The Major League Baseball amateur draft is different from those in other sports in that the team with the worst record is guaranteed to receive the 1st overall pick in the following year’s draft. That provides a little bit of assurance to organizations that, even though receive the unfortunate title of having the worst record, they will have the first shot at landing a high-impact player through the draft. However, the MLB Draft is also a big challenge for front offices. There are so many high school and college baseball talents across North America eligible to be drafted each year. The sheer volume makes it very difficult for teams to assess which talents are truly worth scouting and potentially using one of their valuable draft picks on. Add in the fact that there are 30 other teams all looking to acquire the same type of high-upside and high-impact player, and the challenge increases.
This all means that, even though a team has a top pick in the draft, it does not mean that the prospect will end up becoming a quality major leaguer. In fact, there have often been players drafted in the very late rounds who have turned out to be solid players in the major leagues.
For this article, we will be taking a look at each of the top three draft picks from the 2000s (2000 to 2009). The players who were drafted in the top three each year will be ranked from worst to best, based on how their baseball careers have turned out so far.
30 Donovan Tate - 3rd Overall, 2009
Donavan Tate was an outfielder who was drafted 3rd overall in the 2009 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres.
Tate never was able to make it to the major leagues, and never made it out of the minor league rookie levels in six seasons.
Part of Tates’ struggles were due to injuries suffered as well as having to undergo treatment for various off-field issues.
Most recently, Tate returned to college and resumed his college football career for the Arizona Wildcats.
29 Chris Gruler - 3rd Overall, 2002
With the 3rd overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, the Cincinnati Reds selected right-handed pitcher Chris Gruler. Even though Gruler was widely expected to be a solid major league starting pitcher, he was never able to make it to the major leagues. Gruler battled several injuries during his time in the lower minor league levels, which ultimately led him to retiring from baseball altogether. Gruler will always wonder what could have been, and the Reds probably regret taking Grueler over future All-Stars such as Zack Greinke (6th overall in 2002) and Prince Fielder (7th overall in 2002).
28 Kyle Sleeth - 3rd Overall, 2003
The Detroit Tigers selected right handed pitcher Kyle Sleeth with the 3rd overall pick in the 2003 MLB Draft. Sleeth, like many of the other players drafted early in the draft, unfortunately never made it to the major leagues. He was one of the most highly regarded prospects in all of baseball for a while, however injuries stalled any progression he was making on the mound. This unfortunately meant that Sleeth had to call it a career only a few years after first being drafted. Sleeth never made it any higher than Double-A.
27 Josh Vitters - 3rd Overall, 2007
The Chicago Cubs might now be one of MLB’s top teams, aided greatly by their success at the draft. This was not always the case, as evidenced by the Cubs drafting Josh Vitters 3rd overall in the 2007 draft.
While Vitters eventually did end up spending a little bit of time in the major leagues, Vitters was never the superstar the Cubs were hoping for.
Vitters has spent most of the past few years playing for various independent league baseball teams.
26 Greg Reynolds - 2nd Overall, 2006
The Colorado Rockies decided to draft Greg Reynolds with the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. Reynolds was a right handed pitcher drafted out of Stanford, who ultimately proved to be another draft pick bust. He made it to the major leagues in 2008 for a brief time, and again in 2011 for the Rockies. He tried to break in with the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 to no avail. The 32-year-old is now out of baseball altogether, after a career that was largely spent in the minor leagues.
25 Adam Johnson - 2nd Overall, 2000
Adam Johnson was drafted 2nd overall in the 2000 draft by the Minnesota Twins. The right-handed pitcher only ended up spending parts of two years in the major leagues, both with the Twins. Unfortunately, neither of his appearances in the major leagues were particularly memorable or lasted too long. He only had 17 career strikeouts and a disastrous 10.25 ERA. The Twins skipped over a couple of other All-Stars in the 2000 draft, which makes the Twins regret this draft choice even more. Johnson was out of baseball within a few years of having been drafted.
24 Dewon Brazelton - 3rd Overall, 2001
Dewon Brazelton was a right handed pitcher drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 2001 Draft. The Devil Rays have usually been good at drafting, but this was not the case back in 2001.
Brazelton spent only a handful of seasons in the major leagues, but was not terribly effective in many of his appearances.
With that said, Brazelton was able to stick around on major league rosters for parts of five seasons – including four with the Devil Rays.
23 Jeff Clement - 3rd Overall, 2005
Jeff Clement was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. The 34-year-old spent only parts of four seasons in the major leagues with the Mariners and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Injuries have considerably shortened his playing career, which led to Clement retiring from baseball in 2012. Drafting Clement will go down as a huge mistake for the Mariners, who passed on future All-Stars such as Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, and Jay Bruce.
22 Bryan Bullington - 1st Overall, 2002
Bryan Bullington was the 1st overall draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2002 MLB Draft. He was a highly regarded pitching prospect entering the draft, but he unfortunately never able to live up to the expectations in the major leagues. Even though Bullington spent a couple of seasons in the MLB with the Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, and Royals, he struggled with consistency. Bullington did spend some time in a Japanese baseball league, where he fared a bit better.
21 Luis Montanez - 3rd Overall, 2000
Luis Montanez was drafted 3rd overall in 2000 by the Chicago Cubs. The shortstop turned outfielder eventually made his debut in the major leagues in 2008 with the Baltimore Orioles, 8 eight years after being drafted!
He only ended up spending parts of three seasons in the MLB, none of which came with the Cubs.
At least Montanez got to say he spent some time in the major leagues, and Montanez can always truthfully say that he hit a home run in his first major league at bat.
20 Philip Humber - 3rd Overall, 2004
Philip Humber was the 3rd overall draft pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, when he was selected by the New York Mets. He actually ended up making it to the major leagues quicker than some of the other prospects in the draft, but Humber’s MLB career was largely unimpressive. Humber’s biggest career highlight was pitching the 21st perfect game in MLB history on April 21, 2012, against the Seattle Mariners. Outside of that, Humber mostly spent time in the minor leagues before spending a year playing baseball in Japan in 2015.
19 Mark Prior - 2nd Overall, 2001
Mark Prior was the Chicago Cubs choice when they drafted 2nd overall in 2001. He spent four years in the MLB between 2002 and 2006, all of them with the Chicago Cubs. Even though he progressed to the majors very quickly and became an All-Star in 2003, Prior’s career was fairly short.
Shoulder injuries were mostly the blame for ending his career early.
He toiled around in the minor leagues for a few teams, but is now the bullpen coach for the L.A. Dodgers.
18 Matt Bush - 1st Overall, 2004
Matt Bush was selected by the San Diego Padres with the 1st overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. He was originally drafted as a shortstop, before transitioning to become a pitcher. Bush’s playing career was sidetracked because of numerous personal and legal problems. At one point, Bush was out of baseball altogether and spent time in a state institution. However, the Texas Rangers gave Bush a second chance and was on their major league roster in 2016. Currently, Bush is playing for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.
17 Delmon Young - 1st Overall, 2003
Delmon Young was drafted 1st overall in the 2003 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Young was a pretty good player, however his playing career was sidetracked by several on-field and off-field controversies. Even with these issues, Young spent nearly a decade in the major leagues playing for five different teams. Young’s career highlight was probably being named the ALCS MVP in 2012 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. The 32-year-old outfielder is still playing baseball, albeit for the Pericos de Puebla in a Mexican baseball league.
16 Luke Hochevar - 1st Overall, 2006
With the first overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, the Kansas City Royals selected Luke Hochevar. He went on to have a respectable career in the major leagues, spending his entire 10-year career with the Royals.
Hochevar’s career numbers are far from impressive, but he was slightly more effective when he transitioned to the bullpen later in his career.
Drafting Hochevar first overall has turned out to be a mistake for the Royals, as All-Stars Andrew Miller and Clayton Kershaw were also drafted in the top 10 that year.
15 Dustin Ackley - 2nd Overall, 2009
Dustin Ackley was the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, when he was selected by the Seattle Mariners. He has actually spent a number of seasons in the major leagues, most of which has been with the Mariners. Drafted as an outfielder, Ackley has turned into a utility player after gaining experience at second base. Ackley may not end up being a special player by any means, but he has been a useful bench option for the Mariners, Yankees, and Angels in recent years.
14 Tim Beckham - 1st Overall, 2008
Tim Beckham was one of the rare draft misses of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2000s, when they selected Tim Beckham 1st overall in 2008. It took him around five years to progress through the minor leagues and finally make it the major leagues. While his debut came in September 2013, he never really received much regular playing time until 2016. Beckham has mostly been used as a utility player or backup infielder during his time with the Rays, and now with the Baltimore Orioles.
13 Pedro Alvarez - 2nd Overall, 2008
Pedro Alvarez was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 Draft. Alvarez’s best tool has been his home run power as he has become more of an “all-or-nothing” type hitter, with limited defensive skills.
To his credit, Alvarez was the National League home run leader in 2013 with the Pirates, when he hit 36 home runs.
Alvarez has most recently played for the Baltimore Orioles, but he was designated for assignment and sent to the minors in June.
12 Rickie Weeks - 2nd Overall, 2003
Rickie Weeks was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers 2nd overall in the 2003 MLB Draft. The second baseman turned out to be one of the better players available in that year’s draft, so the Brewers did well to select Weeks. He was generally considered a solid offensive player, although his defense sometimes left something to be desired. Weeks was most recently on a major league roster last year with Tampa Bay, and he was named to the All-Star Team in 2011.
11 B.J. Upton - 2nd Overall, 2002
B.J. Upton, who is now known as Melvin Upton Jr., was drafted 2nd overall in 2002 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Upton has always been a pretty good player throughout his playing career.
His biggest skill is his speed and baserunning abilities and, although that has diminished with age, Upton was last on a major league roster last year with the Giants.
All told, Upton was a solid baseball player who was never quite able to put it all together to become a star.
10 Alex Gordon - 2nd Overall, 2005
Alex Gordon was drafted 2nd overall in the 2005 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Gordon was originally a third baseman, before being moved to the outfield in 2010. During his prime, Gordon was a solid defensive player who can provide some decent offense. To that end, Gordon is a 5-time Gold Glove Award Winner. The 34-year-old may not be as effective as he once was, but the Royals fan favorite has had a pretty good career – even if there were other players in the 2005 Draft who went on to have more successful careers.
9 Mike Moustakas - 2nd Overall, 2007
Mike Moustakas was yet another top three draft pick of the Kansas City Royals during the 2000s, but he was one of their best choices. Moustakas was selected 2nd overall in the 2007 MLB Draft as a shortstop, before moving to third base not long after being drafted.
At 29 years old, Moustakas is still a relatively effective player in the MLB – even winning the A.L. Comeback Player of the Year award last season.
The two-time All-Star has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Royals and is one of the few remaining players still with the Royals after their 2015 World Series victory.
8 Eric Hosmer - 3rd Overall, 2008
Eric Hosmer was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft. Hosmer was a very highly touted high school prospect, who ended up quickly ascending through the Royals’ minor league system. He made his debut in 2011 and has never looked back since. Hosmer is strong both offensively and defensively, having won four Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award. Hosmer was also awarded the All-Star Game MVP in 2016. He is now in the first of year of his contract with the San Diego Padres.
7 Adrian Gonzalez - 1st Overall, 2000
Adrian Gonzalez was drafted with the 1st overall pick in the 2000 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins. This turned out to be a very smart draft pick by the Marlins, as he arguably had the most success in MLB out of all the players drafted that year. The unfortunate part for the Marlins is that most of Gonzalez’s success came with other teams. Gonzalez has over 300 career homers, is a 5-time All-Star, and a 4-time Gold Glove Award winner.
6 Justin Upton - 1st Overall, 2005
In what was a stacked 2005 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Justin Upton with the 1st overall pick.
It’s debatable if Upton was worth being selected first, but there is no disputing that he has been a very solid player throughout his career.
Upton has spent of his career with the Diamondbacks, but is now with the L.A. Angels. For his career, Upton so far has been selected to 4 All-Star Games and has already won 3 Silver Slugger Awards.
5 Evan Longoria - 3rd Overall, 2006
Evan Longoria was one of Tampa Bay’s most successful draft selections, when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2006. Longoria spent his entire playing career with Tampa Bay, through all the good and the bad, until he was traded to the San Francisco Giants last offseason. Longoria was the face of the franchise for essentially his entire time with the Rays, and owns several organization records. Longoria was awarded the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, is a 3-time All-Star, and even hit for the cycle last August.
4 Joe Mauer - 1st Overall, 2001
Joe Mauer was the 1st overall pick in the 2001 Draft by the Minnesota Twins. Mauer is one of the few players on this list to have spent his entire career with the same team that drafted him. Mauer has pretty much accomplished it all in MLB. He was the 2009 American League MVP, is a 6-time All-Star, 3-time AL batting champion, and has won multiple Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Mauer might be declining now, but there is no disputing that he is revered as a legend to Twins fans.
3 David Price - 1st Overall, 2007
Arguably one of the best draft choices made by the Tampa Bay Rays organization was drafting David Price 1st overall in the 2007 Draft.
Price quickly blossomed into one of baseball’s best starters while with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Since being traded by Tampa Bay, Price has experienced varying levels of success with Detroit, Toronto, and now with Boston. Even though Price may not be as effective as he once was, there is no disputing that Price has been one of the better starters in baseball over the past decade.
2 Stephen Strasburg - 1st Overall, 2009
Stephen Strasburg was a highly touted prospect entering the 2009 Draft, so it was not too surprising that the Washington Nationals drafted him 1st overall. He made his MLB debut in 2010, only a year after being drafted. Strasburg has never looked back since and has never really looked as if he has been overmatched in the major leagues. He has spent his entire career with the Nationals, and looks like he will be with the team for the foreseeable future as well. Strasburg is a 3-time All-Star and even won a Silver Slugger Award in 2012.
1 Justin Verlander - 2nd Overall, 2004
Justin Verlander was drafted by the Detroit Tigers with the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 Draft. This turned out to be one of the best draft picks during the 2000s, largely because of Verlander’s impressive career and the fact that he is a strong candidate to join the MLB Hall of Fame when he retires. Verlander spent over a decade with the Tigers, before getting traded to the eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros last August. In 2018, Verlander has experienced a career resurgence and is still one of the top pitchers in baseball.