A look back at MLB Expansion Draft history

December 14th, 2023

A version of this story first ran in December 2021.

Expansion Drafts are exciting, not just because they mean there are new teams being established in MLB, but also because oftentimes they represent fresh starts for players who go on to stardom. The first one was held on Dec. 14, 1960, when the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) made their picks before becoming the 17th and 18th franchises in the Majors.

To mark the anniversary, here's a look back at that first Expansion Draft, and each of the five since then -- those that came in 1961, '68, '76, '92, and '97.

1960 -- Los Angeles Angels

First pick: RHP Eli Grba from the Yankees
Grba was a 25-year-old right-hander who was coming off a solid second season in the Majors with the Yankees -- during the 1960 season, he posted a 3.68 ERA over 80 2/3 innings (nine starts, 15 relief outings). He went on to pitch three more MLB seasons, all with the Angels, with a 4.40 ERA over 92 appearances (60 starts) from 1961-63.

Best pick: INF Jim Fregosi from the Red Sox
The Angels drafted Fregosi, who hadn't yet made his MLB debut, from the Red Sox with the 35th pick in the Expansion Draft. After making his big league debut in September 1961, Fregosi became one of the best shortstops in the game. In '63, his first full season, he hit .287/.325/.422 with 12 triples, producing 4.3 WAR (Baseball Reference) for Los Angeles. Over the next seven seasons, he posted 40.6 WAR and was an All-Star six times. Following a difficult 1971 campaign, he was dealt to the Mets in the deal that brought Nolan Ryan to the Halos and jumpstarted Ryan's path to the Hall of Fame.

Other notable picks: 1B Ted Kluszewski and RHP Ken McBride
Kluszewski will always be remembered for four incredible seasons with the Reds from 1953-56, when he averaged 43 homers and a .968 OPS. But the big slugger's final MLB season came in an Angels uniform after Los Angeles selected him from the White Sox with the 51st pick in the Expansion Draft. He played in 107 games, his most since '56 -- injuries plagued him the rest of his career -- posting a .764 OPS with 15 homers.

The Angels drafted McBride 13th from the White Sox, and the right-hander went on to three straight All-Star selections, pitching to a 3.46 ERA over 98 appearances (95 starts) from 1961-63.

1961 Angels record: 70-91-1 (first made playoffs in 1979)

1960 -- Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers)

First pick: LHP Bobby Shantz from the Yankees
Though by this point he was toward the end of his career, Shantz was a former AL MVP and had won four straight Gold Glove Awards on the mound with the A's and Yankees. Washington drafted the left-hander from New York and traded him to the Pirates two days later. He pitched four more seasons with the Pirates, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs and Phillies.

Best pick: RHP Dean Chance from the Orioles
The Senators selected Chance from the Orioles with the 48th pick, and immediately traded him to the Angels, their expansion brethren. The deal sent outfielder Joe Hicks to Washington. Suffice it to say that Los Angeles won the swap, with Chance going on to post a 2.83 ERA in six seasons with the Halos, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 1964, when he finished with a 1.65 ERA over 278 1/3 innings. Hicks played in 114 games over two seasons for Washington, hitting .217/.271/.360.

1961 Senators record: 61-100 (first made playoffs in 1996 -- as Rangers)

1961 -- Houston Colt .45s

First pick: INF Eddie Bressoud from the Giants
Bressoud would go on to be an All-Star infielder, but not for Houston -- the club drafted him from the Giants but traded him the next month to the Red Sox for shortstop Don Buddin. Bressoud was productive in four seasons with Boston -- he hit .270/.337/.435 (109 OPS+) before spending his final two MLB seasons with the Mets and Cardinals. Buddin, meanwhile, only played in 40 games for Houston before being dealt to the Tigers after hitting .163 in 100 plate appearances.

Best pick: RHP Turk Farrell from the Dodgers
Houston drafted Farrell from the Dodgers with the 40th pick, and the right-hander went on to earn three All-Star selections over the next four seasons for the club, posting a 3.20 ERA over 142 appearances (111 starts) during that span. He had a tough '66 campaign, struggling to a 4.60 ERA before his contract was purchased by the Phillies in May '67.

1962 Colt .45s record: 64-96-2 (first made playoffs in 1980 -- as Astros)

1961 -- New York Mets

First pick: C Hobie Landrith from the Giants
The Mets' first selection in the Expansion Draft was from the Giants, and Landrith only played in 23 games for New York before he was traded to the Orioles in June 1962.

Best pick: RHP Al Jackson from the Pirates
Jackson wasn't particularly effective for the Mets, but in the absence of any other picks from the Expansion Draft who performed well for New York, Jackson did eat a lot of innings for the club. From 1962-65, he threw 877 innings and posted a 4.24 ERA.

Other notable picks: 1B Gil Hodges
Hodges was a fan favorite in Brooklyn and even kept his home there after the Dodgers moved West. The Mets selected him in the 14th round from L.A., bringing him back to the Big Apple. He hit the first home run in Mets history on April 11, 1962. After starting the '63 season on the active roster, he retired when the Senators wanted to make him their manager. He led Washington for four-plus seasons, returning to the Mets as their manager in 1968 and leading them to their improbable 1969 World Series title.

1962 Mets record: 40-120-1^ (first made playoffs in 1969)

^(120 losses is the most by an MLB team since 1899)

1968 -- Kansas City Royals

First pick: RHP Roger Nelson from the Orioles
The Royals selected Nelson from the Orioles to open the Expansion Draft, and it proved to be a good pick -- the right-hander pitched to a 3.10 ERA over 80 appearances (51 starts) for Kansas City from 1969-72. He was then traded to the Reds, but returned to the Royals in '76, his final MLB season.

Best pick: RHP Al Fitzmorris from the White Sox
Kansas City drafted Fitzmorris from the White Sox with the 40th pick, and he ended up pitching the first eight seasons of his career in a Royals uniform, posting a 3.46 ERA over 1,098 innings.

Other notable picks: RHP Hoyt Wilhelm
Wilhelm is remembered most for his time with the Giants, Orioles and White Sox from 1952-68, when he rose to stardom and put together the bulk of the work that would eventually land him in the Hall of Fame. But the Royals selected him from Chicago with the 49th pick in the 1968 Expansion Draft, trading him to the Angels two months later. He wasn't with California for long -- the Halos dealt the veteran right-hander to Atlanta midseason, and it was with the Braves that he appeared in his 1,000th game.

1969 Royals record: 69-93-1 (first made playoffs in 1976)

1968 -- San Diego Padres

First pick: RF Ollie Brown from the Giants
San Diego used its first pick to draft Brown from San Francisco, and he put up solid numbers at the plate for the Padres over the next three seasons, hitting .276/.331/.422 with 52 homers from 1969-71. Following a slow start in '72, he was traded to the A's. Brown became a journeyman after that, never recapturing the form he had with the Padres.

Best pick: 1B/3B/LF Nate Colbert from the Astros
Colbert would go on to become one of the best picks in Expansion Draft history after San Diego took him with the 18th selection from Houston. From 1969-73 with the Padres, he was one of the best sluggers in baseball, hitting .260/.333/.483 with 149 home runs -- he remains the Padres' all-time home run leader to this day (161). Colbert had a difficult 1974 campaign and was traded to the Tigers, from whom the Expos purchased his contract during the '75 season. He never recaptured his slugging form, and only played two more seasons in the Majors.

Other notable picks: OF Cito Gaston
Gaston is remembered most for leading the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series titles as a manager in 1992 and '93, but he was an outfielder in the Majors from 1967-78. Originally signed by the Braves, he was selected by the Padres from Atlanta with the 59th pick in the '68 Expansion Draft. The pick was looking great within two seasons -- Gaston hit .318/.364/.543 with 29 homers in 1970, earning an All-Star selection. But that would be his only big season in the Majors, as he would have four more mediocre seasons with San Diego before being traded back to Atlanta.

1969 Padres record: 52-110 (first made playoffs in 1984)

1968 -- Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers)

First pick: 1B Don Mincher from the Angels
Mincher was by this point a two-time All-Star through nine MLB seasons spent with Senators, Twins and Angels. He was still in his prime, and in the lone season of existence for the Pilots, who relocated to Milwaukee and became the Brewers after their inaugural 1969 campaign, he posted an .821 OPS with 10 homers in 140 games. Milwaukee traded him to Oakland in January 1970.

Best pick: LF Lou Piniella from Cleveland
Piniella would never don a Pilots or Brewers uniform, but even though he excelled with other clubs, he was the best pick Seattle made in the Expansion Draft. The Pilots selected him with the 28th pick from Cleveland, for whom he only appeared in six games the prior season. Just before the 1969 season opened, Seattle traded Piniella to Kansas City, where he won that year's AL Rookie of the Year Award. Following five solid seasons with the Royals, he was traded to the Yankees, for whom he played the rest of his 18-year playing career.

Other notable picks: LF/3B Tommy Davis
The Pilots selected Davis from the White Sox with the 16th pick in the Expansion Draft. Davis won back-to-back batting titles while with the Dodgers in 1962 and '63, and was an All-Star in both years. In '62, he also led the Majors in hits (230) and RBIs (153), finishing third in NL MVP Award voting. But Davis was never quite the same hitter after that, and in 123 games with Seattle in 1969, he posted a .697 OPS with six homers before being traded to the Astros.

1969 Seattle Pilots record: 64-98-1 (first made playoffs in 1981 as Milwaukee Brewers)

1968 -- Montreal Expos

First pick: LF Manny Mota from the Pirates
Mota was a solid contributor in six seasons with Pittsburgh before the Expos made him their first selection in the Expansion Draft. He wasn't with Montreal long, though -- in June 1969, he was traded along with Maury Wills to the Dodgers for Ron Fairly and Paul Popovich.

Best pick: SS Maury Wills from the Pirates
Another pick the Expos made from the Pirates, this one with the 21st selection, was an MVP and seven-time All-Star who led his league in steals for six straight seasons from 1960-65 with the Dodgers. By this point, Wills was 36 years old, but he could still run, having stolen 52 bases the prior season for the Pirates. But Montreal packaged him along with Mota to the Dodgers in June '69.

Other notable picks: 1B Donn Clendenon
Clendenon had a .775 OPS and 106 homers to his name when the Expos selected him from the Pirates with the 11th pick. The first baseman only appeared in 38 games for Montreal before being traded to the Mets, for whom he would eventually be named World Series MVP in New York's improbable five-game victory over Baltimore. Clendenon hit .357 and launched three homers for the "Miracle Mets" in that year's Fall Classic.

1969 Expos record: 52-110 (first made playoffs in 1981)

1976 -- Seattle Mariners

First/best pick: OF Ruppert Jones from the Royals
Jones made his MLB debut in August 1976 with Kansas City, and had played in only 28 MLB games when Seattle selected him with the first pick in that offseason's Expansion Draft. Jones made an immediate impact for the fledgling Mariners, becoming the franchise's first All-Star in 1977. That season, he hit .263/.324/.454 with 24 home runs and 13 steals. Jones spent two more seasons with Seattle before being traded to the Yankees following the '79 campaign.

1977 Mariners record: 64-98 (first made playoffs in 1995)

1976 -- Toronto Blue Jays

First pick: OF/SS Bob Bailor from the Orioles
Bailor appeared in 14 MLB games with Baltimore before Toronto selected him with its first pick in the Expansion Draft. He had a solid rookie season with the Jays, hitting .310/.335/.403 in 122 games. He remained with Toronto for three more seasons, posting a .619 OPS before he was dealt to the Mets in December 1980.

Best pick: RHP Jim Clancy from the Rangers
The Blue Jays selected Clancy from Texas with the sixth pick in the Expansion Draft, and after making his MLB debut with Toronto as a 21-year-old in 1977, he went on to spend a dozen years with the franchise, a rarity for an Expansion Draft pick. The right-hander posted a 4.10 ERA (103 ERA+) over 352 appearances (345 starts) for the Jays, including an All-Star campaign in 1982, in which he pitched to a 3.71 ERA in 40 starts.

Other notable picks: DH Rico Carty, RHP Pete Vuckovich
Carty was a batting champ (1970) who posted an .833 OPS with 204 home runs over a 15-year MLB career. The Blue Jays selected him from Cleveland with the 10th overall selection in the Expansion Draft, and traded him back to Cleveland the next month. Cleveland then traded him back to Toronto prior to the 1978 season. While he did well with Toronto, he only played in 104 games with the club before being traded to the A's that August.

Vuckovich, who would go on to win the 1982 AL Cy Young Award with the Brewers and gain notoriety by playing the role of slugging first baseman Clu Haywood in the movie "Major League," was taken by the Jays from the White Sox with the 19th pick in the 1976 Expansion Draft. He spent one season with Toronto, posting a 3.47 ERA over 53 appearances in '77 before being traded to the Cardinals.

1977 Blue Jays record: 54-107 (first made playoffs in 1985)

1992 -- Colorado Rockies

First pick: RHP David Nied from the Braves
The Braves drafted Nied in the 14th round in 1987, and he moved through Atlanta's Minor League system quickly before making his MLB debut in September '92. With his Minor League track record and his 1.17 ERA over the first 23 innings of his career, the Rockies -- who figured pitching would need to be a priority while playing in the thin air of Denver -- made him the first selection of the 1992 Expansion Draft. Nied made the first start in franchise history on April 5, 1993, and then spent four mostly injury-plagued seasons with Colorado, pitching to a 5.47 ERA (90 ERA+) over 46 appearances (39 starts).

Best pick: SS/3B Vinny Castilla from the Braves
Another selection the Rockies made from the Braves would prove to be one of the best in Expansion Draft history -- Castilla was a skinny shortstop with a penchant for crushing fastballs when Colorado snapped him up with the 40th pick. Within two years, he was the club's everyday third baseman and an All-Star at that. He became one of the Rockies' original "Blake Street Bombers" along with Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga and Ellis Burks. From 1995-99, Castilla hit .302/.348/.545 (110 OPS+) with 191 homers for Colorado, eventually being traded to the Rays prior to the 2000 campaign. He returned to the Rockies for 15 games in 2006, his final MLB season as a player.

Other notable picks: 3B Charlie Hayes, 2B Eric Young, RHP Armando Reynoso
The Rockies drafted Hayes from the Yankees with the third pick, and he went on to lead the NL in doubles (45) and have the best overall offensive campaign of his career in 1993. He signed with the Phillies as a free agent following the '94 campaign.

Young secured his place in Rockies history by homering in the first home at-bat in franchise history on April 9, 1993. Selected from the Dodgers with the 11th pick, he became a sparkplug at the top of Colorado's lineup, leading the league with 53 steals and earning an All-Star selection in '96.

Reynoso, another pick from the Braves (58th), instantly became the Rockies' best starting pitcher and posted a 4.65 ERA (109 ERA+) in four seasons with Colorado.

1993 Rockies record: 67-95 (first made playoffs in 1995)

1992 -- Florida Marlins

First pick: OF Nigel Wilson from the Blue Jays
Wilson was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Blue Jays in 1987. Five years later, after he posted an .841 OPS with 26 homers at Double-A Knoxville, Florida made him the second pick in the Expansion Draft. He made his MLB debut with the Marlins in September '93, going 0-for-16 with 11 strikeouts. Clearly not ready to face Major League pitching, Wilson spent the '94 campaign with Triple-A Edmonton, where he again hit well, posting an .875 OPS with 12 homers in 87 games. The Marlins put him through waivers in 1995, and he was claimed by the Reds. He appeared in five games for Cincinnati, going 0-for-7 before being selected off waivers by Cleveland. Though he slugged .558 with 30 homers for Triple-A Buffalo, he only played in 10 games for Cleveland before being released.

Best pick: RHP Trevor Hoffman from the Reds
His time with Florida was so short -- he appeared in 28 games for the Marlins in 1993 -- you may not remember or even have known he went there with the eighth pick in the '92 Expansion Draft. But baseball fans everywhere certainly know who Hoffman is after he became one of the greatest closers of all time, finishing his illustrious career second on the all-time saves list (601) behind Mariano Rivera. The Marlins traded Hoffman to the Padres in June 1993, in the deal that brought Gary Sheffield to Florida. San Diego is where Hoffman rose to stardom and ensured he would eventually have a plaque in Cooperstown.

Other notable picks: CF Chuck Carr, RHP Bryan Harvey, 1B/LF Jeff Conine, OF Carl Everett
The Marlins selected Carr with the 14th pick from the Cardinals. He was a tremendous defensive center fielder and a speedy leadoff man in three seasons with Florida. In 1993, he led the NL with 58 steals and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year Award voting.

Harvey was the Marlins' 20th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Angels. The right-handed reliever was outstanding for them in '93, saving 45 games with a 1.70 ERA. But injuries derailed the remainder of his career, and his last MLB season came in '95.

Florida's next pick, at No. 22, was Conine, who would spend eight seasons of his 17-year big league career with the franchise in two stints. He was a two-time All-Star and helped the Marlins win the World Series in 1997 and 2003.

Everett was chosen with the 27th pick from the Yankees, but only played in 27 games for Florida before being dealt to the Mets following the '94 season. With two homers to his name, he went on to hit 200 more over 12 seasons spent with the Mets, Astros, Red Sox, Rangers, White Sox, Expos and Mariners.

1993 Marlins record: 64-98 (first made playoffs in 1997)

1997 -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

First pick: LHP Tony Saunders from the Marlins
Saunders made his MLB debut in 1997 with Florida, helping the Marlins win their first World Series title before being picked first overall by Tampa Bay in that year's Expansion Draft. He posted a 4.61 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) during his rookie campaign, and pitched for the Devil Rays for two seasons -- he made 40 starts for Tampa Bay, with a 4.53 ERA. He suffered a terrible injury on May 26, 1999, when while pitching to the Rangers' Juan Gonzalez, he broke his left arm. He tried to return to the mound the next year, but while pitching in the Minors, he broke his arm a second time, ending his professional career.

Best pick: OF Bobby Abreu from the Astros
Abreu, who is on the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame ballot for 2022, was one of the most underrated hitters of his time, slashing .291/.395/.475 with 288 home runs over an 18-year MLB career. He made his big league debut with the Astros on Sept. 1, 1996, and was taken second overall in the next year's Expansion Draft by the Devil Rays. Tampa Bay traded Abreu to the Phillies the same day in exchange for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Abreu went on to spend eight-plus seasons with Philadelphia, posting a .928 OPS with 195 home runs and earning two All-Star selections. Stocker appeared in 231 games for Tampa Bay, posting a .676 OPS.

Other notable picks: 1B Dmitri Young, OF Randy Winn
Tampa Bay selected Young from the Reds with the 16th pick, and then traded him back to Cincinnati as the player to be named later for an earlier transaction in which the Devil Rays received outfielder Mike Kelly. Young was productive at the plate in four seasons with Cincinnati, hitting .304/.353/.488 with 67 homers in 565 games. Kelly, meanwhile, played one season with Tampa Bay, posting a .696 OPS with 10 homers and 13 steals in 106 games. He was released the following March.

Winn was taken 58th from the Marlins in the Expansion Draft and spent the first five seasons of his 13-year MLB career with the Devil Rays. A speedy outfielder, he stole 26 bases as a rookie but was a below-average hitter until 2002, when in an All-Star campaign, he turned in an .821 OPS with 14 home runs and 27 steals. Tampa Bay traded him that offseason to the Mariners in exchange for infielder Antonio Perez and manager Lou Piniella.

1998 Devil Rays record: 63-99 (first made playoffs in 2008 -- as Rays)

1997 -- Arizona Diamondbacks

First pick: LHP Brian Anderson from Cleveland
Anderson proved to be a solid second pick in the 1997 Expansion Draft, with the D-backs selecting him from Cleveland, with whom the left-hander had just reached the World Series the prior month. Anderson spent the next four seasons with Arizona, posting a 4.52 ERA (101 ERA+) and helping the franchise win the World Series in 2001. That offseason, he signed a free-agent contract with Cleveland and spent the final three seasons of his career with Cleveland and Kansas City.

Best pick: INF Tony Batista from the A's
Arizona made Batista the 27th pick in the Expansion Draft by selecting him from Oakland. With the club seeking a division title and in need of relief pitching, the D-backs traded Batista to the Blue Jays for Dan Plesac in June 1999. After putting up a .731 OPS with five homers in 44 games for Arizona that season, Bautista went on to belt 25 homers in 98 games for Toronto. He was an All-Star the next season, launching a career-high 41 homers. Over the next four years, he averaged a .718 OPS with 28 homers a season for the Blue Jays, Orioles and Expos. He played two more seasons in the Majors with the Twins and Nationals.

Other notable picks: LHP Omar Daal, C Damian Miller
Daal was the 31st pick in the Expansion Draft, from the Blue Jays. He was instantly one of the D-backs' best pitchers, posting a 2.88 ERA in 33 appearances (23 starts) in the franchise's inaugural season. The following year, he turned in a 3.65 ERA as a full-time starter and helped Arizona reach the postseason. He struggled to a 7.22 ERA through 20 appearances in 2000, and was traded to the Phillies that July in the deal that brought Curt Schilling to Arizona.

The D-backs selected Miller from the Twins with the 47th pick, and he became their starting catcher by 2000 and an All-Star in '02. Arizona traded him to the Cubs the following offseason.

1998 D-backs record: 65-97 (first made playoffs in 1999)