You watched your favorite team read that youngster’s name aloud for the first time, entrusting him into the organization with a pick in the Draft. You listened to his first baby-faced interview, maybe saw him as a prospect in Spring Training. You now unabashedly cheer him on and look back at his debut with fondness, knowing this is when we got our guy.
There’s a special connection between fans and homegrown prospects. There's a feeling that you grew up with that player, experiencing the highs and lows since his arrival with a distinctive err of satisfaction that it was your team who discovered him, either on the college circuit or perhaps some back field around the country.
This week, MLB.com asked its beat reporters to pick the best player drafted by the team they still play for. Here’s who our National League East reporters chose:
Braves: Freddie Freeman
After taking Jason Heyward with their first pick (14th overall) in the 2007 Draft, the Braves used the latter of their two second-round picks to take Freddie Freeman at 78th overall. They enhanced the value of this strong Draft in ‘14, when they committed to Freeman long term and bid adieu to Heyward before he began what has been a steep decline. The 30-year-old Freeman has established himself as an annual NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate, producing a 35.7 bWAR over his 10-year career. The only other current Braves player who might end up being an even more valuable Draft choice is Mike Soroka, who was taken with the club’s second first-round pick (28th overall) in the ‘15 Draft. -- Mark Bowman
Marlins: Brian Anderson
In the third round of the 2014 MLB Draft, the Marlins came up big by selecting Brian Anderson from the University of Arkansas with the 76th overall pick. Listed as a second baseman at the time, Anderson is now Miami's third baseman for the foreseeable future. In ‘19, he had career highs for home runs (20) and RBIs (66). He was tracking towards at least 25 home runs before having his season cut short in late August after fracturing a bone in his left hand. In the past two years, Anderson has split time at third base and in right field, but the club played him exclusively at third base before Spring Training came to a halt in March. The plan is to keep him there. Anderson had a Fangraphs WAR of 3.4 in ‘18 and 3.1 in ‘19, and he appears to be reaching his prime. Anderson is also one of five players on the Marlins' 40-man roster who was drafted by the organization. -- Joe Frisaro
Mets: Jacob deGrom
Each year, Major League teams scour the Draft pool in search of players who could become Major League contributors. Unearthing a big league regular is a success worth celebrating. Finding an All-Star is rarer still.
Then there are the legendary stories, like when the Mets plucked a skinny shortstop named Jacob deGrom out of the ninth round in 2010. Encouraged by the velocity and athleticism deGrom showed from the mound late in his college career at Stetson University, the Mets took a chance on him as a pitcher despite his limited experience at the position. All he’s done since is win two NL Cy Young Awards and an NL Rookie of the Year Award, represent them at three All-Star Games, lead them during the ‘15 postseason and sign a long-term contract that could make him a Met for life.
Most of the Mets’ other top Draft picks -- David Wright, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, to name three -- were first-round selections. That makes deGrom, on a pound-for-pound basis, perhaps the greatest pick in franchise history. -- Anthony DiComo
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
Eleven years ago, the Nationals selected a right-hander from San Diego State with the first overall pick in the 2009 Draft. That pitcher has gone on to earn the ‘19 World Series MVP Award, a Silver Slugger Award and three All-Star selections.
In his standout tenure with the Nats, Strasburg is 112-58 with a 3.17 ERA. He has earned the most wins since the team’s relocation to Washington, and he holds the franchise mark for strikeouts (1,695). Strasburg led the NL in wins with 18 last season ahead of a historic playoff run, in which he became the first pitcher in Major League history to go 5-0. Coming through in the clutch, Strasburg has a 1.46 postseason ERA, trailing only Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Sandy Koufax among pitchers who have thrown a minimum of 40 innings. -- Jessica Camerato
Phillies: Aaron Nola
The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Most experts figured he would be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he has proved to be much better than that. Nola finished third for the NL Cy Young Award in ‘18, posting one of the greatest individual seasons by a starter in franchise history, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. Nola went 12-7 with a 3.87 ERA last season. If it weren’t for him, the Phillies would not have flirted with a winning record in ‘18 or ‘19. If it weren’t for him, it would be impossible to imagine Philadelphia having any shot in the NL East in ‘20, assuming play resumes at some point. He is their ace. He is that good. -- Todd Zolecki