The 2017 MLB Draft will be held from June 12 through June 14 at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. The Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds own the first two picks, respectively, later this spring in the Garden State. Also known as the Rule 4 Draft, MLB has annually held this event since its inception in 1965. Provided an individual is a resident of, or attended an educational institution in, the U.S. or Canada, amateur players from high schools, colleges and other amateur baseball clubs are eligible for selection in one of the draft’s 40 rounds.
Baseball scouts dissect prospects and provide comprehensive reports and evaluations on these players. Despite scouts’ extreme due diligence, executives and knowledgeable fans realize that pinpointing the next superstar is an inexact science. For every Bryce Harper and Ken Griffey, Jr., there are countless flops who fail in the professional ranks. Moreover, sometimes scouts precisely identify the next bigwig on the diamond. Unfortunately, drugs, alcohol or some form of debauchery ruins this player’s potential.
For example, the New York Mets chose Darryl Strawberry first overall in 1980 out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, California. Strawberry won the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year award and ultimately matured into an eight-time All-Star. While Strawberry had a very productive 17-year career, he’d be in Cooperstown today if not for booze and blow.
This column will rank the 20 players who were selected with one of the first two picks in every draft from 1990 through 1999. Without further ado, let’s review this list.
20. Brien Taylor – 1st overall, 1991
The New York Yankees selected lefty flamethrower Brien Taylor out of East Carteret High School in Beaufort, North Carolina, first overall in the 1991 draft. After a contract squabble was resolved on the 11th-hour, Taylor agreed to become a Yankee for $1.5 million. Taylor and his advanced repertoire of pitches immediately overwhelmed minor league hitters. While cruising to the Bronx, the native North Carolinian got into a brawl outside his trailer-park home in Beaufort in 1993 and suffered a torn capsule and torn glenoid labrum in his pitching shoulder during the fight. Taylor’s scorching fastball was subsequently reduced to a glorified lob and he never regained his prowess on the mound.
Taylor retired in 2000 without ever ascending beyond Class AA. Roughly 12 years after Taylor’s retirement, he was pinched peddling cocaine in June 2012. Taylor was sentenced to 38 months in prison and he was released in September 2014.
19. Matt Anderson – 1st overall, 1997
The Detroit Tigers took Matt Anderson out of Rice University with the first pick in the 1997 draft. Anderson, a righty reliever who was a first team All-American in 1997, debuted with the Tigers on June 25, 1998. Anderson was largely ineffective in Motown and he was released by the Tigers following the 2003 season. After a year away from the game, Anderson attempted a comeback and signed a deal with the Colorado Rockies. The former Owls star was atrocious in Denver (posting a 12.60 ERA over 10 innings) and he was axed by the Rockies in July 2005. Anderson couldn’t find another suitor and he retired with an unsightly 5.19 ERA over 256.2 innings. Many Tigers fans consider Anderson to be the team’s all time worst bust.
18. Mike Kelly – 2nd overall, 1991
After the Yankees chose Brien Taylor, the Atlanta Braves selected outfielder Mike Kelly out of Arizona State University with the second pick in the 1991 draft. Kelly debuted for Atlanta in April 1994 and showed promise as a Brave. However, Kelly regressed in 1995 and batted an abysmal .190 in 137 appearances at the plate. The fading Sun Devil continued to struggle mightily until Braves general manager John Schuerholz sent him to the Cincinnati Reds. Kelly exhibited a hint of hope as a Red in 1997. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, that season was an aberration and Kelly resumed being a feeble performer. Kelly managed to gain employment with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998 and Colorado Rockies in 1999. Still, before the turn-of-the-millennium, Kelly was finished and out of the sport altogether as a lifetime .241 hitter.
17. Ben Davis – 2nd overall, 1995
The San Diego Padres took catcher Ben Davis out of Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, with the second overall selection in the 1995 draft. Nicknamed “Big Ben,” the 6-foot-4, 195-pound switch hitter was a middling ballplayer in America’s Finest City. After four lackluster seasons as a Padre, Davis was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Despite relocating approximately 1,255 miles northwest, “Big Ben” also sunk as a Mariner. Davis was next shipped to Chicago in 2004 where he tried to revitalize his career with the White Sox. Chicago released Davis following 54 listless games and, despite converting to pitcher, he never competed in the majors again. Davis bounced around the minors until mercifully announcing his retirement in April 2011.
16. Paul Wilson – 1st overall, 1994
The New York Mets selected hurler Paul Wilson out of Florida State University with the first pick in the 1994 draft. Alongside fellow pitching prodigies Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher, Wilson was expected to help the Mets return to prominence. Wilson debuted in Queens in April 1996 and, despite amassing a bloated 5.38 ERA over 149 innings, showed some promise on the hill. A slew of arm injuries derailed Wilson’s career and he was shelved for three years until finally returning to the mound as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray in 2000. In 2003, Wilson signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds. While Wilson enjoyed some success in Cincy, the physically diminished righty was a shell of himself and ultimately out of baseball by 2005. Wilson ended his career with only 40 wins, against 58 losses, and a hefty 4.86 ERA.
15. Paul Shuey
The Cleveland Indians took University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) closer Paul Shuey with the second selection in the 1992 draft. Shuey emerged with the Indians in 1994 and, when healthy, was a solid pitcher. Unfortunately for Shuey and Cleveland, injuries frequently sidelined the righty setup man. Following nine mainly productive campaigns in Cleveland, Shuey was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Terry Mulholland and minor leaguers Ricardo Rodríguez and Francisco Cruceta. Shuey spent nearly two seasons in Tinseltown before retiring as a Baltimore Oriole in 2007. Shuey concluded his career with 45 wins and 556 strikeouts over 530 innings pitched out of the bullpen. While somewhat mediocre on the hill, Shuey has reinvented himself and is now considered an accomplished bass fisherman.
14. Travis Lee – 2nd overall, 1996
The Minnesota Twins selected first baseman Travis Lee out of San Diego State University with the second pick in the 1996 draft. Because Minnesota and Lee failed to agree to a contract 15 days following the draft’s conclusion, MLB officials declared the Golden Spikes Award winner a free agent. Shortly thereafter, Lee and the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a four-year deal worth $10 million. Lee played three seasons in Arizona before becoming something of a journeyman. Lee, who competed for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and New York Yankees, retired at the end of the 2006 campaign after compiling 115 home runs, 958 hits and 488 RBI in 1,099 games over nine years in the majors.
13. Kris Benson – 1st overall, 1996
Legendary Clemson University pitcher Kris Benson was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates first overall in 1996. Benson premiered as a Pirate in April 1999 and exhibited all the necessary skills to thrive in the bigs. Regrettably, Benson suffered an arm injury and was forced to miss the entire 2001 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Benson recovered and became a reliable hurler for the Pirates and Mets. Approximately seven years following Benson’s first injury, he endured a torn rotator cuff and was sidelined for all of 2007. Anna Benson’s ex-husband tried to regain his form with the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks. However, Benson’s arm was spent and he called it quits as a Diamondback in 2010. In a nine-year career, Benson went 70-75 with a 4.42 ERA.
12. J.D. Drew – 2nd overall, 1997
The Philadelphia Phillies took right fielder J.D. Drew out of Florida State University with the second pick in the 1997 draft. However, Drew refused to work for the Phillies and instead played with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League. The following year, the St. Louis Cardinals selected Drew with the fifth choice in the 1998 draft. Drew and St. Louis agreed to a $7 million deal and he debuted as a Cardinal approximately three months later in September 1998. A 2008 All-Star, Drew finished his career in 2011 with the Boston Red Sox. In total, as a member of the Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves and Dodgers, Drew batted .278 with 242 home runs, 1,437 hits and 795 RBI. Despite posting relatively impressive numbers, many analysts believe Drew underachieved as a professional.
11. Darren Dreifort – 2nd overall, 1993
Taken directly after Alex Rodriguez, right-handed pitcher Darren Dreifort was selected with the second overall pick in 1993 by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Wichita State University. Dreifort, a Golden Spikes Award winner and a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, premiered as a Dodger in April 1994 without ever having competed in a single minor league contest. Dreifort, a serviceable pitcher who constantly battled arm problems, was strictly employed as a Dodger in La-la-land until his retirement at the age of 32 in 2004. In nine seasons as a Dodger, Dreifort fanned 802 batters in 872.7 innings and went 48-60 with a 4.36 ERA. Dreifort remains with the Dodgers organization as a minor league spring training instructor.
10. Pat Burrell – 1st overall, 1998
The Philadelphia Phillies chose left fielder Pat Burrell first overall in 1998 out of the University of Miami. Burrell played from 2000 through 2008 with Philadelphia, 2009 through 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays, and he finished his career on San Francisco Giants teams that won consecutive titles in 2010 and 2011. In 5,503 appearances at the plate, the Hurricanes star from yesteryear recorded 292 home runs, 1,393 hits and 976 RBI for a batting average of .253. All in all, that’s a pretty decent MLB career, even if Burrell never was quite a household name. Hey, at least he managed to win a World Series with Philly in his last season with them.
9. Ben Grieve – 2nd overall, 1994
The Oakland Athletics, with the second selection in the 1994 draft, took outfielder Ben Grieve out of James W. Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. Once promoted to the bigs, Grieve immediately flourished and earned a spot in the 1998 MLB All-Star Game and roughly three months later was named the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year. Oddly, although blessed with immense talent, Grieve faltered after his initial success and became a journeyman. Following four years in The Town, the Athletics traded Grieve to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the start of the 2001 season. Grieves last appeared in the majors in October 2005 with the Chicago Cubs. Altogether, as an Athletic, Devil Ray, Brewer and Cub, Grieves shelved his cleats as a .269 hitter with 118 dingers, 864 hits and 492 RBI in 3,215 trips to the dish.
8. Phil Nevin – 1st overall, 1992
Rather than Yankees icon Derek Jeter, the Houston Astros nabbed California State University, Fullerton utility player Phil Nevin with the first pick in 1992. Nevin, who was named the 1992 College World Series Most Outstanding Player after leading the Titans to that season’s championship, never had a chance to prove himself in Space City. Shortly after premiering as an Astro in June 1995, Nevin was shipped to the Detroit Tigers. Nevin never stopped traveling and subsequently played for the Anaheim Angels, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs before retiring as a Minnesota Twin at the end of the 2006 season. A 2001 All-Star, Nevin batted .270 and compiled 208 homers, 1,131 hits and 743 RBI in 4,188 appearances at the plate.
7. Tony Clark – 2nd overall, 1990
The Detroit Tigers chose first baseman Tony Clark second overall in 1990 out of Christian High School in El Cajon, California. Also an outstanding basketball player, the 6-foot-8, 205-pound Clark debuted with the Tigers in September 1995 and he remained with that organization through 2001. A 2001 All-Star, Clark subsequently played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. All things said, Clark was able to carve out a pretty long career for himself in the bigs. Clark retired as a Diamondback following the 2009 season as a lifetime .262 hitter with 251 dingers and 824 RBI across 15 seasons in the bigs. Clark currently serves as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
6. Mark Mulder – 2nd overall, 1998
The Oakland Athletics took Michigan State University ace Mark Mulder second in 1998, one pick after Pat Burrell. Less than two years after getting drafted, a 22-year-old Mulder premiered for the Athletics in April 2000. A two-time All-Star, Mulder led the American League with 21 wins in 2001. More importantly, the brilliant southpaw, alongside Barry Zito and Tim Hudson, carried Oakland to four consecutive seasons in the playoffs from 2000 through 2003. Arm ailments prevented Mulder from maturing into a longstanding force on the hill, which is a shame.
Mulder, who went 103-60 with 834 strikeouts and a respectable 4.18 ERA, last played in July 2008 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The beloved Spartan officially announced his retirement in June 2010.
5. Darin Erstad – 1st overall, 1995
The California Angels chose University of Nebraska-Lincoln outfielder Darin Erstad with the top pick in 1995. Erstad, also a punter on the Cornhuskers’ 1994 championship team, debuted for the Angels in June 1996. A two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Erstad helped lead the Angels to a World Series title in 2002, even fielding the winning out in Game 7 against the Giants. In a career that spanned 14 years with the Angels, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, the 2000 Silver Slugger batted .282 and compiled 124 home runs, 1,697 hits and 699 RBI in 6,024 at-bats. Erstad last played in October 2005 as a member of the Cubs. The multitalented southpaw is presently employed as the head coach of the Cornhuskers baseball squad.
4. Josh Beckett – 2nd overall, 1999
Taken a slot behind Josh Hamilton, righty flamethrower Josh Beckett was chosen out of Spring Hill School in Spring, Texas, with the second pick in 1999 by the Florida Marlins. Beckett, who premiered for the Marlins in September 2001, led that organization over the New York Yankees in 2003 to win its second World Series championship in history. Approximately two years after commanding the Fall Classic, Beckett was traded to the Boston Red Sox on Thanksgiving Day in 2005. A three-time All-Star who pitched a no-hitter in May 2014, Beckett played an instrumental role in helping Boston win its second title in 89 years. In fact, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Texan was named the 2007 ALCS MVP.
Beer and chicken pushed Beckett out of Beantown and he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2012. Calling it quits at the conclusion of the 2014 season, Beckett went 138-106 with a 3.88 ERA in 2,051 innings on the mound.
3. Josh Hamilton – 1st overall, 1999
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected outfielder Josh Hamilton first overall in 1999 out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hamilton inked a signing bonus valued at $3.96 million to join the Rays’ minor league system. Shortly after becoming a millionaire, drugs and alcohol sent Hamilton on a frightening downward spiral. Suspended by baseball’s policemen and out of the sport for nearly three years, Hamilton eventually resurfaced with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. Following an efficient season in Cincy, the Reds traded Hamilton to the Texas Rangers in December 2007.
In the Lone Star State, Hamilton quickly found his niche and routinely menaced pitchers. A five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP, Hamilton hit .304 with 32 homers and 130 RBI in his inaugural season as a Ranger. In December 2012, Hamilton left Arlington after he agreed to a five-year deal worth $125 million with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Sadly, Hamilton relapsed while in Orange County and he also disappointed on the field. Following two frustrating seasons as an Angel, Hamilton returned to the Rangers in 2015.
2. Alex Rodriguez – 1st overall, 1993
The Seattle Mariners chose shortstop Alex Rodriguez first overall in 1993 out of Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, Florida. A prodigy on the diamond, Rodriguez premiered as a Mariner as an 18-year-old in July 1994. A 14-time All-Star and three-time AL MVP, Rodriguez amassed surreal numbers over 22 combined seasons with the Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. In total, A-Rod batted .295 and collected 696 dingers, 3,115 hits and 2,086 RBI in a staggering 10,566 trips to the plate. From a numbers standpoint alone, Rodriguez deserves to be the top man on this list. However, Rodriguez abused enough juice to maim Secretariat and, therefore, the validity of his statistics will always be questioned. The Yankees essentially forced Rodriguez to retire last August.
1. Chipper Jones – 1st overall, 1990
The Atlanta Braves took third baseman Chipper Jones with the first pick in 1990 out of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. Jones, an eight-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and the 1999 NL MVP, competed in 2,499 games in his 19-year career as a Brave. Jones shelved his cleats at the conclusion of the 2012 season after producing a lifetime .303 batting average and 468 homers and 2,726 hits in Hotlanta. Despite playing during the Steroid Era, Jones has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Accordingly, expect Jones to soon get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Jones was one of the most beloved Braves in their franchise’s history and one of the most universally praised players of all time. His induction into the HOF would be well deserved.
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