Poll: Which Team Had The Best 2002 Draft?

B.J. Upton, the No. 2 overall pick by the Devil Rays in the 2002 draft, collected his 1,000th MLB hit on Saturday on a ground ball against Mike Leake and the Reds. But while Upton has had a long and lucrative MLB career, he hasn’t reached the heights of other players drafted later that year.

The Devil Rays did fare better than other teams drafting in the top five in ’02. The Pirates took Ball State righty Bryan Bullington with the first overall pick, and Bullington turned out to be a journeyman. Third, fourth and fifth overall picks Chris Gruler (Reds), Adam Loewen (Orioles) and Clint Everts (Expos) didn’t turn out much better.

Where that draft really got interesting was with the sixth pick, where the Royals took Zack Greinke. One pick later, the Brewers grabbed Prince Fielder. Later in the first round went Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain. Joey Votto, Jon Lester and Brian McCann went in the second round; Curtis Granderson headed to the Tigers in the third, and Josh Johnson went to the Marlins in the fourth. Howie Kendrick and Russell Martin went in the late rounds.

We’re nearly 12 years removed from that draft now, and most of the top players involved are now in their late primes. Some have moved on to other teams. So which team fared the best? Here are some possibilities, but feel free to peruse Baseball Reference’s draft database on your own.

Angels. The Angels got solid value from Joe Saunders at No. 12 overall, then scored with Kendrick in the tenth round.

Athletics. The A’s got several good players in their famed “Moneyball” draft, although this was partially, or perhaps even primarily, a function of opportunity — they had seven of the first 39 picks. Swisher (24.1 bWAR) and Joe Blanton (8.8 bWAR) turned out well, but other members of Oakland’s unconventional draft class (including John McCurdy, Ben Fritz, and Jeremy Brown, all selected in the first round) didn’t. The A’s signed Jared Burton in the late rounds, although they lost him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2006. They also picked Brad Ziegler and Jonathan Papelbon, but didn’t sign either of them.

Braves. First-round pick Jeff Francoeur spent most of his best years with the Braves, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2005. Supplemental pick Dan Meyer was a key part of the Tim Hudson trade with the Athletics. Second-rounder Brian McCann became a superstar behind the plate. And third-rounder Charlie Morton helped the Braves land Nate McLouth, before becoming a sinker-balling mainstay in the Pirates’ rotation.

Brewers. The Brewers only managed to get much from Fielder (23.1 bWAR). They would have had a better case here if they hadn’t released late-round picks Tom Wilhelmsen and Craig Breslow before they went on to productive careers elsewhere, or if they’d signed 40th-rounder Hunter Pence.

Dodgers. The Dodgers got great value throughout the draft, taking James Loney in the first round, and then Martin, Jonathan Broxton, James McDonald, and Eric Stults later on. Martin accumulated 15.9 bWAR in his five seasons in Los Angeles, then continued his fine career in New York and Pittsburgh.

Giants. First-rounder Matt Cain was a huge hit, and the Giants also got reasonable value from second-rounder Fred Lewis and fourth-rounder Kevin Correia. Eighth-rounder Clay Hensley helped them land reliever Matt Herges. And unlike some teams on this list, the Giants didn’t have a mess of compensation picks, selecting just once in each round.

Phillies. Philadelphia got Hamels and little else, but in terms of WAR value, they did very well in this draft. This wasn’t an unfamiliar pattern for the Phillies, who two years later had taken Chase Utley with their first pick in a draft that otherwise turned up very little for them. When drafting, quality is far more important than quantity, and the Phillies rode their quantity-light but quality-heavy drafts to a World Series title in 2008.

Reds. Gruler was a huge miss at third overall, but the Reds more than made up for that by snagging Votto (34.7 bWAR) 44th overall. They only got two big-leaguers in ’02, but the other one, Chris Denorfia (19th round) also turned out to be a solid contributor. The Reds, however, didn’t reap the benefits, shipping Denorfia to the A’s for Marcus McBeth and a minor-leaguer in 2007.

Red Sox. Boston didn’t pick until No. 57 overall, but took Lester, one of the best pitchers in the draft, when their turn came. They also took Brandon Moss, who they sent to Pittsburgh in the Manny Ramirez / Jason Bay swap in 2008.

Royals. Like the Phillies, the Royals got little in the late rounds. But Greinke was a big hit, and he continues to pay dividends years after being traded — they still have Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar left over from that deal, and Jake Odorizzi helped them land James Shields (albeit in a trade that is controversial for reasons that have little to do with Odorizzi).

Tigers. First-rounder Scott Moore and second-rounder Brent Clevlen didn’t pan out, but the Tigers got Granderson in the third round and Joel Zumaya in the 11th.


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37 Comments on "Poll: Which Team Had The Best 2002 Draft?"


Member
Chioakcisco
1 year 2 months ago

In all seriousness, it’s crazy to think that the whole A’s draft class that “Moneyball” was based on turned out to be a mild bust. The gambles that Oakland took didn’t pan out at all.

Member
dcamp
1 year 2 months ago

well, they also overhauled their entire mlb roster that very year. it wasn’t like their moneyball philosophies applied ONLY to the draft and nowhere else and wouldn’t be seen in action for years. it is a bit strange they had such a weak draft class with so many good picks, but the draft is such a crapshoot in the first place.

Member
Chioakcisco
1 year 2 months ago

They still had the Big 3, and Billy Koch filled Isringhausen’s role quite well, so on that end they did alright.

I’m just a bit saddened that none of the gambles panned out at all, save for Mark Kiger becoming the answer to an interesting piece of MLB trivia.

Member
Red_Line_9
1 year 2 months ago

I’m nor sure why they took a player like Jeremy Brown so high. I can’t recall… but wasn’t he projected to go much late? Too early… like someone taking a closer in the 1st rd of a fantasy draft

Member
thesultanofswingandmiss
1 year 2 months ago

I think Brown was projected to be undrafted. So huge reach for Beane

Member
Red_Line_9
1 year 2 months ago

If the consensus was a non-draft on Brown then even drafting the qualities the A’s valued him for would be absurd for the 1st rd. Even as a signability pick. I have to believe the A’s felt he’d go fairly high to make that leap.

Member
Dave
1 year 2 months ago

An alternate title for this might be “is an early draft pick really relevant to a team’s success?” as none of those teams did anything with the players they drafted.

The draft’s a big crapshoot, most teams don’t do it well, most players don’t survive the minors. Baseball’s crazy.

Member
wildabeast4
1 year 2 months ago

I would argue that the Giants certainly did something with Matt Cain.

Member
Mil8Ball
1 year 2 months ago

…what…they did nothing? Prince Fielder was a huge piece of the 2008 and 2011 Brewers. Matt Cain a huge piece with two WS rings. Sorry but you comment is way wrong.

Member
Dave
1 year 2 months ago

One player out of approximately 60 is not “doing something”.

If you had one hit out of 60 attempts at anything in the business world you’d be a failure or absurdly lucky. That’s my entire point.

Most teams are failures in the draft overwhelmingly to the point that they are just as well off throwing darts and picking randomly since their success rate is approximately going to match what their scouting and intelligence picks up.

Member
johnsilver
1 year 2 months ago

It has to be the Reds, just for Votto alone and then take your pick from Cain, Hamels, Lester and Grienke.

I don’t understand all the votes for some of the teams that drafted well, but not for top flight talent. True.. They did get some good people, but not talent along the lines of those guys, who would be called a “home run” several years after a draft and had established themselves.

Member
Matt Newton
1 year 2 months ago

McCann??

Member
Joe Valenti
1 year 2 months ago

The draft is so flukey I felt it was hard to call a draft good based off one guy. I looked for the team that seemed to have the most guys who contributed on the MLB level, and that’s why I voted for the Dodgers

Member
Red_Line_9
1 year 2 months ago

Signing bonuses also need to be considered. Much talent was driven down the board by signing demands. Some of the most elite talent was going late 1st and even into the 3rd by demands

Member
Joe Valenti
1 year 2 months ago

Yea, when I was voting I thought about looking into that, but without any previous knowledge of who was demanding what, I just saw that as too much work

Member
John Cate
1 year 2 months ago

The Dodgers took a 25 WAR and counting player in Martin, and four other players who have made the majors and contributed. If Votto keeps mashing for several years to come, he might “win” the draft all by himself, but he’s not there yet.

Member
northsfbay
1 year 2 months ago

Are there a lot of Braves fans and Dodger fans voting? Fielder was a good pick.

Member
Joe Valenti
1 year 2 months ago

As I said above, the Dodgers were who I picked because they had multiple guys who contributed to the Major Leagues. Draft picks are so volatile in the MLB that I found it hard to consider a draft “good” just based on one guy. Fielder could have been a bust or had a devasting injury in the minors and suddenly you are actually considering the Brewers’ draft a lost year

Member
LazerTown
1 year 2 months ago

Also to me you have to look at opportunities. Judging by their ability I have to look at the opportunities. I would give more credit to the Phillies/Giants just because they were also able to find elite talent, but with much lower pick opportunities.

Member
wildabeast4
1 year 2 months ago

Good point. I’d say Cain, Greinke, Fielder, and Votto made a MUCH bigger difference to their respective teams than the multiple middling major league contributors the Dodgers and Braves (minus McCann) picked.

Member
Joe Valenti
1 year 2 months ago

I definitely agree with this. My point was more that picking one player could very well be more luck than skill. Piazza is a good example. He was drafted in the 62nd round, not because scouts liked him, but as a favor from Tommy Lasorda to Mike’s father. While you might argue that you would rather a Fielder than a Loney, Broxton, Martin, Stults, and McDonald, the fact that the Dodgers drafted, projected, and developed 5 MLB players from the draft shifts their draft away from a matter of luck and more towards good projections IMO

Member
LazerTown
1 year 2 months ago

I think I’m going to have to actually pick the Red Sox. Joey Votto is so good, certainly the best player in the draft IMO, and makes the Reds draft look good, but to me when you say best draft I want to evaluate based on what they got compared to their opportunities. Sox didn’t pick until 57th, yet still got an elite talent player, and to me that is a really good draft. Cincy picked Votto, but they also whiffed really bad on the 3rd overall pick, and that really dampens their draft.