        Perhaps it’s equally important to ask if the draft is too damn long.

      • Still. Still too damn long. They shortened it from 50 rounds under the new CBA.

      • Geoff Young

        Or, more fundamentally, if the draft has outlived its usefulness: http://grantland.com/features/the-mlb-draft-work-quite-possibly-immoral-replace-it/

      • Also a great question to ask.

      • VM David

        Yes. There was backlash against them “wasting” their 40th round pick in the 2012 draft on the QB out of Toledo, Terrance Owens, who hadn’t played baseball since he was a high school freshman.

        And, in his case, they actually made the case for trying to utilize his skill set/athletic ability in some way. I thought it was a pick worth rolling the dice on. Why not? 40th round, guy has skills that could translate. He signed, but has yet (as far as I can find) to play a game in the system.

    • Geoff Young

      Good luck with that.

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  • pointerdave

    Pretty ironic that of the list of top 5 round 28 picks 3 of the 5 played for the
    Padres at 1 time, Think they would be the last one tossing away that pick
    BTW the 6.7 % making it to the big leagues is 6.7% higher then the 8 years of the Dominican academy