With the MLB draft scheduled for next week, let’s take a look at each American League team’s most successful draft class in recent memory. Using Baseball Reference’s draft tracker, we can sum the combined career bWAR of each player selected by each team in a given year. It’s a simple shorthand, not a perfect measure, but it’ll give some insight into which teams have really hit in certain years.
First, a quick note on the methodology. For simplicity, we’re limiting this search to the 2006-2015 classes. A player’s value is only included if he signed with the club, although he needn’t have actually played for his drafting team in the majors. (So, the 2008 Yankees don’t get credit for drafting but failing to sign Gerrit Cole, while the 2007 Red Sox do get credit for drafting and signing Anthony Rizzo, even though he was traded before ever playing an MLB game for Boston). Of course, a player drafted in 2006 has had more time to rack up value than one drafted in 2015, so we’ll note in each team’s capsule if a more recent class is on the verge of taking over from an older class. On to the results…
- Angels: 2009 (109.3 bWAR) – Go figure. Picking one of the greatest players of all time is a heck of a way to kick off a draft class. But this 2009 class wasn’t just about Mike Trout, even if he’s accounted for about two-thirds of its cumulative value. That year, the Angels also selected Patrick Corbin, Randal Grichuk, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Former MLBTR contributor Chuck Wassterstrom took a behind-the-scenes look at this class a few years ago.
- Astros: 2009 (53.2 bWAR) – Not a single one of the Astros’ top five rounders in 2009 reached the majors. The late rounds, though, were a smashing success with J.D. Martinez (20th), Dallas Keuchel (7th) and Kiké Hernández (6th) accounting for the class’ value. Of course, Martinez did his damage elsewhere after the Astros released him.
- A’s: 2012 (37.7 bWAR) – The A’s 2012 class produced seven big leaguers, most notably Matt Olson. He leads a group that also included Addison Russell and Max Muncy, who have played most or all of their MLB careers elsewhere.
- Blue Jays: 2009 (39.2 bWAR) – They won’t get credit for selecting James Paxton in supplemental round one here, but Yan Gomes was a nice find in the tenth round, though he would play only briefly in Toronto before being dealt to Cleveland. Outside of Gomes, the Blue Jays found a few nice role players, including Jake Marisnick, Aaron Loup, Ryan Goins, and others.
- Indians: 2011 (38.7 bWAR) – Selecting Francisco Lindor eighth overall in 2011 was a key to Cleveland’s 2016 AL pennant. So too was then-closer Cody Allen, whom they grabbed in the 23rd round. With Lindor mid-prime, the class’ value should just continue to grow.
- Mariners: 2006 (40.2 bWAR) – Doug Fister and Chris Tillman went on to become mid-rotation starters for a time (Fister arguably even a bit more than that), albeit with other clubs. Fifth overall pick Brandon Morrow disappointed as a starter but had a late-career renaissance as a quality reliever before various injuries derailed him.
- Orioles: 2007 (43.2 bWAR) – Although only four players from this class would wind up making the Majors, the combination of Jake Arrieta and Matt Wieters makes the 2007 draft a pretty solid one for the O’s. While Wieters, the fifth overall pick, maybe didn’t turn out to be the franchise cornerstone he was hailed to be, he has nonetheless had a nice career. Arrieta had a slow start in Baltimore, but would of course earn a Cy Young with the Cubs. It’s worth noting that this spot will be taken by the 2010 class before too long, almost entirely on the back of Manny Machado.
- Rangers: 2008 (33.3 bWAR) – Despite garnering only a 25th-round selection, Tanner Roark has turned out to be the most productive player in this class. First-round choice Justin Smoak deserves a mention too, though his career didn’t really take off until he’d been traded out of Texas. The 2011 class, headed by Kyle Hendricks, is not far behind and could claim this title in the near future.
- Rays: 2006 (81.5 bWAR) – Franchise legend Evan Longoria does a lot of the heavy lifting for this class, having amassed 56 total WAR by age 34. Even so, there are some other quality players here: Desmond Jennings and Alex Cobb are the other notables, with Jennings carving out a solid MLB career as a tenth-round pick.
- Red Sox: 2011 (70.2 bWAR) – This is far and away the best Sox draft class in recent memory, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Mookie Betts, one of the finest players in baseball, established himself as Boston’s franchise player after he was selected in the fifth round. Even outside of Betts, this class yielded a few key members of the Red Sox 2018 World Series team, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and relief ace Matt Barnes also coming out of that draft.
- Royals: 2007 (47.1 bWAR) – Speaking of drafting World Series contributors, the Royals in 2007 added both Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland, both of whom turned out to be central in the Royals’ playoff runs in 2014 and 2015. And that’s before mentioning third-rounder Danny Duffy, who’s still with Kansas City and inked a nice extension prior to 2017.
- Tigers: 2007 (20.6 bWAR) – With just 20.6 WAR, the Tigers’ best draft in recent memory doesn’t compare favorably to the rest of the AL, and that partly illuminates the franchise’s current standing in baseball. The notable player from the 2007 class is Rick Porcello, who had some nice years to begin his career with the Tigers and would later win a Cy Young. Maybe they get bonus points for discovering high-schooler D.J. LeMahieu, who wouldn’t sign with the team, in round 41?
- Twins: 2009 (32.4 bWAR) – Between Kyle Gibson and Brian Dozier, the Twins drafted a pair of staples on the Minnesota teams of the mid-2010s. But with both playing elsewhere now, keep an eye on the 2012 draft class, which features a trio of young centerpieces for a new era of Twins baseball: Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Taylor Rogers are up-and-comers who could rack up a lot of value as they enter their primes.
- White Sox: 2010 (55.3 bWAR) – Chris Sale carries the 2010 class for the South Siders, by far the best draftee in an otherwise mediocre string of years for Chicago. That said, 2010 yielded a couple of other role players for the White Sox, with Addison Reed, Jake Petricka, and Tyler Saladino all making nice MLB contributions.
- Yankees: 2006 (69.4 bWAR) – Whereas many teams’ success in a given year is determined by one standout player, the Yankees’ installment on this list displays a surprising breadth of quality players, without a single superstar. Evidently, the 2006 Yankees cornered the market on MLB relievers: Ian Kennedy, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, and Joba Chamberlain are the five most productive players from the Bombers’ draft that year (granted, Kennedy didn’t transition to the bullpen until last year).