MLB: National League's top 10 draft classes, 2000-09
FEB 21, 2014 4:46p ET
Fox Sports South breaks down the National League's top 10 draft classes, by team, citing the 10-year period of 2000-09.
With the classes from 2006-09 still developing prospects in the minors, these rankings could easily be different in a year or two.
For now, though, it appears the Braves, Cardinals and Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) appear to be the clear winners from a decade full of five-tool gems.
The honorable mention list includes: The 2000 Braves (led by Adam Wainwright, Adam LaRoche), 2001 Phillies (Ryan Howard, Gavin Floyd), 2001 Pirates (led by Jeremy Guthrie, Rajai Davis), 2002 Braves (led by Brian McCann), 2002 Dodgers (led by James Loney), 2002 Rockies (starring Jeff Francis, Matt Garza), 2003 Cubs (including Tim Lincecum), 2006 Cardinals (Chris Perez, Jon Jay, Allen Craig), 2007 Marlins (starring Giancarlo Stanton, Steve Cishek) and 2009 Nationals (including Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen).
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1 -- 2007 Atlanta Braves
This star-studded class includes a burgeoning star (Freeman -- 23 HR, 109 RBI, .319 batting, 5th in NL MVP race last year), a physical freak (Heyward -- 20/20 season in 2012), a future NL batting champion (Belt -- .360 on-base percentage for 2012 and '13) and baseball's best closer (Kimbrel -- three-year track record of 11 wins, a 1.51 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 341 strikeouts).
On a more modest note, Fields clubbed 23 homers with the White Sox in 2007; and six-year NFL quarterback Dennis Dixon (Steelers, Ravens, Bills), who might have been a stellar prospect with the Braves, instead pursued a full-time career with football.
For 28 total games in the minors (2007), the supremely athletic Dixon posted a .322 OBP with the Braves.
2 -- 2009 St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals' personnel and scouting staff, led by GM John Mozeliak, absolutely knocked this one out of the park -- drafting and signing the five names above:
Carpenter had absurd tallies in 2013 -- his second year in the bigs -- rolling for 11 homers, 78 RBI, 126 runs, 55 doubles, a .318 batting average, .392 OBP and 199 hits.
For good measure, Carpenter played 30-plus games at second base and third base last season.
At just the tender age of 22, Miller enjoyed a superb 2013, notching 15 wins, a 3.06 ERA and 169 strikeouts. In the majors (counting 2012), Miller has a cumulative 2.94 ERA.
Adams, who regularly eclipsed a .900 OPS in the minors, cracked 17 homers in just 108 MLB games last year.
Kelly doubled his wins in 2013, while tallying a 2.69 ERA over 37 appearances (15 starts); and Rosenthal has multiple years of 40-plus saves in his future.
Put it all together, and this should be the core of the Cardinals' next pennant-winning campaign.
3 -- 2000 Montreal Expos (Nationals)
From a Big Three standpoint, you can't do much better than Lee, Sizemore and Jason Bay, a group that has accounted for 363 MLB homers, 200-plus career steals, 1,752 pitching strikeouts, one Rookie of the Year award (Bay) and one Cy Young trophy (Lee).
Figuratively speaking, any amateur scouting director would sell his/her professional soul for one draft class in the realm of Bay, Sizemore and Lee.
4 -- 2005 Milwaukee Brewers
Say what you want about Braun (2007-12 averages: 34 homers/107 RBI) and his handling of the PED ordeal, but he's quite possibly the brightest star from a once-in-a- generation MLB draft class (2005).
The rest of the Brewers' class enjoyed moderate success in the major leagues -- for other teams:
Indians outfielder Brantley (10 homers, 17 RBI, .332 OBP last year) could be a 20/20 candidate over the next two seasons.
Arrieta cracked the century mark in strikeouts with the Orioles two years ago.
Weeks averaged eight triples and 19 steals in his first two MLB campaigns with Oakland (2011-12); and Andrew Bailey racked up 75 saves in his inaugural three MLB seasons with the A's (2009-11).
5 -- 2000 Pittsburgh Pirates
No one could have predicted Jose Bautista's absurd power jump after the 2009 season -- morphing from a good bet for 15-16 dingers ... to the American League HR champion for 2010 and '11 (97 total).
On the flip side, it's fair to wonder what the Pirates were thinking in leaving Bautista open for the Rule V draft in December 2003, with the Orioles scooping him up.
McLouth enjoyed a career revival last year with the Orioles, accounting for 12 homers, 76 runs and 30 steals. But he's still light-years away from 2008 with the Pirates -- 26 homers, 94 RBI, 23 steals, 113 runs and a National League-best 46 doubles.
Baker accounted for 55 pitching victories for five straight seasons (2007-11); Snell has 63 career wins and 776 strikeouts; Young notched 20 wins and 331 strikeouts for 2006-07; and Burnett -- the one-time alpha dog of this hearty class -- has carved out a modestly productive career in the majors.
6 -- 2003 St. Louis Cardinals
If Scherzer (the 2012 American League Cy Young with Detroit) had signed with his home-state team 11 years ago, the 2003 Cardinals would definitely warrant a higher ranking here.
The same holds true for Kennedy, who rolled for 21 victories, a 2.88 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 2011 with the Diamondbacks.
Instead, it's just good conversation filler, in terms of what might have been for a prodigious Cardinals franchise that captured World Series titles for 2006 and 2011.
That said, this class is a perfect example of why the Cardinals have claimed five championships, 12 division titles and 14 playoff berths since 1981. Their rock-steady approach to drafting and developing high-quality players has few peers in baseball.
Oh, and Jason Motte notched 42 saves last year.
7 -- 2003 Los Angeles Dodgers
It was hard to choose between the Dodgers' back-to-back classes of 2002 (James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, James McDonald, Luke Hochevar, Eric Stults, Delwyn Young) and the following year.
In the end, though, we opted for the group led by Matt Kemp -- who absurdly accounted for 39 homers, 126 RBI, 115 runs, 40 steals and a .324 batting average in 2011, his last healthy campaign.
Billingsley (81 wins, 3.65 ERA, 1,037 strikeouts), Melancon (37 career saves), Ellis (career: 25 homers, 132 RBI) and LaRoche (22 career homers) have forged respectable major league careers.
8 -- 2001 Chicago Cubs
Just like the Dodgers above, the 2001 Cubs and '03 Cubs (Tim Lincecum, Jake Fox, Sean Marshall, Casey McGehee, Matt LaPorta, Sam Fuld) boast essentially even classes.
But in this case, the decision was made easier by Lincecum (two NL Cy Youngs, four 200-strikeout seasons) eschewing the Cubs out of high school, before attending the University of Washington and signing with the San Francisco Giants three years later.
Prior (18-6, 2.43, 245 strikeouts in 2003) had all the makings of a Cy Young mainstay and frontline ace of an annual championship contender. But injuries decimated a career that was full of promise 13 years ago.
Greene and Soto combined for 181 homers and 663 RBI in their respectable careers. And Nolasco, at the age of 31, is a sneaky-good candidate for 16 or more victories with the Dodgers in 2014 -- his first full-season run on a legitimate championship contender.
9 -- 2005 Atlanta Braves
The book on the Braves' 2005 class has yet to merit a final chapter.
Yes, Hanson (45 wins from 2009-12) and Joey Devine (2.75 career ERA) have likely peaked as MLB fixtures. But Coleman (0.61 ERA in 27 appearances last year), Cashner (10 wins, 3.09 ERA in 2013), Schafer (49 steals for 2012-13) and Escobar (a top-10 shortstop) still have tangible upsides in the big leagues.
10 -- 2005 Washington Nationals
Heading into his age-29 season, Zimmerman (179 career homers) holds robust, two-year averages of 89 runs, 160 hits, 31 doubles, 26 homers, 87 RBI, five steals, a .278 batting average and .345 OPS.
On the down side, Zimmerman likely won't match his 2009 numbers (33 homers, 106 RBI, 110 runs, .292 batting) anytime soon.
The rest of Washington's draft offers rock-solid contributors like Lannan (45 MLB wins), Stammen (3.96 career ERA), Moore (20-homer potential with 400-plus plate appearances), Maxwell (18 homers in 2012) ... and one enigmatic starting pitcher with the high-ceiling capacity for 14 wins and 185 strikeouts (Marco Estrada).
All in all, it's an underrated group.