First Dibs: The Top-Overall MLB Draft Picks of the Last 25 Years
Here's the list, from B.J. Surhoff to Stephen Strasburg.
From Ken Griffey Jr. to Bryan Bullington.
From A-Rod to Anna...I mean Kris...Benson.
And a special thanks to the awesome Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck, Bowman and other companies for making this baseball card theme possible.
1985: B.J. Surhoff, C
Played every position in his ML career except pitcher, but spent the majority of his career at third base and in the outfield. A very solid 18-year run with a 188 HR, 1153 RBI, and a .282 AVG.
1986: Jeff King, SS
Was on the Pirates the last time they were actually good. During his 11-year career he played mainly at third base and hit 154 HR, 709 RBI, and a .256 AVG. Finished his career in San Diego. Retired in 1999 at age 32.
1987: Ken Griffey Jr., OF
The man who retired just last week was one of the finest to ever play the game. There was nothing on the diamond he couldn’t do.
Injuries in sports are always used as a really annoying excuse. "This team would have been great if it weren’t for their injuries. That player would have been great if it weren’t for the injuries."
But Griffey Jr. is one of the very few athletes we can honestly say was totally robbed by poor health over the years. His 630 career HR, 1836 RBI, .284 AVG, and 10 Gold Gloves are great. But perhaps he could have been the greatest player…ever.
Still, Cooperstown will come calling six short years from now, at least Griffey Jr. can sleep well knowing that… hah get it?
At least Junior will always be immortalized by the Super Nintendo and N64 video games bearing his name during the mid and late 90’s. “Hi, this is Ken Griffey Jr., let’s play Major League Baseball.” Classic.
1988: Andy Benes, RHP
Never materialized into the superstar hurler he was supposed to be, but still had a fine career, notching a 155-139 record, 3.97 ERA, and exactly 2000 Ks. The longtime NL pitcher also hit eight career homer runs.
1989: Ben McDonald, RHP
Had some big-league success before injuries derailed his career. Won 12 or more games in a season four times and posted a 78-70 career record with a 3.91 ERA. Shoulder problems forced him to leave the game after 1997 at the age of 29.
1990: Chipper Jones, SS
The best third baseman of the past 20 years has been the face of the Braves’ franchise since almost the first day in the majors. Now in the twilight of a great 17-year run, Chipper has amassed 429 HRs, 1466 RBI, a .306 AVG, and a .406 OBP in a sure-fire Cooperstown career.
1991: Brien Taylor, LHP
Taylor fits the cliché of a guy with a million dollar arm and a two cent head.
He seemed headed for a promising career with the Yanks before he let his emotions get the best of him in December 1993.
Taylor’s brother had been injured in a physical confrontation and Brien went to defend him by tracking down the assailant at his home. The 22-year-old minor league top prospect suffered a dislocated left shoulder and a torn labrum in the fight that followed.
Brien could have been apart of the Yankees’ dynasty later in the decade. Instead, the injuries he sustained in the fistfight signified the end of his career. He retired in 2000 as just the second first-overall pick to never make a ML appearance or at-bat in the history of the draft.
1992: Phil Nevin, 3B
Bulked up a lot after this card was made. The Astros’ top selection went on to play for seven ML teams, most notably the Padres, over 12 seasons while getting 208 HR, 743 RBI, and a .270 AVG.
1993: Alex Rodriguez, SS
Oh, you’ve heard of him? A-Rod made it to the show just 10 months after being drafted. In Seattle, he teamed up with Griffey Jr. to help form one of the most feared lineups in major league history.
At almost 35 years old, the 12-time All-Star and three-time league MVP is showing no signs of slowing down and appears capable of eclipsing Barry Bonds’ all-time HR record of 763.
Alex also seems to be making a strong push to upstage Bonds as the biggest jerk ever to play the game.
1994: Paul Wilson, RHP
Wilson was supposed to be the next great right-handed pitcher in Mets history. Uh, that didn’t happen. He won a total of just five games with New York and eventually compiled a 40-58 record and a 4.86 ERA before making his last ML appearance with Cincinnati in 2005.
1995: Darin Erstad, OF
Erstad played a decade for the Angels and won a World Series with them in 2002. He was a one-year wonder in 2000. Erstad hit for a .355 AVG and reached 200 hits faster than any player in 65 years in route to a total of 240.
In 2009, he hit just .194 in 107 games with Houston and has not appeared in the majors so far in 2010.
1996: Kris Benson, RHP
He was supposed to be a right-handed Tom Glavine with better stuff. Doesn’t he look just like the former Braves’ lefty, especially with a cap on?
Anyway, Benson has bounced around over the years, dealt with injuries, and to date is 70-75 with a 4.42 ERA lifetime in the majors.
He’s made five starts and has two wins since 2007.
Of course, you can’t think of Kris Benson these days without also thinking of Ms. Anna Benson, too…
This photo from 2006 would be just fine if American model Anna were the only one in it. But Kris, with his entranced stare and stupid school-kid smile, actually makes the picture even better. Still, the former No. 1 pitcher isn’t nearly the most photogenic person here. No, that angry looking guy with glasses in the background isn’t either.
Anywayyyyyy, Sorry. Back to the show.
1997: Matt Anderson, RHP
In one word: Bust. He did have a big year with the Tigers in 1998, posting a 5-1 record and 3.27 ERA as a reliever in 42 games.
Anderson suffered through injuries following his rookie year and never posted an ERA under 4.70 for the rest of his career. He lost his high-90s fastball after the injuries and has not pitched in a ML game since 2005. His career ERA in the majors was 5.19.
1998, Pat Burrell, 1B
Like Griffey Jr., Burrell’s been in the headlines a lot recently. Actually just the other day the Giants called up “Pat the Bat” from Triple-A Fresno in hopes that he can rediscover some pop in his stick. Tampa Bay had released Burrell in mid May.
Burrell’s decade-long career in Philadelphia began with him being called the abysmal Phillies “savior” and ended with Pat helping them win a World Series in 2008 as a more-or-less role player.
Despite dramatic highs and lows throughout his career, Burrell has still amassed 267 HR, 904 RBI, and a .253 AVG. The outfielder has never been an All-Star.
Burrell’s parents reside in the San Francisco area, so at least Pat will be able to pop in for a home-cooked meal on a weekend every now and then.
1999: Josh Hamilton, OF
Speaking of highs and lows, Josh was going to be a superstar with Tampa Bay until lots of injuries and a drug addiction set him back for the better part of a decade.
He never played for the then Devil Rays but finally made his ML debut in 2007 with Cincinnati at age 26. Hamilton finally had his breakout season a year later with the Rangers as he led the American League in RBI with 130.
If Hamilton never accomplishes anything the rest of his career, then at least we’ll always remember him for that incredible display of power he put on in the 2008 Home Run Derby at the original Yankee Stadium. Simply awesome.
2000: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Look at how thin he is here. Gonzalez was the first infield position player to be drafted first overall since A-Rod in 1993. Florida traded Adrian to Texas midway through 2003 for reliever Ugueth Urbina, who helped the Marlins win the World Series that Autumn.
After 2005, Gonzalez was traded to the Padres along with pitcher Chris Young in exchange for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. Can you say horrible trade?
Gonzalez has been an absolute star for San Diego since 2006 and his numbers could be even better if he weren’t playing for the offensively challenged Padres in the cavernous Petco Park.
Adrian’s home-road splits since joining San Diego make you feel sorry for him. But don’t be too sad for him. He’ll be getting a huge payday very soon.
2001: Joe Mauer, C
Safe to say the Twins made a good choice, right? The reigning AL MVP has a .326 lifetime AVG to date and a .407 OBP. Mix in three All-Star selections and two Gold Gloves, and Mauer has the potential to be one of the greatest catchers in the game’s history. Is it too early to say that?
By the way, he just celebrated his 27th birthday in April.
2002: Bryan Bullington, RHP
He’s appeared in three games this season for Kansas City, but has an 0-6 record and a 5.57 ERA in 16 big-league games over the years (five starts).
This turned out to be a really bad pick, but that’s to be expected of a club that is on its way to its 18th straight losing season. That club is the Pirates, by the way.
2003: Delmon Young, OF
Delmon burst onto the scene in 2007 by finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. In November of that year, Young was sent to Minnesota in a trade that brought Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa.
So far, Young hasn’t been able to match his stunning rookie campaign, but he’s still a .288 ML-hitter and only 24 years old.
2004: Matt Bush, SS
Bush struggled mightily with the stick in the minors before breaking his ankle in Spring Training 2006 and missing half the season. After Bush continued to struggle following his injury, the Padres converted him to a pitcher since he could throw in the mid 90s.
Bush is now a property of the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching at Class-A in the Florida State League.
Too bad his signature here is pretty much the only sign of greatness he's ever shown since being drafted.
2005: Justin Upton, SS
The younger brother of the Rays’ B.J. Upton was converted to an outfielder by the Diamondbacks. After making his ML debut at age 19, Upton enjoyed his breakout campaign in 2009, hitting for 26 HR, 86 RBI, and a .300 AVG.
Upton is off to a slow start in 2010 and to date is leading the league in strikeouts with 72. A .268 hitter at the big-leagues, Upton is still very raw, but very, very talented. At age 22, he’s doing OK.
Plus, doesn't he look like Barry Larkin here? Maybe it's just the red uniform.
2006: Luke Hochevar, RHP
With not a whole lot of great Kansas City pitchers blocking his path to the majors, Hochevar mad his ML debut just one year after getting drafted. His lifetime numbers aren’t good, 18-29 with a 5.73 ERA in 59 starts, but the 6’5’’ 26-year-old righty is showing signs of improvement in his third year as a starter, posting a 5-3 record so far in 2010.
2007: David Price, LHP
The lefty who was on the mound as a reliever when the Rays won their first AL pennant in 2008 has blossomed into one of the game’s most promising young stars. He’s 8-2 so far in 2010 with an AL-best 2.29 ERA. Lifetime, he’s 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 39 big-league games.
The Rays are lucky to have him, and unfortunately for the rest of the AL, the sky is legitimately the limit for Price.
2008: Tim Beckham, SS
Doesn’t he look super-young? Well, he was 17 when this picture was taken. The 20-year-old from Georgia is off to a slow start in 2010, hitting just .206 in Class-A Charlotte. He’s struck out 48 times in 160 at-bats. Yikes.
Still, Tampa Bay knows that Beckham’s got lots of ability and ample time to improve.
2009: Stephen Strasburg, RHP
He’s torn up every level of the minors. Now, the 21-year-old from San Diego is poised to make his ML debut very, very, very soon. In short, Strasburg seems ready.
Strasburg had a 7-2 record and a 1.30 ERA in 11 total minor league starts. He struck out 65 batters and walked only 13 in 55 1/3 innings.
366 days after being selected first overall in the 2009 MLB Draft, Strasburg will make his ML debut at home against the Pirates on June 8.