Joey Votto
The one MLB Draft pick every team wishes it made
Joey Votto

The one MLB Draft pick every team wishes it made

Published Jun. 9, 2016 12:10 p.m. ET

The 2016 MLB Draft begins on June 9, and like every draft, there will be many great picks made and many picks teams will want back.

We looked at the best draft pick for every MLB team since the June draft started in 1965. Here's the other side -- the one draft pick in history every MLB team wishes it had actually made.

(Note: Many teams, and sometimes all of them, passed on lot of these players, so some of these guys apply to a bunch of teams. For the sake of fun, we tried to pinpoint the single biggest regret for each team while using players only once.)

The Angels could have had one of the best starting pitchers in the last quarter century. Instead, they took catcher Erik Pappas sixth overall in the 1984 draft. He played in a total of 104 MLB games in his career and none for the Angels. Glavine sat around until the Braves took him in the second round (47th) and, of course, won 305 games and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.


Ken Griffery Jr., Edgar Martinez and Rafael Palmeiro could have been the middle of Seattle's order in the early '90s before adding a young Alex Rodriguez to that crew in the second half of the decade. Can you imagine? The Mariners might have had something to say about that Yankees dynasty. Instead, they took pitcher Mike Campbell with the seventh pick in the 1985 draft -- who gave four teams replacement-level performance over parts of six seasons -- and the Cubs scooped Palmeiro up at No. 22. He'd be a Hall of Famer if he wasn't a baseball pariah.

Oakland went into the 1995 draft targeting pitching and took Ariel Prieto, a Cuban right-hander, with the No. 5 pick. The club then took seven more pitchers in the top 15 rounds. None of them were Roy Halladay, who Toronto got in the 17th round. Prieto gave the A's 3.9 WAR in five seasons, while Halladay produced 65.2 during his career (1998-2013), second to only Randy Johnson during that time.

The Rangers planted roots in Arlington in 1972 and had a chance to get a franchise player and future Hall of Famer in the next year's draft. Texas took pitcher David Clyde, a high school lefty billed as the next Sandy Koufax, with the first pick in the 1973 draft, and his career ended at 26 due to arm injuries. The Orioles got Murray in the third round, so he probably wasn't even on Texas' radar for the No. 1 pick. A guy who surely was: Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who went No. 3 to the Brewers.

Look, any team that passed on Jeter in the '92 draft looks foolish --“ the Yankees got him at No. 6 -- but here's what Houston did. It took Phil Nevin No. 1 overall, who put together a fine MLB career, except not for the Astros. Nevin played 18 games for Houston in '95 before they shipped him to Detroit as The Player To Be Named Later in a deal for closer Mike Henneman, who pitched 21 innings for an Astros team that finished nine games out of the playoffs before signing with the Rangers that offseason. So yeah.

It is amazing Randy Johnson lasted until the 36th pick for the Expos in the '85 draft, so every team should feel bad about missing on him. But instead of sticking this on the Brewers, who had the No. 1 pick (see why below), it's going to the White Sox. Chicago took catcher Kurt Brown with the fifth pick, and he never made it to the big leauges. The Big Unit, of course, is one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Detroit took Pat Underwood with the second pick in the 1976 draft, and he gave them 343.2 innings over four seasons before never appearing again in the big leagues. Oakland took Henderson 94 picks later and got five brilliant years of Rickey's Hall of Fame career before he moved on. If it makes Detroit feel any better, it got Alan Trammell in the second round, who probably should be in Cooperstown. Then again, Henderson and Trammell on the same team!

Every team passed on Piazza many times over in the '88 draft, so it's not like the Indians blew this pick. BASEBALL blew this pick, as Piazza went to the Dodgers in the 62nd round after 1,389 other players had been taken. Cleveland took shortstop Mark Lewis with the second overall pick, and he produced negative-2.8 WAR during his career. A Hall of Fame catcher would have been nice.

What's crazy is Kershaw might not even be at the midpoint of his career, and there will never be another pick K.C. would rather have back. The Royals took Luke Hochevar with the first pick in 2006, and Kershaw went No. 7 to the Dodgers. Hochevar has been a valuable piece to the Royals' bullpen after failing as a starter, but Kershaw has three Cy Youngs and an MVP through his first eight years and is working on the best year of his career in 2016. He'd be a Hall of Fame candidate if he retired today. At only 28, he could end up being the best pitcher in baseball history.

Minnesota didn't miss its evaluation with the No. 1 pick in the '83 draft, grabbing pitcher Tim Belcher, it just failed to sign him. Belcher went back into the '84 draft and produced 30.1 WAR over his career -- a return any team would take with the first pick if they could get it guaranteed. Even if the Twins signed Belcher and kept him his whole career, though, Clemens was on the board in 1983 and went to the Red Sox with the 19th pick. He racked up 133.7 WAR, the most ever for a pitcher (according to FanGraphs). He would've been a first-ballot Hall of Famer if not for steroids and stuff.

The infamous pine tar game either never would've happend OR it would've gone against the Yankees if they could do their 1971 draft all over again. New York took outfielder Terry Whitfield with the 19th pick, who played three sub-replacement seasons in the Bronx, while Brett lasted until the 29th pick for the Royals. He would have been on two Yankees World Series teams ('77 and '78), maybe helped swing the '81 Series the Yanks lost to the Dodgers and, who knows, maybe Don Mattingly wouldn't be known as the greatest Yankee ever to not win a ring. But nah, Donny's gotta unfairly live with that for the rest of his days.

Like others here, Ryan lasted until the 12th round of the 1965 draft, so every team would like a do-over, not just the Red Sox. But we're going with Boston here, which had the fifth overall pick and took Billy Conigliaro, Tony's little brother, an outfielder who played three mildly above-average seasons in Boston before getting traded. Boston took 10 more players before the 12th round, the best being Amos Otis in the fifth round (who'd never play for the Red Sox). Finally, the Mets took Ryan with the 226th pick. Boston lost the '67 and '75 World Series in seven games. The Curse of the Bambino might have been broken long before 2004 if Ryan had been one of the picks in '65.

Baltimore had one of the best first basemen in baseball history from 1977-88 in Eddie Murray and the opportunity to immediately get their next one in the '89 draft. The O's used the No. 1 pick on pitcher Ben McDonald, who spent seven years with Baltimore and produced 20.5 WAR over nine years, not knowing Jeff Bagwell would turn out to be a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Boston got Bagwell in the fourth round and flipped him to Houston before he reached the big leagues.

In 1978 -- Toronto's second year in existence -- the Jays took first baseman Lloyd Moseby with the No. 2 pick, which in reality they don't regret. Moseby gave them 24.5 WAR over 10 seasons, helping them reach two ALCSs. But in theory, what a missed opportunity since 46 picks later the division rival Orioles got Cal Ripken Jr., a Hall of Fame shortstop. Who knows how much that single pick could have changed the history of the A.L. East? Cal would have been on all three ALCS teams that lost ('85, '89, '91) before Toronto's consecutive World Series in '92 and '93.

This one's like Kershaw in that Posey, eight seasons into what's likely a Hall of Fame career, may not even be at halftime of his career, but he's already done so much that any team would regret passing him up. The Rays took shortstop Tim Beckham No. 1 overall in 2008, and he's played only 109 games so far in the big leagues, and Posey went four picks later to the Giants. He has an MVP, two other top-10 MVP finishes and three championships so far in SF. The Giants also locked Posey down to a nine-year, $164 million deal in 2013. Yeah, this one hurts in Tampa.

As a Los Angeles native, it pains me to think the Dodgers could have had John Smoltz. What hurts even more is the Dodgers had 23 chances to get him! L.A. took Chris Gwynn with the 10th pick in the '85 draft, who was a sub-replacement player over 10 seasons, and then followed that with 22 more picks before the Tigers got Smoltz with the last pick in the 22nd round. Detroit flipped Smoltz to Atlanta as a minor leaguer for Doyle Alexander, and then we all watched him turn into one of the best starting pitchers AND best closers in recent history on his way to Cooperstown.

If the Dodgers regret Smoltz, the Giants regret Pettitte. San Francisco had two first-rounders in the 1990 draft, which it used on Adam Hyzdu at 15 and Eric Christopherson with the 19th pick. Hyzdu never made it to the big leagues and was traded for a reliever who gave the Giants 65.2 innings of bad baseball over two seasons. Christopherson spent 10 seasons in the minors before retiring. The Giants made 22 more picks before the Yankees got Pettitte in the 22nd round and he turned into a borderline Hall of Famer.

It's understandable why the Rockies chase pitching every chance they can get in the draft since no free-agent pitcher willingly wants to pitch a mile above sea level, but that doens't soften the misses. In the 2000 draft, Colorado took pitcher Matt Harrington with the seventh pick. He was taken five times in the MLB draft and never signed a contract with anyone (he played some indy ball before giving it up). With the 15th pick in 2000, the Phillies got Chase Utley, who will go down as one of the best second basemen in the last 50 years and should get into the Hall of Fame.

This pick has been relived a bunch now that Matt Bush has resurfaced with the Texas Rangers. San Diego took Bush No. 1 overall in '04, but alcohol problems derailed his career before he was able to piece it back together and reach the majors this year with Texas. Verlander, of course, went with the following pick to the Tigers and has produced the fourth-most WAR among starting pitchers since his MLB debut in 2005.

Arizona's first draft as a franchise was 1999, so the history isn't as deep here but there's still a major miss it'd like to have back. The Diamondbacks took pitcher Jason Bulger with the 22nd pick in 2001 when David Wright lasted until the Mets picked at 38. Bulger gave Arizona 10 innings before he was flipped to the Angels for Albert Callaspo, and Wright has been the fifth-most valuable hitter in baseball in the last 12 years. If injuries don't wash out the remaining years of his career, he could have a case for Cooperstown.

Yep, the Reds could have had one of the best starting pitchers who's ever lived. Cincinnati took pitcher Pat Pacillo with the fifth overall pick in 1984, and he's best known for being the guy who replaced Pete Rose on the Reds' 40-man roster after the '86 season. Pacillo pitched 50.1 innings over two years, was shipped to Montreal in a deal for a serviceable catcher, a bench player and a third warm body and never played in the bigs again. He works in finance. The Cubs got Maddux in the second round and, well, you know what he did.

The Cubs had a stretch in the late 60s and early 70s of good teams who were close to being something better than that, and it's fascinating to think what might have happened if Leo Durocher had the best catcher of all time. Chicago took pitcher Rick James (not that Rick James) with the sixth pick in 1965, who appeared in THREE games for the Cubs. In the second round, Cincinnati took Bench, who earned two MVPs and helped the Reds reach four World Series, winning two.

St. Louis targeted a corner infielder with its first pick in the '71 draft, taking first baseman Ed Kurpiel No. 8 overall, but he never made the big leagues. If the Cardinals had just looked across the diamond, they could have had Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, who the Reds got with the 30th pick -- right after George Brett. Two Hall of Fame third basemen back-to-back in the second round of the '71 draft. Amazing.

Pittsburgh had the No. 1 pick in 2002 and opted for pitcher Bryan Bullington, who pitched 18.1 innings for the Pirates before the Indians plucked him off waivers. Greinke was available at No. 6 for the Royals and has produced nearly 50 wins above replacement with a chance to build significantly on that through his 30s. If not Greinke, the Pirates could have gotten Cole Hamels at 17. What makes it even worse is with its second pick, Pittsburgh took pitcher Blair Johnson. Two picks later, division rival Cincinnati grabbed Joey Votto. Ouch.

The Brewers' 1985 draft exemplifies the cruelty of this whole process. They took B.J. Surhoff No. 1 overall in 1985. He became a very good big leaguer with the Brewers and Orioles. You'd never "regret" that pick in almost any year. Except, 1985 was one of those other years. Will Clark went second to the Giants and was so good they nicknamed him "The Thrill." Barry Larkin went fourth to the Reds and became a Hall of Fame shortstop. And then BARRY BONDS -- the best of them all -- went to the Pirates with the sixth pick. We already mentioned Smoltz in the 22nd round, who everyone missed on. I mean, you take B.J. Surhoff whenever you can get him, but this still stings. What a draft.

There will never be a missed opportunity the Nationals regret more than not taking Mike Trout No. 1 overall in 2009 --“ and that's considering Trout is only 24 years old and the guy they got is really good! Stephen Strasburg could end up being one of the best pitchers of his generation, but Trout could be the best centerfielder who's ever lived when he's done playing, and the Angels got him at No. 25. In 2010, Washington took Bryce Harper with the first pick. Trout and Harper in the same outfield right now. Good Lord.

Ah, yes, the Steve Chilcott pick. The Mets took Chilcott first overall in the 1966 draft, and he hit .248 in seven minor league seasons before getting out of baseball. With the next pick, the Kansas City Athletics took Reggie Jackson. It's bad enough knowing you could have easily had a Hall of Fame hitter. It's exponentially worse watching that guy become a Hall of Famer and earning the nickname "Mr. October" with the Yankees.

Atlanta took a third baseman with the third pick in 1976, it just happened to be the wrong one. Ken Smith got 56 at-bats across three seasons for the Braves and then never played in the big leagues again. In the seventh round of that draft, Boston got Wade Boggs, one of the five best third basemen in the 20th century, who would have been on all three of those Braves teams that lost the World Series in the '90s (and the three others that lost in the NLCS).

Catcher Mike Lieberthal had a good big league career, producing 20 WAR over 14 seasons, so it's not like the Phillies blew the third pick of the 1990 draft, but they could have had Mussina, who went 20th to Baltimore and pitched 18 years for the Orioles and Yankees and should end up in the Hall of Fame. That '93 Phillies team that lost in the World Series would have looked a bit different with Mussina in the rotation alongside Curt Schilling and Terry Mulholland, among others.

At least the Marlins don't have to live with the regret that other teams do. Florida took high school pitcher Josh Beckett with the second pick in 1999, and Beckett turned into one of the most dominant starters in the 2000s. He pitched only five seasons with the Marlins, but one of those was 2003, in which he threw a complete game at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the World Series to clinch the title for Florida. That start alone was worth this pick. But in that same draft was Albert Pujols, who the Cardinals took 400 picks later in the 13th round. He became an icon in St. Louis and will be remembered as one of the greatest hitters ever. 


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