The MLB Draft may not receive the kind of attention given to the NFL and NBA during their annual player selection events, but draft week is still important for all 30 major-league teams as they look to restock their pantries with can’t-miss prospects.
Of course, with 40 rounds and more than 1,200 picks to be made, not every one is going to be a hit. The majority of selections won’t ever reach the big leagues, and many of those who do will do so with a different team from the one that drafted them. However, some draft picks do eventually pan out for the teams that pick them and ultimately develop into homegrown stars.
With that in mind, we took a look at every major-league lineup and picked the best player on each roster who was originally drafted by that team.
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Angels: Mike Trout (1st round, 25th overall, 2009)
With some teams, it was tough to settle on a single best draft pick. This was not one of them. The Angels landed the former New Jersey prep star late in the 2009 first round (with a pick that once belonged to the Yankees, no less), and just over two years later, at age 19, Trout made his big league debut. In five full seasons, Trout has two wins and three second-place finishes in the AL MVP race, in addition to a Rookie of the Year award. And while nothing is guaranteed, Trout looks every bit the part of a future Hall of Famer.
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Astros: Carlos Correa (1st round, 1st overall, 2012)
With all due respect to Dallas Keuchel, a seventh-round pick who has developed into one of the game’s top pitchers, Correa, 22, is nearly two years younger today than Keuchel was when he made his MLB debut in 2012. And in two-plus years in the majors, the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Correa has established himself as one of the most talented young players in the league. By the time he’s 29 like Keuchel, Correa could be the best player in baseball. And if the Astros are lucky, he’ll still be in Houston when he is.
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A’s: Sonny Gray (1st round, 18th overall, 2011)
Oakland’s current roster doesn’t feature too many original A’s picks, but Gray has certainly delivered in four-plus major-league seasons for the team. After finishing third in the 2015 AL Cy Young race, the former Vanderbilt right-hander had a rough 2016 and has not gotten fully back on track this season, though his 4.37 ERA is somewhat inflated thanks to one particularly bad outing against the Indians last month. But at 27, Gray still hasn’t reached his prime and is clearly the best homegrown pick on the team.
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Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman (1st round, 22nd pick, 2012)
Kevin Pillar has become a serviceable player for Toronto and is an outstanding value as a 32nd-round pick, but the 26-year-old Stroman has legitimate star power when he’s pitching well and seems to have fully moved on from the ACL tear that cost him most of the 2015 season. Coming out of Duke, Stroman was said to be ready for the big time, and for the most part, he’s delivered.
Atlanta only has two former draft picks on its 40-man roster. One of them is Jason Hursh, who has a 19.29 ERA in 2 1/3 MLB innings, and the other is Freeman, a two-time All-Star with a career slash line of .290/.376/.495. (Julio Teheran, for the record, was signed as an amateur free agent out of Colombia.) So while Hursh drives a hard bargain, this one was a fairly easy pick.
Brewers: Ryan Braun (1st round, 5th pick, 2005)
Though his 2013 PED scandal may have tarnished his legacy, there’s little argument that Braun has delivered in every way possible since Milwaukee made him a top-five pick more than a decade ago. In 11 years with the big league club, Braun has won NL Rookie of the Year (2007) and NL MVP (2011) and made six All-Star teams in the process. And while the past year or two has featured plenty of speculation about Braun’s future in Wisconsin, he’ll remain the best former draft pick on the roster until he’s traded.
Molina may not be the best former draft pick on the field for St. Louis right now — that title likely goes to Matt Carpenter — but Molina’s impact on the Cardinals goes far beyond OPS+ or WAR. For 14 seasons, Molina has been a face of the franchise, and though he’s no longer the MVP candidate he once was, he’s still highly effective, even as he creeps up on his 35th birthday. Molina is as synonymous with his team as any player in recent Cards history and is one of the best draft picks the team has ever made.
Cubs: Kris Bryant (1st round, 2nd pick, 2013)
The reigning NL MVP is one of several recent Cubs draft picks to pan out, a group that also includes Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. But those two aren’t in the same stratosphere as Bryant, who has all the makings of a longtime major-league star. The former University of San Diego product has been a key cog in the Chicago lineup virtually since Day One, and as Bryant’s strikeout rate continues to improve, he’ll only become more dangerous.
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Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt (8th round, 246th pick, 2009)
First-rounder A.J. Pollock is certainly worthy of a seat at the table, but he’s nowhere near the level of Goldschmidt, a four-time All-Star and two-time MVP runner-up who is a virtual lock for 30 homers and 100 RBI a year when healthy. In addition to his skill with the bat, Goldschmidt is also a two-time Gold Glover winner at first base and has absolutely exceeded every expectation placed on him when he was picked in the eighth round in 2009.
Corey Seager is a fine player, but let’s not pretend this one was up for debate. Kershaw’s three Cy Youngs and his reputation as the best pitcher in baseball speak for themselves.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner (1st round, 10th pick, 2007)
You could give this recognition to Buster Posey and get little pushback, but ultimately, Bumgarner’s postseason success puts him over the top. The 2014 World Series MVP is 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in 36 career World Series innings, and that, alone, is worth the first-round pick the team used on him 10 years ago. That he’s also the best-hitting pitcher in baseball is just the icing on the cake.
Indians: Cody Allen (23rd round, 698th pick, 2011)
By far the latest pick on this list, the Cleveland right-hander has been a strikeout machine since making his big league debut in mid-2012 and has developed into one of the most reliable closers in the league. So while Jason Kipnis may boast better career numbers, Allen’s value — he was the second player from the 2011 draft class to reach the majors, behind teammate and former No. 3 overall pick Trevor Bauer — and his prolonged success at one of the game’s toughest jobs gives him the nod.
A 2014 All-Star and Gold Glove winner, Seager has been the model of consistency since entering the league. He’s played at least 155 games, hit at least 20 homers and driven in at least 69 runs in each of his five full seasons and, at age 29, is coming off the best campaign of his career. His little brother, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, may be the more exciting young prospect, but it’s unlikely the Mariners have any complaints about how Kyle has panned out.
You’d never see Stanton fall to the second round in a 2007 re-draft, but Miami is certainly glad he did in real life. The three-time All-Star is one of the game’s preeminent sluggers, and has been a rare bright spot for a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2003. As with any Marlins star, it’s tough to say how long Stanton will remain with the club, but he’s under contract in South Florida until at least 2020.
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Mets: Jacob deGrom (9th round, 272nd pick, 2010)
Had this conversation taken place two years ago, it might have been impossible to pick a winner between deGrom and Matt Harvey, and frankly, it’s not much easier now. But while both are struggling this season, deGrom has been better more recently and, unlike Harvey, has managed to keep himself out of the tabloids. Combine that with his relative value — Harvey was a first-round pick — and this round goes to DeGrom.
The Nats struck gold from 2009-11, picking Stephen Strasburg, Harper and Anthony Rendon in consecutive first rounds, but the 2015 NL MVP Harper has developed into the biggest star of the bunch. Harper has delivered on every expectation placed upon him since he was a teenager, and at 24 years old, the brash, exciting slugger is only going to get better.
Taken two spots behind Harper, Machado has also wowed the Mid-Atlantic region since making his big league debut at age 20 in 2012 and already has the look of a perennial All-Star. A two-time Gold Glove winner, Machado’s bat hasn’t been as consistent so far this season as in years past, but even so, he’s still one of the most exciting young stars in the game.
The pickings are rather slim when it comes to homegrown talent in San Diego, but Renfroe offers the most promise among the team’s former draft picks currently on the big league roster. The 25-year-old made his debut last September and proceeded to go on an absolute tear over the final two weeks of the season. He’s come back down to Earth in the early part of the 2017 season, but the potential for dramatic improvement is definitely still there.
Philadelphia’s submission in this exercise was always going to be an Aaron — the question is which one? Right-hander Aaron Nola has been the team’s best starting pitcher this season and Altherr has been arguably its best hitter, but neither has a particularly long history of big league success. At the end of the day, however, Altherr offers a little more intrigue, and if you’re going to use a draft pick on a league-average player, you’d rather it be a ninth-rounder than No. 7 overall.
Pirates: Andrew McCutchen (1st round, 11th pick, 2005)
No one is confusing 2017 McCutchen for the player he was during his 2013 MVP season, but he spent nearly a decade as one of the best players in the National League, and that has to count for something. Pittsburgh has gotten its investment in McCutchen back 10 times over, and even though his skills have declined, McCutchen’s importance to the Pirates franchise can’t be overstated.
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Rangers: Joey Gallo (1st round, 39th pick, 2012)
He strikes out way too much and doesn’t really hit for average, but every so often, Gallo will smash a ball to Mars to remind fans of his power. A former Little League teammate of Bryce Harper, Gallo was a supplemental first-round pick, and while it’s tough to say whether the choice paid off — Astros pitcher Lance McCullers went two spots later — the potential for improvement is there.
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Rays: Evan Longoria (1st round, 3rd pick, 2006)
Like Molina in St. Louis and McCutchen in Pittsburgh, Longoria may no longer be the most talented player in his team’s lineup, but he’s easily the Rays’ biggest star. And after delivering — not to mention playing nearly every day — for a decade in St. Pete, where he’s become the face of the team and is beloved by fans, it’s tough to argue that Kevin Kiermaier or anyone else is more deserving of this recognition.
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia (2nd round, 65th pick, 2004)
Mookie Betts, a 2011 fifth-round pick, is Boston’s future, but Pedroia is a former MVP and Red Sox legend and still plays a pretty good second base, to boot. At almost 34 years old, Pedroia’s clock is ticking, but he’s still fairly productive for his position, he’s got two rings and his selection is one the Red Sox haven’t regretted for a second.
Reds: Joey Votto (2nd round, 44th pick, 2002)
For more than a decade, Votto has been the Reds’ best player, and for most of that time, he’s been among the league’s best hitters as well. As patient as anyone in baseball, Votto won an MVP Award in 2010 and boasts the highest career on-base percentage among active players by a wide margin. It’s a bit of a shame that Cincinnati hasn’t had more success with Votto on the roster — the Reds have made three postseason appearances and never advanced past the LDS — but that one’s not on Votto.
Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are both second-rounders who panned out for Colorado, but Arenado is a bona fide star and has tied for the NL lead in home runs and led all of Major League Baseball in RBIs each of the past two years. This past offseason, Arenado agreed to a 2-year, $29.5 million deal to avoid arbitration, and if he continues to produce at the level he has the past two seasons — and so far there’s no reason to believe he won’t — that price tag is a bargain.
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Royals: Eric Hosmer (1st round, 3rd pick, 2008)
The Hosmer-Mike Moustakas debate initially felt like a bit of a toss-up, but since both players entered the bigs in 2011, Hosmer has played in more games, has a better career slash line, has more home runs and RBI and also has three Gold Gloves to Moustakas’ zero. Both were high draft picks — Moustakas was second overall in 2007 — and both panned out as pros, but in the end, Hosmer’s numbers speak for themselves.
The vast majority of Detroit’s players were not originally drafted by the Tigers, but even if they were, Verlander would still be the obvious choice. At 34, the former Cy Young winner and MVP isn’t the pitcher he was when he was 28, but he’s still reasonably reliable and it’s more likely than not that he’ll someday be a Hall of Famer.
Twins: Joe Mauer (1st round, 1st pick, 2001)
Like Verlander, Mauer’s days as an MVP-caliber player are well behind him, but his place in Twins history is pretty well cemented — and has been for a while. Mauer’s career batting average is sixth among active major leaguers, and he’s fifth in career on-base percentage, so while eighth-rounder Brian Dozier may be a fine player, he’s got a long way to go before he makes this is a two-man race.
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White Sox: Tim Anderson (1st round, 17th pick, 2013)
Jose Abreu would be an easy call if he’d been drafted rather than signed as a free agent, but the nod goes to Anderson. The 23-year-old is only in his second big league season, and thus far he’s failed to replicate his rookie year output. But we’re not going to fault the guy for having a sophomore slump — if you can even call it that — and on a team with so few homegrown draft picks, he’s the best option that fits the bill.
Yankees: Aaron Judge (1st round, 32nd pick, 2013)
Brett Gardner is the safe choice here, and by picking Judge we’re putting a lot of faith in two months of action from a guy who hit .179 last season. But Judge’s incredible start to 2017 has made him hard to ignore. (Although at 6-foot-8, he’s kind of hard to miss, to begin with.) It’s certainly possible that Judge’s production falls off a cliff and this projection looks silly a year from now, but for right now, Judge has all the makings of the next great Yankees star.
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