Never again will there be a repeat of the 1976 MLB draft, when two Hall of Famers and two near Hall of Famers were bypassed in the first round, with Alan Trammell going in the second round, Rickey Henderson (Hall class of 2009) in the fourth, Jack Morris in the fifth and Wade Boggs (Hall class of 2005) in the seventh.
Never again will a Mike Piazza be found in the 62nd round, as he was in 1989, and then only as a favor to family friend Tommy Lasorda.
Never again will there be a year like 1971, when the top five picks were Danny Goodwin, Jay Franklin, Tom Bianco, Condredge Holloway and Roy Branch, and selected later in the first three rounds were Jim Rice, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Ron Guidry, and much later, in round 42, was Keith Hernandez.
The draft, which starts Monday, has become much more serious, and much more of a science. There is much more at stake. But there are still some mistakes --though, nothing like those early years.
In recent seasons, in fact, the vast majority of All-Stars and other productive major leaguers subject to the draft were gone by the third round. Rare is it that a gem like Jason Bay will be found in the 22nd round, as he was in 2000.
Scouting directors have been keeping tabs on thousands of players, but the reality is, though, that the key picks will come in rounds one through three. Improved scouting has changed things dramatically in recent decades, but there still have been some very memorable busts among the early bonanzas. With that in mind, here's my list of the best and worst picks in big-league history, the biggest draft busts and biggest bonanzas in the 46-year history of the MLB draft:
(credit for draft research to mlb.com)
1. Steve Chilcott, C, 1966, No. 1 overall, Mets. The Mets went with Chilcott, a high school catcher from Lancaster, Calif., over Reggie Jackson, changing the course of baseball history. The Mets supposedly considered "character issues'' in breaking the tie to take Chilcott. Years later, when Jackson was winning pennants with the crosstown Yankees and the Mets were a perennially doormat, Jackson, whose character is excellent unless you want to count an understandably big ego against him, wrote "it serves the Mets right'' for passing on him for dubious reasons. One of only three overall No. 1 picks never to make the majors, Chilcott toiled in the minors for the Mets and Yankees for six years. Of course, the Mets won Tom Seaver in a lottery that same year, and he helped them to win the World Series three years later in perhaps the greatest upset in sports history.
2. Chad Mottola, OF, 1992, No. 5 overall, Reds. Not good to begin with but made all the worse because Kalamazoo, Mich., high school shortstop Derek Jeter was taken with the very next pick. Also chosen ahead of Jeter were Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, B.J. Wallace and Jeffrey Hammonds. Nevin and Hammonds had reasonably long MLB careers but look like mistakes today with an all-time great going at No. 6. Mottola, though, had four career big-league homers and a .200 average. In an article in the New York Times this week he ruminated about whether steroids might have helped but ultimately concluded he is pleased he didn't partake.
3. Matt Bush, SS, 2004, No. 1 overall, Padres. This pick was terrible in itself, but considering Justin Verlander came next makes it even worse. Bush not only never rose above Class-A, he is most memorable for the damage he and his buddies caused to Padres owner John Moores' private box shortly after San Diego drafted Bush. This was one of those supposed cost-saving picks because real prospects such as Verlander, Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver were seeking much higher bonuses than the $3 million wasted on Bush. What makes matters worse is that Bush hailed from the San Diego area, so they should have known better.
4. Danny Goodwin, C, 1971, No. 1 overall; White Sox, 1975, No. 1 overall, Angels. That is no misprint. No less than two teams thought Goodwin, from Peoria, Ill., was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. Between him, Chilcott and Ben Davis (No. 2 overall in 1995) maybe there's a lesson that the catching position is slightly unpredictable. Good win was never more than a journeyman major leaguer who hit .236 in eight seasons. In '71, future stars Rice, Brett, Guidry and Frank Tanana all were picked within the first three rounds.
5. Brien Taylor, LHP, 1991, No. 1 overall, Yankees. Taylor signed a record-setting bonus of $1.55 million and looked like a can't-miss prospect until hurting his throwing shoulder in a fight defending his brother. Sadly, Taylor never pitched a game in majors, joining Chilcott as the second No. 1 pick never to play in the bigs.
6. Shawn Abner, OF, 1984, No. 1 overall, Mets. The Mets, who were really hit or miss in those early years of the draft, had big successes with Darryl Strawberry (first pick in the 1980 draft) and Doc Gooden (fifth pick in 1982) but not so much with Abner, who hit .227 with 11 homers in a mundane six-year career. This was not a great overall draft, but Mark McGwire was picked late in that first round.
7. Bryan Bullington, RHP, 2002, No. 1 overall, Pirates. Bullington recently re-surfaced as a big leaguer by gaining the last spot in the Royals bullpen. But the Ball St. right-hander never did a darned thing for the Pirates. Poor drafts are reason No. 1 they haven't had a winning season since 1992.
8. Matt Anderson, RHP, 1997, No. 1 overall, Tigers. There is a lesson here: Never make a reliever the No. 1 overall pick, even if he throws 100 mph. Among the top five picks were J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells. Even No. 6 pick Geoff Goetz, who never reached the majors, became valuable, as he was later part of the trade that sent Piazza to the Mets. Another of the Rice University busts, Anderson had a career 5.19 ERA.
9. Dewon Brazelton, RHP, 2001, No. 3 overall, Rays. Brazelton, who pitched at Middle Tennessee State, was taken immediately after Joe Mauer and Mark Prior. The Rays' draft history is pretty good but this was the exception. Brazelton pitched parts of five big league seasons and finished 8-25 with 6.38 ERA..
10. Bill Almon, SS, 1974, Padres. Nice to see an Ivy Leaguer (Brown University) going first overall. But the Padres passed on Dale Murphy, Willie Wilson, Lance Parrish and Rick Sutcliffe, first rounders all. Almon was a lifetime .254 hitter who batted .310 in 1981 with White Sox but was not worth such an exalted pick.
11. Clint Everts, RHP, 2002, No. 5 overall, Expos. The Houston product was taken immediately before Zack Grienke, making it memorably bad. He was Scott Kazmir's prep teammate, which got him extra looks. His last chance may have come this year with the Mets, who recently designated him for assignment.
12. Jeff Clement, C, 2005, No. 3 overall, Mariners. The Mariners gave away their No. 3 overall pick after they recognized he wasn't going to be anything close to a star, trading him to the Pirates last summer. What's worse is that the two players drafted immediately after Clements were Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Ryan Braun (Brewers). Clement is hitting .197 as a Pirates first baseman this year and is a .223 career hitter.
13. Greg Reynolds, RHP, 2006, No. 2 overall, Rockies. Colorado has had a lot of great drafts recently, but Reynolds apparently wasn't one of them. His lifetime record is 2-8 with an 8.13 ERA. Looked like he was finally showing something this spring before he was hit on the elbow by a line drive. Taken immediately before Evan Longoria, which doesn't help.
14. Ben Davis, C, 1995, No. 2 overall, Padres. Supposed to be the prototype star catcher, he was the top-ranked amateur by Baseball America after hitting .507 at Malvern (Pa.) Prep. Instead, he just had a prototype body and was a lifetime backup, hitting .237 with 38 home runs. Followed in the draft by Jose Cruz and Kerry Wood and later in the fist round by Todd Helton and Roy Halladay.
15. Daniel Moskos, RHP, 2007, No. 4 overall, Pirates. This mistake here is that they were considering catcher Matt Wieters, but opted to save money by taking a reliever. Now in his fourth professional season, Moskos has a 4.35 ERA and has yet to reach the majors.
16. Terry Blocker, OF, 1981, No. 4 overall, Mets. The Mets have had a mix of bombs and beauties. Blocker was taken two spots ahead of Kevin McReynolds, who they would later acquired in trade. Blocker had one career hit for the Mets, then went to the rival Braves for two years, where he was terrible (.205 lifetime average).
17. Eric Munson, C, 1999, No. 3 overall, Tigers. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Spent most of his career as a DH or first baseman and never hit more than .240 in nine major league seasons, though he did hit 37 home runs over one two-year period.
18. Adam Johnson, RHP, 2000, No. 2 overall Twins. A rare miss by the Twins, Johnson finished with lifetime 1-3 record and 10.25 ERA. That wasn't a great draft, but the Phillies did get Chase Utley with pick No. 15 and the Braves selected Adam Wainwright with pick No. 29.
19. Kyle Sleeth, RHP, 2003, No. 3 overall, Tigers. Injuries derailed Sleeth, the No. 3 pick, before he ever made the majors. Following him in the first round were players such as Nick Markakis, John Danks, Ian Stewart, Aaron Hill, Conor Jackson, Chad Cordero, David Aardsma, Chad Billingsley and Carlos Quentin.
20. Jeff King, 1986, No. 1 overall, Pirates. King really wasn't that awful, with 154 career home runs and some contributions for the last successful Pirates teams of the early '90s. But it's not so much about King, it's who was taken after him. He was followed by Greg Swindell (No. 2), Matt Williams (No. 3), Kevin Brown (No. 4) and Gary Sheffield (No. 6). No surprise, the Pirates have been the worst drafters over the past two decades.
1. Piazza, C, 1989, Dodgers, 62nd round. Hard to top a Cooperstown-bound catcher in round 62. Was a legacy pick at family friend Lasorda's behest but he became a superstar.
2. Hernandez, 1B, 1971, Cardinals, 42nd round. Perhaps the greatest fielding first baseman ever. Lasted this long after sitting out his senior season in a dispute with his high school coach.
3. Andre Dawson, OF, 1975, Expos, 10th round. This five-tool player was nothing short of an afterthought in this draft. On the way into the Hall of Fame this summer.
4. Don Mattingly, 1B, 1979, Yankees, 19th round. This undersized first baseman was a worker who could hit. But he couldn't run and few foresaw the power or greatness that would come. A total miss by everyone.
5. Henderson, OF, 1976 A's, 4th round. Alltime great was missed by everyone before A's grabbed him.
6. Ryan Howard, 1B, 2000 Phillies, 5th round. This later bloomer was slow to be promoted to the majors, too, perhaps because of the presence of power-hitting Jim Thome. But as as soon as Howard arrived, he established himself as baseball's top slugger.
7. Bay, OF, 2000, Expos, 22nd round. The Canadian was underappreciated almost right to the point where he signed that $66-million contract with the Mets. The Expos were full of good picks. This was one of their best.
8. Johnny Bench, C, 1965, Reds, 2nd Round; and Nolan Ryan, RHP, 1965, Mets, 2nd round. Two of the greatest and most talented players in history were grabbed in round two at a time long before sophisticated scouting came into play.
9. Brett, 3B, 1971 Royals, 2nd round. Future Hall of Famer made it to the second round in the productive and topsy-turvy 1971 draft.
10. Rogers Clemens, RHP, 1983 Red Sox, No. 18 overall. Clemens was an underappreciated star pitcher for the University of Texas Longhorns, where he was not exactly hidden but somehow skipped by eight teams that took right-handed pitchers ahead of him.
11. Cal Ripken Jr., SS, 1978, Orioles, 2nd round. Funny to think now that the Orioles (and presumably just about everyone else) preferred someone else to Ripken, another alltime great who went in round two. No one could have predicted he'd top Lou Gehrig as an iron man, but you'd think the team where his father worked as a coach might have known something no one else did.
12. Barry Bonds, OF, 1985, Pirates, No. 6 overall. Rather than look at this negatively and note that the White Sox took Glendora, Calif., catcher Kurt Brown one spot ahead of Bonds, let's give the Pirates rare credit. It was a huge start to the draft overall, with B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark, Bobby Witt and Barry Larkin immediately preceding Brown (and Bonds).
13. Boggs, 3B, 1976 Red Sox, 7th round. He was a great hitter but scouts must have wondered whether he had the power or other skills to be a third base star. Became a Hall of Famer and a steal.
14. Kevin Youkilis, 2001, Red Sox, 8th round. A University of Cincinnati scrapper, few foresaw his greatness. Didn't get notoriety until being dubbed as the Greek God Walks in Moneyball. Turns out he could do more than walk, and beyond that, he is not Greek but Jewish.
15. Brandon Webb, RHP, 2000, Diamondbacks, 8th round. The 2006 NL Cy Young winner never overwhelmed folks with his velocity but he was one of the majors' best pitchers over a five-year period. Currently working his way back from shoulder trouble. Might not return this year, but a bargain nonetheless.
16. Frank Thomas, 1989, White Sox, No. 7 overall. The Auburn University product went pretty high, but the rub is the guys drafted ahead of him. Ben McDonald was the obvious No. 1 pick after a legendary collegiate pitching career at LSU, but following him (and prior to Tomas) came Tyler Houston, Roger Salkeld, Jeff Jackson, Donald Harris and Paul Coleman. Talk about big hurts.
17. Roy Halladay, RHP, Blue Jays, 1995, No. 17 overall. Halladay was underestimated for quite a while. He was once nearly traded to his hometown Rockies and also sent back to the minors. Now the gold standard of major league pitchers.
18. Ian Kinsler, 2B, 2003, Rangers, 17th round. This multitalented infielder might have been overlooked because he shared time with Dustin Pedroia at Arizona State before transferring.
19. Joe Mauer, C, 2001, Twins, No. 1 overall. At the time the obvious pick was pitcher Mark Prior from USC. Maybe it was for money (Mauer signed for about half Prior's record $10.5 million bonus), or maybe it was for his local ties (he starred at St. Paul's Cretin-Derham High), but the Twins made the right call. They usually do.
20. Mark Reynolds, 2004 Diamondbacks, 16th round. Still strikes out too much. But great power and potential summarize Ryan Zimmerman's infield mate at the University of Virginia. Played shortstop in college.
There have been a few developments since I tried my mock draft last week, and one big one is the reported deal the Royals have made at No. 4 with University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal. This isn't really allowed, but there seems like a lot of juice to these reports, including one by Frankie Piliere, an ex-scout who tracks the drafts for AOL Fanhouse.
If Grandal goes to Kansas City at No. 4, the Indians are expected to take one of two college pitchers, Chris Sale from Florida Gulf Coast University or Drew Pomeranz from Ole Miss, at No. 5. The Diamondbacks have the sixth overall pick, and are said by a source to also be focused on college pitchers, with Sale, Pomeranz, Deck McGuire of Georgia Tech and Matt Harvey of North Carolina among their choices. The Mets were said by another source to be leaning toward either Harvey or Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, but another person familiar with their thinking said they are also considering Cal State-Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon, and according to Piliere and some others, Muncie, Ind., prep catcher Justin O'Connor.
Other candidates likely to go in the top 15 appear to be UT-Arlington outfielder Michael Choice, Florida prep pitcher Karsten Whitson, Ohio high school pitcher Stetson Allie, California prep infielder Nick Castellanos and California prep outfielder Austin Wilson.
There's no doubt Bryce Harper will still go No. 1 to the Nationals, but some are now suggesting the Pirates might opt for Texas prep pitcher Jameson Taillon at No. 2, which would leave Miami prep shortstop Manny Machado fro the Orioles at No. 3. Taillon-Machado will go two-three, though the order is still uncertain.
Kendry Morales' luck is even worse tan originally thought. Morales suffered breaks to both his ankle and lower tibia in the celebration following his walkoff grand-slam home run on May 29. The 10-12 week estimate for his return still stands, though. The ankle is expected to take slightly longer than the tibia to heal, accounting to the 10-12 week estimate. Morales accidentally stepped on a teammate's foot at about the time he touched home plate, causing the freakish, unfortunate accident.
• Bud Selig is making the right call to take a closer look at expanding instant replay. But not only is Selig said to be disinclined to expand replay, so are the majority of his new committee members. (So am I, by the way.) Don't expect anything fast to get done here.
• If the Astros trade Lance Berkman, his agent is making it a prerequisite of acquiring teams that they agree to pick up his $15 million option first. But, of course, no one will. The Angels make sense. And if he has interest in playing in the postseason ahead of money he should go.
• The Yankees are not confident Nick Johnson will be back and sound this year and may consider No. 2 type hitters in trade. The Royals' David DeJesus, a New Jersey product, would seem to be a candidate if Kansas City is willing to trade him.
• The Derrek Lee negotiations with the Cubs are going nowhere. But it would still be an upset to see them trade him now, as there's no reason for them to give up on the season at this point.
• Putting Ollie Perez on the disabled list is the best solution, as he wasn't helping himself or the team by taking up a roster spot. MLB reportedly will take a look at how hurt his knee is, but previous players with sketchy infirmities have been allowed to go on the DL
• Alex Rodriguez is in the unusual position of being on the creditors committee in the bankruptcy case of the Texas Rangers. He will be paid the $24.9 million he's owed but will also have a say on the fate of the franchise.
• Major League Baseball's head of public relations Rich Levin was a reserve player on John Wooden's first national championship team at UCLA, in 1964. Levin recalled when Wooden threw out a first ball at the 2002 World Series in Anaheim, asking Selig not to embarrass him before he introduced Selig to Wooden. So naturally, Selig said to Woooden, "Rich said he was a better player than Gail Goodrich or Walt Hazzard.'' And, at age 92, without missing a beat, Wooden responded, "In his mind.''