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Teams Have Gotten Better At Drafting In The 21st Century


Image credit: Kris Bryant (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

In our study of drafts of the Baseball America era (1981-present), one of the most interesting discoveries was how much more efficiently teams have sorted out top talents in the 2000s than the 1900s. From 1981 to 1999, there were 10 different times that the best player in the draft class (as measured by bWAR) was drafted after the first round. From 2000-2013, it happened only three times.

Here’s a look at who was the top signed player in each draft class and where he was picked.

1981: Tony Gwynn (3rd round, 58th pick)

Kevin McReynolds ranked as the top first-round pick taken, but 11 other players rank ahead of him.

1982: Bret Saberhagen (19th round, 480th pick)

Fifth overall pick Dwight Gooden is the best first-rounder, ranking third overall.

1983: Roger Clemens (1st round, 19th pick)

It is worth nothing that the next 11 best players from that draft were all taken after the first round.

1984: Greg Maddux (2nd round, 31st pick)

Mark McGwire, the 10th overall pick, ranked third in the class.

1985: Barry Bonds (1st round, 6th pick)

Four of the top six players were first-round picks.

1986: Kevin Brown (1st round, 4th pick)

The top three players were all first-round picks.

1987: Ken Griffey Jr.  (1st round, 1st pick)

Griffey was the first No. 1 overall pick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

1988: Kenny Lofton (17th round, 428th pick)

Lofton (17th round), Jim Edmonds (7th round) and Mike Piazza (62nd round) led the way in a stacked draft.

1989: Jeff Bagwell (4th round, 110th pick)

First-rounder Frank Thomas has the second-most WAR in the class.

1990: Chipper Jones (1st round, 1st pick)

For the second time in four drafts, the No. 1 overall pick was the best player in the draft class.

1991: Manny Ramirez (1st round, 13th pick)

Mike Cameron (18th round) and Brad Radke (8th round) ranked second and third.

1992: Derek Jeter (1st round, 6th pick)

Three of the top five players were first-round picks.

1993: Alex Rodriguez (1st round, 1st pick)

Four of top five players from the draft class were first-round picks.

1994: Javier Vazquez (5th round, 140th pick)

In a thin draft class, Vazquez (5th round) and Placido Polanco (19th round) were two of the top three players.

1995: Carlos Beltran (2nd round, 49th pick)

While Beltran tops the list, three first-round picks follow right behind him on the list.

1996: Jimmy Rollins (2nd round, 46th pick)

First-round pick Eric Chavez (10th pick) ranked second in WAR, but four of the top five come from after the first round.

1997: Tim Hudson (6th round, 185th pick)

Orlando Hudson, an excellent 43rd-round pick, ranked fourth best in the draft class.

1998: CC Sabathia (1st round, 20th pick)

Sabathia is one of the few players drafted in the 20th century who is still playing.

1999: Albert Pujols (13th round, 402 pick)

Pujols and Jake Peavy (15th round) lead the way. The top first-round pick, Josh Beckett, ranks fifth.

2000: Chase Utley (1st round, 15th pick)

The No. 1 overall pick Adrian Gonzalez ranks third, and three of the five most productive players were first-round picks.

2001: Joe Mauer (1st round, 1st pick)

Mark Teixeira (1st round, 5th pick) finished right behind Mauer.

2002: Zack Greinke (1st round, 6th pick)

Nine of the top 14 players from this class were first-round picks.

2003: Ian Kinsler (17th round, 496th pick)

Kinsler is the last of the late-round picks to climb to the top of the class, following in the footsteps of Pujols, Saberhagen and Lofton.

2004: Justin Verlander (1st round, 2nd pick)

And now we’re in the range where the rankings could still change, but Verlander’s lead over Dustin Pedroia (2nd round) and Ben Zobrist (6th round) will only grow.

2005: Ryan Braun (1st round, 5th pick)

In a great draft class, nine of the top 10 players were first-round picks.

2006: Clayton Kershaw (1st round, 7th pick)

The top three players are all first-round picks.

2007: Giancarlo Stanton (2nd round, 76th pick)

David Price, the No. 1 overall pick, ranks third behind Stanton and Josh Donaldson (supplemental 1st round), but they are all separated by less than two WAR.

2008: Buster Posey (1st round, 5th pick)

Posey has nearly doubled the WAR of anyone else in this draft class.

2009: Mike Trout (1st round, 25th pick)

Trout leads the way, but eight of the top 10 players from this class weren’t first-round picks.

2010: Chris Sale (1st round, 13th pick)

Manny Machado (3rd overall pick) and Bryce Harper (1st overall pick) rank third and fourth.

2011: Mookie Betts (5th round, 172 pick)

Betts is easily the most productive player from the class, but the next four players were all first-round picks.

2012: Carlos Correa (1st round, 1st pick)

This will be an excellent battle to see if the No. 1 pick remains on top. Five of the top six players are first-round picks.

2013: Kris Bryant (1st round, 3rd pick)

Bryant and Aaron Judge are far ahead for now, but fourth-rounder Cody Bellinger is gaining fast.

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