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5 clubs that have had the most 1st-round successs

May 25, 2019

To say the Draft is an inexact science for Major League teams would be an understatement. Of course, that uncertainty is part of what makes it so compelling. And if a franchise is able to bunch together a few strong first-round picks, the payoff can be huge. That's one way

To say the Draft is an inexact science for Major League teams would be an understatement. Of course, that uncertainty is part of what makes it so compelling.

And if a franchise is able to bunch together a few strong first-round picks, the payoff can be huge. That's one way a championship team is built.

With the 2019 Draft beginning on June 3 (6 p.m. ET on MLB Network and, we looked back at first-round results in the 30-team era, going back to when expansion Arizona and Tampa Bay participated for the first time in 1996. While the opening round can include extra compensation picks, only top 30 selections who subsequently signed with that team were included in the research.

Obviously, not many players from the past few Drafts have established themselves in the Majors yet, but a 21-year sample from 1996-2016 (only two players from the 2017 Draft have debuted in the big leagues, and none from the '18 Draft) still provides a meaningful look at the event's challenges and rewards. During that time, clubs signed 608 of those top 30 picks, less than half of whom have produced a positive career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) total according to Just 58 of those (9.5 percent) have reached the 20-WAR plateau thus far, and 12 have made it to 50 WAR.

Of course, over the years, some teams have fared better than others at turning high Draft picks into productive Major Leaguers. Here is a look at the five best of those -- in terms of total WAR (as of May 24) -- plus a few more who appear to be on the rise:

1. Philadelphia Phillies: 193.4 WAR

15 picks (average slot of 14th), 9 with positive WAR

Chase Utley and Cole Hamels became franchise cornerstones. Those two, along with Pat Burrell, Brett Myers and Adam Eaton (the pitcher) had prominent roles on the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team. Hamels ('02) remains the club's most recent pick to return significant value, but Aaron Nola was a National League Cy Young Award finalist in '18. J.P. Crawford is now a Mariner, and it remains to be seen if Mickey Moniak (the top overall pick in 2016) will also help form the core of the future in Philly.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks: 181.5 WAR

21 picks (average slot of 16th), 14 with positive WAR

This placement comes with no shortage of frustration, considering that Arizona's most productive pick, Max Scherzer, blossomed after being traded. Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer also are starring for other clubs now, and A.J. Pollock, now a Dodger, has seen a productive career (19.6 WAR) interrupted by frequent injuries. While Archie Bradley has found success in the Majors, he's done so as a reliever, and 2015 No. 1 overall selection Dansby Swanson was dealt away the same year he was drafted.

3. Oakland Athletics: 181 WAR

26 picks (average slot of 19th), 14 with positive WAR

Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, two-thirds of the team's "Big Three" starting pitchers, were first-rounders. Eric Chavez, Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher also played major roles for Oakland. The well dried up a bit after 2003, however, aside from Sonny Gray and Addison Russell, who was traded to the Cubs as a prospect. But slick-fielding third baseman Matt Chapman (2014) has emerged into one of baseball's most complete players. Heralded left-handed pitching prospect A.J. Puk ('16) could boost this total even more if he makes a full recovery from Tommy John surgery.

4. Los Angeles Angels: 170.3 WAR

18 picks (average slot of 19th), 10 with positive WAR

Troy Glaus, the No. 3 overall pick in 1997, was named Most Valuable Player when the Halos beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series. Jered Weaver developed into the club's ace, twice finishing in the top three for the American League Cy Young Award voting. And in Mike Trout, the Angels landed a player who is already sixth in career WAR among all the top-30 picks from 1996-present, despite being drafted in 2009. The organization's most promising pick since Trout, left-hander Sean Newcomb, came up with the Braves after going to Atlanta in the Andrelton Simmons trade. C.J. Cron has developed into a dangerous slugger, but he's now mashing baseball for the Twins.

5. Minnesota Twins: 163.3 WAR

23 picks (average slot of 15th), 14 with positive WAR

The Twins hit it big with 2001 No. 1 overall pick Joe Mauer, who finished his career with 55 WAR -- all in Minnesota. Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Matt Garza and Glen Perkins all enjoyed their share of big league success as well. The speedy Byron Buxton (No. 2 overall, 2012) anchors the organization's more recent picks, with more help potentially on the way from the likes of prospects such as Nick Gordon and 2017's top overall pick, Royce Lewis.


Houston Astros (136.3 WAR)

George Springer (2011), Carlos Correa ('12) and Alex Bregman ('15) are all superstars who helped the Astros capture their first World Series championship in 2017 and could help the Astros win again. Kyle Tucker ('13) and Forrest Whitley ('16) are top prospects leading the next wave to Houston.

Washington Nationals (132.1 WAR)

The franchise's late years in Montreal produced little. But Ryan Zimmerman (2005) became a franchise cornerstone, and Stephen Strasburg ('09), Bryce Harper ('10) and Anthony Rendon ('12) -- all top-six selections -- are stars in their primes, though Harper is now starring for the rival Phillies.

Chicago Cubs (105 WAR)

Kristopher Bryant (No. 2 overall in 2013) is already the club's most productive top-30 pick of this period. Javier Baez ('11), Albert Almora Jr. ('12), Kyle Schwarber ('14) and Ian Happ ('15) are all contributing to the big league club as well.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.