Even though former top picks such as Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg are currently sidelined, a substantial number of one-time first rounders will open their teams' seasons this week. Half of baseball's 30 Opening Day starters were once first round selections.
Five Opening Day starters - Felix Hernandez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Fausto Carmona, Livan Hernandez and Edinson Volquez – were not drafted, which means 60% of the starters who were at one point draft eligible came from the first round (15/25). As Keith Law recently pointed out at ESPN.com, "the vast majority of impact players" who enter pro ball through the draft were selected early on.
Of the 15 first rounders to become 2011 Opening Day starters, David Price (2007) was drafted most recently and Chris Carpenter (1993) was drafted longest ago. The opening round of the 2006 draft produced the most Opening Day starters, with four. Luke Hochevar (1st overall), Clayton Kershaw (7th), Tim Lincecum (10th) and Ian Kennedy (21st) all went early on in the '06 draft.
Roy Halladay (1995), C.C. Sabathia (1998), Brett Myers (1999), Jeremy Guthrie (2002), Tim Stauffer (2003), Justin Verlander (2004), Jered Weaver (2004), Ricky Romero (2005) and Mike Pelfrey (2005) join Price, Carpenter, Hochevar, Kershaw, Lincecum and Kennedy in the group of first rounders who got the Opening Day nod this year.
This isn’t to suggest that becoming an Opening Day starter is the standard that draft prospects like Gerrit Cole, Jed Bradley and Sonny Gray should aspire to. Clearly, there are more effective ways of measuring a pitcher’s value than the day on which his manager asks him to throw his first pitch. But it’s worth noting that so many Opening Day starters come from the first round and it'll be worth watching which starters get selected early this June.