The MLB Draft is a time when hopeful high school and college players will be one step closer to reaching their dreams. So many players have been in their shoes in the past, and only a handful end up reaching the big stage. And even more excitement surrounds each team’s top selection in the Draft every single year.
How have these Draft picks worked out for Cleveland in the past? There used to be multiple amateur Drafts held annually, so let’s focus just on the club's first picks from the Rule 4 Draft that’s been held each summer since 1965:
2021: Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina University (No. 23)
It took until his senior year for Williams to claim a spot in East Carolina’s rotation, but he took the 2021 season by storm, earning American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year honors and placement on six All-America teams. He was also a finalist for both the Dick Howser Award and the Golden Spikes Award.
2020: Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (Ariz.) (No. 23)
Tucker’s older brother, Cole, who made his debut for Pittsburgh in 2019, made a prediction seven years prior to Tucker’s Draft day that he’d be selected in the first round. That came true on June 10, 2020, when he became the highest drafted player out of his high school, beating out the record that was set by Cole, who was taken at No. 24 in 2014.
2019: Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (No. 24)
Espino made nine starts after getting drafted in June ’19 and had to miss the 2020 season due to the cancellation of the Minor League season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He started the 2021 season owning a 2.45 ERA in seven starts for Class-A Lynchburg.
2018: Bo Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School (Ontario) (No. 29)
Cleveland drafted Naylor in ’18, and in the middle of the shortened 2020 season, his brother, Josh, was added to the organization in the trade that sent Mike Clevinger to the Padres. Naylor opened the ’21 season with Double-A Akron after an impressive showing in big league Spring Training.
2017: Quentin Holmes, OF, Monsignor McClancy Memorial HS (N.Y.) (No. 64)
A year off in 2020 didn’t slow down Holmes’ start to the ’21 season. He started the year hitting .385 with a .955 OPS in his first 13 games of the season for Class A Advanced Lake County.
2016: Will Benson, OF, Westminster HS (Ga.) (No. 14)
Like plenty of other Minor Leaguers, the year off in 2020 didn’t help Benson’s developmental progression. After four years in Cleveland's system, he played in 24 games in an independent league in ’20 before returning to Double-A Akron in 2021. In his first 36 contests of the season, he hit .193 with a .793 OPS.
2015: Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy (Fla.) (No. 17)
The left-hander did not make a Minor League appearance in 2018 and tossed just two-thirds of an inning in ’19, prompting questions about the pitcher’s condition. President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said in the 2019-20 offseason that Aiken had stepped away from the game, and there has been no update on his return.
2014: Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco (No. 21)
Zimmer has had his issues with injuries since he made his big league debut, but he’s finally seen some consistent playing time again in 2021 after starting the year in Triple-A Columbus.
2013: Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (Ga.) (No. 5)
Frazier never made it to the big leagues with the Cleveland organization, but he did play a large role in bringing reliever Andrew Miller, who played a crucial role in the special 2016 season, to Cleveland. Frazier joined Ben Heller, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen in a deal with the Yankees at the ’16 Trade Deadline in exchange for Miller.
2012: Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M University (No. 15)
Naquin had a decent five-year stay in Cleveland, but he struggled to stay healthy enough to ever complete a full season. After playing 116 games, hitting .296 with an .886 OPS in his rookie season in ’16, Naquin never played more than 89 games in a single season with Cleveland. He was non-tendered after the 2020 season and was signed by the Reds to a Minor League deal.
2011: Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy (Fla.) (No. 8)
It didn’t take long for Lindor to become the face of the franchise. In six seasons, he hit .285 with an .833 OPS and won over the entire fanbase’s heart with his jovial, fun-loving personality. He was traded prior to the start of the ’21 season (along with Carlos Carrasco) to the Mets in exchange for shortstops Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, as well as a handful of prospects.
2010: Drew Pomeranz, LHP, University of Mississippi (No. 5)
Pomeranz has enjoyed his 11 years in the Majors, but never did he pitch for Cleveland. He spent just over a year in Cleveland's system before he was traded to Colorado’s organization.
2009: Alex White, RHP, University of North Carolina (No. 15)
White pitched in 33 career games -- only three with Cleveland -- over the 2011 and ’12 seasons, owning a collective 6.03 ERA. But in ’13 and ’14, he battled strains in his elbow that eventually led to Tommy John, and he never made it back to the big leagues.
2008: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Pitt Community College (No. 29)
Fans remember him for his historic nine-RBI night against the Rangers. He battled his fair share of injuries in his time with Cleveland and ended his eight-year stint with a .268 average and .747 OPS. He was picked up by Pittsburgh before the 2019 season, but he announced his retirement before ever making it back up to the big leagues.
2007: Beau Mills, 1B, Lewis-Clark State College (No. 13)
The son of former bench coach Brad Mills never made it to the Majors. He spent six seasons in the Minor Leagues and split his final year between Cleveland’s and Cincinnati’s systems.
2006: David Huff, LHP, UCLA (No. 39)
Huff spent four-and-a-half seasons in Cleveland before making stops in New York (Yankees), San Francisco and Los Angeles (both the Angels and Dodgers). He owned a 5.40 ERA in 58 appearances (52 starts) with Cleveland.
2005: Trevor Crowe, OF, University of Arizona (No. 14)
Crowe’s big league career was rather brief. He battled through injuries in his three seasons (2009-11) with Cleveland. He was picked up by the Astros and made it back to the big leagues for 60 more games in ’13 before his career came to an end.
2004: Jeremy Sowers, LHP, Vanderbilt University (No. 6)
Sowers pitched in 72 games (71 starts) from 2006-09 for Cleveland, posting a combined 5.18 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 400 career innings.
2003: Michael Aubrey, 1B, Tulane University (No. 11)
Aubrey played in 15 games for Cleveland in ’08 and 31 games for the Orioles in ’09. He floated around to different Minor League teams in ’10 and ’11, but was never able to land a permanent role on the big stage.
2002: Jeremy Guthrie, RHP, Stanford University (No. 22)
Guthrie enjoyed a long 13-year career in the Major Leagues. He spent the most amount of time in Baltimore, but cracked his way into the big leagues with Cleveland in 2004. He pitched in just 16 games over three seasons with Cleveland before owning a 4.12 ERA in five seasons with the O’s.
2001: Dan Denham, RHP, Deer Valley HS (Calif.) (No. 17)
Denham spent nine years split between the Cleveland, A’s, Reds’ and Angels’ systems, but never made it to the big leagues.
2000: Corey Smith, SS, Piscataway HS (N.J.) (No. 26)
Smith’s 12 seasons in the Minor Leagues included being a member of Cleveland's, the Padres’, White Sox, Angels’, Royals’ and Dodgers’ systems, but he never got the call up to the big leagues.
1999: Will Hartley, C, Bradford HS (Fla.) (No. 74)
Hartley’s stay in professional baseball was short and sweet. He played in 64 games in Cleveland's Rookie League before his career came to an end.
1998: CC Sabathia, LHP, Vallejo HS (Calif.) (No. 20)
Sabathia posted an incredible 19-year career split mostly between Cleveland and Yankees with a brief stop in Milwaukee in the middle. His lone Cy Young Award came when he was with Cleveland in 2007, when he pitched to a 3.83 ERA in 237 starts.
1997: Tim Drew, RHP, Lowndes County HS (Ga.) (No. 28)
Drew played in just 35 games over five big league seasons. Eleven of those contests came with Cleveland in 2000 and ’01 before his next two years were spent in Montreal. He ended his career after playing in 11 games with Atlanta in ’04.
1996: Danny Peoples, 1B, University of Texas (No. 28)
Peoples was another one of Cleveland's top Draft picks who didn’t make it to the big leagues. He got as far as Triple-A (playing in 230 games there), but could not get the official callup.
1995: David Miller, 1B, Clemson University (No. 23)
Miller played in six Minor League seasons but never at the big league level.
1994: Jaret Wright, RHP, Katella HS (Calif.) (No. 10)
Wright spent six seasons in Cleveland, owning a 5.50 ERA in 515 2/3 innings in that span. His 11-year career was also comprised of stints in San Diego, Atlanta, New York (Yankees) and Baltimore.
1993: Daron Kirkreit, RHP, University of California, Riverside (No. 11)
Kirkreit floated from Cleveland's system to the Royals, Brewers, Mariners and Angels organizations without finding his home on a big league roster.
1992: Paul Shuey, RHP, University of North Carolina (No. 2)
Shuey had a solid career in Cleveland, owning a 3.60 ERA over nine seasons with 450 strikeouts in 404 2/3 innings. He briefly pitched for the Dodgers for a season and a half (2002-03) before making one last run in the Majors for 25 appearances with the Orioles in 2007.
1991: Manny Ramírez, 3B, George Washington HS (N.Y.) (No. 13)
A name everyone will remember. Ramírez put together an incredible 19-year career with eight seasons in Cleveland and another eight in Boston. He finished as the runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’94 and was named to four All-Star Games with Cleveland. He ended his time with the club with a .313 average and .998 OPS.
1990: Tim Costo, SS, University of Iowa (No. 8)
Costo played in just 43 games over the 1992-93 seasons.
1989: Calvin Murray, 3B, W.T White HS (Texas) (No. 11)
Murray did not sign with Cleveland after he was drafted out of high school. He played baseball at the University of Texas at Austin and was drafted again in the first round -- this time by the Giants -- three years later and had a five-year career, playing 288 games.
1988: Mark Lewis, SS, Hamilton HS (Ohio) (No. 2)
Lewis played in a handful of games for five seasons with Cleveland, beginning with a four-year stretch at the start of his career from 1991-94. After stops in Cincinnati, Detroit, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Baltimore, he found his way back to Cleveland in 2001, playing in six games before the end of his career.
1987: Albert Belle, OF, LSU (No. 47)
It’s safe to say the hometown fans remember this name. Belle had a powerful eight-year career in Cleveland, launching 242 homers with 751 RBIs, while hitting .295 with a .949 OPS. He was a four-time All-Star with Cleveland and made one more All-Star appearance with the White Sox.
1986: Greg Swindell, LHP, University of Texas (No. 2)
An All-Star for Cleveland in ’89, Swindell made 154 starts for the club (166 total appearances) over seven seasons and pitched to a 3.86 ERA with a 3.46 FIP.
1985: Mike Poehl, RHP, University of Texas (No. 9)
Poehl spent seven years in the Minors but never made it higher than Double-A. Six of those seasons were within Cleveland's organization, while his last was with Kansas City.
1984: Cory Snyder, SS, Brigham Young University (No. 4)
Snyder played with five teams in nine seasons, but the longest stint came in Cleveland. He was a part of five seasons from 1986-90 with Cleveland, hitting .245 with a .724 OPS in 657 contests.
1983: Dave Clark, OF, Jackson State University (No. 11)
Clark started his career in Cleveland but after brief stops in Chicago and Kansas City, he spent five years with the Pirates from 1992-96. In four seasons with Cleveland, he hit .244 with an .691 OPS in 212 games.
1982: Mark Snyder, RHP, Bearden HS (Tenn.) (No. 12)
Snyder played in just three Minor League seasons, all of which were spent in Low-A for Cleveland.
1981: George Alpert, OF, Livingston HS (N.J.) (No. 13)
Alpert played in just three Minor League seasons and never made it above Single-A.
1980: Kelly Gruber, SS, Westlake HS (Texas) (No. 10)
Gruber was selected by Cleveland but ended up getting picked by the Blue Jays in the 1983 Rule 5 Draft. He became a two-time All-Star with Toronto, owning a career .259 average and .738 OPS over nine seasons with the Blue Jays.
1979: John Bohnet, LHP, Hogan HS (Calif.) (No. 7)
Bohnet has just 11 2/3 career innings to his name. He made three starts for Cleveland in ’82, giving up nine runs, four homers and seven walks, and never pitched in the big leagues after.
1978: Phil Lansford, SS, Wilcox HS (Calif.) (No. 10)
Lansford played in four Minor League seasons (one of which was in Cleveland’s system, the rest with Toronto) and never played above Single-A.
1977: Bruce Compton, OF, Norman HS (Okla.) (No. 11)
Compton spent his first professional season in Cleveland's system and played the next three within the Cubs organization. However, he never made it above Single-A.
1976: Tim Glass, C, Springfield South HS (Ohio) (No. 14)
Glass spent 10 seasons in Cleveland's system, including playing his final five in Double-A, but he never got the call up to the big leagues.
1975: Rick Cerone, C, Seton Hall University (No. 7)
Over two seasons, Cerone played in just 14 games for Cleveland, while enjoying the majority of his career with the Yankees. In New York, he owned a .249 average with a .648 OPS in seven seasons.
1974: Tom Brennan, RHP, Lewis University (No. 4)
Brennan began his time in Cleveland as a starter, making six starts (seven total appearances) in ’81 with a 3.17 ERA. In ’82 and ’83, most of his work was out of the bullpen, as he owned a collective 3.89 ERA in his three years with Cleveland.
1973: Glenn Tufts, INF, Bridgewater-Raynham HS (Mass.) (No. 5)
Tufts spent four seasons in Cleveland's Minor League system, but only reached as high as Double-A.
1972: Rick Manning, SS, LaSalle HS (N.Y.) (No. 2)
Although he was drafted as a shortstop, Manning had a solid nine-year career in Cleveland as a center fielder. In 1,063 games, he hit .263 with a .664 OPS, 336 RBIs and 142 doubles.
1971: David Sloan, RHP, Santa Clara HS (Calif.) (No. 9)
Sloan played in five Minor League seasons between Cleveland's and Padres’ systems, but never made it above Double-A.
1970: Steve Dunning, RHP, Stanford University (No. 2)
Dunning owned a 4.37 ERA in 70 games (65 starts) for Cleveland from 1970-73. He was traded to Texas in exchange for Dick Bosman and Ted Ford before he made stops in California, Montreal and Oakland.
1969: Alvin McGrew, OF, Parker HS (Ala.) (No. 15)
McGrew spent eight seasons in the Minor Leagues (six with Cleveland), but never made it above Triple-A.
1968: Michael Weaver, SS, Paxon HS (Fla.) (No. 6)
Weaver reached Double-A with Cleveland in ’73, but never got to the big leagues in his five years in professional baseball.
1967: Jack Heidemann, SS, Brenham HS (Texas) (No. 11)
Heidemann played in 239 games for Cleveland over five seasons, owning a .206 average with a .523 OPS. He was traded to the Athletics in ’73 in exchange for Dave Duncan and George Hendrick.
1966: John Curtis, LHP, Smithtown HS (N.Y.) (No. 12)
Curtis was selected by Cleveland in ’66, but he was taken by the Red Sox two years later in the first round of the secondary phase of the free-agent draft. He played for Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego and California (Angels) in his 15-year career, owning a 3.96 career ERA.
1965: Ray Fosse, C, Marion HS (Ill.) (No. 7)
Fosse was a two-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner in ’70 and ’71 for Cleveland. In eight years with the club, he batted .269 with a .708 OPS before he was traded with Heidemann to the A’s in ’73.