The first pick in the 1987 draft, Ken Griffey Jr. went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career and cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever play
The Major League Baseball draft does not have the drama of its NFL and NBA counterparts. Even if Royce Lewis, the high school shortstop from California who was the first player taken in the 2017 MLB Draft on Monday night, has a Hall of Fame career, it will be at least a year or two before most baseball fans see him in action because of his requisite time in the minor leagues. By the time they make it to The Show, many fans have forgotten there were the No. 1 overall pick.
There are players though whose names are synonymous with great careers, such that when you also read that they were the top pick in the draft, you just nod your head and say, “Well, that makes sense.” Here are the five best.
(Note: This list only includes retired players.)
5. Darryl Strawberry, OF, Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles)
1980 Draft – New York Mets
Strawberry reached the majors in 1983, was named National League Rookie of the Year and then an All-Star the next eight years in a row. Substance abuse issues, injuries and a bout with colon cancer hampered his career, but he still played key roles in championships for both the Mets and New York Yankees.
4. Harold Baines, OF, St. Michael’s High School (St. Michael’s, Md.)
1977 Draft – Chicago White Sox
Baines made his major league debut on Opening Day in 1980 and played for five different teams in a 22-season career that included three different stints with the White Sox. After a knee injury effectively ended his fielding career in the late 1980s, he found a second life as a designated hitter.
3. Chipper Jones, SS, Bolles High School (Jacksonville, Fla.)
1990 Draft – Atlanta Braves
The Braves snagged Jones the year before their run of 14 straight division titles. For his first full season Atlanta in 1995, the Braves moved him to third base and he had an amazing rookie season as Atlanta won its only World Series. His play that year was only a sign of things to come. Jones finished with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs, making him one of the best switch-hitters in the history of the game. He’ll appear on the next Hall of Fame ballot for the first time and could be inducted into Cooperstown in 2018.
2. Alex Rodriguez, SS, Westminster Christian High School (Palmetto Bay, Fla.)
1993 Draft – Seattle Mariners
Even with his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), A-Rod’s career is one of the best ever. He finished with 3,115 hits, 696 home runs and 2,086 RBIs. He also holds the record for most career grand slams with 25 and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009. However, he’s second on this list because of his connection with PEDs.
1. Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Moeller High School (Cincinnati)
1987 Draft – Seattle Mariners
The only player on this list who is currently in the Hall of Fame was the most electrifying player of the 1990s and his 630 home runs are sixth in baseball history. Junior also was a 10-time Gold Glove recipient. If injuries had not derailed his career in the 2000s, there is no telling what else he would have accomplished.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.