Congratulations have to go out to Royce Lewis, the shortstop out of San Juan Capistrano in California taken no. 1 overall by the Minnesota Twins ahead of 1,214 other aspiring major leaguers at the MLB draft.
The UC-Irvine commit was the Los Angeles Times high school baseball player of the year in 2016 has already signed with the Twins, for a whopping $6.7 million signing bonus on Sunday.
The question now is, will Lewis be another Shawon Dunston, or a Bill Almon? Dunston, drafted first in 1982, was a two-time all-star and hit. 269 in 1,814 major league games. Almon, selected no. 1 in 1974, was mostly a utility player during his 15-season career.
It’s a crap shoot, the MLB draft, as just getting a first rounder to sign is a feather in any team’s cap. The no. 1 pick can be even more of a gamble and it looks like the Twins have a good one on their hands, should he develop as they think he will.
In the 52-year history of the draft, there have been some outstanding no. 1 overall picks, and quite a few who faded into anonymity much sooner than many expected. Here are 15 (eight good, seven not-so-good) we think merit a close look at.
15. Darryl Strawberry (1980) – Good
Strawberry, drafted no. 1 overall by the Mets in 1980, could be either a good — or bad — first pick, depending on how he is perceived. He did win the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1983, was a eight-time all-star and four-time world champion. On the other hand, he could have been even greater, if he hadn’t been suspended a handful of times for substance abuse. We’re taking the glass half full perspective, weighing his accomplishments heavier than his pratfalls. At 6’6″ with a big looping swing, Strawberry was an attractive target for the Mets and he would be instrumental in their 1986 run to a World Series title. He hit .263 in 1,109 games for the Mets, including 252 homers and 733 RBI. He wasn’t as prodigious with the Yankees in the late 1990s, but did poke five homers and drive in 10 runs during the 1996 and 1999 championship seasons.
14. Matt Anderson (1997) – Bad
Anderson looked like the real deal when the Detroit Tigers drafted him first in 1997. The fireballing right-handed reliever at Rice University was a first team all-American and held records at Rice for career wins (30) and saves (14). He inked a $2.5 million signing bonus with the Tigers in ’97 and a year later he got his first shot at the bigs. He was pretty good overall in 42 games that year, using his 100-mph fastball to fashion a 5-1 record with 3.27 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 44 innings. His numbers, however, slid steadily after that and an injury to his throwing arm — which some have said happened trying to throw an octopus for Detroit Red Wings playoff tickets — in 2002 saw his prodigious speed dip from 100-plus to under 90 mph. Anderson was out of baseball by 2005 (with Colorado) and finished with a career 15-7 record, 5.19 ERA and 1.582 WHIP.
13. David Price (2007) – Good
With a Cy Young under his belt and a career 123-66 record and 3.25 ERA, we’re calling Tampa’s no. 1 overall selection of David Price a very good one. But just good, not quite great, yet. Price’s greatness will only be fulfilled when he helps take a major league team to a World Series title. Yes, despite his regular season prowess — he was 20-5 during his 2012 Cy Young year — Price has been underwhelming in 15 total post-season appearances with Tampa, Detroit, Toronto and Boston. In direct contrast to his outstanding regular season numbers, Price is 2-8 in the post-season with a 5.54 ERA and 1.230 WHIP. Otherwise, as a top-of-the-rotation hurler, Price is an absolute workhorse, having led the American League in innings pitched (twice), strikeouts (once) and ERA (twice).
12. Steve Chilcott (1966) – Bad
In the history of the MLB draft, the New York Mets have had five no. 1 picks. Of that quintet, only two could be considered good, they being Darryl Strawberry and Tim Foli. The other three faded fast, with Steve Chilcott being the worst, as he retired before ever playing one big league ball game. A catcher out of Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, CA, Chilcott went first to the Mets, who could have picked Arizona State star outfielder Reggie Jackson, who went second to the Oakland A’s. During his second season in the minor leagues in 1967, Chilcott injured his shoulder while playing for the Winter Haven (FLA) Mets and was never the same after that. The Mets released him in 1971 ad after a short stint with the New York Yankees in 1972, his career was over, at age 24.
11. Joe Mauer (2001) – Good
We’re going to speculate that the Twins hope 2017 no. 1 pick develops like 2001 numero uno Joe Mauer (who was the franchise’s second no. 1 overall after Tim Belcher in 1983). Mauer debuted with the Twins in 2004 and is still with the team 13 years later, albeit now a first baseman as catching took a toll on his knees. Just two seasons after making his entry into the American League, Mauer won the first of three batting titles, hitting .347 in 2006 and earning his first all-star nom. In 2009, he topped the AL with a .365 average and career highs in homers (28), RBI (96), winning the MVP for the first and only time in his career. To date, Mauer has played every one of his 1,649 career games with the Twins, logging a .307 batting average and six all-star appearances. He also has 10 hits in 35 post-season at bats for a .286 batting average.
10. Shawn Abner (1984) – Bad
The Mets have had more bad luck than good when it’s come to their major league high (tied with Houston and San Diego) five first overall draft picks. In 1984, Orwell’s year, the Mets engaged in their own kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, selecting Pennsylvania “can’t miss” prospect Shawn Abner. While he would go on to play in the big leagues, Abner never did suit up for the Mets. After a slow progression through New York’s minor league system, Abner was included in a 10-player trade with San Diego in 1987. He was decent in a 16-game call-up with the Padres (.277 batting average, six extra base hits, seven RBI), but would never quite reach his potential. In all, Abner played in just 392 major league games, finishing with a .227 batting average, 11 homers and 71 RBI.
9. Stephen Strasburg (2009) – Good
The Nationals hit back-to-back draft home runs in 2009 and 2010, getting Stephen Strasburg in ’09 and Bryce Harper a year later. Now in his eighth big league season, Strasburg is becoming as dominant as was foretold when the Nats called his name first in 2009. This season, he i 8-2 in 14 starts, with a 3.28 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 90.2 innings pitched. He alo ha a 1.081 WHIP and has issued just 25 walks so far. After he struck out a franchise high 14 batters in his first MLB start during the 2010 season, Strasburg had to have Tommy John surgery soon after, causing him to miss most of the 2011 season and limiting him to 17 starts over his first two campaigns. Since then, he’s been a force at the top of Washington’s rotation, leading the senior circuit in strikeouts with 242 in 2014. The two-time all-star has pitched in just one post-season game, so we’ll save “great” as an adjective for later.
8. Bryan Bullington (2002) – Bad
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had four no. 1 overall picks in draft history and for the most part, they have been mediocre at best. While Gerrit Cole was a good selection 2011, fellow pitcher Bryan Bullington didn’t fare so well after being taken numero uno by the Bucs in 2002. The strapping right hander out of Ball State was kind of a “signability” pick for the Pirates, who could have selected Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels in the same draft. Bullington never lived up to his college promise, pitching in just six games for Pittsburgh (three starts), before he was waived in 2008 and picked up by Cleveland. Bulling would get in just 26 games his whole career, registering a 1-9 record, 5.62 ERA, 1.580 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 81.2 total innings pitched. After a few seasons in the Japanese League, Bullington last pitched professionally in 2015.
7. Bryce Harper (2010) – Good
Fortunately for the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper is his old self after a so-so (by his standards) season in 2016. Drafted no. 1 a year after Stephen Strasburg in 2009, Harper makes the Nats 2-for-2 in first overall picks — in a good/great way. Harper hit just .243 with a 24 homers and 86 RBI in 2016, pale numbers in comparison to his monster 2015 MVP campaign. He led the senior circuit in runs (118), homers (42), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649) and OPS (1.109). Harper also established career highs in batting average (.330), RBI (99), doubles (38) and walk (124). This year he is off to a roaring start for the front-running Nationals, batting .318 with 17 homers and 51 RBI in just 62 games.
6. Danny Goodwin (1975) – Bad
Danny Goodwin was so highly thought of, he is the only player ever to be drafted no. 1 overall in two separate drafts. In 1971, the Chicago White Sox tabbed him first overall, but he chose to attend Southern University A&M in Baton Rouge, LA instead. The White Sox couldn’t sign him and in 1975, the California Angels made him numero uno. Despite his immense potential as a catcher, Goodwin floundered in the bigs and became mostly a utility DH/1B. He got in four games in 1975, didn’t play any in 1976 and in two seasons between 1977 and 1978, he played a mere 59 games for the Angels, registering a .226 batting average. He did play 172 games with Minnesota between 1979 and 1981, hitting .242 with eight homers and 55 RBI, but that would be a mediocre pinnacle to a short career that was over after 17 games with Oakland in 1982.
5. Alex Rodriguez (1993) – Good
Ahem, yes, we did say Seattle’s pick of A-Rod at no. 1 in 1993 was a good one. Not a great one, for we asterisk his Hall of Fame worthy career for his use of PEDs and often times abrasive personality. As a 17-year-old phenom in 1993, Rodriguez represented the “five-tool” player the Mariners were looking for to complement the superb Ken Griffey Jr., who blew into town as the no. 1 in 1987 (more on him later). By 1996, a 20-year-old Rodriguez was Seattle’s full-time shortstop, hitting .358 to lead the AL in batting average, as well as runs (141) and doubles (54). That season was the first of 14 all-star campaigns and preceded MVP year with Texas (2003) and the New York Yankees (2005 and 2007). A-Rod led the AL in homers five times and at last count had 696 career dingers. But, the baseball writers have long memories and a few years from now, he likely won’t be a first ballot inductee.
4. David Clyde (1973) – Bad
The Rangers have had exactly one first overall pick in team history and in the case of David Clyde, they struck out miserably. Known in his amateur years as the “next Sandy Koufax”, the high school southpaw had so much ceiling that the Rangers not only picked him first, but promoted him to the bigs immediately in an effort to sell tickets to an Arlington Stadium that was too often half-empty. He went 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA in 18 start for the Rangers, however, he would later be plagued with arm issues and would only make 73 total starts with Texas and Cleveland. He didn’t play in the majors in 1976 and 1977, alternately toiling in the minors are rehabbing from shoulder surgery in 1976. In all, this can’t miss prospect pitched in 84 career games, recording a 18-33 record and 4.63 ERA.
3. Chipper Jones (1990) – Good
Chipper Jones will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018 and we think he would be a deserving candidate. The Braves made a second astute no. 1 pick in 1990 taking Jones out of high school 12 years after making Bob Horner the no. 1 in 1978. An injury in 1994 hampered the start of a major league career that got rolling in 1993. Jones would finish second in Rookie of the Year balloting in 1995, hitting .265 with 23 homers and 86 RBI. He would be a fixture in a deep Braves line-up during the 90s and would finish his illustrious career with Atlanta in 2012. Jones was NL MVP in 1999, an all-star eight times and NL batting champion in 2008 when he hit .364. Jones was also a superb hitter in the post-season, logging a .287 average with 13 homers and 47 RBI in 93 games.
2. Brien Taylor (1991) – Bad
Just twice in the long history of the Evil Empire have the Yankees had a no. 1 overall pick. In 1967, the took Ron Blomberg first and he played well enough, in spite of injuries. In 1991, the Yanks had their eye on robust North Carolina high school lefty Taylor, who was killing it in high school and who agent Scott Boras said was the best high school pitcher he’d seen in his life (many years after the phenom tanked). The Yankees, after signing Taylor to a fairly lucrative deal at the time, decided to bring him along slowly, hoping to refine his raw skills. Only, Taylor never caught on and wouldn’t pitch beyond AA. He struggled with command in minors, at one time registering a lofty 3.918 WHIP with New York’s A affiliate in Greensboro in 1996. Taylor would be the all-time biggest first overall bust, without question.
1. Ken Griffey Jr. (1987) – Good
It’s interesting to note — and lends credence to the crap shoot nature of the MLB draft — that only one player selected first overall since the first draft in 1965 has made it into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. That player would be Ken Griffey Jr., who the Seattle Mariners were lucky enough to grab first in 1987. The son of former all-star outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. (who he would play with in 1990-91), Junior rose swiftly up the ranks of baseball’s elite and would win the AL MVP award in 1997 after a monster year. He clubbed a league high 56 homers and drove in 147 run, will hitting .304 and scoring a personal best 125 runs. Griffey Jr. an all-star 13 times, finished his Hall of Fame career with 2,781 hits, 630 homers, 1,836 RBI and a .284 batting average. He never did win a World Series, but did hit .290 in 18 playoff games, along with six homers and 11 RBI.