We know the 2020 Major League Baseball draft is going to be unconventional, an event that will last a mere five rounds compared to the 40 we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. Regardless, the team with the No. 1 overall pick – Detroit – is in the best position to land a future superstar. But how many recent top choices have actually panned out? Let’s start in the 1990s, and you can be the judge…
1990: Chipper Jones, Braves:
- What a success. The former third baseman/outfielder is now a Hall of Famer after spending his entire career with the Braves from 1993-2012. In his first full season, 1995, Jones helped the Braves to their most recent World Series title. Overall, Jones slashed .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs, 150 stolen bases and 84.6 fWAR, and made eight All-Star teams.
1991: Brien Taylor, Yankees:
- This couldn’t have gone much worse, as former FanGraphs writer Mike Axisa noted back in 2012. Off-field problems helped prevent the left-handed Taylor from ever taking a major league mound. He’s one of just four No. 1 picks to never get to the league.
1992: Phil Nevin, Astros:
- Nevin carved out a decent career as a member of several teams from 1995-2006, during which he hit .270/.343/.472 with 208 home runs and 15.2 fWAR, but made little impact with the Astros. They traded him to the Tigers for righty Mike Henneman in 2006. Nevin may be best known as the player the Astros chose five picks before Derek Jeter. Then-Astros scout Hal Newhouser was so insistent Houston should pick Jeter that he quit his job when it didn’t happen.
1993: Alex Rodriguez, Mariners:
- Good work, Seattle. Rodriguez didn’t last that long with the Mariners (1994-2000), but he made four All-Star teams and batted .309/.374/.561 with 189 homers, 133 steals and 35.0 fWAR during that span. You can’t argue with those results, nor do his next teams – the Rangers or Yankees – regret the numbers he turned in later in his career. Peformance-enhancing drug issues have made the ex-shortstop/third baaseman a polarizing figure, however.
1994: Paul Wilson, Mets:
- Wilson did pitch in the majors, but he only tossed 149 innings with the Mets (all in 1996) and didn’t log a single frame in the bigs from 1997-99. He did amass almost 800 more innings between the Rays and Reds from 2000-05, but didn’t exactly wow with a lifetime 4.86 ERA.
1995: Darin Erstad, Angels:
- The former Nebraska punter won three Gold Glovees, made two All-Star teams and helped the Angels to their lone World Series title in 2002. Erstad – an outfielder/first baseman – finished his career in 2009 as a .282/.336/.407 hitter with 124 homers, 179 steals and 28.5 fWAR.
1996: Kris Benson, Pirates:
- He was never an ace, but the righty had a reasonably productive career, finishing with a 4.42 ERA and 14.8 fWAR in a combined 206 games with the Pirates, Mets, Orioles, Rangers and Diamondbacks from 1999-2010.
1997: Matt Anderson, Tigers:
- Four of the top five picks in this draft (J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus, Jason Grilli and Vernon Wells) became All-Stars. The lone exception was Anderson, a righty who only produced 0.5 fWAR in 256 2/3 innings between the Tigers and Rockies from 1998-2005.
1998: Pat Burrell, Phillies:
- Burrell wasn’t a superstar, but he had a solid career, winding up with a .253/.361/.472 line, 292 HRs and 19.0 fWAR among the Phillies, Rays and Giants from 2000-11. He won two World Series – one with the Phils and another with the Giants.
1999: Josh Hamilton, Rays:
- Hamilton’s off-field troubles were well-documented during his career, and he never played for the Rays as a result. They left Hamilton unprotected in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft, and the Cubs selected him before trading him to the Reds. Hamilton thrived in Cincinnati in 2007 before the team traded him to the Rangers in a deal that sent righty Edinson Volquez to the Reds. That proved to be a steal for the Rangers, with whom Hamilton was a five-time All-Star, an AL MVP winner and someone who helped them to two pennants. He ended his career in 2015 with the Rangers (after a big-money stint with the Angels) as a .290/.349/.516 hitter with 200 HRs and 27.9 fWAR, making him one of the most successful performers on this list.
This is a mixed bag, isn’t it? Jones is in Cooperstown. A-Rod’s production could put him there, but he may never get enough support because of the PED questions. Nevin, Erstad, Benson, Burrell and Hamilton had respectable careers in their own right, while Taylor, Wilson and Anderson did little to nothing at the MLB level.