MLB Power Rankings: All 30 Teams Ranked on Their Drafting Competence
The MLB amateur draft is a hot freaking mess—thousands of players, dozens of rounds and thirty teams trying to make sense of it all.
Trapped somewhere in this cesspool mistakes and long odds are a franchise's lifeblood, the talent it needs to prosper in the next generation.
The margin between success and failure is thin—perhaps an added degree of flexibility in a 17-year-old's arm or an obscure metric measuring a 22-year-old's college success—and the teams that best navigate that margin win lots of baseball games.
The others lose.
So we're clear on that, right?
A Couple of Notes
A couple of notes before we begin.
1.) I took a historical approach to evaluating the draft, meaning that teams chartered after 1965 (when the draft was first held) were at a distinct disadvantage. I tried to prorate draft output based on the number of years a franchise has been in existence, but it's tough.
If a team has been around for 10 years and not produced much talent—a very likely scenario—it's hard to dock them for a typical dry run. But it's impossible to assume that they'll draft well in the next decade or the decade after. Unfortunately, they're playing with a bad hand.
2.) I only took the standard June amateur draft into account. There have been various secondary drafts over baseball's history, but I did not include those in an attempt to narrow the sample size. If you find a player missing, that's likely the reason.
3.) If a team drafted a player but did not sign him, he does not count as one of that team's draft picks. Signing a player is just as important a part of the draft process as selecting him.
4.) I put no credence in whether or not a player played for the team that drafted him. We're trying to isolate a team's drafting competencies here, not judge their player development or how they evaluate minor league talent.
5.) I chose 20-plus career WAR as a standard for measuring draft success because a) it's a nice round number and b) it equates to 10 years at 2.0 WAR. By definition, a player with a 2.0 WAR is an average major league player. I figure if a player is average a high WAR for a decade, he's an extraordinary draft pick. It might not be the best way to do things, but it sets an even standard.
30. Texas Rangers
Notable Names: Kevin Brown (first), Mark Teixeira (first), Ian Kinsler (17th), Mike Hargrove (25th), Travis Hafner (31st), Kenny Rogers (39th)
Draft Picks With 20+ WAR: 8
Ultimate Steal: Kenny Rogers (39th round)
Ultimate Bust: Johnny Jones (fifth overall)
Of the 20 franchises that participated in the first draft, the Rangers have the worst drafting resume.
And it isn’t even close.
Over 47 drafts they’ve failed to produce a single Cy Young or MVP award winner, much less a Hall of Fame player. There’s been some nice mid-range talent—Ron Darling, Jeff Burroughs, Rick Helling, John Danks—but not enough to offset the dearth of elite players.
Then there’s the bust parade, marshaled by top-five flops like David Clyde, Tommy Boggs, Jeff Kunkel and Johnny Jones.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
Notable Names: Justin Upton (first), Stephen Drew (first), Carlos Quentin (first), Brad Penny (fifth), Brandon Webb (eighth), Dan Uggla (11th), Mark Reynolds (16th), Lyle Overbay (18th),
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 1
Ultimate Steal: Brandon Webb (eighth round)
Ultimate Bust: Corey Myers (fourth overall)
After 16 drafts it’s hard to offer a comprehensive assessment of Arizona’s draft competency.
It is fair to say that the franchise’s initial successes came in spite of their farm system and not because of it.
Free agents like Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez laid the foundation for a championship shortcut. High-profile early picks such as Corey Myers, Jason Bulger, Casey Daigle and Jack Cust left little footprint.
Only recently have their picks born fruit, with Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton and Stephen Drew representing the first successful wave of homegrown players.
Next up is an elite fleet of pitchers who could make big inroads at the major league level. Should Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker and Archie Bradley go on to above-average careers, the Diamondbacks’ draft profile will change substantially.
28. Cleveland Indians
Notable Names: Manny Ramirez (first), C.C. Sabathia (first), Greg Swindell (first), Charles Nagy (first), Albert Belle (second), Dennis Eckersley (third), Jim Thome (13th), Buddy Bell (16th), Brian Giles (17th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 10
Ultimate Steal: Jim Thome (13th round)
Ultimate Bust: Glenn Tufts (fifth overall)
Cleveland hasn’t made many great picks, but they timed those picks well.
Four of the most successful selections in franchise history—Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle—played together in Cleveland from 1993 to 1996.
Before and after that run, the draft has been something of a wasteland for the Tribe.
27. Miami Marlins
Notable Names: Adrian Gonzalez (first), Josh Beckett (first), Charles Johnson first), Mike Stanton (second), Randy Winn (third), Josh Johnson (fourth), Josh Willingham (17th Round), Logan Morrison (22nd Round),
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 4
Ultimate Steal: Josh Willingham (17th round)
Ultimate Bust: Jamie Jones (sixth overall)
The Marlins have done their best work abroad, landing the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo and Edgar Renteria as amateur free agents.
They also get high marks in big-league free agency, a system they used to build 1997’s championship team.
Their drafting acumen goes a bit underappreciated, but they’ve done a decent job there, too. Miami’s been money when granted top-three picks. They’ve had only two, but both (Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett) turned into perennial All-Stars.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates
Notable Names: Barry Bonds (first), Jason Kendall (first), Richie Hebner (first), Andrew McCutchen (first), John Candelaria (second), Dave Cash (fifth), Willie Randolph (seventh), Tim Wakefield (eighth), Dave Parker (14th), Jose Bautista (20th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 9
Ultimate Steal: Willie Randolph (seventh round)
Ultimate Bust: Bryan Bullington (first overall)
After Bonds, the drop-off is steep.
Of course that would be true of any franchise, but the Pirates provide a particularly compelling contrast. Randolph is a borderline Hall of Famer and Parker had tremendous success early in his career, but after that it’s a pretty so-so bunch.
There’s a notable absence of pitchers, reinforcing the common perception that Pittsburgh struggles to evaluate top arms.
The list of Pirates pitchers taken in the top 10 reads like a who’s who of busts: Bryan Bullington, John Morlan, Kurt Miller, Bobby Bradley, John Van Benschotten. It’s such a piss-poor group that it makes Paul Maholm (eighth overall) and Kris Benson (first overall) look successful by comparison.
Bucs fans only hope that recent draftees Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon break precedent.
25. Chicago Cubs
Notable Names: Rafael Palmeiro (first), Kerry Wood (first), Joe Carter (first), Greg Maddux (second), Lee Smith (second), Rick Reuschel (third), Ken Holtzman (fourth), Jamie Moyer (sixth), Dontrelle Willis (eighth), Mark Grace (24th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Mark Grace (24th round)
Ultimate Bust: Terry Hughes (second overall)
The Cubs have had an astounding 23 top-10 draft choices in their franchise history. None have broken 30 WAR in their career.
The Oakland A’s have had 16 such selections, five of whom have gone onto eclipse the 30-WAR mark.
Therein lies the Cubs fans' lament.
A team picking that often in the top end of the talent pool should produce a healthy number of regular players and a smattering of All-Stars. Chicago has produced precious little of either, and those that show promise have fallen victim to injury.
That context tempers the enthusiasm inspired by names like Greg Maddux and Rafael Palmeiro. The Cubs have drafted some great players, but not in proportion to the opportunities afforded them by constant losing.
24. San Diego Padres
Notable Names: Dave Winfield (first), Derrek Lee (first), Andy Benes (first), Tony Gwynn (third), Ozzie Smith (fourth), Mat Latos (11th), Jake Peavy (15th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 7
Ultimate Steal: Jake Peavy (15th round)
Ultimate Bust: Matt Bush (first overall)
The Padres are tied with the Mets for the most No. 1 overall selections (five) in draft history, and have done little with that good fortune.
Only one Padres draftee (Andy Benes) finished top 25 in career WAR among the 47 first overall selections.
Three of their other choices—Mike Ivie, Bill Almon and Dave Roberts—had below average major league careers.
The fourth, 2004 No. 1 selection Matt Bush, has yet to pass Double-A. Barring a career revival on the mound, Bush will join Brien Taylor and Steve Chilcott as the only No. 1 selections to never appear in the major leagues.
It is a stark contrast to the troika of Cooperstown inductees San Diego drafted between 1973 and 1981. Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith and Tony Gwynn represented the team’s golden age of player development. Since then, success has been elusive.
If there’s hope for turnaround it’s in the present. The Padres have one of the game’s best farm systems.
23. Colorado Rockies
Notable Names: Todd Helton (first), Troy Tulowitzki (first), Aaron Cook (second), Chone Figgins (fourth), Matt Holliday (seventh), Craig Counsell (11th), Juan Pierre (13th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 4
Ultimate Steal: Matt Holliday (seventh round)
Ultimate Bust: Doug Million (seventh overall)
The Rockies connected thrice, on Todd Helton in 1995, Matt Holliday in 1998 and Troy Tulowitzki in 2005.
Beyond that trio it’s been rough going for the Rockies, particularly on the pitching front. Colorado spent five of their nine top-10 picks on pitchers, and only one (Jeff Francis) has appeared in more than 30 big league games.
The inability to land quality arms has long plagued the franchise, and the draft has done them no favors.
22. San Francisco Giants
Notable Names: Will Clark (first), Matt Williams (first), Gary Matthews Sr. (first), Buster Posey (first), Tim Lincecum (first), Matt Cain (first), Chili Davis (11th), Jack Clark (13th), Bill Mueller (15th), Brian Wilson (24th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 11
Ultimate Steal: Jack Clark (13th round)
Ultimate Bust: Jason Grilli (fourth overall)
So many of the franchise’s hallmark players either predated the draft (Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds) or arrived in San Francisco during their big league careers (Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent).
That leaves Will Clark as San Francisco’s most compelling draft selection. And as the top dog, Clark doesn’t make a strong case for the organization’s drafting excellence.
Tim Lincecum or Buster Posey may change that narrative yet. For now though, the Giants lack a marquee draftee.
21. Chicago White Sox
Notable Names: Harold Baines (first), Jack McDowell (first), Robin Ventura (first), Frank Thomas (first), Alex Fernandez (first), Ray Durham (fifth), Goose Gossage (ninth), Doug Drabek (11th), Mike Cameron (18th), Mark Buehrle (38th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 12
Ultimate Steal: Mark Buehrle (38th round)
Ultimate Bust: Ted Nicholson (third overall)
No one’s been better at drafting designated hitters than the White Sox. Thomas and Baines are two of the best to play the position.
But without any great fielders to complement them, the above feels like faint praise.
Unfortunately for Sox fans, it doesn’t appear that this list will grow anytime soon. No active White Sox picks look Cooperstown bound, and the team’s farm system is one of the worst in baseball.
20. New York Mets
Notable Names: Dwight Gooden (first), Darryl Strawberry (first), David Wright (first), Dave Magadan (second), Mike Scott (second), Mookie Wilson (second), Rick Aguilera (third), Nolan Ryan (12th), Lenny Dykstra (13th), Jason Isringhausen (44th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 12
Ultimate Steal: Nolan Ryan (12th)
Ultimate Bust: Steven Chilcott (first overall)
If Strawberry and Gooden had lived out their promise, the Mets would have one of the most impressive draft trios in baseball history.
As is, Nolan Ryan stands alone atop a list that lacks follow-up punch.
Even more damning are the Mets' failures at the top end of the draft. Like the Padres, they’ve had five first overall picks. And also like the Padres, those picks have made little major league impact.
Paul Wilson, Shawn Abner, Tim Foli and Steven Chilcott were all varying shades of bust. Strawberry stands as the lone exception, even though his career was characterized by disappointment.
19. New York Yankees
Notable Names: Derek Jeter (first), Thurman Munson (first), Al Leiter (second), Ron Guidry (third), Fred McGriff (ninth), Don Mattingly (19th), Mike Lowell (20th), Andy Pettitte (22nd), Jorge Posada (24th), Brad Ausmus (48th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 10
Ultimate Steal: Jorge Posada (24th round)
Ultimate Bust: Brien Taylor (No. 1 overall)
Because of their regular-season successes, the Yankees haven’t made many high draft picks.
For the most part, they’ve made those few picks count.
With the glaring exception of Brien Taylor—an all-time draft bust—the Bombers have done well in the top 10, snaring the likes of Thurman Munson, Derek Jeter and Carl Everett.
And they’ve been particularly adept at recognizing underappreciated talent. Don Mattingly, Mike Lowell, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Brad Ausmus were all picked after the 15th round.
18. Tampa Bay Rays
Notable Names: Evan Longoria (first), Josh Hamilton (first), B.J. Upton (first), David Price (first), Carl Crawford (second), Aubrey Huff (fifth), Matt Moore (eighth), James Shields (16th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 3
Ultimate Steal: James Shields (16th round)
Ultimate Bust: Dewon Brazleton (third overall)
The 2000s were a remarkable decade for Tampa’s drafting fortunes.
In the 2006 and 2007 drafts combined, they nabbed Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Matt Moore and David Price. Before that, they selected productive big leaguers Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and James Shields over a mere four-draft span (1999-2002).
That gilded age, however, was as much a product of great opportunity as it was one of drafting genius. Over the course of just 16 drafts, Tampa has earned seven top three selections. The Yankees, who began drafting with the rest of the league since 1965, have earned just three.
Tampa has done a lot of losing, and they’ve turned that losing into an impressive draft haul. In the years ahead, we’ll see how their capabilities translate to the lower tiers of the first round.
17. Milwakuee Brewers
Notable Names: Robin Yount (first), Paul Molitor (first), Gary Sheffield (first), Darrel Porter (first), Ryan Braun (first), Ben Sheets (first), Prince Fielder (first), Yovani Gallardo (second), Jeff Cirillo (11th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 8
Ultimate Steal: Jeff Cirillo (11th round)
Ultimate Bust: Tommy Bianco (third overall)
Milwaukee’s draft outcomes fit the Jekyll & Hyde motif—Jekyll representing their first-round excellence and Hyde everything else.
The Brewer's work in the first round is astounding. Yount and Molitor are in Cooperstown, Sheffield eclipsed 500 home runs and Braun and Fielder are on their way toward superlative careers. Sprinkle in above-average performers like Darrel Porter, B.J. Surhoff, Rickie Weeks, Geoff Jenkins and Gorman Thomas, and Milwaukee boasts an impressive talent profile.
The rest of their picks stink.
To wit, none of the 45 players Milwaukee drafted in the fourth round has accumulated more than 0.5 WAR in the major leagues.
They are the only major league team with that distinction and it is indicative of the organization’s inability to find value later in the draft.
Though I put more weight on first-round excellence—seeing as those picks command more thoughtful deliberation—it’s impossible to dismiss such abject failure.
The Brewers need to sprinkle a little of that first-round fairy dust on the rest of their draft board.
16. Los Angeles Angels
Notable Names: Frank Tanana (first), Chuck Finley (first), Troy Glaus (first), Darrin Erstad (first), Jered Weaver (first), John Lackey (second), Carney Lansford (third), Wally Joyner (third), Garrett Anderson (fourth), Jim Edmonds (seventh)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Jim Edmonds (seventh round)
Ultimate Bust: Danny Goodwin (first overall)
None of the names pop off the page, but the Angels have drafted a number of solid players going back to the Gene Autry days.
Jim Edmonds and Frank Tanana are the most accomplished, followed in some order by Troy Glaus, Garrett Anderson and Wally Joyner.
With the exception of Danny Goodwin, the Angels have also done a nice job securing at least average major leaguers with their top-three picks.
15. Detroit Tigers
Notable Names: Alan Trammell (first), Kirk Gibson (first), Justin Verlander (first), Curtis Granderson (third), Lou Whitaker (fifth), Jack Morris (fifth), Chris Hoiles (19th), John Smoltz (22nd)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 12
Ultimate Steal: John Smoltz (22nd round)
Ultimate Bust: Matt Anderson (first overall)
The Tigers resume doesn’t feature an all-time great or even, to this point, a Cooperstown inductee. It does, however, include a trio of near Hall of Famers (Trammell, Whitaker and Morris) and a fourth (Smoltz) that will be enshrined soon.
In all, Detroit’s draft history doesn’t pull heavy in one direction or another. It’s an average bunch characterized by good-but-not-great players.
14. Seattle Mariners
Notable Names: Alex Rodriguez (first), Ken Griffey Jr. (first), Tino Martinez (first), Jason Varitek (first), Dave Henderson (first), Mark Langston (second), Erik Hanson (second), Bret Boone (fifth), Mike Hampton (sixth), Derek Lowe (eighth)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 12
Ultimate Steal: Raul Ibanez (36th round)
Ultimate Bust: Al Chambers (first overall)
The Mariners present a tough case because their marquee successes—Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.—were near-consensus first-overall selections. Praising Mariners brass for selecting A-Rod and Griffey is a bit like lauding Nats GM Mike Rizzo for his decision to take Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Sometimes good timing is the best strategy.
That said, the Mariners could have chosen pitcher Mike Harkey over Griffey or refused to pay the exorbitant signing bonus Rodriguez demanded. In those pressure-filled moments, Seattle made the right call.
Today Seattle has a beautiful new ballpark, a committed fan base and a bright future because of sound decisions made on draft day.
13. Baltimore Orioles
Notable Names: Mike Mussina (first), Jayson Werth (first), Brian Roberts (first), Cal Ripken Jr. (second), Bobby Grich (first), Don Baylor (second), Eddie Murray (third), Mike Boddicker (sixth), Mike Flanagan (seventh), Steve Finley (13th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 11
Ultimate Steal: Steve Finley (13th round)
Ultimate Bust Adam Loewen (fourth overall)
Mussina, Ripken and Murray make a studly top three, the latter two already enshrined in Cooperstown and the third awaiting a chance to make his case. In more saber-inclined circles, Grich merits the same consideration.
Finley, Baylor and Boddicker comprise a sold second line, evidence of a time when the Orioles were one of baseball’s model franchises.
Fallow drafts in the 1990s and early 2000s sullied Baltimore’s resume and torpedoed the club’s chances to compete. O’s fans hope a renaissance is on tap in the form of up-and-comers Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy.
12. Houston Astros
Notable Names: Craig Biggio (first), Lance Berkman (first), Billy Wagner (first), J.R. Richard (first), Ken Caminiti (third), Luis Gonzalez (fourth), Kenny Lofton (17th), Ken Forsch (18th), Roy Oswalt (23rd), Darryl Kile (30th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Kenny Lofton (17th)
Ultimate Bust: Martin Cott (third overall)
Note to Houston: Draft more guys named “Ken.”
Lofton, Caminiti and Forsch all turned in good careers despite falling to the later rounds, with Lofton straddling the margin between very good and Cooperstown.
Otherwise, Houston presents a nice balance between solid first-round choices and heady late-round steals. Before they lost their way in free agency, homegrown stars like Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt stabilized one of baseball’s better organizations.
11. Cincinnati Reds
Notable Names: Barry Larkin (first), Johnny Bench (second), Adam Dunn (second), Joey Votto (second), Danny Tartabull (third), Paul O’Neill (fourth), Hal McRae (sixth), Eric Davis (eighth), Trevor Hoffman (11th), Ken Griffey Sr. (29th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Ken Griffey Sr. (29th round)
Ultimate Bust: Chris Gruler (third overall)
Bench and Larkin are far and away the class of the Cincinnati field, but there are some nice names on that second tier.
Davis, O’Neill, Hoffman, Votto, McRae and Griffey all made multiple All-Star appearances. Dunn and Tartabull each appeared in the Midsummer Classic once.
Together they form a formidable group and help offset busts like Chad Mottola, Pat Pacillo, Larry Payne and Wayne Simpson. As that last list proves, Cincinnati has not drafted well in the first round.
10. Washington Nationals
Notable Names: Tim Wallach (first), Ryan Zimmerman (first), Randy Johnson (second), Gary Carter (third), Grady Sizemore (third), Marquis Grissom (third), Cliff Lee (fourth), Tim Raines (fifth), Javier Vazquez (fifth), Andre Dawson (11th), Jason Bay (22nd)
Draft Picks with 20+ Career WAR: 12
Ultimate Steal: Andre Dawson (11th round)
Ultimate Bust: B.J. Wallace (third overall)
A cursory look at their draft history reinforces the Expos’ well-worn reputation for developing and abandoning great talent.
Randy Johnson, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Marquis Grissom, Javier Vazquez and Jason Bay would all play significant portions of their careers for other teams. Only Tim Wallach would play through his prime as an Expo.
Still, it is an impressive roster of players, headlined by perhaps the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history.
9. Philadelphia Phillies
Notable Names: Chase Utley (first), Greg Luzinski (first), Cole Hamels (first), Mike Schmidt (second), Scott Rolen (second), Jimmy Rollins (second), Ryan Howard (fifth), Bob Boone (sixth), Ryne Sandberg (20th), Darren Daulton (25th)
Draft Picks with 20+ Career WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Ryne Sandberg (20th round)
Ultimate Bust: Jeff Jackson (fourth overall)
The Philadelphia Phillies get their stuff together in the second round.
It’s there they selected the greatest third baseman ever (Schmidt), another player that belongs in the top 10 (Rolen), a future MVP (Rollins) and two All-Stars, Randy Wolf and Larry Hisle.
That bounty puts the Phillies—who have long gambled on toolsy prospects—in the league’s upper echelon when it comes to draft outcomes. Adding Ryne Sandberg in the 20th round doesn’t hurt either.
And for those who would fault the Phils for some of their high risk/reward picks, consider this: Philadelphia has had six top-three picks in franchise history, and all six posted at least a 10 WAR in their career.
8. Minnesota Twins
Notable Names: Joe Mauer (first), Torii Hunter (first), Jay Bell (first), Chuck Knoblauch (first) Frank Viola (second), Butch Wynegar (second), Bert Blyleven (third), Graig Nettles (fourth), Rick Dempsey (15th), Kent Hrbek (17th)
Draft Picks With 20+ WAR: 15
Ultimate Steal: Kent Hrbek (17th round)
Ultimate Bust: Adam Johnson (second overall)
You didn’t win without some great drafts, especially when you’re as cash poor as the Twins are.
Minnesota’s draft haul has been well distributed across the decades—Graig Nettles, Rick Dempsey and Bert Blyleven in the ‘60s, Butch Wynegar and Kent Hrbek in the ‘70s, Jay Bell, Frank Viola and Chuck Knoblauch in the ‘80s, Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau in the ‘90s and Joe Mauer and Matt Garza in the aughts.
That balance has allowed the Twins to make an ALCS appearance in each of the past five decades, a remarkable accomplishment for a small-market club.
7. Atlanta Braves
Notable Names: Chipper Jones (first), Dale Murphy (first), Adam Wainwright (first), Tom Glavine (second), Brian McCann (second), David Justice (fourth), Ron Gant (fourth), Jason Schmidt (eighth), Brett Butler (23rd), Dusty Baker (26th)
Draft Picks with 20+ Career WAR: 13
Ultimate Steal: Brett Butler (23rd round)
Ultimate Bust: Tim Cole (fourth overall)
The Braves bottomed out in 1989, going 63-97 and posting what is still the second-worst winning percentage since the franchise moved to Atlanta.
Their misery earned them the top pick in next year’s draft, where they faced a crucial choice: Florida shortstop Chipper Jones or Texas hurler Todd Van Poppel.
The Braves, as we know, chose Jones and would ride him to one of the most successful decades in baseball history. Van Poppel would retire with a 5.58 ERA.
Such is the power of the first overall selection.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
Notable Names: Bob Welch (first), Rick Sutcliffe (first), Paul Konerko (first), Clayton Kershaw (first), Sid Fernandez (third), John Franco (fifth), Matt Kemp (sixth), Charlie Hough (eighth), Dave Stewart (16th), Orel Hershiser (17th), Ted Lilly (23rd), Eric Young (43rd), Mike Piazza (62nd)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 16
Ultimate Steal: Mike Piazza (62nd round)
Ultimate Bust: Bill Bene (fifth overall)
Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that the Dodgers drafted Mike Piazza as a favor to his father, who was a friend of then-manager Tommy Lasorda.
As they say, that’s what friends are for.
Piazza would become the greatest-hitting catcher in baseball history, headlining an incredible list of late-round Dodger steals. Matt Kemp in the sixth, Dave Stewart in the16th, Orel Hershiser in the 17th, each one harder to believe than the next.
Some of that is good fortune. But when you hit with that kind of frequency, there has to be some good judgment involved as well.
5. Kansas City Royals
Notable Names: Willie Wilson (first), Johnny Damon (first), Zack Greinke (first), George Brett (second), Carlos Beltran (second), Dennis Leonard (second), Mark Gubicza (second), David Cone (third), Tom Gordon (sixth), Mike Sweeney (10th), Brett Saberhagen (19th), Paul Splittorff (28th), Jeff Conine (58th)
Draft Picks With 20+ WAR: 20
Ultimate Steal: Brett Saberhagen (19th round)
Ultimate Bust: Mike Stodolka (fourth overall)
The draft has never been Kansas City’s problem.
OK, maybe a little bit in a recent years, but even in hard times the more glaring deficiency has been their ability to retain star players like Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Zack Greinke, not find them.
Exhibit A: Their exquisite draft work in the 15 years between the late 1960s and early '80s.
It started with George Brett, the team's second-round pick in 1971. Brett became the franchise's first superstar player and the foundation for long-term success.
But he was just one among many wise selections that would build the Royals into a late ‘70s/early ‘80s powerhouse. Paul Splittorff (1968), Dennis Leonard (1972), Willie Wilson (1974), Mark Gubicza (1981) and Brett Saberhagen (1982) all played key roles on the Royals teams that made seven playoff appearances in the 10 seasons between 1976 and 1985.
And might we be on the front end of another such run? The current crop of Royals prospects has scouts buzzing about their dynastic potential. Just something to watch...
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Notable Names: Roy Halladay (first), Chris Carpenter (first), Shawn Green (first), Vernon Wells (first), David Wells (second), John Olerud (third), Jimmy Key (third), Dave Steib (fifth), Pat Hentgen (fifth), Michael Young (fifth), Casey Blake (seventh), Jeff Kent (20th), Orlando Hudson (43rd)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 15
Ultimate Steal: Jeff Kent (20th round)
Ultimate Bust: Garry Harris (second overall)
Chartered in 1977, the Blue Jays overcame a late start and, in 35 short years, built one of the greatest draft resumes in baseball.
Some of their more impressive draft classes:
1978: Dave Stieb and Lloyd Moseby
1982: David Wells and Jimmy Key
1989: Jeff Kent and John Olerud
1997: Michael Young, Vernon Wells and Orlando Hudson
2003: Aaron Hill and Shaun Marcum
Those eight alone account for 33 All-Star appearances, seven Silver Sluggers and an MVP award.
The only thing missing from the Blue Jays' checklist is a bonafide all-time great, though Roy Halladay appears headed toward that hallowed ground.
And if you’re jaw isn’t already unhinged, consider that today’s Blue Jays have one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in baseball.
3. Oakland Athletics
Notable Names: Reggie Jackson (first), Mark McGwire (first), Eric Chavez (first), Rick Monday (first), Barry Zito (first), Vida Blue (second), Jason Giambi (second), Ricky Henderson (fourth), Mickey Tettleton (fifth), Sal Bando (sixth), Tim Hudson (sixth), Jose Canseco (15th), Gene Tenace (20th)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 18
Ultimate Steal: Gene Tenace (20th round)
Ultimate Bust: Mike King (fourth overall)
Upon its introduction in 1965, the Athletics, then stationed in Kansas City, took an immediate liking to the amateur draft .
Accustomed to life as a de facto farm system for richer teams like the New York Yankees, the A’s embraced the level playing field and nabbed Rick Monday, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando in the inaugural pick ‘em.
Each would become big league All-Stars and serve as a good omen of things to come—Reggie Jackson the next year, Vida Blue a year later, Ricky Henderson in the ‘70s, the Bash Brothers in the ‘80s and the Moneyball heroes of the ‘90s.
If there’s any solace for Oakland fans as their team rebuilds, they can find it in those past triumphs.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
Notable Names: J.D. Drew (first), Andy Van Slyke (first), Brian Jordan (first), Gary Templeton (first), Jerry Reuss (second), Dan Haren (second), Ray Lankford (third), Yadier Molina (fourth), Terry Pendleton (seventh), Vince Coleman (10th), Albert Pujols (13th), Placido Polanco (19th), John Denny (29th), Bake McBride (37th) Keith Hernandez (42nd)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 19
Ultimate Steal: Albert Pujols (13th round)
Ultimate Bust: Paul Coleman (sixth overall)
You always knew the Cardinals were a class organization—great fans, ownership, winning tradition. So it should come as no surprise that they’ve ruled the draft as well.
And in that typical, perfect Cardinal way, their abundant returns result from both good decision-making and a pinch of good luck.
Dan Haren, Brian Jordan, Gary Templeton and Andy Van Slyke were the good decisions, all top-tier talents the Cardinals secured with high picks.
The good luck, you ask?
Placido Polanco in the 19th round, Cy Young winner John Denny in the 29th round, future MVP Keith Hernandez in the 42nd round, J.D. Drew falling into their lap the year after he spurned the Phillies.
And then there’s that chubby kid from nearby Independence, Missouri that the Cardinals selected in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft—you know, the kid who would go on to become the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history.
1. Boston Red Sox
Notable Names: Roger Clemens (first), Jim Rice (first), Nomar Garciaparra (first), Mo Vaughn (first), Fred Lynn (second), Dustin Pedroia (second), Jon Lester (second), Jeff Bagwell (fourth), Dwight Evans (fifth), Wade Boggs (seventh), Kevin Youkilis (eighth), Brady Anderson (10th), David Eckstein (19th), Bill Lee (22nd)
Draft Picks with 20+ WAR: 20
Ultimate Steal: Wade Boggs (seventh round)
Ultimate Bust: Tom Fischer (12th overall)
I'm looking for flaws in the Red Sox-draft resume.
The team that has picked just four times in the draft's top 10 has turned that seeming disadvantage into a deluge of talent.
First-round big shots? Check. Late-round steals? Check. Great pitchers? Check. Shortstops? Check. Third basemen? Check. Outfielders? Check.
Check, check, checkity check check.
That's it, the Red Sox suck at drafting catchers. What a bunch of clowns.