The best prospect duos to debut together

September 5th, 2021

In the past 20 seasons, few days have been more exciting for Mariners fans than May 13 was this year.

Seattle hasn't played a single game of playoff baseball during that time, but two players who should help end that dry spell made their big league debuts together in mid-May. Jarred Kelenic may have gone 0-for-4 and Logan Gilbert may have surrendered four runs in as many innings in a 4-2 loss to the Indians, but that couldn't diminish the optimism that two of baseball's best prospects brought to T-Mobile Park that day.

Other clubs looking forward to a much brighter future than present also have dynamic duos on the way. The Orioles boast both the best position prospect (catcher Adley Rutschman) and pitching prospect (right-hander Grayson Rodriguez) in the game, while the Tigers have a better tandem of young hitters (corner infielder Spencer Torkelson, outfielder Riley Greene) than anyone. Both of those combinations may be ready for big league action right now, though it may be early next season before they get that opportunity.

All of these prospect pairs breaking into the Majors at the same time got us to wondering -- which teammates who debuted together in the Draft era (starting in 1965) went on to have the best big league careers? Each duo in our top 10 list below features at least one Hall of Famer, including two combos where both players are immortalized in Cooperstown.

1. Greg Maddux & Rafael Palmeiro, 1986 Cubs
A 1984 second-round pick out of a Nevada high school in 1984, Maddux won 355 games and four Cy Young Awards while thrusting himself into the conversation of the greatest pitchers ever. A first-rounder from Mississippi State a year later, Palmeiro is one of six players to amass 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. They debuted six days apart in September 1986 but played only two full seasons together with the Cubs before Palmeiro went to the Rangers -- along with Jamie Moyer, who also broke in with the 1986 Cubs -- in an ill-advised deal for Mitch Williams.

2. Tom Seaver & Jerry Koosman, 1967 Mets
The 1969 Miracle Mets wouldn't have been possible without Seaver and Koosman, who earned three of the club's four World Series victories over the Orioles after breaking in together two years earlier, when Seaver was the National League Rookie of the Year. Seaver agreed to a $51,000 bonus after his rights were awarded to the Mets in a special lottery after the Braves illegally signed him out of Southern California in February 1966, while Koosman inked for $1,600 in 1964 after completing his draft duties in the U.S. Army. They won 322 games between them in 11 seasons together in New York and 533 overall, with Seaver earning 311 victories and three Cy Young Awards.

3. Pedro Martinez & Mike Piazza, 1992 Dodgers
The 1992 Dodgers introduced arguably the pitcher with the highest peak value in big league history and the best offensive catcher ever. Both were steals a month apart in 1988, with Martinez signing for $6,500 out of the Dominican Republic and Piazza for $15,000 as a 62nd-round pick out of Miami-Dade CC North -- selected only as a favor to his godfather, Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda. September callups in 1992, they both starred as rookies a year later before Martinez was traded to the Expos for Delino DeShields because Lasorda reportedly didn't believe he could hold up as a starter. Martinez went on to win three Cy Young Awards in a four-year span and five big league ERA titles in a seven-season stretch, while Piazza earned Silver Sluggers in his first 10 full seasons and set a record with 399 homers as a catcher.

4. Derek Jeter & Mariano Rivera, 1995 Yankees
Jeter (the sixth overall pick in the 1992 Draft as a Michigan high schooler) and Rivera (signed for just $2,500 out of Panama two years earlier) won five World Series championships together -- one more than the total of the other nine pairs mentioned here. Their 27 All-Star Game selections (14 by Jeter) also are three more than any other combo on this list. And though we're focusing on pairs, it's worth noting that the 1995 Yankees introduced the best quartet ever with Core Four members Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada joining Jeter and Rivera.

5. Rod Carew & Graig Nettles, 1967 Twins
The Twins landed Carew for $5,000 out of a New York high school in 1964 and Nettles with a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State the following year. Carew was the American League Rookie of the Year and earned the first of 18 All-Star Game selections in 1967, when Nettles got a cup of coffee in September. Carew won seven batting titles and while the underrated Nettles wasn't nearly as appreciated, he was a six-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover. He didn't become a full-time player until joining the Indians in a trade for Luis Tiant after the 1969 season.

6. Jeff Bagwell & Kenny Lofton, 1991 Astros
The Astros fleeced the Red Sox by getting Bagwell for Larry Anderson in a 1990 trade but blundered by sending Lofton to the Indians in a deal for Willie Blair and Eddie Taubensee a year later. An unheralded third-round pick out of Hartford in 1989, Bagwell launched his Hall of Fame career with the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1991. Though Lofton was far better known as a point guard than a center fielder at Arizona -- he had one college at-bat -- area scout Clark Crist loved his speed and got him in the 17th round in 1988. Blocked by Steve Finley in Houston, Lofton topped the AL in steals in his first five full seasons and actually earned more All-Star Game selections (six to four) than Hall of Famer Bagwell.

7. Lou Whitaker & Alan Trammell, 1977 Tigers
Whitaker, a Virginia high schooler taken in the fifth round in 1975, and Trammell, a California prepster selected in the second round in 1967, first teamed up in Double-A in 1977 and debuted together in the Majors by combining for five hits in an 8-6 loss to the Red Sox on Sept. 9 that year. They played alongside each other for 19 seasons and combined for a 1984 World Series championship, one AL Rookie of the Year Award (Whitaker in 1978), 11 All-Star Game nods (six by Trammell), seven Silver Sluggers (four by Whitaker) and as many Gold Gloves (four by Trammell). Incidentally, the 1977 Tigers also featured two more significant first-year players in Hall of Famer Jack Morris and eight-time All-Star Lance Parrish.

8. Ken Griffey Jr. & Omar Vizquel, 1989 Mariners
While Griffey was the son of an All-Star and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 Draft, Vizquel had much more humble beginnings as a $4,500 signee out of Venezuela in 1984. They never teamed up before both became regulars with the Mariners in 1989. Griffey became an immediate superstar who was a 10-time All-Star and Gold Glover in 11 years in Seattle, while Vizquel notched 10 of his 11 Gold Gloves and all three of his All-Star Game berths after going to the Indians in a 1993 trade for Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson.

9. Mike Schmidt & Bob Boone, 1972 Phillies
The Phillies drafted Boone in the sixth round out of Stanford in 1969 and converted him from a third baseman into a catcher, and they took Schmidt in the second round out of Ohio and moved him from shortstop to the hot corner. Both moves paid off, as Schmidt became the best third baseman in baseball history and Boone one of the top defensive catchers ever. They spent a decade together in Philadelphia, teaming for four NL East titles and the 1980 World Series championship. Schmidt won three MVP Awards and 10 Gold Gloves while playing in 12 All-Star Games, while Boone earned seven Gold Gloves and four All-Star nods.

10. George Brett & Frank White, 1973 Royals
The Royals took Brett, a California high schooler, one pick before Schmidt in 1971 while White, a nondrafted free agent signed a year earlier out of Longview (Mo.) CC, was one of three graduates of the Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy to reach the big leagues. They spent 18 years together in Kansas City, reaching the postseason seven times and winning the 1985 World Series. One of the best pure hitters of the modern era, Brett was a three-time batting champion and 13-time All-Star. White stood out more with his defense, winning eight Gold Gloves and appearing in five All-Star Games.