The 2010 MLB Draft is here. Tonight, all 30 teams will make their first-round selections and hope they have landed their respective franchise's next star. Leading the pack, and all the coverage and hype, is junior college star Bryce Harper.
Harper is a sign, sealed, and delivered lock to go number one overall to the Washington Nationals. From there, the baseball world will descend on the 17-year-old's head as it watches and waits for him, like last year's top pick Stephen Strasburg, to make his big league debut.
But where does Harper rank among the top overall draft picks of the last 10 years, taking into consideration Harper's selection which is merely hours away? Is he already the best? Or does the guy many compare him to take the top spot?
Bush lands in the 10th spot for one specific and glaring reason. As of today, he is just the third top pick in history who has not played a big league game. That is unlikely to change any time soon. Bush, 24, played four seasons of minor league ball and never advanced above High-A ball. He has not played a game since 2007.
The Pirates did not wait around for Bryan Bullington's development. They assigned the former Ball State University pitcher right to High-A ball and within three years he was in the show.
Bullington threw just 1.1 innings in 2005 and did not return to Pittsburgh until 2007. From 2007 on he pitched four seasons with four different teams, tallying 42 big league innings. He has pitched three innings with the Kansas City Royals in 2010.
Hochevar hasn't quite pitched like a top pick so far in his career, but he has given the Royals innings when needed. Hochevar, 26, has bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues over the last three seasons. He made 47 starts over the previous two seasons and has already made 12 starts this year. He owns an 18-30 record and 5.65 ERA in his career.
Beckham, 20, was drafted out of high school and is currently in High-A ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. He has had a solid start to his professional career despite an injury-plagued 2010 season. Beckham doesn't hit for much power, but a good contact stroke and speed on the bases have the Rays thinking he is their shortstop of the future.
Young, 24, hasn't quite lived up to his draft stock but he is developing into a very respectable, productive professional. He was sent to Minnesota in the trade for Matt Garza and is a regular outfielder.
Sometimes first overall picks turn into Hall of Famers, other times they turn into reliable players. In the end, there is nothing wrong with the latter despite the hype.
It has taken some years, but the 22-year-old outfielder is turning into one of the best young talents in the league. He endured two slow years splitting time between the minors and the big leagues in 2007 and 2008, but a breakout season in 2009 has the D'Backs thinking he's a franchise player. Upton is responding in kind.
The hype around Price for the 2007 draft wasn't quite on the Strasburg or Harper level, but there was plenty of it surrounding the left-hander out of Vanderbilt. A southpaw with a high-90s fastball? Plenty of scouts went ga-ga over Price.
Price made it to Triple-A in his first minor league season in 2008 before coming up for the stretch run as a reliever during the Rays' run to the World Series. He endured a bit of trouble in 2009 and went back to Triple-A for a stretch.
However, Price is reaching his ace potential in 2010. His 8-2 record, 2.29 ERA and league-leading 187 ERA+ make him one of the league's best pitchers.
At this point, Harper just can't go any higher given the fact that he has yet to play a professional game. Harper is heralded for his bat—which scouts have called the best amateur bat of the last generation of ballplayers—and a powerful arm that has reportedly clocked in the mid-90s off the mound.
Harper is just 17 and, unlike Strasburg, will likely not fly through the minor league ranks in one season. Harper still needs to develop the mental side of the game as much as the physical side before he gets to Washington.
Strasburg, who will make his big league debut next week, is being looked as a real-life version of "The Natural" (on the mound that is). Strasburg blasted through the minor leagues with volcanic force and lethal precision. His upcoming big league debut will be one of the most watched moments of the last decade in baseball.
Eleven minor league starts, a 1.30 ERA and 65 strikeouts has the baseball world foaming at the mouth.
No one, not even enormously hyped prospects like Harper and Strasburg, will supplant the reigning American League MVP. Mauer, drafted out of Cretin High School in St. Paul, is a three-time batting champion (the only catcher with multiple batting titles), a three-time All-Star, and has two Gold Gloves since he debuted in late 2004.