With the MLB Draft coming up next week and since I'm just waiting for the Jays announcement of today's roster move (we've only got 8 guys in the bullpen, 8 is the loneliest number you know), I was playing around on Baseball Reference and I got to wondering who the best draft choices ever were in some of the slots the Jays have this year.
The Jays first pick is number 17 overall. The best player ever chosen with the 17th pick (since the draft started in 1965) is David Cooper. No no, kidding, though he was the 17 pick back in 2008. The real best draft pick, from that slot, was Roy Halladay. The Jays grabbed him back in 1995. 192 wins later, he's easy the best player ever drafted 17th. You all know enough about Doc, so I don't have to talk about him.
Other players you may have heard of, that went number 17 overall, are Gary Matthews (Sarge), picked by the Giants in 1968. He hit 234 home runs in a 16 year career. He was Rookie of the Year in 1973, an all-star in 1979. Also picked 17th were Cole Hamels, in 2002, he's 82-55 so far and has started this year 8-1. Charles Nagy, picked by the Indians, won 129 games in a 14 year career. Jeromy Burnitz, picked by the Mets, hit 315 home runs, in his 14 seasons in the majors.
We also have the 22nd pick. The best pickup in that slot? You could have a bit of a debate there. The Astros choose Craig Biggio in that slot in 1987. Biggio really should be a hall of famer, but he BBWAA undervalue leadoff hitters and have no idea about park factors. He played 20 seasons with the Astros (playing in the Astrodome), hitting .281/.363/.433. He scored 1844 runs, stole 414 bases, hit 291 home runs and drove in 1175. He started his career as a catcher, then was moved over to second base. I wonder how many players have come to the majors as a catcher and were moved to second? I'd bet there are less than a dozen in the last 50 years.
Also picked 22nd was Rafael Palmeiro, who likely would be in the Hall of Fame, if he hadn't decided to tell congress that he had never taken steroids and then, a few months later, tested positive. He retired with 569 home runs, 1835 RBI with a .288/.371/.515 line.
Others chosen 22nd include Chet Lemon (A's, 1972) an excellent CFer for 16 seasons, Bruce Hurst (Red Sox, 1976), who had a 145-113 record over 15 seasons and Jayson Werth, (Orioles, 1997), who became a Jay when the O's traded him to us in December of 2000.
Our next pick is number 50. Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley was picked by the Indians, back in 1972. Dennis started his career as a starting pitcher, winning 20 games in 1978. Tony LaRussa turned him into a closer in 1987 and over the next 10 years he saved 390 games (6th all-time).
Also taken 50th: former Jay Al Leiter by the Yankees in 1984 (162-132 in 19 seasons), Brian Roberts by the Orioles in 1999, Adam Dunn 1998 by the Reds and Bo Jackson in 1982 (but he didn't sign. preferring, at that time, to play football).
We have a couple more supplemental first round picks (numbers 58 and 60) but we'll save looking at those slots for another time.