The MLB has had its fair share of talent come through the league over the past 30 years. You name it, and the MLB definitely had it. You wanted to see two dominant starting pitchers bring a team to a World Series title? Look no further than Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling for the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. You want some closers that were dominant? Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and others were able to get the job done. There were also tremendous hitters that go up and down the list. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, Mo Vaughn, Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas, and so many others made offense fun to watch. But what about the number one overall picks? What about all of the first overall picks since 1990 that either made a huge difference or were a big failure?
This list of first overall picks has it all, from starting pitchers, to relief pitchers, to everything else in between. The expectation is that a first overall pick will be able to climb right through the ranks of the minor league system and make it up to the big league within a short span of time. However, some of those first overall picks simply did not get that message. But put them all side by side from 1990 up to 2018 and where do they rank? There's only one way to find out, isn't there? Let's take a look at every MLB number one overall pick since 1990 and rank them from worst to first.
29 Brien Taylor - New York Yankees (1991)
The New York Yankees had the first overall pick in the 1991 MLB draft and decided to go the route of the pitcher. They decided to draft Brien Taylor, who was ranked the number one overall prospect coming into that draft year. He never made it to the MLB, which made him a big bust for such a historic franchise. He made it to Double-A ball when he was 21 and that is the farthest he would go in his career. Especially for a number one pick, Taylor didn't produce at all.
28 Bryan Bullington - Tampa Bay Rays (2002)
The Tampa Bay Rays were hoping in 2002 to draft a player that would turn their fortunes around. They decided to also go the route of a pitcher, this time right-handed, in Bryan Bullington. He ended up playing in the MLB from 2005-2010 and it wasn't the best career to say the least. He only had one career win in five MLB seasons. Coming out of Ball State University, Bullington was supposed to be a big future piece for the Rays. Quite simply, he wasn't that good.
27 Matt Bush - San Diego Padres (2004)
It is tough when a player gets older to switch positions, especially when they make the pros. That was the case for 2004 first overall pick Matt Bush. Bush was a shortstop coming out of high school in California, but the Padres decided eventually to turn him into a pitcher. He definitely had some problems off the field and that contributed to his professional baseball career stalling for several years. His career is still going, but his command issues and high ERA were definitely concerning issues.
26 Casey Mize - Detroit Tigers (2018)
This next first overall pick was the most recent one, made by the Tigers. Obviously the jury's still out on Casey Mize so he can't be ranked much higher yet. He comes in as a dominant pitcher from Auburn University. He has spent time between rookie ball and single A and had a 4.63 ERA at one point, which is not great. For somebody that signed a $7.5 million signing bonus, he needs to step it up. Casey Mize still has plenty of time to prove the doubters wrong, considering he's only 21.
25 Royce Lewis - Minnesota Twins (2017)
The Minnesota Twins had the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and needed to make a big selection that got fans excited for baseball in Minnesota again. The Twins ended up selecting Royce Lewis, a shortstop out of high school, from California. He has made his way up from single A to high A baseball. He hit .315 in Single A and is hitting .255 in high A ball. If his average always goes down the higher he goes, that can prove to be very problematic for Lewis and the Minnesota Twins.
24 Mark Appel: 2013
The Houston Astros were relying on young talent and consistent high picks in the drafts to help them go from a struggling franchise to World Series contenders. One of those picks in 2013 was Mark Appel. Appel was a pitcher out of high school in San Diego, California.
He recently stepped away from the game altogether and he didn't do much to help the Astros out. He also played in the Phillies organization before he decided to call it quits. Not making it to the big leagues as a number one pick is very puzzling.
23 Dansby Swanson - Arizona Diamondbacks (2015)
Vanderbilt University has produced a ton of MLB talent that is currently making a difference for their teams. One guy that people are waiting on to take off is shortstop Dansby Swanson. Swanson is currently on the Atlanta Braves after he was drafted first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to Atlanta. He was known for having a terrific glove, but his bat was suspect.
In three full MLB seasons, he hasn't hit above .250 and has been demoted at certain points as well. Even with his career-best 14 home runs in 2018, Dansby Swanson has a long way to go to move up in this competitive list.
22 Paul Wilson - New York Mets (1994)
The New York Mets were past the days of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Doc" Gooden and needed a new start. They had the number one overall pick in 1994 and decided to take Paul Wilson out of Florida State University. Wilson did not pan out well, playing for the Mets, Rays, and Reds. He was 40-58 overall with 4.86 ERA. Those are not the numbers expected out of number one overall picks. The New York Mets never got what they hoped and Paul Wilson never had a long and successful MLB career like he probably had planned for.
21 Kris Benson - Baltimore Orioles (1996)
In 1996, the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking for a pitcher that could help lead their rotation back to playoff appearances. They decided to go with right-handed pitcher Kris Benson out of Clemson University. Benson was never a number one overall pick type of talent since he first came up to the big leagues in 1999. Benson's average season was 12-13 with a 4.42 ERA. There were only two seasons where he was above .500 and only once where he had an ERA under four. Benson was not anywhere close to where the Pirates were hoping.
20 Brady Aiken - Houston Astros (2014)
Sometimes, going back to school isn't the best route to go. Unfortunately, that was the route that Brady Aiken took. Brady Aiken is a left-handed pitcher that was taken number one overall by the Houston Astros. He didn't sign with them and he went to IMG Academies in Florida for a postgraduate year. The following year, he was taken 17th overall by the Cleveland Indians. He has not been good as he was 5-13 with a 4.77 ERA in single A ball. Aiken doesn't look good for the Cleveland Indians' future plans.
19 Matt Anderson - Detroit Tigers (1997)
In 1997, the Detroit Tigers were looking to get competitive in the MLB and thought pitching would help with that goal. Matt Anderson was the number one overall pick in the 1997 MLB draft by the Tigers, coming out of Rice University. Anderson did not put up the numbers anyone was looking for. He was 15-7 lifetime, but had a 5.19 ERA. Granted, he was a relief pitcher; but having a 5.19 ERA lifetime doesn't make any manager feel confident in him. Matt Anderson was nowhere near where he should have been for a number one pick in the draft.
18 Delmon Young - Tampa Bay Rays (2003)
The Tampa Bay Rays had the first overall pick in 2003 and needed somebody at the plate that could make an instant difference in the lineup. The man they ended up agreeing upon was Delmon Young. He was another California kid that was drafted first overall right out of high school. He had his issues with umpires in the minor leagues, and he also had his issues staying with one team for a long duration of time. He hit .283 with 109 career home runs, but that feels like he didn't do enough during his time in the MLB.
17 Mickey Moniak - Philadelphia Phillies (2016)
The Philadelphia Phillies just recently fell short in a race for the National League East pennant with the Atlanta Braves. One name they selected that the Phillies are hoping will be involved with future pennant chases is outfielder Mickey Moniak. Moniak was the number one overall pick by the Phillies in 2016, even though he was committed to go to UCLA. In 2017, he hit .236 with five home runs and 44 RBIs before moving up to the Clearwater Threshers this year and hitting .270 and five HRs. Mickey Moniak has a long way to go to be an efficient everyday MLB outfielder.
16 Tim Beckham - Tampa Bay Rays (2008)
Utility infielders are one of the rarest treasures that gets undervalued in the MLB. One utility infielder that was selected first overall in the 2008 MLB draft was Tim Beckham. Beckham was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays coming out of Georgia, even though he was committed to play at the University of Southern California. So far, he has only hit .252 lifetime along with 48 home runs and 152 career RBI's. This might have been a mistake on Tampa Bay's part. Beckham has a little bit more time to improve his ranking out of the last 29 overall first picks.
15 Luke Hochevar - Kansas City Royals (2006)
In 2006, the Kansas City Royals were hoping to get some pitching to develop a future rotation/bullpen that could compete for World Series titles. Luke Hochevar definitely helped with that, being the first overall pick for the Royals in 2006. He was 46-45 with a 4.98 ERA lifetime. But his contributions to the back end of the bullpen in 2015 helped the Royals come away with the World Series title they were pursuing. Hochevar will always be a part of that Royals bullpen that put fear into opposing hitters during that magical 2015 championship season.
14 Phil Nevin - San Diego Padres (1992)
One of the great San Diego Padres players that doesn't get talked about nearly as much as he should is Phil Nevin. Nevin was the first overall pick back in 1992 by the Houston Astros. He came to the Astros from California State University, though he didn't stay with Houston for long. Nevin is mostly known for his days with the Padres where he was even an All-Star in 2001. He hit .270 lifetime, with 208 home run and 743 RBIs. Those are definitely numbers Phil Nevin can be happy with now that his career's over.
13 Pat Burrell - Philadelphia Phillies (1998)
One of the better left fielders to have come out of the University of Miami that recently stepped away from the MLB game all together was Pat Burrell. In 1998, Burrell was taken first overall by the Philadelphia Phillies. When it was all said and done, Burrell had himself a decent career. He hit 292 home runs and 976 RBIs but also hit just .253 lifetime. Burrell also won two World Series titles, one with the Phillies in 2008 and one with the Giants in 2010. Burrell made the most of his opportunities after being picked first overall.
12 Darin Erstad - Los Angeles Angels (1995)
One of the better utility players to have come out of the Los Angeles Angels organization was Darin Erstad. Erstad was an outfielder and also a first baseman who had a sweet left-handed swing and a good glove to match. He won a World Series with the Angels in 2002 while collecting two All-Star appearances in 1998 and 2000 as well as three Gold Gloves in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Darin Erstad was a difference maker, exactly what the Los Angeles Angels were hoping for with their number one overall pick.
11 Justin Upton - Arizona Diamondbacks (2005)
This next former first overall pick was from Norfolk, Virginia and he went immediately to the pros after being selected first overall by the Diamondbacks in 2005. Justin Upton was a big guy with a combination of power and speed that was eye-opening, to say the least. Upton has made his way to several organizations, but he is a four-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner as well. Upton will hopefully make a huge difference for the Angels in the 2019 season after hitting 30 home runs in 2018.
10 Stephen Strasburg - Washington Nationals (2009)
San Diego State University has not had many players in their program make it to the MLB. One guy that has made it and enjoyed success so far has been Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has made a name for himself as a reliable 1-2 punch with Max Scherzer when healthy. Strasburg was first overall in 2009 and he is a three-time All-Star, along with being the National League strikeout leader in 2014. He has good pitches in his repertoire and would probably be higher up on this list if it wasn't for his past injuries that haunted him.
9 Gerrit Cole - Pittsburgh Pirates (2011)
In 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates needed a right-handed pitcher that could be a top arm in the rotation to go to in a must-win situation. Gerrit Cole ended up being that guy for them. He was the number one overall pick in 2011 coming from UCLA. He is a two-time All-Star and had one of his best seasons this year with the Houston Astros. Gerrit Cole certainly has saved his best stuff for Houston, so a championship ring could also be coming Cole's way.
8 David Price - Tampa Bay Rays (2007)
The Tampa Bay Rays were looking at a left-handed pitcher out of Vanderbilt University in 2007. They found their guy in 2007 with David Price. Price has made a career for himself in the regular season as he is a five-time All-Star and won the AL Cy Young award in 2012. David Price has since made his way to the Boston Red Sox and had just won the 2018 World Series with the rest of the team. Price has certainly done well for himself, in the regular season, for being a former number one overall pick.
7 Carlos Correa - Houston Astros (2012)
The Houston Astros have a young crop of talented position players that helped bring the organization their first World Series title in franchise history. One of those core players was their former number one pick from 2012, shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa is an exciting player to currently watch. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and was an All-Star in 2017. He came from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School and has made Astros fans excited about baseball again since he arrived and took over shortstop.
6 Josh Hamilton - Tampa Bay Rays (1999)
One pick the Tampa Bay Rays probably wished they held onto was Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was a left-handed hitting outfielder that had a big, long swing. Hamilton had his issues off of the field in the early stages of his career. But on the field, he was such a fun player to watch and follow. He was a five-time All-Star, a 2010 AL MVP and RBI leader in 2008. Hamilton could have had a longer career if it wasn't for off-the-field issues. But when he was on the field, he was a great former number one overall pick to constantly watch.
5 Adrian Gonzalez - Miami Marlins (2000)
The Marlins were continuing to try and garner young talent to bring them more World Series titles like they won in 1997. They decided to draft left-handed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was known to have a good swing, great glove, and even better disposition of himself. Gonzalez was a five-time All-Star and a two time Silver Slugger award winner. At age 36, he may now be done after this season in the MLB. If that's the case, what a career it was for him overall.
4 Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins (2001)
The Minnesota Twins took a catcher out of St. Paul, Minnesota with their first overall pick in 2001. They decided on Joe Mauer. Mauer is one of those players that has spent his entire career with only one organization, which we all can agree is rarely seen anymore. Mauer was the 2009 AL MVP as well as being a six-time All-Star and winning five Silver Slugger awards as well. Mauer will certainly be a legend in Minnesota forever with the career he's had, especially as a former first overall pick.
3 Bryce Harper - Washington Nationals (2010)
The Washington Nationals made the right decision choosing Bryce Harper with the first overall pick back in 2010. He was a five-tool player and a great fit for a Nationals team that needed a big star in their organization besides Stephen Strasburg. Harper has done so much, like winning National League Rookie of the Year in 2012 or winning NL MVP in 2015 or winning the Home Run Derby in 2018. Harper is a world-class talent and will only continue to put up great numbers. Unfortunately, his time in Washington appears to be done.
2 Chipper Jones - Atlanta Braves (1990)
The Atlanta Braves did the right thing in 1990 as they added Chipper Jones to their franchise via the draft. Jones was essential to the Braves success during the mid-1990s. He was a part of the 1995 World Series championship team, he won the NL MVP in 1998, and he was also an eight-time All-Star. Chipper Jones hit .303 lifetime with 468 career home runs and over 1,600 RBIs. It's easy to see why Chipper Jones is now inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. He was certainly a dynamic piece of those historic Braves teams of the 1990s.
1 Alex Rodriguez - Seattle Mariners (1993)
The numbers cannot even begin to describe the career that this next guy had. Alex Rodriguez was taken first overall in 1993 as a shortstop by the Seattle Mariners. Since he debuted in 1994, he took the league by storm. He was a three-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star, a 10-time Silver Slugger winner, along with many other accomplishments. Rodriguez was a once in a generation player who helped change whatever franchise he ended up playing for. It's not often a no.1 pick in baseball comes as advertised, but A-Rod certainly did.