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Top Players in the 2004 MLB Draft: Where are they now?

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander

In every sport, certain drafts stand out as stronger than others. The 2003 NBA version, which included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, is considered a landmark. The ’83 NFL crop that included John Elway, Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews and Jim Kelly was particularly robust. The ’04 MLB class may not have been on a par with those two, but it included some pretty impressive talent, like Justin Verlander, Dustin Pedroia, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler and Hunter Pence. Even the lesser lights distinguished themselves somewhat. For instance, Philip Humber threw a perfect game. 


» Of the 30 players selected in the first round, 19 were pitchers, and seven of those were lefties. The next most popular position was shortstop, with four prospects chosen.

» MLB clubs had an appetite for experience, choosing 17 players from the college ranks and all of them from four-year schools. Rice University produced three of the top eight choices.

» Only four of the players selected came from colleges or high schools above the Mason-Dixon Line. Everybody else was from the South — or California. 

1. Padres: Matt Bush, SS

Mission Bay (Calif.) HS

Bush never played an inning in the majors during a career that featured a position switch and legal troubles that eventually resulted in his being jailed for running over a man while intoxicated. San Diego converted Bush to a pitcher in May 2007, and he was signed by Tampa Bay in 2010. But Bush was never able to get past the Class AA ranks before the DUI incident derailed his career for good in March 2012.

2. Tigers: Justin Verlander, RHP 

Old Dominion (’05-13, Detroit)

After a brisk move through two levels of minor-league ball, Verlander made his debut with the Tigers in 2005, and in 2006 won 17 games. Verlander captured the 2011 Cy Young Award after going 24–5 with a 2.40 ERA and an MLB-leading 250 strikeouts. Verlander is one of the premier power pitchers in the game and has led the majors in Ks on three occasions. A stalwart who often gains velocity on his fastball as the game progresses, Verlander signed a seven-year, $180 million contract in March 2013 that could grow to $202 mil.

3. Mets: Philip Humber, RHP 

Rice (’06-07, Mets; ’08-09, Minnesota; ’10, Kansas City; ’11-12, Chicago White Sox; ’13, Houston)

Despite having collected only 16 wins during his eight-year major-league career, Humber is well known for the perfect game he threw for the ChiSox on April 21, 2012, against Seattle. Humber struggled with elbow problems during his minor-league career and had Tommy John surgery. Humber bounced between the big leagues and minors from 2006-10 and appeared in only 26 games, but he became a full-time starter with the White Sox in 2011 and went 9–9. After posting a 5–5 mark in 26 total appearances in 2012, Humber slid to 0–8 with the Astros in ’13.

4. Devil Rays: Jeff Niemann, RHP

Rice (’08-12, Tampa Bay)

Despite enduring a couple surgeries and a broken leg suffered from a batted ball, Niemann has been a solid starter during his five major-league seasons. He won 13 games in 2009, 12 the following season and 11 in ’11. But he suffered the broken leg after only eight starts in 2012 and later underwent shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2013 campaign. 

5. Brewers: Mark Rogers, RHP

Mount Ararat (Maine) HS (’10, ’12 Milwaukee)

Rogers has had a star-crossed career, thanks to injury and suspension. He has appeared in 11 games during his major-league career, with his most productive stint a 3–1 record in seven starts during the late part of the 2012 season. Rogers struck out 41 in 39 innings during the stint. He became a free agent after the 2013 season, which he spent in the minors. 

6. Indians: Jeremy Sowers, LHP

Vanderbilt (’06-09, Cleveland)

The lefty showed promise during his rookie season, compiling a 7–4 record with a 3.57 ERA and two shutouts in 2006. But arm troubles and ineffectiveness torpedoed his high hopes, and he was unable to post a record over .500 the next three seasons. After a 6–11 mark in 2009, Sowers did not make the big club the next year and was removed from the 40-man roster. He recently retired.

7. Reds: Homer Bailey, RHP

La Grange (Texas) HS

(’07-13, Cincinnati)

Despite not becoming a fully made member of the Reds’ starting rotation until 2012, Bailey has had a solid career. He has thrown no-hitters each of the last two seasons and tied for second in the majors with 33 starts in ’12, the year he went 13–10 with a 3.68 ERA. Despite going 11–12 in 2013, he had a 3.49 ERA and a career-high 199 strikeouts. 

8. Orioles: Wade Townsend, RHP


Townsend was drafted by Baltimore but couldn’t reach an agreement with the team and returned to school to finish his degree. Tampa Bay selected him in the ’05 Draft, but he lasted only parts of five years in pro ball, the last in the independent ranks, thanks to shoulder problems and ineffectiveness. In 2010, Toronto released him, effectively ending his career.

9. Rockies: Chris Nelson, SS

Redan (Ga.) HS (’10-13, Colorado; ’13, N.Y. Yankees, ’13 L.A. Angels)

It took a while for Nelson to reach the majors, but in 2010 he landed with the Rockies. His best year came in 2012, when he hit .301 in 111 games, with 21 doubles. The good times didn’t last, though, and he was traded to the Yankees in late April 2013. After a two-week tour in New York, Nelson was waived. He caught on with the Angels and played in 33 games.

10. Rangers: Thomas Diamond, RHP 

University of New Orleans (’10, Cubs)

Diamond appeared to be headed toward the majors on a fast track until a torn elbow ligament torpedoed his quick rise. Texas designated him for assignment in 2009, and the Cubs claimed him. Diamond pitched in 16 games for Chicago in 2010 and posted a 1–3 record. His debut came in a 4–3 loss to the Brewers, but he struck out 10 in six innings, tying a franchise record for most Ks in a first start. He never made it back to the majors.

11. Pirates: Neil Walker, C

Pine-Richland (Pa.) HS (’09-13, Pittsburgh)

Walker has spent five seasons in the majors with the Bucs, the last four as a lineup regular. But it wasn’t until ’11 that he settled in at his current position, second base, after playing all over the infield and outfield. In 2011, he pounded 36 doubles and knocked in 83 runs, while last year, he clubbed a career-best 16 homers. 

12. Angels: Jered Weaver, RHP

Long Beach State (’06-13 L.A. Angels)

During his eight years with the Angels, Weaver has been one of the most durable and productive pitchers in the big leagues. Before a broken elbow suffered on a line drive off the bat of Mitch Moreland sidelined him in April 2013, Weaver had made at least 30 starts in five straight seasons. He posted an 18–8 record with a 2.41 ERA in 2011 and a 20–5 mark with a 2.81 ERA the next season. In August 2011, Weaver signed a five-year, $85 million contract. 

13. Expos: Bill Bray, LHP

William & Mary (’06, Washington; ’06-12, Cincinnati)

For a three-season stretch between 2008-11 (he missed ’09 after Tommy John surgery), Bray was a reliable bullpen lefty for the Reds, pitching in 63 games in ’08 and 79 in 2011. Bray wasn’t overpowering, but he had solid control and didn’t allow too many runs. In 2008, he posted a 2.87 ERA. After pitching in just 14 games in 2012, Bray became a free agent but couldn’t catch on with the Nats in ’13.

14. Royals: Billy Butler, 3B

Samuel W. Wolfson (Fla.) HS (’07-13, Kansas City)

Throughout his seven-year career, Butler has proven to be a strong force in the lineup for K.C. He can hit for power and average and has been a steady first baseman. Butler’s biggest year was 2012, when he hit .313, with 29 homers and 107 RBIs. He earned an All-Star invitation that season and won the Silver Slugger for first basemen. Butler slugged 51 doubles in 2009 and has hit .300 three times.

15. Diamondbacks: Stephen Drew, SS

Florida State (’06-’12, Arizona; ’12, Oakland; ’13, Boston)

Although Drew’s career has been something of an up-and-down ride, the 2013 season was quite rewarding. Signed by Boston to a one-year deal, Drew spent most of the year in the lineup and tied his career best with 67 RBIs. In the sixth game of the World Series, Drew hit a homer that helped propel the Sox to victory and the World Series title. 

16. Blue Jays: David Purcey, LHP

Oklahoma (’08-11, Toronto;  ’11, Oakland, Detroit; ’13 Chicago White Sox)

Purcey spent the first two seasons of his major-league career as a starter but became a reliever after that and has spent four years bouncing between the minors and the big show. His most productive season was 2010, when he appeared in 33 games for the Blue Jays and posted a 3.71 ERA. The lefty pitched in 24 games for the White Sox in ’13 with a 2.13 ERA.

17. Dodgers: Scott Elbert, RHP

Seneca (Mo.) HS (’08-12, L.A. Dodgers)

Just when it appeared that Elbert’s big-league career was heating up, he succumbed to elbow problems and had Tommy John surgery in June 2013. Elbert pitched sparingly for the Dodgers from ’08-10, but he logged 47 appearances in 2011 and 43 in ’12, posting strong ERAs both times.

18. White Sox: Josh Fields, 3B

Oklahoma State (’06-09, Chicago White Sox; ’10, Kansas City)

In 2007, it appeared as if Fields had established himself as a slugging corner infielder and outfielder by hitting 23 homers in 100 games with the White Sox. But that was his high-water mark in the majors. Despite spending five seasons in the big leagues, Fields was out of MLB after 2010, and following a one-year stint in Japan, he bounced around the minors in several organizations. He spent 2013 with the Phillies’ Triple-A team.

19. Cardinals: Chris Lambert, RHP

Boston College (‘08-09, Detroit; ’09, Baltimore)

Lambert bounced between the majors and minors in 2008 and ’09, beginning as a starter but becoming a reliever. He compiled a 1–3 record with a 7.36 ERA during his big-league stops and was out of baseball after the 2009 campaign.

20. Twins: Trevor Plouffe, SS

Crespi Carmelite (Calif.) HS (’10-13, Minnesota)

Plouffe was used at short, second and third during his time in the minors, but he became the Twins’ main third baseman in 2012. Plouffe has shown a little bit of pop — he hit 11 homers in June 2012 — and he’s a solid fielder and a versatile player who can fill in all over the infield and also handle some work in left and right.

21. Phillies: Greg Golson, OF

Connally (Texas) HS (’08, Philadelphia; ’09, Texas; ’10-11, N.Y. Yankees)

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The Phillies had big plans for Golson when they chose him, but he never developed into a big-league outfielder. Though he has played parts of four seasons in the major leagues, he never saw more than 24 games in one year and has a career batting average of .195.

22. Twins: Glen Perkins, LHP

Minnesota (’06-13, Minnesota)

When the hard-throwing Perkins went 12–4 in 26 starts in 2008, the Twins thought they had a stalwart. But he never replicated that success as a starter and ended up in the bullpen. It wasn’t a bad move. Perkins became a closer in 2012 and logged 16 saves during the second half of the year. In 2013, he compiled 36 saves and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team as an injury replacement.

23. Yankees: Phil Hughes, RHP

Foothill (Calif.) HS (’07-13, New York Yankees)

It’s hard to tell which version of Hughes you’re going to get. In 2010, he went 18–8 and made the All-Star Game. Two years later, he was 16–13. But Hughes was 4–14 with a 5.19 ERA last season and has been the type of maddening pitcher who teases with his potential to “turn the corner,” only to take a step back just as he heads in that direction. Still, the Minnesota Twins saw fit to give him a three-year, $24 million deal in late November.

24. A’s: Landon Powell, C

South Carolina  (’09-11, Oakland)

Powell spent parts of three years with the A’s, playing primarily at catcher but also some first base and DH. His best statistical season came in ’09, when he hit .229 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 46 games. He spent 2012 and ’13 in the minors before being released. 

25. Twins: Kyle Waldrop, RHP

Farragut (Tenn.) HS (’11-12, Minnesota)

Overall, the righty pitched in 24 games out of the bullpen for the Twins and posted a 2.53 ERA in 17 appearances in 2012, before elbow problems shelved him. He spent 2013 in the Pirates’ system but appeared in only five games.

26. A’s: Richie Robnett, CF

Fresno State

Robnett impressed scouts with his skills throughout his college career and into his first few seasons in the minors, but his raw talent never translated into big-league ability, and he never played a game in the majors.

27. Marlins: Taylor Tankersley, LHP

Alabama (’06-08; ’10, Florida)

Tankersley compiled an 8–2 record during the 2006 and ’07 seasons as a solid left-handed bullpen option for the Marlins but pitched in only 25 games during 2008, as an elbow stress fracture plagued him. He missed ’09 after undergoing surgery and had a strong ’10 campaign as a lefty specialist, holding left-handed hitters to a .200 average. He signed with the Mets in 2011 but spent the season in the minors.

28. Dodgers: Blake DeWitt, 2B

Sikeston (Mo.) HS (’08-10, L.A. Dodgers; ’10-12, Cubs; ’13, Atlanta)

A versatile player who can handle work at second, third and the outfield, DeWitt had his best year in 2010 when he hit .261 with 24 doubles and 52 RBIs in 135 games with the Dodgers and Cubs. He spent most of 2013 in the minors with the Atlanta organization, reaching the big leagues for just four games in April.

29. Royals: Matthew Campbell, RHP

South Carolina

Campbell spent a few years in the minors but never came close to reaching the big leagues, failing to climb out of Class A ball.

30. Rangers: Eric Hurley, RHP

Samuel W. Wolfson (Fla.) HS 

(’08 Texas)

Hurley made five starts for the Rangers in 2008 and posted a 1–2 record with a 5.47 ERA. He spent time in the Angels and Twins organizations but was never able to escape the minor leagues.

Other notable selections

Gio Gonzalez, LHP

White Sox (Rd. 1 – Supplemental) Monsignor Pace (Fla.) HS

Gonzalez has become one of the game’s top young pitchers, winning 63 games in the last four years.

Huston Street, RHP

A’s (Rd. 1 – Supplemental) Texas

The 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2012 All-Star has become a reliable closer for three teams.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP

Brewers (Rd. 2) Trimble (Texas) Technical HS

The Milwaukee power starter has won 72 games over the past five years, including 17 in 2011.

Hunter Pence, OF

Astros (Rd. 2) University of Texas-Arlington

His lively bat made him a key part of the Giants’ 2012 World Series championship team.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Red Sox (Rd. 2) Arizona State

The 2008 MVP and 2007 Rookie of the Year has been part of two Red Sox world championship teams.

Kurt Suzuki, C

A’s (Rd. 2) Cal State Fullerton

Has been a reliable backstop with limited pop in his bat whose best year came with Oakland in ’09.

Jason Vargas, LHP

Marlins (Rd. 2) Long Beach State

Vargas has won 33 games in the past three years, including 14 in 2012 with Seattle. 

Adam Lind, OF

Blue Jays (Rd. 3) South Alabama

Versatile player who has hit at least 23 home runs four times in his eight seasons with Toronto.

Ian Desmond, SS

Expos (Rd. 3) Sarasota (Fla.) HS

Fixture in Washington is a two-time Silver Slugger winner and earned an All-Star berth in 2012.

Ben Zobrist, SS

Astros (Rd. 6) Olivet Nazarene University

Over the past five years, there hasn’t been a more versatile player in the majors than Zobrist.

Dexter Fowler, OF

Rockies (Rd. 14) Milton (Ga.) HS

The Rockies' center fielder for the past five years has shown good speed and the ability to hit for average.

Mark Reynolds, 3B

Diamondbacks (Rd. 16) Virginia

A classic slugger, Reynolds has shown the ability to slam home runs while struggling to hit for average.

Mark Trumbo, 1B

Angels (Rd. 18) Villa Park (Calif.) HS

Trumbo has proven he can hit for power, if not average, during his four years in the majors.

—Written by Michael Bradley for Athlon Sports. This is just one of the features that can be found in Athlon Sports' 2014 MLB Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands and online now. Starting with 21 unique covers to choose from, Athlon covers the diamond and circles the bases with enough in-depth preseason analysis, predictions and other information to satisfy fans of the national pastime from the Bronx to the Bay and everywhere in between. Order your copy now!