Twins on the clock: History of MLB No. 1 overall picks

BY Dave Heller • June 8, 2017

Just what is in store for the Minnesota Twins with the first overall pick in Monday's MLB Draft, regardless of who that player might be?

There's a lot of pressure and notoriety being taken first overall, perhaps more in other sports, but it's a label that never goes away.

Will the Twins' pick be a boon or a bust? History shows likely neither, but something in between.

We've categorized every pick since MLB began its June amateur draft in 1965 to sort out who did what after being taken No. 1 overall. We don't mean to temper expectations, but you might not want to prepare that Hall of Fame plaque just yet.

We'll list every player with their WAR (as listed on baseball-reference.com). Obviously some of these players might turn out to be great (or even greater) while some could peter out. Either way, recent history shows that teams have gotten a pretty good player at No. 1.



ACTIVE PLAYERS

Joe Mauer (2001), 50.5. Twins faithful obviously know all about Mauer, who had a 44.2 WAR through 2013, i.e. when he had to move out of the catcher position. Mauer has seven seasons of batting over .300 and was the American League MVP in 2009.

Adrian Gonzalez (2000), 43.6. It took Gonzalez a couple of years to find his footing (and a home), but he's been a pretty consistent player since landing in San Diego back in 2006. Entering 2017, Gonzalez didn't hit lower than .275 in any season since his Padres debut and his worst OPS+ was 112, which came last year.

David Price (2007), 32.3. In his third season in the majors, Price became Tampa Bay's ace and in 2012 he won the Cy Young Award. He's also had two second-place finishes for the AL's top pitcher. His career totals: 121-65 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.141 WHIP. An injury sidelined him this season until recently, and one has to wonder at age 31 how much mileage he has left in his left arm. But such is always the question with pitchers.

Justin Upton (2005), 28.7. Has had a solid, if unspectacular career, topping 30 home runs twice in his first 10 seasons. Still, he is currently ranked 14th in WAR among the all-time first overall picks.

Bryce Harper (2010), 23.9. Let's see, he's already won a Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first five seasons. His WAR so far in 2017 is fourth among his six seasons -- and there's quite a ways to go. In his MVP season, Harper hit .330/.460/.649, leading the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.109), OPS+ (198), home runs (42) and runs (118). He's a keeper (if you can afford him).

Stephen Strasburg (2009), 20.7. As mentioned, first-round picks always have that pressure put upon them and that certainly was the case with Strasburg. He's been good, but has yet to live up to the hype, although his career obviously isn't over. Strasburg has topped 200 innings in a season just once and has never had an ERA under 3 when he's topped 100 innings.

Carlos Correa (2012), 12.7. Won Rookie of the Year in 2016, hitting 22 home runs in 99 games. Correa had another standout season in 2016 and is on pace for his best year yet in '17.

Gerrit Cole (2011), 10.3. Cole had just 44 minor-league starts (and only one at Triple-A) before debuting with the Pirates in 2013, going 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.168 WHIP for Pittsburgh. Cole has been a solid starter for the Pirates ever since, but has had more than 22 starts in a season just once -- 2015, when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.091 WHIP.

Matt Bush (2004), 2.5. Off-the-field incidents and alcohol curtailed Bush's baseball career. He finally made it to the majors last season as a relief pitcher for Texas (he was drafted by San Diego as a shortstop) and flourished, posting a 2.48 ERA in 61 2/3 innings, allowing just 6.4 hits and 2.0 walks per nine innings while striking out 8.9. In 2017, Bush was elevated to the closer's role, where he has been quite effective.

Tim Beckham (2008), 2.8. A 50-game drug suspension in 2012 curtailed Beckham's path to the majors. He played a reserve utility role in 2015-16 for Tampa Bay but has settled in as the Rays' starting shortstop this season at age 27.

Dansby Swanson (2015), 0.7. Selected by Arizona but dealt to Atlanta in a trade for Shelby Miller, Swanson made his major-league debut with the Braves just 14 months after being drafted.

Mark Appel (2013), minors. Appel struggled in Houston's system and was dealt to Philadelphia before the 2016 season in a trade for reliever Ken Giles. Appel hasn't had much success with the Phillies, either, posting an ERA hovering near 7 this year for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Mickey Moniak (2016), minors. Moniak hit .284/.340/.409 in 46 games in rookie ball after being drafted and is now playing well for Philadelphia's Single-A club. He just turned 19 on May 13.

NEVER PLAYED

Steven Chilcott (1966). Taken one pick before Reggie Jackson, Chilcott, a catcher, injured his shoulder early into his minor-league career and was never the same. He played in just 376 minor-league games and was done in 1972.

Brien Taylor (1991). A hard-throwing lefty, Taylor had two solid seasons to begin his minor-league career. But then he injured his shoulder in a bar fight and was never the same. After missing the 1994 season, Taylor posted ERAs of 6.08, 18.73, 14.33 and 9.59 -- all in Single-A. He tried a comeback with Cleveland in 2000, but pitching in Single-A at age 28 was rocked for 11 runs in 2 2/3 innings.

DIDN'T SIGN

Danny Goodwin (1971). Goodwin remains the only player to twice be drafted first overall. In 1971, he was taken No. 1 by the White Sox but instead attended Southern University. More on him later.

Tim Belcher (1983). Belcher opted not to accept a low-ball offer from Twins owner Calvin Griffith and was later taken in a supplemental draft in January 1984 by the Yankees -- who then famously left Belcher's name off a protected list (teams who lost free agents could claim an unprotected player and the A's did just that with Belcher). Belcher would pitch 14 years in the majors, most notably with the Dodgers.

Brady Aiken (2014). Aiken and Houston had agreed to terms of a deal, but the Astros tried to change the terms after discovering an issue with the pitcher's elbow. Aiken didn't sign and also didn't go to college, instead training so he could be drafted again in 2015. However, he was hurt in a showcase for scouts and had Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, Cleveland took him with the No. 17 overall selection. He is currently pitching in Single-A.



HALL OF FAME CALIBER (60+ WAR)

Alex Rodriguez (1993), 117.7. A-Rod played in a handful of games a year after being drafted and two year later hit .358 with 54 home runs as he developed into one of the game's superstars. Rodriguez would finish his career with 3,115 hits and 696 home runs, however use of performance-enhancing drugs and a year-long suspension clouds his accomplishments.

Chipper Jones (1990), 85.0. Starting in 1995, Jones was a regular in Atlanta's lineup and one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Jones was named MVP in 1999 and finished his career with a slash line of .303/.401/.529 and 468 home runs. The Hall of Fame beckons; he's eligible in 2018.

Ken Griffey Jr. (1987), 83.6. "The Kid" was called up in 1989 and became a fixture in center field for Seattle -- as well as one of the most, if not the most, popular players in the game due to his offense, highlight-reel defensive plays and engaging personality. Griffey hit 40 homers or more in seven seasons, including five straight from 1996-2000. Griffey hit 630 career home runs and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016, garnering 99.3 percent of the votes.

SOLID (30-60 WAR)

Darryl Strawberry (1980), 42.0. Strawberry won Rookie of the Year in 1983 after hitting 26 home runs for the Mets. He'd hit 280 homers in his first nine seasons -- hitting at least 26 in each year -- but injuries and drugs curtailed his final eight seasons, which saw him appear in just 335 games with 55 homers.

Harold Baines (1977), 38.5. It'd be hard to find a more professional hitter than Baines, who played 21 seasons, mostly as a designated hitter. Baines accumulated 2,866 hits and 384 home runs, although he never hit 30 in a season.

B.J. Surhoff (1985), 34.3. Never a superstar, Surhoff enjoyed a solid 19-year career, beginning as a catcher moving to third base and finishing as an outfielder. Surhoff was a career .282 hitter, despite batting over .300 only three times, but never had a slugging percentage higher than .492 in any season.

Rick Monday (1965), 33.1. Monday had three distinctive MLB moments: 1. The first pick in the first-ever draft; 2. Taking a U.S. flag away from a fan who was going to burn it; 3. A game-clinching homer in the 1981 NLCS that propelled the Dodgers to the World Series, which they would win. Monday would play 19 seasons for the A's, Cubs and Dodgers, belting 241 homers.

Darin Erstad (1995), 32.3. Erstad played 14 years in the majors, mostly with the Angels, who drafted him, finishing with a .282 career batting average. Erstad hit over .300 just once, in 2000 when he batted .355 and led the league with 240 hits.

Andy Benes (1988), 31.7. A little a year after being drafted, Benes made 10 starts for the Padres and went 6-3 with a 3.51 ERA. He'd finish with an ERA under 4 in each of his first six seasons with San Diego. Benes would enjoy a couple of solid seasons with St. Louis in 1996 and 1997 and Arizona in 1998. Benes pitched until 2002, finishing with 155 wins and a 3.97 ERA.

GOOD (15-30 WAR)

Mike Moore (1981), 28.5. Moore was brought up to Seattle in 1982, making 27 starts, and had the misfortune to pitch for mostly underwhelming Mariners teams. He'd have an ERA under 4 in only two of his seven seasons with Seattle. Moore signed as a free agent with Oakland in 1989 and proceeded to go 19-11 with a 2.61 for the World Series champions. He'd win 17 games two more times for the A's but ended his career with a losing record (161-176) and 4.39 ERA.

Josh Hamilton (1999), 28.1. Due to a drug addiction, Hamilton didn't make the majors until 2007, with Cincinnati (he had been drafted by Tampa Bay). Injuries shortened his career from there. Hamilton ended up playing just six seasons, but he hit 32 homers and drove in 130 in 2008, won the MVP in 2010 (.359 BA, 32 HR, .633 SLG) and hit 43 homers with 128 RBI in 2012. Overall, Hamilton batted .290 with a .516 slugging percentage and 200 homers, but his career is more of a "What if?" than a "What happened."

Floyd Bannister (1976), 26.9. Another pitcher who was saddled on poor Mariners squads, Bannister had his best season for Seattle in 1982, leading the league in strikeouts (209) and posting a 3.43 ERA. Bannister signed with the White Sox as a free agent and helped Chicago win the division in 1983, going 16-10 with a 3.35 ERA. He had a couple of good seasons in his final four years in Chicago before petering out with the Royals, Angels and Rangers. In his 15 years, Bannister was 134-143 with a 4.06 ERA.

Bob Horner (1978), 21.7. One of the few players to never play in the minors, Horner was the Rookie of the Year in 1978. On July 6, 1986, Horner hit four home runs in a game against Montreal, but his team, Atlanta, still lost. That kind of sums up Horner's career. A good power hitter who played for mostly bad Braves teams, Horner hit 30 home runs or more in three of his nine seasons with Atlanta, with a high of 35 in 1980. This despite injuries and weight issues limiting his playing time -- 140 games was the most Horner ever played in one season and he topped 125 games just one other time. After Atlanta, Horner played one year in Japan and 60 games with the Cardinals in 1988, out of baseball at age 30.

Ben McDonald (1989), 20.9. A star at LSU, McDonald pitched just 15 games in the minors before being summoned by Baltimore. After a promising start -- he had a 2.43 ERA in 21 games (15 starts) in 1990, McDonald posted an ERA over 4 in four of the next five seasons for the Orioles. McDonald pitched two more years for Milwaukee before having to retire following a rotator cuff injury. McDonald ended up making 198 starts in the majors, finishing with a 78-70 record and 3.91 ERA.

Pat Burrell (1998), 18.8. "Pat the Bat" played 12 years, mostly with Philadelphia. He hit 30 or more homers in four separate seasons, with a high of 37 in 2002. However, Burrell batted over .260 just three times in his career, with a high of .282. Burrell had 292 career home runs and a .253 batting average.

Jeff Burroughs (1969), 17.6. Burroughs enjoyed a nice 16-year career, winning the AL MVP with Texas in 1974 and hitting 41 home runs for Atlanta in 1977. After 1978, when Burroughs made his second All-Star Game and hit .301 with 23 home runs, he didn't hit more than 16 homers or bat higher than .277 in his final seven seasons.

Jeff King (1986), 16.7. In his first seven years in Pittsburgh, King had a slash line of just .254/.308/.387 with 55 home runs, hardly numbers expected from a third baseman. Then in 1995, King hit 18 home runs and followed that up with 30 HR and a .271 average (the second-highest average of his career) the next season. Traded to Kansas City, King, now a first baseman, blasted 52 homers in two years before playing in just 21 games in his final season, 1999.

Phil Nevin (1992), 15.8. Nevin played for three teams in his first four years -- Houston, which drafted him, Detroit and Anaheim, before landing in San Diego, where he found his groove. In seven seasons with the Padres, Nevin hit 156 home runs in 806 games with a slash line of .288/.359/.503. Nevin's career fizzled out after he was traded to Texas during the 2005 season, with stops also with the Cubs and Twins (where he played just 16 games in 2006).

OK (5-15 WAR)

Kris Benson (1996), 13.0. Injuries sidetracked Benson's career. He pitched over 200 innings just once and had an ERA under 3 also once -- both of which occurred in 2000, his second full season. Often overshadowed by his outspoken wife, Benson pitched for Pittsburgh, the New York Mets, Baltimore, Texas and Arizona in a nine-year career, finishing with a 70-75 record and 4.42 ERA.

Shawon Dunston (1982), 11.5. Dunston would play 18 years in the majors, but only four times appeared in 140 or more games. Dunston, a shortstop, could never become the player expected of him in Chicago with the Cubs. He'd spend the final few years of his career as utility player for the Indians, Giants, Cardinals and Mets. Dunston played 1,814 career games with a .269 batting average, 150 home runs and exactly 1,000 strikeouts.

Ron Blomberg (1967), 9.4. Blomberg had the distinction of being the first designated hitter in MLB history. But he'd play only 461 games over six years, never accumulating more than 341 plate appearances in any season. Blomberg did compile a .293 career batting average, thanks to three years of hitting over .300, including .329 in 100 games in 1973 for the Yankees.

Mike Ivie (1970), 7.2. Drafted as a catcher, Ivie moved to first base with San Diego, but he never became the offensive force that was expected. After batting .272 with nine home runs in 1977, the Padres traded him to San Francisco. In his first season with the Giants, Ivie batted .308 with 11 home runs then blasted 27 homers the following year. However, that was his last hurrah. Ivie would play only 204 games over the next four seasons, compiling a .238 average with 18 homers.

Tim Foli (1968), 5.5. A prototypical light-hitting, good-fielding shortstop of the '70s, Foli played 16 seasons despite hitting .251/.283/.309. Foli never batted higher than .291 and his season-high in homers was six, but he was a good contact hitter, striking out just 399 times in 6,573 plate appearances. Foli twice led the NL in fielding percentage.

BUSTS (Lower than 5 WAR)

Bill Almon (1974), 4.8. Almon carved out a 15-year career, although he hit just .254/.305/.343. Unlike, Foli, though, Almon was not known for his fielding. He played more than 130 games in just three seasons.

Luke Hochevar (2006), 3.1. Kansas City thought they had a future ace in Hochevar, but his success in the rotation was rare. From 2008-12, Hochevar's lowest ERA was 4.68 and he posted such inflated numbers as 6.55, 5.73 and 5.51. The Royals moved him to the bullpen in 2013 and he had a 1.92 ERA in 2013, but missed the 2014 season due to an injury. Hochevar was OK in 2015-16 and K.C. didn't re-sign him. Hochevar remains unsigned and had another surgery, leaving the rest of his career -- if there is to be one -- up in the air.

Delmon Young (2003), 2.5. Twins fans are probably quite aware of Young, who was dealt to Minnesota after finishing second in the Rookie of the Year Award while playing for Tampa Bay in 2007. Young's best season was in 2010 for the Twins, when he batted .298 with 21 home runs. He would have a modicum of success before bouncing around to Philadelphia, back to Tampa Bay and, finally, Baltimore, where he wound up his playing days in 2015 with a career .283 average.

Paul Wilson (1994), 2.2. Supposedly part of the next crop of great Mets pitching prospects, Wilson never panned out. Injuries sidetracked his career in New York beyond one season in which he had a 5.38 ERA. Wilson would resurface in Tampa Bay in 2000 and also pitch for Cincinnati, but he was never more than an average (or worse) pitcher. He had a 40-58 record over seven seasons with a 4.86 ERA.

David Clyde (1973), 0.7. On June 5, 1973, Texas made high school pitcher Clyde the No. 1 overall pick. Slightly over three weeks later he made his major-league debut, skipping over the minors entirely. Unsurprisingly, going to the majors directly from high school did not work out. Clyde was 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA and 1.714 WHIP in 18 starts as a rookie and followed that up with 3-9, 4.38 and 1.504 in 1974. Clyde would pitch just one more game for Texas and spent two uneventful years in Cleveland, out of the majors by 1979, having compiled a career 18-33 record, 4.63 ERA and 1.530 WHIP.

Dave Roberts (1972), 0.4. Not to be confused with the L.A. Dodgers manager, this Dave Roberts spent 10 uninspiring years in the majors compiling a slash line of .239/.286/.357. He did hit .286 with 21 homers in his second season, in 1973 for San Diego, but he'd have over 251 plate appearance just once -- and that was the next year. Roberts, who would have just 49 career homers, played for three teams in his final four seasons.

Bryan Bullington (2002), -0.2. Bullington pitched only 18 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh, the team which drafted him (although he did miss one season due to shoulder surgery). He'd then bounce from Cleveland to Toronto to Kansas City, totaling just 81 2/3 innings in the majors and sporting a 1-8 record with a 5.62 ERA. Bullington would complete his pro career by pitching in Japan from 2011-15.

Matt Anderson (1997), -0.5. A hard-throwing right-handed reliever who could throw 100 mph, Anderson was supposed to become Detroit's future closer. While he did have 22 saves in 2001, Anderson's career was unsteady. He posted under a 4 ERA just once, as a rookie. He'd pitch for seven years and compile a 5.19 ERA and 1.582 WHIP over 256 2/3 innings. Despite the ability to put triple digits on a radar gun, Anderson only once struck out as many batters as inning pitched -- as a rookie (44 K, 44 IP).

Al Chambers (1979), -0.5. Seattle thought they were getting the next big power prospect. Chambers would later say he was drafted by the wrong organization and never really got a chance. While he had some decent years in Triple-A, Chambers appeared in just 57 games for the Mariners from 1983-85, batting .208 with two home runs and 11 RBI (four of which came in his MLB debut). By the age of 27 he was out of professional baseball.

Shawn Abner (1984), -1.3. Abner had a couple of halfway-decent years in the minors before being dealt by the Mets to the Padres in a big trade in December 1986. He'd never pan out in the majors, though, hitting .207 in 254 games over five seasons with San Diego before being shipped out to the Angels and finishing up with the White Sox in 1992. His career slash line in the majors ended up at .227/.269/.323. Side note: His son, Seth, is one of the premier eSports players.

Danny Goodwin (1975), -1.7. As mentioned previously, Goodwin was drafted No. 1 overall twice, the second time by the Angels. A catcher, Goodwin developed a sore arm and primarily was a designated hitter in his brief time in the majors, with some time at first base as well. Goodwin didn't play much for the Angels (63 games, all as a DH), who traded him to Minnesota before the 1979 season. Goodwin hit .289/.335/.497 in 57 games with the Twins in '79, but slipped drastically after that with his MLB career ending in 1982 with the A's, owning a career slash line of .236/.301/.373. He'd kick around in the minors for a few more years before finishing up in Japan in 1986 at the age of 32.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth's Shadow, Facing Ted Williams - Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns



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