The Auburn University ace hurler is the consensus no. 1 MLB draft prospect on every mock draft and prospect grading site we could find.
It’s pretty much a 100 percent certainty that the Detroit Tigers, who narrowly beat out San Francisco for worst team in baseball last year, will take the 6’3″ righthander first overall on Monday.
Then the clock will tick to his major league debut, which will probably happen sooner than later. However, he will inevitably be compared to those hurlers who came before him at numero uno. In the case of Clyde, a highly touted prospect out of Kansas City taken first in 1973, he flamed out after just 84 big league games. Strasburg, as we know, is a big part of one of Washington’s top notch rotation.
There have been many misses at no. 1, which got us to thinking about guys those teams passed on who were taken second. In quite a few cases they had more illustrious careers, or were household names like the big picks.
Here are the top 15 no. 2’s since the advent of the draft in 1965, in chronological order.
15. Reggie Jackson, Kansas City Athletics – 1966
This one goes down as a complete score for the A’s and a huge downer for the New York Mets, who chose catcher Steve Chilcott first overall. Chilcott was a high schooler out of California who had all the tools, but injuries derailed his pro career before it really got started. In his second season in the minors, he injured his shoulder and after languishing in the lower rungs for six years, was out of baseball. The player the Mets could have had was future “Mr. October”, Reggie Jackson. Rumor had it that former renowned Mets and Yankees executive George Weiss, who was was against integration even after Jackie Robinson made it possible, passed on Reggie because he was black. We’ll never know the true motive — though that seems plausible — and Jackson would end up stuffing it in the Mets faces in 1973, when drove in crucial runs as the A’s came back to win the World Series in seven games. He was named MVP of that Fall Classic and would go on to do it again, most famously, in 1977 with the Yanks.
14. J.R. Richard, Houston Astros – 1969
The Washington Senators did not whiff on the first overall selection in 1969, taking future MVP outfielder Jeff Burroughs. Yet, they still could have had one of the premier power pitchers of the 1970s in flame-throwing giant J.R. Richard. We’ll give a slight edge to Washington/Texas Rangers on this one, in that Burroughs played most of his best baseball with the club and copped AL MVP honors in 1974. Downstate in Houston, the Astros alternated promoting and demoting Richard for four seasons before elevating him to the big club for good in 1975. That season he started 31 games, went 12-10 with 4.39 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 203 innings (his first of five straight seasons with 200 or more innings pitched). However he did struggle with command of his 100 MPH heat, issuing a NL high 138 walks. For the next four seasons, however, Richard would win 74 games and be lead the league in ERA once, and then strikeouts, walks and wild pitches twice each. In his lone All-Star campaign, 1980, Richard was in the running for the Cy Young when he suffered a stroke, which ended his big league career.
13. John Stearns, Philadelphia Phillies – 1973
We couldn’t mention 1973 first overall bust David Clyde without at least giving a shout out to a pretty darned good runner-up in catcher John Stearns. The guy known as “bad dude” was originally taken by the Oakland A’s in the 13th round of the 1969 draft but chose to go to college as a two-sport (football and baseball) athlete. In 1973, the catcher was the no. 2 man behind Clyde, as well as being a 17th round pick of the Buffalo Bills as a defensive back. He chose baseball, naturally, and after just one game with the Phillies in 1974 he was traded to the New York Mets, where he would flourish. Many will point to the fact the Phillies passed on future Hall of Famers Robin Young (3rd to Milwaukee) and Dave Winfield (4th to San Diego), however, Stearns would go on to be a four-time All-Star in eight seasons with the Mets. He was probably better known as a defensive catcher, finishing his career with 295 throw-outs of 795 potential base stealers (37 percent efficiency). Offensively, he was good enough, logging .260 average in 810 games, 208 extra base hits and 312 RBI.
12. Lloyd Moseby, Toronto Blue Jays – 1978
The ’78 draft was good to the fledgling Blue Jay organization, as they got a good one at no. 2 in “Shaker” Lloyd Moseby and future seven-time All-Star Dave Stieb, a converted outfielder the team took a chance on. The player taken no. 1 in 1978, 3B Bob Horner, turned out pretty well for the Atlanta Braves, being named Rookie of the Year that same season and going on to hit 215 homers in nine seasons with the team. Moseby would turn out to be a better all around player than Horner, as the fleet center fielder could hit for power and great RBI totals, as well as use his speed on the basepaths. In 10 seasons with Toronto (he finished his career in Detroit), Moseby hit .257, with 242 doubles, 60 triples (he was the AL leader with 15 in 1984), 149 homers, 255 stolen bases and 651 RBI in 1,392 games. He was an All-Star in 1986 and went to the ALCS twice with the Jays, hitting .255 with a homer and six RBI in 12 games.
11. Joe Carter, Chicago Cubs – 1981
Who knows if the Chicago Cubs fortunes might have changed sooner had they kept Joe Carter. As things turned out for the no. 2 overall pick in the 1981, he would go on to hit one of the most memorable home runs in Fall Classic history. As for the no. 1 man that year, Mike Moore, he pitched well for Seattle after they drafted him but blossomed later to help the Oakland A’s win a championship in 1989, winning two starts against San Francisco in the Bay Area series. Carter was the NCAA college player of the year in 1981, prompting the Cubs to tab him at no. 2. He lasted 23 games in their system before being traded to Cleveland, where his career took off. A subsequent deal to Toronto would cement his legacy as a great outfielder. He was a five-time All-Star with the Jays, winning two World Series championships. His dramatic walk-off World Series clinching homer off Philadelphia reliever Mitch Williams in 1993 is one of the most famous dingers ever hit.
10. Will Clark, San Francisco Giants – 1985
If we really wanted to split hairs, we could point out that Milwaukee, who chose C B.J. Surhoff first overall, and San Fran, who chose Clark at no. 2, could have had future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (4th to Cincinnati) or controversial all-time home run leader Barry Bonds (6th to Pittsburgh). As it stands, neither team did poorly. Surhoff played in the bigs for 19 season and was an All-Star and MVP in 1999 with Baltimore. Mississippi State product and New Orleans native Clark would go on to be one of the better offensive and defensive first basemen of his generation. He played 15 seasons in the major leagues, finishing with a .303 batting average, 440 doubles, 284 homers and 1,205 RBI in 1,976 games. The six-time All-Star and 1989 NL MVP runner-up led the senior circuit in RBI (109) and walks (100) in 1988, runs (104) in 1989 and slugging percentage (.536) in 1991. He never did win a World Series, but hit .333 overall in 31 post-season games and was MVP for the Giants in the 1989 NLCS, when he hit a ridiculous .650, going 13-for-20 in five games, with six extra base hits and eight RBI.
9. Greg Swindell, Cleveland Indians – 1986
We’re going to call the no. 1 vs. no. 2 in 1986 a saw-off, as both players selected, Jeff King to Pittsburgh and Greg Swindell to Cleveland, both had their moments. As it was, shortstop King would not have the career of fellow infielder Matt Williams (taken third by San Francisco), nor would Swindell enjoy the success of Kevin Brown, who was taken fourth by Texas and would throw a no-hitter down the road. King took three years to reach the major leagues and didn’t really blossom until much later in his career, when he hit 82 homers and drove in 316 runs in three seasons between 1996 and 1998. Conversely, Swindell started nine games with the Indians in 1986 and went 5-2 with a 4.23 ERA. He won a career high 18 games in 1988 and was an All-Star for the first and only time in 1989 when he was 13-6. Career-wise, Swindell stuck around for 17 seasons, finishing with a 123-122 record, 3.86 ERA, 1,542 strikeouts and 40 complete games (12 shutouts) in 664 appearances.
8. J.D. Drew, Philadelphia Phillies – 1997
There was absolutely no matching the careers of 1997 no. 1, pitcher Matt Anderson to no. 2, outfielder J.D. Drew like there was in 1986 between INF Jeff King and P Greg Swindell. Anderson, a star reliever/starter with Rice University, debuted with the Detroit in 1998 and outside of one fair season — 22 saves in 2001 — never really was much of a factor for the Tigers. Drew, on the other hand, would eventually be a star in the major leagues starting with St. Louis after he re-entered the draft in 1998 and was taken fifth. Drew, represented by the mercurial Scott Boras, never signed with the Phillies and used a loophole to play independent league ball for a year and then get picked again. An All-Star with Boston in 2008 and a champion with the Red Sox in 2007, Drew hit .278 in 1,566 games, along with 273 doubles, 48 triples, 242 homers, 87 stolen bases and 795 RBI. He was a decent hitter in the post-season, too, finishing with a .261 average, 13 extra base hits and 25 RBI in 55 games.
7. Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins – 1999
It was a tale of two Josh’s in 1999 for the two Florida based teams. With the first pick, the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays took top rated five-tool prospect Josh Hamilton and the Marlins selected Texas high school star pitcher Beckett. Hamilton, who would suffer injuries and have severe addiction problems was a bust for the Devil Rays, but later became a gem of a Rule 5 pick and went on to be a five-time All-Star and 2010 AL MVP with Texas. Beckett had no such issues and by 2001 suited up with Florida. He progressively got better to the point he was a 20-game winner with Boston in 2007, earning All-Star honors and finishing second in Cy Young voting. Before that, he was the 2003 World Series MVP for the Marlins and he would also factor huge into Boston’s march to a title in 2007, being named ALCS MVP and pitching a gem in his only start of the Fall Classic. Overall, Beckett, a three-time All-Star, would register a 138-106 record, with a 3.88 ERA, six complete game shutouts and 1,901 strikeouts in 2,051 innings.
6. B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Devil Rays – 2002
We probably wouldn’t be talking about Melvin “B.J.” Upton here if not for the fact he was a good base stealer and playoff performer — and the fact that no. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington was a total bust. The Pittsburgh Pirates picked Bullington, a star hurler for Ball State, because he was more sign-able than say, later first round picks Zack Greinke (6th to the Royals), Scott Kazmir (15th to the Mets) or Cole Hamels (17th to the Phillies). He would never pitch a full season, appearing in 26 games and recording a 1-9 record and 5.62 ERA with four different teams. Upton, meanwhile, established himself as an everyday outfielder with Tampa by 2007 and in eight seasons (966 games), he hit .255, with 340 extra base hits, 447 RBI and 232 of his career 300 stolen bases. A .255 hitter in 37 games, Upton shone during the Devil Rays march to the 2008 World Series. He hit .287 in 16 games that fall, with seven homers, 15 RBI and six stolen bases. Too bad his fair career was so mediocre after 2012.
5. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers – 2003
As number two’s go, second baseman Rickie Weeks was a nice consolation prize for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003. Taken behind high school power hitter Delmon Young, the 2003 NCAA player of the year didn’t take long to reach the show with Milwaukee and was the teams starting second baseman in 2005. He would be a stalwart there for 10 seasons, before bouncing around with three different teams (including Tampa in 2017). In those 10 seasons, Weeks hit .249, with 383 extra base hits, 430 RBI, 533 walks and 126 stolen bases. The man with the signature bat wiggle wasn’t as good a batter in the post-season, managing a .133 average in 14 games, but chipping in a double, triple, two homers and four RBI. He was an All-Star with Milwaukee in 2011. Young, for his part, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 with Tampa and in 2010 with Minnesota he got some MVP votes for hitting .298, with 46 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs and 112 RBI. We’ll call this one a draw.
4. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – 2004
We have to wonder what the San Diego Padres could have done had they picked Justin Verlander instead of Matt Bush at no. 1 in 2004. They made the playoffs in 2005 and 2006 but couldn’t get past the NLDS and haven’t been to the post-season since. The guy they did take, Matt Bush, became notorious for getting caught on camera assaulting a high school kid as well as numerous arrests that nearly derailed his major league career. He finally made it to the major leagues in 2016 and is still with Texas, for now. Verlander was rookie of the year in 2006 and the Cy Young and AL MVP winner in 2011. He didn’t win a championship with Detroit, but was a six-time All-Star and regular season strikeout leader four times, among many other personal accomplishments. A trade to Houston at last year’s deadline was the tonic to his dreams of a World Series championship. Verlander was instrumental to the Astros title shot, going 4-1 with 38 strikeouts in 36.2 innings and being named ALCS MVP for good measure. And, he’s already off to another Cy Young worthy campaign in 2018.
3. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals – 2007
No. 1 overall pick David Price may have more personal accolades, like a Cy Young and five All-Star nominations, but 2007 second banana Mike Moustakas has something he covets dearly — a World Series ring. In fact, the Kansas City Royals’ Moose and Price met up in the 2015 ALCS, when the Royals dispatched Price and the Toronto Blue Jays in six games. In game 2 of that series, Moustakas had an RBI single off Price in a five-run seventh as the Royals stormed back from being down 3-0, going on to win 6-3. Moustakas again got the better of Price in the decisive game 6, drilling a home run off him in the second to put Kansas City up 2-0 en route to a 4-3 series ending victory. Now in his eighth season with the Royals, Moustakas is having a good year despite Kansas City’s woeful record, hitting .280 with 12 homers and 39 RBI through 55 games. A two-time All-Star, Moustakas had a breakout year in 2017, drilling a personal best 38 home runs and knocking in a career high 85 runs.
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs – 2013
It’s a head scratcher, but in 2010 the Toronto Blue Jays drafted future Rookie of the Year and MVP Kris Bryant in the 18th round of the draft. But, they never offered him a contract. Then later, the Houston Astros passed him over in the 2013 event, selecting thrice drafted Stanford ace Mark Appel instead. Not that the Jays really needed a third sacker with Josh Donaldson around, but Bryant sure would be an upgrade there now that Donaldson is suffering injury woes and a decline in production. As it is, Appel scuffled badly in the minor leagues and as of February this year said he stepping away from baseball indefinitely. If he never makes it, he’ll be just one of three first overall selections, with Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor, never to play a major league game. In 504 games with Chicago, 2016 NL MVP Bryant already has 120 doubles, 14 triples, 102 homers, 301 RBI and a .915 OPS. In Chicago’s history making run to the championship in 2016, Bryant hit .307 in 17 games, with five doubles, three homers and eight RBI.
1. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros – 2015
This one may be a bit too premature to call, however, we are going to say Houston got the better of the no. 1 vs. no. 2 deal at the 2015 draft — for now at least. The Arizona Diamondbacks, with the first overall pick, took Vanderbilt University hot shot shortstop Dansby Swanson and after a fluke injury a slowed development, the D-Backs traded him to Atlanta where he is slowly getting better. The defending champion Astros liked what they saw in LSU infielder Alex Bregman enough to tab him at no. 2. He hit the ground running in 2016 and hasn’t looked back. During Houston’s championship 2017 season, Bregman hit .284, with 39 doubles, five triples, 19 homers, 71 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He also improved his fielding at third greatly, upping his percentage to .970 after logging a .931 in 2016. Bregman didn’t hit for great average in the playoffs last year (.208) but of his 15 hits, he had three doubles and four homers and drove in 10 runs. He’ll be an All-Star some day.