Prospect Watch: Roundup of the last decade of MLB’s top overall draft picks

With the Major League Baseball draft now less than a month away (Sunday, July 17), CBS Sports has begun anticipating the next class. We already ranked the top 30 prospects; mocked the first round; and surveyed the most polarized gamers. We’ll have even more preview material in the coming weeks, until the Baltimore Orioles make their third No. 1 overall pick in franchise history.

The past few months have proven to be eventful for the recent top picks. Namely: Carlos Correa signed a huge free agent contract; Dansby Swanson won a World Series and is trying to establish his own payday; Casey Mize and Royce Lewis suffered season-ending injuries; Spencer Torkelson and Adley Rutschman made their major league debuts; and Mark Appel has positioned himself to do the same.

With that in mind, today’s Prospect Watch is dedicated to recapping the past decade of No. 1 picks: how they’ve performed, where they’re at now, and how things might have been different had the team in question decided to go another route.

Correa, the first and (by far) most successful of Houston’s three consecutive No. 1 picks, is now a member of the Minnesota Twins. Well, he’s still on track to finish as one of the most productive first overall picks in league history. Already a two-time All-Star, she racked up roughly 36 wins above replacement before the end of her 27-year-old season; for reference, Adrian Gonzalez ranks fifth in WAR among No. 1 picks, with 43.5 for his career. So there is a real chance that Correa will be in the top five before he turns 30. As an added bonus, the Astros’ decision to take Correa instead of Byron Buxton helped popularize the “portfolio approach,” the same philosophy the Orioles have deployed in the past and may make their pick again this July. .

2013: Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros

The Astros again saved money at the top by selecting Appel over Kris Bryant. (Bryant, drafted second by the Chicago Cubs, received a signing bonus a few hundred thousand more than Appel.) Appel was expected to be a safe and fast No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but injuries and poor performance plagued him. The Astros threw in the towel relatively quickly, sending him to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2015 season as part of the Ken Giles trade. Appel later retired from the sport before reaching the majors; he’s since returned, and has pitched well enough in a relief role this season that I can imagine him making it to The Show before the end of the year.

2014: Brady Aiken, LHP, Houston Astros

Here we have come to the most controversial No. 1 pick of the decade. The Astros did not sign Aiken after a post-draft physical revealed an abnormality in his ulnar collateral ligament (also known as the Tommy John ligament). That decision had ramifications elsewhere, as it prevented the Astros from executing deals agreed to with other players in their class and violating MLB rules. (The Astros had to make amends with those players, but there is no record of the league punishing them.) Aiken would spend a year at the IMG Academy before being selected in the middle of the first round by the Cleveland Guardians. He never recovered and was released last fall after making just 43 pro appearances (none above A-ball). Aiken hasn’t held on anywhere else and hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game since 2019. He will celebrate his 26th birthday in August, but it’s fair to wonder if his career is over. The Astros, by the way, received the second pick of the 2015 class as compensation. They used that pick to select Alex Bregman, who has since become the cornerstone of the franchise.

As good as Vanderbilt’s baseball program is and has been, Swanson was only the second Commodore selected with the first pick. (The first was David Price in 2007). Swanson spent six months as a member of the Diamondbacks organization before being traded to the Atlanta Braves as part of Shelby Miller’s ill-advised deal. For much of his career, he’s been more of a decent role player than a star-level contributor; He’s doing his best lately to change that perception: He’s in the midst of a fantastic year and received negative consideration for the 2020 MVP Award. Whether Swanson can sustain this level of production remains to be seen; Regardless, it’s fair to conclude that the D-Backs probably wish they’d held on to him — or, more likely, had drafted the aforementioned Alex Bregman and held on to him. to the.

2016: Mickey Moniak, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

There was no clear No. 1 pick in 2016, so the Phillies took Moniak, a well-rounded prep outfielder with few weaknesses. He has not worked. Including this season, he sports a career 21 OPS+ in his 38 major league games. Moniak has had more success in the minors, and he’s still young enough (24) to think he could become a backup. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Phillies can’t worry about passing up a Bregman or a Bryant. The top 10 as a whole, including Moniak and No. 2 pick Nick Senzel, have produced seven players who haven’t made it to the majors or have and have since posted less than 0.1 WAR. In fact, the most productive first-round picks in that class are Will Smith (32nd pick), Cal Quantrill (8th), Ian Anderson (3rd) and Dakota Hudson (34th).

2017: Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins

There are some similarities between the 2016 and 2017 drafts. Both featured a No. 1 high school position player, and both have seen the mid- and late-round portions succeed. (The three most productive players in the first round of 2017 so far were selected with the 24th, 13th and 20th picks.) It’s not a total copy-and-paste job, though, because Lewis was seen as having louder tools and a bigger head start than Moniak. He has also had more difficult moments. Lewis missed the entire 2021 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee, delaying his arrival until this season. Unfortunately, he tore that ACL again, 12 games into his major league career and 16 months after the first injury. He’s expected to miss about a year, which means, at best, he’d be back right before the 2023 All-Star Game.

Speaking of injuries and missed years, Mize underwent Tommy John surgery in June that will sideline him for at least 12 months. He has made 39 major league starts to date, racking up respectable marks that include a 101+ ERA and a 2.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’ll be 26 years old the next time he throws a pitch, and it will be interesting to see where his career takes him from there. As it is, he doesn’t miss bats or suppress quality of contact well enough to predict he’ll become more than just a mid-rotation starter. However, Mize still ranks as one of the top five most productive first-rounders to date from 2018, though he ranks third among college arms thanks to the appearance of Shane McClanahan (31st pick) and Logan Gilbert. (#14).

2019: Adley Rutschman, center, Baltimore Orioles

Rutschman has struggled to start his big league career, but there’s no reason to panic just yet. He was a No. 1 slam-dunk pick based on a profile that scouts thought might feature four more or better tools at maturity. Unlike previous classes, this draft still appears top-loaded: Bobby Witt Jr., Andrew Vaughn, Riley Greene, CJ Abrams and Nick Lodolo accounted for five of the next six picks (JJ Bleday, the fourth pick, has upset ). Meanwhile, the rest of the first round saw draft teams like Josh Jung, Alek Manoah, Corbin Carroll, George Kirby, Daniel Espino, Anthony Volpe and Seth Johnson. We’ll see where life takes them, but this class seems to have the potential to produce several All-Star-caliber players, including some retakes.

2020: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers

As with Rutschman, Torkelson’s rookie year is off to a bad start. Going solely from Baseball Reference’s version of WAR (a counting stat, mind you), he has been the least productive player in the majors. He doesn’t make sense in overreacting to 60-something games, but Torkelson’s lack of positional value gives him a smaller margin for error than someone like Rutschman possesses. The expectation on draft night was that Torkelson would become a middle force; he’ll have to do it to justify being the first right-handed first baseman picked with the first pick.

The Pirates followed the records of the Astros and Orioles by adopting the portfolio approach last summer. Davis may have been the first name off the board, but he received only the fifth-highest signing bonus (and more than a million less than Jack Leiter, who was the second pick); Pittsburgh, in turn, redistributed the savings by taking three other players who cracked CBS Sports’ pre-draft top 50. Davis has already reached Double-A and, barring injury, he should make it to the majors next summer, once the Pirates have successfully manipulated his service time.

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