Dodgers' class of '68 tops list of 10 best Drafts
Scouting director Campanis used football-like approach to nab six future All-Stars
The Dodgers had mixed results in the first three years of the Draft. They didn't land anyone of note in 1965, came away with three All-Stars (Charlie Hough, Bill Russell, Billy Grabarkewitz) and a National League Rookie of the Year Award winner (Ted Sizemore) in the middle rounds in '66, and they found 1981 tri-World Series Most Valuable Player winner Steve Yeager in '67.
During that same period, Los Angeles went from World Series champion to pennant winner to eighth-place team, so the 1968 Draft took on added importance for the franchise. Al Campanis, who had been the club's director of scouting since it moved from Brooklyn in 1958, wanted to improve his approach to the Draft. So he sought advice from local officials in a sport that instituted the first pro draft in 1936: football.
Campanis spoke with Los Angeles Rams owner Dan Reeves and San Diego Chargers coach Sid Gillman. The latter sent him to Chargers director of player personnel Al LoCasale, who had a profound influence on Campanis.
"He actually showed me how to draft," Campanis told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick in a 1988 story for Baseball America. "He explained the difference between drafting the best athlete or going for need. He showed us how to rank players on a scale of 100 based on fundamental skills. He took a neophyte and taught me how to approach a draft, and I think this helped us."
LoCasale's guidance and a decision to focus on position players resulted in the greatest haul of Draft talent baseball has ever seen. MLB staged separate January and June Drafts, with separate regular and secondary phases back then, and all told the Dodgers came away with a nucleus that would pay off with four pennants and one World Series title from 1974-81.
Los Angeles signed six future All-Stars in 1968 who would combine for 23 All-Star Game appearances, both Draft records. Washburn (Kan.) University outfielder Davey Lopes was a second-rounder in the January secondary phase, while California high school first baseman Bill Buckner (second), University of Houston outfielder/defensive back Tom Paciorek (fifth) and Alabama prep right-hander Doyle Alexander (ninth) were part of the regular June Draft. The cherry on top was a pair of college third basemen in the June secondary phase: Michigan State's Steve Garvey (first) and Washington State's Ron Cey (third).
University of Michigan left-hander Geoff Zahn (fifth, January secondary), Connecticut high school outfielder Bobby Valentine (No. 5 overall, June) and University of the Pacific outfielder Joe Ferguson (eighth, June) also enjoyed lengthy careers. The Dodgers inked a total of 11 future big leaguers who combined for a total of 235.6 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version), another record.
The Dodgers not only had the best Draft of all time in 1968, but they don't even have a legitimate challenger for that title. Boston's 1983 Draft (see below) was the only effort that comes within 50 WAR of the Dodgers'.
Ranking the best of the rest
2. 1976 Tigers: Detroit got very little out of the No. 2 overall pick in the June Draft, Pat Underwood, but more than made up for it. Alan Trammell (second round, June) and Jack Morris (fifth, June) have received Hall of Fame consideration, and Steve Kemp (No. 1 overall, January) and Dan Petry (fourth, June) were All-Stars. They could have made a run at the Dodgers if Ozzie Smith (seventh, June) hadn't turned down a $10,000 bonus.
3. 1983 Red Sox: Many teams evaluated Roger Clemens as the best college pitcher available entering the spring, but he struggled in May and wound up the seventh one selected (No. 19 overall) in June. Boston signed just six big leaguers from their Drafts that year, but Clemens and Ellis Burks (No. 20 overall, January) combined for 189.9 WAR by themselves to rank second behind only the 1968 Dodgers.
4. 1976 Red Sox: Boston found a pair of quality left-handers in Bruce Hurst (No. 22 overall, June) and John Tudor (third round, January secondary), but it was their June seventh-rounder who elevated this crop to the next level. Scouts questioned Wade Boggs' power, speed and athleticism before he hit his way to five batting titles and the Hall of Fame.
5. 1984 Cubs: No pair of pitchers from one team's Draft can come close to matching the 624 combined victories of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (second round, June) and Jamie Moyer (sixth, June). They softened the blow of wasting the No. 3 overall choice on another arm, Drew Hall.
6. 1971 Royals: Kansas City grabbed Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett in June's second round -- one choice before the Phillies selected another in Mike Schmidt. Other noteworthy picks included Steve Busby (second round, June secondary delayed), who threw two no-hitters in his first two full big league seasons before a torn rotator cuff derailed him, Mark Littell (sixth, June) and John Wathan (No. 4 overall, January).
7. 1981 Padres: San Diego general manager Jack McKeon was watching his son Kasey play at San Diego State when he spotted Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Also an all-Western Athletic Conference guard in basketball for the Aztecs, Gwynn got drafted in the third round by the Padres and the 10th round by the NBA's San Diego Clippers on the same June day. San Diego added two more productive outfielders in John Kruk (third round, June secondary) and Kevin McReynolds (No. 6 overall, June).
8. 1989 Red Sox: The only club to snag two future MVP Award winners in the same draft, the Red Sox took Mo Vaughn 23rd overall and Jeff Bagwell in the fourth found. Boston's first six picks -- and eight total -- got to the Majors, including Paul Quantrill (sixth round), though only Vaughn made an impact in Beantown.
9. 1989 Indians: Scouting director Chet Montgomery got fired after this Draft because he took Calvin Murray 11th overall, with Cleveland apparently the lone team unaware that Murray had informed the Major League Scouting Bureau he had no intention of signing. Montgomery deserved a raise, however, after selecting and signing 10 future big leaguers, including Jim Thome (13th round), Brian Giles (17th) and long-time relievers Jerry Dipoto (third), Alan Embree (fifth) and Curt Leskanic (eighth).
10. 1999 Cardinals: There were so many questions about Albert Pujols' age and future position that he lasted until the 402nd overall pick in the 13th round. St. Louis got another bargain in seventh-rounder Coco Crisp, and they signed six more big leaguers.
The 2015 Draft will take place on June 8-10, beginning with the Draft Preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on June 8 at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 9.