With the 2015 MLB draft only a few days away (the first round kicks off on Monday) it’s time to continue a 500 Level Fan tradition and take a look back at some prior MLB drafts to see how well the Blue Jays – and the rest of MLB – fared. We will do this using the greatest tool of all: hindsight. As any fan knows, baseball is entirely different when it comes to drafting players. There are so many minor league levels and such a large player pool to draw from, not to mention things like signability issues and slot bonuses. It’s not rare in baseball for the best available player to not go first overall, just as it’s not rare for players to take years to make the major leagues. So let’s take a look back at the 2010, 2005, and 2000 MLB drafts (5, 10, and 15 years ago). Armed with hindsight, which is always 20/20, we can see how the draft order might have changed knowing how careers played out.
Note – I used Baseball Reference’s WAR stat to rank the players, and my re-ranked top-10 list doesn’t take into account things like signability issues, team needs, or draft strategy (i.e. high school vs. college). I simply re-ranked the drafted players based on career WAR (Note: Career WAR totals are as of May 28).
As mentioned above, it often takes several years for drafted players to reach the major leagues. Five years have passed since the ’10 draft, and while many of the drafted players are still young, one would expect the top talents to have found their way to the big leagues by now.
Here are the top-10 picks of the 2010 draft:
Even if Bryce Harper turned out to be a bust, I don’t think anybody could fault the Washington Nationals for picking him first overall. He was one of the most hyped prospects in decades, landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year old kid. To date he has not disappointed. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, and currently leads the league in R, HR, BB, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Manny Machado and Matt Harvey have also turned into stud players, but the rest of the top-10 leaves a lot to be desired. Taillon reached AAA in 2013 before Tommy John surgery cost him the entire ’14 season. Barret Loux has had health issues and has not pitched since 2013, and Karsten Whitson did not sign with the Padres, was re-drafted by Boston in 2014, and has not pitched above A ball. Pomeranz, DeShields, and Choice have all been dealt to different organizations, and Colon is a bit player in KC.
This is what the the top-10 looks like with the magic of hindsight, based on career WAR:
As you can see, five years after the 2010 draft, only a handful of true stars have emerged: Sale, Harper, Machado, and maybe Harvey. Simmons is a solid player but the majority of his career WAR is from his defense, not his bat, and the rest of players look to be solid major leaguers, but not future All-Stars. The one guy who could challenge that claim is 2014 ROY winner Jacob deGrom, who is off to a solid start this year (6-4, 2.41 ERA, 71 K in 71 IP) – not bad for the 272nd overall pick.
Blue Jay Focus
The 2010 draft was Toronto’s first under Alex Anthopoulos, and aside from the first pick, has turned out to be pretty good. Aaron Sanchez is cemented in the 2015 rotation and has the potential to be one of the AL’s best. Unfortunately, one of the other top players taken is now plying his trade with another team. The biggest what-if moment came in the 18th round when the Jays selected current Chicago Cubs phenom Kris Bryant. Bryant chose not to sign with Toronto in order to pursue a college career, and is now, of course, mashing for the Cubs. If only….
First Round Pick: Deck McGuire (11th overall) – Career WAR: 0.0
Total Number of Picks: 56
Number of Players to Reach the Majors: 7
– Deck McGuire – now in AA in the Dodgers organization (11th), WAR of 0.0
– Aaron Sanchez (34th, supplemental first round pick), WAR of 1.8
– Noah Syndergaard – now with NY Mets (38th, supplemental first round pick), WAR of 0.0
– Asher Wojciechowski – now with Houston (41st), WAR of -0.3
– Sam Dyson – now with Miami (126th), WAR of 0.7
– Sean Nolin – now in AA with Oakland (186th), WAR of -0.4
– Dalton Pompey (486th), WAR of 0.4
– Kris Bryant – did not sign, now with Chi Cubs (546th), WAR of 1.4
Total WAR = 3.6
The 2005 draft has been called the greatest draft of all time by many baseball experts. Looking back at the ‘draft ten years later, you’ll see several superstar players still in their prime. Unfortunately, none of those stars are in Toronto.
Here are the top-10 picks of the 2005 draft:
Upton. Gordon. Zimmerman. Braun. Tulowitzki. Those five have combined for 11 Silver Slugger awards, 7 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star appearances, 1 Rookie of the Year award, 1 MVP, and 20 top-5 MVP finishes. Not bad. Even Maybin and Pelfrey have been solid big leaguers, and before labeling Ricky Romero a bust, Jays fans should remember that he made the All-Star team and finished 10th in Cy Young voting in 2011. The only two true busts are Wade Townsend and Jeff Clement. Townsend never rose above AA, left baseball in 2010 and is now a professional poker player. Clement played 152 big league games for Seattle and Pittsburgh, before officially retiring in 2014.
With the magic of hindsight, here is a re-ranked version of the 2005 draft, based on career WAR:
That right there shows why ’05 is considered one of the greatest drafts ever. Aside from the top-10, you have Andrew McCutchen (the 2013 MVP), Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner. Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum, two key cogs of the recent Giants dynasty, were also both drafted in later rounds, but neither player signed. Still – a very impressive overall draft.
Blue Jay Focus
The 2005 draft was completed under the guidance of J.P. Ricciardi, and to be blunt, it was terrible. Aside from Romero, only two players that Ricciardi selected ever made the major leagues, and one of them (Brett Wallace – yes, that Brett Wallace) didn’t even sign with the team and re-entered the draft.
First Round Pick: Ricky Romero (6th overall) – Career WAR: 9.7
Total Number of Picks: 49
Number of Players to Reach the Majors: 3
– Ricky Romero – now in the minors with San Francisco (6th), WAR of 9.7
– Robert Ray – now out of baseball (206th), WAR of 0.1
– Brett Wallace – did not sign, now in AAA in San Diego (1253rd), WAR of -0.5
Total WAR = 9.3
In stark contrast to the 2005 draft, we have the 2000 draft. As a whole, the draft was OK, but when looking at only the top-10? Yikes.
Here are the top-10 picks of the 2000 draft:
One player – just one, single, solitary player – from the top-10 is still playing in the big leagues, but at least it’s a good one. Adrian Gonzalez has been a superstar for a long time, but unfortunately for the Marlins, not for them. Florida dealt him to the Rangers for Ugueth Urbina (who helped the Marlins win the World Series so it wasn’t a total bust), who then traded him to the Padres, who then dealt him to the Red Sox, who in turn traded him to the Dodgers. Rocco Baldelli had a decent run with the Rays, but that’s about it for the ’00 top-10. Half of the selections never even made the major leagues, and the other three that did put up numbers worse than replacement level.
Here is a re-ranked version of the 2000 draft, based on career WAR:
That’s better. After most of the top-10 whiffed on their picks, the rest of the draft produced some solid players. There are World Series champions (Utley, Wainwright, Molina), Cy Young winners (Lee, Webb), and HR Kings (Bautista), not to mention Gonzalez and James Shields. Ian Kinsler and current Jay Russell Martin were both selected in the later rounds, but neither signed and both went back in the draft.
Blue Jay Focus
Gord Ash was the man in charge of the Jays in 2000, and was responsible for putting together an absolutely awful draft. Only Dustin McGowan made much of an impact, but injuries derailed his career before it even got started. Ash used his first pick on Miguel Negron, a player who never made the majors and put up a career .687 OPS in the minor leagues. Do over please!
First Round Pick: Miguel Negron (18th overall) – Career WAR: 0.0
Total Number of Picks: 52
Number of Players to Reach the Majors: 5
– Dustin McGowan – now in AAA with Philadelphia (33rd), WAR of 1.8
– Mike Smith – now out of baseball (148th), WAR of -0.5
– Rich Thompson – now out of baseball (178th), WAR of -0.5
– Vinnie Chulk – now out of baseball (358th), WAR of 1.4
– Cody Clark – did not sign, now out of baseball (1404th), WAR of -0.2
Total WAR = 2.0