NEW YORK -- For teams that wish to become consistent winners, there is no better avenue than the amateur Draft. That’s been the case for most of the past century, despite the dawn of free agency as a legitimate way to build a roster.
The Mets have had as colorful a Draft history as any franchise, with a collection of No. 1 overall picks, franchise-changing stars and, of course, their share of busts. Here’s a look at every top pick in franchise history:
2022: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech (No. 11)
The Mets’ compensation for not signing Kumar Rocker in 2021 was a comp pick in ’22, which they used to select Parada -- a power-hitting catcher who set a Georgia Tech record with 26 home runs during his sophomore season. On Draft day, the Mets envisioned Parada as a potential impact player regardless of whether he ended up at catcher or elsewhere on the diamond.
2021: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt (No. 10)
The Mets’ excitement to draft Rocker, a college superstar at Vanderbilt, quickly faded when their review of his medical records revealed arm trouble. The team ultimately declined to make an offer to Rocker, who reentered the Draft and went third overall to the Rangers in 2022.
2020: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (Calif.) (No. 19)
The speedy Crow-Armstrong attended the same high school as big leaguers Jack Flaherty, Max Fried and Lucas Giolito. His other claim to fame? His mother played Jenny Heywood in the movie “Little Big League.”
2019: Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (Texas) (No. 12)
Baty became a baseball star at Lake Travis High School, which is better known as the football factory that produced NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield. As a high school senior, Baty led the nation with 19 home runs.
2018: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS (Wis.) (No. 6)
For better or for worse, Kelenic will always be known as the headlining prospect that the Mets dealt to the Mariners to acquire Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz before the 2019 season.
2017: David Peterson, LHP, University of Oregon (No. 20)
Peterson debuted during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and quickly became a fixture of the Mets’ rotation. He was one of the best collegiate pitchers in the country at Oregon.
2016: Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College (No. 19)
Dunn was the first of the Mets’ two first-round picks in 2016. They later traded him and Kelenic to Seattle as part of the Canó deal. Their other first-rounder, Anthony Kay, went to the Blue Jays in a different trade for Marcus Stroman.
2015: Desmond Lindsay, OF, Out-Of-Door Academy (Fla.), (No. 53)
The Mets forfeited their first-round pick in 2015 when they signed free agent Michael Cuddyer, so their top pick was Lindsay in the second round. He never made it past Double-A in their organization.
2014: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State (No. 10)
Conforto rapidly developed into one of the better first-round picks in franchise history, reaching the Majors 13 months after Draft day, homering twice in the 2015 World Series, and making his first All-Star team in ‘17.
2013: Dominic Smith, 1B, Junipero Serra HS (Calif.) (No. 11)
Smith’s early career had its share of fits and starts, but he broke out with an All-Star-caliber season during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and became entrenched as a core piece for the Mets at that point.
2012: Gavin Cecchini, SS, Alfred M. Barbe HS (La.) (No. 12)
Cecchini made the Majors only briefly, appearing in 36 games for the Mets from 2016-17. The Mets’ other first-round pick in ‘12, catcher Kevin Plawecki, enjoyed a longer and more successful career in the Majors.
2011: Brandon Nimmo, OF, East HS (Wyo.) (No. 13)
The Mets took a risk on Nimmo, whose Wyoming high school did not have a baseball team, as a first-round pick. It paid off when he developed into one of the game’s steadiest on-base machines. The Mets also drafted pitcher Michael Fulmer, whom they dealt away in their 2015 trade for Yoenis Céspedes, in the first round in ‘11.
2010: Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina (No. 7)
Hype surrounded Harvey on Draft day and never really dissipated, as he became “The Dark Knight” and led the Mets to the 2015 National League pennant. But injuries and off-field issues prevented Harvey from doing more for the organization.
2009: Steven Matz, LHP, Ward Melville HS (N.Y.) (No. 72)
The Mets didn’t have a first-round pick in 2009 due to their signing of free-agent reliever Francisco Rodríguez, but they made their second-round pick count. Matz, a local Long Islander, became a rotation staple, appearing in the ‘15 World Series during his six-year run in the organization.
2008: Ike Davis, 1B, Arizona State (No. 18)
Davis was the first and easily the most successful of the Mets’ three first-rounders in 2008. He hit 32 homers in ‘12 before injuries began interfering. Neither of New York's other two first-rounders, Reese Havens or Bradley Holt, ever made the Majors.
2007: Eddie Kunz, RHP, Oregon State (No. 42)
The Mets bought into the mid-aughts trend of teams drafting college relievers who could progress quickly through their systems when they selected Kunz in 2007, but he struggled in the Minors and appeared only briefly with the big club. Their other first-rounder that year, pitcher Nathan Vineyard, also didn’t pan out.
2006: Kevin Mulvey, LHP, Villanova (No. 62)
The Mets’ 2006 Draft was most famous for 13th-round pick Daniel Murphy, but Mulvey played a role, too, as a key piece in the ’09 trade that brought Johan Santana to Flushing. Unlike other trade pieces Philip Humber and Carlos Gomez, Mulvey appeared in only 10 Major League games.
2005: Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Wichita State (No. 9)
Pelfrey never developed into the superstar pitcher that the Mets envisioned on Draft day, but he still enjoyed a 12-season career in New York, Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago. He retired after the 2017 season.
2004: Philip Humber, RHP, Rice University (No. 3)
The Mets’ highest-drafted prospect in a decade, Humber also didn’t turn into the type of player the Mets believed he could. But he became a key piece of the Santana trade and went on to throw a perfect game for the White Sox to highlight an eight-year career.
2003: Lastings Milledge, OF, Lakewood Ranch HS (Fla.) (No. 12)
Like many of the Mets’ Draft picks in the first decade of the 21st century, Milledge came to the organization with loads of potential but struggled to make good on it. He’s perhaps best known for sparking controversy when he high-fived fans at Shea Stadium after his first career homer.
2002: Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cypress Falls HS (Texas) (No. 15)
A standout prospect, Kazmir wound up spending the entirety of his successful 13-season career elsewhere, after the Mets infamously traded him to the Rays for middling starter Victor Zambrano. The memorable quotation came from Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who reportedly claimed that he could fix Zambrano’s flaws in 10 minutes.
2001: Aaron Heilman, RHP, University of Notre Dame (No. 18)
How’s this for a bit of trivia? Heilman, who became a staple of the Mets’ mid-2000s bullpens, was selected 20 picks before fellow first-rounder David Wright.
2000: Billy Traber, LHP, Loyola Marymount University (No. 16)
Traber accumulated -0.7 WAR over five seasons for the Indians, Nationals, Yankees and Red Sox, after being one of the players to be named later in the deal that brought Roberto Alomar to New York. New York also took pitcher Bobby Keppel in the first round in 2000.
1999: Neal Musser, LHP, Benton Central HS (Ind.) (No. 22)
The Mets didn’t have a first-round pick in 1999 and their second rounder, Musser, never appeared in the big leagues for them, despite returning to the organization as a free agent in 2010.
1998: Jason Tyner, OF, Texas A&M (No. 21)
Tyner’s big-league career spanned eight seasons with four different teams, though he played just 13 unremarkable games for the Mets before they traded him to the Rays in a four-player deal.
1997: Geoff Goetz, LHP, Jesuit HS (Fla.) (No. 6)
Goetz never made it past Double-A, becoming the last of three consecutive first-round Mets picks to fail to reach the Majors. He held a significant place in franchise history nonetheless, going to the Marlins as part of the deal that brought Mike Piazza to Flushing.
1996: Rob Stratton, OF, San Marcos HS (Calif.) (No. 13)
Despite hitting 197 homers over 11 Minor League seasons, Stratton was never able to make the leap to the Majors. In February 1998, the Mets dealt him to the Marlins as part of the Al Leiter trade.
1995: Ryan Jaroncyk, SS, Orange Glen HS (Calif.) (No. 18)
The highest level Jaroncyk reached in five professional seasons for the Mets and Dodgers was High-A ball.
1994: Paul Wilson, RHP, Florida State University (No. 1)
When the Mets took Wilson first overall in the 1994 Draft, they handed him by far the largest signing bonus -- $1.55 million -- they had ever shelled out for an amateur player. Along with Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen, he became part of the Mets’ “Generation K” trio of starting pitchers that never quite lived up to its hype. Wilson spent seven years in the Majors, retiring with a 4.86 ERA and a well-below average 88 league-adjusted ERA+. The Mets drafted two other big leaguers in the first round in ’94: Terrence Long and Jay Payton.
1993: Kirk Presley, RHP, Tupelo HS (Miss.) (No. 8)
Like Goetz, Presley was a Top 10 pitcher who turned pro out of high school and never developed into a big leaguer. He lasted just five years in the Minors, posting a 5.39 ERA.
1992: Preston Wilson, SS, Bamberg Ehrhardt HS (S.C.) (No. 9)
Best known as an outfielder for the Marlins and Rockies, Wilson made an All-Star team with the latter club and won a ring with the Cardinals in 2006. The nephew and step-son of Mookie Wilson, he spent only half a season in New York before the Mets dealt him to the Marlins as part of the Piazza deal.
1991: Al Shirley, OF, George Washington HS (Va.) (No. 18)
Another first-round bust for the Mets was made more palatable by the fact that the Mets drafted postseason hero Bobby J. Jones later in the first round, at No. 36 overall.
1990: Jeromy Burnitz, OF, Oklahoma State (No. 17)
A prodigious power hitter over 14 big league seasons, Burnitz hit 165 of his 315 career homers for the Brewers. He began his career with the Mets before they dealt him in a six-player trade to land Paul Byrd, Dave Mlicki and future Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto.
1989: Alan Zinter, C, University of Arizona (No. 24)
Zinter spent 13 years in the Minors before breaking through for a brief MLB stint with the Astros in 2002. He resurfaced two years later in Arizona, appearing in a total of 67 big league games.
1988: Dave Proctor, RHP, Allen County Community College (Kan.) (No. 21)
Proctor never made it past Double-A, as he battled control problems throughout a four-year Minor League career.
1987: Chris Donnels, 3B, Loyola Marymount University (No. 24)
Donnels didn’t break out until after the Marlins selected him in the 1992 expansion draft. He kicked around the Majors for eight seasons, accumulating 0.2 WAR.
1986: Lee May, OF, Purcell Marian HS (Ohio) (No. 21)
Over eight Minor League seasons, May hit .221 with a .572 OPS, making it as far as Triple-A.
1985: Gregg Jefferies, SS, Junipero Serra HS (Calif.) (No. 20)
Twenty-eight years before selecting Dominic Smith out of Junipero Serra, the Mets took Jefferies, a promising young player who put together a fine career without developing into a superstar. The Mets ultimately dealt him to the Royals as part of their 1991 trade for Bret Saberhagen.
1984: Shawn Abner, OF, Mechanicsburg Area HS (Pa.) (No. 1)
The Mets’ second No. 1 overall pick in five years didn’t work out quite as well as the first one (more on that below). Abner produced -1.3 WAR over six seasons, mostly with the Padres after the Mets dealt him and Kevin Mitchell in an eight-player blockbuster for Kevin McReynolds.
1983: Eddie Williams, 3B, Herbert Hoover HS (Calif.) (No. 4)
None of the Mets’ three first-rounders in 1983 accomplished much in the Majors, including Williams, whose best years came in San Diego.
1982: Dwight Gooden, RHP, Hillsborough HS (Fla.) (No. 5)
One of the most successful first rounders in franchise history, Gooden won the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year Award, the ‘85 Cy Young and the ‘86 World Series. He spent 11 years with the Mets overall, winning 157 games with a 3.10 ERA and 1,875 strikeouts.
1981: Terry Blocker, OF, Tennessee State University (No. 4)
Blocker has the distinction of being sandwiched between Gooden and Darryl Strawberry in the Mets’ Draft history. He appeared in only 18 games for the franchise, plus another 92 over two seasons in Atlanta.
1980: Darryl Strawberry, OF, Crenshaw HS (Calif.) (No. 1)
Strawberry was the third No. 1 overall pick in Mets history, but the first to hit big. Along with Gooden, he became a cornerstone of the late-80s Mets, hitting 252 of his 335 career homers in New York. The Mets also took two other future big leaguers, Billy Bean and John Gibbons, in the first round in 1980.
1979: Tim Leary, RHP, UCLA (No. 2)
The first six-figure bonus baby in Mets history, Leary earned $100,000 on his initial contract. He stayed in the league for 13 seasons but never developed into a star. The Mets traded him in 1985 as part of a four-team deal that landed them pitcher Frank Wills from the Royals.
1978: Hubie Brooks, OF, Arizona State (No. 3)
Brooks played six seasons for the Mets and five for the Expos over a 12-year big league career. His best years came in Montreal, where he was a two-time All-Star.
1977: Wally Backman, SS, Aloha HS (Ore.) (No. 16)
The scrappy Backman platooned at second base for the 1986 World Series champion Mets, never developing into a full-time player in New York but nonetheless playing a significant role both on the field and in the clubhouse.
1976: Tom Thurberg, OF, South Weymouth HS (Mass.) (No. 13)
Over eight seasons in the Mets and Cardinals organizations, Thurberg made it as high as Triple-A.
1975: Butch Benton, C, Godby HS (Fla.) (No. 6)
A brief big league career for Benton included 16 unmemorable games with the Mets.
1974: Cliff Speck, RHP, Beaverton HS (Ore.) (No. 17)
Speck made 13 career appearances in the Majors, all with the Braves.
1973: Lee Mazzilli, OF, Abraham Lincoln HS (N.Y.) (No. 14)
Mazzilli had two separate stints with the Mets. During the first, he was an everyday player who made the 1979 NL All-Star team. When Mazzilli returned in a part-time role later in his career, he served as a role player on the ‘86 World Series champions.
1972: Richard Bengston, C, Richwoods HS (Ill.) (No. 13)
Another busted catching prospect, Bengston never made it higher than Double-A.
1971: Rich Puig, 2B, Hillsborough HS (Fla.) (No. 14)
Blink and you might have missed Puig’s big league career, which lasted all of four games and 11 plate appearances in 1974.
1970: George Ambrow, SS, Polytechnic HS (Calif.) (No. 23)
The Mets were unable to sign Ambrow, who never appeared in a professional game.
1969: Randy Sterling, RHP, Key West HS (Fla.) (No. 4)
Another Top 5 pick for the Mets was another bust, as Sterling made just three big league appearances.
1968: Tim Foli, SS, Notre Dame HS (Calif.) (No. 1)
Most of Foli’s 16-year career occurred elsewhere, after the Mets traded him in a deal for fan favorite Rusty Staub. Foli did return to the Mets in the late ‘70s, albeit without much success.
1967: Jon Matlack, LHP, Henderson HS (Pa.) (No. 4)
One of the most successful first-round picks in franchise history, Matlack won the 1972 NL Rookie of the Year Award and made three All-Star teams over seven seasons, before the Mets sent him to Texas in an ill-fated four-team trade.
1966: Steven Chilcott, C, Antelope Valley HS (Calif.) (No. 1)
Injuries undermined Chilcott, who has the distinction of being one of only three No. 1 overall picks never to appear in the Majors. (Brien Taylor and Mark Appel are the others.)
1965: Les Rohr, LHP, Billings West HS (Mont.) (No. 2)
A British-born American, Rohr posted a 3.70 ERA over six career appearances spanning three seasons.