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The A's were wise to draft Nick Swisher in '02, but overly-cautious for doing so with the No. 16 overall pick.
Who the Oakland Athletics picked: Nick Swisher
Who they should have picked: Cole Hamels
Thanks to Moneyball, the 2002 MLB draft sticks out in everybody's memory.
Whenever it's revisited, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane gets kudos for his impressive haul of future major league contributors.
However, remember that since 2004 (when that draft class began to join the A's roster), the club has only made two playoff appearances in nine seasons. The last time the A's did so in 2012, it came with an entirely different crop of players.
Yes, Swisher has developed into a particularly productive and consistent player. Oakland even received a nice package—highlighted by Gio Gonzalez—when it came time to trade him for salary relief.
That said, John Sickels of ESPN.com believes the A's could have waited to select the outfielder considering that "most teams thought he was worth a late first- or early second-round pick." They set off an unfortunate chain reaction by making him the 16th player off the board.
Hamels, a California-born southpaw who was also available and coming off a strong senior season (h/t The Good Phight), went to the Philadelphia Phillies at No. 17. Beane settled for an ordinary prospect by scooping Joe Blanton with the 24th overall pick. Though there's some value in durable strike-throwers, Blanton certainly wasn't going to lead the starting rotation.
The A's found that out the hard way when Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito left town a few years later.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Hamels has produced nearly three times as much career WAR as Blanton. Without the aforementioned trio, Oakland has suffered a long drought since its last legitimate AL Cy Young Award candidate.
Even back in 2002, Hamels oozed ace potential. He became an October hero for the Phillies and he's still with them today.