MLB Draft prospects can come from many places. There are top picks from high schools, junior colleges and four-year universities big and small.
But it should be no surprise that certain schools have established themselves as powerhouses when it comes to producing first-round picks. And of course, most of those colleges are in major conferences.
Going back to the Draft’s inception in 1965, and looking at the schools that have generated the most first-rounders, the top high school on the list (Hillsborough High in Tampa, Fla.) is tied for 33rd with six selections, including Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield. While that’s impressive in its own right, it doesn’t match the nation’s elite college programs in terms of first-round talent.
Here’s a look at the schools to produce the most first-round picks, based on research by MLB Pipeline. Only true first-round picks from the primary June Draft qualified, which leaves out those from secondary Drafts, as well as compensatory and supplemental picks. If a player was picked in the first round multiple times, his school only got credit for one of those selections.
1) Stanford: 23 first-rounders (11 in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 182.7
Most notable first-round pick: Mike Mussina (No. 20, BAL, 1990)
Stanford has been the most prolific school in terms of producing first-rounders, but that hasn’t always translated to MLB success. Of the eight players taken in the top five out of Stanford, five either did not reach the Majors or produced negative WAR there.
The school’s only No. 1 overall pick was Mark Appel, taken by the Astros in 2013. He stepped away from baseball indefinitely in February 2018 after struggling in the Minors with both Houston and Philadelphia, which acquired him in a December 2015 trade. Appel also dealt with a right shoulder injury in '16. He’s one of just three first overall picks (excluding the past six Drafts, since ‘13) not to make the Majors -- along with Brien Taylor (1991) and Steve Chilcott ('66).
Though the school has had some hit-or-miss top 10 picks, it has also produced a Hall of Famer in Mike Mussina, whose 82.8 career WAR is second-most of any first-rounder in 1990 behind only No. 1 overall pick Chipper Jones (85.3).
2) Arizona State: 22 first-rounders (14 in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 374.3
Most notable first-round pick: Barry Bonds (No. 6, PIT, 1985)
Arizona State gained on Stanford in the 2020 Draft, with Spencer Torkelson going No. 1 overall to the Tigers. The school has had its fair share of first overall picks, as the Sun Devils’ four No. 1 overall picks -- Rick Monday (1965, OAK), Floyd Bannister ('76, HOU) and Bob Horner ('78, ATL) in addition to Torkelson -- and 14 top-10 picks are both the most of any school. However, Torkelson joins the Giants’ Hunter Bishop (10th, 2019) as the only top-10 ASU picks since Mike Leake in '09.
Barry Bonds, the school’s most notable pick, accumulated 162.8 WAR in his career, after the Pirates took him sixth overall in 1985. In fact, Arizona State has produced more value from Bonds and '66 No. 2 overall pick Reggie Jackson (74.0 WAR) than any other school has from all of its signed first-rounders combined.
3-T) Texas: 19 first-rounders (eight in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 210.9
Most notable first-round pick: Roger Clemens (No. 19, BOS, 1983)
Texas hasn’t had any No. 1 overall picks, but it has produced eight top-10 picks, although just two have had a career WAR of 10 or higher, and two didn’t reach the Majors. The earliest a Texas player has been drafted is second overall -- Greg Swindell by the Indians in 1986.
Only four of those Longhorns first-rounders have come since 2000: Drew Stubbs (No. 8, CIN, 2006), Taylor Jungmann (No. 12, MIL, '11), Beau Hale (No. 14, BAL, '00) and Kyle McCulloch (No. 29, '06, CWS). Neither Hale nor McCulloch made the Majors.
3-T) Florida State: 19 first-rounders (six in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 99.0
Most notable first-round pick: Buster Posey (No. 5, SF, 2008)
The Seminoles have had one No. 1 overall pick: Paul Wilson, taken by the Mets in the 1994 Draft. Wilson was part of New York's infamous "Generation K," and he dealt with injuries throughout his career with the Mets, Devil Rays and Reds. He pitched 941 2/3 career innings with those three clubs, with a 4.86 ERA and 2.0 career WAR.
Buster Posey, the most recent of Florida State’s six top-10 picks was also one of the most successful, as he has 41.8 WAR so far in his career, not to mention three World Series titles. The school’s only other pick with more than 22 WAR is J.D. Drew (44.9 WAR), who was taken No. 2 overall by the Phillies in 1997. He did not sign, and then he was drafted fifth in '98 by the Cardinals after playing for the independent St. Paul Saints. Both Drew and Posey won the Golden Spikes Award in their final seasons at Florida State.
5) Vanderbilt: 18 first-rounders (10 in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 97.8
Most notable first-round pick: David Price (No. 1, TB, 2007)
Vanderbilt has had two No. 1 overall picks, and they’re both still active: David Price and Dansby Swanson, in 2015 by the D-backs. The school has had six top-five picks, and they’ve all come since '07 -- the most of any school in that span. The only schools with more top-five picks ever are Stanford and Arizona State, with eight each. The most recent was Austin Martin, taken fifth overall by the Blue Jays in 2020. A year prior, the Marlins took another Commodore in the top five, with JJ Bleday going to Miami at No. 4.
Vanderbilt has worked its way up this list recently. Since 2004, it has had 14 first-rounders, three more than anywhere else. In addition to those players already mentioned, those 14 include Mike Minor (No. 7, ATL, '09), Sonny Gray (No. 18, OAK, '11) and Walker Buehler (No. 24, LAD, '15).
6) North Carolina: 17 first-rounders (seven in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 98.1
Most notable first-round pick: B.J. Surhoff (No. 1, MIL, 1985)
B.J. Surhoff, who produced 34.4 career WAR -- the most of any UNC Draft pick -- is the school’s only No. 1 overall pick. It has had two players taken at No. 2: Paul Shuey by the Indians in 1992 and Dustin Ackley by the Mariners in 2009. Neither reached 10 career WAR.
The Tar Heels have produced three top-10 picks since 2010: Colin Moran, Matt Harvey and Aaron Sabato -- who went No. 27 overall to the Twins in 2020. The Marlins took Moran sixth overall in '13. He’s since been traded twice, to the Astros and then the Pirates, and he has negative WAR thus far in his career. The Mets took Harvey seventh overall in '10 and he had a stellar breakout in '12-13, including an All-Star Game start in his home ballpark, before requiring Tommy John surgery. He helped the Mets to a World Series berth in '15 upon his return, but he has not had the same results since that season.
7) USC: 15 first-rounders (eight in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 158.8
Most notable first-round pick: Mark McGwire (No. 10, OAK, 1984)
USC has not had a No. 1 overall pick in the June Draft, but it does have one player who was taken second overall: Mark Prior, by the Cubs in 2001. Prior amassed 16.6 WAR in his short, injury-laden career.
No USC player has been taken in the first round since the A’s took shortstop Grant Green 13th overall in 2009. He played in 129 games over five seasons, most recently in '17, and he accumulated minus-1.7 WAR.
While Mark McGwire is the most productive first-round pick from the Trojans, it’s worth mentioning that Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson were both drafted out of USC, too. But Seaver was taken in the secondary phase of the June Draft in 1966, and Johnson was a second-rounder in '85.
8-T) LSU: 14 first-rounders (six in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 110.1
Most notable first-round pick: Alex Bregman (No. 2, HOU, 2015)
LSU has had one No. 1 overall pick: Ben McDonald, by the Orioles in 1989. He had 20.8 WAR in 1,291 1/3 innings over a nine-year career. The Tigers have had three top-10 picks since 2012 -- Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola and Alex Bregman. The Orioles took Gausman fourth overall in '12, Nola went seventh overall to the Phillies in '14, and the Astros took Bregman second in '15.
A non-first rounder from LSU worth noting is Albert Belle, who was taken in the second round in 1987 by the Indians.
8-T) UCLA: 14 first-rounders (six in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 177.6
Most notable first-round pick: Chase Utley (No. 15, PHI, 2000)
Gerrit Cole is UCLA’s only No. 1 overall pick (Pirates, 2011). The Bruins have had four top-five picks overall, including Troy Glaus at No. 3 by the Angels in 1997 and Cole’s college teammate Trevor Bauer at No. 3 by the D-backs, also in 2011. While Cole is surging up the list, Utley’s 64.4 career WAR is almost 30 more than any other UCLA Draft pick.
10-T) Cal State Fullerton: 13 first-rounders (seven in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 122.3
Most notable first-round pick:Tim Wallach (No. 10, MON, 1979)
Fullerton has had one No. 1 overall pick: Phil Nevin, in 1992 by the Astros. The most recent player taken in the first round out of Fullerton is Matt Chapman, whom the A’s selected 25th in 2014. The defensive standout has been voted the Platinum Glove winner in the AL in '18 and '19.
10-T) Fresno State: 13 first-rounders (two in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 52.9
Most notable first-round pick: Jeff Weaver (No. 14, DET, 1998)
Since 2006, there have been just two players taken out of Fresno State in the first round: Taylor Ward, 26th overall by the Angels in '15, and Ryan Jensen, 27th overall by the Cubs in '19. However, our criteria leaves out the most notable Fresno first-rounder, Aaron Judge, whom the Yankees took 32nd overall in '13, with a compensatory pick they received for the loss of free agent Nick Swisher to the Indians.
10-T) Clemson: 13 first-rounders (three in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 36.5
Most notable first-round pick: Kris Benson (No. 1, PIT, 1996)
Kris Benson is Clemson’s only No. 1 overall pick, and one of just three Tigers to go in the top 10. His 12.9 WAR is the most of any Clemson first-rounder. Clemson had a player taken in the first round in back-to-back Drafts from 2018-19: Seth Beer by the Astros at No. 28 in 2018 and Logan Davidson by the A’s at No. 29 in '19.
10-T) Rice: 13 first-rounders (eight in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 105.8
Most notable first-round pick: Lance Berkman (No. 16, HOU, 1997)
Rice has had one No. 1 overall pick: Matt Anderson, by the Tigers in 1997. Anderson had a 5.19 ERA in 256 2/3 innings in his career, notching minus-0.6 WAR. He’s one of just six No. 1 overall picks to reach the Majors and post negative WAR for his career. Another notable Owls first-rounder is Anthony Rendon, whom the Nationals took sixth overall in 2011.
10-T) Florida: 13 first-rounders (five in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 4.4
Most notable first-round pick: Mike Zunino (No. 3, SEA, 2012)
Mike Zunino is the school’s highest Draft pick, but Florida has produced two other top-10 picks in the past five years, in A.J. Puk (No. 6, OAK, 2016) and Jonathan India (No. 5, CIN, '18). '19 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner Pete Alonso was drafted out of Florida, but he was a second-round pick, going to the Mets at No. 64 overall.
10-T) Mississippi State University: 13 first-rounders (three in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 151.3
Most notable first-round pick: Will Clark (No. 2, SF, 1985)
Mississippi State has had first-rounders taken in back-to-back years, with Justin Foscue going to the Rangers at No. 14 in 2020 and Ethan Small to the Brewers at No. 28 in '19.
University of Arizona: 12 first-rounders (one in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 9.5
Most notable first-round pick: Joe Magrane (No. 18, STL, 1985)
Texas A&M University: 11 first-rounders (three in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 70.8
Most notable first-round pick: Chuck Knoblauch (No. 25, MIN, 1989)
University of Miami: 11 first-rounders (five in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 113.7
Most notable first-round pick: Ryan Braun (No. 5, MIL, 2005)
University of South Carolina: 11 first-rounders (one in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 22.6
Most notable first-round pick: Justin Smoak (No. 11, TEX, 2008)
Wichita State University: 11 first-rounders (seven in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 40.0
Most notable first-round pick: Joe Carter (No. 2, CHC, 1981)
Georgia Institute of Technology: 10 first-rounders (five in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 204.5
Most notable first-round pick: Kevin Brown (No. 4, TEX, 1986)
Oklahoma State University: 10 first-rounders (five in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 87.9
Most notable first-round pick: Robin Ventura (No. 10, CWS, 1988)
University of Oklahoma: 10 first-rounders (four in top 10)
Career WAR of first-rounders: 30.3
Most notable first-round pick: Bobby Witt (No. 3, TEX, 1985)
Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.