We previously assessed the No. 1 overall draft picks of the 1990s. Let’s now take a look at how the top selections from the next decade turned out…
2000 – Adrian Gonzalez, Marlins:
- If you go by career accomplishments, this was an excellent pick. Gonzalez lasted in the majors from 2004-18, batted .287/.358/.485 with 317 home runs and 36.4 fWAR, and was a five-time All-Star. The problem for the Marlins is that the first baseman never donned their uniform. They traded Gonzalez to the Rangers in a deal for reliever Ugueth Urbina in 2003. The deal didn’t aid the Marlins over the long haul, but at least Urbina was part of their most recent World Series winner and playoff team that year.
2001 – Joe Mauer, Twins:
- Well played, Twins. The former catcher/first baseman, a Saint Paul native, is now a legendary Twin and possible Hall of Famer who played solely with the club from 2004-18 and slashed .306/.388/.439 with 143 homers and 52.5 fWAR. Mauer made six All-Star trips, won three batting titles and earned an AL MVP along the way. The eight-year, $184MM extension he signed with the Twins in 2010 remains the largest contract in franchise history.
2002 – Bryan Bullington, Pirates:
- While the Gonzalez and Mauer picks panned out, this one couldn’t have gone much worse. The right-handed Bullington combined for just 18 1/3 innings of 5.89 ERA ball with the Pirates in 2005 and ’07. He later spent time with the Indians, Royals and Blue Jays, and after failing to make his mark with those teams, Bullington established himself as an effective starter in Japan from 2011-15. He hasn’t pitched professionally since then. Painful reminder for the Pirates: Zack Greinke went five picks after Bullington.
2003 – Delmon Young, Rays:
- The effects of this pick continue to be felt today. While Young didn’t last long as a member of the Rays, with whom he played from 2006-07, they’re still benefiting from this selection. Tampa Bay traded Young to the Twins in a deal that netted them Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, who were quite successful as Rays. They later sent Garza to the Cubs in 2011 for a package that included Chris Archer, whom they dealt to the Pirates seven years after that for now-cornerstones Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow. Young, meanwhile, was a below-average big leaguer. He played for a few teams through 2015 and accounted for minus-1.3 fWAR.
2004 – Matt Bush, Padres:
- A disaster for the Padres, as they passed on No. 2 pick Justin Verlander and never got a single contribution from Bush, who has run into serious legal troubles during his career. The Padres designated the then-shortstop for assignment five years after choosing him. However, Bush did get on track and reinvent himself as a reliever with the Rangers from 2016-18. He’s still a member of the Texas organization, but he missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
2005 – Justin Upton, Diamondbacks:
- Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce were among the top 12 picks in that year’s draft. All eight of those players went on to make at least one All-Star team (four in Upton’s case). Formerly a shortstop, Upton became a productive outfielder in Arizona from 2007-12, but the team dealt him to the Braves in a January 2013 blockbuster. Upton’s now a member of the Angels after also spending time with the Padres and Tigers. The 32-year-old’s a lifetime .266/.347/.476 hitter with 298 homers, 147 steals and 36.8 fWAR. You can’t argue with those results.
2006 – Luke Hochevar, Royals:
- Evan Longoria (No. 3), Andrew Miller (No. 6), Clayton Kershaw (No. 7), Tim Lincecum (No. 10) and Max Scherzer (No. 11) were some of the other highest picks in that draft. Hochevar paled in comparison to each of them, but after several rough seasons as a starter, the righty did become a solid reliever toward the end of his career. He was even part of the Royals’ amazing World Series-winning bullpen in 2015, ending up as the victorious pitcher in the Fall Classic-deciding Game 5 against the Mets. Hochevar pitched for just one more season after that, though, and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery helped lead to his retirement in 2018.
2007 – David Price, Rays:
- The Rays definitely got this one right. Price was tremendous in their uniform from 2008-14, a span in which he made four All-Star teams and won an AL Cy Young Award. The club later traded him to the Tigers in a deal that’s still helping out the Rays to some degree. Price, now a Dodger, went on to pitch for Toronto and Boston after his short-lived Tigers tenure. He won a World Series as a member of the Red Sox in 2018, the third season of a seven-year, $217MM contract. Back when Price signed that deal, it was a record pact for a pitcher.
2008 – Tim Beckham, Rays:
- You can’t win ’em all. Two picks before the Royals grabbed Eric Hosmer and four prior to the Giants’ selection of Buster Posey, the Rays made the mistake of going with Beckham, who hasn’t made much of an impact in the majors. The Rays ultimately cut ties with Beckham when they traded him to the Orioles for minor league pitcher Tobias Myers in 2017. Beckham spent last year with the Mariners, but he’s now a free agent after earning an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs late in 2019. He’s a career .249/.302/.431 hitter who has totaled an unimpressive 4.3 fWAR thus far.
- Clearly one of the biggest success stories on this list, Strasburg debuted with great fanfare in 2010, striking out 14 Pirates in his initial start. There have been some injury troubles since then, but Strasburg, 31, has consistently performed like a front-end starter when healthy. And Strasburg was so good during the Nationals’ first-ever run to a championship last fall that he earned World Series MVP honors. The Nats then awarded him with a franchise-record seven-year, $245MM contract to prevent him from exiting via free agency. Regardless of how Strasburg performs from here, he’ll be considered one of the most important players in team history.
This is a hit-and-miss group. Five players became major league standouts, while the other half disappointed. Who’s the best of the bunch? It’s hard to go against Strasburg in the wake of his playoff heroics, but Gonzalez and Mauer had outstanding careers, and Upton and Price have been far above average as well.