MLB Draft #1 Overall Picks of This Decade: How Have They Fared?

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MLB Draft #1 Overall Picks of This Decade:  How Have They Fared?
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Pirates' 2011 #1 Pick - UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole

(Statistics are back-dated to the day of the 2011 Draft)

 

Adrian Gonzalez (2000)

Gonzalez was drafted out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. The Marlins gave him a $3 million signing bonus, and he spent 2002 and 2003 playing for five different minor league teams. A mid-season wrist injury caused the Marlins to trade him to the Rangers, along with 2 other minor leaguers, for Ugueth Urbina. 

He appeared in 59 games for the Rangers in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Following the 2005 season, he was shipped to the Padres with pitcher Chris Young and OF Terrmel Sledge for pitchers Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. He proceeded to replace Ryan Klesko as the Padres' full-time first baseman.

After posting a .304 average with 24 home runs in 2006, Gonzalez signed a four-year, $9.5 million deal with a $5.5 million option for 2011. He would be selected to three All-Star games, won two Gold Gloves, and hit .288 with 161 HR and 501 RBI in five full seasons with the Padres.

Because of the Padres' limited payroll, they were forced to trade him to the Red Sox after the 2010 season for minor leaguers Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson. The two sides agreed on a seven-year, $154 million extension on April 15th, 2011, which will make him a Red Sox through 2018.

Gonzalez has completely lived up to his number one selection status. Although the majority of his success came with the Padres, he was a key cog in three separate trades that netted both major league talent for contenders as well as top minor league prospects.

To date, his career average is .287, while hitting 177 HR and driving in 569 runs. His average major league season posts a .287 – 22 HR – 71 RBI line, as well as being one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. At his current pace, he is a likely Hall of Famer.

 

Joe Mauer (2001)

Mauer was a three-sport star in high school for St. Paul's Cretin-Derham High School in St. Paul, Minnesota. He hit .605 in his senior season, and struck out only once in four full seasons. He was a two-time All-State point guard in basketball, averaging 20 points per game. Mauer was also a star quarterback, passing for 73 touchdowns and twice leading his school to the State Championship, winning one title.

He was the 2001 Gatorade National Player of the Year for both football and baseball, and was offered a full football scholarship from Florida State, which he turned down. The Twins drafted him in 2001, and he was promoted to the Major League roster in 2004, replacing AJ Pierzynski as the starting catcher.

Mauer suffered an early season-ending knee injury in 2004, but returned in 2005 in full force, playing in 131 games while batting .294 with 9 HR and 55 RBI. In 2006, Mauer completely broke out, becoming the first catcher to ever lead the majors in batting average at .347.

He went on to receive four All-Star selections, the 2009 AL MVP award, won three batting titles, three Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers. Before the start of the 2010 season, Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million extension to remain with the Twins through 2018. The hometown hero will more than likely be a Twin for life.

After much deliberation on whether Mark Prior was the more worthy first pick in 2001, Mauer silenced any critics with his 7+ stellar seasons for the Twins. He owns a .326 career average, along with 81 home runs and 476 RBI.

He is not only the best hitting catcher in the game, but one of the best overall players in the league. He is a future Hall of Famer, and was an excellent selection by the Twins. And as a side note, Prior hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2007.

 

Bryan Bullington (2002)

Bullington wasn't highly recruited out of high school, and only made a name for himself his senior season, going 15-0 and leading his team to a State Finals victory with a one-hitter. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 37th round of the 1999 draft, but opted to instead attend college.

He wound up at Ball State University, which was his father's alma matter. Larry Bullington, who is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, scored 1747 points at Ball State, and was the team MVP his final two seasons (1973 & 1974). Bryan ended up spending three years at the University, and went 11-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 139 strikeouts in his final season.

At 6'5", 225 pounds, Baseball America ranked him as the pitcher with “the best breaking ball and best command among all college pitchers,” leading to his first overall selection by the Pirates. He finished his college career with a 29-11 record, including 13 complete games and a 3.36 ERA. He remains the school's all-time strikeout leader with 357, and pitched as a member of the USA National team in 2001.

Bullington spent the 2003 season split between Hickory and Lynchburg, two of the Pirates' Class A ball teams. He pitched very well, going a combined 13-5 with a 2.52 ERA in 25 games.

However, aside from a decent 2010 season with the Omaha Royals (KC's AAA team), that would be his peak of success. He spent 2004 through 2010 with five different minor league teams as a part of four major league franchises.

The Indians picked up Bullington off waivers from Pittsburgh, and a month later he was waived again. He spent the 2009 season in Toronto's farm system, making four major league appearances and pitching a total of six major league innings. He was granted free agency after the 2009 season, and signed with Kansas City, the team that had originally drafted him.

He rotated between Omaha and Kansas City all of 2010, but managed to pick up his first (and only) major league win in an eight-inning gem against the Yankees on August 15th. However, the Royals released Bullington after the season, and he signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japan Central League for the 2011 season. With his Major League career most likely over, he finished his career with a record of 1-9 and an ERA of 5.62.

Bullington seemed like a decent first pick at the time, especially with his pitcher's build and stifling command. But in hindsight, he was selected over a plethora of better talent, which is even more crippling to the worst franchise in all of sports.

A few notable names taken after Bullington are: BJ Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto, Matt Cain, Jon Lester, Jonathan Broxton, Brian McCann, and Curtis Granderson. Drafting Bullington was just another crippling blow to the lowly Pirates organization.

 

Delmon Young (2003)

Young is the hot-headed younger brother of retired first baseman Dmitri Young, who spent 13 seasons in the Majors with four different teams, batting .292 with 171 home runs and 683 RBI. Dmitri was a two-time All-Star, and the 2007 NL Comeback Player of the year with the Nationals. Dmitri was also a first round pick in the 1991 draft, taken fourth overall by the Cardinals.

Delmon, out of Adolfo Camarillo High School in California, was highly touted due to his strong outfield arm, as well as power-hitting presence at the plate. Unlike his older brother, he also possessed unnatural speed for his 6'3", 200 pound frame.

Delmon cranked through the minors in Tampa's system, spending 2004 through 2006 with three different teams, batting a combined .318 with 59 home runs and 273 RBI. He also had 75 steals and 29 outfield assists, and was named Baseball America's 2005 Minor League Player of the Year.

However, early in the 2006 season, Young threw his bat at the umpire after striking out, hitting him in the chest. He was suspended for 50 games without pay, mainly because it wasn't his first documented incident of umpire contact.

Young was called up at the end of the 2006 season to the Majors, and was both hit by a pitch and hit a 412-foot home run in his first game. He has since spent his career in the Majors, playing two seasons with Tampa, and the rest with the Twins after being traded during the 2007 offseason.

Young finished his rookie season with a .288 – 13 HR – 93 RBI line, coming in second in the ROY voting to Boston's Dustin Pedroia. After the season, he was part of a multi-player trade which sent himself, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie to the Twins for Matt Garza and Eduardo Morlan.

Young has played 447 games for the Twins to date, posting a career average of .288 with 60 home runs and 355 RBI. His 2010 season has been his most impressive, as he finished 10th in the AL MVP voting while batting .298 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI. He has split his time between left field and DH for the Twins.

Young is currently the starting left fielder for the Twins, and shed 35 pounds during the 2010 off-season to improve his outfield speed. At only 25 years old, he still has time to improve his overall game, but has put up underwhelming numbers for a first-overall pick. He is a very good fielder, but his hitting is extremely volatile, and he has started off 2011 batting just .213 in 34 games.

His most notable accomplishment after his impressive 2010 season was being the key part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to Tampa, who helped them reach their first World Series in team history.

Since he is still only 25, the jury remains out on Young, but players such as Nick Markakis, Rickie Weeks, Aaron Hill, Carlos Quentin, Adam Jones, and Andre Ethier, who were all drafted after Young, have had much more significant Major League impact for their ball clubs. Although Young has solidified himself as a Major League starter, he has yet to justify his first-overall selection.

 

Matt Bush (2004)

Because of San Diego's “cheap” ownership, the team took local product Matt Bush out of Mission Bay High School first overall in 2004, giving him a $3.15 million signing bonus.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus recently noted Bush's selection as the worst top-10 pick in baseball in the last ten years. He stated “Now that Bush is trying to remake himself as a relief pitcher with the Rays, he's destined to become the first position player drafted No. 1 overall not to reach the big leagues as a position player since the Mets selected catcher Steve Chilcott with the top pick in 1966 instead of Reggie Jackson.

"Don't blame the Padres' baseball people at the time. Kevin Towers and his scouting department had their eyes on Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, as well as the top two college pitchers on the board, Justin Verlander of Old Dominion and Jered Weaver of Long Beach State.

"Ownership didn't want to pay big bucks, and when Bush, a local product, stepped in and said he would sign quickly, the wrong decision was made. Things went south quickly when he was arrested for his role in a fight outside a bar in Arizona before he even played a game.

"He hit just .219/.294/.276 in 223 injury-plagued games before moving to the mound, and scouts are not convinced that his plus-plus velocity will get him to the big leagues until he finds a second pitch and throws more strikes."

Bush had an impressive senior season in high school, batting .447 with 11 HRs and 33 RBI. He also was a starting pitcher, going 9-1 with a minuscule 0.53 ERA. Bush was named to USA Today's All-USA high school team, joined by current Major Leaguers Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, and Homer Bailey to name a few.

Bush remained at shortstop in the Padres' minor league system from 2004 though 2007, batting just .219 with 3 HR and 70 RBI. Even worse, he slugged only .276 with a .586 OBP, while making 76 errors in 236 games.

The Padres quickly got fed up with Bush's lackluster play and attitude, and moved him to the bullpen for their Arizona Rookie League team in 2007. He made seven appearances out of the pen, pitching 7.2 innings and allowing just one earned run.

Bush then tore an elbow ligament and didn't pitch in 2008, and before the 2009 season he was quickly traded to the Blue Jays after his arrest for a drunken assault on a high school campus in February. The Blue Jays released Bush less than two months later, citing an unknown violation of the team's zero tolerance behavioral policy.

Bush signed a minor league contract with Tampa in January of 2010, and pitched decently in ten appearances with two minor league teams. He is currently pitching for Tampa's AA affiliate Montgomery, and has made 14 appearances in 2011, posting a 7.58 ERA with 11 walks in 19 innings. He is certainly destined for another release.

Bush is the definition of a “bust”. He has done nothing to justify being drafted by a Major League club at all, let alone first-overall. His diva-like attitude and immaturity have contributed to his lack of success, as predicted by former Padre GM Kevin Towers heading into the 2004 draft.

Fortunately, the Padres learned from their mistake in future drafts, but Padres fans probably still lament over the players taken after Bush who have become excellent ML ballplayers. That list includes Justin Verlander, Jeff Niemann, Neil Walker, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, Phil Hughes, Huston Street, Yovani Gallardo, Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia, Kurt Suzuki, Adam Lind, Ian Desmond, JJ Happ, and Chris Iannetta, all missed out on by the Padres' stingy ownership.

 

Justin Upton (2005)

Just three years after his older brother BJ was taken number two overall in the 2002 MLB Draft, Justin was selected first-overall out of Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, at just 17 years old. Upton was USA Today's consensus number one prospect coming into the draft, and he signed with North Carolina State before electing to skip college for the MLB.

In his senior season, Upton batted .508 with 12 HR and 95 RBI, finishing his high school career with a .498 – 27 HR – 95 RBI line. Upton wore number 9 in high school because Michael Cuddyer, the Twins utility man drafted ninth overall in 1997, also attended Great Bridge and wore 9.

Upton spent the entire 2006 season with Arizona's Class-A affiliate, the South Bend Silver Hawks. He played in 113 games, batting .263 with 12 HR and 66 RBI. He also fielded well, committing only six errors in center field the entire season.

Upton was promoted to the Class-A advanced Visalia Oaks team to start the 2007 season, but after batting .341 with 5 HR and 17 RBI in just 32 games, the D-Backs bumped him up to AA Mobile for the remainder of the minor league season.

Then, on August 2nd, at only 19 years old, Upton was brought up to the majors to replace the injured Carlos Quentin. Upton helped lead the Diamondbacks to a three-game sweep of the Cubs in the 2007 NL Wild Card playoffs.

As the team eventually was defeated in the NLCS by the Rockies, Upton batted .357 in the playoffs, while slugging a robust .571. He would be named the 2007 USA Today Minor League player of the year, and won the starting right field job in training camp the following season for Arizona.

Upton has yet to live up to expectations, but is still just 23 years old. He has hit .272 to date in his Major League career, to go with 71 HR, 238 RBI, 52 SB, and a respectable .826 OPS. He earned his first All Star bid in 2009, but has performed poorly in the OF, leading the NL in errors by an outfielder in 2008, 2009, and currently in 2011.

Upton is often speculated as a trade candidate, due to his poor fielding, and hasn't lived up to the “next Ken Griffey Jr.” tag that scouts put on him early in his career. He is too young to be considered a bust just yet, but when compared to the other talent taken in the first round of 2005, things are starting to look that way.

Other notable first-round selections taken after Upton are Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Garza, all of whom have contributed more on a Major League level to date. Upton certainly seemed like the easy choice at the time, but chances are if Arizona could go back in time, they would more than likely take Tulo or Braun over Upton.

 

Luke Hochevar (2006)

Hochevar wasn't a huge prospect as a senior at Fowler High School in Fowler, Colorado. He was named the 2002 Colorado Division 2A Player of the Year, but opted to attend the University of Tennessee instead of signing with the Dodgers, who took him in the 39th round of the 2002 draft, at 1,191 overall.

Hochevar was stellar in his junior season, going 15-3 with a 2.26 ERA and striking out a school record 154 batters. After being named the SEC Pitcher of the Year, the Dodgers again selected Hochevar, but this time in the first round at 40th overall. He would surround himself with controversy following the draft, switching agents twice in two days and backing out on an agreed $2.98 million signing bonus.

Hochevar would spend the beginning of 2006 pitching for the Fort Worth Cats of the American Association independent league, but after just four starts, was selected by the Royals in the 2006 draft first-overall. This time, he was able to come to an agreement with his drafting team, signing a four-year, $5.3 million contract to go with a $3.5 million signing bonus.

The 6'5" righty started four games for Class A Burlington in 2006, going 0-1 but with a 1.17 ERA and 16 Ks in 15.1 innings. He would spend the 2007 season split between AA Wichita and AAA Omaha, making 26 starts and going 4-9 with a 4.86 ERA.

His numbers were far from impressive, yet he made his ML debut against the Yankees in September, lasting just three innings while allowing four base runners and no runs. He would make 22 starts for the Royals in 2008, but went 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA with an awful 47:72 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

He was sent back down to Omaha to work on his control in the beginning of the 2009 season, but was quickly recalled and made 25 starts. His career continued on a pattern of complete inconsistency.

In his first game back, he lasted just two innings, but then threw an 80-pitch complete game against the Reds during interleague play. He finished 2009 at 7-13, but had the highest ERA of all starting pitchers in baseball at 6.55. He would miss the second half of the 2010 season with a strained right elbow, but managed to go 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA to begin the year.

Hochevar was the 2011 Royals' opening day starter, but has gone 3-6 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts, and is currently second in baseball with 49 earned runs allowed.

After all the headaches he caused the Dodgers, one would've thought the Royals would see red flags surrounding Hochevar. But instead, they have wasted millions of dollars on a complete bust of a starting pitcher, who boasts a career 5.53 ERA and a 22-38 record.

He is plagued by lack of control, often leading to starts where he lasts just four innings or less, and has lasted 8+ innings just six times in 78 career starts.

To make matters worse, he was taken ahead of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Drew Stubbs, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, and Daniel Bard, just to name a few. He can already be tabbed as a bust, and the Dodgers should consider themselves lucky they never managed to sign the wild-armed pitcher.

 

David Price (2007)

There isn't really a case to be made against the Rays selecting Price first overall. Of all the players taken in the 2007 draft, Price has easily been the most successful, and has established himself as a front-of-the-rotation pitcher just three years into his career.

The Rays have handled the 6'6", 225-pound lefty with the utmost of care, watching both his pitch count and overall innings. Price has been a star since his high school days at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he compiled a 0.43 ERA and 151 strikeouts over his four years on the team.

After being named to the 2004 High School All-American Game, he elected to not sign with the Dodgers (drafted 568th overall), but instead attended Vanderbilt on a full academic scholarship.

Price pitched at Vandy for three seasons, finishing his college career as the 2007 Golden Spikes award winner. He went 22-10 in three seasons, with 441 strikeouts and setting every school and SEC pitching record imaginable.

He left Vandy with the Dick Howser trophy, as a First-Team All-American, Brooks Wallace award, SEC Male Athlete of the Year award, and Collegiate Baseball's Co-National Player of the Year recognition. There was never any question that once he entered the draft, he would go number one overall.

Price has completely lived up to expectations thus far in his young MLB career. He has started 68 games to date, going 36-18 with a 3.32 ERA and twice helping lead the young Rays franchise to the playoffs.

He earned his first All-Star selection in 2010, and was named the starting pitcher for the American League. He finished a close second to Felix Hernandez in the 2010 AL Cy Young voting, as he was second in the league with 19 wins and third in ERA. He currently leads the AL in wins in 2011, and boasts a league-leading 5.9 K:BB ratio.

A few notable names that followed him in the 2007 draft are Matt Wieters, Jason Heyward, JP Arencibia, Rick Porcello, Jordan Zimmerman, Mike Stanton, and Darwin Barney, but none have come close to making a major impact like Price has.

 

Tim Beckham (2008)

 Beckham was ranked by Baseball America as the top high school prospect in the country the year he was drafted one overall, and is a potential five tool player at the Major League level.

Beckham played on the Griffin, Georgia high school JV team as an eighth grader, and never looked back. In his sophomore season, he batted .405 with five HR and 22 RBI to go with his 15 stolen bases, entering scouts' radars at only 16 years old.

His junior season produced even more impressive results, as he batted .512 with six HR and 39 RBI, along with 20 steals and six triples. Beckham committed to the University of Southern California his senior year, but opted to enter the MLB when he was taken first-overall. He batted .500 his senior year, while hitting five HR, driving in 31 runs, and swiping 16 bags.

Beckham has already played for five different minor league teams in the Rays system, batting a combined .268 over 350 games. He has hit 16 HR and 168 RBI, and swiped 45 bags in his time between Class A and AA.

His best season so far was in 2009 with Single A Bowling Green, where he hit .275 in 125 games, with five HR, 63 RBI, and 13 SB with a .717 OPS.

However, Beckham was plagued by errors at shortstop, committing 43 in 117 games, which is an almost unheard of number at any level. His .937 fielding percentage in the minors has deterred any talk of his call up to the majors, and until he can solidify his defense, he will remain in the minor league system for the Rays.

Beckham has yet to appear in the majors, nor has he risen above AA, so the jury is still out. However, there is a significant list of players that were drafted after him that have made significant MLB impact for their clubs, including the likes of Brian Matusz, Buster Posey, Gordon Beckham, Ike Davis, and Danny Espinosa.

Beckham could still develop into a certified MLB starting SS, but thus far, Buster Posey takes the cake as the best MLB player in the draft. Catching is at a premium in baseball, and the Rays surely could have used Posey over the likes of John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Beckham seems to have hit a snag in his development, and if he cannot overcome his fielding issues, he may never pan out as first pick worthy.

 

Stephen Strasburg (2009)

 In a draft where 15 pitchers were taken in the top 22 picks, everyone knew Strasburg would be the number one selection. ESPN called him the “most-hyped pick in draft history,” and he signed a record-setting $15.1 million contract just 77 seconds before the deadline on August 17th, 2009.

Strasburg went 21-4 in two seasons at San Diego State, with a sub-1.50 ERA and an unbelievable 329 Ks in 207.1 innings. He threw a no-hitter against Air Force in his final home start, striking out 17 batters in the effort.

His only loss came in the NCAA Regional playoffs to Virginia, where he managed to strike out 15 batters in just seven innings, but received no run support. Strasburg was the only college player on the 2008 Olympic team, going 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA while leading the US to a Bronze medal finish.

Strasburg started the 2010 season at AA Harrisburg for the Nationals, but only needed 5 starts to prove he belonged in AAA. He went 7-2 in 11 minor league starts, with a minuscule 1.30 ERA and 65 Ks in 55.1 innings.

Strasburg was good enough to get his call to the Majors on June 8th, 2010, in just his first professional season, and the result was dazzling. In his first start, he struck out 14 Pirates over seven innings, while allowing just four hits, walking none, and giving up two runs in the win.

His 14 strikeouts set a team record, and his summer continued in equally impressive fashion. Before being shut down for surgery in late August, Strasburg went 5-3 in 12 starts, posting a 2.27 ERA and 92 strikeouts over 68 IP.

It remains to be seen how Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery in 2012, but expectations will still be sky high. There was and never will be any question that he deserved to be the number one pick in 2009, and even if he is hampered by injuries the rest of his career, no team would regret making him the first-overall pick.

He has the size, talent, and poise to be a Cy Young pitcher in the Majors, and hopefully he will return from surgery with the same, if not better, pitching skills that made him the top pick in the draft.

 

Bryce Harper (2010)

No one thought the hype over Strasburg could be topped, until it came to Bryce Harper. The Nationals hit the lottery by selecting the two in back-to-back years, as both are once-in-a-decade talents.

Harper may become one of the best players in baseball as soon as 2014. The kid was just 16 years old but throwing in the mid-90's, hitting 500+ foot HRs, and had first pick written all over him. He got his GED in his sophomore year of high school so he could play college ball in 2010.

He played for the College of Southern Nevada, close to his hometown of Las Vegas, and was able to win the Golden Spikes award at a JUNIOR COLLEGE. He hit .443 in 66 games, driving in 98 runs with his 31 HRs, which broke the previous school record of 12.

In the second game of the NJCAA College World Series, he went 6 for 6 with four HRs, a triple, and a double. However, he was ejected from the next game for arguing a called third strike, although replays showed the pitch was about a foot off of the plate. He would be suspended for the next game, which his team lost and resulted in their elimination from the tournament.

After his move from catcher to the outfield by the Nationals, Harper struggled in early 2011 at the plate. He eventually got contact lenses, and proceeded to hit .480 with 7 HR and 23 RBI in the next 20 games. As of June 7th, Harper is hitting .342 with 14 HR and 42 RBI at Class A Hagerstown, and has made just two errors in the field.

At just 18 years old, the Nationals are in no rush to promote him to the Majors, but they can only keep him in the minors for so long before everyone will be calling for his debut.

Harper is literally a once-in-a-lifetime talent. At 16 years old, he set the Tropicana Field record for the farthest home run, hitting a 502 foot bomb at a high school showcase event. He has already been named to an All-World Team in 2008, was named the 2009 Baseball America High School Player of the Year, and won the 2010 Golden Spikes award.

He has dominated the competition at every level, and shown no signs of slowing down. His only fault can be his sometimes “showboat-like” attitude, but at 18 years young, not a whole lot more can be expected of the kid.

It is impossible to predict what Harper's career will turn out like, but it is safe to say it is pretty damn exciting to see what he will do once he gets called up the The Show. ETA: September 2012

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