We know that no one really cared about the MLB Draft until a few years after it happened, but there’s been a recent trend of players breaking through earlier than expected. Now, though it doesn’t have the same hype as the NBA and NFL Drafts, people are starting to pay more and more attention to MLB Network come June – and it’s not because of Harold Reynolds’ commentary.
Most likely, part of that has to do with some of how the top two picks in recent memory – guys like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg – have seemingly become stars overnight. If you go all the way back to the start of this century, though, you’d see that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, a fair number of the top two picks in each MLB Draft since 2000 have been mediocre, average, or at worst: busts.
Today, let’s try to rank all of the players that have gone within the first two picks in each MLB Draft since we entered the 21st Century. It is important to note that though players on this list have battled off-the-field issues that range from behavior to alcoholism, these did not have an impact on the rankings. Also, Brady Aiken, the top pick in the 2014 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros, is not on this list because he did not sign with the team.
All other players are eligible for this list because they did in fact sign with the team who drafted them first or second overall (there are players on here drafted at first by other teams in years prior, but those were picks later in the draft order). Let’s get started!
31. Danny Hultzen – 2nd overall – Seattle Mariners, 2011
There’s not really much that we can say about a player who never even reached the big leagues and, unfortunately, there’s a few of them on this list. Danny Hultzen, a Maryland native, starts us off. Taken second overall in the 2011 MLB Draft after a spectacular career with the Virginia Cavaliers, Hultzen signed a five-year deal that was worth at least 8.5 million and seemed to be on the right track after making the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. However, shoulder injuries cost the left-hander both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, leaving him a forgotten man in the Mariners organization.
Now, Hultzen is back at Virginia, finishing his history degree. As Hultzen himself told The Seattle Times last year, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with a history degree.”
30. Tyler Kolek – 2nd overall – Miami Marlins, 2014
With Tyler Kolek, a former star at Texas Christian University (we’re going to hope he never got into cars with then-quarterback Trevone Boykin), there’s not much else to say other than he’s on the wait-and-see-what-he-can-do list after undergoing Tommy John last April.
While some will argue that the Marlins should have drafted a player from that class who already has made an immediate impact in the big leagues – someone like Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Aaron Nola, or Trea Turner – the reality is that he’s still 21 years old and there’s still plenty of time for him to reach the big leagues. Alas, the Marlins’ hunt for the Jose Fernandez replacement will likely have to wait a bit longer as Kolek advances through the farm system.
29. Adam Johnson – 2nd overall – Minnesota Twins, 2000
Originally, it made more sense to have all of the players who either had yet or never did reach the big leagues before everyone else, but Adam Johnson deserves to go before Mark Appel. Why? When you go 1-3 with a 10.25 ERA in nine games and only four starts with a 17-13 K-BB ratio in 25 innings…you get where we’re going.
Players that the Twins missed out who went later in the first round include Rocco Baldelli (a solid outfielder with the Devil Rays before his body began to break down), Chase Utley (a definite future Hall of Fame second baseman with the Phillies and Dodgers), Adam Wainwright (an All-Star starting pitcher who has been invaluable to the Cardinals’ recent postseason success – and a player that every New York Met fans harbors significant hate for), Well done, Twins!
28. Mark Appel 1st overall – Houston Astros, 2013
By now, I think we all expected that Mark Appel would have made the big leagues, especially when he was with the Houston Astros and they needed starting pitching. Yet, the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft is still tolling away in the minor leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies three months shy of turning 26. Unfortunately for Appel, who had a bone spur removed from his elbow last June, he’s quickly approaching bust level after going 19-14 with a 5.04 ERA the past four seasons in the minor leagues.
It likely doesn’t help things that the number two overall pick, Kris Bryant, is a frontrunner for the National League MVP Award this season – and likely will be for the next decade. As we’ll see later, Houston’s made some great draft picks in recent years, but Appel was not one of them.
27. Bryan Bullington – 1st overall – Pittsburgh Pirates, 2002
“How do you get from here to the rest of the world?” Duquan ‘Dukie’ Weems once asked his boxing instructor, Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise, in The Wire about leaving the drug and crime-stricken Baltimore. “I wish I knew, son,” Wise sadly responded. That was the story of Bryan Bullington’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates: how would he get from the minor leagues to the big leagues and have success there? The short answer is he never would…at least, the success part.
Unlike Hultzen and Appel, Bullington did reach the major leagues in 2005 – three years after going first overall in a draft that also saw B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Joe Saunders, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain go among the first 30 picks – but pitched six total games with the Pirates. Across his career, Bullington went a dismal 1-10 with a career 5.62 ERA, though his first career win did come against a 2010 New York Yankees team that wound up making the ALCS.
26. Greg Reynolds – 2nd overall – Colorado Rockies, 2006
Another pitcher drafted over future All-Stars – seriously, among pitchers taken in the first round alone, Colorado could have taken Clayton Kershaw (whoops), Tim Lincecum (whoops), Max Scherzer (whoops), or Ian Kennedy (that classifies as a whoops too) – Greg Reynolds contributed nothing in his three big-league seasons. That 7-11 record on paper may not look bad, but Reynolds pitched to a 7.01 ERA with the Rockies and Reds; not even using the Coors Field excuse works here because Reynolds had a 5.60 career ERA on the road!
If there’s any positive that one wants to take from Reynolds’ career, it’s that the Rockies traded him to the Rangers for Chad Tracy, son of then-manager Jim. That’s it. No future All-Star Games, no luck with a post-baseball career. Only that.
25. Matt Bush – 1st overall – San Diego Padres, 2004
How Matt Bush is still playing baseball – no, how he’s still alive – is absolutely astounding given his struggles with alcoholism and legal troubles. While we at The Sportster do credit Bush for turning his life around and making his big-league debut last May as a pitcher with the Texas Rangers, we can’t pretend that his on-field struggles as a shortstop with the San Diego Padres never happened.
In his first four seasons with the Padres system, Bush never hit higher than .268 – and that came in 71 at-bats with the Fort Wayne single-A team in 2006 and was converted into a pitcher in 2007. Bush never made the big leagues with the Padres not only because of injuries, but because he assaulted two high school freshman lacrosse players in 2009. Wonderful!
24. Jameson Taillon – 2nd overall – Pittsburgh Pirates, 2010
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! For a while because of injuries, it looked like Tallion may join the ‘never made the big leagues’ list but after years of everyone waiting, Tallion finally made his debut in 2016 against the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard – who also was drafted in 2010’s first round.
Tallion finished 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts, pitching to a beautiful 85-17 K-BB ratio in 104 innings for the Pirates, who unfortunately missed the postseason for the first time since 2012. Still only 25 and on a Pittsburgh team that could make a run for the National League Wild Card, Tallion figures to play a major role this season for Clint Hurdle’s squad.
23. Tim Beckham – 1st overall – Tampa Bay Rays, 2008
With how well the rest of the 2008 MLB Draft class has turned out – Buster Posey seems headed for the Hall of Fame and at the rate he’s going, Eric Hosmer could easily join him – Beckham was headed for becoming a bust after not making the big-leagues for the first five seasons of his career. Finally making his big-league debut in 2013, Beckham hit .429 in seven at-bats and has been a average utility infielder the past two seasons, slashing .234/.287/.431 with 14 home runs, 53 RBI, and nine triples in 146 games.
Though he was demoted to the minor leagues last year for not hustling, Beckham still had career-highs in batting average (.247), slugging percentage (.434), doubles (12), triples (five), and WAR (1.3). With Tampa Bay still rebuilding, a still-young Beckham could be a valuable piece for the Rays in 2017 – and, potentially, an important trade chip.
22. Byron Buxton – 2nd overall – Minnesota Twins, 2012
Had you asked me to do an article like this two years ago, I thought that Byron Buxton would have been near – not at the same level of, but near – the spots of Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa. Buxton improved upon an awful rookis eason in 2016, but not enough to seriously make a difference with a .225/.284/.430 slashline and ten home runs; knowb best for his speed, Buxton also stolen ten bases in twelve attempts and added six triples, all at the age of 22.
Now 23 and with the training wheels off, 2017 appears to be the season that Buxton begins his path to stardom – and the Twins can get back on the winning path. He has the speed, he has the power, and the skills are all there for Buxton to become the All-Star we expect him to be.
21. Dansby Swanson – 1st overall – Atlanta Braves, 2015
Speaking of future All-Stars, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson has to be a breakout candidate in his first full season as a major league player. The top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Swanson impressed in 129 at-bats last season, slashing .302/.361/.442 with three home runs, 17 RBI, and seven doubles for the Atlanta Braves; across a full season, those stats translate to 13 home runs, 72 RBI, 13 stolen bases, 30 doubles, four triples, and a 145-55 K-BB ratio.
Of course, that was only in one month of play, but those stats aren’t at all bad for a 23-year-old Georgia native that will be handed the Opening Day job at shortstop barring an injury in the final days of spring training. If you’ve yet to draft your fantasy baseball team yet, ‘Dirty Dan’ is a fine option at shortstop once the Correas, Seagers, and Lindors go off the board.
20. Dustin Ackley – 2nd overall – Seattle Mariners, 2009
Dustin goes bustin’, Yankees radio announcer John Sterling would say when the Yankees utility player hit a long home run but before arriving in the Bronx. Ackley was a top prospect with the Seattle Mariners, making his big-league debut in 2011 and slashing .273/.348/.417 with six home runs and seven (!!!) triples as a 23-year-old rookie; as a full-time starter in 2012, however, those numbers slipped to .226/.294/.328 and Ackley wouldn’t improve much over the next few seasons.
After hitting .215/.270/.366 in 85 games with the Mariners in 2015, Ackley was shipped off to the Yankees, playing a vital role in the final two months en route to clinching a Wild Card berth. Now, Ackley is spending spring training with the Los Angeles Angels, but is likely head to the minors to begin the season.
19. Alex Bregman – 2nd overall – Houston Astros, 2015
For some reason – maybe because of players like Michael Fulmer, Corey Seager, and Gary Sanchez – Bregman had a rookie season that not many people discussed last year. Despite not getting much attention, Bregman still had a fantastic rookie campaign, slashing .263/.313/.478 in 201 at-bats with eight home runs, 34 RBI, 31 runs, and a 1.8 WAR. If you multiply those numbers across an entire season, Bregman would have had 43 doubles, ten triples, 26 home runs and 112 RBI for the Astros.
With Houston entering 2017 healthy and an early frontrunner for a division that could easily feature three playoff teams, Bregman will need to avoid a sophomore slump if the Astros are to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight season. The key will be improving on his walk total, as Bregman only had 15 free passes last season.
18. Rickie Weeks – 2nd overall – Milwaukee Brewers, 2003
First off, look remember those dreads Weeks had? There’s no question that among the players on this list, Rickie Weeks has the best hair. Unfortunately, that hair never allowed the second overall pick in 2003 to flourish into a star; in his 11 seasons with the Brewers, Weeks slashed .247/.344/.422 with 148 home runs – including 70 from 2010-12 – and 466 RBI, 131 stolen bases, and an All-Star Game appearance in 2011.
By no means was Weeks ever an elite second baseman, even after a 2010 season where he slashed .269/.366/.464 with 29 home runs and 83 RBI, but he was a solid contributor for two Brewers playoff teams. Now 34, Weeks is still going and, after a hot spring, figures to be on the Tampa Bay Rays’ opening day roster come Sunday.
17. Mark Prior – 2nd overall – Chicago Cubs, 2001
By now, we should all know the Mark Prior story. The second overall pick in 2001, Prior went 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA and a 757-223 K-BB ratio in 657.0 innings for the Cubs from 2002-06, but it’s the 2003 All-Star season that people remember the most – and for good reason, with Prior going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, three complete games in 30 starts, and 245 strikeouts in 211.1 innings at the age of 22. It had looked like the Cubs found themselves a stud…but then, like with Kerry Wood, the injuries hit.
Most notably, a shoulder injury derailed his career with the Cubs and Padres; and, after converting to a relief pitcher with the Yankees in 2011, suffered a groin injury immediately after hitting the AAA level. Now, Prior works with the Padres in a front office role, sadly watching as more and more stars blow out their arms early.
16. Luke Hochevar – 1st overall – Kansas City Royals, 2006
Putting Luke Hochevar above Prior was tough, but two things won in the end: seniority and some solid seasons in relief for the Kansas City Royals. Really, both had pretty disappointing careers – though Hochevar’s career isn’t officially over yet – but the former Royal at least stuck around after his injuries. Hochevar was dreadful as a starting pitcher, going 38-58 with a 5.45 ERA in 128 games (all but one of which were starts) from 2008-12. Why did the Royals keep trying him as a starter and not move him to the bullpen earlier?
Now, I ask that because once Hochevar hit the bullpen in 2013, things suddenly turned around for the former number one overall pick as he went 8-6 with a 2.96 ERA from 2013-16 (though he did miss the 2014 season because of Tommy John surgery) with a 171-42 K-BB ratio in 158.1 innings. Well done, Royals!
15. Delmon Young – 1st overall – Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2003
During his 10-year career, Delmon Young was slightly above average at best and slightly below average at best, but the man certainly had his moments.
– “Top Tampa Bay prospect Delmon Young was suspended 50 games without pay by the International League on Tuesday, two weeks after throwing a bat that hit a replacement umpire in the arm.” Oh…
– “Delmon Young will pay a price for the anti-Semitic rant he unleashed on a panhadler wearing a yarmulke early Friday morning and the ensuing assault on a tourist visiting New York for his bachelor party.” Oh…
I meant moments on the field, but Young definitely had some off-field issues that need to be mentioned as well. But, when he was mature and on the field, he was actually one of the top young outfielders in the game, slashing .287/.320/.426 with 68 home runs and 398 from 2007-11. In his first two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Young hit .293/.319/.419 with 16 home runs and 103 RBI, finishing second in the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year race to Dustin Pedroia.
14. Pedro Alvarez – 2nd overall Pittsburgh Pirates, 2008
This was another occurrence where putting player A over player B (in this case, Delmon Young) was harder than you might think; unfortunately for me, that’s going to become a continuing trend for the remainder of this list. Stat-wise, Young arguably had superior numbers and Alvarez’s total numbers with the Pirates – a .236/.309/.441 triple statline with 131 home runs, 401 RBI, and a 809-259 K-BB ratio over six years – don’t seem too impressive, but like Young, the guy certainly had his moments.
Alavrez was vital to the Pirates’ 2013 playoff run, making his first All-Star team and clubbing 36 home runs with a career-best 3.3 WAR. Then again, that WAR would have been much higher if not for the 186 strikeouts Alvarez had that season.
13. Mike Moustakas – 2nd overall – Kansas City Royals, 2007
Do the Royals regret taking Moustakas over Matt Weiters, Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward, and Josh Donaldson? Probably. Could they be in a worse situation? Yes. Moustakas hasn’t been bad, but to this point in his career, he’s likely erased all hopes of him becoming that 30 home run, 100 RBI third baseman the Royals thought they were getting, but his 2015 season – .284/.348/.470 slashline with 22 home runs, 82 RBI, and a 76-43 K-BB ratio to go along with a career-best 4.4 WAR – is why we say likely instead of definitely.
Now healthy from a torn ACL sustained last May, Moustakas figures to be a prime candidate not only for an All-Star spot, but also the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. It’s that small market, Kansas City bias, folks…
12. Carlos Correa – 1st overall – Houston Astros, 2012
How is it that when the Astros legitimately tanked for picks, they landed with Mark Appel and Brady Aiken, the latter of whom didn’t even sign, but a true losing season results in them landing arguably the game’s best young shortstop in Carlos Correa? Correa’s sophomore season improved upon his rookie season while some stats took a dip. How can that be an improvement, you ask?
Two less home runs doesn’t mean much when you have 28 more RBI, 14 more doubles, and 35 more walks than year one. Stealing one less base and seeing a five point decrease in your batting average is fine when you raise your OBP from .345 to .361 and score 24 more runs. After a stellar showing at the World Baseball Classic, Correa easily enters the 2017 season as a favorite for the American League MVP Award.
11. B.J. Upton – 2nd overall – Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2002
Now known as Melvin Upton Jr., the artist formerly known as B.J. was taken second overall in that aforementioned 2002 draft, but the then-Devil Rays made a smart call taking him even if he didn’t become the player Zack Greinke or Prince Fielder became. In his eight years with the Rays, Upton’s triple-statline of .255/.336/.422 would make you think that he was an average to mediocre player, but the former number one overall pick was much better than those stats would show.
From 2007 to 2012, Upton hit 113 home runs with 425 RBI, stole 217 bases, and hit 189 doubles; Upton also totaled a 16.1 WAR during that time and made three postseason appearances with the Rays. And, of course, Upton hit seven home runs during the Rays’ 2008 World Series run after hitting nine all season long. Not too bad!
10. Kris Bryant – 2nd overall Chicago Cubs, 2013
Now, for all intents and purposes, we’ve hit the cream of the crop. Bryant’s first two seasons have been among the greatest first two seasons in baseball history with a .284/.377/.522 statline, 64 home runs, 66 doubles, 201 runs batted in, a 353-152 K-BB ratio, 330 hits, and a total 13.6 WAR – oh, and let’s not forget winning the National League Rookie of the Year in 2015, the National League MVP in 2016, and helping the Cubs end their infamous 108 year drought without a World Series title.
But, because Bryant has only played two seasons, putting him above some of these veterans would be a bit unfair. When we revisit this list come 2020, however, Bryant will most likely be within the top three at the rate he’s going.
9. Alex Gordon – 2nd overall – Kansas City Royals, 2005
The thing with being drafted so high to a team like the Royals or the Pirates is that immediately, you’re hailed as the savior and a future Hall of Famer. But, when those numbers don’t come out the way fans want them to, you start hearign the word ‘bust’ being thrown around. Let us be frank: if Alex Gordon and ‘bust’ are used in the same sentence, then the person talking is not a true baseball fan. Making his debut in 2007, Gordon was average for the first few years of his career but really turned a corner after leaving the hot corner (pun fully intended) to become a left fielder.
From 2011 to 2015, Gordon was one of the game’s best left fielders, slashing .281/.359/.450 with 89 home runs, 362 RBI, 175 doubles – including 51 in 2012 -and winning four Gold Gloves along the way; Gordon also made the All-Star Team each year from 2013-15 and, as we all should know by now, won a World Series with the Royals in 2015.
8. Gerrit Cole – 1st overall – Pittsburgh Pirates, 2011
Fun fact: Gerrit Cole was actually the first-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2008, but instead went to UCLA to play college baseball. In other words, the Yankees could have had a starting rotation featuring Gerrit Cole, C.C. Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka by the time 2014 came around. Cole instead went to the Pirates and since making the big leagues in 2013, he’s gone 47-30 with a 3.23 ERA and a 538-148 K-BB ratio in 579.1 innings of work for the Pirates.
Cole also has started three playoff games for the Pirates, going 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA. Two seasons ago, Cole was at his best, making his first first All-Star Game and finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young voting by going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 32 starts with a 202-44 K-BB ratio in 208 innings
7. Bryce Harper – 1st overall – Washington Nationals, 2010
What needs to be said about Bryce Harper other than what’s already been said? Harper was called a stud in high school, called a stud in the minor leagues, and called a stud when he broke into the big leagues. Unfortunately, Haper’s big league career has been inconsistent, with him having the highs of an MVP season in 2015 and the lows that come with injuries and whatever last year was.
Still, Harper had some bright spots in 2016, notching the second-best totals of his career with 24 home runs and 86 RBI. even with 24 home runs and 86 RBI last year. If Dusty Baker and the Nationals want to finally make an impact in the National League, they’re going to need Harper to return to his MVP form in 2017.
6. Stephen Strasburg – 1st overall – Washington Nationals, 2009
If you want to talk about being called a stud right out of high school, look no further than Stephen Strasburg. Though he’s still battling the occasional injury and bruise, Strasburg has been one of the National League’s top starters since 2012, going 63-37 in 139 starts with a complete game shutout (only one!) and a 968-217 K-BB ratio in 832.1 innings – and yes, that includes the shortened 2012 season.
This past season, Strasburg won a career-high 15 games in 24 starts and struck out 183 hitters in 147.2 innings, making his second All-Star Game in the process. One concern that the Nationals may want to keep an eye on, however, is that Strasburg’s ERA has gone up each year since posting a flat 3.00 mark in 30 starts in 2013: 3.14 in 2014, 3.46 in 2015, and 3.60 in 2016.
5. Justin Upton – 1st overall – Arizona Diamondbacks, 2006
If you want to feel old, consider this: Justin Upton broke into the big leagues in 2007 a few weeks shy of turning 20. Now, he’s going to be 30 this August. I’m not the only one feeling old, right? With the Diamondbacks, Upton slashed .278/.357/.475 with 108 home runs, 363 RBI, 80 stolen bases, 438 runs, and a total 14.3 WAR – though 10.1 of that came in the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
A three-time All-Star so far, Upton enters his second season with the Detroit Tigers after one that saw him hit a career-high 31 home runs despite a .246/.310/.465 statline. With all due respect to the Indians, Detroit should be the favorite to run away with the American League Central this year if Upton can regain his past form.
4. Adrian Gonzalez – 1st overall – Florida Marlins, 2000
The first overall pick in 2000, let’s start Adrian’s section off with a snippet of his Baseball-Reference page:
“July 11, 2003: Traded by the Florida Marlins with Will Smith (minors) and Ryan Snare to the Texas Rangers for Ugueth Urbina.”
In the Marlins’ defense, they were worried about the long-term effects of a wrist injury, but Gonzalez has rebounded just fine in the nearly 15 seasons since. In fact, Gonzalez has slowly been building a Hall of Fame case with a .290/.362/.492 triple statline, 1,954 career hits, 308 home runs, 1,146 RBI, a 1324-751 K-BB ratio.
Gonzalez’s best years came not with his current employer, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the San Diego Padres; playing in the spacious Petco Field from 2006 to 2010, Gonzalez slashed .288/.374/.514 with 161 home runs, 501 RBI, and three All-Star Games.
3. David Price – 1st overall – Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2007
Another player quietly building a solid Hall of Fame case (as of right now, I don’t even know if he’d get the five percent needed to remain on the ballot, however), here’s a fun fact: David Price’s first game in the big leagues came against the New York Yankees and he gave up a home run to Derek Jeter. Rather than let that drag him down, Price has been one of the game’s best starters since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, going 121-65 with a 3.23 ERA, 16 complete games, and a 1588-417 K-BB ratio in 1657.2 innings for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Red Sox.
Along the way, Price won the American League Cy Young Award in 2012, and has finished twice in two other seasons (2010 and 2015). With Tampa Bay, Price went 82-47 with a 1065-309 K-BB ratio in 1143.2 innings, making four of his five All-Star Games under Joe Maddon and friends.
2. Justin Verlander – 2nd overall – Detroit Tigers, 2004
Justin Verlander, for all intents and purposes, has done it all: six All-Star Games, an MVP Award, a Cy Young, he’s won Rookie of the Year and the pitching triple crown, he’s pitched two no-hitters, and married Kate Upton. Drafted second overall in 2004, Verlander has been a mainstay in Detroit since making the big leagues 13 months later with a start on July 4 against the Cleveland Indians.
After becoming a full-time starter in 2006, Verlander has gone 173-104 with a 3.45 ERA in 350 starts with 23 complete games, seven shutouts (two of which were the no-hitters), and a 2190-694 K-BB ratio in 2327.2 innings for the Tigers; from 2009-13, Verlander made the All-Star Team each year and finished in the top three of Cy Young voting three times.
With a couple more Verlander-esque seasons, he should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when he officially retires – and at age 34 with plenty left in the tank, we could certainly see him reach 3,000 career strikeouts.
1. Joe Mauer – 1st overall – Minnesota Twins, 2001
Unfortunately, Mauer is far from the player he was in his prime and, at age 33, is going to be nothing more than a first baseman and designated hitter with a bad contract for the rest of his career. But when Mauer was in his prime, you’d be hard-pressed to find a catcher who was better; Mauer could do it on offense, slashing .323/.405/.468 with 282 doubles, 20 (!) triples, 1414 hits, 105 home runs, 43 stolen bases, and leading the league in hitting three times – the first time a catcher had ever done it flat out in the American League.
A St. Paul native, Mauer could do it on defense as well, winning three Gold Gloves before concussions forced him out from behind the plate and prematurely ended his prime. It was that prime, though, that gives Mauer the edge over Verlander on our list.
Which of these players do you think has been the best? Do you think anyone was too high? Too low? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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