2011 MLB Draft: Power Ranking the 50 Worst Draft Busts of All-Time

Dmitriy IoselevichSenior Analyst IIIMay 25, 2011

2011 MLB Draft: Power Ranking the 50 Worst Draft Busts of All-Time

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    The MLB draft has always been regarded as a crapshoot, but just because there's a lot of guessing involved doesn't mean it's an excuse for scouts to take the day off work.

    Many of the highest draft picks have become great players (Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez), and even more have become absolute duds.

    While it's still too early to declare presumptive No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole a good or a bad selection, here's a look at the 50 worst draft picks of all-time.

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Honorable Mention: Matt Bush, SS: San Diego Padres (No. 1, 2004)

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    It’s very possible that Bush will find himself near the top of this list in a year or two, but as of right now, the righty is still playing professional baseball (just not the kind he hoped for).

    The Padres made Bush the first-overall pick despite the fact that there were much better prospects in the draft (Jeff Niemann, Stephen Drew, Jered Weaver) and they paid the price ($3.15 million to be exact).

    Bush couldn’t hit and was converted into a pitcher in 2007. He is currently playing in Double-A for the Tampa Bay Rays and is on pace to become just the third No. 1 selection ever to not make it to the majors. 

50. Jeff Clement, 1B: Seattle Mariners (No. 3, 2005)

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    Clement was a big-time prospect not too long ago, but it’s safe to say the Mariners wish they could have taken Ryan Braun (No. 5) or Ryan Zimmerman (No. 4) instead. He does have 14 home runs in 363 career at-bats, but the strikeouts (103 of them) have kept Clement confined mostly to the minors.

49. Josh Karp, RHP: Montreal Expos (No. 6, 2001)

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    The Expos thought they were getting a future ace in Karp, but instead the righty was a complete dud. He got progressively worse as he moved up the minors and even a move to relief pitching wasn’t enough to get him to the majors. 

48. Kris Benson, RHP: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 1, 1996)

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    Benson has probably had the best major-league career of anyone on this list, but that doesn’t make him any less of a bust. This is a guy who accomplished everything there is to accomplish at the collegiate level (a national championship, a Player of the Year award and All-American listing). He even has an Olympic medal for helping pitch Team USA to third place in the 1996 Olympics.

    Benson was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the draft and pitched well as a rookie in 1999, even coming in fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. But his career quickly took a dive as injuries and inconsistency prevented Benson from living up to his ace potential. In 200 career starts, he has a 70-75 record and 4.42 ERA. Benson retired earlier this year.

47. Paul Coleman, OF: St. Louis Cardinals (No. 6, 1989)

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    Coleman never did hit well in the minors, struggling at almost every level and never earning a call up to St. Louis. The embarrassing part, however, is that he was taken one pick ahead of Frank Thomas.

46. Chris Gruler, RHP: Cincinnati Reds (No. 3, 2002)

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    Gruler is a part of perhaps the worst top five in MLB draft history (excluding No. 2 pick B.J. Upton), The righty struggled mightily as a starter and never made it past Single-A ball, spending most of his time pitching at the rookie level.

45. Sam Khalifa, SS: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 7, 1982)

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    Khalifa was dubbed the “Egyptian Jackie Robinson” because he was the only Egyptian, and Muslim of Arab descent, to ever play baseball. But the comparisons stopped there as Khalifa managed just a .219 lifetime batting average and .579 OPS in three seasons. 

44. Antoine Willliamson, 3B: Milwaukee Brewers (No. 4, 1994)

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    Williamson’s only major-league action was a 24-game stint in 1997 in which he hit only .204. He spent almost his entire career in the minors and retired in 2000 after failing to earn another promotion. The Brewers had a shot at Nomar Garciaparra, who went 12th.

43. Ronnie Walden, LHP: Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 9, 1990)

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    Walden was outstanding as a 17-year-old playing rookie ball, making four starts and giving up only one earned run in 21.2 innings. But his career stalled after that and he retired at the age of 20, never making it past Single-A ball. To think, the Dodgers could’ve had Mike Mussina (No. 20).

42. Brian Oelkers, LHP: Minnesota Twins (No. 4, 1982)

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    In 45 career games, Oelkers had a 6.01 ERA and gave up 126 hits in 103.1 innings, primarily as a reliever for the Twins and Indians. But he’s probably best known for being taken one pick ahead of Mets’ great Dwight Gooden.

41. J.J. Davis, OF: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 8, 1997)

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    Davis played sparingly in parts of four seasons, compiling a .179 lifetime batting average playing for some of the worst squads in the history of baseball. Get used to seeing a lot of Pirates on this list.

40. Jeff King, IF: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 1, 1986)

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    King appears on this list, not because he was such a terrible player (he was actually a pretty decent hitter with 154 home runs in over 4,000 at-bats), but because of who else the Pirates could have had. The next five selections were Greg Swindell, Matt Williams, Kevin Brown, Kent Mercker and Gary Sheffield. 

39. Adam Loewen, LHP: Baltimore Orioles (No. 4, 2002)

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    The Canadian-born Loewen played for the national team in the World Baseball Classic and shutdown the USA stars, including Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeria.

    He signed for over $4 million with the Orioles and pitched reasonably well in his brief major-league experience (8-8 with a 5.38 ERA).

    But severe control problems and a stress fracture in 2008 ended his pitching career prematurely. He is currently a first basemen/outfielder in the Toronto organization.

38. Augie Schmidt, SS: Toronto Blue Jays (No. 2, 1982)

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    Schmidt was the 1982 Golden Spikes Award winner as the best amateur player in the country and looked well on his way to a productive MLB career, following in the footsteps of No. 1 pick Shawon Dunston.

    But after strong showings his first two seasons, Schmidt got stuck at Triple-A and never made it to the majors.

37. Mike Lentz, LHP: San Diego Padres (No. 2, 1975)

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    Lentz played all of four professional seasons and got smacked around in the minors, finishing with an incredibly bad 0.84 SO/BB ratio. He peaked in Double-A at the age of 20, unlike 11th-round pick Andre Dawson who went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career for the Expos.

36. B.J. Garbe, OF: Minnesota Twins (No. 5, 1999)

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    Garbe was the Gatorade High School Player of the Year and was taken just a few picks after Josh Hamilton (No. 1) and Josh Beckett (No. 2). But after a strong professional start in the Twins rookie league, Garbe’s batting average plummeted. He finished his career in 2006 hitting .235 and never made it above Double-A.

35. Kurt Miller, RHP: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 5, 1990)

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    The first four picks in the 1990 draft (Chipper Jones, Tony Clark, Mike Lieberthal, Alex Fernandez) all had productive MLB careers. However, Miller didn’t do much in his 80.2 innings in the majors, winning just a couple of games and surrendering 50 walks and 104 hits.

34. Geoff Goetz, LHP: New York Mets (No. 6, 1997)

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    Goetz could throw the leather off the ball and struck out nearly a batter per inning during his minor league career. But control was never a strong suit and he finished his short career with a 5.0 BB/9 IP ratio.

33. Jackie Davidson, RHP: Chicago Cubs (No. 6, 1983)

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    Davidson is one of countless players from the 1983 drafted that never made it to the majors, although Roger Clemens, another right-handed pitcher, certainly did. The starter made it as high as Triple-A by the age of 21 but just couldn’t get over the hump, finishing with a 4.81 career ERA in the minors.

32. Mike Stodolka, LHP: Kansas City Royals (No. 4, 2000)

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    The Royals actually got pretty good at making awful picks (even a chimp picking names out of a hat is bound to get lucky eventually). Stodolka flamed out as both a pitcher (4.93 ERA in the minors) and hitter (.287 batting average), finally retiring in 2008 while at the Triple-A level.

31. Steve Soderstrom, RHP: San Francisco Giants (No. 6, 1993)

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    Soderstrom’s stay in the major leagues lasted all of 10 days and three mediocre starts. He did finish his MLB career undefeated (2-0), but he wasn’t nearly as good of a pitcher as Billy Wagner (No. 12) or Chris Carpenter (No. 15).

30. Kyle Sleeth, RHP: Detroit Tigers (No. 3, 2003)

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    Sleeth was the nation’s best pitcher after dominating at Wake Forest, and he was worthy of the third overall pick in 2003. However, Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his career and Sleeth never made it to the majors.

29. Jeff Austin, RHP: Kansas City Royals (No. 4, 1998)

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    Austin was one of many draft busts for the Royals in the 1990s. The righty finished with a 2-3 career record and 6.75 ERA, not quite as impressive of a resume as the guy who was selected 20th overall (C.C. Sabathia).

28. Stan Hilton, RHP: Oakland Athletics (No. 5, 1983)

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    Hilton never made it above Triple-A, finishing his minor-league career with a 4.89 ERA and getting progressively worse the higher he moved up the organizational ladder. 

27. Matt Harrington, RHP: Colorado Rockies (No. 7, 2000)

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    Harrington is an exception here because he didn’t sign with the team that drafted him.

    In fact, he didn’t sign with any of the five teams that drafted him from 2000-2004.

    But the righty was the Baseball America High School Player of the Year in 2000 and a promising pitcher who could throw in the upper-90’s.

    Unfortunately, ridiculous contract demands prevented Harrington from ever playing pro ball (though he did play semi-pro) and he went undrafted in 2005.

26. Jeff Granger, LHP: Kansas City Royals (No. 5, 1993)

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    Granger broke Roger Clemens’ Southwest Conference strikeout record while at Texas A&M, but he didn’t follow that up by doing much of anything in the majors. In 27 games for the Royals and Pirates, the righty had a 9.09 ERA, despite being promoted to the big club after just seven minor-league starts.

    This is why you don’t rush pitchers. 

25. Daniel Moskos, LHP: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 4, 2007)

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    Moskos was a hot-shot prospect with three quality pitches and velocity into the mid-90s, but the lefty has struggled in the minors and is currently stuck on the Pirates inactive roster.

    Pittsburgh could’ve had Matt Wieters (No. 5) or Jayson Heyward (No. 14).

24. Greg Reynolds, RHP: Colorado Rockies (No. 2, 2006)

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    Reynolds, unlike almost everyone else on this list, is actually on a major-league roster right now.

    But you wouldn’t know it by looking at his 7.16 career ERA. The righty is trying to stick with the Rockies as a reliever, but if Colorado really wanted pitching, they should’ve taken either Tim Lincecum (No. 10) or Clayton Kershaw (No. 7).

23. Eric Munson, C: Detroit Tigers (No. 3, 1999)

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    If there’s anything baseball scouts should’ve learned over the past half-century or so, it’s that you don’t take catchers high in the draft.

    Munson was shifted to first base where he did hit 49 home runs over eight seasons, but failed to live up to expectations.

    He is currently playing semi-pro ball and, no, he is not related to Thurman Munson.

22. Terry Blocker, OF: New York Mets (No. 4, 1981)

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    Blocker had all of one hit for the Mets and wasn’t much better for the Braves, finishing with a .205 lifetime batting average. This was a pretty awful draft to begin with, but the Mets could’ve done themselves a big favor by taking Kevin McReynolds (No. 6) instead.

21. Bill Alman, SS: San Diego Padres (No. 1, 1974)

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    The Padres passed on Dale Murphy (No. 5), Garry Templeton (No. 13), Willie Wilson (No. 18) and Rick Sutcliffe (No. 21) to take Alman. The shortstop was a decent hitter with a lifetime .254 batting average, but never became anything more than a utility player in the majors.

20. Ben McDonald, RHP: Baltimore Orioles (No. 1, 1989)

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    McDonald was a big name among baseball fans. The tall righty pitched for the US Olympic team in 1988 and won a gold medal. He also did some winning in LSU, twice leading his team to the College World Series and winning the Golden Spikes Award as the best collegiate player.

    Nobody doubted that he would be the first overall pick, but the real surprise may be how quickly he made it to the majors.

    He made his debut less than a month after signing and pitched a complete game. McDonald did finish his MLB career with a 3.91 ERA and 78-70 record, but a tear to his rotator cuff ended his career after less than eight seasons. What could have been.

19. Ben Davis, C: San Diego Padres (No. 2, 1995)

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    Davis looked like the perfect catcher coming out of high school, but the tape never quite translated to the field as Davis hit just .237 in parts of six seasons.

    He recently retired and is best known for breaking up Curt Schilling’s perfect-game attempt in 2001 by bunting

18. Adam Johnson, RHP: Minnesota Twins (No. 2, 2000)

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    Johnson made his MLB debut for the Twins less than a year after being drafted, and he made his last MLB appearance three years after being drafted. The righty bounced around the minor leagues before finally retiring in 2006 with a 10.25 career ERA.

17. Shawn Abner, OF: New York Mets (No. 1, 1984)

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    Abner had limited success in parts of six major-league seasons, finishing his career with a .227 batting average and a paltry .591 OPS. He never appeared in a game for the Mets, which could’ve had Mark McGwire (No. 10).

16. Dewon Brazelton, RHP: Tampa Bay Rays (No. 3, 2001)

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    Brazelton was dubbed the second coming of Roger Clemens by Peter Gammons and was actually the Opening Day starter for the Rays in 2005. But Brazelton got hammered in parts of five seasons, finishing with a 6.38 career ERA and more walks (151) than strikeouts (145) in 271 innings.

15. Danny Goodwin, C: California Angels (No. 1, 1975)

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    Goodwin was so good that he was drafted No. 1 overall twice, first by the Chicago White Sox in 1971 and then again by the Angles in 1975.

    The White Sox must be pretty glad he didn’t sign because Goodwin finished his six-year major-league career hitting .236 with just 13 home runs, mostly as a designated hitter.

    Rick Cerone (No. 7) ended up being the best catcher in this draft.

14. Jeff Kunkel, SS: Texas Rangers (No. 3, 1983)

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    With a name like Kunkel, what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, a lot. Kunkel reached the majors quickly, but couldn’t hold on to a full-time job in five seasons with the Rangers. He finished his career hitting just .221 while fighting off various injuries.

13. Clint Everts, RHP: Montreal Expos (No. 5, 2002)

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    Everts went to high school with Scott Kazmir, but apparently he didn’t learn anything from the lefty.

    Everts was just 35-40 with a 4.13 ERA in the minors and is now out of baseball. Should’ve taken Zack Greinke (No. 6) or Prince Fielder (No. 7) instead.

12. Paul Wilson, RHP: New York Mets (No. 1, 1994)

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    Wilson was supposed to be the savior of the Mets franchise, but instead he ended his career as a goat.

    In 170 career appearances he was 40-58 with a 4.86 ERA and an uncanny ability to miss the strike zone (336 walks in 941.2 innings).

11. Chad Mottola, OF: Cincinnati Reds (No. 5, 1992)

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    Mottola finished his major-league career with a .200 batting average and just four home runs in parts of five seasons. But he’s probably best known for being the guy drafted one spot ahead of Derek Jeter.

10. Matt Anderson, RHP: Detroit Tigers (No. 1, 1997)

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    Labeling Anderson a “bust” is a little unfair because he was actually successful in the little time he had in the majors. In his first major-league season, he was 5-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 44 games. But in 2002 he tore a muscle in his throwing arm and couldn’t get up to 100 mph anymore.

    This is why you don’t draft relievers first overall, and especially why you don’t give them $2.5 million. Anderson is currently out of baseball after being released by the Philadelphia Phillies on April 2.

9. B.J. Wallace, LHP: Montreal Expos (No. 3, 1992)

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    Wallace dominated college hitters while at Mississippi State University, but the minor leagues weren’t as kind to him. The lefty floundered at Double-A and never made it to the majors, while the No. 6 pick (Derek Jeter) went on to have a pretty successful career.

8. Bill Bene, RHP: Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 5, 1988)

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    Bene had an ironically-appropriate last name, considering he couldn’t hit the strike zone if his life depended on it. The hard-throwing righty finished his minor league career with a 18-34 record, 5.45 ERA and 543 walks in 516 innings. The Dodgers could’ve had Jim Abbott, Robin Ventura or Tino Martinez, but it’s not often you find a guy who can hit 100 mph on the gun.

7. Tito Nanni, OF: Seattle Mariners (No. 6, 1978)

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    In seven minor-league seasons Nanni batted .253 with a .384 slugging percentage and 66 home runs in 2,775 at-bats.

    Not surprisingly, he never made it to the major leagues. Guess the Mariners should have listened to scout Jerry Krause and picked Kirk Gibson instead.

6. Brien Taylor, RHP: New York Yankees (No. 1, 1991)

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    Taylor will forever be remembered for two things.

    First, he shattered the record for a signing bonus when the Yankees gave him $1.55 million (the previous record was $575,000). Second, he was only the second player ever to be drafted No. 1 overall and never make it to the majors.

    Taylor pitched well in the minors despite control problems. In 1993, however, he dislocated his shoulder during a fight and was never the same pitcher again, officially retiring in 2000. Imagine where the Yankees would be if they took Manny Ramirez (No. 13) instead.

5. Steve Chilcott, C: New York Mets (No. 1, 1966)

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    Scouting was pretty bare bones back in 1966, but the Mets really missed on Chilcott. The catcher out of Lancaster, Calif. is one of only two No. 1 picks to never make it to the majors. He was also taken one spot ahead of Reggie Jackson. Whoops.

4. Bryan Bullington, RHP: Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 1, 2002)

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    The Pirates have something of a reputation for futility, but even they don’t deserve this. Bullington was a hard-throwing righty for Ball State and was generally considered a can’t-miss prospect, but he couldn’t maintain his high velocity once he turned pro.

    Bullington was 50-35 with a 3.84 ERA over six minor-league seasons, and just 1-9 with a 5.62 ERA in the big leagues. He got his first career win late last year for the Royals, and is now pitching in Japan for Hiroshima.

3. David Clyde, LHP: Texas Rangers (No. 1, 1973)

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    The Rangers couldn’t wait to get their hands on Clyde, and owner Eddie Short immediately promoted the hard-throwing lefty to the major leagues to boost attendance. Turns out, Clyde wasn’t quite major-league-ready as he struggled early and finished with a 4.63 ERA and 18-33 career record in six seasons.

    Clyde retired at the age of 26 because of arm injuries. He is now the poster child for why young pitching phenoms aren’t rushed to the big leagues. I’m talking to you Stephen Strasburg.

2. Josh Booty, SS: Florida Marlins (No. 5, 1994)

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    You may have heard of Booty, but it wouldn’t have been on a baseball diamond. The prep quarterback star turned down an offer to LSU to sign with the Marlins for $1.6 million. Booty had unbelievable power and a terrific arm, but struggled to actually make contact with the ball. In 589 minor-league games, he batted .212 and struck out, wait for it, 710 times. Even Mark Reynolds (holder of the MLB strikeout record) couldn’t do that.

    However, Reynolds doesn’t have a World Series ring either. Believe it or not, Booty was a part of the 1997 Marlins team that won the World Series, even though his .269 career batting average hardly helped. Booty mercilessly quit baseball in 1998 and went on to be a backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, where he threw for all of 13 yards.  

1. Kurt Brown, C: Chicago White Sox (No. 5, 1985)

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    The 1985 draft is best known for the guy who went sixth overall, but the first four picks were pretty good too: B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark, Bobby Witt and Barry Larkin. Each of those four players had long and successful MLB careers while Brown, a high school catcher out of California, never even made it to the majors.

    The White Sox probably would have been better off passing on Brown and instead taking Arizona State outfielder Barry Bonds, who fell to the Pirates at No. 6.