Emerging star Andrew McCutchen was the 11th pick in the 2005 draft, a class that even four years ago was hailed as one of the best ever. SI's 2008 season preview (above) celebrated rising stars Justin Upton (the No. 1 pick in '05), Ryan Zimmerman (4), Ryan Braun (5), Troy Tulowitzki (7), Jacoby Ellsbury (23) and Clay Buchholz (42), all of whom had already begun making their marks in the majors.
Now McCutchen is leading a second wave of players that makes the 2005 draft look even better. The Rays have two '05 draftees who could make the All-Star team: outfielder Matt Joyce (taken in the 12th round by the Tigers) and righthander Jeremy Hellickson (a fourth-round choice by Tampa Bay). The Blue Jays have an All-Star candidate in lefthander Ricky Romero (the sixth pick) and two key every-day players who emerged from that draft—outfielder Colby Rasmus (the Cardinals' first-round choice) and shortstop Yunel Escobar (a second-round pick by the Braves). One of the Cubs' lone bright spots is righthander Matt Garza, who was taken 25th overall by the Twins. The Tigers are counting on a key '05 draftee who was injured early in the season, centerfielder Austin Jackson (an eighth-round pick by the Yankees), to help them get their season back on track. Detroit catcher Alex Avila, an All-Star last year, was also drafted in 2005; he went to college and was drafted again by the Tigers in 2008.
McCutchen, who signed a lucrative contract extension in March, isn't the only member of the class of '05 to cash in this year. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the No. 2 pick, had a breakout season in 2011 and signed a four-year, $37.5 million extension this spring. Outfielder Cameron Maybin (the No. 10 pick, by the Tigers) landed a five-year, $25 million extension with the Padres. And Zimmerman, who was already signed through 2013, agreed to a six-year, $100 million extension that will keep him with the Nationals through 2019.
This year's draft will be remembered as the one in which new CBA rules limiting the total amount of money that can be paid in bonuses altered the relationship between talent and round drafted. Looking back at a year like '05 is a reminder that the draft is the last place where teams should be looking to cut corners. Making the right selections can transform an organization, and a million or two saved or spent in the draft amounts to a rounding error when considering the value that drafted players can produce before they become eligible for free agency. Getting a McCutchen or a Zimmerman or a Tulowitzki is the fastest way to winning games, filling seats and building a championship-level organization.