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Saturday, June 02, 2018

Best draft picks ever and one that got away for all 30 teams

Draft history is fascinating, and maybe the first thing you learn when looking through past drafts is not just how few players make the majors but also how few end up contributing much value beyond replacement level even if they do make it. Drafting a future star is rare—even in the first round. Drafting a solid contributor is rare—even in the first round. Drafting two solid contributors in one draft is rare. It’s a roll of the dice, yet the future success of your favorite team depends to a large degree on its ability to draft well.

Let’s take a snapshot of all 30 teams, looking at their best first-round pick since the draft began in 1965, a late-round gem (10th round or later) and one who got away (a player they drafted but failed to sign).

cardsfanboy Posted: June 02, 2018 at 01:30 PM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: draft picks, history

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 02, 2018 at 01:57 PM (#5684538)
Slightly different criterion but to me, the one that got away for the Rangers will always be Frank Thomas, whom the Rangers passed on with the 5th pick in the 1989 draft so they could take a guy whose greatest claim to athletic fame was being an all-conference cornerback for Texas Tech. Thomas went two picks later at #7. The Rangers drafted a great athlete. The White Sox drafted a great baseball player.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: June 02, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5684553)
I liked this article. I think it was fun reading the best in the first round, the best late pick, and the one that got away. It's a fun way to look at it. Although often times the ones that got away was always a guy that the team knew more than likely wasn't going to sign.
   3. The Duke Posted: June 02, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5684569)
Cards have missed on scherzer twice now.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: June 02, 2018 at 06:25 PM (#5684616)
Yeah, the ones that got away were often ones that didn't really get away -- either they knew they weren't going to sign them or they were just pimply-faced kids that nobody knew were going to turn out to be Dave Winfield (a 40th round pick by the O's out of high school) so there was no real effort to sign them. And of course no guarantee that Winfield becomes Winfield in the O's system. OK, Winfield probably didn't have pimples, I believe the ladies of the time thought he was a rather handsome man.

The A's one who got away is lame since they drafted Hudson again after college.

As #1 suggests, a 4th category of "D'oh!" for "they coulda drafted X" for missing first-rounders who made a fairly immediate impact ... of course we'd have to set aside Trout who would be the answer for most teams. But something like Frank Thomas for the Rangers. I suppose you still have to put some thought into that one to make it interesting and a different player for each team. Can't do it by just paging through b-r's team draft pages. :-)
   5. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 02, 2018 at 11:27 PM (#5684715)
As #1 suggests, a 4th category of "D'oh!" for "they coulda drafted X" for missing first-rounders who made a fairly immediate impact

I think the Mets classic is Reggie Jackson. They had the first pick in the draft in 1966. They went with Steve Chilcott, a catcher who never made the majors. Reggie went number 2.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 02, 2018 at 11:30 PM (#5684719)
Slightly different criterion but to me, the one that got away for the Rangers will always be Frank Thomas, whom the Rangers passed on with the 5th pick in the 1989 draft so they could take a guy whose greatest claim to athletic fame was being an all-conference cornerback for Texas Tech.
Donald Harris, IIRC?
   7. zachtoma Posted: June 02, 2018 at 11:37 PM (#5684725)
I'm surprised they didn't list Tom Seaver as the "one that got away" for the Braves. They drafted him in the 1st round in 1966, and signed him, but the deal was voided because USC had played in exhbition games (ie in pro games??? not Seaver himself mind you, this reasoning doesn't make any sense to me). In hindsight, it seems like Commissioner Eckert badly screwed up everything surrounding Seaver's draft eligibility and his contract. Seaver intended to then go back to USC but NCAA ruled him ineligible because he had signed a pro contract (now voided), so his father threatened to sue the league - the commissioner responded by opening Seaver's signing rights up to bidding, any team that would match the Braves' offer would go into a lottery for Seaver. It's unclear if the Braves were excluded entirely from this subsequent bidding process, wiki mentions only that Philadelphia and Cleveland were the other finalists. The Mets won. The rest is history. It sure as hell looks a lot like the league took a Hall of Famer away from Atlanta mainly because of executive ineptitude.

EDIT: The SABR bio has a much better explanation of why Seaver's contract was voided.

But as much as he loved the tomahawk, Seaver never wore it for an inning of his professional career. Major-league rules prevented any organization from signing a college player while his season was in progress. Although Seaver had yet to pitch in 1966, the USC season was under way when the Braves signed their right-handed prospect. Commissioner William Eckert voided Seaver’s contract with the Braves on March 2. If other teams matched Atlanta’s offer of $51,500, they would participate in a lottery for Seaver’s services. Three teams – the Indians, the Phillies, and the Mets – stepped forward with contractual offers. The lottery was conducted on April 3 as each organization had its name thrown into a hat. Would Seaver join Sam McDowell and Sonny Siebert in Cleveland’s rotation? Would he emerge as Philadelphia’s third starter behind Jim Bunning and Chris Short? Neither. The winning paper selected belonged to the losingest team in baseball, the Mets.


It sounds like there was a basis for saying that Atlanta's signing was illegal, although there's an argument to be had about whether "exhibition games," as the wikipedia article says, really count as the season being "underway". One wonders why Atlanta jumped the gun, would he have gone back into the June draft pool if left unsigned? Seaver was taken in the January draft, which was not really meant for active college players. Since Seaver was a senior graduating the spring, one also wonders why he was in the January draft pool in the first place, instead of waiting until June. He was drafted in 1965 but didn't sign, so I guess they just dumped him into the next draft? Another though - it's not at all clear that he was intending on playing in the 1966 USC season, in fact it seems he wasn't since he tried to rejoin the team after his signing was voided and it's mentioned that he didn't participate in any of their games to that point - so why didn't the league take this into account? Was he considered on active player on the USC team just because he was enrolled?
   8. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 03, 2018 at 12:13 AM (#5684754)
Donald Harris, IIRC?

#triggered

Indeed. The one and only.
   9. Rennie's Tenet Posted: June 04, 2018 at 07:03 AM (#5685305)
My choice for worst pick ever: in 2007, the Pirates used a 20th round pick on a 23 year-old, fifth-year senior from UC-Santa Barbara who had gone 6-12 in his college career with more hits allowed than innings pitched and more walks than strikeouts. He was Brian Tracy, the son of Pirate manager Jim Tracy.
   10. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 07:30 AM (#5685306)
Maybe he had a high spin rate.
   11. Rally Posted: June 04, 2018 at 08:31 AM (#5685319)
There have been much worse nepotism picks than that. Tracy might have been no prospect, but he was able to pitch 22 innings in low A ball. He wasn't good there, but not the worst pitcher on the team.
   12. Rally Posted: June 04, 2018 at 08:50 AM (#5685323)
Edit: wrong thread
   13. dlf Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:53 AM (#5685367)
Slightly different criterion but to me, the one that got away for the Rangers will always be Frank Thomas, whom the Rangers passed on with the 5th pick in the 1989 draft so they could take a guy whose greatest claim to athletic fame was being an all-conference cornerback for Texas Tech. Thomas went two picks later at #7. The Rangers drafted a great athlete. The White Sox drafted a great baseball player.


They passed on a great athlete, not just great baseball player:

The best athlete Pat Dye coached? That's easy. Or is it?

"People ask me who was the best athlete I ever coached," the former Auburn football coach told the Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Ga. "Bo Jackson was the best athlete I ever coached. Frank Thomas was the second-best athlete. And I might have had it reversed."
Link

The longest homer I've ever seen was a Thomas blast in college. Picture the Big Hurt using an aluminum bat ...
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: June 04, 2018 at 09:57 AM (#5685377)

Link


From that link:


"Not getting drafted out of high school was the worst moment of my life at that time because I knew that I was much better than pretty much half that draft," Thomas said. "It was a lot of guys I played with in high school. A lot of guys got drafted. I want to say seven, eight, nine guys got drafted, and I felt like I was the best player in the state. Most of the scouts played it off, 'Oh, you're just a football player playing baseball.' I took it serious because I knew what I had to give for baseball. They could have signed me out of high school for a dozen baseballs and a couple fungos. I was taking it hard because I wanted to play baseball. .

Frank Thomas was everyone's one that got away.
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:06 AM (#5685396)
My choice for worst pick ever: in 2007, the Pirates used a 20th round pick on a 23 year-old, fifth-year senior from UC-Santa Barbara who had gone 6-12 in his college career with more hits allowed than innings pitched and more walks than strikeouts. He was Brian Tracy, the son of Pirate manager Jim Tracy.

Not even close. In 1988, the Dodgers used their first round pick and 5th overall on Bill Bene. 10-7 with an ERA over 5 in 3 years at UCLA. His last year in college, he had a K/9 of 8.1 which was offset by his BB/9 of 9.2 (not a typo). His minor league career was the stuff of legend and played out pretty much like you'd expect.
   16. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:19 AM (#5685413)
Re 14

I think that would be Mike Piazza.
   17. Batman Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:29 AM (#5685434)
Not even close. In 1988, the Dodgers used their first round pick and 5th overall on Bill Bene. 10-7 with an ERA over 5 in 3 years at UCLA. His last year in college, he had a K/9 of 8.1 which was offset by his BB/9 of 9.2 (not a typo). His minor league career was the stuff of legend and played out pretty much like you'd expect.
It was worse than that- he went to Cal State LA, not UCLA. We wasn't even getting hit hard by (and walking) USC and Arizona State. He was getting hit hard by Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Chico State, if their current schedule is something like their 1988 schedule.
   18. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5685468)
So far their site only goes back to 1998 but they were playing Riverside, Chico, Fort Hays, San Bernardino, Southern Colorado, San Diego State, Cal Poly Pomona, Concordia-Irvine, The Master's, Biola, Loyola-Marymount, Pt. Loma Nazarene, UC San Diego, Dominguez Hills, and Northridge back then.
   19. Batman Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5685488)
The LA Times doesn't appear to have covered any Golden Eagles games in 1988, or at least Bene wasn't mentioned in anything I can search. He was mentioned in a season preview in February but not again until "Bene will probably get drafted" articles started showing up in May and June. His name was in two other earlier game stories, for beating UCLA as a freshman and for losing to Northridge as a sophomore.
   20. Rally Posted: June 04, 2018 at 11:55 AM (#5685545)
"Not getting drafted out of high school was the worst moment of my life at that time because I knew that I was much better than pretty much half that draft," Thomas said. "It was a lot of guys I played with in high school. A lot of guys got drafted. I want to say seven, eight, nine guys got drafted, and I felt like I was the best player in the state. Most of the scouts played it off, 'Oh, you're just a football player playing baseball.' I took it serious because I knew what I had to give for baseball. They could have signed me out of high school for a dozen baseballs and a couple fungos. I was taking it hard because I wanted to play baseball. .


Is Thomas the best player of the draft era to be passed on out of high school?

If teams believe that a player intends to go to college, that will really dissuade teams from picking you. Sure, it often happens that some team will draft you in the 20th round and give it a shot, but a lot of times they won't bother.

I knew a kid in the 1990s, left handed pitcher, threw in low 90s, who should have been drafted. But he told the scouts not to bother, he was going to college. He ended up not being drafted. I'm not an expert scout with the frame of reference to know where he should have been picked, but his teammate, who was nowhere near as good, did get drafted in the first 5 rounds. So I'm pretty sure the kid should have been drafted had he been interested.
   21. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5685579)
Albert Pujols also didn't get drafted out of high school and he was a probably ready to be a major league right out of high school and probably an All Star as well. Mike Piazza received virtually zero interest in high school (of course it also didn't help that he got lost and didn't show up for a showcase event) and went undrafted. Not only were major league teams not interested in him but neither were colleges. It took his father calling in favors to get him a spot on the U of Miami as a backup first baseman. After the season he would transfer to Miami-Dade Community and it was only because of the family's connection to Lasorda that he got drafted at all. It was only because of Lasorda's insistence that they actually signed him too as they thought they were simply drafting him to help him land a roster spot in a big college.
   22. Batman Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:14 PM (#5685582)
I think Pujols graduated from high school in December and then played junior college baseball right after that. Nobody really had a chance to draft him after high school.

The Braves passed on Todd Van Poppel with the first pick partly because he was definitely going to college. He ended up signing with the A's instead of going to college, and the Braves got stuck with Chipper Jones.
   23. McCoy Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:29 PM (#5685597)
Yeah, I guess Pujols didn't opt into the 1998 draft.
   24. Davo and his Moose Tacos Posted: June 04, 2018 at 12:42 PM (#5685610)
I didn’t learn until this article that the Yankees picked both Pettitte and Posada in the >20th round of the same draft. Damn—two cornerstones for their dynasty, and they absolutely lucked into both of them!

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