With Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft approaching — and in turn, the 10th anniversary of the much-hyped first round of the 2005 draft that included Reds outfielder Jay Bruce — I thought it would be a fun exercise to go through the first round — I also included compensation picks — of each draft from 2001-10 and see if the 2005 draft class truly stands above the rest.

Year Wins Above Replacement All-Star selections
2001 218.1 16
2002 305.4 18
2003 193.8 10
2004 202.5 17
2005 330.2 24
2006 190.8 15
2007 170.6 15
2008 120.6 6
2009 120.5 5
2010 67.8 7

Notes: Stats through Wednesday’s games. WAR taken from Baseball-Reference.com.

The table has to be somewhat taken at arm’s length since guys like Mike Trout (class of 2009) have had far less time in the big leagues than players like Troy Tulowitzki (class of 2005), but given the varying level of time it takes prospects to reach the majors, I believe the table still illustrates the star power that occupied the first round of the 2005 draft.

My conclusion: The first round of the 2005 draft deserves all the praise it receives, as 11 players have amassed at least 13.5 career Wins Above Replacement: Justin Upton (No. 1 overall), Alex Gordon (No. 2), Ryan Zimmerman (No. 4), Ryan Braun (No. 5), Troy Tulowitzki (No. 7), Andrew McCutchen (No. 11), Jay Bruce (No. 12), Jacoby Ellsbury (No. 23), Matt Garza (No. 25), Colby Rasmus (No. 28), and Clay Buchholz (No. 42). Guys like Cliff Pennington (10.3 WAR), Rickey Romero (9.7), Cameron Maybin (9.5), and Jed Lowrie (8.9) have been or still currently are contributing major-league players.

Gordon, Zimmerman, Braun, Tulowitzki, and McCutchen have collected at least 30.4 career WAR, a staggering amount of production for five players in a single round of a draft class. When an organization hits home runs on star players like that, it covers up for a lot of past and future swings-and-misses in the draft and player development.

Other notes…

*By far the most productive players out of the 2001 draft’s first round are Joe Mauer (46.3 WAR) and Mark Teixeira (50.4). The Reds picked 20th overall that season and selected high school pitcher Jeremy Sowers, who did not sign with the club. Sowers was drafted by the Indians three years later after attending Vanderbilt and wound up throwing exactly 400 innings for Cleveland from 2006-09.

*In 2002, the Pirates, Devil Rays, Reds, Orioles, and Expos passed on Zack Greinke (No. 6 overall to the Royals, 44.6 WAR) and Prince Fielder (No. 7 to the Brewers, 24.8), and were among the squads that overlooked Cole Hamels (No. 17 to the Phillies, 43.8) and Matt Cain (No. 25 to the Giants, 32.7). Cincinnati selected high school pitcher Chris Gruler with the third overall pick. Gruler spent parts of four years in the minors before shoulder trouble ended his career at 22.

*The first round of the 2003 draft was pretty unremarkable, with Nick Markakis (26.2 WAR) being the top contributor so far. Adam Jones (25.7) was taken with the last pick of the compensation round by the Mariners. Cincinnati selected college reliever Ryan Wagner (-0.5 WAR) with the 14th pick. Wagner made it to the bigs that season and found success, but his career went downhill from there and he never pitched in the majors after 2007.

*Justin Verlander (41.4 WAR) and Jered Weaver (37.3) headline the 2004 class. The Reds took Homer Bailey (7.3) seventh overall.

*One pick before the Reds took Drew Stubbs (8.9 WAR) with the eighth selection in 2006, the Dodgers took some dude named Kershaw (41.5 WAR…at age 27!). Tim Lincecum (23.6) and Max Scherzer (27.3) were scooped up by the Giants and Diamondbacks at No. 10 and No. 11, respectively.

Strange but true: the Dodgers took Don Mattingly’s son, Preston, at No. 31 overall in 2006. Preston played in the minors with L.A. from 2006-11, but never advanced past High-A. Preston, a star on the Evansville Central (Ind.) basketball team while in high school, is now playing Division I college hoops for Lamar University.

*The Devil Rays nailed the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft by taking David Price (24.1 WAR), who wound up pitching for the big-league club in its first-ever pennant race in September of 2008. The Reds took Devin Mesoraco (4.0) at No. 15 overall in 2007.

*The Rays, Pirates, Royals, and Orioles all passed on Buster Posey (24.7 WAR) to begin the 2008 draft. The Marlins took now-Reds farmhand Kyle Skipworth one pick after Posey, and the Reds selected Yonder Alonso (4.9) after Skipworth.

*Mike Leake owns the third-highest WAR (9.9) of the 2009 draft class, but, of course, the crown jewel of 2009 draft is Mike Trout (31.5 WAR at age 23!). Twenty-one teams — including the Nationals and Diamondbacks, who failed to draft Trout twice in the first round — passed on Trout before the Angels selected the New Jersey high schooler with the 24th overall pick.

*The 2010 draft class is mostly unremarkable at this moment outside of Chris Sale (23.4 WAR) and Bryce Harper (14.2), the latter of whom is the present front-runner for National League MVP at age 22. The Reds took Yasmani Grandal (4.9) 12th overall in this draft.

8 Responses

  1. Art Wayne Austin

    The Reds had a good recruiting class in 2007 but had 3 chances to draft Gioncarlo Stanton. It took Frazier and Mesarocco forever to get to the “Bigs” and Kotzer never cut it.

  2. jdx19

    Wow. Never even thought of this. Pretty impressive stuff.

    Nice article, Grant.

  3. L.A. Red

    Great Article! I love Draft talk…for all sports.

    I went to baseball reference and skimmed the 1st round for all the drafts you discuss. And I’m of the opinion that if there is a college arm with good production and first round talent that’s who you take over the flame throwing high schooler or the toolsy position prospect….because repeatedly it looks like the Mike trouts are an anomaly and the “Drew stubbs’ ” are more likely. Where as Mike leake, travis wood,Scherzer, Chris Sale, Lynn, Garza, lincecum, Wacha, procello, etc….(all college pitchers across various draft classes), make it (and do well) in the league way more often.

    Just my 2cents but if I’m a GM or an organization in any sport I want assurances (or the best you can get given a particular draft) that my 1st round pick is going to make it in the league. In every round after that I can draft for traits or high upside with a low floor.

    But again…in the 1st round i want a very low floor even if the upside isn’t all star status.

    • L.A. Red

      Sorry…correction i want a very high floor for my 1st round pick.

      • redsfan11

        Moneyball strategy says take the best college players,
        yes Trout will probably be better then Leake in the long run but Leake was major league ready from the start.

      • jdx19

        Also, I’m assuming prioritizing college juniors over seniors, assuming the junior has performed well? I’d think it’s all about the skill-vs-age argument. If you get an 18-yr old that is already as good as a college senior, draft the 18-yr old.

        In situations where skill-vs-age seems about even at all ages, always draft the college guy.

      • jdx19

        I wish Phil Ervin would arrive sooner! Right around 1000 PAs and hasn’t cracked AA yet.