The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is the most difficult to gauge. For starters, because of the number of positions and differences between each, it's tough to decide whether to take a pitcher or a position player and, if deciding on a position player, does a team opt for who they believe to be the most talented or take a player that best fits their organizational need? Moreover, is it worth taking a long-term risk on a player out of high school in the first round or do you take the more polished collegiate star who has played against more advanced talent? It's those questions and concerns that often leads to some interesting drafts and is the reason why there are more first overall and top-five busts in the MLB than any other professional league.
That's why it's incredibly easy to compile a list of the worst draft picks at every position in the first round; in fact, there's a handful of players at every draft position who never even reached the big leagues and some who might have simply because they were fortunate enough to be given a chance simply based on their draft status. If Tim Alderson, Maxwell Sapp, and Kevin Ahrens do not immediately ring a bell, it's because they've all failed in reaching the ultimate goal of making a big league roster despite the talent they possessed at the time of being drafted. But if you keep scrolling, you'll learn all there is to know about those players and others like them - and why they weren't able to reach the big leagues.
30 #1: Mark Appel
Few of the players in this list are actually busts given the difficult nature of selecting in the MLB Amateur Draft, but Mark Appel definitely deserves that distinction. He was actually drafted three times - twice in the first-round - but hasn't come close to living up to the promise that those three organizations - and the entire MLB - saw in him. Selected first overall by the Astros in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, Appel is already out of baseball.
Still ranked as the No. 70 prospect in all of baseball by 2016 due largely to his draft status, Appel finished his minor league career with a 24-18 record to go along with a 5.06 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was also an uninspiring 1.99. When he retired earlier this year, he said he was at peace with being labeled as the biggest draft bust in MLB history.
29 #2: Danny Hultzen
Like others, Danny Hultzen was already drafted before the Seattle Mariners took him with the second overall pick in 2011. The Arizona Diamondbacks took him in the 10th round in 2008 out of St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., but he chose to attend the University of Virginia instead. Once ranked as the No. 16 prospect in all of baseball, Hultzen had a promising arm and was on his way to the big leagues in 2013, but has pitched well below expectation in each of the previous three seasons. He missed all of 2014 and most of 2015 due to shoulder injuries.
Hutlzen has a 2.89 ERA and 1.24 WHIP through 178.1 innings, but that's mostly due to his performance in his first three seasons. This past year, Hultzen pitched 8.2 innings and gave up nine hits and five runs. The 28-year-old still hasn't pitched in the big leagues.
28 #3: Kyle Sleeth
A 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher from Thornton, Colorado, Kyle Sleeth was first selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 18th round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft but elected to pitch for Wake Forest University. Three years later, he was drafted third overall by the Detroit Tigers. He began his career on the right note and was ranked as the No. 36 and No. 86 prospect respectively in 2004 and 2005. However, his performances led him to fall off that list in 2006 and he was out of baseball by 2007.
Sleeth didn't advance beyond Double-A and finished his career with a 12-21 record to go along with a 6.30 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. As previously mentioned, the 2003 draft wasn't exactly a memorable one.
27 #4: Mike Stodolka
For reference's sake, recent fourth overall picks include Kyle Schwarber, Kevin Gausman, and Ryan Zimmerman, but they are the only ones to have more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues since the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft. So it shouldn't be that big of a surprise that the Kansas City Royals missed on Mike Stodolka in 2000.
The Fontana, California native was drafted as a starting pitcher but struggled through five minor league seasons. In 2006, the Royals began transitioning him to a first baseman and he actually had decent power numbers considering he spent the previous five seasons pitching, but he never made the big leagues. Still, he finished his minor league career with 28 home runs, 147 RBI, a .287 batting average, and .839 OPS through 1,031 plate appearances.
26 #5: Chris Lubanski
A power-hitting, left-handed outfielder from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Chris Lubanski excelled in the early levels of the Kansas City Royals' minor league system but didn't show the same promise in Triple-A, which ultimately held him back from ever playing in the big leagues.
He was out of baseball by 2011 and, through 836 career minor league games, managed 109 home runs, 470 RBI, a .278 batting average, and .815 OPS. It's not as though the Royals can kick themselves too hard, however, as the fourth and sixth picks that year played only a combined 183 games in the MLB. Nick Markakis, however, was drafted seventh overall.
25 #6: Josh Karp
A 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher out of Longview, Washington, Josh Karp was originally selected by the Atlanta Braves in the eighth round of the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft but, after three seasons with UCLA, was taken in the 2001 draft by the Montreal Expos. It probably didn't help Karp's development that he was drafted by a team two years away from relocating (the Expos were a mess at the time), but his stats weren't all that inspiring nonetheless.
Through four seasons in the minor leagues, Karp started 81 games and pitched out of the bullpen another 21 times, during which he managed a 4.73 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Zack Greinke was taken with the sixth overall pick the following year. Ouch.
24 #7: Chris Smith
One has to imagine the Baltimore Orioles wish the Pittsburgh Pirates signed left-handed pitcher Chris Smith after the team drafted him in the 11th round in 1998. Instead, the Orioles drafted him three years later with the seventh overall pick. Smith was particularly disappointing as he didn't even advance beyond Single-A, which is even worse for a pitcher with three years of college experience.
Through only 49 games (10 starts) in the minor leagues, Smith had a 4-5 record to go along with a 6.12 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, and 67 strikeouts compared to 70 walks. It's true he suffered injuries that held him back like most other failed pitching projects, but those numbers are simply awful.
23 #8: Casey Weathers
A 6-foot-1 pitcher out of Elk Grove, California, Casey Weathers was drafted in the 25th round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft but, after one season with Vanderbilt University, was drafted eighth overall by the Colorado Rockies. Once ranked as the No. 91 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus, Weathers was awful through four seasons at Single-A and fared better in Double-A, but his career 4.49 ERA and 1.70 WHIP at that level is far from memorable.
In 2016, MLB.com wrote a story noting that he had hit 107.8 miles per hour on a radar gun, but he was out of the minor leagues the following season. He last pitched in 2017 with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the American Association, where he managed a 3.89 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.
22 #9: Jacob Turner
Jacob Turner has actually pitched in 369 big league innings since being selected ninth overall by the Detroit Tigers in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, but he hasn't been a benefit to any of the five teams for which he pitched. Just ask the Tigers, who brought him back for a second stint in 2018; he pitched only one inning for the team in a relief appearance and allowed six hits, seven runs, and one walk.
Throughout his big league career, the six-foot-five, right-handed pitcher has a 14-31 record to go along with a 5.37 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. His agent is Scott Boras, so that could explain why he is still receiving contracts.
21 #10: Joe Torres
Not to be mistaken with the Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, Joe Torres was a longtime minor league relief pitcher who was selected 10th overall by the Anaheim Angels in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft. It's really considered a failure if a player drafted in the top 10 doesn't reach the big leagues and that was the case with Torres, although he did play 12 seasons in the minors.
Part of his longevity is owed to the fact he was a decent reliever out of the bullpen; he thrived in the role in Double-A but struggled under other circumstances. Overall, he had a 4.51 ERA and 1.65 WHIP through 602.1 innings pitched.
20 #11: Kenny Baugh
A right-handed pitcher from Beaumont, Texas, Baugh was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft, but opted to return to Rice University for his senior season, following which he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers at 11th overall. He looked impressive on the mound in his first professional season and was then ranked as the No. 79 prospect by Baseball America, but that was about the height of his career.
Baugh did reach the Triple-A level but managed an 8.19 ERA and 5.65 ERA respectively in his last two seasons there. Perhaps most surprising is he was brought back after recording the 8.19 ERA, especially since he started 19 games that year and gave up 134 hits in 96.2 innings.
19 #12: Gavin Cecchini
The New York Mets surely thought they had a steal in Gavin Cecchini when they selected him with the 12th pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, but he hasn't been able to establish himself as a full-time big leaguer despite an impressive minor league career. The 24-year-old shortstop still has time on his side, of course, but his play in MLB isn't encouraging; he has one home run, nine RBI, a .217 batting average and 21 strikeouts compared to four walks in 36 games.
Conversely, through 257 games in Triple-A, Cecchini has 16 home runs, 103 RBI, and a .296 batting average. He's primarily a contact hitter, but not good enough in that regard either. MLB had him as the No. 87 prospect prior to the 2016 season.
18 #13: Shaun Boyd
Shaun Boyd's middle name is Boston, but the city's recent history of sports success didn't transfer to his career. The California-born outfielder was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000 and floated his way through a mediocre eight-year minor league career. He only spent 50 games in Triple-A, where he managed 1 home run, 12 RBI, a .184 batting average, and .521 OPS.
He excelled in Single-A and was decent in Double-A, but it was clear he didn't have the instincts to advance beyond the latter. The Cardinals waited seven years for him to reach his potential before letting him go in 2007. He finished his career with 41 home runs, 280 RBI, a .273 batting average, and .724 OPS through 750 minor league games. For comparison's sake, the Padres selected Trea Turner with the 13th pick in 2014.
17 #14: Beau Hale
Originally drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft, Hale instead pitched for the University of Texas and became a first-round pick three years later. Drafted by the Orioles, Hale impressed in brief stints with the team's High-A and Double-A affiliates in Frederick and Bowie respectively but wasn't consistent enough to warrant big league attention.
The 6-foot-2, right-handed pitcher was out of baseball by 2007 after registering a 25-28 record to go along with a 4.31 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 40 home runs allowed. He started 74 of the 109 games in which he pitched.
16 #15 Jake Skole
Drafted in 2010 by the Texas Rangers out of high school, outfielder Jake Skole struggled to find consistency at the plate during his first four minor league seasons, which led to the Rangers giving up on him in 2015. The team dealt him to the New York Yankees for cash considerations, which says enough about his talent level big league prospects at that time.
Skole was slightly better with the Yankees, but wasn't good enough to be re-signed following the 2016 season. Through 661 career minor league games, Skole managed 35 home runs, 242 RBI, a .227 batting average, and a .655 OPS.
15 #16: Kevin Ahrens
The Toronto Blue Jays appear on this list for the second time as the team drafted high school third baseman Kevin Ahrens in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. Like others, Ahrens didn't advance beyond the Double-A level, but still managed to play nine seasons in the minor league systems of the Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves, primarily due to his fielding abilities.
At the plate, Ahrens registered a career .242 batting average and .680 OPS to go along with 62 home runs and 407 RBI through 934 games. The 29-year-old was still chasing the dream as of last season as he played for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League.
14 #17: C.J. Henry
Selected by the New York Yankees out of Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City, C.J. Henry was an absolute disaster from the start and never really gained any traction in either the Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system. He played infield and outfield throughout his four-year minor league career and never had a single season with a batting average better than .249.
Through 272 career games, all of which were either Rookie Ball or at the Single-A level, Henry had 17 home runs, 110 RBI, a .222 batting average, and .649 OPS. Even worse, he struck out 313 times compared to only 79 walks.
13 #18: Miguel Negron
The Toronto Blue Jays went to Puerto Rico for their first-round pick in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft as they selected outfielder Miguel Negron. The left-handed hitter bounced around between the minor league affiliates of the Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and Chicago White Sox, but didn't ever break through to the big leagues.
He actually fared better the higher the level at which he played, but that still isn't saying much. He last played in 2012 and retired with 1,019 career games in which he had 50 home runs, 393 RBI, a .268 batting average, and a .684 OPS. His athleticism and fielding kept him around for so long.
12 #19: Tony Torcato
Selected by the San Francisco Giants, Tony Torcato is the first player on this list who can at least say he played in the big leagues, but it was only for 43 games and, beyond that, was never really considered a top prospect. He did, however, have some decent seasons at the Triple-A level, but that wasn't enough for him to earn full-time big league consideration.
In his short big league stint, Torcato managed a .296 batting average and .687 OPS, but the power he displayed in the minors didn't translate. Through 966 career minor league games, Torcato had 50 home runs, 517 RBI, 204 doubles, and a .739 OPS.
11 #20: Mark Pawelek
Selected 20th overall in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft, left-handed pitcher Mark Pawelek went from playing high school ball to starting with the Chicago Cubs' Rookie Ball affiliate in Arizona. Early results were promising as he managed 56 strikeouts in 43 innings and registered a 2.72 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He was good again the following year but struggled mightily throughout the next four seasons due in part to injuries.
Pawelek was out of the league by 2010. He finished his career with a decent 3.93 ERA, but his control was an issue; he gave up 112 walks in 176.1 innings and had a WHIP of 1.46.
10 #21: Matt Moses
A third baseman and left field drafted out of high school in Georgia, Matt Moses joined the Minnesota Twins organization in 2003 and the following year was ranked as the No. 81 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He again cracked the list in 2006, when he was ranked No. 75.
Despite all his promise, Moses only played 48 games in Triple-A and didn't fare well there as he managed a .224 batting average and struck out 42 times compared to only four walks in 174 at bats. He last played in 2009 with the New Britain Rock Cats of the Eastern League.
9 #22: Tim Alderson
Taken in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, Alderson is a 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher who was a star with Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Naturally, given his size, he was projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but that never panned out. He did, however, pitch nine seasons in the minor leagues both as a starter and out of the bullpen.
He had some promising seasons early in his career but wasn't able to perform well in Double-A or Triple-A. Throughout his nine-year career, Alderson managed an impressive 52-32 record, but his 4.21 ERA and 1.30 WHIP left a lot to be desired.
8 #23: Maxwell Sapp
It's not unusual for a first-round pick to only play a handful of seasons in the minor leagues before being phased out of the game, but it's even worse when they were drafted out of high school as 18-year-olds. Maxwell Sapp was 17 when the Houston Astros selected him 23rd overall in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft and, remember, the Astros didn't always have a great drafting history.
Sapp played only 210 games at the Single-A level and managed a .224 batting average to go along with seven home runs and 81 RBI. Moreover, he had 10 errors behind the plate and caught 37 percent of attempted base stealers.
7 #24: Cody Johnson
As evidenced by the prior pick of Scott Heard, it's not exactly a sure thing when selecting high school players. The Atlanta Braves found that out when they selected outfielder Cody Johnson with the 24th pick in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft. A native of Panama City, Florida, Johnson managed to play eight seasons in the minor leagues but never advanced beyond Triple-A despite his impressive power numbers.
Johnson had three 25-plus home run seasons and finished his minor league career with 132 dingers to go along with 417 RBI and a .244 batting average. However, he particularly struggled at and beyond Double-A; through four seasons at that level, he had a .219 batting average and .292 on-base percentage. He only played 19 games in Triple-A and fared much worse.
6 #25: Scott Heard
The Texas Rangers selected catcher Scott Heard out of high school with the 25th pick in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft and nobody has "heard" from the man since 2003, at least in regard to athletics. That's because the Texas native was out of baseball within three years of being drafted.
He spent the majority of his first professional season with the GCL Rangers and actually hit for an impressive .351 batting average to go along with two home runs and 16 RBI. His power numbers increased the following season, but his average dropped more than 100 points. He was unable to advance beyond High-A ball before leaving the game for good. What's most noteworthy is that he was the starting catcher of the 1999 United States World Junior Championship team ahead of Joe Mauer.
5 #26: Richie Robnett
A lot of first-round picks out of college are previously drafted in the late rounds out of high school. That's true for outfielder Richie Robnett, who was selected in the 32nd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft but, after two seasons with California State University Fresno, was later selected 26th overall in 2004 by the Oakland Athletics.
Oakland is probably still wishing Robnett signed with the Dodgers out of high school because he was nothing more than a career minor league player. Through six seasons in the minors, he bounced between 10 different teams across all three levels and managed a mediocre .253 batting average as well as 62 home runs, 273 RBI, and a .329 on-base percentage. His fielding, in particular, held him back, as he had 24 errors; in contrast, Mike Trout has only 16 in significantly more big league games.
4 #27: Jason Place
The Boston Red Sox had high hopes for outfielder Jason Place when they selected him with the 27th overall pick in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft and, while he excelled that year in 33 games with the team's Gulf Coast League (GCL) affiliate, he failed to impress enough in his subsequent six minor league seasons to earn even a big league audition.
Through 459 career minor league games, Place managed a .230 batting average as well as 49 home runs, 227 RBI, and a .309 on-base percentage. Worse than that, his OPS was only .695, which isn't terrible for a fringe player at the big league level, but not good enough for the minors.
3 #28: Justin Pope
It might be worth taking a relief pitcher late in the first round if he blossoms into a quality arm out of the bullpen, but that wasn't the case for the St. Louis Cardinals when they drafted Justin Pope 28th overall in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft. A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, Pope pitched at the University of Central Florida so he should have been more polished and MLB-ready than others, but he never played a single MLB game.
Instead, Pope pitched eight seasons across all three levels in the minors. He showed flashes of brilliance in Double-A (3.04 ERA, 16-12 record, and 68 saves), but was awful in his short Triple-A audition as he had a 6.69 ERA to go along with 45 hits allowed in 36.1 innings pitched.
2 #29: Wendell Fairley
A 30-year-old left fielder from Lucedale, Missouri, Fairley was selected 29th overall by the San Francisco Giants in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. He fared slightly better than the aforementioned Clarke, but didn't advance beyond Double-A and only spent 81 games at that level, where he registered a .242 batting average to go along with no home runs and 16 RBI.
Fairley spent a combined five seasons in the minors and managed a .257 batting average as well as eight home runs, 149 RBI, and a .340 on-base percentage. He was particularly bad at Double-A in 2012, which led the Giants to release him. Fairley last played for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League in 2015.
1 #30: Chevy Clarke
Selected by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, Clarke is a 26-year-old outfielder who is actually still playing but has spent the previous four seasons in the independent leagues after being released by the Angels.
Through four seasons in the Angels minor league system, Clarke displayed decent power by hitting 34 home runs and accumulating 174 runs batted in (RBI), but only had a .217 batting average to go along with 517 strikeouts in 446 games. To make matters worse, he didn't even advance beyond high-A ball and failed to record a single-season batting average better than .226.