The developmental pathways of major league baseball players and their influence on career performance


Performance and developmental data of 2,291 American-born Major League Baseball (MLB) players who debuted between 1990 and 2010 were amassed using Two performance indicators: career games played and wins above replacement (WAR; player's total contributions in wins) were coupled with pre-draft data to determine the influence of developmental pathways on career success. Non-linearity of athlete development (Gulbin et al., 2013) was prevalent as 17 qualitatively different pathways to MLB were identified through draft information. When distilled, analyses reveal 63% of the athletes started their career directly after attending a four-year institution (23% high school, 13% junior college) and 79% did not sign or were not selected as high school draft picks. There were statistically significant differences in career MLB (F (2, 2,288) = 3.63, p < .05) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) (F (2, 2,228) = 9.07, p < .001) games played with athletes drafted directly from high school averaging 48 to 50 more MLB and 66 to 77 MiLB games than those drafted from a junior college or four-year institution. No statistically significant differences between career WAR metrics were observed, but the difficulty of obtaining career success via this metric was noted as only 48.4% of athletes in this sample achieved a positive WAR. The collection of milestone data and additional performance indicators is needed to understand the variation within and between pathways, which may have important implications for improving talent identification accuracy (Koz et al., 2012) and developmental programs.