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The Best Of Times,
The Worst Of Times
Also: Best Of Times, Worst of Times: First Round
By Jim Callis
2. Mike Schmidt, ss, Phillies, 1971. Right before Philadelphia made its second-round pick in 1971, the Royals took George Brett. Improbably, the Phillies did even better by taking an all-America shortstop from Ohio University. Schmidt became the best third baseman in the game’s history, and Brett arguably ranks second.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Bench, c, Reds, 1965. Other Hall of Fame talent includes Brett (Royals, 1971), Cal Ripken (Orioles, 1978), Greg Maddux (Cubs, 1984) and Randy Johnson (Expos, 1985).
3. Tony Gwynn, of, Padres, 1981. Two San Diego teams drafted Gwynn out of San Diego State on June 10, 1981, as the Clippers also selected him in the 10th round of the NBA draft. He made the right call, winning eight National League batting titles. Gwynn is now the head baseball coach at San Diego State, where he still holds the single-season and career assist records.
Honorable Mention: Gary Carter, c, Expos, 1972. Other Hall of Fame-caliber talents include Bert Blyleven (Twins, 1969), Dennis Eckersley (Indians, 1972) and Eddie Murray (Orioles, 1973).
4. Rickey Henderson, of, Athletics, 1976. With free agency looming, Oakland owner Charlie Finley was pinching pennies. He failed to sign four of his first seven picks, but spent enough to keep Henderson away from the college football programs that coveted his speed at running back.
Honorable Mention: Ozzie Smith, ss, Padres, 1977. Jeff Bagwell (Red Sox, 1989) also has a shot at Cooperstown.
5. Tim Raines, ss, Expos, 1977. Twenty-one years after Montreal made Raines a fifth-round pick out of Seminole High in Sanford, Fla., the Orioles took his son Tim Jr. one round later out of the same school. Had he stayed healthy during the second half of his career, Tim Sr. probably would be headed to the Hall of Fame.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Evans, 3b/of, Red Sox, 1969.
6. Sal Bando, 3b, Athletics, 1965. The A’s, then based in Kansas City, nailed the first draft. They grabbed Rick Monday with the No. 1 overall pick and signed six other big leaguers, including Bando and 11th-rounder Gene Tenace. Bando, the outstanding player at the 1965 College World Series while teaming with Monday to lead Arizona State to the championship, signed for $30,000.
Honorable Mention: Bob Boone, 3b, Phillies, 1969.
7. Wade Boggs, ss, Red Sox, 1976. Boggs was considered just a so-so prospect in high school and during much of his minor league career, though he hit .300 or better in five of his six minor league seasons. Not until Carney Lansford injured his ankle in 1982, giving Boggs the chance to hit .349 as a rookie, was he taken seriously.
Honorable Mention: Willie Randolph, ss/c, Pirates, 1972.
8. Eric Davis, ss, Reds, 1980. Davis’ athletic ability was obvious, but his baseball skills were raw and few scouts ventured to his inner-city Los Angeles high school to check him out. After Davis hit .219 at short-season Eugene in his pro debut, he began to blossom the following spring.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Hough, inf/rhp, Dodgers, 1966.
9. Rich Gossage, rhp, White Sox, 1970. Colorado high schools weren’t exactly a hotbed of baseball talent in the early 1970s, but it didn’t take Gossage long to attract attention with his blazing fastball. He jumped from low Class A to the majors in 1972 at age 20 and helped create the prototype of the flamethrowing closer.
Honorable Mention: Fred McGriff, 1b, Yankees, 1981.
10. Nolan Ryan, rhp, Mets, 1965. Ryan had an electric arm even in high school, but blisters and overwork led to a poor showing in front of crosscheckers. Area scout Red Murff believed in him and wouldn’t let the Mets pass on the man who became baseball’s strikeout and no-hit king.
Honorable Mention: Brady Anderson, of, Red Sox, 1985.
11. Andre Dawson, of, Expos, 1975. The draft with the weakest collection of first-round picks ever did feature one overlooked player 10 rounds later. Dawson got precious little exposure at Florida A&M, and the Expos drafted him primarily for his defensive prowess.
Honorable Mention: Chili Davis, of, Giants, 1977.
12. Gene Garber, rhp, Pirates, 1965. Pittsburgh actually made two fine 12th-round picks in 1965. In the draft’s first year, teams got a choice for each of their Class A affiliates in every round after the eighth. The Bucs had three and tabbed three big leaguers in Garber, unsigned Jophrey Brown and Fred Patek.
Honorable Mention: Jim Gantner, ss, Brewers, 1974.
13. Jim Thome, ss, Indians, 1989. At the time, Cleveland drew heat for wasting its first-rounder on Calvin Murray, whom every other team knew was unsignable. But the Indians cleaned up afterward by signing seven major leaguers, including Thome and Brian Giles (17th round).
Honorable Mention: Albert Pujols, 3b, Cardinals, 1999.
14. Dave Parker, c/of, Pirates, 1970. Big 10 Conference football powers Michigan and Ohio State recruited Parker before he tore up his knee as a high school senior. The injury also scared baseball teams off in the draft, but he recovered to assert himself as one of the game’s best all-around athletes.
Honorable Mention: Mike Easler, 3b, Astros, 1969.
15. Jose Canseco, 3b, Athletics, 1982. Oakland’s Camilo Pascual was the only scout in on Canseco, a raw and awkward Miami high schooler. But Pascual believed in him so fervently that on draft day he took out his wallet and said he’d give everything in it to sign Canseco. The A’s correctly figured they could wait a while to take the unknown, who became the game’s first 40-40 player in 1988.
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Murphy, of, A’s, 1973.
16. Buddy Bell, 2b, Indians, 1969. Bell preceded Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. at Cincinnati’s Moeller High and hoped his hometown Reds would take him. He wouldn’t join them until 1985, after he had made six all-star teams and won five Gold Gloves.
Honorable Mention: Dave Stewart, rhp, Dodgers, 1975.
17. Orel Hershiser, rhp, Dodgers, 1979. Hershiser’s fastball and build were so weak that he couldn’t make Bowling Green State’s travel roster as a freshman. He added 5 mph over the next two years, but scouts still weren’t impressed. Once manager Tom Lasorda got Hershiser to be more aggressive, the Dodgers had a Cy Young winner.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Lofton, of, Astros, 1988.
18. Mike Cameron, of, White Sox, 1991. Jimmy Haynes was the hot high school prospect in LaGrange, Ga., in 1991, and he went 11 rounds ahead of Cameron, his crosstown rival. The White Sox patiently developed Cameron for six years in the minors, and today he’s one of the game’s better all-around center fielders.
Honorable Mention: Ken Forsch, rhp, Astros, 1968.
19. Don Mattingly, 1b, Yankees, 1979. Though he tied a national prep record with 140 career RBIs, Mattingly didn’t overwhelm scouts because he didn’t show much power. Football and basketball scholarships also clouded Mattingly’s signability, so he did a freefall in the draft.
Honorable Mention: Bret Saberhagen, ss, Royals, 1982.
20. Ryne Sandberg, inf, Phillies, 1978. A high school all-America quarterback, Sandberg scared teams off by considering football at Washington State. Credit the Phillies for recognizing he was signable, but condemn them for including him in a trade to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Kent, ss, Blue Jays, 1989.
21. Eddie Guardado, lhp, Twins, 1990 (draft-and-follow). The first draft-and-follow on this list, Guardado has recorded at least 40 saves and pitched in the All-Star Game in each of the last two seasons.
Honorable Mention: Dave Dravecky, lhp, Pirates, 1978.
22. John Smoltz, rhp, Tigers, 1985. Pro teams were well aware of Smoltz but believed he was a lock to attend Michigan State. Detroit took a chance and signed him late in the summer, then used him in a crucial pennant-drive trade for Doyle Alexander two years later.
Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte, lhp, Yankees, 1990 (draft-and-follow).
23. Brett Butler, of, Braves, 1979. The star outfielder from Atlanta’s 1979 draft was supposed to be first-round pick Brad Komminsk. The prize turned out to be overachieving Butler, who couldn’t crack Arizona State’s varsity before transferring to Southeastern Oklahoma State.
Honorable Mention: Roy Oswalt, rhp, Astros, 1996 (draft-and-follow).
24. Mark Grace, 1b, Cubs, 1985. San Diego State’s opposite-field hitting approach resulted in Grace hitting just two homers as a junior. He never did produce many longballs, but Grace won a rookie of the year award, five Gold Gloves and a World Series ring.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Posada, ss, Yankees, 1990 (draft-and-follow).
25. Mike Hargrove, 1b, Rangers, 1972. Best known for long at-bats that earned him the moniker “The Human Rain Delay,” Hargrove was in many ways a poor man’s Grace. He played three sports at Northwestern Oklahoma State, and his lack of power affected his draft status.
Honorable Mention: Paul Splittorff, lhp, Royals, 1968.
26. Dusty Baker, of, Braves, 1967. Baker’s father wanted him to accept a basketball scholarship from Santa Clara, so he sued the Braves when they got Dusty’s signature on a $15,000 bonus contract. Atlanta held onto Baker, who reached the majors the following September.
Honorable Mention: Bob Forsch, 3b/rhp, Cardinals, 1968.
27. Mark Lemke, 2b, Braves, 1983. The same desire that propelled Lemke from an undersized draft afterthought to the big leagues compelled him to attempt to make it back to the majors as a knuckleball pitcher.
Honorable Mention: Ramon Vazquez, ss, Mariners, 1995.
28. Woody Williams, rhp, Blue Jays, 1988. Williams spent five years in the minors, then won a total of 18 games in his first five seasons in the majors. Since then he has reached double figures five times in six years, making the all-star team for the first time in 2003.
Honorable Mention: Shane Spencer, of, Yankees, 1990.
29. Ken Griffey Sr., of, Reds, 1969. Despite being a three-time all-star, Griffey is the second-best player in his family and the second-best to come out of Donora, Pa. And Stan Musial outclasses him more than Ken Jr. does.
Honorable Mention: John Denny, rhp, Cardinals, 1970.
30. Darryl Kile, rhp, Astros, 1987 (draft-and-follow). Kile was the first high-profile prospect to come through the draft-and-follow process. Houston signed him for the then-stunning figure of $100,000, just $60,000 less than the No. 1 overall pick (Ken Griffey Jr.) received.
Honorable Mention: Damian Easley, ss/2b, Angels, 1988 (draft-and-follow).
31. Jay Howell, rhp, Reds, 1976. Howell is the last big leaguer from the University of Colorado, which disbanded its baseball program after 1980. He became a three-time all-star after Cincinnati gave him away for Mike O’Berry.
Honorable Mention: Ken Reitz, ss, Cardinals, 1969.
32. Robb Nen, rhp, Rangers, 1989. A Los Alamitos (Calif) High teammate of J.T. Snow and Mike Kelly, Nen seemed unlikely to join them in the majors as he battled inconsistency and injuries in the minors. Shelled in his big league debut in 1993, Nen turned the corner the following season and became one of baseball’s top relievers.
Honorable Mention: Joe Borowski, rhp, White Sox, 1989.
33. Walt Terrell, rhp, Rangers, 1980. Uncovering talent means little if a team doesn’t hold onto it. For 58 games of Lee Mazzilli, Texas sent Ron Darling and Terrell to the Mets. They combined for 247 big league victories.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Palmeiro, of, Angels, 1991.
34. Eric Anthony, of, Astros, 1986. While Anthony never really delivered on his considerable power potential, the Astros were able to trade him for Mike Hampton.
Honorable Mention: Jack Brohamer, ss, Indians, 1967.
35. Steve Cooke, lhp, Pirates, 1989 (draft-and-follow). At No. 52, Cooke ranked right behind Jim Thome on our Top 100 Prospects list in 1992. Shoulder problems derailed his career afterward.
Honorable Mention: Steve Hovley, of, Angels, 1966.
36. Raul Ibanez, of, Mariners, 1992. Seattle didn’t appreciate what it had in Ibanez, first trying to turn him into a catcher and then nailing him to the bench. He broke out after signing a minor league contract with the Royals, then returned to the Mariners last November.
Honorable Mention: Jason Bere, rhp, White Sox, 1990.
37. Bake McBride, rhp/of, Cardinals, 1970. St. Louis decided to make McBride a full-time outfielder, which paid off with the 1974 NL rookie-of-the-year award and a 1976 all-star berth. The downside is that his emergence prompted the Cardinals to get rid of Jose Cruz Sr.
Honorable Mention: Joel Skinner, c, Pirates, 1979.
38. Mark Buehrle, lhp, White Sox, 1998 (draft-and-follow). Buehrle went from an anonymous pick in 1998 to the majors in 2000 to the All-Star Game in 2002. He earned 49 wins in three years after becoming a full-time starter.
Honorable Mention: Scot Shields, rhp, Angels, 1997.
39. Kenny Rogers, lhp/of, Rangers, 1982. Rogers was a 135-pound, lefthanded-throwing high school shortstop, but scout Rangers scout Joe Marchese loved his arm action and saw a pitcher. Now that’s evaluation.
Honorable Mention: Vance Law, ss, Pirates, 1978.
40. Ray Lamb, rhp, Dodgers, 1966. Lamb was far from the most impressive late-round pick in Los Angeles’ 1966 class. Charlie Hough (eighth), Bill Russell (ninth) and Billy Grabarkewitz (12th) became all-stars, while Ted Sizemore (15th) was the 1969 NL rookie of the year.
Honorable Mention: Terry Jones, of, Rockies, 1993.
41. Mike Cather, rhp, Rangers, 1993. Texas made Cather a sidearmer after signing him but released him two years later. He went to independent ball and fought his way back to make 75 big league appearances. That’s 25 more than the rest of the signed 41st-rounders who made it: Chris Howard (Mariners, 1988), Brian Raabe (Twins, 1990) and Curt Schmidt (Expos, 1992).
Honorable Mention: Chris Howard, c, Mariners, 1988.
42. Keith Hernandez, 1b, Cardinals, 1971. Hernandez slid to the 776th of 794 picks because he sat out his senior high school season after a disagreement with his coach. He still signed for $50,000—first-round money at the time—because he had football scholarship offers from California and Stanford.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Wockenfuss, 3b/rhp, Senators, 1967.
43. Eric Young, of, Dodgers, 1989. A star wide receiver at Rutgers, Young has outperformed all three of Los Angeles’ first-round picks from his draft class: Kiki Jones, Tom Goodwin and Jamie McAndrew.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Hudson, ss, Blue Jays, 1997 (draft-and-follow).
44. Jason Isringhausen, rhp, Mets, 1991 (draft-and-follow). A junior-college center fielder, Isringhausen attended a Mets tryout camp and intrigued scouts with his arm strength. New York moved him to the mound after signing him. He earned all-star recognition as soon as he became a full-time closer in 2000.
Honorable Mention: Damian Jackson, ss, Indians, 1991 (draft-and-follow).
45. Chad Curtis, of, Angels, 1989. While scouting third-round pick Tim Salmon at Grand Canyon in 1989, the Angels also fell in love with his hustling teammate. Curtis beat Salmon to the majors by four months and hit a game-winning homer in Game Three of the 1999 World Series.
Honorable Mention: Frank Menechino, 2b, White Sox, 1993.
46. Darrell May, lhp, Braves, 1992. The only signed 46th-rounder ever to reach the majors, May went two rounds after Atlanta selected future NFL quarterback Mark Brunell.
47. Kyle Farnsworth, rhp, Cubs, 1994 (draft-and-follow). Farnsworth’s older brother Jeff went 45 rounds higher in the draft two years later, but Kyle has had much more success in the majors.
Honorable Mention: Danny Patterson, rhp, Rangers, 1989 (draft-and-follow).
48. Brad Ausmus, c, Yankees, 1987. Which is more impressive: going from the 48th round to the All-Star Game, or completing a degree in government at Dartmouth after turning pro? Ausmus did both.
Honorable Mention: Adrian Brown, of, Pirates, 1992.
49. No player has signed out of the 49th round and made the big leagues. The best unsigned pick is Bryn Smith (Cardinals, 1973).
50. Marvin Benard, of, Giants, 1992. Benard is one of two signed 50th-rounders and seven Nicaraguans to play in the majors.
Honorable Mention: Edwards Guzman, 3b, Giants, 1995.