It's draft season in the NFL. Mock drafts are all over the web and on cable TV. It's a huge time, because getting the right number 1 pick can turn your franchise and team around.
In baseball, there isn't nearly the kind of buzz around draft time as in football. But getting the right number 1 pick for your team is just as vital as in the NFL—selecting a Derek Jeter or a Joe Mauer can give you a building block around which your team can become successful. Conversely, blowing a high pick—or several—can set your franchise back a great deal. Let's take a look at which team does the best with it's number one picks.
First off, we're going to go back only till about 1995 or so. And we won't count picks in the past year or two because for the most part, they have yet to reveal themselves as hits or busts. Let's go, starting with the AL East.
Since 1995, the Orioles have had 9 1st round supplemental picks. And for the most part, they haven't done much with them—only hitting on Brian Roberts. Jason Werth would have been a nice pick, if the Orioles hadn't traded him for the godlike-John Bale. 1999 was a particularly bad year, when Baltimore, with 4 number one picks missed with number 13 pick Mike Paradis, number 18 pick Richard Stahl, number 21 middling player Larry Bigbie and number 23 pick Keith Reed. in recent years, however, the Orioles hit on Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters looks like he might blossom. So there is some hope for the future.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have been a well-run operation for a long time, and after they hit on Nomar Garciaparra in 1994, they some success in the late 90s with Adam Everett (whom they traded) and Casey Fossum. In the 2000s they had some good picks with Jacoby Ellsbury, and some youngsters with promise Daniel Bard and Jed Lowrie. Overall their farm system is promising, although many of their prospects—like the next team—get traded away.
New York Yankees
For such a money-rich organization, the Yankees number 1 draft picks have for the most part, downright awful picks. Perhaps because they are picking down in the first round? In any case, since 1992 the names right like a cavalcade of "Who Dats?". Andy Brown, David Walling, David Parrish, Jon Skaggs, Bronson Sardinha. John-Ford Griffin and Eric Duncan. Busts all. However since 2004, they Yankees have had some decent selections with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and the recently traded Ian Kennedy.
The expansion Rays have had a lot of success with their farm system and picks—it doesn't hurt they normally pick very early in the first round. Josh Hamilton has begun to show why he was the number 1 pick in the 1999 draft. Rocco Baldelli has been hurt by off-the-field injuries and bad luck, but was a budding star when healthy. BJ Upton and Delmon Young are major league players. The real success has been since 2004. Jeff Niemann, Even Longoria and David Price have the potential to be annual all-stars and team anchors, provided the Rays are able to keep them.
Toronto Blue Jays
Since 1995, when Toronto selected Roy Halladay with the 17th pick in that draft, the Blue Jays have had some nice picks in the first round. Billy Koch has been a decent reliever, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, were, for a time, very good players. Aaron Hill had a breakout year last year, and Dustin McGowan is a good starter. However, some of the picks in the 2000s have not turned out like they would have liked; David Purcey, Zach Johnson, Gabe Gross and Russ Adams were not blue-chippers. Travis Snyder offers some hope for the future.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have had an amazing amount of supplemental picks, and except for Aaron Rowand, whiffed on most of them. Chicago did have some hits with Bobby Seay, and Gordon Beckham looks like a keeper. Brian Anderson has been a disappointment, especially considering Chad Billingley and Carlos Quentin were picked after him. Highly touted Josh Fields has been a bust.
Like the White Sox, the Indians have had an high amount of number 1 picks since 1995, and like the Soc, don't have much to show for it. They hit, big-time, with the 20th pick in 1998 draft, when they selected CC Sabathia, but didn't do much more until 2002, when they selected Jeremy Guthrie, who has turned out to be a serviceable starter—unfortunately its with the Baltimore Orioles. Aside from those picks, the rest of their 19 number 1 draft picks between 1995 and 2005 have been busts and/or have flamed out.
The Tigers had a nice hit in 1998 with Jeff Weaver who was pitching well for them until he was traded to the Yankees. The rest of the 90s were barren. 2002 was a particularly bad year, selecting nowhereman Scott Moore ahead of Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders and Matt Cain. In recent years, however, they've had a number of nice picks with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Cameron Maybin.
Kansas City Royals
There is no easy way to say this. The Kansas City Royals are a terrible team, draft-selection-wise. For instance, 1997, they selected Dan Reichert ahead of Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland and Lance Berkman. In 1998, with the 4th pick in the draft, they passed over J.D. Drew, Carlos Pena, Brad Lidge and CC Sabathia in favor of Jeff Austin. Despite a number of top 10 picks, they've whiffed on Kyle Snider, Colt Griffin, Chris Lubanowski and Mike Stodolka. They did hit a grand slam with Zach Grienke and Billy Butler does look promising, though former number 1 pick overall Luke Hochevar (picked ahead of Evan Longoria and Tim Lincecum) seems to be on the speedway towards Bust-Town.
The small-market Twins need the draft to help them out. And they have landed some nice talent in Denard Span, Glen Perkins and Matt Garza when picking down in the first round. When picking earlier in the round, the Twins hit on Michael Cuddyer and of course, Joe Mauer. That said, they have also missed huge on some early picks B. J. Garbe (taken ahead of Barry Zito and Ben Sheets) and Adam Johnson, taken ahead of Rocco Baldelli and Chase Utley. In 2008 and 2009 the Twins had a total of 5 number 1 picks. It will be interesting to see how those pan out.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been very astute in the draft, keeping bad picks very much to a minimum. Since 1995, they have picked Darrin Erstad, Troy Glaus, Casey Kotchman, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. They missed on 2 picks in the 2000 draft taking Chris Bootcheck ahead of Adam Wainwright and Joe Torres over Chase Utley, but overall they've kept a nice flow of talent coming in. That said, this is the year for Brandon Wood to put up and shut up if he wants to avoid the bust label.
Billy Beane has been considered one of the upper echelon GMs in the MLB. His first round picks don't exactly bear that out. From 1995 to 2005, the A's have had an astounding 27 picks in the first round. Out of those picks, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Huston Street, Joe Blanton Mark Teahan and Nick Swisher can be considered solid hits. 7 out of 27 or about 25%. While he does hit sometimes, Beane's rule of not taking high school prospects may hurt him in the long run. 2002 was a telling year for the A's when they owned the first round with 7 number one picks. That year. Nick Swisher was taken one pick ahead of Cole Hamels, who came out of high school. Joe Blanton was taken ahead of Matt Cain, also a high school prospect. Another example of Beane's steadfastness to not taking high school prospect was in the 1995 draft when Beane selected Ariel Prieto ahead of Roy Halladay, a mistake if ever there was one.
The Mariners have done about average with the fewer number of 1st round picks they have had. They hit on Gil Meche, Jason Varietek and Adam Jones—unfortunately all play for other teams now. Brandon Morrow seems like a keeper, though he was taken ahead of Clayton Kershaw. Phillipe Aumont is considered a potential frontline starter, but like a lot of Mariner prospects, he is on another team now.
The Rangers have not done a good job with their first round picks of late. Since 1995 only, Mark Teixeira (5th pick in 2001 draft), Carlos Pena—though considered a bust at the time (9th pick in 1998) and John Danks (9th pick in 2003) are considered hits, albeit all 3 are out of Arlington. The team has some hopes for recent picks, Julio Borbon and Justin Smoak to help the big league club, which they could use, considering their track record.
Overall, it seems to be extremely difficult to get a bona fide genuine big leaguer in the first round. Over the American League teams, the team with seemingly the best chance of scoring a quality player seems to be the Los Angeles Angeles. or the Tampa Rays—though the Rays usually pick early and often—who have made the most of their early selections.
Tomorrow, the National League.