People love the NFL draft. For months before the draft, fans are treated to Mel Kiper and Todd McShay putting out mock drafts weekly, which seldom change, and are rarely correct. The draft is played during Prime Time and the entire ESPN and NFL Network crews commentate on them. The NBA gets about a week after the finals where the top picks make the rounds around Bristol and then ends with a televised draft. The MLB draft takes place in the middle of the season and sometimes gets a couple articles in various publications.
Why is there no love for the MLB draft? Is it because we rarely see the picks actually play in the MLB? Possibly. Is it because there are 40 rounds? Seems likely. Is it because international players aren’t allowed in the draft? Could be.
Whatever the reason is, the MLB draft gets no attention while the NFL and NBA turn their drafts into week long events that get fans hyped for their teams. Since 2000 we have seen hundreds of players from the draft come up into the MLB, and even more never see a big league field. Here is the best draft pick for every one of the 30 MLB teams.
59 30. Brandon Webb SP – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have not been great. They’ve only been a team since 1998, so their 5 playoff appearances and World Series win are extremely impressive. That being said, they have not been able to put together much lasting success and have an average of 4 years between playoff appearances and haven’t been since 2011 despite actively working to and signing some of the games biggest stars. When figuring out who should be the D-Back’s best draft pick, one name jumps out immediately; Paul Goldschmidt. Right now Goldy is one of the game’s best and seemingly underrated players. He has been amongst the league leaders in homeruns, RBIs, and batting average each year that he played more than 110 games. Year-after-year he has been a candidate for MVP, coming second in voting in 2013 and 2015. However he has not led his team to the playoffs and coming in second place as an MVP is not close enough. Brandon Webb was one of the leagues’ top pitchers for a short stretch of time. From 2003 until 2008, Webb had an ERA of 3.24 while averaging 177 strikeouts a season. He earned a CY Young award in 2006 and was second in voting in both 2007 and 2008. Early in the 2009 season, Webb was sidelined by a shoulder injury and he never pitched at the MLB level again. Webb retired from baseball in 2013 after a number of failed comeback attempts and will always be remembered for what could have been.
57 Craig Kimbrel RP – Atlanta Braves
From 1995 until 2005, the Braves won the NL East. They stayed in first place for 10 years and went to the World Series 3 times in that span, winning in 1995. The team relied on one of the best pitching staffs ever assembled along with talented players like Chipper and Andruw Jones leading the offense. However, since them the Braves have been average at best. They’ve had a few playoff appearances and even won 96 games in 2013, but few players stayed consistent long term with young stars like Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens succumbing to injuries and never hitting their full potential. The signing of Dan Uggla still haunts the team that has seen young talent like Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Andrelton Simmons traded away after they were never able to reach the level of greatness promised to fans. Freddie Freeman has been a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing team, but we think the best draft choice was closer Craig Kimbrel. With the Braves Kimbrel was a four-time All-Star and led the NL in saves each year. He even won Rookie of the year in 2011 over Freeman. Since being traded to the Padres, Kimbrel was traded again to the Red Sox where he has had one of his worst seasons and recently suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of the All-Star game. Kimbrel’s four years in Atlanta were so dominant that it’s impossible to put anyone else here.
55 Manny Machado 3B – Baltimore Orioles
This pick was one of the easiest that one could make. The Orioles have not been a bad team throughout the past couple decades; they just had the unfortunate situation of playing in the same division as MLB powerhouses the Yankees and the Red Sox. Between 2006 and 2011 things started to fall apart for the Orioles. They lost 90 or more games each of those seasons and played against the Blue Jays for last in the division. Then in 2012 Manny Machado came to the team and things seemed to fall onto the right track. The drafting of Machado seemed to change everything for the franchise. Guys like Adam Jones and Chris Davis started to play better and fans finally had a reason to come watch the games. The Orioles made the playoffs in the 2012 season for the first time since 1997, and the franchise hasn’t looked back since. Machado has led the rise of the Orioles batting .287 while averaging 78 RBIs in the years that he was healthy. He’s been up since he was 19 and has already been an All-Star 3 times. He, along with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, are leading the next group of MLB superstars into the spotlight and the Orioles hope to see him in Baltimore for a long time.
53 Dustin Pedrioa 2B – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have shockingly been one of the most dominant teams over the past 16 years. They have 3 World Series wins, 7 playoff appearances, and 9 seasons with 90 or more wins. When you look at the evolution of their roster over that time, you can’t help to notice that David Ortiz has been the foundation of that team since arriving in 2003. Most of the players that have been around him through his World Series wins eventually moved onto other teams (Jon Lester, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury), but Dustin Pedroia has been in Boston almost as long as Ortiz and has produced at an equally high level. Pedroia has played a much more difficult position and won literally everything he could while doing so. He has 2 World Series rings, a Silver Slugger, a Rookie of the Year, multiple Gold Gloves, and of course an MVP. Pedrioa has been hitting a career average of .299 and has the highest fielding percentage of all active second basemen. People don’t often talk about Pedrioa when they think of the best players in the league because he is outshined by some of his own teammates, but he has been as consistent as anyone has ever been, never having a season where his averaged dipped below .275 despite numerous injuries. Quietly Pedroia has remained one of the MLB’s best players and he is signed with the Red Sox through 2021.
51 Kris Bryant 3B – Chicago Cubs
Yes it’s only 2 years in, but we already feel comfortable saying that Bryant is the best Cubs’ pick in years! In all fairness, almost every player on the Cubs has at one time looked like they would be the star of whatever team they played for, but they found something special in Bryant. Anthony Rizzo is one of the top hitting first basemen in the MLB and is on pace to have the best year of his career. Jake Arrieta has been as dominant as any pitcher has ever been. Addison Russell has improved on all of his numbers from last season. The only real question is about Kyle Schwarber and his ACL tear, which most young players come back from. Last year Bryant was the runaway rookie of the year batting .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs, and this year he is on pace to eclipse all those numbers. He already has 25 home runs and 65 RBIs, not to mention that his batting average is way up and his strikeouts are way down. Before the past two years, The Cubs have been a struggling team who would rely on name recognition to sign big name Free Agents like Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee, who did nothing more than help make a couple playoff appearances. The young group of players, led by Bryant, makes it seem like the Cubs’ luck has finally changed.
49 Chris Sale SP – Chicago White Sox
It’s almost as if the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 and then said “we’re done” for the rest of the decade. Outside of a lone playoff win in 2008, the rest of the White Sox years have been average at best. That 2008 playoff berth was only got because it was an extremely weak year for the AL Central division. White Sox fans have had little to celebrate for a while now, except for starting pitcher Chris Sale. Sale has been one of the best pitchers in the MLB since he came up. From 2012 through this season, Sale has an ERA below 3 and is averaging more than 200 strike outs a season. He is always in the CY Young conversation, even in years where his team can’t help him get to a .500 record, that’s just how good he is. There have been other young players for the White Sox, but most of them have either been derailed by injury or have yet to live up to their potential. Sale is a beacon of greatness on a team that seems to be wallowing.
47 Joey Votto 1B – Cincinnati Reds
The 2008 Rookie of the Year race was a good sign for the Cincinnati Reds. Before then there wasn’t a lot of things to celebrate for the Reds, they were on pace to have their 8th straight losing season and they hadn’t seen a playoff appearance since 1995. Long past were the days of Barry Larkin, and 2008 was the season that the Reds shipped Ken Griffey Jr. off to the White Sox. But at the end of the year, the Reds had 3 guys who had a legitimate shot at the Rookie of the Year award. Jay Bruce was batting .254 with 21 homers and 52 RBIs, and Edison Volquez was the club’s ace collecting 17 wins and 206 strikeouts while posting a 3.21 ERA. Those guys only took votes away from the Red’s true star-to-be Joey Votto. Votto-matic ended the season hitting .297 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs (he led the Reds in average, homers and hits that season). Votto lost out the award to the Cubs’ Geovany Soto who put up similar numbers from the catcher position. While Soto’s season was a flash in the pan, Volquez has bounced around the league, and Bruce has turned into trade bait year-after-year; Votto continued to play at a similarly high level for years. He won the NL MVP award in 2010 and was named to 4 All-Star teams. He has put up a career average of .307 and in only 3 seasons has he dipped below hitting .300; his rookie season, an injury plagued 2014, and thus far in 2016.
45 Jason Kipnis 2B – Cleveland Indians
Since 2000 the Indians have had 3 different players win the CY Young award, more than any other team in that stretch of time. CC Sabathia was the first recipient, but he had been established on the team for years by the time he got the hardware. Cliff Lee won it the following year following a long and injury-plagued career. Corey Kluber seemed to have come out of nowhere before winning in 2014, but he actually came from San Diego. The Indians have had 3 playoff appearances during that time and have had 8 seasons with a record of .500 or above. However, a lot of the team had been put together via smart trades and free agent signings, they haven’t been lucky when it comes to the draft. Jason Kipnis is the best player the Indians drafted since 2000. Their second baseman has represented the Indians in the All-Star game twice and that’s enough, as the rest of Cleveland’s better players were not drafted by the franchise.
43 Troy Tulowitzki SS – Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki was going to be the savior of the Rockies franchise. Before 2007, the Rockies had one playoff appearance in franchise history and had never won their division despite fielding players like Larry Walker, Todd Helton, and Matt Holliday. Then Tulo came up and immediately helped lead his team to the World Series. The Red Sox may have swept them in that series, but it was a sign of good things to come… or so we thought. The Rockies continued to play at status quo and have only made the play offs once since that devastating sweep. Throughout that time, one of the bright spots in Colorado had been Troy until he was shipped off to the Blue Jays in one of the most baffling trades in recent memory. The 5-time All-Star was seemingly always hampered by injuries, but when he was playing, he was good. The Rockies still haven’t ever won the division title. He has a career batting average of .293 with 208 home runs and 717 RBIs, but what truly makes him special is because he has done all that while playing some of the game’s best defense from the Shortstop position. His fielding percentage at the position is the highest of any player, ever, and he is amongst active leaders in double plays turned, defensive assists, and putouts as a shortstop. Last season the Rockies made the right move by trading Tulo to a contendor, but bungled it greatly. Instead of pulling a bunch of prospects, Colorado settled for getting an aging and headline drawing José Reyes and a handful of young players all outside of the top 25 MLB prospects. Tulowitzki has not played as well in Toronto as he did in Colorado, but few can dismiss the greatness that we saw while he played at Coors Field.
41 Justin Verlander SP – Detroit Tigers
Who is the Tiger’s best draft pick? Is that really a question? The answer is Justin Verlander. He is the only player who has a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and a CY Young. He has been an otherworldly pitcher for a majority of his career, but he was especially dominant from the 2007 season through 2012. During that stretch, Verlander went 78-31 with a 2.95 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Verlander’s best season came in 2011 when he won both MVP and CY Young after he had a 24-5 record with a 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts, and only 57 walks. The Tigers have been to two World Series since 2000, and Verlander was a key factor on both of those squads. He also led the team to a division title 4 times in his career. Lately Verlander has been a shell of who he used to be as injuries and fatigue have taken their toll on the future hall-of-famer, though a shell of Verlander is still better than a majority of MLB players. He has a career ERA of 3.55 and averages 187 strikeouts per season. His career is coming to an end, but Tigers fans should continue to celebrate Verlander and everything he’s brought to the team for years to come.
39 Carlos Correa SS – Houston Astros
The Astros have had very few great years in the history of the team. In their 52 seasons as a team, Houston has 10 playoff appearances, though 4 of them did come between 2000 and 2016 including their lone World Series appearance in 2005. That Astros team was led by the killer B’s; Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Carlos Beltran. However, none of those Hall-of-Fame worthy players were eligible for this list. Following the retirements of Bagwell and Biggio, The Astros really fell to pieces having only 1 season above .500 and leading the league in losses from 2011-2013. In 2015, the Astros used their great draft picks to finally break out of their slump and not only get a winning record, but also make the playoffs since losing in the World Series. The keys to their rise have been seen in the rise of Jose Altuve who is batting a career average of .309 and has 192 stolen bases in 6 seasons. Unfortunately the Astros signed Correa as an international free agent, so he cannot be named to the list. Luckily for the Astros there is much more talent than just Altuve, namely in their young shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa was the top pick in 2012 draft and he showed why when he came up during the 2015 season and winning Rookie of the Year. Cases could be made for Dallas Keuchel who won the Cy Young award last year, but we are leaning towards Correa because Keuchel hasn’t had as good of a 2016 season as Correa, and his yeas before winning the Cy Young have been average at best. Either way, having the young talent that both of the young stars bring is a great sign for the longevity of the franchise.
37 Alex Gordon OF – Kansas City Royals
Choosing the Royals best draft pick is a bit like choosing your favorite Ice Cream flavor. There are a lot of good ones, a few great ones, and even the worst ones are still delicious. You could go with a guy like Zack Grienke who won a Cy Young award with the team, or Mike Moustakas who was a key piece in both of the Royal’s World Series runs. When picking a player, we came down to Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon. Hosmer is the current face of the franchise, after winning this year’s All-Star game MVP and aiming to win a fourth straight Gold Glove at first base. He has a career .282 average and is 10 homeruns away from hitting 100 so we expect that to happen his year. However, we give the edge to Alex Gordon who has been a long time star for the team, putting up with terrible team after terrible team and he finally got rewarded with a World Series ring last year. There’s something great about players who put up with a bad franchise until it finally rises from the muck and plays well. Gordon may never get a spot in Coopertown, but he will go down in Royals History as one of the best to ever play in KC.
35 Mike Trout OF – Los Angeles Angels
If you had to name the best draft pick in baseball from the past 16 years, there is a good chance that you land on Mike Trout. In each of his 4 full seasons, Trout has either been second or first in MVP voting, named an All-Star, and has grown as a player each season. Many argue that the kid should have already won 2 MVP trophies, but Miguel Cabrera beat him because of Trout’s age. The guy can do absolutely anything on the field; he’s got a great arm in the field, he’s a great fielder, an excellent base runner, he can hit for power and for average. He is the definition of a 5-tool player. Even while playing for a terrible Angels squad, the young superstar has played as well as anyone in the league. Trout has a career average of .306 with 157 homers and 455 RBIs. To put his stats in perspective, we looked at ex-superstar Alex Rodriguez’s first 6 seasons to see how they compared. A-Rod had 0 MVP awards, and only finished in top 2 voting once, also A-Rod had no rookie of the year to his name, Trout does. Rodriguez was hitting .308 with 148 homers and 463 RBIs, so their stats are extremely similar. We expect Trout to have an equally impressive career, stat-wise, but we can only hope that’s the only aspect of the game that we use to compare Mike and A-Rod when both men are out of baseball.
33 Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
One LA team drafted the best position player in baseball, the other drafted the best pitcher. Clayton Kershaw has only been in the MLB for 9 seasons, but he has still won 3 Cy Young Awards, and an MVP. Right now Clayton is the active leader in win percentage, ERA, Hits allowed per 9 innings, total shutouts, and Kershaw isn’t only good, his numbers are historically great. He has had one of the greatest runs that any pitcher has ever had. His career ERA of 2.38 right now sits as the 27th lowest of all time, and the lowest of any non-reliever who was born in the 1900s. The next highest active player on the list is Madison Bumgarner who is sitting at 148 on the list. We expect the number to rise eventually, but we don’t know when. This season Kershaw has continued his dominance with an ERA of 1.79, and it turns out that he’s been hurt! If that’s what he does while injured, a sub 1.5 ERA is not unimaginable when healthy. 2015 was an “off” year for Kershaw (3rd in Cy Young voting, 2.13 ERA) so it’s no surprise that he came back with his eyes on dominating the league this season. Watching Kershaw is one of the most exciting things a baseball fan can do.
31 Giancarlo Stanton OF – Miami Marlins
The Marlins are now starting to see a lot of young talent join the team after years of living at the bottom of the NL East standings. Throughout their history, the Marlins have 2 playoff appearances and 2 World Series wins, however they won in 2003, and have yet to go back. In fact, they have since finished 2nd in the division once in that time. Like the Rockies, they have never actually won their division. However, the Marlins have been blessed with young players who win Rookie of the Year and they fade to obscurity or ditch Miami for better teams. Since 2000 Dontrelle Willis, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Coghlan, and Jose Fernandez have all won Rookie of the Year while wearing a Marlins uniform, but all except Fernandez never really improved on their early success (only time will tell for Fernandez). Giancarlo Stanton has been one of the few bright spots for Marlins fans since he came up in 2010. Stanton is a 3-time All-Star and was the runner-up MVP in 2014. He is best known for launching 500-foot homers, but he’s also been a serviceable fielder and is able to hit in clutch situations. He has hit 3 walk-off home runs, 20 that tied the game, and 63 to put the Marlins ahead. Mark Teixeira, who has played almost double the amount of seasons, has no walkoffs and only 38 homeruns that tied a game. It’s not hard to understand what the Marlins saw to lock up Stanton with the monster 13 year, $325 million contract.
29 Ryan Braun OF – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers had a moment in the mid-2000s where they were slated to be the next great powerhouse from the NL West. Starting in 2007 they had the 1-2 punch consisting of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun that was thought to be the best in the MLB. The rest of the roster was full of young talent like JJ Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Ben Sheets, Corey Hart, and Alcides Escobar. Unfortunately for the Brewers, most of their young talent did not pan out and the team either traded players away for pitching help (that never signed long term), or was forced to watch them leave once they hit free agency. The last remnant of their time as the “hot young squad” is ex-MVP Ryan Braun. Following his MVP 2011 season, Braun was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down when his name was linked to a positive steroids test. Braun decided to take the “Lance Armstrong” approach and began saying people were out to get him and claiming innocence until he was finally forced to fess up to what he did and take his suspension like an adult. Braun lost much of his fan appeal after that, but his performance on the field hardly skipped a beat. Since he won his MVP, Braun has an average of .295 and continues to hit homers, drive in runs, and steal bases at an above average rate. He hasn’t been able to take the Brew-Crew back to the playoffs, but he is committed to helping the franchise and has quietly reverted back to the star he once was.
27 Joe Mauer C – Minnesota Twins
The Twins have not been successful in the past 6 or so years. Until last season they didn’t have a season above .500 since 2010, and they lost more than 90 games in each of those seasons. Between 2000 and 2010, the Twins were the power house of the AL Central. They made it to the playoffs 6 times on the backs of a slew of home grown players who came together at the right time. Justin Morneau who won MVP in 2006 and Johan Santana who won the 2004 and 2006 CY Young awards while pitching with the Twins led the team to the playoffs. The outfield was made up with guys like Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel and the rest of the pitching staff included Juan Rincon, Fransisco Liriano, and a dominant close in Joe Nathan. All of those guys were great players but only Kubel was drafted after the year 2000. Minnesota’s best draft pick is easily Joe Mauer, the franchise face for The Twins. Mauer has done everything possible for his team; he has been named an All-Star 6 times, won the AL batting title 3 times, and won MVP in 2009. Mauer was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, quickly going through the minor leagues and finding himself as the team’s stating catcher in 2005. He has chose to stay with the Twins through his entire career, while everyone else left as a free agent or was traded. After the 2013 season Mauer was moved from the catcher position and now splits time between first base and DH. We hope that the Twins don’t ever cut ties with Mauer.
25 David Wright 3B – New York Mets
Playing for the Mets cannot have been too fun over the past 16 years. Yes they were in the World Series last season, but it has been a long road between their 2000 World Series appearance and last year. In 2006 the Mets were one of the MLB’s super team featuring Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and one of the best Bullpens in the game led by Billy Wagner. That year they won 96 games and were a game away from playing in the World Series. Things were looking good for the Mets as they were one of the favorites going into 2007, but they suffered a historic collapse losing 12 of their last 17 games and losing their 7 game lead in the division. They followed up by losing 10 of their last 17 games the next year to be bounced from post-season contention on the last day of the season. Following that year, much of the team dispersed leaving only David Wright as the only reminder of those devastating spans. Wright never gave up on the Mets like most of his teammates did. After watching one failed signing, followed by another failed signing, many players would have been disheartened, but the 7-time All-Star continued to play at an MVP level for the team that drafted him. He has a career average of .296, and in years that he played 100 or more games, Wright averaged 93 RBIs and 23 homers per seasons. Wright has been a staple for the Mets and one of the few reasons for fans to come to Citi Field.
23 Dellin Betances RP – New York Yankees
On any given day 7 of the 9 players that the Yankees start came up through another team’s farm system. It’s been a long time since the Yankees saw their drafted players come up and be stars. Players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte have been retired for a number of years now, and the other Yankees draftees (Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain) never panned out the way the team expected. When looking at the Yankees draft picks since 2000, only 3 made an All-Star team in a Yankees cap; Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, and Dellin Betances. Hughes had a fantastic 2010 season by winning 18 games, but never could replicate his success from that year. Gardner has been the definition of an average player and hit .259 his “All-Star season.” That leaves Dellin Betances, who has made it to three straight All-Star games as the Yankees’ set-up specialist. Over his career, Dellin has 356 strikeouts and has only given up 49 runs and 135 hits. It’s weird to see a reliever as the best draft pick for a team that has been very good, but the Yankees are a special team that is largely fielded by signing or trading for missing pieces. Because they have been so good for so long, they never have a shot at the “sure-thing” draft picks like Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, but they just make up for it by signing those players as soon as they hit free agency.
21 Bobby Crosby SS – Oakland A’s
The A’s have been built as the “Bizzaro Yankees.” Every tactic that the Yankees tried, Oakland went ahead and did the opposite. The A’s and their GM Billy Beane have been praised for using the idea of “moneyball,” using analytics to sign cheaper players who fit the team as opposed to big money free agents. The A’s have had 8 playoff appearances since 2000 by putting teams together with this idea, while the Yankees have 13 appearances and 2 World Series wins in that span. Both teams are very successful, but the A’s are a bit more impressive just because they haven’t had as much to work with (the Yankees notably signed many of the A’s best players in free agency). Even though the A’s have been known to have a well run farm system, their drafting prowess has not been overly impressive. Sonny Gray has had a very impressive early couple years having a pair of 14 win seasons, and being named as an All-Star in 2015. However, his 2016 campaign has been rocky and his career ERA has inflated from 2.88 to 3.23, which is still good by not great. We give the nod to Bobby Crosby, who was one of Oakland’s many underrated players. Crosby was never an All-Star and never lived up to his Rookie of the Year season in 2004, but he was a fixture on the team from 2004 to 2009, and one of the few successes that came out of the draft for the A’s.
19 Ryan Howard 1B – Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard is the most disrespected player in baseball history. In early June Howard was caught in the headlines after a Phillies fan threw a beer bottle at Howard. It should be stressed that Howard is still on the Phillies! One of his own fans threw a glass bottle at him! Howard for a time was one of the most dominant players in the MLB winning an MVP in 2006 and then taking his team to the World Series twice, winning it in 2008. He has given everything to the team that one man can possibly give, and now the people who once loved him are booing him. Much of the Phillies fans contention comes from the contract Howard was handed in 2012 worth $125 million for 5 years, also known as an average contract in today’s MLB. Injuries have slowed the big first basemen and he has been a shell of the player he used to be, which has pissed off the fans. Before signing the contract, Howard averaged 36 homers and 108 RBIs a year, but if you remove his 19 games from 2004 those number skyrocket to 41 homers and 123 RBIs. Since 2012 he has regressed to 17 homers and 63 RBIs a year, and averaged only 100 games a year. In 2016, his average has gone below .200 for the first time in his career, and many feel that he should do the selfless thing and retire, leaving $23 million on the table. After a fan attempted to hurt him, he owes the team nothing and deserves to be paid the money he signed for. Ryan Howard is the symbol for why good players choose not to play in Philadelphia.
17 Andrew McCutchen OF – Pittsburgh Pirates
Since Barry Bonds left the Pirates in 1992, they have been a basement dweller who just couldn’t do anything right. After their first place finish in 1992, the team was unable to win 80 or more games until 2013. Since that season they have made 3 straight playoffs and won 88 or more games each season. There have been a lot of things working in Pittsburgh for the Buccos, but their drafting and smart moves in their farm system have been a spot of excellence for the once downtrodden squad. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are two of the best young outfielders in the MLB, but over the past few years it has been Andrew McCutchen who has been the captain of the ship. Since coming up to the big leagues, Cutch has batted .294 with 165 homers, 596 RBIs, and has stole 156 bases. He’s also collected an impressive amount of hardware including being named to 5 All-Star teams and winning an MVP in 2013. He has been synonymous with the Pirates’ rise to prominence since coming up in the league, and is not only the Pirates best draft pick since 2000, but may be their best ever. Right now Andrew is putting up the worst numbers of his career, but we don’t expect it to keep up throughout the next few years. We think he will be playing for years to come and will be on a quest to win a ring to cement a hall-of-fame worthy career.
15 Chase Headley 3B – San Diego Padres
The Padres have been bad… We don’t mean to be rude, but they just haven’t been good. In the mid 2000s they had a couple playoff berths, once in 2005 when they squeaked out 82 wins and somehow topped the division, and again in 2006, but they were bounced early. Aging stars Brian Giles, Phil Nevin, and Mike Cameron led the team’s offense, but it was young superstar Adrian Gonzalez, whom the Padres got from the Rangers before the 2006 season, who did most of the damage with a bat. The team was mostly comprised of pitchers, mainly Jake Peavey who was the game’s best pitcher at the time. Peavey was drafted in 1999, so he just barely missed the cut for this list. They haven’t seen real success outside of those two years, though they actively made big moves, trading for players like Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton and, Matt Kemp to try and ignite their team. The team’s two best draft picks have been Chase Headley and Mat Latos, both who only had one good season as members of the Padres. In 2012 Headley was 5th in the MVP voting after knocking in 115 RBIs. Latos was a Cy Young candidate in 2010 when he won 14 games and had an ERA of 2.92. Both men were traded for prospects that never panned out too much for the Padres. The Mat Latos trade brought Yonder Alonso to the Padres, who got to start at first base over Anthony Rizzo, leading to the Padres trading Rizzo to the Cubs, a trade that haunts the franchise to this day. For that reason we say Headley was the better pick.
13 Buster Posey C – San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey is an MVP winner, and annual candidate who has been a fixture for a team that has won 3 World Series titles in 6 seasons. The man isn’t even 30 yet! He has been one of the league’s best players and he is somehow still underrated. He has a career average of .309 averaging 74 RBIs and 17 homers a year, from the catcher’s position. Year after year he ranks at the top of the league in WAR and fielding percentage as a catcher. The Giants have been one of the best teams when it comes to drafting players in the 2000s. They drafted Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Brandon Belt, Sergio Romo, and two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Those make up some of the better players from the past decade and some of the better up-and-coming players of today. Posey is arguably the best player to build around in the MLB. Finding a catcher who can, not only anchor the backstop for years to come, but is the best hitter on the team, is a treat that few teams have had the pleasure of having. Posey’s numbers are at an elite level of guys like Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, and Johnny Bench as one of the few guys who could be the greatest offensive threat on the team, and play the catcher position at an elite level. Being a catcher is tough, being a hitter is tough, and being both is nearly impossible. Let’s just say there’s a reason the Twins moved Joe Mauer to first base, and Bryce Harper as asked to change his position to outfield once he was drafted.
11 Taijuan Walker SP – Seattle Mariners
Seattle hasn’t seen playoff action since they won 116 games in 2001. In fact, since that year the Mariners have only had 5 seasons above .500. They haven’t had a high draft pick work out for the team since 1993 when they drafted A-Rod. All of their best players have been international free agents, or a couple big names that chose to play in Seattle for unknown reasons. Every couple years the team is met with high expectations, and fails to live up to them because of either injuries or significant holes in the lineup. They haven’t had much success in the draft with few players actually having much success with the team. Ichiro and Felix Hernandez have been the team’s two best players over the past decade and there has been a far gap between them and anyone else. We say that Taijuan Walker has been the best draft pick, giving the nod to him over Kyle Seager. Walker has a huge upside and has shown flashes of greatness notably in 2015 when he racked up 157 strikeouts, while Seager may already passed his prime. Third basemen like Seager are a dime a dozen, so the talent that Walker may bring to the team should be looked at as a much better talent.
9 Yadier Molina C – St. Louis Cardinals
Yadier Molina has been a fixture in St. Louis as the heart of the Cardinals team. He has won a Gold Glove behind home plate every year since 2008, and has been an All-Star 7 of his 13 years. He has done everything the team has needed from him. When Albert Pujols left the team in 2012, Molina stepped up as the team’s leader and MVP. He works with the younger pitchers, turning guys like Michael Wacha into stars. Since Yadi came up, the Cardinals have been to 4 World Series and won 2 of them. Obviously the franchise has been lauded as one of the best run franchises in sports, but having a piece like Molina to rely on is a huge help. Teammates have said that Molina is who they look to when they want to learn more. Manager Mike Matheny says that he is the calming influence when a player gets frustrated or the team goes on a losing streak. Former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons may have said it best when he told USA Today, “Molina could be the manager of the team. He could be the pitching coach. He could be the hitting coach. And he could catch the game.” The Cards have been great over the past 16 years, and the constant fixture is their future Hall-of-Famer, Yadier Molina.
7 Evan Longoria 3B – Tampa Bay Rays
Who else? Evan Longoria has faded from the spotlight a bit since the Rays have fallen from contention. When you look at Longoria’s career, it perfectly mirror’s the Ray’s franchise each year. When he plays poorly, the team collapses, when he plays well, the team wins the division. Unfortunately for both Longoria and the franchise, his best years all came very early in his career and he hasn’t been able to match it in more recent years. His first 3 years, Longoria won Rookie of the Year, was a fixture in the MVP race, and averaged over 100 RBIs a year. Since then he still plays well, but regressed because of injuries and lack of talent around him. His numbers dipped significantly, though he still makes a case to be in the MVP race every couple years. Every other great Ray’s player seemed to be anxious to leave the team. David Price, James Sheild, Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford, Fernando Rodney and even manager John Maddon all used Tampa as a stepping stone to get to a better team, but Longoria stuck with them for the long haul.
5 Ian Kinsler 2B – Texas Rangers
It’s shocking that a team who has had so much recent success is just now seeing their young talent play well. Nomar Mazara has been the runaway Rookie of the Year in the AL, Rougned Odor has become a solid player (who can throw a mean right hook), Jurickson Profar has been playing crazy well for a guy who has been practically out of the game for 2 years due to injuries, and then their farm system has potential stars with guys like Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo, and Dillon Tate all ranked in top 50 MLB prospects. Their World Series runs in 2010 and 2011 were greatly enhanced by players like Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee, and Adrian Beltre, who were all huge pick ups from other teams. However, they also had a slew of players they pulled through their farm system via trades. Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Matt Harrison all were big parts of the team that came from trading Mark Teixeira to the Braves. Then there were guys like CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Scott Feldman who were drafted by the team. However their best drafted players was easily Ian Kinsler. While with the Rangers, Kinsler made 3 All-Star teams, had 3 20-20 seasons (2 were 30-30 seasons), and had 4 seasons where he scored more than 100 runs. The Rangers traded Kinsler to the Tigers to free up a spot for Profar who immediately got hurt. Kinsler is still playing very well for the Tigers and does not look to be slowing down. He will forever be a Ranger in fans hearts and his #5 jersey will be retired the day he does. Not bad for a guy out of the 17th round.
3 Aaron Hill 2B/3B – Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are the new Yankees. They have gone out and spent a lot of money signing big name free agents and made a ton of high profile trades. They were smart and signed Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista to long term deals, and then they used their farm system to trade for guys like RA Dickey, Mark Buerhle, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson. Donaldson turned in an MVP season last year and helped lead the Jays to their first division title and playoff appearance since 1993. Not enough can be said about the signings of Encarnacion and Bautista who have truly anchored the offense for years now and are expected to continue raking in hits for the Jays for years. The free agent pick-ups of J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada have been solid. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez has been fantastic this year, but he has a ton of question marks and has benefitted from being on such a good team. We feel like Aaron Hill has been the best draft pick for the Blue Jays. During his time in Toronto he had a .270 average with 90 homeruns and an All-Star game appearance. Pretty decent for a guy on such a bad team. We expect Stroman and/or Sanchez to pass Hill quickly, but for now we have to give the edge to the old second baseman.
1 Bryce Harper OF – Washington Nationals
There are two guys who can make the case that they are the best draft pick for the Nationals. Bryce Harper is on a quest to “Make Baseball Fun Again,” and it seems like he may have forgotten that it’s important to focus on the baseball part. In 2016 he is hitting .256 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs, good numbers but not near the MVP numbers he put up last year. He has been an All-Star 4 of his 5 seasons in the league, and only missed it during an injury plagued 2014. Stephen Strasberg was brought into the MLB less than a year after he was drafted. In his rookie season he played 12 games and struck out 92 batters. He has been a dominant pitcher in the years that he’s healthy, but injuries have really been a hindrance throughout his career thus far. Picking one over the other is hard because both of them have been so good at different points and we think both will be mainstays in the league for a long time. We will lean towards Harper as he has accomplished more than Strasberg at this point in their respective careers. Harper has an MVP and a Rookie of the Year award while Strasberg has one Silver Slugger. This season Strasberg is outplaying Harper, but over the course of their careers, Harper gets the nod.