Thus far, Erik has posted a three-year sample (1994-1996). This is probably not enough to get a reliable estimate, but to get some idea, here's a quick pivot table of his data (note: I am setting all negative WAR values to zero, as Rany Jazayerli did in his study, and as Tango recommends--players who don't make it to the big leagues should never be considered more successful picks than players who do make it, even if they stink upon arrival):
I am showing the position-by-position totals, though I probably should not be--many are based on just a single player! It's no accident that you see more SS's and OF's than other positions, though: that's where the best amateur players will tend to play on their teams. Another interesting tidbit is that almost exactly half of the first round picks during 1994-1996 were pitchers, even though pitchers averaged just 64% of the production of position players.
Anyway, from 1994-1996, the average player taken in the first round returned 3.5 WAR in his career. An average MLB player will produce 2 WAR/season, so this is essentially saying that the baseline for an average first round pick is one and a half seasons of MLB-average performance. Not very good. It's no wonder that baseball drafts have a reputation for being a crapshoot, even in the first round.
I'm not sure if 3.5 WAR is a reliable figure. My guess is that it's within a half-win or so of the true mean, but it's hard to know at this point without more data. Furthermore, it's questionable whether we should even use a mean here--the data are not normally distributed, and, in fact, the median WAR is actually zero!
But if we run with it for now, how have the Reds done? Let's break it down by 5-year increments. I'm including all players shown in yesterday's post, again setting anyone with negative WAR to zero:
This is comforting. I know we (or I, at least) as Reds fans tend to be pretty down on our team's ability to draft talent. But I think the message here is that they historically have been close to average, and may even be slightly above average thanks to the Larkin pick. Let's hope that in the coming years, they can improve on that a bit--as a small market team, it may be that the Reds can't afford to be merely average in the draft.