As I've written before, the MLB Draft seems to exist in an entirely different realm from its NBA, NFL and NHL brethren. Whether it's the rules that limit the prospect pool, the fundamental differences of the game between the pro and amateur levels or the usually lengthy developmental period required before 'making the jump', the MLB player selection process seems to be far more of a crapshoot than any other of the Big Four.
And since draft misses are so commonplace, costly whiffs don't loom quite as loudly as they do in other sports. For instance, basketball fans are far more likely to talk about, say, Greg Oden over Kevin Durant than baseball fans are to discuss how 24 teams missed the chance to draft Mike Trout. Still, even with less outside pressure focused on the draft process, MLB GMs nevertheless have the capacity to make or break their team's future. Just look at the Boston Red Sox 2011 draft haul, which brought in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart and Travis Shaw.
But draft picks turn into prospects, which sometimes turn into trade assets. A draft choice that helps land a capable vet to boost a contending team can absolutely be viewed as good value to get for the puck, but the true test of a franchise's talent evaluation and scouting department is how many of those picks capitalize on their potential and make it to 'the Show'.
So which clubs fare the best in that regard? Let's rank all 30 MLB teams based on how they'd fare if they kept all of their own drafted players.
(Note: to avoid duplication, the club must have drafted AND signed the player)
29 Minnesota Twins
It's been 17 long years since the Minnesota Twins drafted Joe Mauer with the first overall pick. But even as the hometown hero and franchise star nears the end of what has been a Hall of Fame-caliber career, it's hard not to notice that the club has won just one playoff series since he was drafted.
There's no one reason for the club's struggle, but a disappointing draft record in the years since Mauer doesn't help.
Remember how Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were expected to form the nucleus of the team's future? Sano - an international free agent - already made his first All-Star team in 2016, but Buxton, the No. 2 pick in 2012 has continued to struggle to even stick with the big club.
28 San Diego Padres
For any small market team hoping to compete alongside bigger fish, the draft becomes a crucial tool for leveling the playing field. Unfortunately for the Padres, the draft has pretty much been an unmitigated disaster, helping to explain why the club hasn't reached the playoffs since 2006 or had a winning record since 2010. Their best picks, Corey Kluber, Trea Turner and Miles Mikolas, only blossomed after they left the Padres organization. Now, while an underwhelming and anonymous rotation is comprised largely of San Diego draftees, only three of their starting position players are homegrown.
27 Chicago White Sox
It's all well and good that the White Sox have a 2018 Cy Young contender on their recent draft record, but Chris Sale doesn't entirely undo what has been a pretty dry stretch for the south siders. Neither their first round pick prior to Sale nor their subsequent three first rounders after have reached the majors.
To find a ChiSox-drafted All-Star not named Chris Sale, you need to go all the way back to 2004, when they team selected another lefty hurler in Gio Gonzalez.
That neither man remains with the organization and the club hasn't found similar-caliber talent through the draft since speaks volumes of why they have played all of four playoff games since winning the World Series in 2005.
26 Miami Marlins
The recent Miami Marlins' draft history has been comprised of the good, the bad and the just plain sad. The sad is obvious - 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 first rounder Jose Fernandez was well on his way to becoming a perennial Cy Young candidate before his untimely passing.
While the good comes in the drafting of
Mike Giancarlo Stanton in 2007 and Miguel Cabrera in 2003, the bad stems from getting all of three career major league at-bats - combined! - from back-to-back first round picks Kyle Skipworth and Chad James in 2008 and 2009. It's mostly slim pickings here.
25 Oakland Athletics
One of the best stories in baseball this season was the unexpected rise of the Oakland A's, a team strung together on an $80 million budget (the average major league payroll is $138 million.
Their roster, however, was constructed on the strength of high-value trade and free agency acquisitions - Moneyball 2.0? - than through the draft.
The draft did net them lights out closer Blake Treinen and starter Trevor Cahill, but foundational pieces like Sean Manaea and Khris Davis were added through some savvy wheeling and dealing.
The A's do deserve credit for drafting Sonny Gray, Addison Russell and Kurt Suzuki, but they haven't mined for gold in quite the same way they've done elsewhere.
24 San Francisco Giants
If we were to actually watch this fantasy all-drafted MLB competition play out, the best of the Giants may well reside on the disabled list. Okay, so that's a bit of a cheap shot, but the issue of lingering injury woes to top players has plagued the real Giants, just as it would this hypothetical team. Buster Posey has missed more than 80 games over the past two seasons, Madison Bumgarner didn't debut until June this season after starting just 17 games last year and Brandon Belt hasn't been totally healthy since his 2016 All-Star campaign. Injuries aren't the fault of the Giants, but a lack of depth added through the draft might have helped them weather some of these real-life issues a little better.
23 Pittsburgh Pirates
The best Pittsburgh teams in recent memory hit the field during from 2013 to 2015 in which they averaged 93 wins. No, it's not a ton to hang your hat on, but the modern Bucs have been hard up for franchise highs. Those teams were led by homegrown stars Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, neither of whom remain with the club. The days of McCutchen and Walker leading the way in Pittsburgh are over and now, apart from an also-departed Gerrit Cole, it's tough to find another impact player drafted by the Pirates. Their all-draft team would look great at second base and centre field while boasting a true ace - but that's about it.
22 Toronto Blue Jays
The window of contention in Toronto slammed shut this year, forcing a rebuild that has already swallowed up the likes of J.A. Happ and Josh Donaldson. Still, you can make a Blue Jays fan's eyes light up with three simple words: Vlad. Guerrero. Junior. The uber-prospect continues to mash at every level and would've been with the big club this season if not for the franchise managing his arbitration clock.
That he might be Toronto's best-hitting active draftee already speaks to his talent and their lack of positional development.
An all-drafted Jays rotation would boast Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but those hurlers wouldn't get much run support (aside from Vladdy).
21 Texas Rangers
In the current Rangers infield, first base seems to be the only position even remotely up for grabs. Adrian Beltran mans third base, Elvis Andrus has control of shortstop and Rougned Odor remains entrenched at second, leaving light-hitting rookie Ronald Guzman as the only question mark. This is somewhat ironic, given how many strong first basemen the club has drafted over the years. Texas can count Chris Davis, Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland - or 60% of the AL East's starting first basemen - among its draftees. Beyond those three, however, lies a fairly barren wasteland that can't be entirely salvaged by Ian Kinsler, starting pitchers Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter.
What's especially unfortunate about the current woeful state of the Orioles is how much potential there was for this AL East basement-dwelling to be avoided. Between the 2007 and 2012 drafts - a stretch that ideally would have produced major league talent currently in varying stages of their prime - the O's had top five picks every single year. One of those picks landed Manny Machado, but the rest ranged from decent (Matt Wieters and Dylan Bundy) to bust (Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman) to never reached the majors (Matthew Hobgood). Considering the likes of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Mike Trout were available when Baltimore made these picks, it seems safe to say there were some serious opportunities missed.
20 Los Angeles Angels
The real Angels have failed to build a winner around the game's best player, so how hopeful can we really be that an all-drafted version of the club would fare any better?
Yes, LA can still enjoy selecting Mike Trout with the 25th pick in 2009, but even Trout's greatness hasn't saved the Angels from four straight non-playoff seasons.
In the all-drafted scenario, the Halos would lose the likes of Albert Pujols, Andrelton Simmons and Andrew Heaney, but gain two All-Stars in Patrick Corbin and Mark Trumbo. But is that any better of a supporting cast for Trout than the one that isn't good enough now?
19 Colorado Rockies
Quite simply, the Rockies and pitching don't seem to mix. The altitude at Coors Field has made the park a hitter's haven and so the Rockies, as a franchise, have traditionally been better known for posting big offensive numbers than shutting down opposing hitters. Their draft history is no exception.
Guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Dexter Fowler would make for a potent lineup, but they wouldn't have much pitching support. Kyle Freeland looks like a keeper, but first round picks like Jon Gray, Tyler Matzek, Casey Weathers and Greg Reynolds have failed to pan out. Even righty Riley Pint, taken fourth overall in 2016, has gotten off to a disappointing start to his pro career.
18 New York Mets
Maybe the Rockies should look to the Mets for help drafting pitchers. Say what you want about the Mets, but they could field a pretty daunting rotation on draft picks, alone. Led by Cy Young candidate Jacob DeGrom, the Queen's denizens have also brought the likes of 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, one-time 19-game winner Collin McHugh, Steven Matz and former ace Matt Harvey into the league. Their lineup, featuring David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Michael Conforto and Lucas Duda, might be a little ho-hum, but would likely be enough to help them eke out some 2-1 and 3-2 victories.
17 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies challenged for a playoff spot in the NL this year on the backs of some young, homegrown talent.
While that might suggest a veritable gold mind as far as an all-drafted roster is concerned, some of the Phils' biggest contributors, such as Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, actually arrived as international free agents.
Still, you can cobble together a pretty good drafted roster of past and present Phillies, starting with a 1-2-3 punch of current ace Aaron Nola, former ace Cole Hamels and All-Star J.A. Happ, along with closer Ken Giles and offensive pieces like slugger Rhys Hoskins, Chase Utley, Travis d'Arnaud and Domonic Brown. Perhaps 2016 first overall pick Mickey Moniak will soon join that group.
16 Washington Nationals
After relocating from Montreal and adopting a roster that had won just 67 games the season prior, the Nationals began play in the nation's capital in 2005 and won the NL East pennant just seven years later. That path to success came with a significant assist from the draft process, as Washington brought in Ryan Zimmerman with their first post-relocation pick and then snapped up Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with back-t0-back first overall selections.
A pending free agent, Harper may not be long for DC, but he sticks with the Nats here. He anchors a fairly thin lineup that also includes Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon, although they do get support from a roster of pitchers that includes Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Marco Estrada.
15 Milwaukee Brewers
Today's Brewers team looks almost nothing like the Brew Crew from seven years ago, with only Ryan Braun remaining from that team (unless you count Craig Counsell, an infielder in 2011 who's now the club's manager). For as bumpy a road as its been for Braun, he's remained the constant in Milwaukee since being drafted back in 2005. The club has managed to surround him with an impressive cast of drafted talent, one that includes 2011 standouts Jonathan Lucroy and Yovani Gallardo, current contributors in Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress and players like Michael Brantley and Khris Davis who have gone on to star elsewhere.
14 Cleveland Indians
It's funny how a guy can have two very different reputations in different places. As president of the Blue Jays, Mark Shapiro is currently facing the wrath of his club's fan base for letting what was a playoff-caliber roster crumble under his watch. In Cleveland, however, the long-time Indians executive remains a celebrated figure for keeping the low-budget franchise competitive.
The draft was a critical tool to his success, as the powerhouse Tribe of the '90s was built on the backs of draft picks Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.
In terms of active players, Cleveland could field a team featuring Chris Archer, C.C. Sabathia and Drew Pomeranz starting, Cody Allen closing and Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis manning a pretty solid infield.
13 Cincinnati Reds
The Reds could have one seriously potent infield with all of their draftees still in the organization. At first, of course, you still have franchise lynchpin Joey Votto. Beyond Votto, you could still field All-Star talent at second base (Todd Frazier), shortstop (Zack Cozart), third (Justin Turner) and behind the plate (Devin Mesoraco). Heck, Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton make up two-thirds of a pretty good outfield, too. Pitching would be a concern beyond Mike Leake (what happened to Homer Bailey?), but this team would score some runs.
12 Detroit Tigers
Let's hope that Casey Mize can handle pressure. There's certainly enough that comes with being the draft's first overall pick, but the 2018 No. 1 will also inevitably face comparisons to other pitchers taken by the Detroit Tigers in the first round. You know, like 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and 2016 ALCS MVP Andrew Miller.
Around the diamond, the Tigers can offer a serviceable group that includes Cameron Maybin, Devon Travis, Curtis Granderson and Matt Joyce, but the strength here clearly lies on the mound.
Maybe Mize will one day be a part of that.
11 Kansas City Royals
The price has clearly come due on the Royals' unforgettable 2015 World Series championship campaign. The key members of that group were owed new contracts the organization could not afford, leading to an exodus that has them dead last in the AL Central just three years later. Good thing, then, that things like contracts and cost don't factor into this exercise.
Many of the key guys from that team, including Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Danny Duffy, are still here, as are hurlers Zack Greinke, Sean Manaea and Derek Holland and outfielder Wil Myers. That said, they'd probably like to have their 2006 first overall selection of Luke Hochevar back, especially in a draft that included Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.
10 Seattle Mariners
As you might expect from an organization responsible for starting the careers of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, the Mariners tend to know what they're doing at the draft table. In fact, few clubs would put forward a more balanced roster of drafted talent than the M's can boast.
A rotation featuring James Paxton, Doug Fister and Taijuan Walker would be well-supported by a bullpen of Edwin Diaz, Brandon Morrow and Chris Tillman. Adam Jones, Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin highlight what would be a somewhat thin lineup, but should be able to provide enough run support for a stacked pitching staff.
9 St. Louis Cardinals
The "Cardinal Way" is the celebration of a classy organization that doesn't simply win, but constantly finds the right personnel to sustain that winning culture. So it's no surprise to see the Cardinals in the top 10 here. Not only would their roster boast a future Hall of Famer in Albert Pujols (again, how did this guy last into the 13th round??), but he would be backed by a playoff-proven pitching staff that includes Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Matt Carpenter and Jaime Garcia.
Pujols would have protection, too, thanks to the presence of Jon Jay, Kolten Wong, Stephen Piscotty and Allen Craig.
This collection of talent is made all the more remarkable given that the Cards haven't made a top 10 pick since 1998.
8 Atlanta Braves
Already ranked No. 8 here, the Braves may well be even higher than this in a couple years as their deep farm system continues to pay dividends at the major league level. For now, the bulk of the Braves' all-drafted roster is comprised of established veteran talent like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Mike Minor, Brian McCann and superstar closer Craig Kimbrel. But the next crop is well on its way. While super-prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. signed as an international free agent, recent draftees like Kolby Allard and Alex Wood would count towards the impressive group, perhaps soon to be followed by the likes of Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka.
7 New York Yankees
Complain all you want about the Empire. Gripe about how the Yankees use their seemingly limitless resources to buy championships. Just know that it's not true. Sure, they took on Giancarlo Stanton's enormous contract without blinking, but you'd be lying you didn't accept that Brian Cashman and the front office were darn good at the draft table.
Aaron Judge is just the latest star to have been drafted right into pinstripes, following the likes of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada. And he's not alone. Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson are all current Yankees drafted by the team, while Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Clippard and Mark Melancon are all plying their trade elsewhere.
6 Tampa Bay Rays
It seems unnecessarily harsh to refer to the Rays as a feeder team to their bigger budget major league cohorts, but hey, the proof is in the pudding. The Rays have seen a boatload of their own draft picks reach the majors, but the cash-strapped club, has struggled to hold onto their best homegrown players.
After once starring in Tampa, David Price, Chris Archer and even Rays icon Evan Longoria have gone on to success elsewhere.
Beyond those stars lies an impressively deep talent pool that includes Alex Cobb, Wade Davis, Matt Moore and Jake McGee, all of whom have also departed for greener pastures. As far as draftees established as bona fide major leaguers are concerned, only Kevin Kiermaier, who signed long-term last March, and Cy Young candidate Blake Snell, who is under team control, remain with the Rays.
5 Arizona Diamondbacks
They hardly ever seem to get much print, but the Diamondbacks probably merit more attention for how well-run they seem to be. The D-Backs have built a competitive team on the backs of homegrown stars like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Even more notable, though, is the impressive cache of D-Back-drafted talent playing elsewhere. That group includes three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Trevor Bauer, Justin Upton, Dansby Swanson (although Arizona fans would probably like to have that one back), Wade Miley and Mark Reynolds.
4 Chicago Cubs
Understandably, the Cubs' 2016 World Series triumph is best remembered for ending a 108-year drought for the once-woebegone franchise. Less discussed, however, was how darn young the team was. The Cubbies' average age of 27.4 among position players stands as the second-lowest of any champ since 1969, behind that season's Miracle Mets. Much of that championship-caliber youth was drawn directly from the draft, where the North Siders brought the likes of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Albert Almora into the fold. Beyond those core, young 2016 pieces, all of whom remain in Chicago, the Cubs can count Josh Donaldson, DJ LeMahieu and pitchers Andrew Cashner, Rich Hill and Jeff Samardzija as part of a pretty solid roster of draft choices.
3 Houston Astros
How important is drafting well in baseball? It's telling that as we reach the top of this list, the last two World Series champions are represented back to back (the two clubs remaining aren't too shabby, either). As with the Cubs, the Astros built part of the foundation for their 2017 Series winner through the draft, with Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr. and Jason Castro all being drafted into the organization.
The 'Stros have also brought a number of high character talents into the league, most notably Hunter Pence, Ben Zobrist and Mike Foltynewicz.
Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but with three consecutive No. 1 overall picks from 2012 to 2014 (Correa worked out just fine, but Mark Appel hasn't panned out and Brady Aiken failed to sign), Houston's draft lot could have looked even better.
2 Los Angeles Dodgers
That a Dodger has won each of the past two NL Rookie of the Year awards is impressive, but doesn't even tell the whole story when it comes to the club's remarkable drafting and development. Beyond Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, the Dodgers also had the 2016 third-place finisher (Kenta Maeda), the 2015 sixth-place finisher (Joc Pederson) and the 2013 runner-up (Yasiel Puig) in the fold.
All of those men remain with the club (although when it comes to Puig, who knows for how long), making for a perennial young contender at Chavez Ravine. Going even further, the Dodgers have brought Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, Nathan Eovaldi, Howie Kendrick and Russ Martin into the league. Oh, and some guy named Clayton Kershaw.
1 Boston Red Sox
No disrespect to Los Angeles or any of the other clubs represented here, but when it came to deciding on who would occupy the No. 1 slot here, it wasn't close. There's a reason, after all, that the Red Sox ran away with the best record in baseball this season. Plenty of the club's own draft picks occupy a central role within this BoSox juggernaut. You have MVP candidate Mookie Betts leading an envious collection of position players that includes Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt, Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart and long-time cornerstone Dustin Pedroia.
Looking elsewhere around the league, all of Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Josh Reddick and rising star Michael Kopech were once branded as Boston draftees.