The Best Of Times,
The Worst Of Times
Pick-by-pick through the first round
Also: Best Of Times, Worst of Times: Round 2-50
By Allan Simpson
The baseball draft has been an inexact science since its inception in 1965. And what better way to illustrate that than looking back at the history of the first round.
First-round status always brings acclaim to the players who become one of the coveted early picks, but the picks have not been an accurate barometer of future success. For every Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds, the first round is littered with many more players who failed miserably. Roughly a third of all first-rounders never reach the big leagues.
To show you the volatile nature of the draft, we present the best and worst for each draft slot in the first round, from first overall to 30th overall. We’re considering only the primary phase of the June draft, not the secondary phases or January drafts that were part of the process in past years.
And we’re considering only first-round picks, not overall draft position. For example, the first round expanded to 30 picks in 1996, with the addition of the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks. So the only players in the running for spots 29 and 30 on our list are the first-rounders of the past eight drafts, making it much easier to get on the list at the end than the beginning.
We’re also not making an effort here to determine the absolute best first-round pick of all time. That’s simply a matter of debating the relative merits of some of the best players in baseball history, so we’ll leave that to you. So on with the countdown:
1. BEST: Alex Rodriguez, ss, Mariners, 1993. It took A-Rod little more than three months to reach the big leagues after playing his first minor league game, and he hasn’t looked back—even after he put Seattle and Texas in his rearview mirror. He has a chance to be remembered as perhaps the greatest baseball player ever, even if he never plays another game at shortstop. Honorable Mention: Ken Griffey Jr., of, Mariners, 1987.
WORST: Steve Chilcott, c, Mets, 1966. Among players who are not active in 2004, North Carolina high school products Brien Taylor (Yankees, 1991) and Josh Hamilton (Devil Rays, 1999) are the only other No. 1 overall selections not to reach the big leagues. Chilcott’s failure was compounded because the Athletics took Reggie Jackson with the No. 2 pick in 1966. In seven injury-plagued minor league seasons, Chilcott played in 331 games, hitting .248-39-162. Dishonorable Mention: Brien Taylor, lhp, Yankees, 1991. (22-30, 5.12 in 100 minor league appearances, none above Double-A; after hurting his arm in an off-field altercation in 1993, he went 3-15, 11.27 with 184 walks and 88 strikeouts in 111 innings over the next eight years, before mercifully being released.
2. BEST: Reggie Jackson, of, Athletics, 1966. Give Josh Beckett (Marlins, 1999) and Mark Prior (Cubs, 2001) time to assemble their own Hall of Fame credentials. Jackson established his before either was born. Honorable Mention: Will Clark, 1b, Giants, 1985.
WORST: Augie Schmidt, ss, Blue Jays, 1982. Two years after Toronto wasted the second pick in the draft on shortstop Garry Harris, who didn’t make it past Double-A, it came up short again with Schmidt, the only Golden Spikes winner in the award’s first 21 years not to play in the majors. Schmidt hit .257-11-147 in 426 minor league games before he was released for a third and final time while in low Class A in 1986. Dishonorable Mention: Mike Lentz, lhp, Padres, 1975 (17-22, 5.99 in four minor league seasons, none above Double-A).
3. BEST: Robin Yount, ss, Brewers, 1973. Yount was so good, so soon that he opened the 1974 season at shortstop for the Brewers at age 18, less than a year out of high school. He went on to win two MVP awards and first-ballot entry into the Hall of Fame. Honorable Mention: Paul Molitor, ss, Brewers, 1977.
WORST: Jay Schroeder, c, Blue Jays, 1979. Schroeder tried unsuccessfully to juggle a college football career at UCLA while playing minor league baseball for Toronto. He initially gave up football to concentrate on baseball, but he hit .213-36-166 with 477 strikeouts in 407 games, none above Class A. When the Washington Redskins came calling, he abandoned baseball for a successful 10-year career as a quarterback in the NFL. Dishonorable Mention: Marty Cott, c, Astros, 1968 (.231-14-105 in 199 minor league games, two above Class A).
4. BEST: Dave Winfield, of, Padres, 1973. Winfield was so gifted coming out of the University of Minnesota that he also was selected in the ABA (Utah Stars), NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and NFL (Minnesota Vikings) drafts. He was a legitimate first-round talent as a pitcher, but his Hall of Fame career as an outfielder proved that San Diego made the right decision on how to use him. Honorable Mention: Barry Larkin, ss, Reds, 1985.
WORST: Jeff Jackson, of, Phillies, 1989. A virtual unknown entering his senior year at a Chicago high school, Jackson had a breakout season, hitting .504-16-72 with 52 stolen bases. He never came close to fulfilling expectations in a 10-year minor league career that peaked in Double-A. In 666 games, he hit .234-50-271. Dishonorable Mention: Mike Stodolka, lhp, Royals, 2000 (13-26, 4.65 in four minor league seasons, none above Class A; hasn’t pitched since Tommy John surgery in July 2003).
5. BEST: Dwight Gooden, rhp, Mets, 1982. Gooden struck out 300 minor leaguers in 1983 at age 18 and led the major leagues in whiffs the next two seasons. He won a Cy Young Award at 20 after going 24-4, 1.53. His career began to unravel soon thereafter, but he still managed to win 192 games in 16 years. Honorable Mention: Dale Murphy, c, Braves, 1974.
WORST: John Jones, c, Senators, 1967. Washington was determined to take a high school catcher in the 1967 draft but picked the wrong one. With Ted Simmons on the board, the Senators opted for Jones, who was released three years later after hitting .150-1-27 in 159 games, none above Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Bill Bene, rhp, Dodgers, 1988 (18-34, 5.45 with 534 walks in 516 minor league innings).
6. BEST: Barry Bonds, of, Pirates, 1985. Arguably the best player of all time was the centerpiece of what is considered the best draft class ever. Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter, ss, Yankees, 1992.
WORST: Ryan Mills, lhp, Twins, 1998. Mills started and took the loss when Southern California beat Arizona State in the 21-14 championship game at the 1998 College World Series. That was his first outing after Minnesota selected him and proved to be an omen, as Mills went 11-39, 6.03 over the next five years. He has made minimal progress the last two years at Triple-A Rochester. Dishonorable Mention: Paul Coleman, of, Cardinals, 1989 (.225-19-100 in 346 minor league games, none above Double-A).
7. BEST: Frank Thomas, 1b, White Sox, 1989. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound former Auburn tight end made a wise decision to bag football in favor of baseball. Still with the White Sox, he holds the franchise record for career home runs. Honorable Mention: Dan Wilson, c, Reds, 1990.
WORST: Chris Smith, lhp, Orioles, 2001. An outfielder his first two years in college, Smith made a successful conversion to pitching after transferring from Florida State to NAIA Cumberland (Tenn.) as junior. But it’s been downhill since as Smith has failed to win a game in pro ball, going 0-3, 9.69 with 22 walks in 13 innings. He has been sidelined since 2002 by a labrum tear in his shoulder. Honorable Mention: Matt Harrington, rhp, Rockies, 2000 (the most acrimonious holdout in draft history has yet to play beyond independent ball).
8. BEST: Todd Helton, 1b, Rockies, 1995. One of the best pure hitters ever drafted, Helton was made to order for Coors Field. Honorable Mention: Jay Bell, ss, Twins, 1984.
WORST: Matt Wheatland, rhp, Tigers, 2000. A shoulder injury doomed Wheatland, who won three games in his first minor league season and never won another before being released by the Tigers this spring. After signing for a $2.15 million bonus, he spent the entire 2002-03 seasons on the disabled list. Dishonorable Mention: Earl Cunningham, of, Cubs, 1989 (.223-84-319 with 739 strikeouts in 586 minor league games, none above Class A).
9. BEST: Barry Zito, lhp, Athletics, 1999. Just 25 when he opened the 2004 season, Zito had a career 61-29, 3.12 record and a 2002 Cy Young Award on his résumé. Honorable Mention: Kevin Appier, rhp, Royals, 1987.
WORST: Matt Brunson, ss, Tigers, 1993. The son of Larry Brunson, a wide receiver and kick-return specialist in the NFL from 1974-80, Brunson showed his own speed by stealing 106 bases in 329 minor league games. That number was even more impressive considering he hit .200-2-75 in a career that ended in Class A in 1996. He later surfaced on the University of Colorado football team. Dishonorable Mention: Dave Hibner, of, Rangers, 1982 (.194-30-151 with 472 strikeouts in 439 minor league games, none above Class A).
10. BEST: Mark McGwire, 1b, Athletics, 1984. McGwire briefly held the record for home runs in a season and might have challenged Hank Aaron’s career mark if injuries hadn’t short-circuited his career. The Mets considered taking him No. 1 overall in 1984 but couldn’t get a good read on his signability. Honorable Mention: Ted Simmons, c, Cardinals, 1967.
WORST: Art Miles, ss, Expos, 1975. Miles’ career ended when he broke his neck diving into shallow water in Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway while celebrating West Palm Beach winning the Florida State League championship in 1977. In 274 games, none above Class A, Miles hit .231-9-91. Dishonorable Mention: Bob May, rhp, Pirates, 1969 (5-7, 3.97 in two minor league seasons, none above Class A; he spent the next three years in military service and never pitched again).
11. BEST: Greg Luzinski, of, Phillies, 1968. This slot didn’t produce a Hall of Fame player, but Luzinski hit 307 homers and contributed to Philadelphia’s resurgence in the late 1970s. Honorable Mention: Walt Weiss, ss, Athletics, 1985.
WORST: Kevin Brandt, of, Twins, 1979. Brandt might have been the worst first-round pick ever. He hit .154-1-9 in 47 games, all Rookie-level, before being released on July 6, 1980. No team ever gave up on a first-round pick that fast. “He was a mistake,” Twins farm director Jim Rantz said. “Some kids can go backwards on you, and he did. We clearly made a bad choice.” Dishonorable Mention: Bruce Compton, of, Indians, 1977 (.144-1-29 in 107 games, none above Class A).
12. BEST: Nomar Garciaparra, ss, Red Sox, 1994. Garciaparra was the third shortstop picked in 1994, behind Josh Booty (Marlins, No. 5) and Mark Farris (Pirates, No. 11), who both turned to football after failing in baseball. Garciaparra has won two batting titles and developed much more power than Boston ever dreamed. Honorable Mention: Kirk Gibson, of, Tigers, 1978.
WORST: Billy Simpson, of, Rangers, 1976. Righthander Mark Snyder (Indians, 1982) failed to win a game in four minor league seasons, but his lack of success can be explained by arm problems. Simpson, on the other hand, was an abject failure. “He was a bad sign,” said former major league general manager Joe Klein, Simpson’s first manager in pro ball. “He never showed anything. I don’t remember one positive thing that he did or one thing he picked up.” In 189 games over three seasons, none above Class A, Simpson hit .177-0-51. He later was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a drug-smuggling ring. Dishonorable Mention: Jay Roberts, of, Braves, 1981 (.187-9-68 in 226 minor league games, none above Class A).
13. BEST: Manny Ramirez, of, Indians, 1991. Ramirez signed for $250,000, the lowest bonus in the first 19 picks in 1991. One of the best pure hitters of his generation, Ramirez would have been a bargain at nearly any price. Honorable Mention: Frank Tanana, lhp, Angels, 1971.
WORST: Andrew Madden, rhp, Red Sox, 1977. The 1977 draft saw six prep first-rounders peak in Class A—a record for futility equaled a year later. The 6-foot-7 Madden was the quickest to exit the game, leaving in 1979 with a 2-11, 4.04 record in just 27 appearances. Dishonorable Mention: George Alpert, of, Indians, 1981 (.216-10-39 in 179 minor league games, none above Class A).
14. BEST: Tino Martinez, 1b, Mariners, 1988. Just as they did with Jason Varitek, the 14th pick in 1994, the Mariners unloaded Martinez before his time in an ill-conceived deal with the Yankees. Martinez replaced Don Mattingly at first base and won four World Series rings. Honorable Mention: Cliff Floyd, of, Expos, 1991.
WORST: Tim Maki, rhp, Rangers, 1980. Maki was the second of three consecutive picks in 1980 that didn’t advance beyond Class A. He never had a winning record in five seasons, going 9-26, 5.42 with 203 walks and 189 strikeouts in 302 innings. Dishonorable Mention: Rick Konik, 1b, Tigers, 1966; Greg McMurtry, of, Red Sox, 1986 (neither played professional baseball, though McMurtry played in the NFL from 1990-94).
15. BEST: Jim Rice, of, Red Sox, 1971. Rice was the game’s most feared slugger in the late 1970s and hit 382 homers for Boston. His reputation as a one-dimensional player may keep him out of Cooperstown. Honorable Mention: Richie Hebner, 3b, Pirates, 1966.
WORST: Andy Yount, rhp/of, Red Sox, 1995. This slot is littered with talent that underachieved, but Yount failed twice—as a pitcher and hitter. He never advanced past Class A in either role. A promising career on the mound went awry when he sliced nerves in his pitching hand with a kitchen knife and went 3-5, 5.67 in 106 innings over a six-year period spent mostly on the disabled list. His luck in the outfield was no better as he hit .215-8-50 with 171 strikeouts in 377 at-bats. Dishonorable Mention: Gary Polczynski, ss, Reds, 1970 (.194-9-113 in 372 minor league games, none above Double-A).
16. BEST: Lance Parrish, c, Tigers, 1974. Parrish turned down a UCLA football scholarship to become a mainstay behind the plate for the Tigers teams of the early 1980s and went on to catch for 19 years in the big leagues, hitting .252 with 324 home runs. His son David was a surprise No. 28 overall selection in 2000 and has been disappointing so far. Honorable Mention: Shawn Green, of, Blue Jays, 1991.
WORST: Trey McCall, c, Phillies, 1985. Despite all the talent in the 1985 draft, the Phillies missed the boat. With players like Rafael Palmeiro and Randy Johnson on the board, they took McCall, a high school catcher from Virginia who went on to hit .201-15-88 in a career that peaked in Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Joel Bishop, ss, Red Sox, 1972 (.243-2-37 in 120 minor league games, none above Class A; he quit the game in 1973).
17. BEST: Roy Halladay, rhp, Blue Jays, 1995. Demoted to Class A in 2001, Halladay seemed on his way to becoming a bust. But he quickly rallied, and his 22-7, 3.25 Cy Young Award 2003 season stamped him as one of the game’s premier pitchers. Honorable Mention: Gary Matthews, of, Giants, 1968.
WORST: Ricky Barlow, rhp, Tigers, 1981. Barlow went 14-1 in his senior year of high school but learned what losing was about in the minors. He went through a 3-30 drought at one point, including a miserable 1-17, 6.79 season in Class A in 1984. He eventually reached Triple-A, but went 23-58, 5.59 with 434 walks and 386 strikeouts in 602 innings over seven seasons. Dishonorable Mention: Ken Plesha, c, White Sox, 1965 (.186-3-43 in 204 minor league games, none above Class A).
18. BEST: Willie Wilson, of, Royals, 1974. Wilson would have gone higher had he not been one of the nation’s top running back recruits. His $90,000 bonus matched that of No. 1 overall pick Bill Almon. Honorable Mention: Carlos May, 1b, White Sox, 1966.
WORST: Ryan Jaronczyk, ss, Mets, 1995. Four years after using this slot to buy Virginia high school outfielder Al Shirley (.213-69-230 and 870 strikeouts in 631 minor league games) away from a promising college football career, the Mets were burned again. They took Jaronczyk, whose career was noteworthy only because he quit on several occasions only to be coaxed into returning. He hit .236-2-48 in 153 games, none above Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Don Young, Braves, 1975 (.224-16-126 in 302 minor league games, none above Class A).
19. BEST: Roger Clemens, rhp, Red Sox, 1983. Lone Star State righthanders Stan Hilton, Jackie Davidson and Wayne Dotson didn’t reach the big leagues and were among 10 pitchers drafted in 1983 before Boston got Clemens. He won the first of his Cy Young Awards three years later and established himself as one of the greatest pitchers ever. Honorable Mention: Bobby Grich, ss, Orioles, 1967.
WORST: Brad Garnett, 1b, Pirates, 1978. Drafting wasn’t at its best in 1978, when six first-rounders failed to advance past Class A for the second year in a row. The Pirates had two such picks: Garnett, who hit .215-40-147 in 374 minor league games, and outfielder Gerry Aubin, who was selected two picks later and hit .233-13-60 in 132 games. Garnett’s four-year career was ravaged by a bout with alcoholism that contributed to career-ending injuries. Aubin quit after two seasons to play quarterback at South Carolina. Dishonorable Mention: Lenny Baxley, 1b, Tigers, 1969 (.252-17-126 in 283 minor league games, none above Class A).
20. BEST: Mike Mussina, rhp, Orioles, 1990. Mussina’s bonus demands priced him out of the first round in 1987, when he was coming out of high school. Baltimore failed to sign him after taking an 11th-round flier but got its man three years later. Honorable Mention: Bob Welch, rhp, Dodgers, 1977.
WORST: Bill Henderson, c, Tigers, 1987. The first prominent player drafted out of Miami’s Westminster Christian High (Alex Rodriguez came out of there six years later), Henderson hit .228-8-64 in 217 minor league games, none above Class A, before leaving to play college football at Miami. Dishonorable Mention: Donnie Denbow, of, Dodgers, 1967 (the only college player drafted in the first round in 1967 hit .247-6-37 in 116 games, none above Class A).
21. BEST: Rick Sutcliffe, rhp, Dodgers, 1974. Sutcliffe kicked off a string of four straight NL rookies of the year for Los Angeles in 1979. But he didn’t get along with manager Tom Lasorda, and when Sutcliffe busted up Lasorda’s office after being left off the 1981 postseason roster, the Dodgers traded him to Cleveland for Jorge Orta. Honorable Mention: Todd Worrell, rhp, Cardinals, 1982.
WORST: Lee May Jr., of, Mets, 1986. May’s father hit 354 home runs in an 18-year big league career, and the Mets hoped for more of the same. May hit only eight homers in eight years in the minors, however, while batting just .221. At least he struck out like a power hitter, fanning 632 times in 621 games. Dishonorable Mention: Ron Broaddus, rhp, Braves, 1970 (4-15, 5.24 in 72 minor league appearances, none above Class A).
22. BEST: Rafael Palmeiro, of, Cubs, 1985. Palmeiro hit .410-47-172 in his first two seasons at Mississippi State as part of a tag team with Will Clark, but slipped in the draft when he hit just .300 as a junior. “I think it was because of the pressure I put on myself,” Palmeiro said. “There was a lot of talk about Will and me being one and two in the draft, and I couldn’t get it going.” After he hit eight homers in his first full big league season in 1988, the Cubs shipped him to the Rangers for Mitch Williams, only to watch him develop into one of the game’s most consistent power threats ever. Honorable Mention: Bruce Hurst, lhp, Red Sox, 1976.
WORST: Scott Jones, rhp, Reds, 1982. The demise of the Big Red Machine can be traced in part to a series of poor drafts. From 1970-82, the Reds had just two first-round picks (Nick Esasky in 1978 and Ron Robinson in 1980) reach the big leagues. Among those who failed were three No. 22 choices. Jones went 7-8, 6.35 with 106 walks in 112 career innings, none above Class A. Outfielder Charles Kessler (1973) hit .235-15-78 in 201 minor league games. Outfielder Tony Moretto (1975) batted hit .234-7-78 in 336 games, none above Double-A. Dishonorable Mention: Jerry Johnson, c, Athletics, 1974 (he did not sign and hit .201-5-67 in 209 minor league games with the Cardinals, none above Class A).
23. BEST: Mo Vaughn, 1b, Red Sox, 1989. Boston remains the only team to draft two future MVPs in one year, snagging Vaughn and fourth-rounder Jeff Bagwell in 1989. Vaughn is also one of the rare MVPs who had an encore season that was better than his award-winning year. Honorable Mention: Jason Kendall, c, Pirates, 1992.
WORST: Rip Rollins, 1b/rhp, Phillies, 1978. Rollins signed with the Phillies after being recruited to play quarterback at South Carolina. He went 9-13, 4.52 before bursitis in his shoulder forced him to give up pitching in his second pro season. He turned to hitting and failed in that role as well, batting just .194-13-55. He never advanced past Class A in a four-year career. At least he got a crack at pro ball. Outfielder John Simmons (Royals, 1969) didn’t sign and his athletic career peaked as an understudy to Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan at Auburn. Shortstop George Ambrow (Mets, 1970) never played pro ball after knee injuries destroyed his college career at Southern California. Dishonorable Mention: Mark King, rhp, Reds, 1976 (6-22, 5.14 in 170 career innings, none above Class A).
24. BEST: Rondell White, of, Expos, 1990. The Expos were decimated by free-agent signings after the 1989 season and had six draft picks before the start of the second round. White was the best of the six, though he has been hampered by injuries. Honorable Mention: Terry Mulholland, lhp, Giants, 1984.
WORST: Ken Thomas, c, Orioles, 1972. The Orioles drafted catcher James West in this slot in 1970, and he hit .231-12-64 in 168 games over four years, none above Class A. They drafted Thomas, another high school catcher, two years later, and he performed even worse, batting .148-1-25 in 90 games. He was released in Rookie ball, little more than a year after he signed. Dishonorable Mention: Corey Jenkins, of, Red Sox, 1995 (.206-33-138 with 430 strikeouts in 329 games, seven above Class A; he quit to become a quarterback at South Carolina).
25. BEST: Chuck Knoblauch, 2b, Twins, 1989. A member of four World Series champions before a throwing problem short-circuited his career, Knoblauch was one of two rookies of the year selected by Minnesota in 1989. (Tenth-rounder Marty Cordova was the other.) The best 25th overall pick was Bill Buckner, part of the Dodgers’ 1968 haul that is regarded as the top draft ever. Buckner was the top pick in the second round. Honorable Mention: Ed Sprague, 3b, Blue Jays, 1988.
WORST: Johnny Oliver, of, Reds, 1996. Oliver’s career fizzled out after four seasons. He hit just .208-14-79 in 212 games, none above Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Tom Goffena, ss, Blue Jays, 1977 (Toronto’s first draft pick hit .238-0-51 in three minor league seasons, none above Class A).
26. BEST: Dan Plesac, lhp, Brewers, 1983. The 6-foot-7 lefthander was a set-up man for most of his 18-year career, making 1,064 appearances, the fourth-most in baseball history. Alan Trammell (Tigers, 1976) is the best 26th overall pick ever, but he was a second-rounder. Honorable Mention: Dave Henderson, of, Mariners, 1977.
WORST: Jeff Ledbetter, 1b, Red Sox, 1982. Ledbetter hit 42 home runs in 1982 for Florida State, breaking the NCAA record by 13 and shattering the career mark by 33. The Red Sox took him with the third of three first-round picks, and Ledbetter went on to hit .238-7-28 that season in 62 games in Class A. Despite proclamations that he would be in Boston within a year, the cocky Ledbetter peaked in Double-A in 1984, hitting just .214. In three minor league seasons, he went deep just 28 times. Dishonorable Mention: Tom Hartley, of, White Sox, 1984 (.218-2-40 in 162 minor league games, none above Class A).
27. BEST: Marc Valdes, rhp, Marlins, 1993. Lefthander Vida Blue (Athletics, 1967) is history’s best 27th overall pick, but he wasn’t a first-rounder. It wasn’t until 1992, when the expansion Marlins and Rockies began drafting that this slot became part of the first round. Valdes went 12-15, 4.95 in six big league seasons and earns the nod almost by default. Honorable Mention: Sergio Santos, ss, Diamondbacks, 2002.
WORST: Jacob Shumate, rhp, Braves, 1994. Shumate never found the strike zone consistently in eight seasons in the Atlanta organization, walking 436 in 312 innings. He compiled a 14-30, 7.09 record while peaking in Double-A. Dishonorable Mention: Robert Stiehl, rhp, Astros, 2000 (3-3, 2.56 in 24 games prior to 2004, none above Class A; his career has been sidetracked by rotator-cuff surgery).
28. BEST: Charles Johnson, c, Marlins, 1992. Lee Smith (Cubs, 1975), the all-time saves leader with 478, went 28th when just 24 teams drafted, so he was a second-rounder. Johnson, Florida’s first draft pick and a four-time Gold Glover, is tops among the first-rounders. Honorable Mention: Michael Barrett, c, Expos, 1995.
WORST: Danny Peoples, 1b, Indians, 1996. Peoples was signed to a below-market $400,000 bonus, and peaked in Triple-A. He hit .250-104-342 in six years. Dishonorable Mention: David Parrish, c, Yankees, 2000 (.238-15-138 in 340 minor league games prior to 2004).
29. BEST: Adam Wainwright, rhp, Braves, 2000. The expansion Devil Rays and Diamondbacks began drafting in 1996, so the pickings in this slot were limited and no 29th pick has reached the majors. Wainwright has the best chance after going 35-26, 3.36 with 560 strikeouts in 539 innings in the Braves system prior to his offseason trade to the Cardinals. It’s unlikely he’ll surpass the best 29th choice ever: second-rounder George Brett (Royals, 1971). Honorable Mention: Carlos Quentin, of, Diamondbacks, 2003.
WORST: Paul Wilder, of, Devil Rays, 1996. Tampa Bay’s first draft pick hit .204-28-108 over six years and 247 games, none above Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Troy Cameron, ss, Braves, 1997 (.229-88-334 in 667 minor league games, none above Double-A).
30. BEST: Jack Cust, 1b, Diamondbacks, 1997. Cust has power potential, but his career has stalled in Triple-A. He has failed to stick in big league trials with the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Orioles since 2001. He still has accomplished the most of all first-rounders in this slot, though his career pales next to Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who went right behind George Brett as the 30th pick in 1971. Honorable Mention: Nick Bierbrodt, lhp, Diamondbacks, 1996.
WORST: Matt Burch, rhp, Royals, 1998. Burch was released by the Royals in the middle of the 2003 season after going 24-38, 4.66 in 125 appearances, six above Class A. Dishonorable Mention: Chance Caple, rhp, Cardinals, 1999 (10-20, 4.52 in 54 minor league games, none above Class A).