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

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

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.

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.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

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

With the 2018 Draft beginning on Monday (6 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com), 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 (no one from last year's Draft has reached the big leagues yet) 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 Baseball-Reference.com, through May 22. Just 56 of those (9.2 percent) have reached the 20-WAR plateau thus far, and 11 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 -- plus a few more who appear to be on the rise:

1. Philadelphia Phillies: 181.4 WAR
15 picks (average slot of 14th), 8 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 has been one of the top pitchers in the National League this season. It remains to be seen if J.P. Crawford and Mickey Moniak (the top overall pick in 2016) will also help form the core of the future in Philly.

2. Oakland Athletics: 171.8 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. Slick-fielding third baseman Matt Chapman (2014) has produced about 6 WAR in less than a full season's worth of games, but losing promising left-hander A.J. Puk ('16) to Tommy John surgery this spring was a big blow.

3. Arizona D-backs: 163.7 WAR
21 picks (average slot of 16th), 13 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 (a free agent at season's end) 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 that same year.

4. Los Angeles Angels: 155.7 WAR
18 picks (average slot of 19th), 9 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.

5. Minnesota Twins: 153.3 WAR
23 picks (average slot of 15th), 13 with positive WAR
The Twins hit it big with 2001 No. 1 overall pick Joe Mauer, who has provided more than 50 WAR and remains with the team. Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Matt Garza and Glen Perkins all enjoyed their share of big league success as well. 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.

ON THE RISE

Washington Nationals (119.4 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.

Houston Astros (120.3 WAR)
George Springer (2011), Carlos Correa ('12) and Alex Bregman ('15) were key players in last year's championship run and could help the Astros repeat. Kyle Tucker ('13) and Forrest Whitley ('16) are top prospects leading the next wave to Houston.

Chicago Cubs (92.7 WAR)
Kris Bryant (No. 2 overall in 2013) is already close to being 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.

The 2018 Draft will take place Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m on Monday. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the Draft Tracker, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

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