Is it fair to call Mike Pelfrey a disappointment?

In short: No.

I mean, it depends on your definition of “disappointment,” of course, and what your expectations were for Pelfrey when he joined the Mets in 2006 — I know my own were certainly sky-high. But if you’re citing his draft position as evidence that he hasn’t lived up to his potential, I urge you to consider the following chart I spent my morning compiling.

I went back through all the drafts since 2001 and compared the career fangraphs WARs of every pitcher selected in the top 10 overall. That’s not the most comprehensive means of comparison, I know, but I figured it’s a good way to get a quick-and-dirty sense of a pitcher’s value. Then I eliminated the guys from the last three drafts, figuring it’s not anything like fair to compare them to established pitchers so early in their careers.

Then, with Moneyball in mind, I removed all the high-school pitchers from the list to try to make the comparison a little tougher on Big Pelf. There were 12 high-school pitchers drafted in the top 10 overall picks since 2001, four of whom (Gavin Floyd, Zack Greinke, John Danks and Clayton Kershaw) have since outproduced Pelfrey, three of whom never threw a big-league pitch.

So the following is the list of all college pitchers selected in the top 10 overall from 2001-2008, omitting both instances where a pitcher did not sign with the drafting club.

It’s 29 guys, and Pelfrey ranks eighth among them in fWAR. Certainly he’s not Justin Verlander or Tim Lincecum, but I’d hardly call a guy who has produced in the upper echelon of top-drafted pitchers “a disappointment.” Obviously teams drafting pitchers that high are hoping for aces, but there’s so much risk involved that landing a suitable innings-eater should be at least a satisfying outcome. Disappointments include the 10 guys on the list with zeros or negative numbers next to their names.

Year Pick Pitcher Team Total fWAR
2001 2 Mark Prior Cubs 15.8
2001 3 Dewon Brazelton Devil Rays -0.6
2001 6 Josh Karp Expos 0
2001 7 Chris Smith Orioles 0
2001 8 John Van Benschoten Pirates -0.8
2002 1 Bryan Bullington Pirates -0.8
2002 9 Jeff Francis Rockies 16.5
2003 3 Kyle Sleeth Tigers 0
2003 4 Tim Stauffer Padres 2.3
2003 8 Paul Maholm Pirates 13.9
2004 2 Justin Verlander Tigers 32.4
2004 3 Philip Humber Mets 3.5
2004 4 Jeff Niemann Devil Rays 5.3
2004 6 Jeremy Sowers Indians 3.3
2004 10 Thomas Diamond Rangers 0
2005 6 Ricky Romero Blue Jays 9.8
2005 8 Wade Townsend Devil Rays 0
2005 9 Mike Pelfrey Mets 8.6
2006 1 Luke Hochevar Royals 7.4
2006 2 Greg Reynolds Rockies -0.6
2006 4 Brad Lincoln Pirates 0.2
2006 5 Brandon Morrow Mariners 8.3
2006 6 Andrew Miller Tigers 2.8
2006 10 Tim Lincecum Giants 27.9
2007 1 David Price Devil Rays 10.4
2007 4 Daniel Moskos Pirates 0.2
2007 6 Ross Detwiler Nationals 1.5
2007 8 Casey Weathers Rockies 0
2008 4 Brian Matusz Orioles 2.6

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