Every AL East team's best recent Draft pick

June 3rd, 2020

When it comes to bringing fresh talent into an organization, the Draft is just as important -- if not more so -- as splashy free-agent signings.

Take Tampa Bay, for example. Rarely do the Rays compete for top players on the open market. Instead, they rely heavily on the Draft and then develop those young players into their own homegrown MLB All-Stars.

Just take a look at what left-hander Blake Snell has done since being drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round in 2011, leading the American League with 21 wins and a 1.89 ERA in ’18 on the way to capturing the AL Cy Young Award.

This week, we asked our AL East beat writers to identify each team’s best recent Draft selection.

Blue Jays: C Danny Jansen
High school catchers are notoriously difficult to develop, so Jansen's rise from the 16th round of the 2013 Draft to the Blue Jays' starting catcher is a credit to both the player and the organization.

Coming out of West High School in Appleton, Wis., Jansen's early years in the Minor Leagues were hampered by injuries. But his stock really took off with a breakout 2017 season that saw him jump from Class A Advanced Dunedin to Triple-A Buffalo.

Now 25, Jansen has shown the ability to continue his development at the Major League level, which leaves the Blue Jays confident about his long-term projections. He was nominated for a Gold Glove Award in 2019, his first full season in the Majors, and he overhauled his hitting routine this past offseason, which yielded some impressive results early in Spring Training. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: C/1B Adley Rutschman
The best players on the Orioles' roster are examples of savvy drafting, from Trey Mancini (8th round, 2013) to John Means (11th round, '14) to Mychal Givens (2nd round, '09) and others. But Rutschman claims this title for Baltimore, because of how much of their future the O's have wrapped up in him.

A switch-hitting catcher with plus power and defensive tools, Rutschman was considered a generational prospect coming out of Oregon State in 2019. Drafting first overall for the second time in franchise history, the Orioles did their due diligence, but they never seriously considered anyone else, grabbing Rutschman as many predicted they would. He signed for a record $8.1 million, quickly reached Class A Delmarva and was expected to climb through the system this summer before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down.

Many believe Rutschman can catch in the big leagues right now and will grow into an impact bat at the highest level. He is as integral to Baltimore's rebuilding efforts as perhaps any other player. -- Joe Trezza

Rays: LHP Blake Snell
Snell was the No. 52 pick in the 2011 Draft, and he has turned out to be quite the pitcher. In just four big league seasons, Snell holds the club's single-season record with 21 wins and already ranks 10th in wins (38) in franchise history.

But besides his contributions on the field, Snell’s development has salvaged a 2011 Draft that didn’t turn out very well for the Rays. Heading into that Draft, Tampa Bay had 10 picks in the first 60 selections. Of those 10 picks, Snell is the only one who has suited up for the big league club. -- Juan Toribio

Red Sox: OF Andrew Benintendi
Technically, the answer could be Dustin Pedroia. But let’s face it -- the second baseman has hardly been a part of the team since 2017, and he doesn’t project to be healthy enough to play in '20. We will go with Benintendi, using projectability as a factor.

Benintendi had a strong rookie year in 2017, then he performed even better in the championship season of ’18. His down year last season doesn’t change the fact that he is entering his age-25 season and is likely to get better.

Benintendi has a sweet swing from the left side and a strong batting eye. He is also a solid left fielder. The Red Sox have already gotten a good return from the player they took with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 Draft, and the expectation is that there is still more growth to come. The Red Sox control Benintendi’s contractual rights through the end of the ’22 season.

Other Draft picks who are key contributors to the team include Jackie Bradley Jr. (1st round, 2011), Matt Barnes (1st round, '11) and Brandon Workman (2nd round, '10). -- Ian Browne

Yankees: OF Aaron Judge
Within weeks of being anointed as the Yankees’ starting right fielder in 2017, Judge saw a permanent cheering section erected in his honor, with three rows of Yankee Stadium’s Section 105 enclosed and dubbed "The Judge’s Chambers."

Such was the immediate impact enjoyed by Judge, who rocketed to stardom that season by belting 52 home runs to earn unanimous selection as the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner and the runner-up for the AL MVP Award.

Despite losing significant portions of the last two years to injuries, Judge has belted 110 homers and tallied 19.1 bWAR since making his Major League debut in 2016. A standout center fielder during his time at Fresno State University, the Yankees used the 32nd overall pick of the '13 Draft on Judge, a pick that they received from the Indians as compensation for losing outfielder Nick Swisher in free agency. -- Bryan Hoch