Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

First round's finest: Best pick ever at each slot

MLB.com

Success in the MLB Draft is, at its best, an inexact science. At its worst, it can be an illogical, unpredictable challenge. Hall of Famers have gone No. 1 overall and No. 1,390 overall. Sure, things flame out. Unknowns become stars. More than in any other sport, teams simply do not know what the future holds.

Success in the MLB Draft is, at its best, an inexact science. At its worst, it can be an illogical, unpredictable challenge. Hall of Famers have gone No. 1 overall and No. 1,390 overall. Sure, things flame out. Unknowns become stars. More than in any other sport, teams simply do not know what the future holds.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Still, an inordinate number of Major Leaguers come from the first round. That's where teams invest most heavily, and a first-round selection often guarantees a prospect at least a chance. What they do with it is often another story.

As the 2018 MLB Draft approaches (begins June 4 on MLB.com and MLB Network), we attempted to answer a simple question: Who is the best pick ever at each of the first 30 spots?

1. Alex Rodriguez, Mariners, 1993

You can't do much better than the Mariners did with the top overall pick in 1993. They selected the high school shortstop from Miami, the player scouts said was as close to a sure thing as anyone in Draft history. And that kid became A-Rod.

Honorable mention: Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Bryce Harper.

2. Reggie Jackson, A's, 1966

The Mets owned the No. 1 overall pick in 1966, but passed on Jackson, then the best college player in the country. New York selected high-school catcher Steve Chilcott instead. Chilcott never reached the Majors.

That left Jackson for owner Charley Finley and the A's, who relocated to Oakland during Jackson's sophomore season. Jackson hit 269 home runs, won an MVP Award and two World Series titles -- one against the Mets -- across 10 seasons with the A's. He retired No. 6 on the all-time home run list.

Honorable mention: Justin Verlander, Kris Bryant, Will Clark.

3. Robin Yount, Brewers, 1973

The two can't-miss prospects in 1973 were high school lefty David Clyde and University of Colorado catcher John Stearns, selected by the Rangers and Phillies with the first two picks. Those two clubs missed out on the two Hall of Famers who would be selected with the next two picks. Robin Yount, and his 3,142 hits, was the first, to Milwaukee. He spent his entire 20-year career there.

Honorable mention: Paul Molitor, Manny Machado, Evan Longoria, Matt Williams.

4. Dave Winfield, Padres, 1973

It was a pretty good first round in 1973, as Winfield went directly after Yount, at No. 4, to the Padres. It's easy to forget that Winfield was actually drafted as a pitcher coming out of the University of Minnesota, and that he turned down offers from the NFL and NBA to play baseball. He ended up becoming one of the best outfielders of all time.

Honorable mention: Thurman Munson, Barry Larkin, Kevin Brown.

5. Buster Posey, Giants, 2008

Posey won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best collegiate baseball player, as a junior at Florida State, in 2008 before sliding down to the Giants at pick No. 5. He'll likely be remembered as the best player ever drafted there, and his three World Series championship rings don't hurt that case.

Honorable mention: Ryan Braun, Dwight Gooden, Mark Teixeira.

6. Barry Bonds, Pirates, 1985

Seven MVP Awards, the all-time home run mark and the most dominant five-year stretch of hitting this side of Babe Ruth helps Bonds top even Derek Jeter, who famously slid to No. 6 in 1992.

What's different about Bonds' Draft story is that four of the five players picked before him ended up becoming successful Major Leaguers: B.J. Surhoff, Clark, Bobby Witt and Larkin.

Honorable mention: Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Zack Greinke.

7. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 2006

The Dodgers chose the man who may well be remembered as the best left-handed starter of all-time at No. 7 in 2006, out of Highland Park High School in Texas.

The Royals passed on him at No. 1 for Luke Hochevar. The Rockies did the same at No. 2, for Greg Reynolds. Longoria and Andrew Miller were picked before Kershaw, but so were Brad Lincoln and Brandon Morrow.

Honorable mention: Frank Thomas, Troy Tulowitzki, Prince Fielder.

8. Todd Helton, Rockies, 1995

Helton was picked by the Padres in the second round in 1992 out of high school, but opted to attend the University of Tennessee. The decision worked out pretty well.

Honorable mention: Jim Abbott, Francisco Lindor.

9. Kevin Appier, Royals, 1987

An overall solid body of work let Appier, who was a can't-miss prospect in the 1987 Draft, to a career 54.9 WAR. That's why he tops the list of No. 9 picks -- a group of players who had very good but not historically great careers.

Honorable mention: Barry Zito, Michael Cuddyer, Ron Darling.

10. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, 2007

Bumgarner, one of the best postseason pitchers of his generation, went 10th overall to the Giants in 2007, a year before they selected Posey.

Honorable mention: Mark McGwire, Robin Ventura.

11. Max Scherzer, D-backs, 2006

The University of Missouri is known now for its ability to foster starting pitching talent. That more of less started with Scherzer, the St. Louis boy who dominated the Big 12 before going No. 11 overall to the D-backs in 2006.

Honorable mention: Andrew McCutchen, Greg Luzinski, George Springer

12. Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox, 1994

The Brewers selected Garciaparra in the fifth round out of high school in 1991, but he chose to attend Georgia Tech instead. Three years later he went No. 12 overall to the Red Sox, one pick before Paul Konerko and two before college -- and future -- teammate Jason Varitek.

Honorable mention: Kirk Gibson, Billy Wagner, Matt Morris.

13. Manny Ramirez, Indians, 1991

Ramirez is the best hitter and one of the most accomplished players to ever be drafted out of New York City. The 12-time All-Star grew up in the Washington Heights section of the Bronx.

Honorable mention: Chris Sale, Konerko, Garry Templeton, Frank Tanana.

14. Jason Varitek, Mariners, 1994

The two-time World Series champ was drafted three times, including two first-round selections out of Georgia Tech. When he signed, following his senior season, it was after the Mariners took him 14th overall in 1994. He was traded to Boston in 1997.

Honorable mention: Tino Martinez, Jose Fernandez.

15. Jim Rice, Red Sox, 1971

Chase Utley has a higher career WAR, but the tiebreaker here goes to the Hall of Famer. Boston selected the future MVP out of the South Carolina high school scene in 1971.

Honorable mention Utley, Chris Carpenter.

16. Lance Berkman, Astros, 1997

A few really good left-handed hitters highlight this Draft spot, led by Berkman, who was a switch-hitter. The Astros snatched him from Rice University in 1997.

Honorable mention: Shawn Green, Lance Parrish, Nick Swisher.

17. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays, 1995

It took some time for Halladay to reach the potential that led Toronto to draft him this high in 1995, but once he did, he really did.

Honorable mention: Cole Hamels, Charles Nagy, Gary Matthews.

18. Corey Seager , Dodgers, 2012

Scouts knew about Seager from a young age, thanks to his older brother, Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager. Even if they hadn't, Seager would have emerged as one of the top prospects in what's looking now like a loaded 2012 Draft.

Honorable mention: Willie Wilson, R.A. Dickey.

19. Roger Clemens, Red Sox, 1983

Pretty easy selection here. Boston's 1983 first-round pick out of the University of Texas went on to become one of the best right-handed pitchers ever.

Honorable mention: Bobby Grich, Mike Scioscia.

20. Mike Mussina, Orioles, 1990

The Orioles drafted "Moose" twice -- once out of high school and then in the first round out of Stanford in 1990 -- before he pitched 10 stellar seasons in Baltimore.

Honorable mention: CC Sabathia, Torii Hunter, Bob Welch.

21. Rick Sutcliffe, Dodgers, 1974

It might've been possible to make the case for Varitek here, but the catcher didn't sign after the Twins selected him No. 21 in 1993. Instead the honor falls to Sutcliffe, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1974 and won National League Rookie of the Year honors five years later.

Honorable mention: Todd Worrell.

22. Craig Biggio, Astros, 1987

It's pretty amazing that the undersized kid taken out of Seton Hall University in 1987 was elected to the Hall of Fame before Ken Griffey Jr., who went No. 1 that year. But racking up 3,060 hits will help get you into Cooperstown quickly.

Honorable mention: Rafael Palmeiro, Jayson Werth, Chet Lemon.

23. Mo Vaughn, Red Sox, 1989

Two Seton Hall guys in a row? Vaughn and Biggio were teammates in college, then occasionally were opponents towards the end of Vaughn's career. The Red Sox drafted the future MVP No. 23 overall in 1989.

Honorable mention: Jason Kendall, Jacoby Ellsbury, Christian Yelich

24. Rondell White, Expos, 1990

A talented outfielder for seven teams, White's best seasons came with the Expos, who took him here in 1990.

Honorable mention: Alex Fernandez, Chad Billingsley.

25. Mike Trout, Angels, 2009

Nearly every team in baseball will have to live with the fact that it passed on Trout in the first round in 2009. And it probably hurts every single day.

Honorable mention: Chuck Knoblauch, Matt Cain.

26. Alan Trammell, Tigers, 1976

Trammell has a higher career WAR than Tony Gwynn, Ivan Rodriguez, Tom Glavine, Eddie Murray, Biggio, Rice and other Hall of Famers. He's also one of the Draft's best steals. In 1976, the No. 26 overall pick came in the second round.

Honorable mention: Dave Henderson, Dan Plesac.

27. Vida Blue, A's, 1967

Blue was Kansas City's second-round pick in 1967. Four years later, he was named the American League MVP and won the AL Cy Young Award.

Honorable mention: Rick Porcello, Todd Jones.

28. Lee Smith, Cubs, 1975

Smith was the last Cubs player drafted by the Wrigley family ownership to make the Major Leagues. He retired as the all-time leader in saves.

Honorable mention: Charles Johnson.

29. George Brett, Royals, 1971

How different would baseball history be if the Royals selected Mike Schmidt, who was still available with this pick in 1971, instead of Brett?

Honorable mention: Adam Wainwright.

30. Mike Schmidt, Phillies, 1971

Brett, then Schmidt? That's a pretty good back-to-back, which is how the Draft's second round went in 1971. They only had 5,388 hits and 865 homers between them.

Honorable mention: David Wells.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.