There’s a lot of pressure put on number one picks. They’re supposed to be THE guy for their franchise. They’re expected to come up through the minors incredibly quickly and turn the fortunes of an ailing organization around. Anything less is unacceptable.
There have been some generational talents taken at the number one spot — Bryce Harper, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez — but there have been a lot more underwhelming first picks. Let’s take a look at a few poor first overall draftees, and see who that team should’ve taken instead.
The Arizona Diamondbacks decided to choose Dansby Swanson as their first overall selection in the 2015 draft. The Vanderbilt shortstop was quickly traded to the Atlanta Braves (perhaps the writing was on the wall), and despite the Braves winning the NL East the next year, Swanson wasn’t a big part of that.
He’s been up and down from the majors to the minors and is hitting .244 with 23 home runs and 127 RBIs in his short career. But, there was a much better choice for the Diamondbacks that year.
INSTEAD: Alex Bregman
Alex Bregman was taken second overall by the Houston Astros and he turned out much better than Dansby Swanson. He helped the Astros win the World Series in 2017, he was an All-Star selection in 2018, and has been one of the most valuable players for Houston in the past few years.
So far he’s hitting .282 with 58 home runs and 208 RBIs. Bregman became the youngest Astro to ever hit 30 home runs in a season at 24 years old.
There’s no doubt that Tim Beckham was a highly talented infielder and in 2008 the Tampa Bay Rays had their eyes on him with their first overall pick. The Rays took him and thought they had their star infielder for the next half-decade.
But, that didn’t happen. He’s no longer with the Rays and has since moved to Baltimore, where he’s barely hitting over .250 for his career. He’s turned into a role player which is why Beckham has solidified his spot on this list.
INSTEAD: Buster Posey
In the same draft class as Tim Beckham was catcher Buster Posey. Posey would’ve been a much more valuable first overall pick. Posey made a big name for himself with his lights out play behind the hitter, winning three World Series rings in a five-year span.
He’s been a six-time All-Star, an NL MVP, a Rookie of the Year and a four-time Silver Slugger award winner. The Giants definitely stole Posey at the fifth spot in the draft.
The New York Mets were ecstatic about the thought of having Florida State pitcher Paul Wilson at the number one spot in 1994. There were no doubting Wilson’s abilities on the mound, but for whatever reason, he was never able to really get it together.
He was 5-12 in his first season with the Mets and finished his career with a 40-58 record and a 4.86 ERA. He shuffled around the league a little bit but wasn’t what the Mets wanted at number one.
INSTEAD: Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra was taken 12th overall by the Boston Red Sox and that turned out to be an absolute steal. He was a six-time All-Star, 1997 Rookie of the Year, two-time batting champion, and a Silver Slugger Award winner.
He had a career .313 batting average, 229 home runs, and 936 RBIs. He was the 2006 NL Comeback Player of the Year and could’ve been a huge part of the New York Mets for many years.
The selection of Pat Burrell at the number one spot by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998 came full circle. He was successful with the Phillies in 2008 when they won the World Series, but that wasn’t the case when he was drafted a decade earlier.
He spent the majority of his career with the Phillies, but he certainly wasn’t the superstar that they hoped for. He had a career batting average of .253, which is VERY mediocre for someone who was expected to change a franchise.
INSTEAD: Mark Mulder
Although the 1998 draft didn’t have any HUGE superstars, they at least had Mark Mulder. He was taken right behind Pat Burrell at number two overall by the Oakland Athletics and was a much more impactful player.
He finished his career with a 103-60 win-loss record which is incredibly impressive. He also made two All-Star appearances and the A’s got exactly what they wanted from the big lefty-pitcher. Unlike Burrell, he was a real difference maker.
If your jaw is on the floor that Stephen Strasburg’s name is on this list, it won’t be when you find out who the Washington Nationals could’ve drafted. Strasburg is a three-time All-Star, Silver Slugger Award winner, an NL strikeout leader and has a 94-52 overall record.
He’s by far the “best” wrong choice at first overall, but he still doesn’t compare to the generational player that the Washington Nationals could’ve snagged (along with 23 other teams after them).
INSTEAD: Mike Trout
There are very few names that could put Stephen Strasburg’s name in the “bust” column, but Mike Trout is certainly one of them. He’s a seven-time All-Star, two-time AL MVP, and a six-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
Shall we keep going? He’s won the Hank Aaron Award, he’s been the AL RBI and stolen base leader, and was a part of the 30-30 club. He just signed a 12-year $426 Million contract with the LA Angels which makes him the most expensive player in the history of North American sports.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had the first overall draft pick in the 2002 draft and they were incredibly excited to welcome the new face of the franchise to their team. Bryan Bullington was a big-time prospect that was turning a lot of heads.
The Pirates took Bullington because he was a safe pick that was almost guaranteed not to be a bust… until he was. Bullington ended his MLB career going 1-9 with a 5.62 ERA. He had a little bit better luck in other leagues overseas but he was still a horrible pick.
INSTEAD: Zach Greinke
This is almost a no brainer if you’re even a casual baseball fan. The Pirates really should’ve picked Zach Greinke as the number one overall pick. The Kansas City Royals took him as the sixth overall pick, which proved to be a steal.
Greinke is a five-time All-Star, he won the Cy Young Award back in 2009, and has led the MLB twice in ERA. If that isn’t enough, he’s won the Gold Glove award five times.
For the most part, the New York Yankees have been a fairly solid drafting team, but they made a huge mistake in 1991. They drafted Brien Taylor at number one, and they expected him to be a difference maker for their storied franchise.
He wasn’t. Ever. His effectiveness was hindered due to injuries and he was never able to make it above Double-A. He had to retire before even making it to the big leagues.
INSTEAD: Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez was one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history. Manny was selected 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians and would go on to play parts of 19 seasons in the big leagues.
He posted a career batting average of .312, with 2,574 hits and 555 home runs. Not to mention, he was a 12-time All-Star, two time World Series champion, and a World Series MVP. Not too shabby for a 13th overall pick.
When the Detroit Tigers decided to draft pitcher Matt Anderson first overall, everyone was shaking their heads. It was an off-the-wall pick because according to Baseball America rankings, Anderson was ranked at number 24.
He didn’t end up being the transcendent steal that the Tigers had hoped he would be in the 1997 draft. He spent seven seasons in Detroit and went 15-7 with a 5.19 ERA and 224 career strikeouts. The Tigers really whiffed on this pick.
INSTEAD: Troy Glaus
The Los Angeles Angels were able to capitalize on the Detroit Tigers going haywire with their first overall pick. They decided to select Troy Glaus third overall out of UCLA. Glaus ended up being a big part of the 2002 World Series winning team on third base.
He also had some impressive individual accolades that included four trips to the All-Star game and two Silver Slugger awards. It’s no doubt that the Tigers made a huge mistake by taking a risk on Matt Anderson.
The Houston Astros took infielder Phil Nevin out of Cal. State Fullerton with the first pick in the 1992 draft. Nevin really didn’t stay long with the Astros as he departed to another team only one season into his career.
He posted decent numbers overall as he hit .270 with 208 home runs and 743 RBIs before calling it a career. He was even an All-Star for the San Deigo Padres in 2001, but the Astros could’ve picked a surefire Hall of Famer.
INSTEAD: Derek Jeter
It’s safe to say that the Houston Astros would pay a ridiculous amount of money to go back in time and select Derek Jeter first overall. He’s a 14-time All-Star, five-time World Series champion, five-time Gold Glove winner, five-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Hank Aaron Award winner.
He posted a career .310 batting average, 3,465 hits, 260 home runs, and 1,311 RBIs. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer that probably makes Houston Astros executives cry every night realizing they could’ve had him.
The Houston Astros thought that they hit the jackpot with Brady Aiken as the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. He decided against even signing with the Astros and instead went to IMG Academies in Florida for a year.
He was then taken 17th overall by the Cleveland Indians in 2015. There’s nothing worse than putting all your eggs in the Aiken basket only to have him completely reject your franchise.
INSTEAD: Aaron Nola
The Astros probably should’ve taken right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola had the x-factor coming out of LSU, and the Philadelphia Phillies knew it when they took him seventh overall. He was an NL All-Star and was also in the running for the Cy Young Award in 2018.
His career has been fantastic as he’s posted a 41-28 with a 3.35 ERA. The potential that this kid has is insane and the Houston Astros took a big goose egg not drafting him.