The Dodgers had mixed success in the first three years of the Draft, sandwiching lackluster efforts in 1965 and 1967 around finding three All-Stars (Charlie Hough, Bill Russell, Billy Grabarkewitz) and a Rookie of the Year (Ted Sizemore) in 1966. Los Angeles slid from a World Series championship to an eighth-place finish during that time, which placed even more importance on getting the 1968 Draft right.
Al Campanis, the club's director of scouting since it moved from Brooklyn in 1958, decided to seek advice from local officials in football, the sport that instituted the first pro draft in 1936. Campanis spoke with Los Angeles Rams owner Dan Reeves and San Diego Chargers coach Sid Gillman, and Gillman sent Campanis to Chargers director of player personnel Al LoCasale.
"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 influence and a decision to focus on position players resulted in the best Draft any team ever has had. MLB staged separate January and June drafts back then, each with distinct regular and secondary phases, and in 1968 the Dodgers signed six future All-Stars and the nucleus of clubs that would win four pennants and one World Series from 1974-81.
Below, we present each team's top Draft effort, ranging from the Athletics and Reds in the first Draft in 1965 to the Marlins in 2010. We only considered players who actually signed pro contracts as part of a club's Draft haul, and all Wins Above Replacement figures come from Baseball Reference.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
It will forever be known as the start of the Cal Ripken Jr. era. The Orioles didn’t get the Aberdeen High School product until their fourth pick (their third second-round selection) of that June Draft. Getting the Hall of Famer alone might make this their best Draft, but they also got Mike Boddicker and his 31.3 WAR in the sixth round and Larry Sheets in the second.
Red Sox: 1983
The Red Sox have drafted consistently better than any other team. Their Drafts in 1976 (Wade Boggs, Bruce Hurst, John Tudor), 1989 (Jeff Bagwell, Mo Vaughn, Paul Quantrill) and 1968 (Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Bill Lee, Lynn McGlothen, John Curtis) each could rank as the best for several clubs, but they all have to take a back seat to Boston's 1983 crop. Many teams rated Texas right-hander Roger Clemens as the best college pitcher available entering the spring but he slumped in May and wound up being the seventh one selected (No. 19 overall) in June. Ranger (Texas) JC outfielder Ellis Burks, a first-rounder in January, made two All-Star teams in an 18-year big league career. The Red Sox found four other fringe big leaguers as well, but Clemens and Burks alone accounted for 189 WAR -- more than any Draft effort ever except for the Dodgers in 1968.
Blue Jays: 1989
While Toronto’s 1989 Draft yielded a pair of 50-plus WAR players in John Olerud (third round, 58.1 WAR) and Jeff Kent (20th, 55.4), the duo combined for just 23.9 WAR with the organization before they were dealt to other teams. A career .295/.398/.465 hitter who totaled 2,239 career hits over 2,234 games during his 17-year career, Olerud was selected to a pair of All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and finished third in the 1993 AL MVP race, after he led the circuit in batting and OPS (.363, 1.072). Kent didn’t break out until 1997, his age-30 season, but still recorded four Top 10 finishes in MVP voting over the next six years and won the award with the Giants in 2000 after batting .334/.424/.596 with 33 homers, 41 doubles and 125 RBIs.
• Top 10 Drafts in baseball history
Baseball's old draft-and-follow rule allowed teams to control the rights of players who attended junior college. The Yankees used it to perfection in 1990, taking Texas high school left-hander Andy Pettitte in the 22nd round and Calhoun (Ala.) CC shortstop Jorge Posada in the 24th, then signing 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 in New York.
After landing a franchise player in Evan Longoria, a three-time All-Star and career 56-WAR player, with the No. 3 overall pick, the Rays continued to find future big leaguers in subsequent rounds with right-hander Alex Cobb (fourth) and outfielder Desmond Jennings (10th). Collectively, the trio produced for 76.1 WAR for the organization and played key roles in helping the Rays reach the postseason four times in a six-year span (2008-13).
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Kansas City’s 1971 Draft netted the organization a future Hall of Famer in George Brett (second round, 88.6 career WAR) -- a 13-time All-Star who won the 1980 AL MVP and compiled a .305/.369/.487 line with 3,154 hits while spending his entire 21-year career with the Royals. Reliever Mark Littell (12th round) had an excellent four-year run (1976-79) with the Royals and Cardinals, tallying 52 saves with a 2.70 ERA across 243 appearances. The organization added right-hander Steve Busby (16.1 career WAR) -- a future two-time All-Star and 22-game winner -- in the second round of the ’71 June Draft-Secondary Phase and got catcher John Wathan (5.0 WAR) with the fourth-overall pick in the January Draft-Regular Phase.
Hall of Famers Alan Trammell (second round) and right-hander Jack Morris (fifth) headlined Detroit’s 1976 Draft class and combined for 10 All-Star appearances and 108.4 WAR with the organization. Right-hander Dan Petry (fourth round) also received an All-Star nod and twice recorded a Top 10 finish in the AL MVP race. He was a staple in the Tigers’ rotation from 1982-85, notching 67 wins with a 3.45 ERA while making 142 starts. Outfielder Steve Kemp, the No. 1 overall pick in the January Draft-Regular Phase, batted .284/.376/.450 with 89 homers across five seasons in Detroit (1977-81) that included an All-Star selection in ’79. What’s more, the Tigers’ ’76 Draft could have featured three Hall of Famers if they had been able to sign seventh-rounder Ozzie Smith.
Cleveland chose Texas high school outfielder Calvin Murray 11th overall, apparently unaware that he had told the Major League Scouting Bureau he had no intention of signing, a gaffe that cost scouting director Chet Montgomery his job. Montgomery deserved a raise, however, because he selected and signed 10 future big leaguers, highlighted by a Hall of Famer in the 13th round (Illinois Central JC shortstop Jim Thome), a two-time All-Star in the 17th (California high school outfielder Brian Giles) and four pitchers who had lengthy careers: Louisiana State right-hander Curtis Leskanic (eighth), Virginia Commonwealth left-hander Jerry Dipoto (third), Seminole State (Okla.) JC righty Robert Person (25th) and Washington prep lefty Alan Embree (fifth).
Not only did the Twins draft a lot of big leaguers in 1989, they got them to the big leagues in a hurry. First-rounder Chuck Knoblauch was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1991. Fourth-round pick Scott Erickson led the AL in wins in that 1991 season and finished second in Cy Young voting. Lefty Denny Neagle also made it up in ’91, while Mike Trombley (14th round) began his 11-year big league career in 1992 and Marty Cordova (10th round) was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1995. Knoblauch and Erickson were key parts of that 1991 World Series-winning Twins team.
White Sox: 1990
This might be the closest decision among any of the 30 clubs. We're going with 1990, when the White Sox procured five solid big leaguers: North Carolina high school second baseman Ray Durham (fifth round), Miami-Dade CC South right-hander Alex Fernandez (first, No. 4 overall), Wisconsin-Whitewater righty Bob Wickman (second), North Carolina prep righty James Baldwin (fourth) and Middlesex (Mass.) CC righty Jason Bere (36th). Durham collected 2,054 hits, while the four pitchers combined for 320 wins and 269 saves. Arguments also can be made for Chicago's classes of 1998 (Mark Buehrle, Aaron Rowand, Kip Wells, Josh Fogg) and 1970 (Goose Gossage, Terry Forster, Bucky Dent, Jerry Hairston).
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
The A’s, then still in Kansas City, really hit the ground running in the first year of the Draft’s existence. Taking the first-ever Draft pick as the Kansas City A's, they nabbed Rick Monday, who was in the big leagues by the end of the 1966 season. But he comes in third according to WAR, with his 33.1 career total coming behind sixth-rounder Sal Bando (61.5) and 11th-round pick Gene Tenace (46.8). Bobby Brooks and Joe Keough also signed and made it to the big leagues from this Draft.
Right-hander Kevin Brown went from unrecruited Georgia Tech walk-on to the No. 4 overall choice in the 1986 Draft, and the Rangers followed taking the borderline Hall of Famer with a pair of All-Stars in Texas high school righty Roger Pavlik (second round) and Florida prep shortstop Dean Palmer (third). California high school shortstop Rey Sanchez (13th) was a standout defender for 15 years in the Majors.
Though Kenny Lofton got just one at-bat as an outfielder at Arizona and was better known as a point guard on four NCAA tournament teams, area scout Clark Crist loved his speed and persuaded Houston to sign the future six-time All-Star for $12,000 in the 17th round. The Astros whiffed on their first two choices (Texas prep outfielder Willie Ansley, Cal State Los Angeles shortstop Mica Lewis) but hit big on Lofton, South Alabama first baseman Luis Gonzalez (fourth round) and Creighton catcher Scott Servais (third).
This is another example of one player more or less making an entire Draft. Yes, Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure, but there’s no question the Mariners nailed it by taking him with the No. 1 pick in 1993. Seattle actually drafted and signed a couple of other big leaguers in later rounds that June (10th-rounder Matt Crow and 13th-rounder Rafael Carmona), but A-Rod’s 117.5 career WAR makes up the vast majority of the WAR accrued from this Draft class (118.3, the top amount in any year for the organization).
As if we could pick any other Draft. Getting Mike Trout and his 72.8 WAR with the 25th overall pick that June would be more than enough for this to be the franchise’s best Draft. But the Angels also drafted and signed future big leaguers in Randal Grichuk (taken one pick before Trout), supplemental first-round picks Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, as well as Patrick Corbin (2nd round).
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
The Phillies took right-handed pitcher Roy Thomas in the first round of the 1971 Draft out of the California high school ranks and he went on to spend parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, though none of them with the Phillies. But they really struck gold in Round 2, getting Ohio University shortstop Mike Schmidt. He moved to third and was in the big leagues by September of 1972, the start of his illustrious Hall of Fame career. The Phillies also found big leaguers in the eighth round with Mac Scarce and the first round of the June secondary draft this year with Dane Iorg.
Dwight Gooden took baseball by storm as a 19-year-old in 1984 -- two years after the Mets had taken him with the No. 5 overall pick in the ’82 Draft – to win NL Rookie of the Year honors before capturing the circuit’s Cy Young Award the following year with an MLB-best 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. He accrued 41.6 of his 48.2 career WAR in New York, going 157-85 with a 3.10 ERA and 67 complete games over 11 seasons. The Mets’ ’82 Draft also produced right-hander Roger McDowell (third round), a 12-year big league pitcher, and catcher Greg Olson (seventh round), who would become an All-Star with the Braves in 1990. Southpaw Randy Myers, taken in the June Draft-Secondary Phase, was a 15.1 WAR performer who saved 347 games across 14 big league seasons, five of which came with the Mets.
The Expos were three months removed from trading Jason Bay, the club’s 22nd-round pick in the 2000 Draft, to the Mets when they packaged Grady Sizemore (third round) and Cliff Lee (fourth) with Brandon Phillips to Cleveland in the June 2002 Bartolo Colon deal. Sizemore and Lee went on to make a total of four All-Star appearances with the Indians, with the latter also winning the 2008 Cy Young, while Bay became the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year with Pittsburgh as part of an 11-year career that included a trio of All-Star selections. Together, the three players totaled 95.6 WAR in the big leagues.
The Braves have Draft classes with higher combined WAR than this class, namely 1984 (the Tom Glavine Draft) and 1990 (the Chipper Jones Draft), but to be fair, members of the Class of ’07 are still producing in the big leagues. That was the year where they added the tremendous 1-2 punch of Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman in the top two rounds. The next two picks, Brandon Hicks and Cory Gearrin, also reached the big leagues and while 33rd-rounder Craig Kimbrel didn’t sign in 2007, it did help establish a relationship that allowed him to join the organization as a third-rounder in 2008.
The Marlins were able to grab the best player in the 2010 Draft with the 23rd overall selection because Christian Yelich was a California high schooler playing out of position at first base and there were questions about his power. They also stole baseball's current top catcher in J.T. Realmuto in the third round, correctly projecting that the Oklahoma prep shortstop's athleticism would ease his transition behind the plate. California outfielder Mark Canha was another good value in the seventh round.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Who was the Reds’ first-round pick in the first-ever Draft? It’s OK if you don’t remember because they got Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in the second round that year. But they got high school third baseman Bernie Carbo with their first selection and he was a big part of the 1970 World Series team as an outfielder before getting traded in 1972. They also got Hal McRae in the sixth round and while his best years came with the Royals, he contributed to the Big Red Machine in the early '70s.
Chicago blew the No. 3 overall pick on Morehead State left-hander Drew Hall but recovered to find a pair of pitchers whose record for combined victories by draftmates may never be broken. Nevada high school right-hander Greg Maddux (second round) and St. Joseph's lefty Jamie Moyer (sixth) totaled 624 wins between them -- 161 of those with the Cubs -- and Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC outfielder Dwight Smith (third, June secondary) finished second in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year balloting. The 1984-85 Cubs rival the 1975-76 Tigers for having the best back-to-back Drafts, with Chicago finding Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Grace in 1985.
To date, the 1985 Draft has the highest collective WAR of any Draft in history (1005.6). The top four picks of that year all went on to successful big league careers of varying degrees, highlighted by Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. The No. 5 pick that June was Kurt Brown, who never made it to the big leagues, and then the Pirates drafted Barry Bonds out of Arizona State. His 50.3 WAR with the Pirates alone would put him fourth among first-rounders from that year. He picked up two of his NL MVP Awards with the Pirates and led them to the postseason three years in a row from 1990-92.
Milwaukee added some big-time power to its system in 1986 by taking Gary Sheffield with the No. 6 overall pick in the June Draft, followed by Greg Vaughn (No. 4 overall pick) in the June Secondary Phase. They were selected to 13 All-Star teams and slugged 864 combined home runs during their careers -- Sheffield finished with 509 homers -- though only 190 came with the Brewers. Eleventh-rounder Darryl Hamilton also had a productive career, batting .291/.360/.385 (16.7 WAR) across 13 big league seasons.
An afterthought when the Cardinals took him in the 13th round of the 1999 Draft out of Maple Woods Community College, Albert Pujols became a generational star in St. Louis, garnering three MVP awards and nine All-Star selections while leading the club to a pair of World Series titles in 11 seasons. Now 40 years old, Pujols (100.8 WAR) enters his 20th big league campaign with a .300/.379/549 career line, 656 home runs and 3,202 hits. Seventh-round pick Coco Crisp (28.9 WAR) enjoyed a solid 15-year career, posting a .265/.327/.402 line with 309 steals for four different organizations after the Cardinals dealt him to Cleveland in August 2002.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Los Angeles signed six future All-Stars who would combine for 23 All-Star Game appearances, both Draft records, as was its total of 236 WAR generated by 10 big leaguers. The Dodgers' two best picks were college third basemen in the June secondary phase: Michigan State's Steve Garvey (first round) and Washington State's Ron Cey (third). Their other All-Stars were Washburn (Kan.) University outfielder Davey Lopes in the second round of January's secondary phase, and Alabama prep right-hander Doyle Alexander (ninth round), California high school first baseman Bill Buckner (second) and Houston outfielder/defensive back Tom Paciorek (fifth) in the regular June Draft. Pacific outfielder Joe Ferguson (eighth, June), Michigan left-hander Geoff Zahn (fifth round, January secondary) and Connecticut high school outfielder Bobby Valentine (first, No. 5 overall, June) also had long big league careers.
San Francisco found an entire starting outfield in El Camino (Calif.) JC's George Foster (January, third round) and California high schoolers Garry Maddox (January, second) and Gary Matthews (June, first, No. 17 overall). That trio combined for three World Series championships, an MVP award, six All-Star Game selections and eight Gold Gloves -- but none for the Giants.
With their third-round pick in the 1981 Draft, the Padres landed one of the best hitters in baseball history in Tony Gwynn. Dubbed “Mr. Padre,” the 2007 Hall of Fame inductee spent his entire 20-year career in San Diego, batting .338/.388/.459 with 3,141 career hits. He won eight batting titles including four straight (1994-97) and was a 15-time All-Star before finishing his illustrious career with 69.2 WAR. First-round pick Kevin McReynolds hit at least 20 home runs in six of his 12 seasons in the big leagues, four of which he spent with San Diego, while John Kruk, a third-round pick in the June Secondary Draft, went on to record a .300/.397/.446 line and was a three-time All-Star during his 10-year career.
The 1998 Draft is the Rockies’ highest in terms of WAR (71) and that’s with virtually nothing to show for their picks in the early rounds. Outfielder Jody Gerut, their second second-round pick, is the first from this class to produce a positive WAR, but it’s a pair of future outfielders taken in later rounds who really make this Draft successful. Colorado got speedster Juan Pierre in the 13th round out of the University of South Carolina, but the real steal was getting Matt Holliday to sign out of the Oklahoma high school ranks in the seventh round, then see him make three straight All-Star teams in 2006-08 as a Rockie.
Though Arizona did well with its 2009 first-round pick, selecting Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock with the No. 17 overall pick, the true gem of the D-backs’ Draft that year was eighth-rounder Paul Goldschmidt, a six-time All-Star who had a .930 OPS with 209 homers across eight seasons (2011-18) in the desert. Pollock also received an All-Star nod in 2015, when he finished 14th in the NL MVP race, and overall the duo combined for 49.9 WAR during their overlapping D-backs tenure. On top of that, the D-backs’ 2009 Draft also produced big leaguers such as Chase Anderson (ninth round), Keon Broxton (third) and Chris Owings (first-supplemental).
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.