The Dodgers had mixed results in the first three years of the Draft. They didn't land anyone of note in 1965, came away with three All-Stars (Charlie Hough, Bill Russell, Billy Grabarkewitz) and a National League Rookie of the Year Award winner (Ted Sizemore) in the middle rounds in '66, and they found '81 tri-World Series Most Valuable Player winner Steve Yeager in '67.
During that same period, Los Angeles went from World Series champion to pennant winner to eighth-place team, so the 1968 Draft took on added importance for the franchise. Al Campanis, who had been the club's director of scouting since it moved from Brooklyn in 1958, wanted to improve his approach to the Draft. So, he sought advice from local officials in a sport that instituted the first pro draft in 1936: football.
Campanis spoke with Los Angeles Rams owner Dan Reeves and San Diego Chargers coach Sid Gillman. The latter sent him to Chargers director of player personnel Al LoCasale, who had a profound influence on Campanis.
"He actually showed me how to draft," Campanis told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick in a 1988 story for Baseball America. "He explained the difference between drafting the best athlete or going for need. He showed us how to rank players on a scale of 100 based on fundamental skills. He took a neophyte and taught me how to approach a draft, and I think this helped us."
LoCasale's guidance and a decision to focus on position players resulted in the greatest haul of Draft talent the game has ever seen. MLB staged separate January and June Drafts, with separate regular and secondary phases back then, and all told the Dodgers came away with a nucleus that would pay off with four pennants and one World Series title from 1974-81.
Below are our rankings of the 10 best Drafts in baseball history:
1. 1968 Dodgers
Los Angeles signed six future All-Stars in 1968 who would combine for 23 All-Star Game appearances, both Draft records. Washburn (Kan.) University outfielder Davey Lopes was a second-rounder in the January secondary phase, while California high school first baseman Bill Buckner (second), University of Houston outfielder/defensive back Tom Paciorek (fifth) and Alabama prep right-hander Doyle Alexander (ninth) were part of the regular June Draft. The cherry on top was a pair of college third basemen in the June secondary phase: Michigan State's Steve Garvey (first) and Washington State's Ron Cey (third).
University of Michigan left-hander Geoff Zahn (fifth, January secondary), Connecticut high school outfielder Bobby Valentine (No. 5 overall, June) and University of the Pacific outfielder Joe Ferguson (eighth, June) also enjoyed lengthy careers. The Dodgers inked a total of 11 future big leaguers who combined for a total of 234.8 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version), far and away another record.
The Dodgers not only had the best Draft of all time in 1968, but they don't even have a legitimate challenger for that title. Boston's 1983 Draft (see below) was the only effort that comes within 50 WAR of the Dodgers.
2. 1983 Red Sox
Many teams evaluated Texas right-hander Roger Clemens as the best college pitcher available entering the spring, but he struggled in May and wound up being the seventh one selected (No. 19 overall) in June. Boston signed just six big leaguers from their Drafts that year, but Clemens and Ranger (Texas) JC outfielder Ellis Burks (No. 20 overall, January) combined for 189 WAR by themselves.
3. 1976 Tigers
Detroit got very little out of the No. 2 overall pick in the June Draft, Indiana prep left-hander Pat Underwood, but more than made up for it as the only team ever to land two Hall of Famers: California high school shortstop Alan Trammell (second round, June) and Brigham Young right-hander Jack Morris (fifth, June). Southern California outfielder Steve Kemp (No. 1 overall, January) and California prep righty Dan Petry (fourth, June) also were All-Stars, and the Tigers could have made a run at the Dodgers if Cal Poly shortstop Ozzie Smith (seventh, June) hadn't turned down a $10,000 bonus.
4. 1976 Red Sox
Boston found a pair of quality left-handers in Utah high schooler Bruce Hurst (No. 22 overall, June) and Georgia Southern's John Tudor (third round, January secondary), but it was their June seventh-rounder who elevated this crop to the next level. Scouts questioned Florida prep shortstop Wade Boggs' power, speed and athleticism before he hit his way to five batting titles and the Hall of Fame.
5. 1984 Cubs
No pair of pitchers from one team's Draft can come close to matching the 624 combined victories of Nevada high school right-hander Greg Maddux (second round, June), a Hall of Famer, and St. Joseph's lefty Jamie Moyer (sixth, June). They softened the blow of wasting the No. 3 overall choice on another arm, Morehead State southpaw Drew Hall. Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC outfielder Dwight Smith (third, June secondary) finished second in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
6. 1985 Pirates
Despite making 56 picks, Pittsburgh essentially came away with one useful player in 1985, but he was the greatest player of the Draft era. Arizona State outfielder Barry Bonds lasted six picks in a loaded June crop and was playing every day for the Pirates less than a year after he signed, launching a career in which he posted 162.8 WAR -- more than all but three entire team Drafts in history. The Pirates' second-best find was MacMurray (Ill.) right-hander Billy Sampen (12th round, June).
7. 1989 Indians
Scouting director Chet Montgomery was dismissed after this Draft because he took Texas high school outfielder Calvin Murray 11th overall, with Cleveland apparently the lone team unaware that Murray had informed the Major League Scouting Bureau he had no intention of signing. Montgomery deserved a raise, however, after selecting and signing 10 future big leaguers, including a Hall of Famer in the 13th round (Illinois Central JC shortstop Jim Thome), a two-time All-Star in the 17th (California prep outfielder Brian Giles) and four pitchers who had lengthy careers: Virginia Commonwealth left-hander Jerry Dipoto (third), Washington high school lefty Alan Embree (fifth), Louisiana State right-hander Curtis Leskanic (eighth) and Seminole State (Okla.) JC righty Robert Person (25th).
8. 1990 Yankees
No team ever used the now-defunct draft-and-follow rule, which allowed clubs to control the rights of players who attended junior college, better than New York did in 1990. It selected Texas high school left-hander Andy Pettitte in the 22nd round and Calhoun (Ala.) CC shortstop Jorge Posada in the 24th, then signed them the following spring for a combined $115,000. Carl Everett (first round, No. 10 overall) played in two All-Star Games, while fellow prep outfielders Ricky Ledee (16th) and Shane Spencer (28th) contributed to a pair of World Series championships with the Yankees. New York signed a total of 12 big leaguers, more than any team on this list.
9. 1965 Athletics
The A's crushed the first three years of the Draft, building the foundation for teams that won three consecutive World Series in 1972-74. In the very first Draft, they signed three future All-Stars in outfielder Rick Monday (No. 1 overall) and third baseman Sal Bando (sixth round), who had just teamed to win the College World Series for Arizona State, plus Ohio high school shortstop Gene Tenace (11th round). Bando and Tenace were mainstays on those championship clubs, as was Ken Holtzman, who arrived from the Cubs in a straight-up trade for Monday.
10. 2009 Angels
With New Jersey high school outfielder Mike Trout (No. 25 overall) coming off his third MVP award and being the best player in baseball history through age 27, as well as Chipola (Fla.) JC left-hander Patrick Corbin (second round) still going strong, this group could move close to the top of this list before they're done. The Angels also signed three other significant big leaguers in Texas prep outfielder Randal Grichuk (No. 24 overall), Oklahoma right-hander Garrett Richards (supplemental first) and California prep lefty Tyler Skaggs (supplemental first).