LHP Chris Reed (Los Angeles Dodgers)
My recent draft coverage has focused almost exclusively on the early returns from the 2012 class and top prospects for 2013. However, I’ve tried to weave in a healthy mix of draft retrospectives where I reflect on the players selected in a specific year or time period.
Having said that, I thought I’d break down the last 10 years of MLB’s first-year player draft by highlighting some of the biggest over-drafts. These rankings have nothing to do with the player’s subsequent development, but more so how they were perceived by the industry at the time of the draft. And to further narrow the focus of the article, I only considered players drafted in the first round.
Drafted: 15th overall, 2012 by Cleveland Indians (Texas A&M)
Signing Bonus: $1.75 million
Explanation: In the first MLB first-year player draft under the newly-implemented collective bargaining agreement, Naquin was the first real “safe” pick off the board. While his defense and arm in right field are both excellent, it’s hard to see him developing sufficient power for the position. Basically, the Indians drafted a tweener who projects to be a solid fourth outfielder.
Drafted: 17th overall, 2005 by New York Yankees (Putnam City HS, Okla.)
Signing Bonus: $1.575 million
Explanation: Possessing one of the highest ceilings in the 2005 draft class, the gap between his outstanding athleticism and raw baseball skills also made him one of the riskier names on the board. Furthermore, the Yankees selection of Henry marked the fourth straight draft that they targeted a high-upside prep prospect.
Drafted: 12th overall, 2003 by New York Mets (Lakewood Ranch HS, Fla.)
Signing Bonus: $2.075 million
Explanation: The case for Milledge is interesting, as he featured a truly dynamic set of tools and was loaded with athleticism. However, he developed a poor reputation after a series of off-the-field incidents sparked serious concern about his makeup and maturity.
Drafted: Ninth overall, 2006 by Baltimore Orioles (Bishop Eustace Prep, N.J).
Signing Bonus: $2.1 million
Explanation: Rowell represented the classic high school slugger with robust raw power and little else—there’s one in every draft—and was the first prep position player to be selected. The left-handed hitter could put on a show during batting practice, but there was never unanimity about how his power would play against more advanced pitching.
Drafted: No. 1 overall, 2008 by Tampa Bay Rays (Griffin HS, Ga.)
Signing Bonus: $6.15 million
Explanation: After drafting Evan Longoria and David Price in the previous two years, the Rays went with the high-risk, high-reward route in 2008 with Beckham and passed on a host of collegiate players who’ve emerged as everyday big leaguers.
Drafted: Fifth overall, 2009 by Baltimore Orioles (Norco HS, Calif.)
Signing Bonus: $2.422 million
Explanation: Hobgood flashed electric stuff as a high school senior, but already at 6’4”, 245 pounds, the right-handed required minimal projecting. He wasn’t even a lock to go in the first round, but the Orioles made him the first prep pitcher off the board at No. 5-overall.
Drafted: 16th overall, 2011 by Los Angeles Dodgers (Stanford University)
Signing Bonus: $1.589 million
Explanation: After selecting a pitcher with their first pick in each of the last four drafts, the Dodgers made it five in a row with Reed, a left-handed reliever/closer from Stanford. Even though his projectable frame, handedness and lack of mileage suggested the most upside as a starter, he only possessed one above-average pitch (fastball) when drafted.
Drafted: 20th overall, 2008 by Seattle Mariners (University of Georgia)
Signing Bonus: $1.75 million
Explanation: Right-hander struggled with his command as a college junior at Georgia in 2007 and returned for a successful senior season. The Mariners then made Fields their first-round draft pick despite the fact that he was a senior sign intended to remain in the bullpen. And let’s be real—who buys saves?
Drafted: 16th overall, 2010 by Chicago Cubs (Southern Arkansas)
Signing Bonus: $1.06 million
Explanation: Even though Simpson captured every imaginable school record in his three seasons at South Arkansas (Division II), I’ve never understood how or why he went in the first round. Yes, he had decent pitchability and an above-average fastball, but he was also an undersized right-hander with a mediocre ceiling.
Drafted: No. 1 overall, 2004 by San Diego Padres (Mission Bay HS, Calif.)
Signing Bonus: $3.15 million
Explanation: Using the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2004 to select Matt Bush, the pitcher, would have been more appropriate, as the high school senior’s only outstanding tool was a plus arm. Instead they drafted Matt Bush, the shortstop, and we all know how that turned out.