Three Up, Three Down: Mookie Betts One Of Many Day Two Stars
Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox
For proof great players can be found on the draft’s second day, look no further than Betts. A fifth-round pick in 2011, Betts made the majors by 21, was an all-star by 23, and is an MVP frontrunner at 25. Betts is on pace to win his first batting title with a .359 batting average, leads the majors with a .750 slugging percentage and is in prime position to win his third straight Gold Glove in right field, all while leading the Red Sox to the best record in the majors entering Tuesday. An abdominal strain is the only thing that has slowed Betts down this season, but he’s due to come off the disabled list on Friday. Even though he was the 172nd player taken in his draft, Betts has become arguably the best of the 2011 class.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
The Dodgers drafted Kemp in the sixth round in 2003 and he’s delivered a 13-year career that is still going strong. The resurgent Kemp has been the surprise star of the Dodgers in his return to Los Angeles, leading the National League batting title race with a .344 average and posting a .949 OPS, his highest since his MVP runner-up season in 2011. Kemp was the 181st player drafted in 2003, but he has indisputably been one of the top 10 players from that draft class in his career.
Corey Kluber, RHP, Indians
Kluber was a fourth-round pick out of a mid-major college program in 2007 and now he’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner who is in contention for a third. While the Indians' bullpen has been horrendous and the lineup has been plagued by a lack of production at the bottom of the lineup, Kluber has remained his usual, dominant self. He enters Tuesday 8-2, 2.02 with 88 strikeouts and 10 walks in 84.2 innings this season, leading the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kluber was the 134th player taken in 2007, a non-descript day two pick, and he’s become one of the five best pitchers in baseball.
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Tigers
Fulmer hasn’t been quite right since his return from offseason elbow surgery. After winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and making the all-star team in 2017, Fulmer had two good starts to begin the year but has since scuffled, going 1-4, 5.74 in his last 10 starts. His struggles have been particularly acute lately, with more walks (10) than strikeouts (9) in his last three starts. Fulmer still looks like a steal as the No. 44 overall pick in 2011, but his trend out of elbow surgery is concerning.
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Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals
Taylor was a revelation last year, delivering a breakout season that helped keep the Nationals afloat as injuries decimated their outfield. But the 27-year-old Taylor hasn’t been able to replicate his performance in 2018. Taylor enters Tuesday with a .641 OPS, which ranks 142nd out of 158 eligible players. The 2009 sixth-rounder is starting to show signs of a turnaround, delivering a hit in seven of his last eight games, but he’s got a long climb ahead to get his season number up to par.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Blue Jays
Granderson has long been a Day Two draft success story as a third-rounder in 2002, but the end is near for the 37-year-old. After hitting .212 last year, he’s batting .219 this year and is getting worse as the season goes on. Granderson is 6-for-50 with 19 strikeouts since May 17, a stretch during which Toronto has gone 4-12 and tumbled down the American League East standings. The Blue Jays are struggling to make quality contact as a team—their .229 batting average is third-lowest in baseball—and Granderson isn’t helping.