Best Picks from 50 Years of the MLB Draft

Who are the best draft selections at each spot?

With the MLB Draft this week, it’s fun to look back at the some of the best picks over the past 50 years of the draft. Here’s the best selection at each of the first 40 positions in the draft.

 

1 Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle, 1987

Certainly there are numerous No. 1 overall selections worthy of being named the best. But I’ll take Griffey over Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez and David Price.

Best of the 2000s: David Price, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2007

 

2 Reggie Jackson, Kansas City Athletics, 1966

The struggling A’s were more than happy to hear the Mets call Steve Chilcott’s name to begin the second draft in history.

Best of the 2000s: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers, 2004

 

3 Robin Yount, Milwaukee, 1973

The Hall of Famer edges out long-time teammate and fellow Hall member Paul Molitor, who was taken third four years later.

Best of the 2000s: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2006

 

4 Dave Winfield, San Diego, 1973

The big outfielder was drafted in the NFL and both the ABA and NBA.

Best of the 2000s: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals, 2005

 

5 Dale Murphy, Atlanta, 1974

Tough call over Dwight Gooden and Buster Posey. The Giants’ catcher will likely earn this spot in a few years, but if his career ended today, he would fall short.

Best of the 2000s: Buster Posey, San Francisco, 2008

 

6 Derek Jeter, New York Yankees, 1992

Clearly, this presents the classic argument of best performance on the field vs. the most significant impact on the game. Barry Bonds was an awfully good player, but was never as revered or considered the “face of the game” as Jeter was.

Best of the 2000s: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals, 2002

 

7 Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox, 1989

Clayton Kershaw is not in the Hall of Fame yet, so this goes to the big tight end from Auburn, who quickly became the Big Hurt and a Big Star in Chicago.

Best of the 2000s: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2006

 

8 Todd Helton, Colorado, 1995

The greatest player in Colorado history once started at quarterback at the University of Tennessee with Peyton Manning on the bench.

Best of the 2000s: Mike Leake, Cincinnati, 2009

 

9 Kevin Appier, Kansas City Royals, 1987

Appier has four more wins and six fewer losses than Barry Zito.

Best of the 2000s: Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, 2009

 

10 Ted Simmons, St. Louis, 1967

I’ll take Simmons’ complete game over Mark McGwire’s power.

Best of the 2000s: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco, 2007

 

11 Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh, 2005

I’m taking the Pirates’ center fielder over Greg Luzinski and Max Scherzer.

Best of the 2000s: Max Scherzer, Arizona, 2006

 

12 Kirk Gibson, Detroit, 1978

The All-America wide receiver from Michigan State delivered one of the most dramatic home runs in history in the 1988 World Series—but not for the team that drafted him.

Best of the 2000s: Jered Weaver, Anaheim Angels, 2004

 

13 Paul Konerko, L.A. Dodgers, 1994

Konerko hit just four of his 439 career home runs for the team that drafted him. Manny Ramirez was a nice pick by the Indians at this spot as well.

Best of the 2000s: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox, 2010

 

14 Jason Varitek, Seattle, 1994

After making this terrific pick, the Mariners dealt Varitek AND Derek Lowe to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb.

Best of the 2000s: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves, 2007

 

15 Jim Rice, Boston, 1971

Condredge Holloway, Roger Quiroga, Ed Kurpiel and David Sloan were among the 14 players chosen before Rice in 1971. The Hall of Famer spent his entire career with Boston, winning an MVP trophy in 1978.

Best of the 2000s: Chase Utley, Philadelphia, 2000

 

16 Lance Berkman, Houston, 1997

Berkman joined Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell as a full-time member of the Killer Bs in 2000.

Best of the 2000s: Nick Swisher, Oakland A’s, 2002

 

17 Roy Halladay, Toronto, 1995

Doc Halladay is second in wins, strikeouts and shutouts on the Blue Jays’ career lists.

Best of the 2000s: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia, 2002

 

18 Willie Wilson, Kansas City, 1974

Wilson played center field and batted leadoff for the Royals’ AL pennant winners in 1980 and ’85.

Best of the 2000s: Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s, 2011

 

19 Roger Clemens, Boston, 1983

As great as Clemens was for the Red Sox, he couldn’t reverse the curse in Boston.

Best of the 2000s: Shelby Miller, St. Louis, 2009

 

20 Mike Mussina, Baltimore, 1990

Mussina should be in the Hall of Fame one day, and could easily be joined there by Torii Hunter, drafted at No. 20 by the Twins in 1993.

Best of the 2000s: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota, 2004

 

21 Rick Sutcliffe, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1974

The Dodgers figured this whole scouting and drafting thing pretty quickly with several solid picks over the first 10 years of the draft.

Best of the 2000s: Ian Kennedy, New York Yankees, 2006

 

22 Craig Biggio, Houston, 1987

With more than 3,000 hits and All-Star starts at both catcher and second base, Biggio is second to no one here, not even Rafael Palmeiro and his 3,000 hits and nearly 600 homers.

Best of the 2000s: Kolten Wong, St. Louis, 2011

 

23 Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston, 2005

Billy Beane was selected at No. 23 by the Mets in 1980. But his playing career didn’t measure up to Ellsbury’s.

Best of the 2000s: Phil Hughes, New York Yankees, 2004

 

24 Terry Mulholland, San Francisco, 1984

The left-handed Mulholland gets the nod due to longevity and lock of competition. Toronto manager John Gibbons was selected with the pick right after Beane.

Best of the 2000s: Randal Grichuk, Los Angeles Angels, 2009

 

25 Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 2009

I know that if Trout’s career ended today, he would not likely measure up well to Bill Buckner. But I’m going with Trout anyway.

Best of the 2000s: Matt Cain, San Francisco, 2002

 

26 Alan Trammell, Detroit, 1976

Many experts believe the talented shortstop should be in the Hall of Fame. I’m not one of them, but I don believe he is the best player of guys drafted at No. 26.

Best of the 2000s: Blake Swihart, Boston, 2011

 

27 Vida Blue, Kansas City Athletics, 1967

The left-handed pitcher was named American League MVP in 1971, the year before his A’s reeled off three straight World Series titles.

Best of the 2000s: Rick Porcello, Detroit, 2007

 

28 Lee Smith, Chicago Cubs, 1975

When Smith, a former collegiate basketball player, lumbered out to the mound, it was usually lights out for opponents. He is one of only three pitchers with more than 450 saves.

Best of the 2000s: Colby Rasmus, St. Louis, 2005

 

29 George Brett, Kansas City Royals, 1971

The Hall of Famer remains the face of the Kansas City Royals franchise. Brett won batting titles in three different decades and played in two World Series, winning one.

Best of the 2000s: Adam Wainwright, Atlanta, 2000

 

30 Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, 1971

This Hall of Fame third baseman was taken one pick behind Brett in 1971. The two were their respective leagues’ best third basemen throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

Best of the 2000s: Noah Lowry, San Francisco, 2001

 

31 Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs, 1984

It’s too bad the Cubs couldn’t hang on to Maddux through his free agency in the early 1990s.

Best of the 2000s: J.P. Howell, Kansas City Royals, 2004

 

32 Lee Lacy, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1969

A lean group features Dave Valle, Dave Magadan and Jon Farrell. See why I chose Lacy?

Best of the 2000s: Jake Odorizzi, Milwaukee, 2008

 

33 Milt Wilcox, Cincinnati, 1968

I’ll take Wilcox since he has four more wins (119) than Dave Burba. Although, Mike Gallego has the highest WAR (17.1) from this slot.

Best of the 2000s: Jeff Mathis, Anaheim Angels, 2001

 

34 Mark Gubicza, Kansas City Royals 1981

The Royals’ stalwart piled up 132 wins in his career.

Best of the 2000s: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati, 2007

 

35 Mark Langston, Seattle 1981

The left-handed starter who played most of his career in Seattle just edges Johnny Damon.

Best of the 2000s: Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets, 2012

 

36 Johnny Bench, Cincinnati, 1965

In the first year of the draft, Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont, Ken Plesha, Raldolph Kohn, Ken Rudolph, Donald Johnson and Dick Horton were the seven catchers drafted ahead of Bench. Every team passed on Bench once, and 15 of the 20 teams at the time passed on him twice.

Best of the 2000s: Chris Coghlan, Florida Marlins, 2006

 

37 Frank Viola, Minnesota, 1981

Mike Scott, drafted by the Mets in 1976, won a Cy Young in 1986 but had just two seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. Viola won a Cy Young in 1987 and finished his career with 176 wins.

Best of the 2000s: Adam Jones, Seattle, 2003

 

38 David Wright, New York Mets, 2001

The seven-time All-Star has established himself as Mr. Met (no, not the guy with the big baseball head), but has played in as many as 140 games just once in the last five seasons.

Best of the 2000s: Noah Syndergaard, Toronto, 2010

 

39 Don Baylor, Baltimore, 1967

The 1979 American League MVP once played in three successive World Series with three different teams (1986 Red Sox, 1987 Twins, 1988 A’s). Joey Gallo, recently called up by the Rangers, may one day take over Baylor’s space here.

Best of the 2000s: Lance Lynn, St. Louis, 2008

 

40 Larry Gura, Chicago Cubs, 1969

There’s not much competition for this position, but Gura won 111 games in nine years with the Royals.

Best of the 2000s: Huston Street, Oakland 2004

 

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